Topsoil question - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Topsoil question

I am considering putting topsoil under my gravel for a little 10g and was just wondering how often I would have to change the soil out. Does it get crappy after a short period of time? Any input on this method would be greatly appreciated.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 03:49 AM
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I read in here somewhere that there was a tank with mineralized top soil that had been running for 10 years??? this sounds a bit extreme to me but it should last quite a while depending on what you have growing what other sources of nutrients you have and how much light you have over your tank.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 07:49 PM
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There is no need to change out the top soil. For in-depth information on using top soil as a substrate, see the _bible_ "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium".
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 10:55 PM
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If it is too deep, and gets anaerobic then you will need to change it out.
As long as it is healthy there is no need to change it.
Just make sure you add whatever fertilizers the plants are using up.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 11:05 PM
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Using top soil in about a 1" layer without any other supplements will last about 2 yrs. before starting to fail on average. If you mean river gravel or standard round pebble type substrate as a capping material you won't be happy because the soil won't stay contained under the cap. (too large) Flourite, sand, turface anything with a smaller grain would work much better. I like flourite because of the CEC benefit.


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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 11:09 PM
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i would actually just use root tabs, that's what i did

Happy plantkeeping!
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 11:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
Using top soil in about a 1" layer without any other supplements will last about 2 yrs. before starting to fail on average.
Not sure what you meant by supplements, but if you read Diana Walstad's book you will see that her tanks using 1" top soil lasted more than 10 years and continued to thrive.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-12-2011, 11:38 PM
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I have her book. I have a 55g tank following her guidelines. The soil is falling off on delivering what the plants need and I'm starting to see growth issues on some stem plants sunset hygro in particular.
In 2 months the tank setup will be 2 yrs. old.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/lo...-soil-sub.html
I don't feel 2 years of growth without dosing the water column is anything to complain about.



Soils are all different. I'm not busting on the system. Rather I brag on it and repeat it tank after tank due to the saving over other methods. The added cost and maintenance involved with high tech systems wouldn't allow me to maintain 11 tanks without using lower lighting levels and soil to supply the plants.


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-13-2011, 12:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
I have her book. I have a 55g tank following her guidelines. The soil is falling off on delivering what the plants need and I'm starting to see growth issues on some stem plants sunset hygro in particular.
Some plants are more robust while others are more particular in their nutrient requirements. ISTM a key to long term success with soil substrate is staying with robust plants.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-13-2011, 01:03 PM
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Oh OK, so, 'long term success with natural soil substrates is staying with robust plants'.

So my post of 2 years and a change in growth is false or misinformation? This 'failure' can be 'blamed' on weak plants or plants 'more particular in their nutrient requirements' not the changing nutrient levels provided by the soil substrate? A plant that grew wonderfully for >1 1/2 years starts failing because the plant is weak? I disagree as I think would most. The tank system is now lacking in a nutrient needed for growth when it was in good supply before. How is that explained if not soil failure? The plant did very well for a relatively long period of time then fails because something needed is lacking. Same source water, same lighting, same temperature, same basic animal load and filtration. What changed? My answer = The nutrients supplied by the soil substrate. In my case the N,P,K balance is failing to remain constant after 2 years not 10. (still not posting a complaint)
At early stages in the tanks development I had issues (stuff died) keeping shrimp, snails and a couple of stem plants and that was caused by the soil as it settled into a submerged state of organic decay. Stems melted at the base of the plant and bottom level swimmers didn't survive early on due to chemicals released by the soil. It didn't last long and then the tank went into trim and add water mode for months and months. The only "issue' I had to deal with was overgrowth. The system is now changing again. Again I believe the change is substrate related. It's becoming nutrient deficient.

Setting up my tank Dianna posted into my string and PM'd answers to any questions I had needing clarification on something I'd read over on APC or in her book. Never read that only listed 'robust' plants should be planted in NPTs. Some plants do grow better than others agreed. Some plants don't grow well when planted in combination with others I can agree.

Stating that my soil based aquarium should have 8 more years or beyond of sustainability because Ms. Walstad published these milestones and I simply need to determine which species of plant will survive stressed and or nutrient deficient I disagree.

Various factors determine how long any system remains viable and satisfactory to the hobbyist. To say do a soil based system following D. Walstad's methods and enjoy decades worth of joy without change just add water and fish food is false hope unless you settle for what will survive not what you want.


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
Oh OK, so, 'long term success with natural soil substrates is staying with robust plants'.

So my post of 2 years and a change in growth is false or misinformation? This 'failure' can be 'blamed' on weak plants or plants 'more particular in their nutrient requirements' not the changing nutrient levels provided by the soil substrate? A plant that grew wonderfully for >1 1/2 years starts failing because the plant is weak? I disagree as I think would most. The tank system is now lacking in a nutrient needed for growth when it was in good supply before. How is that explained if not soil failure?
Fishfood. See chapter 5 of her book.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
The plant did very well for a relatively long period of time then fails because something needed is lacking. Same source water, same lighting, same temperature, same basic animal load and filtration. What changed? My answer = The nutrients supplied by the soil substrate.
When the rate of nutrient replenishment (via fishfood) does not keep up with consumption, a tank will run into nutrient problem, just a matter of time.

Quote:
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To say do a soil based system following D. Walstad's methods and enjoy decades worth of joy without change just add water and fish food is false hope unless you settle for what will survive not what you want.
To form a realistic expectation and be fair to a method, one has to understand and respect the method's strength and weakness. A Walstad-tank has the advantage of being low maintenance. But because of the low light level and no nutrient dosing other than fishfood, you can't just have any plants you want.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 01:21 AM
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Fishfood. See chapter 5 of her book.
Chapter 5, I don't see over feeding to eliminate depletion of the substrate. Not what I understood and took away from reading Diana's book. If it did advocate that it would be an expensive proposal in the long run.
Freeze Dried Blood Worms 1 oz (28g) - $ 5.00
Algea Disks 1/2 lb - $ 11.00
Cichlid Flakes 1 lb - $ 21.00
Carnivore / Omnivore Discs 1/4 pound - $ 6.00
Breeders Delight Brine Shrimp Flakes 1/4 pound - $ 6.00
Super Color Balls (sinking) 2 ounces - $ 3.50
Over feeding to eliminate depletion at these prices?
I think D. Walstad would laugh herself silly at the thought.

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When the rate of nutrient replenishment (via fishfood) does not keep up with consumption, a tank will run into nutrient problem, just a matter of time.
Nutrient replenishment via liberally overfeeding fish food. No not the message I took away, I read it to be fish waste and the uneaten food missed by the fish not chronic overfeeding.
How much organic material I've removed in the form of plant trimming I can't begin to calculate. I honestly wish she visited the forums often like she did up until a year ago. Common sense always applies. I think a single Saturday afternoon along with another $4.00 bag of dirt or a trip to the back yard would be a more cost effective and viable alternative to adding fish food by the pound which might match the plants harvested.

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To form a realistic expectation and be fair to a method, one has to understand and respect the method's strength and weakness. A Walstad-tank has the advantage of being low maintenance. But because of the low light level and no nutrient dosing other than fishfood, you can't just have any plants you want.
A very narrow view of her methods (imo).
Short term vs long term and rigid rule based thinking in combination. The method is a means not a goal.
Exactly the same debate as saying EI requires 50% weekly water changes or failure follows.

The tank is still algae free and not done entirely yet so I'll just enjoy it and hope you do the same with yours.


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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 02:05 AM
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Chapter 5, I don't see over feeding to eliminate depletion of the substrate. Not what I understood and took away from reading Diana's book. If it did advocate that it would be an expensive proposal in the long run.
The way I understand it, the Walstad method is not a paint-by-number method. People need to understand how the various pieces work together. Thus, in her book Diana Walstad explained in detail the role of the various pieces. Readers then put together their understanding of those pieces to form a system model of their own tank. Using that model, people then adjust the various factors in their tank to form a balance. Once a balance is achieved in the overall system dynamic, the tank can run for a long long time as demonstrated in Diana's own tanks.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by zdnet View Post
The way I understand it, the Walstad method is not a paint-by-number method. People need to understand how the various pieces work together. Thus, in her book Diana Walstad explained in detail the role of the various pieces. Readers then put together their understanding of those pieces to form a system model of their own tank. Using that model, people then adjust the various factors in their tank to form a balance. Once a balance is achieved in the overall system dynamic, the tank can run for a long long time as demonstrated in Diana's own tanks.

I think you got this right.

I think if you are willing to culture food or make your own and feed liberally then you might not have to fert dose or change substrate, which could prove cheaper but if you are buying commercial food then you are going to have to make the choice of money or work.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 02-14-2011, 10:21 PM
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I think if you are willing to culture food or make your own and feed liberally then you might not have to fert dose or change substrate, which could prove cheaper but if you are buying commercial food then you are going to have to make the choice of money or work.
While commercial food are not the best, the nutrition value is still very good. See the fishfood analysis in Diana's book.

The more we understand how fish meal are made, the more we realize the premium that we are paying due to product branding and market manipulation. See the University of Florida's IFAS publication, "The Benefits of Fish Meal in Aquaculture Diets".
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