Newbie planting questions re: soil & de-chlorinator


Hi all, I've had aquariums on and off all my life, but never did a proper live plant tank and want to do it in a small 5 gallon I plan to put a betta in. Although I have tons of questions, I have two that have popped up quickly. I have an old compost barrel I have a bunch of soil in, but it hadn't been touched in a number of years for various reasons and when I opened it up, much of it was dry and rocky. I've managed to break it down and sift some of it and have about 5lbs worth I wanted to use. Was wondering if this soil would be viable as again it was pretty dried out at this point.
Second question is I have a bottle of tetra aqua safe that I got out of muscle memory when I got the tank a while back. After reading so much I was going to get some Seachem Prime, but wondering if this tetra stuff was just as effective for the betta but also for the plants or if they do different things.

Thanks ,




The soil may be viable but I don't know enough to suggest using it. If it was me I would buy aquarium soil, you know it's safe and has nutrients. There's brands out there that don't leach ammonia or anything. Perhaps others could help you with that. I have plants growing well in gravel with liquid fertisiliser and fish poop.

Regarding water conditioner. Tetra aqua safe is perfectly fine but prime is the far superior product.

Tetra is a false economy when you look just how concentrated prime is. A few drops would dose 5 gallons.

The added bonus of prime is the detoxifying of ammonia and nitrite if necessary in a cycle crash or spike.


If you switch to Prime after you use up your bottle of Tetra, I'd recommend getting a few 1mL syringes without a needles. You only need 0.5mL of Prime to dose a 5 gallon tank and that's really hard to judge without a real way to measure.


I have a 5 gallon planted aquarium with a beta in it currently and let me tell you it's a bit of a journey. I would not use soil at all. You also have a few cheap options with substrate. I would suggest a combination of aqua soil, sand and gravel to keep the costs down (this combination also reduces impacts of the substrate compacting to much). If you can't do aqua soil (it's expensive) then you can crush fert tabs in gravel and sand (for heavy rooted plants). I have only ever used prime so I can't really comment on anything else.

The issue you will have is water balance. Such a small volume means it will be easily impacted by things like dosing, water changes and over feeding. But stick at it. The best thing I can also recommend is floating plants. Offer they are fast growing and really help with keeping algae at bay especially considering if you choose rooted plants.

I put a before and after for reference as this was across a 7-8 month period. I have little to no algae now and just do small water changes every 2 weeks.


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You could use the soil, maybe an inch on the bottom and top it with gravel 1-2 inch on top. This would reduce the leeching of soil to a minimum but able plants to still grow roots through the gravel into the soil.
Deep sub will take away some space from the tank but help the plants to grow healthy and keep some balance in the small 5g tank

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