What is aquarium soil, what is it for and how to choose
Aquarium soil is not just a design element. This is a full-fledged part of the ecosystem, without which life in a closed aquarium space is impossible. Choosing it based on its appearance is like equipping your own apartment, focusing on the beauty of the working material.
Aquarium soil: definition, its need
The soil is part of the ecosystem of an enclosed space, necessary for plants and fish, and is a design element..
In a “fish house”, bottom flooring is necessary because:
- he is a processor of fish waste;
- contributes to the saturation of water with oxygen;
- natural filter for pollutants;
- vital for bottom fish;
- plant nutrition source.
The fact is that beneficial bacteria and microorganisms live on the surface of the substrate, multiplying. They are responsible for the first three points listed above..
How to choose a soil
Arriving at a pet store, a beginner – aquarist has a desire to buy all the most beautiful. The same applies to the soil, most importantly, its appearance. In fact, the attractiveness of the substrate is a secondary matter..
When choosing it, pay attention to the following things:
- type of;
- size and shape of the fraction;
First of all, you need to decide on the purpose of the aquarium. For small, viviparous fish, one type of soil is suitable, for large predators – another, and for a paludarium (aquarium for growing plants) – completely different.
For turtles and miniature crocodiles, only a large composition is suitable. Preferably pebbles or large stones.
Aquarium soil: types
The aquarium substrate is divided into several types:
- natural but processed;
Natural bases include pebbles, river sand, stones, gravel.
Treated soils: painted gravel and stones, expanded clay.
Artificial substrates – glass stones, processed plastic.
Advantages and disadvantages of natural soil
Beginners and professionals are more willing to choose a natural substrate because of its presentable appearance, large selection, and affordability..
Positive aspects of aquarium filling with natural soil:
- chemically neutral, which means that the substrate does not change the pH of the water;
- it is easy to care for it with a siphon;
- good for the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Disadvantages of the substrate:
- As an independent unit, not suitable for plant growth. It is necessary to use a special underlay.
- The coarse fraction is not suitable for a bottom fish tank. These underwater inhabitants love to bury themselves in the ground, it is better for them to choose sand.
Treated soil for aquarium
This type of substrate looks beautiful in a tank. However, chemically colored soil negatively affects the health of fish, releasing unhealthy substances. White, dyed items turn dirty – milky or gray over time.
As for expanded clay, its composition is suitable for fertilizing plants, helps to fight the growth of algae.
For beginners – aquarists, it is better to pay attention to natural soil. The processed one is rather capricious, requires scrupulous care.
Painted pebbles made from plastic chips look good in a fish house. This type of soil is easy to care for, it does not change the pH of the water. Over time, the paint starts to creep off the plastic. The base loses its appearance, and the paint can hardly be called useful for aquarium inhabitants. In addition, plastic pebbles are not suitable for planting, they do not have biological value for the ecosystem of an artificial reservoir. Beneficial bacteria and microorganisms do not live on it.
Glass stones, like pebbles, are the decoration of the tank. Glasses do not have any benefit, except for an aesthetic appearance..
Fraction size and shape
The circulation of water and nutrients dissolved in it depends on the size of the fraction. The smaller the soil, the higher the risk of the formation of stagnant zones without oxygen access. In such zones, hydrogen sulfide is formed, since the fine composition is very difficult to clean. It accumulates the remains of fish food, waste of their vital activity. As a result, all this begins to rot, the water acquires a disgusting smell, and the fish die from suffocation..
Getting rid of hydrogen sulfide is described below, an example of the danger of shallow soil is given here. On the other hand, small fish do not need a large substrate. Most aquariums use 0.5-3 mm soil.
A visual table with fractions and their use in various “fish houses”:
|0.1 mm – 1 mm||Suitable for small tanks with small and bottom fish|
|1 – 5 mm||Good substrate for aquariums with a large number of live plants, small and medium-sized fish|
|6-12 mm||Ideal for large fish and turtles.|
Substrates larger than 12 cm are only suitable for very large tanks and giant fish. For example, for the content of the arowana.
Many novice aquarists believe that the soil should be bright and beautiful. When they arrive at the pet store, they opt for bright orange, reds, blues, and purples. And others believe that dark colors contribute to warming the bottom, plants are very fond of them. This is a lie, the plants don’t care what color the bottom flooring is, they need the nutrients from it..
Multi-colored soil for the tank is bad because poor-quality paint can gradually dissolve under the influence of water. This means that she slowly but surely poisons fish with chemistry. This is not good for aquatic life. Such a reservoir risks becoming a large graveyard for fish..
It is advisable to give preference to a natural substrate of natural colors: brown, gray, yellowish. And it is better to refrain from acquiring a white base, because it quickly loses its original beauty.
External and internal soil structure
The rounded bottom deck is ideal for fish. Catfish living at the bottom of the tank will be able to burrow into it without risking damage from sharp corners. The rest of the aquarium inhabitants will keep the body and gills intact.
Sharp soil, especially the fine fraction, can damage not only scales and gills. Fish are able to swallow it, and sharp edges will damage their digestive system..
As for the internal structure of the soil, it must be porous. It is in porous formulations that beneficial bacteria and microorganisms nest. Substrates with a smooth inner surface do not hold them and therefore are not beneficial for aquarium plants.
Based on the foregoing, when choosing a substrate for an aquarium, you should give preference to a natural, medium fraction, with smooth edges..
Common questions from newbies:
- Can cat litter be used as aquarium soil?
- Is garden soil suitable?
- Why are glass stones bad?
- Is pH change in an aquarium dangerous??
- The aquarium smells like rotten eggs, what to do?
- How to clean the bottom layer of an aquarium?
- How many times a year to clean and change the bottom deck?
- How to properly lay the substrate in the aquarium?
- What is underlay?
- Is it possible to use river sand?
- Do I need to rinse it after purchase? What kind of soap?
There are not many questions, but they require detailed consideration..
Cat litter as a base
It is strictly forbidden to use silica gel or corn cat litter. Such a bottom flooring will kill fish; beneficial microorganisms that settle on silica gel do not linger on it. In addition, this type of filler releases substances that are in no way compatible with the “fish kingdom”.
Garden soil leads to rapid water oxidation. As a result, decay begins, which is detrimental to plants and fish..
Despite their attractiveness, they are not suitable as aquarium substrate. Glass is devoid of internal porosity; plants will not take root in it. Can only be used in an aquarium if no plants are available..
About pH in the aquarium
The pH level is a value that shows the degree of concentration of hydrogen ions and hydroxides in water..
If pH < 7, this suggests that the water in the aquarium is acidic, at pH > 7 – alkaline. The pH level is influenced by aquarium soil made of marble or shells. It contains calcium carbonate, which dissolves in water and increases the pH of the environment..
You can check for the presence of calcium carbonate in the soil. For this, table vinegar is taken, a small amount is poured onto the substrate. Foam is indicative of calcium carbonate.
About hydrogen sulfide
Hydrogen sulfide appears in aquariums with very small soil sizes. Why this happens is described in the subsection “size and shape of the fraction”. The presence of hydrogen sulfide is characterized by the smell of rotten eggs from the aquarium.
To get rid of its accumulation, you must:
- transplant fish and plants into another container;
- carefully drain the water;
- get the soil, put it in a deep basin;
- rinse under running water several times;
- boil for 20 minutes;
- let cool;
- put back in the aquarium.
After the performed manipulations, fill the soil with settled water (at least three days). Plants and fish can be returned to their original place of residence.
If there is no time or opportunity to settle the water, you can use a special conditioner to purify it..
Cleaning the bottom deck
The soil for the aquarium, using a siphon, is cleaned once a week. You can use both the simplest manual siphon and the automatic.
As for the general cleaning in the aquarium, it is carried out once every six months. Completely change the soil once a year (in medium aquariums) or at three years (in large).
If the soil is not cleaned on time, algae will begin to grow abundantly in the aquarium. It is very difficult to get rid of them, so it is worth keeping the substrate clean..
How to lay soil in an aquarium
The substrate is laid in a slide. The main part begins at the back wall of the tank, the layer thickness is from 5 to 8 centimeters, depending on the volume of the “fish house”. The closer to the front wall, the less the layer thickness.
When laying the substrate, it is necessary to ensure that it is evenly distributed over the bottom. There should be no empty spaces, “bald spots”.
The laid soil is poured as follows:
- Place a saucer or large plate in the middle of the container.
- Pour the settled water in a thin stream into the center of the saucer.
- Water should flow evenly along its edges, cover the surface.
- When the water level reaches the middle of the container, remove the plate.
- Water continues to be poured in a thin stream until its level rises almost to the edge of the aquarium. There should be about 5 cm before it..
If water, without observing these rules, is simply poured onto the soil, it will scatter over the tank. Instead of a beautiful design, something incomprehensible will turn out, the water will become cloudy.
Substrate under the ground
A nutrient substrate is essential for planting plants. There are pads for beginners and professional.
In fact, the nutrient substrate is a clay, peat or vermicompost substrate. Such a substrate is used to nourish the roots and stimulate plant growth, put it under the main soil.
The nutrient substrate is not used in a tank with a small amount of vegetation.
River sand as a nutrient layer
Natural soil is an opportunity to save money on its purchase. However, when choosing gravel or river sand as a substrate for your aquarium, you need to know that:
- You can collect it in an ecologically clean area. Public beach is not the best place to collect aquarium soil.
- You can not take sand of red or rich yellow colors. It contains iron oxide, which is extremely harmful to fish.
Do I need to rinse the soil after purchase
Having bought soil, beginners tend to immediately put it in the “fish house”. And then they wonder why the water has become cloudy, the plants do not take root, and the fish have died.
Before placing the aquarium filler, it must be rinsed. This is done in an elementary way:
- Put the soil in a large basin. Better to spread in small portions, rather than all at once.
- Rinse thoroughly under running water.
- Take out the washed substrate, put in a deep saucepan.
- Put on medium heat, bring to a boil.
- Boil for 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool.
Of course, only natural bases are washed this way, including those collected on their own. The artificial substrate can simply be rinsed in running water and dried thoroughly.
With regard to the use of chemicals, it is better to refrain from this. Some beginners try to wash the soil for the aquarium with zoo shampoo, you should definitely not take an example from them. Also, it is not washed with laundry soap, powder (for example, baby) and dish detergent..
Much depends on the correct composition and timely care for it. For a real aquarium, with plants and numerous fish, a natural substrate is suitable.