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Thinking about adding aquarium soil beneath the sand in my tank?

Discussion in 'New to the Hobby Questions and Answers' started by IndiaHawker, May 14, 2019.

  1. IndiaHawker

    IndiaHawker Fish Fanatic

    Jul 3, 2018
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    This is a relatively recent pic of my tank - sand must now be at least an inch deep, definitely deep enough, but plants still not staying in place. Could this be due to not using root tabs, or more likely due to having adult and baby bronze cories and a BN pleco, who all love playing in the sand?

    For the first time since acquiring and making-over this tank last July, I'm really thinking about taking everything out, fish included, to add some form of aquarium soil beneath the sand. At least then surely my plants would stay in place! However I don't know much about this - how hard would this be to do? Would most likely be doing this over summer (when I have time off work) and not just yet, so the temperature hopefully warm so the fish would hopefully be okay in a bucket with their plants whilst I'm doing this? And can anyone please advise me to the benefits/drawbacks of using aquarium soil beneath the sand in my tank?

    Please and thanks in advance for any help! :)
  2. Byron

    Byron Member

    Feb 25, 2009
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    Changing substrates will not solve your problem. Sand is the best anchor for substrate-rooting plants. Not to mention the issues depending upon the type of "soil" that would likely make the tank non-inhabitable for fish for several months. There is no actual benefit to soil in an aquarium, but there are some negatives.

    Which plants are the problem?

    Edit: Forgot to mention about the sand depth...1 inch is not going to root much of anything; the Vallisneria in the back for example will need more depth, and stem plants if those are the issue also.
    #2 Byron, May 14, 2019
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  3. PheonixKingZ

    PheonixKingZ Fish Crazy

    May 8, 2019
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    Lexington KY.
    Aquarium soil is definitely better than nothing, so I would say yes. Yes it it’s fine to keep the plants in a bucket, for the time that you spend taking out the sand. :)
  4. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Jan 26, 2008
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    Perth, WA
    Plants need at least 3 inches of substrate to grow in. One inch is nowhere near enough for plants to develop a root system capable of holding them in place.

    Potting mixes or special substrates for plants are not necessary and generally not worth wasting your money on. They regularly have organic matter in them that breaks down and releases ammonia so you might get ammonia readings for months after adding it. Most of the nutrients produced by these special substrates runs out after a year or so and then you have mud in the bottom that is of no practical use.

    If you want to add something to the substrate, add more sand and get some red or orange clay and roll it into balls about 10mm in diameter. Let the balls dry and then push one under each plant.

    The Madagascan Lace Plant needs heaps of nutrients otherwise they grow well for a few months and then waste away.

    You can grow plants in pots and Aponogetons (like the lace plant) do better in pots. I use 1 or 2 litre plastic icecream buckets and put an inch of gravel in the bottom. I spread a thin layer of granulated garden fertiliser over the gravel. Cover the fertiliser with a 6mm (1/4inch) layer of powdered red or orange clay. Fill the container up with gravel and plant the plant into the gravel. As the plant roots grow down they get to the clay and fertiliser and the plants take off. The clay stops the fertiliser leaching into the tank water.

    You can smear silicon on the outside of the icecream container and cover it in sand, gravel, small rocks or bits of wood so it blends in more with the tank.
  5. Fishmanic

    Fishmanic Moderator
    Moderator Tank of the Month Winner!

    Sep 23, 2013
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    Northeastern USA
    Until newer plants get rooted, I use a rock over the stem part that is buried in the sand . It helps hold the stem in place. I used pool filter sand in 2 of my tanks and seachem root tabs to enrich the sand. Works for my stem plants.

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