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How to choose the soil for the aquarium: the right material and thickness

A modern aquarium cannot be imagined without the bottom covering it. The soil adorns both aquariums without plants, and aquariums with them.

In aquariums with plants, in addition to the decorative role, the soil is important for the delivery of nutrients to the roots of plants. In the ground, the food left by the fish and their waste of life, which the plants with the root system feed on during decomposition, linger.

In this article we will look at what should be the structure of the soil, the thickness of the layer and how to choose the right soil.

Too fine sand and too large pebbles cannot be used as a soil for an aquarium with plants. We have at our disposal the “golden mean”, which includes the sand fraction of 1.5-2 mm and pebbles 2-8 mm.

Let’s consider why such a strict selection of the soil fraction is justified.

For the normal decomposition of organic substances and the formation of anaerobic bacteria in the soil, it should be aerated, i.e. through it must pass the water rich in oxygen and not stagnate there. Fine sand with a fraction of less than 1.5 mm does not satisfy these conditions, the water in it stagnates and unfavorable anaerobic bacteria begin to multiply in this soil.

Apart from the fact that fresh water must penetrate into the soil, organic matter should also settle in it and not be washed out, which is why pebbles with a fraction of more than 8 mm are also not suitable as soil for plants.

The same criteria justifies the correct soil thickness, which for most plant species should be within 4-6 centimeters on average. Although it is fair to take into account that some rare plant species may require a different thickness of the soil, but a novice aquarist is unlikely to encounter such plants.

It is also worth noting that red and yellow sand, as well as limestone, should not be used as soil. Red and yellow sand contain iron which can react with water, and limestone washed out of the ground increases the hardness of the water, which adversely affects both fish and plants.

Most often, granite rock of various fractions is chosen as soil. Its color can vary greatly and does not play a special role for plants, however, there are also preferences here. If you choose too bright a soil, you can disturb the perception of an aquarium as a corner of nature, it will look artificial.

In addition, the dark ground distracts attention from itself, concentrating it on plants and fish, emphasizing their beauty favorably.

All bright objects in our aquarium concentrate on themselves more attention than the fish and plants. Also, when choosing a soil, it is worth checking that there are no sharp edges in it, which may cause injury to the fish or damage to the roots of the plants, ideally the stones should be smooth from all sides.

There is also an opinion that the dark soil is better heated by the light of the lamps, due to which the roots of the plants are warm and the plants grow better from this. Currently, this statement is meaningless because aerators and filters installed in aquariums actively mix the water and it has the same temperature in all parts of the aquarium.

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