Grow little guys... grow.
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Chicago, IL
I have always added sphagnum peat moss to my soil substrates with good success. I started doing this years ago after reading Diana Walstad's "The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium" in which she describes the role of organic material in healthy soil sediments. (However she seems to prefer kitchen compost to peat moss for acidity concerns.) But I was mainly interested in the benefits of increased biological CO2 production, and didn't have any kitchen compost on hand.
To be clear, overall, I'm talking about small amounts of peat moss added to the soil batter.... it's an additive, not a major component of the substrate.
Even without added peat moss, mulm builds up over time and integrates into the substrate - which serves the same purpose as the added peat moss; but a new setup doesn't have the mulm build-up, so this is why I opt for added peat moss when I build a new soil substrate.
Here is an excerpt from Ecology of the Planted Aquarium (pg 71-72, pg 138):
"Probably the most important bacterial process in the planted aquarium is simply the decomposition of organic matter. The gradual decomposition of organic matter by heterotrophic bacteria into plant nutrients is a natural and continuous process.
In aquariums containing soil, the decomposition of the soil's organic matter by bacteria can provide plants with a generous initial supply of CO2. Indeed, I calculated that an 'average' soil substrate would provide the plants with enough CO2 for about 11 months (see page 83).
Well-decayed organic matter (e.g. kitchen compost) is a good soil amendment, because unlike peat moss, it has a relatively neutral pH. The compost can be mixed with the soil when the tank is first set up. I would probably not mix peat moss -because of its strong acidity- with soil. (The acidity may bring toxic levels of heavy metals into the soil solution.)"
But this acidity warning didn't stop me too much. To be sure, I had my soil analyzed by a lab and confirmed the overall nutrient content, its pH, the lack of heavy metals, and also the percentage of organic material due to the added peat moss.
Jeremy Squires, Toronto, ON
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