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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone, I checked around the interwebs and this seems the best place for substrate info.
As you're all aware, we're in the midst of a historic election this year, so I thought, it's time for change....Substrate change. So I bought cheapo topsoil which I plan to cover with Quikrete Medium Sand (30 grit). Here's some pics of topsoil:





The question is, how should I prepare the soil before putting it in the tank? Should I screen it? Soak it? Dance barefoot on top of it while asking the aquarium gods for their blessings?
I am aware of mineralized soil, but I just want to use the topsoil by itself. One other thing, the tank will not be a Walstad tank ( I'm sorry Diane), it will be a 20g high tank, with 30 watts of lights (possibly 45 watts later on), with no ferts or co2, and 50% weekly water changes.

I figured to sort of introduce myself I'll put a pic of my 20g as it is now(it was a long exposure, that's why the fish look like ghostly figures):



Lastly, if I'm way off on the soil or what I'm planning to do, I could buy another type of soil, or abandon the idea altogether.
 

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I can't see the pic (server settings at my work), but if it were me, I'd sift through the soil and remove any large debris/chunks of stuff larger than 1/2", and use it as only 1/2" deep bottom layer with 2"+ gravel or something on top. I would not bother to rinse the soil. FYI, I'm NOT the leading expert on soils as a substrate....not even close.

If you want to use exclusively the topsoil, then you'll have to sift out all the floating bits by soaking the soil and stirring it up. The problem with that is that you separate the sand, silt and clay particles into layers, sand on the bottom and clay on top. Maybe that's not a bad thing? But, since all the floating bit (organic material) will be removed, you now have far less decomposing material and consequently less fertility and CO2 production.

As a side note, I planted a 1/2 gallon jug using yard soil (top soil). I soaked/stirred to remove all floating bits and poured off the cloudy water resulting in a sand bottom silty top for my substrate. (There was still some clay, but most was lost when I poured out the cloudy water with floating debris). I grew some plants in there for a week and they did fine and the water stayed clear. I cannot predict what would have been the long-term outcome.

If I were to use top soil again, I would just plop it in the tank, cover with gravel, and fill up the tank.

-Dave
 

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I tend to shy away from any soils with much organic material or peat in them. It floats and suspends really bad with very little agitation. I have had good luck with Hyponex potting soil available at most Kmarts. I've also seen it elsewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Okay...so, I will sift the substrate, put a half inch to a little more, and then cover the top with about 2 inches of paver sand. How does this sound?
 

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I have a tank that has just Scotts potting soil in the bottom topped with 1-2mm granular sand. Expect to change the water twice a week at least for the first month and a half after which you can slow down. This is due to the break-down of all the organic materials and leeching nutrients. This should help you control the initial alga outbreak. After 2 months you can slow down your your water changes, eventually going to changing 50% once every 2 or 3 months.

The other method is to use Top Soil and convert it to Mineralized Soil Substrate per Aaron's article. This will help you minimize the initial alga outbreak as the process gets rid of most of the organic breakdown before you put the soil in the tank.

If you have a picture of dancing on top of the soil, please post :dance:. It better be barefoot. :cool:

Good Luck.

Ravi
 

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What you are going to do will work fine, I have been doing it for years. just like everyone has said so far the first weeks will be the hard part. Just keep up the water changes for the first few weeks and you should be fine. I have even used soil like that without screening it and didn't see much difference.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you for those responses, I had been really really nervous about using topsoil, but now I feel a lot better about it. So water changes twice a week? I can do that, I'm sure the fish will enjoy it.
I'll keep doing weekly water changes, it has been drilled into my head as I started into the hobby and...I don't know, there's something reassuring about doing water changes, like, you're doing something for the tank. I don't know if that makes sense.
In time though, I plan to buy Diane's book and maybe try one Walstad tank.
Again, thanks for the responses, I will no longer have dreams of trying topsoil on my tanks and then Godzilla coming out of the soil and pretty much destroying my house.
 
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