View Full Version : Anyone using soil for their planted tank?

doug z
02-18-2008, 02:37 AM
I just read The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, by Diana Walstad..

And I have to admit, it was a bit of a shock, as it had alot of stuff that was pretty much anathema, according to what I've read and have been told up to this point..

SOIL as a substrate?

Bi-ANNUAL water changes?

No vacuming of the substrate?

C02 injection required not strictly neccesary?

Go crazy on the fish food?

The more direct sunlight the better??

No need for liquid or tab ferts?


I mean, it all sounds good..

The soil already has the bacteria necessary for the breakdown of ammonia and nitrites, so fish can be added immediately, and provides the other micro nutrients such as iron for the plants..

The breaking-down of the fish food and the soil provide the C02 and nutrients for the plants..

But it flies in the face of everything Dave66 and others have been telling me..

Walstad does say that there are problems inherent in using soil, but she says they are temporary, and can be gotten around.. But she doesn't elaborate!!:c11:

I'm at a bit of a loss, frankly..

Dave66 says the problems she hints upon have to do with algae, and that a tank must be heavily planted to avoid these problems..

What constitutes heavily, though, for a 75g for example?

What are your thoughts?

02-18-2008, 03:38 AM
i have to say, i am not sure... can i be in the middle.
because i have moderate planting in my 40g, no idea what my lighting is lol
but i dont vac the substrate.... my plants do great, i have no C02 no added nutrients, fertilizers, or iron... i dunno....

i say go with what works. her unwillingness to elaborate would concern me a little, but i see where she is getting with the no need for CO2 or all that drama; i have only had one plant die, and thats because my goldfish ate it; i just tore it up and planted a new one... whateva...

02-18-2008, 03:33 PM
The main problem with soil is that it rots...I suppose there are ways to combat that (so to speak)...

But all the other information I've come across too...I think everyone has to play with the 'rules' to see what works best for them in their situation...

As I've said...I have great plant growth...and I don't do anything special for the plants at all.

02-18-2008, 03:58 PM
Soil work for some people, but here is the problem. The soil in your backyard is not the same soil in my backyard. Like some type of soil can be useful while I guess some can be useless. I rather use a substrate that I know for sure work than take a chance. The reason why people with heavily planted tank do water change is not to get rid of nitrate but to replenish electrolyte, minerals, or something like that.

02-18-2008, 04:06 PM
Er, shouldn't be using backyard soil at all. You need to purchase the proper kind of potting soil (can't remember what they recommend).

doug z
02-19-2008, 02:12 AM
But what about the other stuff?

The not using CO2, using direct sunlight, using excess fish food for your C02, no water changes or vacuuming mulm..

Madness!!! LOL

Lady Hobbs
02-19-2008, 02:22 AM
I used peat in one of my tanks. It's recommend to dig it yourself and not buy it. Somewhere in the woods, not in a garden where fertilizers have been used.

A "small amount" on the bottom and whatever you are using on top and I can't stress small amount enough.

I used the peat, added the gravel on top, planted, lay down a plastic bag over the whole inside of the tank and filled it up. It was clear by morning.

But Doug, you pull up plants or move things around, that stuff is a mess and floats up and gets in the water. It was no more of a mess, IMO, that Fluroite is, which I hated. Just plant the whole darned tank so you don't have to be messing with it.

With plants you don't have to clean the gravel. That's the fertilizer for the plants. I still think if you have high lights you need CO2 if you want good growth. Less lights and med light plants you don't need it.

Direct sunlight? Not without green algae all over your tank.

doug z
02-19-2008, 03:26 AM
Well, I think I'm just going to keep with the plan, and just use the eco-complete, the co2, the laterite, the cable heater..

Do my weekly water changes, etc, etc..

I don't think I'll be planting heavily enough to make it a winning battle, algae-wise..

And adding all that fish food sounds like a recipe for disaster..

I'll be mid range, light wise (2.9 wpg).

Lady Hobbs
02-19-2008, 04:09 AM
Sounds like a good plan.

doug z
02-19-2008, 05:08 AM
Yeah, like I say, it all sounds nice, but..

I wish she would have elaborated more in her book about the getting around the algae part..

02-19-2008, 05:26 AM
Er, shouldn't be using backyard soil at all. You need to purchase the proper kind of potting soil (can't remember what they recommend).
I think you are talking about substrate rich in laterite on which the plants thrive.

doug z
02-19-2008, 05:31 AM
Any potting soil, as long as it doesn't have too many additives (ferts, etc)..

02-19-2008, 02:20 PM
I have snail in my aquarium so it is always a winning battle for me (algae wise). Fortunately my snail don't eat live plant except for the decaying part. Doug, have you ever heard of soilmaster? It is very cheap, and many had try it. I believe someone on this forum had try it. Here are some link about setup and comparison.

doug z
02-19-2008, 05:20 PM
What kind of snail is it?

Thanks for the links!

I wonder how this soil master and eco-complete would compare?

02-19-2008, 06:03 PM
it is some kind of ramshorn snail. It isn't a snail that you buy in a store. A buddy of mine got these snails with his plant, and he and I end up liking the snails. So I got some from his aquarium like 7-8 years ago. I never scrub my tank since then. I'm going to try the soilmaster as soon as I find a dealer around me.

doug z
02-19-2008, 06:10 PM

Do me a favour and see if you can find out exactly what type of snail it is..

Doesn't eat the healthy leaves of your plants?

02-20-2008, 02:10 PM

Do me a favour and see if you can find out exactly what type of snail it is..

Doesn't eat the healthy leaves of your plants?

I have no idea what type of snail it is. It get to about 1cm. I guess it isn't strong enough to eat healthy leaves.

doug z
02-20-2008, 05:53 PM
Hmm.. Okay.

Do you have any pics of it? maybe we could have someone identify it that way..