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How to choose the right soil for a plant aquarium

For most aquarists, it is no secret that in addition to quartz chips there are a large number of special soils for various types of aquariums: vegetable, shrimp and others. Why is that? Yes, everything is trivially simple, the aquarium substrate is almost the key point in the life of the aquarium.

The future of your underwater garden depends on its characteristics and properties.

Aquarium soil is not only a biofilter for the entire ecosystem that processes nitrogen compounds like NO2, NO3 and NO4. It also has a certain composition, thanks to which the aquarium animals can develop normally.

This applies to shrimp, fish and snails. I recommend that you take the choice of an aquarium substrate as seriously as possible, and if you can buy really high-quality soil, do not be stingy.

How to buy a substrate, then decide for yourself, because there are no absolutely identical aquariums, they are all individual. If we conditionally divide all the nutritional substrates, then some are intended for beginners who like aquariums and pros.

The main difference between the two is the concentration of nutrients.

Nutrient soils are used to supply aquarium plants through the root system with all the necessary substances that cause their rapid growth. In addition, nutrient substrates normalize the aquatic environment and equalize the hydrochemical parameters of the aquarium water.

Aquatic plants are able to absorb nutrients, both through the roots and through the leaves. However, for most hydrophytes, root feeding is more preferable.

The fact is that the bulk of aquatic plants in nature during periods of drought exist in a semi-aquatic state. That is, the upper part of the plant is in the open air, and the lower part with the root system is located under water in the layer of the substrate.

In such cases, hydrophytes are forced to actively develop the root system in order to get maximum nutrients for active growth.

As a rule, such hydrophytes are active absorbers of nutrients, and for their normal and active development, “fatty” nutrient soils are needed. Accordingly, if you plan to grow such plants, then a correctly selected nutritional substrate will be the key to successful cultivation of hydrophytes and the maintenance of the aquarium as a whole.

But, here I would like to briefly touch upon one key point … If a pair of cryptocoryne bushes or echinodoruses are planned in your aquarium, then I highly recommend not using nutrient soil.

In this case, it is better to use tableted fertilizers for aquarium plants, which are enclosed under the roots. The substrate should be used only in dense herbalists.

But this is not all, even if there are a large number of squandering in your tank, you will have to regularly monitor the hydrochemical parameters of the water with the help of special tests and monitor the condition of the aquarium.

At the same time, instead of nutrient substrates, you can opt for conventional and inexpensive soils. That is, before launching an aquarium, you must decide for yourself whether you will grow ground cover hydrophytes (chemiantus mikrantemoides and cubes, eleocharis, micrantemum montecarlo, glossostigma) and mosses (Javanese, Christmas), or you plan to plant large hydrophites (lemongrass , limnofily, hygrophilic, cryptocoryne, echinodorus, etc.).

If you have no desire to care for and bother with a thick garden, and the selected plants will develop perfectly in almost any soil, then it is better to give up the nutrient substrate and stop at the usual neutral soil of the corresponding fraction.

But not every “ordinary” soil is suitable for an aquarium and plants. Therefore, before laying in an aquarium, they should be carefully checked for solubility and other properties, for example, how the substrate affects the water hardness in the aquarium. How can I do that?

Very simple. We take a small deep bowl, pour soil into it and water it with 9% vinegar.

If a chemical reaction has begun that is accompanied by hissing, then this ground is not suitable for use in an aquarium.

Hiss says that the substrate will change the hardness of the water in the aquarium, increasing parameters such as: dH, KH and pH. The bulk of aquatic plants love soft water, content in a tough environment and substrate will be extremely problematic and it’s not a fact that they will have a healthy appearance. In addition, the hissing substrate not only affects the hardness of the water in the aquarium, it is not a key problem for hydrophytes.

The main problem is that most macro-and micronutrients that aquatic plants feed on are absorbed in the form of humic acids.

In neutral substrates, as a rule, a persistent, weakly acidic medium that helps plants consume nutrients through the root system. If the soil contains an excessive amount of calcium salts, there will be no weakly acidic environment in the soil, and the plants will have difficulty feeding through the roots.

Then a novice aquarist may immediately have a quite logical question: “Why are these soils often sold in pet shops?”. Why not sell only neutral substrates?

It’s very simple: if such a soil is not suitable for plant aquariums, it is ideal for aquarium with African cichlids.

To date, the choice of special substrates for aquatic plants is very diverse. Almost all major brands have in their arsenal a range of substrates for the maintenance of aquarium plants.

Most meet the basic requirements and needs of hydrophytes – they have high porosity, light weight. And this contributes to good ventilation of the substrate, favorable development of colonies of beneficial bacteria.

That is, only neutral soils have these properties.

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