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Old 06-23-2012, 07:42 AM   #1 
Cinderwolf
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Advice for starting a soil based tank

Okay, so after an endless battle with cyanobacteria I have come to the conclusion that I want to just tear the tank down and start fresh. I have been looking into a soil based planted tank for quite some time now and I have decided this is a good opportunity to switch.

I have a 6 gal tall ( ish, it is the Marineland eclipse). I recently bought a nice piece of mopani drift wood that I will use as my focal point. I have play sand that I plan on using as a cap for the soil.

The main reason I want to go with the soil, is I really havent gotten any plant growth with the sand. Most of that probably has to do with my light being apparently completely wrong. ( 18000 K) So I have the tank, the wood, the sand and many plants. All I need is the soil and a new light. . |

For the light, I need a 12 inch bulb. I have looked everywhere and no where sells a 6500K 12 inch bulb ( I even looked at hardware stores and such) would it be okay to get one ' close' to 6500K? I have seen 3000, 5000( this one was 20 dollars though) and 7000, 8500, and so on.

Next, soil. This one is baffling to me because everywhere I read different suggestions and such. Can anyone point me in the direction a good brand or soil that I can get, or at least ingredients to stay away from.

Next question: Plants. My selection is rather limited as I can only buy local and only a few stores even have plants. As of now, I have an amazon sword, a mystery red plant ( which is growing like mad I might add), a mystery sword plant ( also growing well) that I bought thinking it was java fern, a bunch of vals, and some combomba(sp?) Plus 2 little moss ball. I am thinking of buying some hornwort( though I had it before and it made a huge mess then died in my cyanobacteria attack. ) and java fern. If I can find it I would love java moss too, but I have only seen it once. Anubias is also gorgeous but I cant find it anywhere either.

My tank has a filter that has been running for quite some time, so I don't need this tank to be overly stocked with plants. It would need to be my filter in other words. So, the amount of plants needed in a NPT for instance wouldnt really be needed. I just love the look of heavily planted aquascapes.

Okay that was long. Any and all help and advice woudl be really helpful! :D

If I can get this plant to a level of growth thats high enough to give me a fare amount of plant clippings as well, I want to start up a small ( 1 gal) fishtank using a complete NPT method. but more on that down the road.

Heres a photo of the tank currently, just as a reference. Maybe you could tell me what the mystery plants are LOL The red plant and the small wavy leaved sword type plant around the corners.


Me and Benvolio thank you : )
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Old 06-23-2012, 08:03 AM   #2 
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I've never done a soil based tank, but I've considered doing one many times. From what I've read, any soil that is completely organic and has no big sticks or rocks in it (you can sift these out) is fine. No fertilizers, plant food, or other chemicals. Peat moss is fine, but it might give your water a yellowish brownish tint.
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Old 06-23-2012, 08:37 AM   #3 
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I may be wrong.. but your mystery red plant seems to be rotala? It likes a lot more light than any of the 'low-light' species, is probably why it's thriving. The other appears to be a 'wavy sword', lol.

The high light's also probably why the wisteria melted, it's definitely a low light plant. Mine is currently far greener in the shaded parts of the tank, which tells me I need some other floating plants and to dim my light a bit..

I'm still learning about light, but it seems the higher the light, the more CO2 needs to be in the water. That's why those fancy, aquascaped 'high tech' tanks all use CO2. So when you change your light, you'll probably see the rotala lose its red.. it should keep growing okay, though.

7000K should be just fine. And don't worry about plants choice, I have seen some magnificent planted tanks, really stunning, which have used only 3-4 species..

As for plants, try your local classifieds or even fish forums. I use Gumtree, which is brilliant for bits and pieces, and there's often plants on there. Some local fishkeepers might be able to send you some cuttings. I've got a few from people on my Aussie forum.

Dirt. OFL uses her wonderful hillside topsoil, as it's very clean. I'm using aged (been sitting outside a couple years) potting soil with a handful of organic soil activator (non-manure). Just get a good quality organic soil free of ferts and added water saving stuff, that'd be fine. As shadowpony said, sift through it for chunks of matter. Or some clean topsoil, either's okay.

Nothing wrong with using a filter, either. Lots of fishkeepers I've met use dirt substrate as well as a filter and it works really well for them.

Peat moss will lower your ph, which will mess wit your filter bb, especially on top of new wood, so unless you really need that to happen, I'd not bother.

OFL ays to make frequent water changes for the first few weeks, until plant growth really kicks off. Then they can be reduced back to infrequent.

I'm trying a 'recipe' for a CO2 producing substrate on my next NPT.. people are swearing by it.
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Old 06-23-2012, 01:23 PM   #4 
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Okay so the soil part has been taken care of I will go more in depth.

You need floating plants, you are gonna have an excess of nutrients at first because of the soil, which can lead to more algae, so you really need to regulate light times, too much and you are gonna have algae. You should have 75% of the floor covered with fast growing plants, so swords aren't included as they won't suck up enough nutrients. You can still have them just fine, you need a lot of fast growing plants though.

The plant looks more Luke ludwigia, better pictures of the leaves will help more though.
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:38 PM   #5 
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okay, so I bought a 4100 K bulb caseu thats the closest oen I can find ( I misread 7000hours as 7000K. But its broken so i need to return it, i'll check again to see what thy have.

For soil I read I coudl just use top soil? is that right? They sell cheap top soil at my dollar store, I was gonan get it from there( I'll check the addivtive first though. .) I will be picking up hornwort I believe., to flaot and hopefully soem java moss if the store still has it. Also a java fern for the drift wood.

Will i still need such a high amount of plants ( the 75 percent) if I am adding this to an already cycled tank? I'll check the water params carefully for the next week or 2 anyways, jsut wondering.

Thanks for the help! I am going out in a little bit to pick up all the thigns I need and I plan on setting it up tonight while I have the house to myself. I will also pick up a timer for the lgiht. I read the siesta method works well, but would that work if the tank also get soemdirect sunlight? Its in a room with a over head skylight, so the direct light time is probably only about 20 minutes or so, but the tank always gets difussed sun ( which probably isnt helping my algae problems)

I also have alot of wisteria, none of it melted actually lol, I had boguht a small bunch thne I boguht some money wort which, after adjusting to my tank, showed itself as wisteria lol, the leaves all changed shape.

I am really excited to get this going. :D
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:40 PM   #6 
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I will also post on craigslist looking for plant trimmings and such.
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Old 06-23-2012, 02:44 PM   #7 
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You need 75% of thesoil covered with fast growing plants. If you don't want it to, don't get soil. Java fern slow grower and doesn't suck up nutrients nor does it root. Java moss will only suck up ammonia if it is growing fast, which with that low of a Kelvin rating it won't be doing much. Hornwort is a floating plant that doesn't root. So what's gonna keep the soil going without anything oxygenating it?

You want organic or you risk your fish dying.

Why do you want soil?
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:21 PM   #8 
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Okay.. will get more plants. I picked up some java fern , more of the red plant ( also rooted) and a bunch of duck weed to float.

I want to try soil cause I know it is beneficial to the plants and such.

Okay for rooted plants, I have the vals, the swords and the cambomba and the red plants. The wisteria also has roots just not as much as the others.

What are some fast growing rooted plants you can suggest to me?

I returned the 4100K bulb and I will try to find one with a higher K but I really don't know where I will get one since the hardware stores and pet stores I am only seeing around 3-4 thousand. I'll check petsmart this after noon.

I'm having a hard time finding organic soil as well but I will look again, I just asked about different soil cause I read it a few places online about plain old top soil.

I'll keep looking.
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:25 PM   #9 
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Oh, I also ot soem Malaysian trumpet sails with this batch of plants : ) So they will help to stir up the dirt.
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Old 06-23-2012, 04:49 PM   #10 
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http://www.rona.ca/en/soil---organic...ct_store=08040 Okay a store near me has this soil. Would that be okay. On Diana Walstad's site she uses this one for her tanks. I will check there for a proper light as well, but I am doubting I will find the right K. Its frustrating that no where sells 6500 K in the 12 inch bulb.

I will keep you all posted.
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