Decent base soil and top sand to use???

Mark Keetch

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Hey hey

So at the moment I have granular substrate and granular gravel on top. I am having a real bad issue with HITH and ulcers in my discus tank. Just hope I cure it all before I lose them all.

Someone has suggested getting rid of the substrate and gravel I got cause it'll be causing issues, and replace it with base soil and top sand.

Any suggestions to what soil and what sand to use. Dont want black top sand though cause that will bring peppering out in the Discus. But not white either as it'll be harder to keep looking clean :rolleyes::rolleyes:
 

alto

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Not a substrate suggestion but I’d place the discus in a bare tank to sort out the health issues first

Ulcers suggest poor water quality so focus in that first
Do you have any nearby vets with fish experience/training - depending on severity, antibiotics may be needed to clear the ulcers

Metronidazole has been helpful in some instances of HITH (some have reported positive response to levamisole~food)
 

Mark Keetch

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I have a plan of action. Tomorrow I have Baktopur arriving so will do a big water change tomorrow and start dosing that into the tank.
Tuesday I have Octocil arriving so will do a massive WC on the QT tank and then start dosing that in the QT tank.

The QT tank is holding 2 discus with HITH and the main tank has the rest of the fish in, including the 1 with early signs of an ulcer.

If they all survive, the plan is to rip out all the substrate and plants to bare bottom, then start from scratch with suggested base soil and top sand. Something that is going to be more healthy to keep discus in.
 
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Regarding sand, I have always found kiln dried sand from a certain orange diy store up very good indeed. Natural colour and no washing required.
 
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Yes, I can only vouch for this specific product though which I have direct experience with!!
 

alto

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As this is discus and you’ve had some some issues, I’d be conservative in both soil and sand substrate components
- I’d use an Aquarium Soil such as Tropica (manufactured to order product), choosing a product that releases none to minimal ammonia (if you go this route, contact manufacturers about product specifications)
(unlike “natural” soil this will always cloud less and be less affected by substrate disturbances)
- if using a standard “soil”, use a product that has possibly been sterilized and definitely go through the mineralization process (I believe Tim covers this in his “sticky”)
- sand, again confirm product specifications with supplier, and thoroughly wash before use

Non-aquarium products can be more or less livestock safe, contacting manufacturers/suppliers for specifications is always my (conservative) preference :) (and often requires some perseverance)
 

Mark Keetch

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- I’d use an Aquarium Soil such as Tropica (manufactured to order product), choosing a product that releases none to minimal ammonia (if you go this route, contact manufacturers about product specifications)
Thanks for the info. So do Tropica do soil substrate as well as granular?
 

alto

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Tropica does “Growth Substrate”
Sera does Floredepot
Several other name brands offer similar products
Note that all of these will “cloud” and “mud” similar to whatever home version you make (most are a “mineralized” version) and should form the nutrient rich base layer beneath 8-10cm suitable fine gravel/coarse sand
(Tropica has many “Inspiration” Layouts done in this style ... )
 

Mark Keetch

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Tropica does “Growth Substrate”
Sera does Floredepot
Several other name brands offer similar products
Note that all of these will “cloud” and “mud” similar to whatever home version you make (most are a “mineralized” version) and should form the nutrient rich base layer beneath 8-10cm suitable fine gravel/coarse sand
(Tropica has many “Inspiration” Layouts done in this style ... )
So for best results it needs to be 8-10cm of substrate as the bottom layer then top sand/gravel on top?
 

Tim Harrison

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A couple of cms will do. You can bank it deeper toward the back if you like. Tights or filter bags packed with gravel can also be used if you want to create higher mounds. Take a look at the Soil Substrate tutorial I linked earlier for more details. Westlands Aquatic Compost is a cheaper, and probably equally as effective, alternative to Tropica's soil.

 

Mark Keetch

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A couple of cms will do. You can bank it deeper toward the back if you like. Tights or filter bags packed with gravel can also be used if you want to create higher mounds. Take a look at the Soil Substrate tutorial I linked earlier for more details. Westlands Aquatic Compost is a cheaper, and probably equally as effective, alternative to Tropica's soil.

Gotcha. So watching that video, only 1cm of substrate is needed then and then 3-4cm of gravel on top. The gravel can be replaced by sand cant it? Or does it need to be gravel on top of the substrate and then sand on top of the gravel?
 

Tim Harrison

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You can use whatever you like. Although, the advantage of using a coarse grained cap is that is allows for the transference of nutrients from the water column to the soil, therefore the soil will be continually replenished. Fine sand will effectively seal the soil off from the water column. Eventually, the soil will become depleted. Which isn't a big deal if you water column dose fertz too. But it's just good horticultural practice to feed plants through both leaves and roots.
Either way I'd still water column dose fertz from the get go as well anyway. Like I mentioned all the info you need is in the tutorial linked ;)
P.S. imo, a couple of cms is better than 1cm.
 
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alto

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As Tim says a couple cm’s of the nutrient rich base is more typical (as I mentioned above, watch the Tropica layouts done in this style ;))

An upper layer of fine gravel allows some water movement and aeration of the substrate, while allowing only very fine debris to fall through

A substrate composed of fine sand is subject to development of anaerobic substrate areas (which may release toxins (that are very harmful to livestock) when disturbed) even after only a few months - by using only a thin layer of sand, sifting through sand regularly, adding sand sifting livestock etc, anaerobic pockets are unlikely to develop

A substrate composed of coarse gravel allows the most water/air movement but also quickly traps loads of debris, it’s also rather less preferred by plants

The Aquarium Soil manufactured products tend to support good plant growth while also remaining more permeable to water/air movement - a considerable amount of R&D has gone into these products re “suitable for aquarium garden” usage. They tend to be a more consistent product over production runs, and distribution


Products such as Pond Soils, Aquatic Composts, John Innes No 1, 3 etc are usually more diverse in their composition with various sources (for the components) for what goes into the bag - they are typically manufactured to a final product analysis of minimums/maximums
They have not typically been developed for aquarium use and make no claims of livestock safety in such a small water volume - so use with caution and contact the manufacturer for composition details (in some other threads on this topic, dw1305 has provided some good details)

Historically, “dirted Aquariums” were set up and established for some months before addition of livestock, then livestock was added conservatively ... once a particular soil “product” has been tested a few times, one can begin to predict results
 

alto

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:oops: - ran out of edit time above

eg,
Tropica Layout 89

(Tropica fine gravel 0.8 - 1.2mm, 0.8 - 1.5mm etc, note the slightly irregular shape and varied particle size promotes looser packing of the substrate)
 

Tim Harrison

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I reckon you're right about the R&D etc that goes in to dedicated aquascaping soil substrate @alto, but I'm not sure that it matters too much. I think companies have to be absolutely sure their Gucci products are safe to use, to avoid commercial disaster more than any benefit to plant growth. Satisfying the markets idea of aesthetics undoubtedly has a role to play as well; it can't be easy to market dirt at Gucci prices...

I think Tropica developed their soil in collaboration with Diana Walstad, and some years back I was asked to compare the effectiveness of their product against my aquatic compost mix but at the time I wasn't able to. It'd still be a fascinating experiment, but I'd be surprised if there was any significant difference in plant growth. There is only so much you can do to dirt...

Back in the day before I supposedly knew better, I'd regularly rescape my 50 gallon soil substrate tank and replace the old substrate with fresh soil, replant, and put the fish straight back in with no ill effects whatsoever. Back then I used UG filters as well. And I think a lot of folk did likewise too. However, I would not recommend that anyone else follow suit today.
 

Mark Keetch

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@alto @Tim Harrison thanks a lot for all the info and tips. That Tropica Layout video was very helpful as well. I think when the time comes, I will use Tropica products. Ok it might end up costing me slightly more but at least it is decent stuff.

I think the main issue I'm going to have though is the tank being at 29°C. I know most plants like it at a max of 28 right? Also my tank is live with quite a few fish so im either gonna have to lay down the substrate and gravel with the water and fish still in there (but at a low water line) or stress the fish out by removing them from the tank, keeping them somewhere while I aquascape the tank then put them back in (which will also mean trying to match the water temps in both tanks)
 
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