Having the best substrate for your aquarium is necessary for the health of your aquatic pets and also for the aquarium plants.
While many people prefer gravel or sand in their aquascape, you can’t grow living aquarium plants without soil.
A good substrate ensures that your aquarium plants are thriving, receiving the nutrition they need, staying alive, and propagating your tank.
Can You Use Normal Soil in Aquarium?
Aquarium soil, such as Amazonia aqua soil, specifically designed for a tank, is expensive.
This brings in the question of whether you can just use normal soil instead.
The answer depends on which kind of soil you decide to use.
Soil from you Garden/Backyard
Chances are, if you use soil taken directly from your garden and placed in the tank, you can kill your fish.
Soil from your garden or backyard is non-organic and therefore harmful to fish.
Using soil from your garden without processing it beforehand has other downsides as well. For example, the soil can contain insects and can soon fill your tank up with bugs, beetles, and larvae.
These can harm your fish and destroy your plants.
Organic Potting Soil
On the other hand, organic soil is acceptable to use and is not as expensive either.
One example of this is organic potting soil, which you will have to filter out for any non-soil additions such as foreign particles.
However, other than that, it is safe. It doesn’t have the dangerous additions that non-organic soil has, such as fertilizer and chemicals.
However, there are ways for you to get safe soil for your aquarium without having to make a major investment.
Making Aquarium Soil at Home
There are a few different ways to prepare the soil for your aquarium at home.
Using Safe Garden Soil
If you have no other alternatives, you can use garden soil that has been chemical-free for a long period of time.
Do not use any soil that has been exposed to fertilizers and other gardening chemicals.
- Collect the soil in a bucket and remove all access particles such as rocks, twigs, and tiny bugs. To know that you have enough soil to cover your aquarium, collect enough that it fills up the bottom of the tank and stands up to two inches high.
- Next, once you are done sifting the soil, spread the soil out on a baking sheet. You might have to use a few sheets to make sure they don’t tear when you lift them into the oven.
- Now, place the sheets in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This step is crucial for getting rid of any microorganisms and ensuring that your soil is now sterilized.
- Once you take the soil out of the oven, let it cool back down to room temperature and then place it inside the aquarium. You can also silt the soil again to be on the safe side.
Using Organic Potting Soil
The second option is to use organic potting soil and clay.
Before making your purchase, check to make sure that the soil is chemical-free and is organic.
Check the quantity to ensure that it will cover the bottom of your tank entirely with at least two inches.
- Next, you will need a mesh for filtering purposes, a large bucket, a mixer or stick, a wide sheet to lay the soil out on to dry, a cap or sealing substrates such as sand or gravel, and modeling clay.
- To prepare organic potting soil, you will need a few days before you can add it to your aquarium. You can’t add it to the tank soon after—the way we mentioned for garden soil. If you’ve moved your fish out of the tank to add the soil, make sure they are in a secure place where they are getting plenty of air and light for the time being.
- Now, silt the soil and place the filtered part into the bucket.
- Next, fill enough water in the bucket that it is sitting at least two inches above the soil. You need to have a fairly large bucket to make this possible.
- Use the mixing stick to mix the two substances together and let them soak for up to 48 hours.
- Using another bucket, filter this mixture again, add water up to two inches, and let it sit for another two days.
- Once the 48 hours have passed, remove the excess liquid from the soil and spread it out on the sheet. Let the soil air dry. If you want, you can also bake this soil in the oven to quicken the drying process.
How to Aquascape Your Aquarium
As mentioned above, you will have to remove your fish from the aquarium before you begin.
Place the fish in a container and fill it with water from your tank. Place the filter, heater, and all other appliances into the tank.
This is helpful because it keeps the quality of the water the same as when it is inside the tank, so you don’t have to worry about your fish adjusting to the water.
- Remove all the water from the tank. Also get rid of the gravel and accessories you have, such as plastic plants and toys for your fish.
- Next, make sure your tank is as dry as possible. This may not be easy and you’ll have to use several towels to thoroughly dry out the tank, but it is important because a wet tank leads to a sunken cap and the substrate won’t settle properly.
- Now, gently start adding soil to the bottom of the tank a little at a time. If you had measured properly beforehand, there should be enough soil to sit at least two inches above the base of the aquarium. If the soil is too thick, it can breed harmful substances such as toxins. However, if it is too thin, it won’t allow your new aquarium plants to grow.
- Next, take the clay and break it down in your hands. Spread the little pieces all over the bottom of the tank as you continue adding soil.
- Take the cap, whether you have decided on sand or gravel, and add it over the soil. If your soil is around two inches, the cap should be the same thickness. If you don’t add enough cap, the soil is at risk of dislodging and moving around the tank.
- Add water slowly back into the tank. You must pour the water in slowly, or it will cause the soil to float up and make your entire tank muddy and dirty. To avoid this, you can pour the water along the sides of the tank. Now you can cycle the tank.
What Are the Benefits of Using Soil to Aquascape Your Aquarium?
When you use substrates such as sand or gravel, you have to keep in mind that you can’t grow any live plants in your aquarium.
These substrates only work for aquariums with plastic plants.
However, the soil is filled with the nutrients that live plants need in order to take root and grow in your tank.
No matter which kinds of aquarium plants you go for, the soil seems to have an adequate supply of nutrients to help them thrive.
It also stays more firmly planted at the base of your aquarium.
When you purchase aquarium soil such as Amazonia aqua soil, it has the added benefits of being specifically designed for aquariums.
It doesn’t need the additional preparatory steps that are required if you use potting or garden soil.
Another advantage is that soil made especially for your aquarium doesn’t need a layer at the bottom—it is a complete substrate on its own.
The grain size also ensures that the plants settle in well and can take root effectively.
Note: In the first 4 weeks after making a soil change, you should ideally change 20-25% of the water at least two times a week.
This helps your fish and plants settle into the new water conditions.
Having soil in the tank affects the pH level of the tank, so the water changes are necessary to help your marine life adjust.
How Do You Determine How Much Soil You Need for Your Tank?
If you’re going to go through the hassle of replacing your previous substrate with soil, you have to make sure you get enough soil to create the perfect layer.
First, measure how long and wide your aquarium is. Next, keep in mind how thick you want the soil layer to be, which is ideally two inches.
Now, multiply the length by the width and layer and divide by 1000. This should help you determine the quantity of soil you will need.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of whether or not you want to purchase aqua soil for your tank or make your own soil at home.
Remember, you cannot use non-organic soil that has been exposed to fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals.
Regardless of which soil you use when making your own substrate, you must follow through with all the steps in the methods mentioned above to ensure that you do not contaminate the tank or harm your fish.
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