Soil ain't for me.
Ahh, but soil could be for you! I have the same affinity for
redecorating my plants, my largest tank has not been up very long (a
few months) so I'm still trying to figure out the best layout. I have
heavy root feeders (all Echinodorus sp. tank.. so all swordplants) and
this is what I did.
1) I used clear 6 oz. plastic party cups available at a grocery
store. Cut them down to about 2" or so so that you won't have issues
with the plastic poking out of the gravel.
2) Bake an amount of topsoil that you have rinsed out to remove plant
matter at 350F until dry and crumbly, about 30 minutes for me, the
consistency of your soil will determine how long it takes, we have a
very high clay content in my area. Sandier soil will take less time,
silty soils will take about the same and very clayey soils will take a
bit longer. Just be sure to check on it.
3) Take your little plastic saucers and hold your plant in the
desired position and add soil about halfway up the saucer, be sure to
cover the roots. Wet the soil with some tank water and add more if
4) Use some clean, non aragonite (coral) sand, that is moist to the
touch and fill the rest of the saucer with it. Don't be alarmed if
you get some dirty water on top of the sand. Simply use a paper towel
to soak up the excess water. Works like a charm.
5) Take your finished product and carefully put it in the tank. I
have done this whole procedure with 40+ plants and never had a problem
with getting soil in the water column of my tank. Just take it easy
the first time.. your biggest threat is to let the water rush in to
the saucer/cup too quickly, displacing the sand and allowing the soil
to creep out.
6) Be sure to cover the saucer/sand so that it isn't obvious in your
layout, you can use your tank's gravel as a top layer if need be, I
happen to use all sand in my tanks.
7) Sit back, relax, and enjoy the growth. Note that this whole
process works best with swordplants and other heavy root feeders.
This is also a good way to isolate root tablets like Jobes sticks so
that you always know where the sticks are in case you need to take
them out. Downsides of this idea? Reduced flow to the roots of the
plants (possibly) and reduced area for the plants root system to
spread. So far I haven't seen this impact anything too horribly
though. It also serves as a nice way to contain chain plants like
Sagittaria and E. tenellus, E. quadricostatus.
Just an idea, something to think about.