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Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and dying fish



 
 
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  #1  
Old August 25th 03, 10:07 AM
Michael
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and dying fish

I originally posted about my problem on r.a.f.m. but after doing several
hours of research this morning I now think it might be related to my potting
soil substrate so I'm posting this here. A really short summary: I set up
a new 60L (15 gallon) planted aquarium with potting soil substrate (about
1") and quart on top (about 1"). I added a couple amano shrimp and they did
fine for a week and then both of them starting dying at exactly the same
time. They started lying on their backs and swimming very eradically, and
they turned white. I immediately took them out and put them in my
neighbor's tank, who has been helping me set up my tank like his (using
potting soil substrate). The shrimps recovered in his tank and I left my
tank fishless for one month. I then added an ancistrus. The next day, just
before going to bed I checked on him. He had been doing fine for over 24
hours (I checked at least once an hour) but when I checked he was on his
back. I touched him with the net and he swam eradically (just like the
shrimp). Twice he swam up to the top and actually poked his head out of the
water, and then swam more and went on his back. I took him out, intending
to transfer him to my friend's tank like I had done to save the shrimps but
he was already dead.

I am now suspecting the potting soil. My water is a brownish color, which I
originally thought was algae but now I think it's due to the potting soil or
both. I read that the potting soil can contain fertilizers and other things
that can consume oxygen and/or give off marsh gases. The tank does smell,
but it smells more like potting soil than rotten eggs (sulfur). When the
ancistrus died my wife said she thought maybe there wasn't enough oxygen
since he poked his head out of the water. I didn't think much about it
until I read today that potting soil can consume oxygen. I'm really at a
loss as to what is wrong with my tank and what to do about it. It was
recommended to me in r.a.f.m.that I should tear down the tank, clean it with
bleach, and start over. It was also recommended not to use potting soil. I
know some people do well with potting soil, such as my neighbor who has a
great tank for over a year now, and others hate it. But would potting soil
cause the behavior that I described? The day the ancistrus died I added
back one of the shrimps that I had placed in my neighbor's tank and while
the ancistrus was dying the shrimp was doing just fine! I put the shrimp in
my neighbor's tank because I didn't want to take a chance on him dying.

I find the whole thing really bizarre and if you have any advice please let
me know. There are lots of choices for substrate and there is no clear
obvious choice, so this is a tough decision for me as well when I rebuild
the tank. Many of the suggestions I see such as vermiculite and flourite
don't seem to be available here in France.

Thanks,
Michael


  #2  
Old August 25th 03, 02:03 PM
Victor M. Martinez
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and dying fish

You need to test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. I'm guessing the
"fertilizer" is releasing too much of one of these and that's killing
your shrimp.

--
Victor M. Martinez

http://www.che.utexas.edu/~martiv

  #3  
Old August 25th 03, 06:02 PM
~Vicki ~
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and...

Most potting soils contain fertilizers which are great for plants, but
very harmful to fish. I would get rid of the potting soil altogether
and use a sand or gravel base, especially since you want to keep fish in
there too. Remember to use an aquatic plant fertilizer (read label to
make sure it is safe for fish) once a week and don't vacuum the gravel
around the plants to thoroughly.

Hope this helps.

Vicki

  #4  
Old August 25th 03, 07:06 PM
Michael
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and...

Most potting soils contain fertilizers which are great for plants, but
very harmful to fish. I would get rid of the potting soil altogether
and use a sand or gravel base, especially since you want to keep fish in
there too. Remember to use an aquatic plant fertilizer (read label to
make sure it is safe for fish) once a week and don't vacuum the gravel
around the plants to thoroughly.


Can I grow my plants in just sand? Don't I need some kind of soil??



  #5  
Old August 25th 03, 07:44 PM
[email protected]
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and dying fish

I find the whole thing really bizarre and if you have any advice please let
me know. There are lots of choices for substrate and there is no clear
obvious choice, so this is a tough decision for me as well when I rebuild
the tank. Many of the suggestions I see such as vermiculite and flourite
don't seem to be available here in France.

Thanks,
Michael


You can put in much less soil. Pre soak it first for 2-3 weeks also
will help.

There are a number of laterite brand names in France. Dupla etc all
make these amdenments to gravel, 2-3mm is a good size. These work well
w/o soil. You can(I would) add a bit of soil/mulm/peat to the bottom
layer with this gravel+ laterite mix. Just not as a much, maybe a
couple of handfuls per 80 liter tank.

'A bit more(2X) for a non CO2 planted tank.


Regards,
Tom Barr
  #6  
Old August 25th 03, 08:10 PM
RedForeman
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and...

Can I grow my plants in just sand? Don't I need some kind of soil??

Most, if not all plants will grow in rocks, they may need liquid
fertilization, but not potting soil, or soil persay...

much has been done with pure soil, meaning, no other chemicals added, just
dirt... and many horror stories have been brought here with "Help, my fish
are dying, and I dont' know why" as the subject... they were all using the
wrong soil, or something similar...


  #7  
Old August 25th 03, 10:08 PM
Jim Seidman
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Default Advice needed for new aquarium with potting soil substrate and dying fish

Dave Millman dav.e.at.tac.tics.co.m wrote in message 4...
I read Walstad's book and got pretty excited about potting soil for my
first planted tank.


Actually, Walstad recommends using soil from your backyard over
potting soil. And she lists quite a few things to be careful about for
potting soil.

Here are some things that the book didn't mention:

1. Soil works great for those folks who never move, remove, replant or add
plants, for as long as the tank lasts. That describes you, right?


I think this is unfair. If you follow her instructions, and cover the
soil with gravel, you'll be OK. It may take a little while for
whatever soil you disturbed to settle back down through the gravel,
but the same could be said of many other substrates.

2. Soil works great for those folks who don't have fish that rearrange
things. Your're not ever likely to have a pl*co, cichlid or loach, are you?


Again, this is true for many other substrates. And my clown loaches
have refrained from "rearranging" things as long as I keep bribing
them with asparagus.

3. Some soil is just plain poison. Seems 5-10-20 years ago, someone
stripped the paint/changed the oil/sprayed insecticide/buried toxins/dumped
a car and engine block/emptied the amphetimine factory onto that piece of
dirt, and you just dropped all that right it into your tank. There's not a
lot of virgin earth around.


I'm sure this is true in some places, but most backyard dirt isn't
chock full of toxins.

My first and only try at a soil tank killed all the fish. There are
probably hundreds of folks out there who have successful soil tanks, but I
suspect the list of failures is larger than the list of successes.


I have heard of dozens of successes (including my own), and very few
failures. Granted, most of the successes were using regular soil
rather than potting soil. In my case, I dug under our backyard sandbox
and thus retrieved soil that had rather little organic material in it.
I felt much safer about that and the unlikely possibility of toxins
than using potting soil and knowing that there were probably weird
fertilizers added.

- Jim
  #8  
Old August 25th 03, 11:23 PM
Victor M. Martinez
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Default Loach bribes (was Advice needed for new aquarium... )

Jim Seidman wrote:
Again, this is true for many other substrates. And my clown loaches
have refrained from "rearranging" things as long as I keep bribing
them with asparagus.


Hmmm.... asparagus you say? Do you cook it first or give it to them raw?

--
Victor M. Martinez

http://www.che.utexas.edu/~martiv

 




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