Aquarium soil better for plant growth?

devsi

I’ve got my eye on a second hand Jewel Lido 200, which I’ll move my shrimp and Spixii snails into while I think about stocking ideas.

The first thing I want to do is change the gravel out, because I don’t like what’s in there currently.

In all my other tanks I have gravel, with plenty spare, but I would like to turn this tank into a jungle; would aquarium soil be better for plant growth?

Edit: bloody autocorrect. The title is supposed to say “Aquarium soil better for plant growth?”. If any mods see this and can change the title, please do.
 

Frank the Fish guy

Yes, you need an iron rich substrate for a planted tank. Don't try to put plants into an inert gravel.
 

devsi

Excellent, ok, thank you.

Is there a specific type of soil I should use? Is it better to use "Aquarium soil" or can I just go to a garden centre and buy some normal soil?
 

Frank the Fish guy

Garden soil will make a mess of your aquarium and not settle out. Aquarium soil settles down to the bottom.
 

devsi

Thank you. It looks like the big three are Ada Amazonia, Fluval Stratum and Tropica Aquarium - would you recommend one over the others?

Fluval Stratum works out the cheapest, but there is some places online saying it has to be changed out in the future because it will break down or something?
 

Blacksheep1

You can get peat free organic potting soil and place it in mesh bags then cap with sand as an alternative to the plant substrates. This is a whole new can of worms but there’s a type of kitty litter you can use too , similar to the above. If you like the look of the plant substrates use that as an easy option. Be aware they leach ammonia for about a month.
 

devsi

Thanks Blacksheep1, and if I wanted to just go the easy route, even if it's more expense, would one of the above three (Ada Amazonia, Fluval Stratum, Tropica Aquarium) be a good choice?

I'm using gravel in all my tanks at the moment, so as long as it's better than that and I don't have to keep changing it out, it doesn't need to be perfect :)
 

Blacksheep1

Here’s the kicker … you do have to change it out. Or re-charge it . Usually it lasts about 2 years before needing to be changed. I’ve used flora base pro in one of my tanks and it does grow plants well, I do have shrimp in that tank though and it’s a shrimp substrate. I’ve not used the ones you’ve mentioned so hopefully someone will chime in on opinions. I’ve seen good reviews on the fluval stratum though.

do a YouTube search and I swear you’ll end up down a rabbit hole researching it all but it’s worth it. Get it right the first time rather than trying to re-do it.
 

devsi

Here’s the kicker … you do have to change it out. Or re-charge it . Usually it lasts about 2 years before needing to be changed. I’ve used flora base pro in one of my tanks and it does grow plants well, I do have shrimp in that tank though and it’s a shrimp substrate. I’ve not used the ones you’ve mentioned so hopefully someone will chime in on opinions. I’ve seen good reviews on the fluval stratum though.

do a YouTube search and I swear you’ll end up down a rabbit hole researching it all but it’s worth it. Get it right the first time rather than trying to re-do it.

Thank you! I'm actually going to completely contradict myself and I'm looking into peat free organic potting soils.

Is it as simple as just going to a garden centre and getting peat free?

For example, this Miracle-Gro says it's peat free, so is that suitable? Or do I need to look at the contents more fully than that?

Do potting soils not need to be re-done?

do a YouTube search and I swear you’ll end up down a rabbit hole researching it all but it’s worth it. Get it right the first time rather than trying to re-do it.

haha yeah, I started with searching/YouTube and found there was SO much information it's hard to know what to do.
 

Blacksheep1

I agree it’s hard to know what’s the best approach.
It’s fine to contradict yourself haha. Organic is a must ( I believe ) , sieve it to remove and sticks and larger pieces. Those mesh bags with the plastic zips ( so they don’t rust ) are a god send and stops it causing a massive mess, Easy to
Replace too, Stops it mixing into the sand cap etc. Peat will lower your pH so peat free is the way to go.
 

devsi

Organic is a must ( I believe )
Is that to say the Miracle-Gro is not suitable, because it's doesn't say organic?
Those mesh bags with the plastic zips ( so they don’t rust ) are a god send and stops it causing a massive mess, Easy to
Replace too, Stops it mixing into the sand cap etc.
I'm not entirely sure what you mean, do you have a picture or link?
Peat will lower your pH so peat free is the way to go.
Ahhhh ok.

Thanks for all the help :)
 

Blacksheep1

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product...6a6c850c2867631bc1527d7ad892df&language=en_GB

These are the mesh bags. Ummm I actually can’t answer wether you do need organic … obviously you’ve got to be careful what goes in your tank so if it were me I’d go with what others use with success but if you want to go off piste that’s fine , just don’t add fish until you’ve tested everything, multiple times. I suppose someone decided to try soil for the first time so …
 

devsi

These are the mesh bags.

Thank you :) so the soil goes in those, they lay at the bottom of the tank and you poke the plants through the mesh bags? Wouldn't that break them?
 

kansas

You can grow plants in gravel or sand just fine if you use fertilizer.
 

Blacksheep1

No you plant in the sand cap and the roots find the way into the soil for nutrients. That’s why mesh bags are needed so they can find a way into it
 

Cherryshrimp420

I use completely inert sand. No issues with growing plants.

I tried experimenting with peat moss base + sand cap in a new 30g setup. No noticeable improvements, in fact I think plants grew slower in here.
 

devsi

I use completely inert sand. No issues with growing plants.

I tried experimenting with peat moss base + sand cap in a new 30g setup. No noticeable improvements, in fact I think plants grew slower in here.

Potentially stupid question, how do I know if a sand is inert?
 

Cherryshrimp420

Potentially stupid question, how do I know if a sand is inert?
Just any play sand, beach sand, pool filter sand etc will be inert. As in no added ferts or organics
 

devsi

Just any play sand, beach sand, pool filter sand etc will be inert. As in no added ferts or organics

Ohhh ok. Thanks! Is sand a better substrate than gravel for growing plants?
 

ruud

You can use whatever you want.

Aquasoil is typically used for jungle style aquascapes, which make strong use of "carpet plants". The color contrast between green carpets and dark soil is beautiful, and to me, the main reason to use aquasoil in jungle scapes.

And perhaps, the soil offers an initial advantage to these carpets. Perhaps.

In the longer run, the soil breaks down and loses its nutritional value, so you end up with "dark sand". Regardless of the brand.

For non-jungle scapes, I prefer sand. I can grow carpets on sand as well. The success of carpets mainly depends on CO2 and light.

The preference of sand versus gravel is the grain size. Sand makes the scape look larger, whereas gravel is a bit easier to stick plants in. The former outweighs the latter easily, as the latter is only of temporary nature. Plants do equally well in both.
 

Frank the Fish guy

Thank you. It looks like the big three are Ada Amazonia, Fluval Stratum and Tropica Aquarium - would you recommend one over the others?

Fluval Stratum works out the cheapest, but there is some places online saying it has to be changed out in the future because it will break down or something?
This is why I like Flourite. It lasts forever.
 

TClare

I don't think a soil is actually necessary to grow a jungle, depending on the plants you choose. My biggest planted tank has mostly river sand. I did initially add 5kg of aqua soil (only a small percentage of the total substrate), which may have helped at first, but surely has run out of nutrients by now (1.5 years later). yet it is more jungly than ever and some plants need trimming every week.. I have also had good plant growth in tanks with only sand substrate. Just use fertilizers occasionally. But if you want to go high tech with CO2 and very strong lighting, then you may need the soil to support the faster growth. Mine are all low tech.
 

Blacksheep1

There’s so many ways of doing this. Soil, plant substrate , sand only, soil and sand cap , gravel, bare bottom and plants in pots, root tabs, low tech, high tech, high light , ei dosing.. the list goes on.. everyone’s got a way of doing it. Decide what your level of maintenance can sustain ie dose once a week or daily dosing etc.

Just sand alone will grow plants. But you’ll probably need to dose ferts at some point.
 

Cherryshrimp420

Ohhh ok. Thanks! Is sand a better substrate than gravel for growing plants?

I've grown very dense plants in both sand and gravel, but I like sand because its cheap. I also think sand is better for trumpet snails and other burying animals
 

TClare

I also think sand is better for trumpet snails and other burying animals
Also for many fish, especially cichlids that sift through sand, and Corydoras of course.
 

Blacksheep1

The spixii snails would also appreciate the sand as they burrow. Gravel just won’t work for them.
i don’t know about a plant substrate for spixii’s, I have no information on that. I do know that mts can burrow well in it but that’s not to say it would be the same situation for the spixii’s, besides you can’t keep the two together anyway . They are a rarer snail as you know, so if it were me I’d go soil or plant substrate at the back in bags with a sand cap. That’s just my opinion though.
If you’re going for low light plants like moss and Anubias and easy growing stems, just go for sand. It works for your snails , shrimps don’t care either way as long as some plants are in the tank.

if you are going for a fully planted tank with red stems etc that’s a different story, that’s where the plant substrate and soil comes into play with other ferts and higher lights. Is this the spixii tank or the new tank you’re looking at ?
 

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