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Old 03-16-2012, 09:56 AM   #11 
Geomancer's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Boston, MA
So I'll play devil's advocate...

Any particular reason you want to go for soil on your first attempt? I ask because soil is not something I would recommend to a beginner as it is the most difficult substrate to work with and has more pitfalls if you miss a step or make a mistake. You should only use a pure organic soil that has no additives, most terrestrial plant fertilizers are high in nitrates which is not good for fish.

That's not to say soil dosen't work, it does and with great affect, but it's also not the only way to get a great looking tank with plenty of plant growth. You can, if you wish, use any inert fine gravel or sand.

Below I've linked a picture of my 20 gallon which uses the epoxy coated gravel most pet stores sell, in it I have several of the plants you are considering.

On the right you can see Amazon Sword, and next to them in the back on the sand castle is a Java Fern. Behind the crypt in the left-center is Bacopa Carolina and on the left, overgrowing the wood and Anubias is Wisteria.

The secret to my success? A comprehensive fertilizer once a week, in my case I use Flourish. In a 10 gallon, a small 250 mL bottle will last you over 5 years and costs less than $10. It has no expiration date.

So like I said, there is nothing wrong with using soil, just don't feel like that is your only choice when starting out for the first time =)

In regards to your question about driftwood, I personally highly recommend Malaysian Driftwood. It's natural and one of the most commonly used in Aquariums. It naturally sinks without pre-soaking, dosen't contain a huge amount of tannins, and has a low probability for fungus. The other I've used, and is in the picture below, is Mopani. This can be a mixed bag, it has loads of tannins and is susceptible to fungus. Fungus may or may not be detrimental, in my tank it was not harmful and my Mystery Snail thought it was the best food in the world. In regards to tannins, they are not harmful and is actually quite natural for several fish, people who actually want it for a natural biotype tank call it "blackwater" even though it is a brown-ish tea color.

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Old 03-16-2012, 03:53 PM   #12 
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Join Date: Jan 2012
This isn't my first attempt. I've kept bettas as well as goldies before (just got back into fish keeping recently). I'm fairly new to live plants, but I'm keeping swords and java fern in my existing tank quite successfully. That tank has gravel substrate.

I want to try soil because I love the look of those types of tanks and the idea of trying to replicate a natural ecosystem. I've been researching these types of tanks for some time and once i suddenly had a free tank, I couldn't resist trying it out.

I do have organic soil. Due to misinformation at the hardware store, I originally bought the wrong soil. I have since bought Miracle grow organic choice, which I have seen recommended several times.

And if I do wind up making a mistake, it will be a learning experience. I am doing my best to gather correct information and follow all advice to the best of my ability so there hopefully wont be mistakes.

Thanks for showing me other options and the advice on driftwood. :)
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