• You are viewing the forum as a Guest, please login (you can use your Facebook, Twitter, Google or Microsoft account to login) or register using this link: Log in or Sign Up
  • You can now follow UKAPS on Instagram.

The Soil Substrate or Dirted Planted Tank - A How to Guide

Tim Harrison

Administrator
UKAPS Team
Thread starter
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
9,038
Location
UK
I think to get a decent exchange of nutrients and a healthy oxidised microzone etc the gravel/sand grain size needs to be at least around 2-3mm or more.
 

Tim Harrison

Administrator
UKAPS Team
Thread starter
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
9,038
Location
UK
No worries Casta ;) I've never needed to use it, or similar products, either to detoxify ammonia etc nor for chloramine. If you don't have critters to worry about I wouldn't bother; just let nature take its course.
 

dw1305

Expert
UKAPS Team
Joined
7 Apr 2008
Messages
13,983
Location
nr Bath
Hi all,
Prime shouldn't be addded because it will remove ammonia and will interfere with the nitrogen cycle, correct?
We don't know exactly how "Prime" works, because Seachem won't tell you, but Kordon's "Amquel" has a patent and I would be very surprised if the mode of action wasn't similar. If you go to the "Removing Chloramine From Water: Chemical Reducing Agents" section of <"Chloramine and the .....">, it is that process. Basically "Prime" etc. don't remove any nitrogen, they just shuffle it into forms less toxic than ammonia (NH3).

Another issue is that it doesn't really make any difference to cycling. "Cycling" isn't an ammonia dependent process in a planted tank, whatever you may read on other forums. The foundations, that the <"traditional linear view of cycling"> were based on, are now known to be totally irrelevant to microbial nitrification in aquariums, even ones without any plants.

The Science bit
The original research was based on the growing requirements of bacteria isolated from sewage works (high pH, high ammonia loading), but you can only grow a tiny proportion of micro-organisms in culture, and the ones we can <"grow in culture aren't the ones found in aquarium filters">.

More recently scientists have looked at nitrification in biofilters using the <"isotopes of nitrogen"> and DNA sequencing of the organisms present, which has shown that their are a huge range of micro-organisms in aquarium filters and substrate and that the most important ones are Ammonia Oxidising Archaea and <"COMAMMOX Nitrospira bacteria that can convert ammonia (NH3) directly into nitrate (NO3)">.

It has also shown that low ammonia levels ("an oligotrophic life style") supports a much larger diversity of nitrifying organisms, and that <"diversity brings stability">.

cheers Darrel
 

Costa

Member
Joined
20 Oct 2016
Messages
354
Location
Athens, Greece
The original research was based on the growing requirements of bacteria isolated from sewage works (high pH, high ammonia loading), but you can only grow a tiny proportion of micro-organisms in culture, and the ones we can <"grow in culture aren't the ones found in aquarium filters">.

Very interesting as usual @dw1305 - am I safe to conclude from the above that the commercially available bacteria cultures that promise addition of fish sooner are a waste of money?
 
Joined
17 Aug 2018
Messages
1,095
Location
-
Not necessarily... having only 2 species of bacteria will get you started with hardy fish. These products don't always contain the right two though. You need the correct nitrite and ammonia eaters. Details can be found in online forums but I believe Tetra Safe Start is a good one. But you also have to get a product that has been stored correctly which is harder... they need to be reasonably 'fresh' and have not been subjected to extreme temperatures.
 

Tim Harrison

Administrator
UKAPS Team
Thread starter
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
9,038
Location
UK
It's the job of companies like Seachem to discover new and interesting ways to part us from our hard earned cash.
It never ceases to amaze me how many products there are on the market that we didn't know we needed until they were invented.

Bacteria surround us, and cover every surface on this planet. For instance, the bacteria Darrel mentions is very common. So there is no need to fork out extra cash.
Bacteria in soil, on the roots of plants etc will do the job just as well, if not better. Especially since, as Darrel also points out, some of the science behind these products isn't totally accurate.
 

zozo

Member
Joined
16 Apr 2015
Messages
8,316
Location
Netherlands
sooner are a waste of money?

In a way yes.. :) Because it's available for free.. The bacteria needed as a starter culture are not absolutely wet land bound. They also live in the normal soil for example in the garden at, on and even in plant roots.. Thus if you dig out some plants from the soil with roots and all, it doesn't need to be something specific, shake off the soil into a bucket and use that mixed into the aqaurium substrate or bag it up in a pantyhose and put it temporarely in the filter. You don't need a lot. Don't forget they aqaurium plants you buy also contain these bacteria at their roots.

It contains likely more bacteria than any available bottle.. Sufficient bacteria for a starter culture.. Provided for free from mother nature..

Than a bit patience does the rest, bacteria are all over the place they will find and populate your tank/filter in time..

It's not that it is a particular bacterial sp. you absolutely need to buy or else never get.. :)
 

dw1305

Expert
UKAPS Team
Joined
7 Apr 2008
Messages
13,983
Location
nr Bath
Hi all,
am I safe to conclude from the above that the commercially available bacteria cultures that promise addition of fish sooner are a waste of money?
That is a question that we can't really answer, we are into a shades of grey world, it is a similar question to <"do probiotics in yogurt etc work?">. The only way to find out would be to be run a DNA scan looking for COMAMMOX bacterial and Ammonia Oxidising Archaeal (AOA) genes. My suspicion is that they may contain some of these, how useful they would be would depend on the ammonia loading the products were produced under, again my guess would be that the bioreactors that produce these products run on quite high ammonia loadings, which would make them less useful.

I've always suspected than the linear view of cycling was probably incorrect, mainly because fixed nitrogen (nitrogen that isn't N2 gas) is a scarce and valuable product in the natural environment, and evolution is very effective at finding multiple pathways to exploit scarce resources.
It's the job of companies like Seachem to discover new and interesting ways to part us from our hard earned cash.
It never ceases to amaze me how many products there are on the market that we didn't know we needed until they were invented.
With any aquarium product I look at it like buying a fitted kitchen, the salesman tries to sell you all these up-grades etc. but when you look at it objectively you have just paid a £400 for a couple of bits of particle board and some cheap fittings. I know enough about photosynthesis and plant nutrition to know that there are no "special phosphors" in fluorescent tubes and that every NO3- ion is the same as every other NO3- ion in solution, and if any-one tries to tell me different they are wrong.

I may have a jaundiced view, but look on the companies that sell these products as a bit like payday lenders, people go to them in their hour of need, and then they keep on using the service. There is no money to be made in KISS solutions and telling people that growing plants and time are all you need, add in a soil substrate and rain-water and you have a virtually free recipe for having a successful tank. However if you can keep peoples tanks continually teetering on the brink of disaster you can carry on selling them "pH buffers" etc.
having only 2 species of bacteria will get you started with hardy fish. These products don't always contain the right two though. You need the correct nitrite and ammonia eaters.
Have a look at Dr Tim Hovanec's comments in <"Bacteria revealed">. He did a lot of the original research on nitrifying bacteria, but has revised his his opinion based on subsequent scientific advances, despite having a <"commercial interest"> in these products. All we can say that the bacteria that were claimed to be in the product might be there, or they might not, but in either case they are entirely irrelevant.

If any-one is interested in the scientific papers they are linked into the <"Bacterial/biological starters"> thread. If I was going to only read one it would be
cheers Darrel
 

Tim Harrison

Administrator
UKAPS Team
Thread starter
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
9,038
Location
UK
I'm not familiar with that product, but if it's basically compost then yes you'll need to cap it otherwise it'll be easily disturbed and you could end up looking at muddy puddle rather than a beautifully planted aquarium.
 

Sarpijk

Member
Joined
11 Jan 2015
Messages
647
Is it OK to cap with Tropica Soil? I can't find a gravel / sand I'm happy with and I like the look of the tropica stuff? This would be for a cap over 1" of aquatic compost and moss peat mix.
I think this beats the whole purpose of doing a dirted tank. You do dirt in order to avoid paying for a readily commercial product. I am sure you can find a nice size and colour inert substrate.

Having said that , if you choose to do both dirt and Tropica soil you will probably get a profusion of nutrients in the water column that you will have to take care of using fast growing plants along with extra water changes.
 

GlenD

Member
Joined
26 Jun 2019
Messages
161
Location
London
I think this beats the whole purpose of doing a dirted tank. You do dirt in order to avoid paying for a readily commercial product. I am sure you can find a nice size and colour inert substrate.

Having said that , if you choose to do both dirt and Tropica soil you will probably get a profusion of nutrients in the water column that you will have to take care of using fast growing plants along with extra water changes.

Hmm is there anything I can put in the sand/gravel to give the plants an initial boost before their roots make it through to the soil?
 

Sarpijk

Member
Joined
11 Jan 2015
Messages
647
Personally I have recently used gardenia soil and sprinkled some loose osmocote balls. I also used some clay balls I had laying around. This combination has worked well for me. This time I skipped the soil retainer because I want my MTS to be able to dive in and churn it.
55e9f395d688ae5c1ae32a9c1b9cf083.jpg
 

JLammy

Seedling
Joined
7 Aug 2019
Messages
1
Location
Essex
Also is this a suitable <<soil retainer>>? What I'm not sure about is "Sturdy extruded mesh made from PP and treated with UV additives for longer life.".

I have the same question - could anyone assist by giving a link to a soil retainer that would be fish safe? I'm concerned that it may leak chemicals etc. over time...
 
Top