Wormstrate or Soil Substrate?

March 26th, 2008

About a week ago, I started a substrate experiment that I’ve been wanting to try for some time. Having always used commercial substrates, often at high expense, I’ve had a lot of success growing plants over the past few years in my aquarium. Of course, nearly all of these substrates, when used in a light-intensive+CO2 setup require supplemental dosing of fertilizers. Hence, my previous entry about automating the dosing of those fertilizers.

Wormstrate and Soil Substrate Experiment

I watched as both local GWAPA members and other enthusiasts around the world started growing beautiful aquascapes with nothing more than garden soil, and a few additives, at probably 1/10th of the cost of my ADA substrate. Not only that, but they aren’t required to dose additional fertilizers as the soil is sufficiently rich for at least a decade. In addition to these soil methods, I wanted to try something different as well — a wormstrate — that is, a substrate based on worm castings. With two empty 2.5G tanks sitting around, I decided to do a side-by-side experiment of the two natural substrate options.

For the soil substrate, I used a method designed and perfected by a local GWAPA member, consisting of mineralized topsoil, potash, dolomite, pottery clay, and an inert top layer. As mentioned, a number of GWAPA members have successfully run high-tech tanks using this method, with the only downside often being an green water outbreak at the beginning of the process.

For the wormstrate, I used Vladimir Simoes Method, which was used successfully by a number of AGA contestant tanks from Brazil. This is essentially just worm castings, mixed with sand, and topped with an inert top layer. The most appealing thing about this method is that I could use my own worm castings, produced from my kitchen scraps, creating a full cycle of food to waste to worms to aquarium to plants to compost. Can anyone else say that they made their substrate from their kitchen scraps? Nerdy, I know, but cool!

So, I setup both 2.5G aquariums within a few days of each other, fit a 24″ 55W light over top of them, outfitted each with a hang-on-the-back filter, and planted each with roughly the same number and type of plants from my other tanks. I started the tanks using water from the same established 20L aquarium, which I believe has helped me avoid the green-water cycle often experienced. The only thing I have been dosing has been Seachem Excel, since I don’t have two extra CO2 diffusers.

Over about a week and a half, I’ve seen some modest growth, zero algae, and clear water. I’m hoping that the growth will pick up, as the plants adjust to feeding from the roots instead of the water column. I’ll be sure to continue providing updates on this experiment as it progresses. My hope is to have one of these two methods convince me to redo one of my larger tanks with a natural-based substrate, so that I can further lessen my fertilizer use. Comments/suggestions welcome!

Business Broker

2.5G – Final Picture

September 27th, 2007

Well, here’s my final picture for GWAPA’s aquascaping contest. It’s pretty much the same as last time, except the anubias are slightly better positioned in front of the rock. I don’t know what other tanks I’m up against yet, so I’m not going to place any bets yet on its chances of winning.

2.5G Aquascape

After I tear down this aquascape, I think I might use this aquarium to start trying some of ADA’s other substrates. I have two small bags of their Malayan and Africana aquasoils. I can’t imagine that they’re too much different, but you never know. Comments welcome!

Business Broker

2.5G – More Height!

September 10th, 2007

After the last set of pictures, with the help of a few honest individuals, I felt that the aquascape itself might be too flat. I contemplated adding some taller stems plants, but I didn’t think they would “bush up” enough in time for the October 1st deadline. So, the next best thing was to add more height with some rocks. So, that’s what I did. The rock composition on the left side previously was made up of three separate rocks. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love the fact that this California porous mossy rock lets you combine multiple rocks without obvious seams? I do!) So, I removed the back most two rocks, and replaced them with the larger rock you see in the picture. So, did I make the right decision?

2.5G - New Rock

Business Broker

2.5G – September Update

September 6th, 2007

GWAPA is nearing the end of its 2.5G aquascaping contest with all entries due by October 1st. I’m cautiously pleased with how mine is progressing. I’ve added in some more anubias barteri var. ‘nana’ and anubias barteri var. ‘petite’ to the crevice between the rocks. I’ve been picking riccia fluitans from the crasula helmsii in the foreground. I’m not entirely sure how it got in there, but it seems to be doing well — too much so. You generally think that riccia is a bright green colored plant, but this crasula in the foreground puts it to shame; the riccia looks dark green in comparison. There’s also a little bit of fissidens sp. moss growing on a few of the rocks. Ideally, I’d like that to cover most of the rock’s surface, but unfortunately, I don’t think that’ll happen by October 1st.

2.5G - White Background

Since this is a photo contest, I’ve been experimenting with a couple different backgrounds for this tank. Here are two that I took a day apart, where the only difference is that one is a white background, and the other black. Comments welcome!

2.5G - 9/4/2007

Business Broker

2.5G – Updated Photo

August 7th, 2007

Here’s an updated photo of my 2.5G. As you can see, the Crassula helmsii is really starting to take off — maybe too much so. The downoi is looking good, and I’ve removed the Blyxa japonica from the back right. I’m debating whether or not it needs something back there or not. Let me know what you think! 🙂

2.5G - Updated Photo

Business Broker

2.5G – Updated Shot

July 5th, 2007

Here’s an updated shot of the 2.5G aquascape I’m working on for the GWAPA contest. The foreground is finally starting to fill in a little bit, and I like the squirrelly look of it, but I’m not that impressed by the Blyxa japonica in the back right. It looks too contrived I think. I may just opt to pull it out entirely, but any other suggestions would be appreciated.

2.5G Aquascape

Business Broker

2.5G Nanoscape – First Look

May 21st, 2007

GWAPA’s aquascaping contest is currently underway after we handed out the equipment at our May meeting. So, what did I do? I went straight home, filled my tank with aquasoil, popped in some new bulbs into my old fixture, and setup the aquascape below.

2.5G Nanoscape, Just Planted.

Obviously, this is a mound style of aquascape, using the downoi and blyxa japonica to highlight the rocks. In the middle is anubias barterii nana var. ‘petite’ with crassula helmsii in the foreground. I have a little bit of ranalisma rostrata in the back right to transition to a better height from the blyxa japonica. I’m still deciding how much I like this scape, but I hope to have it grow in with enough time to take a picture and try another scape before the October deadline. Hopefully that’s allowed. 😉

Business Broker

Contest Results

September 27th, 2006

Well, I couldn’t manage to pull out a win for 1st place in the advanced category. GWAPA members awarded first place to Sean’s tank pictured below. Congrats Sean!

Sean's 2.5G tank


Business Broker

2.5G – Night Before GWAPA Contest Judgement

September 22nd, 2006

Well, it’s Friday night before the Saturday GWAPA meeting. Tomorrow’s meeting will conclude what has been a 5-month effort in preparation for GWAPA’s first annual aquascaping contest. I tidied up the tank, cleaned the glass, removed 2 dozen Endlers, and snapped some photos.

2.5G - 9/22/2006
(Front View – Straight on)

Tomorrow afternoon, I will drain all but an inch of water from this take, pack it up at securing it as best as I can, and take it to the meeting, where GWAPA members, beginner and advanced, will rank my tank aside everyone elses. I’m not sure how mine will rank, but I’ve it’s been a great challenge getting this tank to where it is today. Comments welcome!

2.5G - 9/22/2006, Top, Angled View
(Front view – Looking down at an angle.)

Business Broker

2.5G – Glosso aquascape

September 11th, 2006

In less than 2 weeks, GWAPA will be judging the aquascapes of our member’s 2.5 gallon tanks. Earlier this spring/summer, GWAPA announced a club aquascaping contest. Any club members, who wanted to participate, would be given a 2.5G tank, complete with 3M ColorQuartz Sand, a 2x13W PC light with legs, and a set of Seachem fertilizers.

We soon found out that the ColorQuartz sand was nothing near the substrate we were used to dealing with. To put it lightly, growth was terrible! After adding a few root tabs, and fertilizing heavily, the glosso finally started taking off. Below is a picture of my tank, two weeks out from it’s final trim before judgement.

2.5G Aquascaping for GWAPA Contest

Business Broker

  Next Entries »