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El Natural Diana Walstad's low-maintenance, soil-based 'El Natural' method for keeping plants and fish.

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Old 03-19-2008, 11:43 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default First substrate building help


I'm Dan in Virginia, I'm new here.
And I'm putting together my first El Natural planted tank!
A 55 gallon! & I'm excited to get started on it!

So far, I have assembled to use:

40 pounds of a bagged top soil that's a bit on the clay side, with composted bark bits that's black, and very rich in texture.

10 pound bag of a baked, granulated, clay pond plant soil.
(It looks a lot like kitty litter!)

40 pounds of builders sand, it's rusty colored, looks rich in iron!

20 pounds of a natural aquarium gravel for dressing the top.

(I also have a large 20 pound bag of perlite if needed),

I used to be a Sunday school teacher so, I hope you like quizes?

My questions are these:
1) The builders sand here in Virginia is high in iron,
in fact, it has a rusty look to it.

What should I do?:
A) Should it be used as the bottom layer in my substrate?
B) Put over the top soil in my substrate?
C) Mixed in with the top soil (because of it clay content) of my substrate? Or,
D) Not used at all due to it's high iron content?

2) Actually, i'm at a loss as to which layers to put down in which succession for the best growing results.
Please explain: What should be placed down first, second, third, etc., and why?:

3) Extra credit!: Anything l should add?, or leave out of my substrate for better results? if yes, please explain?:

I hope you enjoyed my little quiz!
Thanks for your help!
Dan ~ Va
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Old 03-19-2008, 11:57 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: First substrate building help

I wish I could offer the help you're looking for but I've never done the El Natural thing. However, I can say that you'll probably get an answer much quicker if you post this in the El Natural subforum. Lots of pretty smart people hang out there. Go back to the main forum page and look down 2 or 3 topics below the New to Planted Tanks forum. Good Luck.
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Old 03-20-2008, 08:50 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: First substrate building help

Where in VA are you? You can see under my avatar where I am. If your nearby I could hook you up with some stuff, let me know.
Have you tested your tap water yet?
If your soil is that dark I would definently air it out a little before using, and remove as much of the wood as possible without breaking out the tweezers.
Sand dosen't usually have very good retention quality as far as our application is concerned. I wouldn't worry with it. If you are close to me I would look at some crushed shell and some sort of bicarbonate addition (hook up stuff). I wouldn't use the perlite, it floats.

Good Luck!!!
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