Black Diamond/Manure/Red Clay, STS Substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum

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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 03:39 PM Thread Starter
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Black Diamond/Manure/Red Clay, STS Substrate?

I've been reading up on substrates and CEC rates, and I'm considering mixing a custom blend and wanted to pass it by you planted tank gurus, since I have no practical experience with planted tanks. I sure would appreciate some input.

First of all, my primary goal is purely aesthetic, and for that purpose I choose to use the Black Diamond blasting sand (medium, 20/40 is what I've seen suggested, right?) for its ease of use, long-term neatness and appearance. Of course, it is inert, so root tabs must be used with it alone and seem to be a second choice option as far as growing plants is concerned. That is where the cow manure, red clay and Saf-T-Sorb come in, cow manure for the long-acting availability of nutrients in humus (<10% in the mix), red clay for the availability of usable iron content (~10%, is this right?), and Safe-T-Sorb for its high CEC and ability to stay together better than cat litter or similar products (% to be determined).

Of course, with the manure I will be expecting an initial ammonia spike when first submerged and plan to allow the nitrifying bacteria in a "seasoned" filter to catch up and let all ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels settle down before adding plants (is this necessary for just plants?).

Also, I plan to run the system as low-tech with no added CO2, but with a lighting "rest period" during the middle of the day to allow CO2 levels to catch up. I have no problem dosing fertilizers regularly, especially since the CEC will pull them out of the water column initially.

Am I on the right track here? Will adding these ingredients to the Black Diamond significantly increase the "messiness factor" when pulling old plants out and planting new plants? Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated.

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 04:46 PM
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I believe you are on the wrong track with manure in the substrate. Manure will leach ammonia into the tank in large quantities, beyond what the bacteria can handle. Most likely you will get green water soon, and get repeated green water episodes as long as the manure is there. I suspect you could bake the manure in your oven to convert it to nitrates, but you might have to abandon the house afterwards!!
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 06:42 PM
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I've thought about the same, only in place of manure I'd use peat. I am reminded of someone on PT that used a type of bagged soil with chicken manure, and ended up with a tank no fish could ever live in because of the constant high ammonias.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 08:37 PM Thread Starter
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Good point, Hoppy. The manure I had in mind is very old and naturally composted, and actually horse/donkey manure, so do you think that maybe leaching it in tubs outside, with many, many water changes might make it manageable? Perhaps after the manure stops leaching "tea" so quickly (which I'll use for vegetables and flowers) I could test it for ammonia until it drops down to nearly nothing. Of course, that could take a while, I know, but has it been tried?

AWolf, I thought about using peat, but as it is used to soften the water and bring pH down, and considering my water is fairly soft and neutral anyway, I was concerned with bringing the pH and hardness down too much, making the water parameters unstable. Do you think that would be an issue? I'm planning on an Amazon biotope, so soft, slightly acid water isn't an issue, just the stability.

Other than the source of the humus, does the rest sound alright? How much STS do you think I could use before running into the mud and stirring up issues of using straight STS alone? Like I said, my main concern is for the appearance and ease of use of the Black Diamond sand, as well as long-term ease of maintenance, and the additional ingredients are more or less a concession to a more horticultural approach. I could always just go with the Black Diamond and root tabs.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 10:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olskule View Post

AWolf, I thought about using peat, but as it is used to soften the water and bring pH down, and considering my water is fairly soft and neutral anyway, I was concerned with bringing the pH and hardness down too much, making the water parameters unstable. Do you think that would be an issue? I'm planning on an Amazon biotope, so soft, slightly acid water isn't an issue, just the stability.



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I also have soft water with low pH. So I have the same question. I haven't ever tried peat before, either in a filter or in a substrate. It makes such a mess, that unless you can 'lock' it into the clay, so it doesn't come loose, it may be more of a pain than it's worth. From what I've read it's better to use in a filter to get the benefits. So much of pH depends on individual water chemistry, that I doubt there is anyway to know but to run a test tank at the same temp/water/ferts as you normally keep.

I'm curious how much nutrient is actually available in peat for plants. I think very little compared to any garden soils or clays. If so, it is really only good to lower pH. Since you and I don't need that, I guess my peat idea is academic only.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 07-14-2016, 11:17 PM Thread Starter
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I read elsewhere that organic material is not immediately available to plants as nutrients, but the benefit of having it in soil is that it is broken down by microorganisms into mineral forms that plants CAN use, but this is a slow and gradual process, so there is a constant supply of nutrients for the plant. It is also said that the process produces CO2 which is beneficial. But if peat is going to be messy as well, I think it is out of the running.

I wonder if a percentage of topsoil would provide the humus I'm looking for, or would it, too, be too much mess?

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