Soil from Creek edge ???


Prolific Poster
Mar 26, 2006
Lexington, KY
I have a 50 gallon with plain gravel in it which I don't like. This is a low tech tank with plants, rocks, & fish. I will have 130 watts of CF lighting, 6700k.
I add small amounts of ferts once a week and Excel daily. I have been doing 25% water changes every 2 to 3 days because the tank is still cycling. It has 2 HOB filters which do a good job of keeping the water moving.
Ammonia has been staying around .25ppm now and Nitrite has been climbing.

I can't afford to go buy anything like substrate etc. right now so I just went down to a local creek and scooped up some soil from the edge.
Now what should I do with it? Should I add water to it and let it stand a while and then check the water parameters?
Should I flush it well with regular water?
should I add it to the top of the gravel?
Should I remove the gravel before adding it?
I suppose I need to remove the water from the tank before I add the soil to the tank being careful not to remove the mulm.

Thank you


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Jan 24, 2005
Sacramento, CA
That type of sediment belongs at the bottom of the substrate, in my opinion. So, you have to remove the existing substrate, add the sediment on the bottom, then put the old substrate back in place. I have done that and was very pleased with the result.


Prolific Poster
Mar 26, 2006
Lexington, KY
So would I need to treat the creek soil or maybe bake it in the oven first? You are suggesting to put the regular plain gravel back on top. Is this correct?
Thanks VaughnH



Guru Class Expert
Jun 18, 2007
The soil is most likely going to be very messy. So keeping it under a layer of gravel will help somewhat. As long as the plants roots can get to it you should be okay. Let us know how it goes. I'd like to try it sometime as well. I'm not really sure about the baking it or anything, but I don't really see the harm. It may kill all the bad bacteria, but I have no experience in this area.

Tom Barr

Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
If you can, go out somewhere south of Lexington(Daniel Boone Forest etc), up in the hills, Red River Gorge etc, even out by the Dix river near the Lake, get some there, the richer red color clay is ideal, it might be a bit black but should reddened up.

Dix river is not too far and merges into the KY River there.
We owned land there a while back and donated it to the open space.
Elkhorn creek is good as well if you travel far enough out.

Soak sediment is a shallow pan for a while(3 weeks) with an inch of water over it.

Mix and screen well, then let settle for a day.
Allow to dry out good to a nice paste.
Then add with 3:1 Sand: soil.
Add 1" of this, then cap with 3" of sand.

Fill tank up very slow, and add zeolite to the filter and carbon.
do water changes 2x a week for a month and then weekly thereafter for a CO2 enriched method.
None for a non CO2 approach.

Tom Barr