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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hey guys,

i'm a little worried that my substrate has gone bad! the fish and plants seem fine, but whenever the substrate is disturbed it is quite bubbly! NO2, NH3, and PH are all normal. this is my Walstad 20g and has been up and running for about a year. hmmmmmm
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Phewf! I have some areas with lots of roots - but the areas with not as many are definitely bubbly. I'll release the gas more often and perhaps follow that up with a water change, if i notice any smelliness. Perhaps I'll try putting in a carpet plant with deeper roots. Also I have a tall tank so I can use a taller plant than you might normally use for a carpet without it looking silly. Will that solve this problem on a more permanent basis? Does anyone have any plant species suggestions?
Thanks Alex!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks Diana as usual for the advice!

I did a mass substrate poking yesterday and then did almost a complete water change to get rid of any toxins i may have disturbed. strangely, most of the bubbles didn't give off any smell, but i think i found a couple of pockets with that rotten egg smell. but i think i may have caught this problem it in time and i'm off to the LFS to get some heavy rooting plants to solve the problem on a more long term basis. when i put them in i'll do another gas releasing session and hopefully all will be good. i've been experimenting with fussy plants for the last 6 months or so with varying degrees of success, but i think it may be time to go back to some of the old hearty standbys. All fishes and plants are still looking good today but my eyes are peeled for strange behaviour!

any heavy rooters to suggest?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
musrusticus ( did i spell that right?) i will see if there is any of that at my lfs. i've always liked that plant! thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
MEA i also am a fan of dwarf sag. I'll have to steal some from another tank - it would be a great help in this case. Although it grows really tall in this tank, which is why I removed it in the past. I was also recommended pygmy chain sword at my LFS - does anyone know how well these root?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hey all here is the latest. I put in a TON of pygmy chain sword and they are all sprouting new leaves, which is encouraging. I also put in 12 stems of sunset hygro which are also doing well so far. There is now not a square inch of my substrate that is not planted. Am I right in assuming that if my substrate were really toxic that the new plants wouldn't be doing very well? I'm not convinced that there aren't toxins in the water column though - and I'm on the look out for weird fish behaviour. I've done 2 more gas releasing sessions followed by 50% water changes. In general my guppies are hanging out in the mid-top half of the tank more than I remember them doing before, and after a water change they seem to swim all over the tank for a day or so. Am I reading into this too much or is this a fish behaviour indicating a toxic environment. Sorry if I'm being a bit of a paranoid freak!

If I wanted to test the water column for toxins what would I test for? Is there such a test available?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
My guppies have now been back to the curious, swimming everywhere ways for 4 days with no water change. So, for now all seems to be back to normal. I'm still going to keep a regular once a week substrate poke with water change schedule. Every now and then I'll find a bubble pocket that has that not so good smell - so I'm not quite satisfied that all is fixed yet. But thanks to everybody's advice I think it's on the mend!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
the bubbling won't stop!!! yet plants seem to be doing fine and growing up a storm. especially the new plants I put in to help the substrate (which include dwarf sag, sunset hygro, and dwarf hairgrass (i think...) and ludwigia glandulosa).

BUT the trumpet snails aren't burrowing and the guppies (which seem to be fine otherwise) won't feed off the bottom, my kuhlis which usually like hanging out in their cave are taking up residence mid-tank in the plants, and now a thin fluffy white layer (of fungus?) gathers on the gravel in between gas releasing sessions. argh!

i guess i will have to start fresh.......? sigh. i'm hoping it will last until the new year? I will be away for 15 days over christmas so i'll have to do a big water change, cross my fingers and hope for the best. then I'll do a new set up in Jan. i'm asking for a 20 gallon long for christmas in light of this issue. if santa brings it i'll document it for everyone.

SO I'd love it if everyone can give me all their hints on avoiding this rotten substrate problem. Here is my summary of what I think caused this problem.

1. I though I stuck to the 1-1.5 inch layer of soil and 1-1.5 inch layer of gravel. But I think that my gravel which is quite small must be too thick.

2. I also didn't get rid of any sticks or wood chips in the soil before submerging.

3. I have a tall tank in which I have gorgeous tall stem plants & vals, and a HUGE arrow anubias - but carpet plants have not done very well due to too much shade on the substrate.

Are there any other reasons you may have that could have caused this and hints on how to avoid it?
Thanks everyone!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Hey all,

i just got back yesterday from christmas holiday and i was really nervous about what shape my tank would be in when i got back. i was picturing lots of floating fish and decomposing plants. but no, that's just not the case! i was very relieved when ALL my guppies swam over to say hi. here is a picture before i did my gas release and water change.

before i left 2 weeks ago i tore down a nano i had started and i jammed those plants in everywhere there was free substrate in my main tank. i also put in fresh carbon and changed most of the water. i trimmed all the stem plants and replanted them and they've grown 2-4 inches, and my arrow anubias has 2 new baby shoots, sag has started spreading, and the pygmy chain sword has taken on a nice reddish hue. all my levels were totally normal - but i did notice several guppies glancing from time to time and it is still bubbling like crazy. so i don't think bubbling is going to stop - but it's also not doing too badly considering how gaseous it is. as before, only a few of the bubbles actually smell bad.

so i guess i am aquarium shopping again??? - but it doesn't seem like i have to be in a too much of a hurry. i'm going to try a 30' long 25 gallon - that way i can keep all my tall plants and have more dirt to play with, yay!
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
The fish have already stopped glancing and ate very exuberantly today, compared to yesterday.

I thought i'd share something of interest, which relates to an excellent thread from about a month ago about choosing soil types. I totally forgot that i had set up a bottle test using a some of the soil i had left over from my original set up. I air dried it then submerged a small handful of the soil in a medium sized jar 2 1/2 weeks ago with the lid loosely sitting on top. I also changed 75% of the water twice after it had settled before leaving for Christmas holidays. I opened it today and it was a little bubbly and it absolutely reeked of rotten eggs. This leads me to believe I picked some bad soil to begin with.

So here are my queries - hopefully a science buff or actual scientist will weigh in here for me...
-Does the presence of hydrogen sulphide gas mean that this particular soil has an excess of sulphates to begin with?
-Is it possible that soil that is high in sulphates is more sensitive to going bad, or do all soils have lots of sulphates and it is solely the anaerobic conditions that make it 'go bad'?
-This is my last question, I promise: What chemical is it exactly that is bad for your tank in this case; the suphates, the hydogen sulphide gas, or a byproduct?
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
so, it's the bubbles themselves that are bad! that was my suspicion. - and anaerobic conditions can make any soil go bad! good to know. i have been stressing about which soil to use in my next tank, but i will not worry so much and spend more time planning the aquascape to include heavy rooters and emergent species. i'm sure some soils are better than others but as long as the soil you choose follows the guidelines recommended in Diana's book and by others on this forum, it will be fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 ·
Yes, i agree - this time I will air dry the soil and then sift it. My tank has been up for a year now and the water still yellows! I'm also planning on using a thin layer of quartz sand as my soil cap - i think that will be easier for the MTS to dig into and the soil will stay more aerated. Many people are having great success with this including Diana herself. Also I think my kuhli's will enjoy the sand more! I may even include a sandy "beach" area with just a thin layer of sand just for them. Also I'm using a more shallow tank, 16' tall instead of 20', so i know i'll be able to get better plant coverage over whole of the substrate and have better luck with carpet and foreground plants. I even thought of going with a 20 long, but then I thought I would miss having my tall plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #29 ·
Here is the latest update on my substrate - I think I cured it! (mostly) I hadn't done a soil poking in a couple of weeks and when I did it was almost completely bubble free! So for those having the same problem as me: it's possible to reform your rotten substrate by heavily planting and manual aeration. But I'm still planning on starting fresh - I already bought my new tank and have almost completed planning it. I've decided on starting a 20long which I'm excited about. I'll be setting it up over the next month so I'll keep you posted. Thanks all!
 
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