I don't know a whole lot of using soil but I know it's usually not advised unless you do a special planted tank which I doubt you want to do. You can look on the bag and it will probably have lots of chemicals in it. The soil will probably be hard to keep from mixing up in your tank and other things. I would advise against it. I grow my plants fine in regular gravel. If you wish to have a special substrate then you can buy one, there are types out there.
I had read in various sources that often the key to good plant growth is adequate substrate. this can be achieved by using good soil. I have seen numerous examples on the web of beautiful planted tanks that use soil under gravel (as I would like to).
the reason I am keen on using soil in the substrate is because I will only be getting about 2watts per gallon out of the lighting and will not be using co2 injection.
could you please explain, beyond the mess factor, why I wouldnt want to use soil as a layer of substrate?
the most light intensive plant I will be using is a ruffled amazon sword (which I have read is less dependent on high light than the other varieties of sword), everything else will be java ferns, anubius, and crypts
The only problem that I could see is that miracle gro is really high in decomposing organic material, which means lots of nitrates/nitrites that will dissolve into the water. If you plan on having fish, you'll probably have to wait quite a bit while the plants/bacteria manage to get control of this. I'm not sure of this, as I haven't studied the effects of soil on water. I have, however, done quite a bit of research on soil; what works for growing what plants and why.
If it were me, (and it probably will be in the very near future), I would use a substrate specifically made for aquarium plant growth combined with fertilizer tablets. Also, make sure you look for plants that can handle low light. I found a site in the past that allows you to search by a plant's lighting requirements (or temp requirements), but I can't find it right now. When I do, I'll post it. I've found a great quote regarding plants. "Plants have a few basic requirements that must be met if they are to survive and to thrive. If any one of these factors are in limited supply, the others are effectively wasted (and usually algae takes advantage of these leftovers)."
I've not had a chance to test this in an aquarium, but I know that it is true for terrestrial plants.
soil isn't necessarily a bad substrate for a planted tank, as long as you (or whatever's in your tank) doesn't go digging/stirring things up a lot. putting a sand and/or gravel layer on top is definitely a good call. that'll slow the nitrates and such from diffusing as quickly into the water, and keep it where the plant roots are.
if you decide to go the soil substrate method, let me know how it goes!
here are the plants I'm going to be using in this set up.
3 varieties of cryptocoryne:
foreground group 1: wendtii
foreground group 2: willisii
background: crispatula var. balansae - from what I have read these get very tall, hopefully a good background plant for my lowlight setup
All sound good to me. The african water fern (Bolbitis heudelotti) takes a little longer to attach than the other plants with Rhizomes. Mine attached faster to wood than rock.
You may have some algae on your slower growing plants(Anubias, java fern,african water fern) with that much wpg
Someone was telling me about Schultz aquatic soil, but if you have diggers in your tank you might want to put a layer of gravel over it.
Here is more about substrate choices for aquaria
Heres a pic of mine
Anubias x. 'Frazeri' is also a favorite
Crypts are another favorite plant because they are so easy to grow.
CRYPTOCORYNE wendtiI comes in green and bronze and make a striking display when mixed.
Heres a whole selection of Crypts
Hope that helps
As far as I have read, soil in itself is not dangerous in a planted tank, and it's even better than gravel in many instances. But the soil has to be pure, natural, with no chemical additives (no chemical fertilizers) whatsoever. I think most packaged soils that you buy at stores do have a lot of chemicals and fertilizers in them. So you have to be careful. Carol has mentioned Diana Walstad. I have read her brilliant book and I LOVED it. You should read this entire thread: (it talks about tanks with soils vs. tanks with gravels). You should also read Diana Walstad's book: Ecology of the Planted Aquarium: A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist. If you do as she tells you to, you should be OK. I would be very careful if I were buying packaged soil. Diana recommends natural soil from your backyard AS LONG AS it hasn't been sprayed with any pesticides and other chemicals and fertilizers. I actually want to set up such a tank myself.
Once again, read the book for your own advantage - it will really help you. Good luck