Mineralized Topsoil Approach with Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2019, 12:12 AM Thread Starter
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Mineralized Topsoil Approach with Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix?

Hi everyone,

In short, can I apply the mineralized topsoil approach mentioned by Aaron Talbot here with the miracle gro organic choice potting mix (MGOCPM)? Please continue reading for additional details.

I am about to start my first planted tank. Upon setting up this tank, I plan to transfer all my fishes and snails from my current 10-gallon freshwater tank into it. I am a bit of a newbie but excited with aquariums and planted tanks. So please bear with me in case my questions were already answered in the past. The following is my plan so far.

Tank size: 29 gallons (30" L x 12.5" W x 18.5" H)
Substrate: dirt (MGOCPM) capped with black diamond blasting sand
Aquascape: some hybrid of Dutch and Nature styles
Plants: not sure entirely but thinking of at least one carpet plant
Tech: low-tech without any CO2
Light: conventional T8 that came along with the tank
Current fishes: 3 corydoras (1 albino + 2 pandas), 3 baby female bettas, 3 guppies (2 females + 1 male)
Current snails: 1 mystery, 1 rabbit

I have been reading a lot about dirted planted tanks and its requirements. I stumbled upon the mineralized topsoil approach by Aaron Talbot mentioned above. I read about it and multiple discussions surrounding it in many forums. So here are my questions.

Question-1: Can I apply that mineralized topsoil approach with MGOCPM instead of topsoil? I understand that the whole purpose is to mineralize the soil. But doesn't MGOCPM already contain rich minerals that the approach is trying to achieve? If yes, wouldn't rinsing MGOCPM remove the benefits of organic potting mix?

Question-2: Assuming I need not rinse MGOCPM, do I still need to add clay, dolomite, and potash to my dirt+sand bed? Are there any cons to adding these things to the organic potting mix?

My plan is to set up this planted tank, let it settle, and then transfer my fishes into the tank by the end of February. So any additional relevant information will be helpful to me.

Thank you!
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2019, 07:15 PM
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I don't believe you can mineralize MG potting mix because it's not true soil. If I take sifted soil from my organic garden, the process of mineralizing (wet/dry/wet/dry) burns off the organics, leaving a mineral rich soil. I think MG potting mix is nearly all organic (peat, compost...) - it's just not dirt.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-24-2019, 07:23 PM
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The definition of mineralization is the process by which organic compounds (miracle grow "dirt") are decomposed into plant available, inorganic compounds.

No, the N found within compost litter is mineralized into ammonia -- nitrate.

The P found within chicken manure is mineralized into P2O5

Etc. etc.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 02:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the responses, @AbbeysDad and @Quagulator. I understand AbbeysDad's response but I am a bit confused with Quagulator's response.

Quagulator: So the MGOC potting "mix" can still be mineralized? The answer is yes if I understand the basics of organic vs inorganic compounds correctly. Is it OK to follow the wet/dry/wet/dry process?

The more I read online about the potting "mix", the more mixed reviews I am finding. Surely some people had better luck with the potting mix but some people suggest altogether to not to use the potting mix (and to use the potting "soil" instead). Most of the people who had luck with the potting mix did not do any kind of mineralization except adding some wet clay balls into the potting mix layer. But then, they had to use some fertilizers after 6 months or so. The main reason I am interested in the mineralization of potting mix is to avoid usage of fertilizers for a relatively long duration (1-2 years).

In the worst case scenario, I may have to spend some more money to buy some organic potting "soil" and follow the mineralization process.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by subchan View Post
Thanks for the responses, @AbbeysDad and @Quagulator. I understand AbbeysDad's response but I am a bit confused with Quagulator's response.

Quagulator: So the MGOC potting "mix" can still be mineralized? The answer is yes if I understand the basics of organic vs inorganic compounds correctly. Is it OK to follow the wet/dry/wet/dry process?

The more I read online about the potting "mix", the more mixed reviews I am finding. Surely some people had better luck with the potting mix but some people suggest altogether to not to use the potting mix (and to use the potting "soil" instead). Most of the people who had luck with the potting mix did not do any kind of mineralization except adding some wet clay balls into the potting mix layer. But then, they had to use some fertilizers after 6 months or so. The main reason I am interested in the mineralization of potting mix is to avoid usage of fertilizers for a relatively long duration (1-2 years).

In the worst case scenario, I may have to spend some more money to buy some organic potting "soil" and follow the mineralization process.

Both the "soil" and the potting mix are 100% organic compounds (compost, wood chips, forest litter etc.) so neither have any "structure" to them (sand, silt or clay).

Using clay balls is a waste, they offer nothing.

You will have to fertilize eventually. May be 6 months, may be 2 years. It depends on how hard you drive plant growth.

If it were me I would mix up a combination of mineralized potting soil, crushed lava rock and sand into a nice consistency and go from there.

Dirted tank are messy, heck even my tank with inert substrates are messy if I uproot a plant. So expect to have some "junk" floating around in the water column.

I eventually want to do a dirted tank (likely using the soil / sand / lava rock mix I mentioned) but honestly it is so much LESS work to fertilize the water column. Buy $30 worth of dry fertilizers and you are set for over a year or way longer depending on tank size. Dose 1 -3 times a week and watch the plants grow.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quagulator View Post
Both the "soil" and the potting mix are 100% organic compounds (compost, wood chips, forest litter etc.) so neither have any "structure" to them (sand, silt or clay).

Using clay balls is a waste, they offer nothing.

You will have to fertilize eventually. May be 6 months, may be 2 years. It depends on how hard you drive plant growth.

If it were me I would mix up a combination of mineralized potting soil, crushed lava rock and sand into a nice consistency and go from there.

Dirted tank are messy, heck even my tank with inert substrates are messy if I uproot a plant. So expect to have some "junk" floating around in the water column.

I eventually want to do a dirted tank (likely using the soil / sand / lava rock mix I mentioned) but honestly it is so much LESS work to fertilize the water column. Buy $30 worth of dry fertilizers and you are set for over a year or way longer depending on tank size. Dose 1 -3 times a week and watch the plants grow.
Wow! Thanks for the input .

I read that red clay is a good source of iron which is one of the essential nutrients for the plant growth, and that the clay helps in binding the roots well. Also, I am able to find a pound of red clay powder near me for less than $2. So I wanted to give it a shot.

But I get your point of having the need to fertilize eventually. Also, I thought I would have to spend hundreds of dollars on buying fertilizers. But if I can get away with a year-worth of fertilizers in the $30 ballpark, I am happy to look into them. This is a 29-gallon tank (30" L x 12.5" W x 18.5" H).

Can you suggest some such dry fertilizers and where to get them?

Also, I see some crushed lava rock in Lowes and Home Depot near me. Any idea if they are aquarium and fish safe? I guess I will have to read a bit more about the lava rock on various forums.

Wow! Thanks for the input, @Quagulator .

I read that red clay is a good source of iron which is one of the essential nutrients for the plant growth, and that the clay helps in binding the roots well. Also, I am able to find a pound of red clay powder near me for less than $2. So I wanted to give it a shot.

But I understand your point of having the need to fertilize eventually. Also, I thought I would have to spend hundreds of dollars on buying fertilizers. But if I can get away with a year-worth of fertilizers in the $30 ballpark, I am happy to look into them. This is a 29-gallon tank (30" L x 12.5" W x 18.5" H).

Can you suggest some such dry fertilizers and where to get them?

Also, I see some crushed lava rock in Lowes and Home Depot near me. Any idea if they are aquarium and fish safe? I guess I will have to research a bit more about the lava rock.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 01-27-2019 at 11:49 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 06:04 PM
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Wow! Thanks for the input, @Quagulator .

I read that red clay is a good source of iron which is one of the essential nutrients for the plant growth, and that the clay helps in binding the roots well. Also, I am able to find a pound of red clay powder near me for less than $2. So I wanted to give it a shot.

But I understand your point of having the need to fertilize eventually. Also, I thought I would have to spend hundreds of dollars on buying fertilizers. But if I can get away with a year-worth of fertilizers in the $30 ballpark, I am happy to look into them. This is a 29-gallon tank (30" L x 12.5" W x 18.5" H).

Can you suggest some such dry fertilizers and where to get them?

Also, I see some crushed lava rock in Lowes and Home Depot near me. Any idea if they are aquarium and fish safe? I guess I will have to research a bit more about the lava rock.
You can buy aquarium specific lava rock if you are worried, if not than lava rock found at home/garden stores or hardware stores is likely safe to use.

You can just by a few pieces and smash them up with a hammer on the garage floor that's what I did when I initially planned on dirting a tank.

Anyway, here is what you will need for dry fertilizers:

KNO3
KH2PO4
K2SO4
CSM+B
Iron DTPA 11% (if your pH is above 6.5)

On a 29 gallon tank 1 pound of each should last you several years.

If you want some root tabs, pick up some Osmocote+ granular fertilizer and some size 00 gel capsules, fill them with Osmocote+ and you will have 1000 tabs for the price of 40 Flourish tabs. Higher quality tabs too.

Estimative Index | Aquarium Fertilizer Bags | GLA Dry Ferts

DTPA Chelated Iron - 0.5lb (Bag) | GLA Ferts

So less than $30

Also, you may want to grab some CaSO4 and some MgSO4 for a gH booster (depends on the gH of your tap water)

Magnesium Sulfate | MgSO4 Bags | GLA Dry Ferts

Calcium Sulfate | CaSO4 | Green Leaf Aquariums
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 06:21 PM
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Check out nilocg.com for dry fertilizers. They have a few different packages for sale, depending on what fertilizing regimen you want to use (EI, PPS-PRO, etc). There are resources out there if you want to learn more about using dry ferts - it can seem daunting at first but it is worth it for the extremely low cost. I really highly recommend using Rotala Butterfly to help figure out how much fertilizer to actually put in your tank. It is an invaluable tool.

Aquarium Fertilizer | NilocG Aquatics
https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php

The crushed lava rock is perfectly safe, you just might want to rinse it before use to reduce dust and debris.

For plants - you are working with very low light and no CO2. This is a great combination, and I expect it will work very well with soil to make for a low-maintenance tank. However, I don't think you will have much luck with carpeting plants in this setup. They tend to do much better with more powerful lighting and CO2. I do think cryptocoryne species would be perfect for your tank. They love low light and deep, rich substrates.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 01-25-2019, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you, @Quagulator and @ursamajor.

That is some great information. I should now officially announce that I know almost nothing about fertilizing planted tanks after reading your responses . I will check those weblinks, learn more about dry fertilizers, and then decide on something. I have no idea right now what those EI, PPS-PRO etc mean exactly. I am at that noob level when it comes to using fertilizers.

I have already arranged some osmocote+ capsules. My initial plan was to set up this tank with MCOC potting mix + BDBS + clay, and then watch it grow under my conventional T8 light with no CO2. I did not plan to use any fertilizer except osmocote+ capsules starting 3-4 months after the tank setup.

As for plants, I currently have java fern, java moss, Epipremnum Aureum (devil vine?) and water sprite plants in my 10-gallon community tank. I am still learning and asking others about other plants that will grow well in low light and no CO2 environment. Yes, I heard the same that very few carpet plants grow well in this environment. I will keep that in mind and also look into cryptocoryne species.

As for the aquascape, I want to do some hybrid of Dutch + Nature styles with some locally found driftwood and rocks. I am yet to find the driftwood and rocks though . And so, I am yet to conceptualize an aquascape in my mind. I am not sure if everyone thinks this much about aquascapes but for some reason, I got attracted to both those styles and I want to build my own hybrid design.

But now that I am learning these new things from you all, I am interested in researching a bit more in these directions and see what happens. The lava rock might change the way I design my aquascape. And I may end up using fertilizers since they seem to fit into my overall budget.

Thanks again! I am happy that I joined this group. More input on any aspect is always welcome and appreciated .

Thank you, @Quagulator and @ursamajor.

That is some great information. I should now officially announce that I know almost nothing about fertilizing planted tanks after reading your responses :-/. I will check those weblinks, learn more about dry fertilizers, and then decide on something. I have no idea right now what those EI, PPS-PRO etc mean exactly. I am at that noob level when it comes to using fertilizers.

I have already arranged some osmocote+ capsules. My initial plan was to set up this tank with MCOC potting mix + BDBS + clay, and then watch it grow under my conventional T8 light with no CO2. I did not plan to use any fertilizer except osmocote+ capsules starting 3-4 months after the tank setup.

As for plants, I currently have java fern, java moss, Epipremnum Aureum (devil vine?) and water sprite plants in my 10-gallon community tank. I am still learning and asking others about other plants that will grow well in low light and no CO2 environment. Yes, I heard the same that very few carpet plants grow well in this environment. I will keep that in mind and also look into cryptocoryne species.

As for the aquascape, I want to do some hybrid of Dutch + Nature styles with some locally found driftwood and rocks. I am yet to find the driftwood and rocks though . And so, I am yet to conceptualize an aquascape in my mind. I am not sure if everyone thinks this much about aquascapes but for some reason, I got attracted to both those styles and I want to build my own hybrid design.

But now that I am learning these new things from you all, I am interested in researching a bit more in these directions and see what happens. The lava rock might change the way I design my aquascape. And I may end up using fertilizers since they seem to fit into my overall budget.

Thanks again! I am happy that I joined this group. More input on any aspect is always welcome and appreciated .

Last edited by Darkblade48; 01-27-2019 at 11:49 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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