Goldfish and Aquarium Board Articles
How to: Pot Aquarium Plants in Topsoil
If you want a nice planted tank but do not want to have to worry about high lighting, CO2 and dosing with liquid fertilizers you can pot your aquatic plants in topsoil.
Things you will need:
Choose plants that have a good root system and that don't require high light levels. You will need a minimum of two watts of light per gallon, three watts per gallon is better. If your tank is by a window, you can get by with less wattage because sunlight is free natural lighting. The rooted grasses do well, as do the larger sword plants (Echinodorus sp.) and Vals (Vallisneria sp.). Crypts (e.g. Cryptocoryne lutea, wendetti, etc) also do well. I've also had good luck with the various Hygrophilas (e.g. green hygro, sunset hygro, giant hygro and wysteria).
Choose a container you like that's no more than 3 or 4 inches tall. It needs to have a wide enough base not to tip over easily. I've had good luck with the standard small clay pots, or you could use plastic or glass dishes or candle holders, or even bowls. You just have to make sure they won't leach bad stuff into the water, so make sure they're food safe. If you do use glass, make sure it's heavy, has a good base and doesn't have sharp edges.
I generally use around one inch of bagged topsoil from a home improvement store but you could use unsterilized garden soil, potting soil or topsoil. Don't use subsoils or clay soils from areas near brackish water. You don't need to add fertilizers.
I prefer pool filter sand--it's not sand, but is very fine gravel.
To keep your fish from getting to the gravel, you can use larger rocks on top of the gravel. This is useful if you have fish that like to dig or who move a lot of gravel. Rocks can also enhance the look of the arrangement.
Here's how you do it using several different types of containers:
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