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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi i am new to the Planted Aquarium Concept !
Am from India, Kerala to be exact !
I have got a 42 gallon tank with me, which i intend to develop into an el natural aquarium !

Please forgive me if i sound like a noob (which i am btw.) :D

1)The top soil\garden soil we have here is really sandy, and i don't know if there is enough organic matter in it ! So can i use something like crumbled dried leaves or dried cow dung or a slight amount of NPK fert added to the soil to make it more fertile ?

2)What is the ideal amount of soil to be used ; i mean the height of the garden soil to be used in the tank , like an inch high from the bottom or more ? I do intend to grow a dwarf\small variety of water lilies in my tank !
Also what is the max height of gravel to be used above the soil ?
Does more gravel equate to more good bacteria ? Also does the bacteria also colonize in the soil ?

3)Which one is better a complete el Natural tank or an el Natural tank with plants potted in small trays and under it a UGF filter ?

4)Would El Natural provide enough water flow in the gravel ? I do intend to use a power head for water flow !

5)In your book(i just skimmed through the pages i will read more after my exams, i am a law student by the way) i read about floating plants ! What are their advantages ? Does Salvinia Natans offer the same advantages as duck weeds and water lettuce ?

6)Can i use NPK for lush plant growth and also does using ferts affect fish health ?

7)What kind of lighting does an El Natural tank need ? Are Fluorescent lights ok or do i need to get a fancy aquarium lighting ?
 

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1)The top soil\garden soil we have here is really sandy, and i don't know if there is enough organic matter in it ! So can i use something like crumbled dried leaves or dried cow dung or a slight amount of NPK fert added to the soil to make it more fertile ?
Not sure about this one!

2)What is the ideal amount of soil to be used ; i mean the height of the garden soil to be used in the tank , like an inch high from the bottom or more ? I do intend to grow a dwarf\small variety of water lilies in my tank !
Also what is the max height of gravel to be used above the soil ?
Does more gravel equate to more good bacteria ? Also does the bacteria also colonize in the soil ?
You should use less than 1.5 inches of soil and less than an inch of gravel. No, more gravel does not equate to more good bacteria as there is naturally lots of good bacteria in the soil. In fact, it's advisable to only use as much gravel as you need as it can prevent water flow to the soil.

3)Which one is better a complete el Natural tank or an el Natural tank with plants potted in small trays and under it a UGF filter ?
A complete el Natural is definately the way to go as you'll get better plant growth. UGF's can be a nightmare in a set up using soil, even in a pot. Some people don't use a filter at all! If you would like to use a filter try a simple in-tank sponge filter, or a power head and quick filter combo both of which which will also help with water movement.


4)Would El Natural provide enough water flow in the gravel ? I do intend to use a power head for water flow !
The key is to keep the gravel layer shallow so that there is good water exchange in the soil. In an El Natural the gravel is used mainly to cap the soil, reduce turbidity and to help anchor plants. The main substrate is the soil.


5)In your book(i just skimmed through the pages i will read more after my exams, i am a law student by the way) i read about floating plants ! What are their advantages ? Does Salvinia Natans offer the same advantages as duck weeds and water lettuce ?
Good to hear you have Diana's book! Read about the advantages of emergent growth, it's all there. Salvinia has been a good floater for me - and it's easy to prune too! I like it better than duckweed.


6)Can i use NPK for lush plant growth and also does using ferts affect fish health ?
Several people on this forum have tanks that are exploding with lush growth! The main difference in an el Natural is that the growth is slower than a high tech set up - but good things come to those who wait! Most fertilizers that are made for the aquarium are safe for fish when used in the right quantities. Any other fertilizers used in non-aquatic gardening should definitely NOT be used. More importantly you will not need to use fertilizers in an el Natural set up. That's why it's so great! Fish food and soil are the main fertilizers here.

7)What kind of lighting does an El Natural tank need ? Are Fluorescent lights ok or do i need to get a fancy aquarium lighting ?[/QUOTE]
You definitely don't need fancy lighting. Many people on this forum have had success with a mixture of 4000K - 6500K bulbs. I use a cool white 4100K compact fluorescent bulb and I have a jungle in my tank. An important factor is how many watts per gallon you have, I would go for 3 watts per gallon. With compact fluorescent bulbs you can go with less wattage as they are more efficient.
 

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1)The top soil\garden soil we have here is really sandy, and i don't know if there is enough organic matter in it ! So can i use something like crumbled dried leaves or dried cow dung or a slight amount of NPK fert added to the soil to make it more fertile ?
Not sure about this one!
You definitely should not add any organic matter to the soil. We go though a lot of trouble to make the top soil mineralized (by forcing fast decomposition of organic matter before adding it to the aquarium). Although sandy soils will be poor in nutritions, you'll create more trouble with organic fertilizers
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
You definitely should not add any organic matter to the soil. We go though a lot of trouble to make the top soil mineralized (by forcing fast decomposition of organic matter before adding it to the aquarium). Although sandy soils will be poor in nutritions, you'll create more trouble with organic fertilizers
Ok
So what should i do ? just use the soil or should i add anything else ? forget the ferts coz aquarium ferts are hard to come by here !
What about compost or decaying leaves ? i mean partially decaying leaves or Ash (from burned wood) or even saw dust (its basically powdered wood)
 

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Check out the Mineralized Soil Substrate article by Aaron T.

One thing to keep in mind is to avoid adding organic matter to the soil. This will leech a lot of nutrients into the water which will reek havoc in your tank initially. Also, whatever method you use, add about 1 - 1 1/2 inches of soil substrate and top it with about an inch of sand or small sized gravel (1 - 2 mm).

And, welcome to the forum.

Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thankyou very much Mr.Gravy !
Is there a replacement for dolomite ? will sea shell mix do ?
 

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Dolomite is optional and is used only if you have soft water. You can substitute it with crushed sea shells.
 
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