Which topsoil did you use to make MTS? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 01:52 AM Thread Starter
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Which topsoil did you use to make MTS?

Hey everyone.

I'm on my second try at making MTS. But as I'm doing it, it's not really changing in consistency. Nor is it the "puddiing" or "cake badder" consistency. Right now I'm using Scott's Premium organic topsoil, which seems to be mostly sticks.

Which brand did you use, and where did you get it?

Any help, much appreciated.

Fishykid1


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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:03 AM
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Miracle Grow Organic potting mix
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:05 AM
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I got plain old topsoil from TruValue Hardware. $2 per 40lb bag. I'm just starting now so I can't tell you how it will turn out but this was real topsoil and not a lot of sticks and peatmoss.

Real farmer's dirt. No manure smell just nice and earthy. Frankly I wish I had found this stuff this summer when I was doing lawn repair. It's nice.

Good luck

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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:09 AM Thread Starter
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UGH, the soil (Sticks) i have is annoying the POOHHH out of me. I'm glad I didn't open the other bag. May just go back and find something else. like the organic potting mix.


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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:14 AM Thread Starter
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It's good, but to be honest. My dad was right... the sweet smell is ceder. EDIT::: the scotts premium smells like ceder.


I have time though.. this tank won't be up till mid JAN or later. I want this to be right.


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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:31 AM
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You must have a TruValue somewhere in Raleigh?

Give it a try and get some "just plain soil" rather than another batch of "semi-soil." Here's a pic of one of my bags.

After 40 years of yard work I know wood chips and peat moss additives when I see them. This has none of that.

If you stick with it all of it will eventually decay. If you want to shorten the process then get the big chunks out by running through some 1/4" hardware cloth from the HW store.
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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:34 AM Thread Starter
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I have screen and stuff. I'm heading out of town tomorrow though. So, it'll have to wait until I get back. Then I'll check around. I think the truvalue's closed near me.


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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:38 AM
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Looks like 4 location in Durham.

Good luck

Jim
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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:41 AM
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walmarts or any other store that sells garden/lawn stuff will also have plain top soil. Look for a bag that has a hole in it (or poke one yourself). It should just be black dirt. It should be $1-$2.
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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:45 AM Thread Starter
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So there shouldn't be many sticks or anything in it? I'm sort of confused on that. I'm not driving an hour to get soil. haha I'd have to find a closer location.


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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:45 AM
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The only problem I found is that every discount/big box store seems to get rid of their seasonal growing stuff this time of year. TrueValue was the only place I could find any. Mine was frozen solid on a pallette out back.

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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:47 AM
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There's bound to be some sticks in it. Just proceed with the mineralization through 4 cycles then sift out the remaining stuff after it's good and dry.

Good luck

Jim
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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 02:49 AM
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People use all kinds of dirt for tanks. There arent many rules for getting it. It can be backyard dirt. What you want to avoid is any organic matter(sticks, neighbors cat, etc..). This is also the reason for multiple washes. If you have a screen sifter it will save you loads of time. I prefer wormstrate that I make myself but my second choice would be the back yard. Its cheaper and you know whats in it.

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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 03:24 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I looked at the miracle grow organic potting mix, but it still has fertilizer in it. go figure. I'll keep looking I suppose. I can always just go to lowe's / home depot or other stores and poke a few holes :P

hopefully mines not frozen..


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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old 12-22-2010, 06:09 PM
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Closest location is right out back.

Scrape away the plants (weeds, in my case) and scoop up a cup or so of soil. Maybe you have to dig a bit to get away from roots.

Pack this into a jar with straight sides (1 pint to 1 quart canning jar works well)
Put a piece of tape vertically on the jar, and mark where the top of the soil is.
Add water and a drop or two of dishwasher detergent (no bubbles)
Shake really well.
Set the jar down and start watching a watch.
At 30 seconds mark on the tape where the soil is.
At 1 minute mark on the tape where the soil is.
At 2 minutes mark on the tape where the soil is.
In a couple of hours mark on the tape where the soil is.

How to read the test results:
At 30 seconds almost all the sand has fallen out.
At 1 minute all the sand has fallen out.
At 2 minutes all the silt has fallen out.
At 2 hours all the useful clay has fallen out.
Anything floating is organic matter- Sticks, roots, leaves... These are not much of a problem to remove when you mineralize the soil.
If the water is only slightly colored, but you can pretty much see through it after 2 hours this is pretty good.
If the water in the jar is still murky the next day, give up. This soil has too much coloidal clay to work well in an aquarium. MAYBE mineralizing it will help, but I doubt it.

Look at the percentages of sand, silt and clay.
This is the amount at the 1 minute, 2 minute and 2 hour marks compared to the total amount of soil you started with.
Good soil for an aquarium will be mostly sand with just a little silt and less clay.
Clay is very important. This is the material that holds the nutrients. High Cationic Exchange Capacity. But it is also hard for the plants to grow in it, hard for the water to move through it.
Over 50% sand is good.
No more than 20% silt, 10% clay.

If there is a LOT of floaters then you might rake through your soil better when you collect it, sift it a couple of times when you start to prepare it, and be ready to skim it every time you re-wet it during the mineralization process. You might need to start with extra soil because you are throwing away quite a bit when there is this much organic matter in it.
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