Converting 100 gallon planted to Topsoil from garden shop journal
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:30 PM   #1
Mmdiscus
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Converting 100 gallon planted to Topsoil from garden shop journal


Hi all,

I have been gathering info on this topic lately here, and on SimplyDiscus forum as well. I have 100 gallon planted established tank 5+ months, currently only 8 cherrybarbs and 3 corrys, I keep this tank for discus that I will add later.

I outline everything below, please look at the pictures of the topsoil i found, if it is correct one, and look at my plan if its OK. I know in USA there are pre-made aquarium soils which are really nice, but we don't have them here, there are only about 5 LFS here and none carry such, so I decided to go diy route, with your help guys I will post pictures here from my progress, to give an idea to people who are new to this soil thing like me. For me it is important to use regular soil in this experiment, and not special made brands, because it is cheap and available everywhere.

Tank:
  • About 450 Liters, 100 US gallon. Dimensions: 160cm length, 60cm height, 45cm width ( US measures: 62inch x 23" height x 18" width)
  • Current lights 2 x 36W, 2500 lumens 6500K Philips T8 regular tubes (not any fancy aquarium brand)
  • Low-tech, adding liquid micro/macro nutrients on weekly basis.

Below I will post pictures of:

1) My new substrate plan figure
2) Topsoil + Organix soil mix from garden shop ( no chemical additives, no inorganics, home made)
3) Current tank substrate - small stones, 2-5 mm width. This will be used as cap for my new soil setup.


Plan:

1) Remove fish in a separate tank #2 (i have empty one), put canister from current tank to the tank #2, remove all plants, wood, and place them temporary there as well. I will use water from current tank, biomedia is in canister, so new tank is ready to go immediately.

2) Empty tank water, move current substrate aside

3) Mix new bought "topsoil" and "organix mix" into one substance and put directly on tank bottom (wet before putting in tank).

4) New soil will be 2 inches in the back of the tank, 1 inch in front. On top of it goes 1 inch rocky substrate from current tank.

5) Fill water about 5 inches above current new substrate, put plants immediately, wait everything to settle down, (a day maybe?)

6) check water parameters, if everything OK - put fish back.


Questions:
1) Did I buy the right soil to begin with, this is used in flower pots, bought from regular garden florist shop
2) Are my calculations of width of soil/substrate correct? If not, what should they be? I am planning to plant all sort of plants in the future, I like a lot from pictures I see online.
3) Is my current lightning OK for plant growth, if not what should it be?

Suggestions, and helpful critique is more than welcome!
Thanks in advance,
- MM


1) My new substrate plan figure
Click image for larger version

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2) Soil(left), Organix mix - Vermicast, also called worm castings (right)
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3) Current tank substrate, will be used as a cap for soil
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Last edited by Mmdiscus; 12-06-2013 at 11:25 AM.. Reason: added post icon
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:39 PM   #2
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You can click on images above, for bigger pictures.
Oh an yeah - I forgot to mention, they also sell peat here, in bags, should I add that too? where too, and how, what would be proportions.

I appreciate all your help and suggestions.

Last edited by Mmdiscus; 12-05-2013 at 02:09 PM.. Reason: peat
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:39 PM   #3
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Your best bet would be to mineralize it before you start. I use different brands of soil, and MGOCPM, and they can release ammonia as they break down. If you mineralize it beforehand you won't have that issue and it will be safer for your fauna. Another thing I do is add powdered clay to my mix. It has a high iron content, and a decent CEC ratio. You can get it cheap in any pottery store, I paid 12 bucks for 40lbs.
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sake View Post
Your best bet would be to mineralize it before you start. I use different brands of soil, and MGOCPM, and they can release ammonia as they break down. If you mineralize it beforehand you won't have that issue and it will be safer for your fauna. Another thing I do is add powdered clay to my mix. It has a high iron content, and a decent CEC ratio. You can get it cheap in any pottery store, I paid 12 bucks for 40lbs.
How do i mineralize it? I will look into clay, where i can get it..
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:03 PM   #5
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Again I use soil (top soil) no ferts added, for base, I top about 1/8 of an inch with peat organic, then add sand my choice is volcanic because of its shape and resistance to compressing, quartz pool sand is my second choice, then I ad MVP, a clay baked at high temps. I add a little small gravel to it for weight because the clay is so light. It helps with anchoring the plants that have little on the root side. This is my recipe which works well for me.
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:43 PM   #6
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Mineralizing is a huge pain and long process and hard to do in the winter months, unless you're lucky enough to live where its still warm. The soil on the left looks pretty good to go as it is. I'd mix in some plain, fired clay kitty little for the CEC properties and a thin layer of regular red clay for the iron content. Add some azomite to the mix for increased plant growth as well as some dolomite and potash and maybe some other dry ferts you can get your hands on. Cap it off and watch your plants take off.
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:40 AM   #7
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Thanks guys!
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dirtyplants View Post
Again I use soil (top soil) no ferts added, for base, I top about 1/8 of an inch with peat organic, then add sand my choice is volcanic because of its shape and resistance to compressing, quartz pool sand is my second choice, then I ad MVP, a clay baked at high temps. I add a little small gravel to it for weight because the clay is so light. It helps with anchoring the plants that have little on the root side. This is my recipe which works well for me.
When u say -top about 1/8 of an inch with peat organic- :
Do i add peat on top of soil as another layer, or should i mix it with the soil? They sell peat here i can buy it no problem, clay still lookingfor it.

As for clay they sell in flower shop - expanded clay aggregate, its so lighht they sell it floats on water, loght and porous. Google search on wiki reveales it is made of cooked clay and slate.. What do u think?
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:03 AM   #9
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I think expanded clay aggregate is inert. I think it's more like a porous gravel for house plants and Hydroponics. I wonder how it would work as filter media, like EHEIM SUBSTRATpro.

You want something like a pottery clay. I don't know what you can get over there. I use Redart powdered clay.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquabruce View Post
I think expanded clay aggregate is inert. I think it's more like a porous gravel for house plants and Hydroponics.

You want something like a pottery clay. I don't know what you can get over there. I use Redart powdered clay.
I will go hunting for clay today.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:42 AM   #11
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Expanded clay aggregate is probably something similar to pearlite which is a good aerator.

I use the cheapest kitty litter you can buy. Just make sure it is plain white fired clay and doesn't have scents added. Its good at absorbing nutrients and slowly releasing them to the plants.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:59 AM   #12
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From wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expanded_clay_aggregate

Quote:
Expanded clay aggregate is a lightweight ceramic shell with honeycomb core produced by firing natural clay to temperatures of 1100–1200 C in a rotating kiln. The pellets are rounded in shape and fall from the kiln in a grade of approximately 0–32 mm with an average dry bulk density of approximately 350 kg/m. The material is sieved into a number of different grades to suit the application.
You could read more fro the link above.

What do u say? Shall i use it? In case i dont find clay.. Russian term is "керамзит", when i google russian aquarium forums, a lot of people are using it in their soil for planted tanks.


And how about peat? I heard its for reducing ph, does it do any good to soil? I found in flower shop, how much should i get? Do i layer it ontop of soil, or i mix it with the soil.

Hmm?
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Old 12-06-2013, 09:38 AM   #13
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I just bought clay. Is it black inside , brown outside? Did i buy right stuff?

I couldnt find in petty small rounded shapes, mine are large couple centimeters, one inch width. I am planning to manyally break it into smaller pieces.

As far as i uderstand everything should be layered correct me if i am wrong, from to to bottom:

1. My original aquarium substrate
2. Clay
3. Soil mixed with peat.

What should be the hight of above layers? Is it better to have layer of clay, or crush it up and mix with the soil?

Below i am sending photo of the clay i bought, its still wet i just washed it:

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Last edited by Mmdiscus; 12-06-2013 at 10:57 AM.. Reason: More detail
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Old 12-06-2013, 11:25 AM   #14
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In my first post, darker organix mix is - Vermicast, also called worm castings. I just learned it from the store. I am planning to mix it with the soil on the left of thst picture. I that ok?

Tom Barr says earthworm castings are very well suitedand results are awesome, http://www.barrreport.com/showthread...diments-how-to

So now, i know i can use it, my question still remains though what proportions should i use for all the stuff i have now

Last edited by Mmdiscus; 12-06-2013 at 11:51 AM.. Reason: Tom barr
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Old 12-06-2013, 12:06 PM   #15
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One comment - I have read that you shouldn't use more than an inch or 1.5 inches of soil below your cap. It may not be true but the logic is that a more thick layer would trap some of the stuff that normally leaches itself out, creating gaseous pockets and anaerobic conditions. Fearing this, I did a little bit over an inch. Not sure what others think.
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