Walstad substrate uncertainty
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Old 02-05-2013, 01:51 PM   #1
lewisroyer
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Walstad substrate uncertainty


So I've pretty much read every forum and article google will send me to regarding the walstad method and I've even read her book (Skipping over the heavy scientific parts) but there are still a few things I'm questioning before I go dirting a 10 gallon I'm planning.

From what I've read, I've decided to definitely go with Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil and use a gravel cap. 1'' of soil 1'' of gravel. I've also decided I will definitely soak the soil and skim off any large chunks of wood for at least a day or two before I put it into the tank. I'm wondering if I should mix gravel or something into the soil. I have some Malaysian driftwood in the package I received it in waiting for me to set this thing up. I do plan on planting HEAVILY. I've decided to go with a regular hang-on filter with the floss only for water movement and mechanical filtration.

I live in an apartment and want to keep the mess to a minimum!!!

I'm really just hoping someone with some REAL and practical experience can give me some last minute layman's pointers and tips.

I've kept a planted tank before using eco-complete and the stock lighting on an eclipse 12 (1.1 WPG) in a sunny room. Some articles by Tom Barr sort of convinced me to avoid the dirt route. It did great and met all of my expectations. (I abandoned that tank at my mothers house when I moved almost a year ago.) Some plants died off due to neglect after I moved but the java ferns are still thriving. I plant to move a couple into this tank when I get it set up.) That whole experience taught me that most things are easier than people make them out to be.

So I'm not a total newbie, but as such, I'm sure there is something I'm overlooking which could be totally avoidable.

Any advice or tips would be appreciated!!!
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Old 02-05-2013, 02:17 PM   #2
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I've done 2 dirt tanks with great results (so far).

On my smaller Evolve 8 tank, I removed the chunks with a kitchen strainer to give me a fine dirt and capped it with sand (1" to 1" ratio) and have no issues.

On my latest 40B tank, I just dumped the bag of MGOPS in and left the big wood chips in. My reasoning is as it breaks down, it will slowly provide nutrients and CO2 to the plants in the long run. I have this capped with sand as well and I'm seeing good results after 2 weeks running.

Also, prior to capping I soaked the dirt by adding enough water to make a thick brownie-like batter and let it sit for an hour or so and poking it a little to let any trapped air out. I capped it by starting with the perimeter, giving me a good reference on how thick the cap is going to be. I then used a plate upside down to slowly fill the water.
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:53 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum!

Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is the bagged 'dirt' product I use.
Avoid the bags labeled "potting soil"
MGOCPM (potting mix) contains soils and a large portion of organic material (55-65% by volume). Sphagnum peat moss, composted bark fines, leaves, twigs, wood chips etc. and "pasteurized poultry litter" (cooked chicken crap). 0.10-0.05-0.05
http://www.scotts.com/smg/products/M...PottingMix.pdf
While the contents of the mix can vary obviously to some degree I've yet to experience real trouble using it and find the results in tank to be very consistent so far. I've tanked this bagged dirt mix a number of different ways.

I used egg crate grill material to eliminate gravel creep along the glass


2 Bags (30lb.) Flourite cap

Fill it up 1/3 or 1/2 way and plant it!


If you follow your "decided to definitely do list" you already have more mess ahead than is needed. Wetting first is a mess maker. Pulling materials larger than say silver dollar size if the bag contains it yes but the 'soak and float' is a waste of time and a mess I promise. Posted under my user name (if google missed it ) are about a dozen tanks using MGOCPM.

Also if you stand fast with a 1" soil base and 1" gravel cap within 10 months you will be left with a very shallow plant base remaining in the tank. The soil layer will compact by about 70% once the organic material is broken down.

1.5 to 2" soil layer and the same on the cap (imo).
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Old 02-05-2013, 04:35 PM   #4
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Whoops I meant potting mix
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Old 02-05-2013, 08:08 PM   #5
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I just set up my tank this past weekend, 20XT.

Used MGOPM, and some used flourite sand I picked up at an auction.

I sprinkled some dolomite on the very bottom, and then put around 1 1/2 ~2" of MGOPM in, and then another 1 ~ 1 1/2" or so of the flourite on top. the top of the substrate is about 3-4" from the bottom glass, but I've also got a ~1/2" thick piece of slate in there for anchoring the driftwood.

I didn't screen the MGOPM at all, and didn't really notice many pieces much larger then about rice grains or so. I wet it pretty good, and made sure it was pretty well distributed, and then added the flourite sand, and started poking the plants in.

A couple hours (and several beers) later, I finally finished with the planting right about dawn. I just threw a big filter sponge in there, and poured the (treated) water onto that, and that worked pretty well to keep from disturbing the gravel. by the time the tank was full, there wasn't much cloudiness, and most of it was up in the top, I think from the MGOPM that surfaced during the planting.

So, no real cloudiness with me, but it probably helped that I had previously used (and rinsed) flourite.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:04 PM   #6
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Do you do anything prepare to rinse or prepare the MGOPM or just pour it in straight out of the bag?
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Old 03-04-2013, 07:30 PM   #7
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MGOCPM just pour it in straight out of the bag but with new Flourite I rinse for what seems forever!

Now I use window screen material and setup saw horses making a hammock to rinse Flourite original so I can just use the hose and spray nozzle.
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Old 03-04-2013, 07:51 PM   #8
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Default Walstad substrate uncertainty

I haven't used fluorite nor seen it for sale around here I used Eco complete to cap it last time. I may go for fluval stratum on the new tank if I get it
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Old 03-04-2013, 09:01 PM   #9
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I just used it straight out of the bag. Didn't quite pour it, but that was due to space/logistical restraints .

I scooped some out with a plastic deli cup/tub, and then dumped that in the tank. if there were clumps I would break them up. Added about ~1.5 - ~2", and then wet it down to a slurry, and smushed it around some to make sure it's distributed and such.

I had minimal clouding, but I think that was having a fiarly fine crained cap, and a very slow, non-disruptive filling.
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