Planted Tank Enthusiast
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: College Station, TX
I've done a couple variations in the past. One tank I just used dirt from the yard, used some API root tabs to fill in the gaps. I think the root tabs are what contributed to success because that tank grew out of control, and our dirt is just sand and clay. Lots of iron almost zero organics and very hard. Capped with cheap black gravel that was on clearance at Walmart for $1 lol.
This time I did it correctly. I used earthgro bagged topsoil with no additives, sifted and rinsed on a tarp until the swamp smell was gone. This stuff ended up perfect and I have a ton left over that I don't know what to do with. I'm in over my head on tanks now so starting another tank is out.
Instead of modeling clay (no local pottery shops), I actually spent the money and bought a box of API first layer laterite which is very high in available iron. As I said we have a ph of 8.2 in our tap water, so dolomite wasn't super necessary. Our gh is actually kind of low, so ca(mgco3) is actually useful to raise that, but just to provide those minerals (probably in the wrong ratio, but some is better than none) I tossed in some aragonite and Epsom salt (caco3, and mgso4 I believe?? Correct me if I'm wrong). My high cec cap will be able to lock those minerals up well I hope.
I found muriate of potash with MUCH searching. I just started going through all of the local feed and garden stores (not Home Depot or lowes). Finally found a farmers co op that carried it. Funny, something that is so "out dated" agriculturally speaking is so incredibly hard to find but so cheap when you find it. The whole bag was like $4, and has enough to probably make 2000 gallons worth of planted tanks. I used a small fraction of the bag for my 75 gallon and now I have a boatload extra.
For the cap I used turface pro league. There is an irrigation company called Ewing. They're national and probably have a location in San Antonio and Austin. They carry turface. Luckily that place is literally at the front of my neighborhood. 2 minutes and $11. I got a 50 pound bag and half of that brought my 75 gallon to 3" substrate depth. The benefit I think turface has over oil dry or safe t sorb is that it is cooked at a much higher temperature and will never break down or turn to mud like the others are reported to do over time. It's also loads cheaper than fluorite, Eco complete, or Ada gravel. It has a really high cec and ideal grain size. Negatives, are its too light. Stuff will come unplanted frequently until the roots anchor down. It's also a bit light in color for my taste. Kind of a tan/reddish color. Ever pay attention to the color of a baseball diamond and pitchers mound? That's what this stuff is actually used for.
So....I followed the original recipe as closely as I could. I used more expensive clay instead if potters clay, and diy'd the dolomite portion, but otherwise the required elements should all be there.