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Old 12-04-2011, 01:50 AM   #16
mallardman12
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Maybe I will But If I can find Black diamond sand Ill cap with that.
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Old 12-04-2011, 07:12 AM   #17
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Have you thought about going with MTS?
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Old 12-04-2011, 08:21 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mallardman12 View Post
I have actually seen a video where there was dirt capped with Eco-complete and there was so much nutrients in the tank all the plants melted and there was so much algae... So i'll pick one or the other.
I'd be very interested in seeing this video and learning the mechanism by which too many nutrients "melted" plants. If you cap the potting soil correctly, which isn't hard and easy to spot if its not done so, then you shouldn't have many nutrients leeching into the water column...which won't promote much, if any, algae growth. Algae grows bc of the nutrients in the water column amongst other factors (primarily those limiting plant growth).

Potting soil capped under eco-complete (or some similar substrate) would be my advice - from experience.
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Old 12-04-2011, 05:55 PM   #19
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I honestly don't know the difference between mineralized top soil, dirt, and potting mix. Is there anything I should know? And here is the video for proof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slx0bwEjRF4
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Old 12-13-2011, 08:28 PM   #20
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Mineralized top soil and dirt are essentially the same thing. Good top soil contains significant amounts of organic matter, which is what gets removed when it is "mineralized". Potting mix on the other hand is composed of peat moss, vermiculite and/or pearlite, Dolomite/limestone (for pH control), and probably a water absorbing material/gel of some type. It is essentially a manufactured, very organic rich top soil. It rarely contains any natural top soil. I used to work at a green house, and we mixed our own potting soil using dirt from the river bottom, compost, vermiculite, and pearlite. Despite being more expensive, we did this because non of the commercial potting soils contained any actual "soil".

It is also usually infused with water soluble nutrients/fertilizers, which is why I personally don't like it for a planted tank. With terrestrial plants these nutrients are released a little bit at a time when you water the plants. When submerged in water they are released very rapidly. Even if you cap it, it is still going to leech nutrients into the water column (although using Eco-complete or a clay based substrate as a cap would slow this process) . If you have plenty of CO2, lots of plants, and the proper amount of lighting; then this isn't a big deal. However, if any of the above parameters are out of balance you risk an algae explosion; especially in high light conditions. I prefer to start with a nutrient depleted substrate and then add pond tablets as needed, but that is a personal choice.

Anyway, hope this helps.

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Old 12-14-2011, 02:34 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mallardman12 View Post
I honestly don't know the difference between mineralized top soil, dirt, and potting mix. Is there anything I should know? And here is the video for proof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slx0bwEjRF4
Interesting site and the guy is a wildman to watch. I find it entertaining.

The Eco/dirt question has been covered in 2 pages already.
(imo) Eco has been mineral treated and shipped wet but is basically inert. Soils are completely different.

NPT/MTS
Mineralized soil is a process that's involves many steps and the end result is a nutrient rich readily available base. NPT or simply dumping the dirt in and capping it are the same processes at work only at different times as the same thing happens. It's just a question of where, and how much work you do. Mineralizing the dirt is the activity of bacteria breaking down the organic compounds releasing the minerals. Making MTS this happens on a tarp in open air. The activity of bacteria breaking down the organic compounds over time creates several changes within the tank that MTS completes first eliminating these shifts from occurring in the aquarium. The conversion of organics and the break down is also slowed greatly in the tank because of less available oxygen. The submerged steady state of decay once established in the tank takes about a year to happen. During that time settling or collapse of the organics reduces the thickness of the substrate. This doesn't happen using MTS. The organics have been consumed / converted back to mineral content alone by the bacteria before the dirt ever goes in the tank. Biggest difference between the two, MTS and NPT is where the organics are broken down, in tank or before.

Be it MTS or NPT based on ease of upkeep and growth results dirt works used in either form and is the cheapest way to play.
I see a dirt tank this way; Lowest cost for setting up, no 'required' attention to dosing ferts on a schedule.

There is a fair amount of ongoing debate on which to use MTS or NPT.
I've done one MTS system and eight NPT based tanks so my choice is obvious.
Duration of useful tank life is also always debated.
This is my oldest dirt tank. I used only 1" of MGOPM setting this one up.
I have included some clays a couple times now to increase Fe and used the additions listed for mixing when setting up MTS tanks in newer natural soil/dirt tanks.
Having this tank set up with Potting Mix (dirt) alone (MGOPM) and capped with Flourite. Nothing else was really needed for over a year. I saw nothing to indicate the plants were lacking any nutrient at all and growth never stumbled. After a year crypt growth slowed, leaves grew slightly smaller. Now beyond 2yrs. setup and still no additives or changes made to the substrate. Growth has slowed but the tank is still stable and growing plants. Adding the other materials (clay and other additives) years from now I'll let you know if it matters.

The organics (mulch) in MGOC is 'fluffy' when dry is the best I can describe it.
Pressing it down so I can judge what I have helps to get a consistent 1.5" layer setting up the tank. Months down the road as the organics break down this 1.5" layer will collapse to less than half that thickness so I hold back capping materials so I can add it later maintaining the cap and adding depth along the way as needed.

A new tank I'll get everything wet and wait guessing 10 days to be the average. If the soils are going to release ammonia into the water creating a spike that will harm fish I've always tested rising levels within the first week.
flooded 4/30/2009 this tank is still growing plants so what exactly is lacking?


The comments posted above regarding potting mixes containing peat moss, vermiculite and/or pearlite, Dolomite/limestone (for pH control), and probably a water absorbing material/gel of some type simply is the WRONG STUFF.

Just on the limestone alone:
Adding anything to a soil base or a filter that effects carbonate or mineral hardness is something I don't recommend doing. Once it's in place you have lost all control of to what level hardness will reach. Equilibrium with the material exposed to water circulation now controls and I didn't like that. Once it's in the substrate and the tank is set you can't remove it either. At least in the filter you could. I did a couple test tanks (10g) trying limestone and a couple other materials and just wasn't comfortable with the results. That's why for bagged materials I recommend only the branded product that I do.

Natural soils and organics I'm good with and you'll always have unknowns to some degree using dirt. (Not packaged for our use) But I would avoid things known to affect the water hardness unless you are certain you need it. Using anything with 'infused water soluble nutrients/fertilizers' is asking for trouble.

Hope this answers more of your questions OP.
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Last edited by wkndracer; 12-17-2011 at 01:54 PM..
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:39 PM   #22
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I was just stating what was in the commercial potting soil sold in bags at hardware stores, garden centers, etc. The limestone does affect the water hardness. It is added to potting soil because the calcium carbonite helps neutralize the acidic nature of peat moss (the fluffy dry stuff you are talking about). Without it the potting soil would be far too acidic for most terrestrial plants.

I'm not sure what MGOPM stands for, but if it is Miracle Grow Organic Potting Mix, then I can assure you the main ingredient is peat moss and it contains dolomitic limestone. My dad spent 30 years working as a horticulture agent and his masters degree is in ornamental horticulture. I also spent lots of holidays and summer breaks at my uncles dairy farm in addition to working at an agricultural experiment station and a greenhouse. I know exactly what is in natural top soil and manufactured potting mix. I'm not saying potting mix won't work as a substrate. It's designed to grow plants, so of course it will work. If done properly it'll work quite well. I'm just saying you have to be careful about releasing too many nutrients at once; especially if you buy the stuff with "plant food" in it. You can have the same problem with really good natural soil as well. The reason you get an ammonia spike for the first 7-10 days is because the main component in fertilizer is water soluble nitrogen (probably anhydrous ammonia). That is why I prefer "dirt", and I've never bothered to mineralize it; just pick out all the obvious organic matter.

Any soil based substrate will affect the pH and kH of the tank. Whether it raises or lowers pH depends upon where you get your soil and what sort of minerals it contains. Generally speaking, soils in the eastern part of the US are more acidic, while the soil from the great plains has a high pH. This is why farmers back east put lime (which is crushed limestone) on their fields, to raise the pH closer to neutral. Whenever I set up a tank with Kansas dirt the pH of the tank tends to stay around 7.4-7.6 for at least a couple years. If you want to know whether your backyard soil is acidic or not, put it in a bucket, add some distilled or RO water, wait 24 hours and test the pH of the water. That'll give you a pretty good idea of what the pH in the tank will settle towards. The main point of all this is just make sure you know what you're using.

Edit: Here is a website listing the ingredients for Miracle Gro Potting Mix:
http://www.gardenguides.com/99097-mi...gredients.html
They don't list dolomite or limestone, but it has to contain something to raise the pH of the peat moss and tree bark. It could be the calcium phosphate in the fertilizer.
Other potting soils will contain the same basic ingredients.


Sean

Last edited by smannell; 12-15-2011 at 08:06 PM.. Reason: Added web site
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Old 12-15-2011, 08:48 PM   #23
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Wow! The inside scoop! So the quality controls for bagging this stuff at the Scotts Company are that stringent and no difference based on a seasonal basis or on available organic materials from one plant to the next? Again wow as I had no idea. I had read the qualifier on the Georgia facility. Completely unaware of any wetting agents or chemical treatments being applied to the bagged product either. That was the reason I purchased it. Vermiculite and pearlite are always listed on any bagged products sold commercially that I've looked at.

If the stuff isn't 'all natural' and is indeed chemically treated I've simply been taken by the ad gab.

The only MSDS data I can find doesn't list any limestone (CaCO3 or equivalent) either.
http://agr.wa.gov/PestFert/Fertilize...spx?pname=2900
http://agr.wa.gov/PestFert/Fertilize...spx?pname=2898

I do know that setting up new tanks using 100% RO, Flourite original and MGOPM I saw no tested KH value for three days on a flooded test tank.
What I use is the listed 10-5-5 'organic' not the linked 21-7-14 potting mix.
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Old 12-15-2011, 10:11 PM   #24
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I did dirt with an Eco compete cap and I regret it. Dirt can get really messy especially if your fidgety like me and do minor re-scapes almost once a month. I now have balls of dirt sitting on top of my substrate. Don't get me wrong my plants are very healthy and their root systems are incredible. I almost made the mistake of pulling out on of my more mature swords, as I pulled it up the substrate started comming right with it like if you pinched your carpet and pulled. If you don't want the mess go with strictly Eco complete but if you don't plan on rescaping often go for the dirt!
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Old 12-15-2011, 10:17 PM   #25
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great post Chris! that's one of the biggest trade offs using a soil substrate (imo)
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:15 PM   #26
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Dirt is definitely not user friendly if you like to fiddle with things. You also want to avoid any fish or critters that like to dig. I had a pair of Blue Cherax "Lobsters" that turned my tank into a giant mud puddle. On the other hand, if you want something you can fertilize once every 3-6 months and then forget about; it's great.

As for "Organic" potting soils, the "organic" label means nothing. As far as I know, produce is the only product that has regulations as to what can be labeled organic, and that varies by state. Essentially, if it contains anything that was once alive it technically contains organic material. You could throw a dead fish into a bag of lead and put "Organic" in big letters on the packaging and not be violating any law that I know of. That being said, peat moss, and tree bark compost are about as organic as you can get and it's possible some of the fertilizers come from organic sources, you just have no idea what else might be in there.

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Old 12-16-2011, 01:25 AM   #27
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In reading just about every thread on this sub forum, the collective use of the word "organics" has been directed toward manure /manure compost. I agree with quasi-websterine explanation that if it was once alive it's can be called organic matter.

I do feel there is a bit of a paranoia about organics. That is rather obvious in the reaction to my using YDDP as a substrate. We tend to forget were these plants live in nature. It's about moderation and fundamental maint. procedure...not who can throw the most money at a glass box of water.

I have no reason to doubt Sean's comments on Scott's "jacking-up" potting soil to sell more of it. To me the lack of corporate ethics is vastly more scary that a little poop in the substrate.
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Old 12-16-2011, 02:18 AM   #28
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The Miracle-Gro Organic Complete is used and recommended so frequently not because of any specific ingredient or production method but because it has been successfully used in aquariums by so many people with predictable results.

Whatever it is that they do with that particular product it seems to be aquarium friendly.

I have two Walstad style bowls with MGOC potting mix and one 30 gallon XH tank with it as well.

Plants grow like crazy, fish/shrimp don't seem to mind it, never had any funny smell.

Robert was on to something when he suggested the importance of knowing what you are doing when starting a dirt tank.

In my opinion (and experience) if you know what you are doing and follow some guidelines (all of which have been stated in this thread at one point or another) you can have predictable and safe results using the potting mix.

I have two tanks with Eco-complete and I wish that they were both dirt tanks instead.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smannell View Post
Dirt is definitely not user friendly if you like to fiddle with things. You also want to avoid any fish or critters that like to dig. I had a pair of Blue Cherax "Lobsters" that turned my tank into a giant mud puddle. On the other hand, if you want something you can fertilize once every 3-6 months and then forget about; it's great.

As for "Organic" potting soils, the "organic" label means nothing. As far as I know, produce is the only product that has regulations as to what can be labeled organic, and that varies by state. Essentially, if it contains anything that was once alive it technically contains organic material. You could throw a dead fish into a bag of lead and put "Organic" in big letters on the packaging and not be violating any law that I know of. That being said, peat moss, and tree bark compost are about as organic as you can get and it's possible some of the fertilizers come from organic sources, you just have no idea what else might be in there.

Sean
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Old 12-16-2011, 04:49 PM   #29
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I personally have really started to like to do this, and wether it makes sense or not...Dont know, but I like my results.

I made a screen out of 'Hardware Cloth' from Lowes

I dig up some dirt from my back yard or by a river or something.

screen the dirt into a 5 gallon bucket.

Take one of those black and white spotted canning pots and boil the dirt for about 20-30 minutes.

then let it cool and mix in a couple of cups of powdered Red Clay.

Layer an inch at the bottom of tank followed by 1/4-1/2 inch of any sand as I will never see it and it is just enough to keep the mud in place.

Cap it with Eco-Complete to hold what nutrients come up form the Dirt as well as hold the nutrients from the fish waste and water column dosing.

Super cheap and I dont have algae at all. I still does the Water just to help some of those plants that have not rooted yet.

I also never have that rotten egg smell either. Whatever it is that I do is working for me without any issues. I will continue doing it this way also.
Good Luck!!
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Old 12-17-2011, 01:57 AM   #30
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Lugnut - I don't see the need to boil your yard dirt. I didn't in my tank and got the same results no smells, no algae explosions.

If you are going to boil once you hit a rolling boil you're done, at 212 degrees you've killed every thing. Boiling for 20 min is overkill. They say the min. for meat is 160 and we eat that.
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