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Sorry, but I'm too lazy to redo what's already been done. Go read my journal (very detailed) here... http://www.apsa.co.za/Forum/index.php?topic=342.0
I stopped posting long ago, but my aquarium is still up and running with ZERO maintenance. I don't clean the filter, and I only top up the water when the levels drops (once in 6 months?) Oh yes, and the light tubes are almost 2 years old.

I also have 2 tanks outside with no heater, filter, or lights that I set up in exactly the same way. I have eleocharis parvula growing quite well in there - despite everyone saying that one needs light and co2 and a heater to do so. hahaha!!!

For those tanks, please go look here... http://www.apsa.co.za/Forum/index.php?topic=1719.0.

The secret with successfully doing an el natural tank is use natural soil, natural gravel, loads of plants and then DON'T MESS WITH IT!! Let it evolve naturally. :)

The proof is in the pudding. (my photos)
cheers!
 

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Hi all,

How much soil (In kilos/kgs) would I need to cover 1.5" at the bottom with a tank dimension of 42"x18"x18" ?
I use about 1 gal of soil/sq. foot for a 1" layer of moist soil. I assume that your tank bottom is 42" X 18" or 3.5 ft X 1.5 ft. AND 3.5 ft X 1.5 ft = 5.3 square feet, which means you need about 5 gal of soil.

To convert to liters: 5.3 gal X 3.8 liters/gal = 20 liters soil

Soils will have a different weight depending on how moist they are or how much sand they contain. Therefore, I would base my final calculations on volume for measuring how much soil to use, not weight.

The easiest thing to do is just stick a 1 inch layer of moist soil on the tank bottom. Doesn't have to be exact. :)
 

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Thanks Diana.You r a star as usual in your replies :).
Its really difficult to find the cheap kind of potting soil with no fertilizers in my area. :(
Now,my question is......Can I use the soil that i dig from the forest floor near my house.I found its moist & rich in decayed leaves.Its Black in colour.I thought I'll mix some Laterite & sand in it & then use it.Any advice & suggestions are welcome.

Many thanks
Ravi
 

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Can I use the soil that i dig from the forest floor near my house.I found its moist & rich in decayed leaves.Its Black in colour.I thought I'll mix some Laterite & sand in it & then use it.
Ravi
The soil sounds perfect! With the decayed leaf matter, Cryptocoryne will probably love it.

I would not mix the laterite with the soil. Either leave the laterite out entirely or just put it on the bottom glass and then add the 1 inch layer of soil.

You can cover the soil with a very thin layer of sand and or the standard 1 inch of small gravel. I'm not sure that you really need to mix sand with this soil.
 

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Perfect Diana.......You are a Star again.
So,now my project is tear down the existing set up & reset it up.Probably i'll take time to it.But sure will post the pictures for all the help I have had here :)

Many thanks,
Ravi
 

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I am preparing 2 tanks. One tank with 2 inches top soil from Home Depot at the bottom and 1 inch sand on top. The other tank with 2 inches top soil and 1 in gravel.
The tank with sand looks ok until I had to dig up the sand a little and expose the soil to the water. The water gets very cloudy with a brown color.

The tank with gravel has brown water without much disturbance, I suppose the coarse grain of the gravel allows the water to get to the soil.

I ran a canister filter for 2 days but it does not clear the water much.
Any suggestions? Thanks.
 

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Angel4 you obviously didn't do a trial test with the gravel. You are going to have to start over the thank with the gravel. The gravel obviously is not small enough to keep the dirt down.

They help the cycle process put some of the gravel in a thin sock and put it in the tank after you refill it. Also perhaps putting aprox. 4 in. of the water in the restart will be cleared up with the filter.

I don't understand why you removed the sand to the point that the dirt was exposed. What is happening with that the tank with sand? Have you put some more sand on area exposed. Replacing sand is easiest to do by putting in a sock and then pouring it out with sock near the bottom.

Sand can be hard to keep clean. Have read that some vacuum up the top layer and replace it and that others have a lot of corys to keep it clean.
 

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could i use Schultz 10 Lb. Aquatic Plant Soil top of generic potting soil, i am asking because i have good experience with the schultz
yes, schultz works but it's very light and doesn't anchor plants at all. i have it my tank but would not use it again for this reason. other than that, i don't have any issues with the schultz. it has a nice color.
 

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My first post =] Having read the full thread; I'd like to layer my aquarium as follows, from bottom to top;laterite,dead leaves and iron wool/washers,potting soil,sand. My sources of info from Dwalstad and rs79. I've never had a planted aquarium before, and am looking to learn as much as possible to do an extremely low maintenance planted tank with potential cardinal tetras and red cherry shrimp. Will this setup work nicely, or is there a better way? I plan to use the soil as the topmost layer to "lockdown" what's underneath it, but have also read that it is difficult to clean/vacuum. Also, what the heck is a bottle test? I think the idea is to look for yellow water, but can someone please elaborate a bit more? Thanks. :pray:
 

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My first post =] Having read the full thread; I'd like to layer my aquarium as follows, from bottom to top;laterite,dead leaves and iron wool/washers,potting soil,sand. My sources of info from Dwalstad and rs79. I've never had a planted aquarium before, and am looking to learn as much as possible to do an extremely low maintenance planted tank with potential cardinal tetras and red cherry shrimp. Will this setup work nicely, or is there a better way? I plan to use the soil as the topmost layer to "lockdown" what's underneath it, but have also read that it is difficult to clean/vacuum. Also, what the heck is a bottle test? I think the idea is to look for yellow water, but can someone please elaborate a bit more? Thanks. :pray:
You want to set up the substrate in a small container to make certain that the top layer will hold the dirt down. Dirt as the top layer won't work for it floats in the water.

If you can't find small pebbles try pool supplies for pool media or pool filter sand. I had pool filter sand but got tired of it. You have to vacumm it up and replace . Replacing done by putting some in a sock and opening the sock up near the bottom of the tank.
 

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My first post =] Having read the full thread; I'd like to layer my aquarium as follows, from bottom to top;laterite,dead leaves and iron wool/washers,potting soil,sand.
Hold on a minute! Let's get back to Natural Planted Tank basics: soil with a small gravel cap, 2-3 watts per gallon light , water movement and well rooted plants are what you need. Fish food and mulm provide everything else. There is a limit to how much iron/metal plants, DOC's and water conditioner can bind. I think it would kill the shrimp. Too much would be toxic for anything living. And your substrate could rot from the decomposition of the leaves. If you want easy, just do these basics. That's what El Natural is all about. Go back to page one on this thread. Check out Data Guru's post. She has a step by step summary that's short and sweet. Read Diana Walstad's book, it's good. And let us know when you set up your NPT. :supz:
 

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Now I understand why someone said it is best to follow 1 method. Combining many methods can cause toxic problems.

Most important thing is lighting equalling plants needs. If you have natural light you might need co2. For Co2 there is flourish excell and diy Co2.
 

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Since your local microbes will infect your tank anyways why not start with local soil? This gives your microbiology a big head start. I live in a flood plane and have collected some great and fertile soil from the river bank. I will post how it works.

This is suposed to be "El Natural" it seems to be a waste to go to Home Depot. Let nature provide for you!
 

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Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to show you all today's photo of my 50 gal tank. I reset this tank up in July with Home Depot's generic TopSoil. I'm happy with results from this "soil", floating wood chips and all.

Because it worked so well, I'm planning to set up another tank with this soil and a shallow sand cover.

Don't worry about the initial starting bacterial composition; the bacteria that establish themselves will be those that do well in your tank's environment.

I would just follow Data Guru's excellent step-by-step instructions.
 

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dwalstad,

The tank looks great, I can see how your methods work. I got your book for Christmas and I've read most if it 3 times, and all of it once. It's a wonderful and helpful tool and I wish I had gotten it sooner. Better late than never I guess. :)

-Dave
 

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Step-by-step reloading tank in one day: one of the possible substrate organisation.

The tank 240 l, bottom 120x40 sm. For it was used mix of 3 liters of bio-humus (pure humus wich worms produse), 3 liters of close to neutral soil (pH 6,5), 2 liters of zeocarb, 2 liters of lava pieces, 100 gramm of pure blue clay and 70 gramms of peat (hagen, fibre for filters).

All exept peat and clay were put in bucket, mixed and filled with aquarium water. For bacterial preparement there was added dirt from active filter.

For a week it was a flush of ammonia and pH in bucket was about 9 (NH4). Than pH went to 8 and lower - in about two weeks the substrate was ready. I had to reload inhabited tank in one day (as it was no room for long rttping plants and creatures).
I started in the morning, took off all hydrobionts and keeping about 100 l aquarium water.

Than I put one third of substrate, first making gravel barriers around big roots and stones.



Than I put peat (less than pack, it seems a lot, but really it is about 50 gramms of fibre for the whole surface)



and added clay. Than filled with two third of substrate and added 3 buckets (about 30 l) of gravel. I have not neutral gravel, it contain calcium.



Than I placed plants, added about 80 liters of aquarium water and filled the tank from water-supply:



After five hours of filtration-aeration fish and frogs were placed "home". Nobody suffer.
The tank is OK till today.

What is it: leaving in city and reloading in winter I used for substate only stuff from shops (for plants etc).
Also it was used in the proportion, known since aquaculture from 19 century: 1 part of soil substrate and 3 parts of gravel (or sand).
 
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