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Hello,
I wanted to ask if straight Flourite isn't a suitable substrate for the Diana Walstad method? I see some mentions of Flourite caps over soil but didn't find anyone reporting solely using Flourite. Many thanks in advance for your replies.
 

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Welcome to APC!

The answer is no. Flourite has high CEC but only traces of micronutrients. And it does not produce any natural CO2, so it does not provide two of the major functions of soil. Flourtie is a good cap, and is suitable for mixing with a highly fertile organic soil in the same way SafeTSorb is.
Understood, thank you very much.
 

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Michael, may I ask you a further question? I got D. Walstad's book, have read it all since my first question (would have been best to do before asking) and understand the need for real soil now and the necessity of keeping the substrate layer shallow enough to prevent anaerobic conditions.
I am wondering however if one might want it slightly deeper than 1" if growing mostly Echinodorus spp. due to their vigorous roots, in order to give them sufficient? I am planning a 20g aquarium, the height is 15-1/2" I am doing a bottle test with my native topsoil from the pasture behind my house.
Further, does mixing Flourite give one some leeway to deepen the substrate by aerating the soil, or is that basically just diluting the soil and therefore of little use?
Thirdly, do you guys recommend a particular water test for pH and hardness measurements?
Thank you very much in advance.
 

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Good questions!

I have accidentally set up tanks with soil depth as much as 1.5" and they were OK. But I don't recommend it. If you want the total substrate to be deeper than 1" of soil and 1" of cap, use a cap that is a little deeper with larger particles but keep the soil at 1". Cap particle size should still be 2-4 mm, just don't use anything smaller.

Mixing Flourite with soil is good if your soil is higly organic or very fertile. It reduces the organic matter percentage and fertility. But it doesn't help much with anaerobic conditions. If the jar test on your natural topsoil turns out well, use that without mixing it with anything else.

I'll let someone else recommend a water test. My tap water is very consistent, and after testing the first few tanks I don't bother anymore. I'm lucky!
Thank you. I really appreciate this forum and your tireless answering of questions. I've been lucky to pick up a collection of Metaframe aquariums and have decided to use the 5 gallon as a first trial, before embarking on my 20 gallons, as it will be inexpensive and easy to tear down if I make mistakes.
 

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I did a 5 gallon for my first NPT and learned a few things that I really wouldn’t have wanted to on a larger one. Scaled up to a 10 for my next tank and with what I learned have a tank I’m happy with. There are lots of variables from how a soil is going to behave to the way light reaches different areas of the tank that I didn’t consider when I set up the 5. I’m feeling confident enough now though that I’m seeing maybe a 40 or 50 in the future.
Yes, nothing beats actually doing it. I am just about to set up my 20, having found lots of plants in my swimming hole I can harvest for it. Sure beats paying!
 

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I'd like to make an anecdotal report on my recent experience with different substrates.
My 5 gallon I used straight topsoil with fine gravel covering. I experienced lots of pearling on plants initially followed by very slow growth and both Echinodorus tenellus and Sagittaria sp. putting out transparent, colorless leaves that eventually, after weeks, turned green. I also had a fair bit of hair algae which eventually calmed down. Similarly, I have a goldfish bowl with Heteranthera zosterifolia that took many weeks to do anything. It's now healthy and slow-growing under fairly low light with cold water.

For my 20 gallon, I mixed equal parts of the same, local clay-loam topsoil, Fluorite and washed Leonardite. I also added Azomite. Same, fine gravel on top. This was in a possibly foolish attempt to give my substrate everything it might need and not rely on whatever my topsoil has or hasn't. I am getting much better plant growth so far. I have not experienced any yellowing of the water from the Leonardite.

How much this has to do with the volume of water, I don't know. The other differences are I am not heating my 20 gallon and it is illuminated by LED, rather than CFL, same color temp tho'.

Water Plant Plant community Green Terrestrial plant

For those interested, left to right I have Eleocharis acicularis, Hydrocotyle verticillata, Sagittaria platyphylla, Lobelia cardinalis, Bacopa monnieri, B. caroliniana, Samolus ebracteatus?, Ludwigia palustris x repens?, Echinodorus tenellus, E. cordifolius "Harbich", Polygonum hydropiperoides (not really visible in photo), Potamogeton illinoensis and Myriophyllum heterophyllum.

I highly recommend collecting plants where possible and legal, it is so much cheaper and more satisfying.

I have added many pond snails, that do a very good job of cleaning off the calcified coating on all the plants in my swimming hole. I also have a couple of red spider mites that swim around. I plan to stock with Florida Flagfish, perhaps 1 male and 3 or 4 females.
 
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