whatever soil from the garden (dig down about a foot under the lawn is a good bet) put about 1 inch of that down in the tank (wet it so that it is saturated), then put about 1 inch of gravel on top of that (this is for the plants to get wedged in. Then, add your sand on top.
The gravel will sink into the soil. You do this, so the sand doesn't sink into the soil (as quickly, give it 5 years it'll be a brown very wild natural looking mess).
Nutrient rich soil, followed by
Unipac nordic gravel (4-6mm), followed by
Unipac fiji fine sand
Easy, kind of. This isn't 3 inches of substrate, but it's a good 2 inches.
Wow it’s been a while. Hi Dedlus how you getting on? I went down your road a few years back. Although I was running Co2. I had some success and fails. The brand of aquatic soil I favoured after trying a few was Moerings/Velda brand.
Various things happened...’life’.... which ended up with the strip down of my aquarium. I set up again in January. This time I wanted a much freer substrate than purely aquatic compost with a sand cap. So I had the idea of using a couple of other Velda products. Super dense and Lelite
Super Densa is a light porous volcanic like grit. Lelite is an aquatic soil designed for use with greedy water lilies.
I mixed the two half and half, after giving the Super Densa a good rinse. I capped this with a fine washed gravel. I did put sand (sansibar river) down on the substrate at the front of the tank with the intention of carpeting. But my Cory’s loved playing the sand so much that I decided against it. Here the sand has worked its way though to reveal the substrate below. Worth keeping in mind if anyone tries this.
The results have been great. Lovely healthy root systems, happy plants and no algae. I do run CO2 at 1 bubble per second and dose daily with James C ‘all in one ‘ solution (recipe found at James Planted Tank)
I’ve set up a little, Very low tech tank at work with the same substrate with equal plants success all be it a bit slower
Anyway I hope this has been some sort of interest