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Starting over - Advice needed


17 Apr 2009
Hey all,

I love this website, I have not found another yet that shows the 'how to's' of a planted tank than this one!

So...... I want to start over in my tank. I have had it a year or so now and have through trial and error worked out what I want in the tank.

Currently I have a sand substrate which works wonders for the fast growing stem plants, however, that said, I am no gardener when it comes to these types of plants and therefore they tend to clutter up my tank very quick and I end up messing almost everything up trying to thin them out.

So.... I want to go for some more broad leaved plants, something along the lines of Swords and wider. However, I understand that these types ofplants tend to be rather 'hungry' when it comes to nutrition. And its this that brings me to my problem - I have nothing underneath my sand.

I have just ordered all the relevant parts to make my own home 'FE CO2 system' as described in that fantastic tutorial (just hope I dont blow my head off in the process). So I figured that this would be a good time to start over.

I do not want to do a full cycle again as I already have fish, so the plan was to keep at least 50% of the water and all of the filter media, which in my view would equate to a hearty water change.

Is there a best practice when doing what I want to do?

Also.... I do like the sand, but I didn't anticipate the amount of poop on view from the fish. Is there something else I can add to the sand to disguise this a little?

Also.... whats considered the best substrate right now?



George Farmer

30 Jun 2007
Hi Lee,

Welcome to UKAPS and thanks for the feedback!

There are so many substrate products suitable for your needs - it really depends on the look you want, and your budget...

The cheapest option is to add root tabs/capsules to your existing sand, around the areas of the plants. Amazon swords, and/or crypts are heavy root feeders, so will benefit from the extra nutrition.

The fish waste collecting on the sand tells us that the sand is very fine. This can be detrimental in the long-term, as excess anaerobic bacteria can build up, resulting in toxic hydrogen sulphide production. However, plenty of healthy root growth can prevent this, but you do need to be planted heavily with healthy, growing plants.

If you are 'serious' about your tank and want to go 'proper', then you could consider replacing the sand.

ADA Aqua Soil Amazonia is widely regarded as one of the best substrates on the market. It isn't cheap, but the results are great. It does have an issue with an ammonia spike in the first couple of weeks though, so you need to keep an eye on this in an already set-up tank with fish. Plenty of water changes and an already mature filter is usually enough to prevent issues. (A quick Google for 'Aqua Soil ammonia spike' should yield plenty of info.)

A newer product is Oliver Knott's NatureSoil that apparently performs very well too, but without the ammonia spike.

Aqua Soil is available from The Green Machine. NatureSoil is available from Aqua Essentials.

There are plenty of other substrates available, but from personal experience, and that of other UKAPS members, I'd go for one of the above - if you can afford them.

You can replace the entire substrate effectively on a budget by using something like Tropica Plant Substrate topped with fine gravel/coarse sand.

Another option is to use Akadama, as per JamesC's superb thread...


I hope that helps a little and all the best with your new venture!


Thread starter
17 Apr 2009
thanks for the prompt reply!!

Whats the more common - To use a substrate that effectively is an 'all in one' ie it acts as a nutrient base as well as decoration or to have two substrates - one below providing the nutrients and one above providing the decoration?

I noticed that my LFS has started using something similar looking to the Akadamia and whilst the colour has never appealed to me before - brown! it actualy acsuntuates the colour of the plants as well as disguising the ovbious poop issue I have.


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