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Soil under 2-4MM gravel

1855 Views 9 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  MiamiAG
I am trying to setup a Diana Walsted "Low Tech Tank", and I have used some gardning (1 inch) soil under about 3MM gravel (1 inch) and this seems to turn my water a coffee brown color. I change my water and within 20 min the water is brown, after 2 hours almost no light can reach the bottom.

Will this go away if I keep changing the water 2-3 times a day?

What soil do you use? Diana did not give any brand names.

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If I remeber right she didnt specify. Also, I believe that that the covering gravel should be a bit deeper, prob 2 inch is plenty. Sounds like the soil is leaching thru the gravel. Is it dirt from your garden or from a store bought soil bag?
The soil you used may contain too much organic material. Put some in a soda bottle with water, shake, and see how much floating material you end up with. I believe you want very little. And as whiskey stated, you probably need at least a two inch cap.
Ok, I went to a nursry and they gave me normal (from the ground) dirt. It works great so far, that potting soil smelled really bad when I took it out. I have the tank set back up and so far so good.

The whole idea of not changing water for 6 months kinda scares me though, but it is well documented and it seems to work, so here we go.....

Great book by the way, get it, you won't reagret it.

i tried using peet moss under snad and gravel once.

NOTHING could have smelled worse. Now i use black sand, no more creative layering for me. damn internet hehehe
i have never tried to use gravel over potting soil, but i have used sand. have not had much of a problem with brown water, b/c the sand keeps the soil in place. and i think the plants do really good. have it in a low light tank and a high (i know it is against her philosophy), but once the plants take root in the soil, they go crazy.

as far as the soil is concerned, i figure the cheapest you can find, the better. tends not to leak out as much stuff.
what about using bagged soil from like Home Depot?
You can always ask her directly:

The leaching of tannins into the water is fairly you didn't have to tear everything apart. It may tank a few months to go away. Regular gardening soil works fine (with no ferts, etc.) and if you check some of the threads in the above link, you'll see that she has also been using certain types of Miracle Grow soil with success.
I think you need to read up on soil soup. IME, this is extremely difficult to use especially if you're a beginner. I would suggest that you consider the use of other fertile substrate such as peat, charcoal, etc.

Here's a quote from Paul K I just made reference to in another post:
The "soil-soup" method where soil is collected and water is slowly
added with much mixing until you have something like thick soup, which
is then run through window screening or a rice strainer, produces a safe
product. The screening filters out all the roots, worms and other
critters, and other "raw" pieces of organic matter that might cause a
large oxygen demand. About a quarter inch to a half inch of the soup is
placed in the bottom of the tank or planting tray and covered with about
a half to one inch of gravel. Water can be added with precautions to
prevent stirring up the gravel, and almost no cloudiness will develop.
The gravel can be put on top of the soup, and then everything can be
allowed to dry out. The soup turns quite hard, but when water is added,
it gets soft again, and the plants seem to grow just as well. If the
soup has been allowed to dry out, the chances of any cloudiness
developing when water is added are much less. The soup is relatively low
in organic matter, and I have found that, when a tray becomes packed
with roots, low-level iron deficiency develops, and additions of soluble
iron stimulate growth. Soil-peat mixtures or soil-manure mixtures
beneath gravel seem to be able to supply iron for a longer time. I have
not seen any tannins come from soil-soup, but I have seen tannins get
into the water from soil-manure and soil-peat mixtures. A water change
gets rid of them, and they don't seem to come back."
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