1inch aquatic soil enough for plants? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 02:18 AM Thread Starter
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1inch aquatic soil enough for plants?

Hi all, new to planted tanks and wanting to attempt a Walstad tank in particular. I had my tank semi set up at the store, and was given 1inch of black aquatic soil (the type that forms gravel-like balls) that has NPK and bacteria in it to cover the base of my ~20L tank. When I started to plant my plants into the substrate at home I found it really difficult to get it to hold in the substrate.

Should I increase the substrate layer to more than 1 inch? In particular for the Walstad tank, is aquatic soil comparable to using the dirted tank method with regular soil, or should I redo the soil with regular soil underneath the aquatic soil?

Thanks
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 03:31 AM
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While I never read the book, my understanding is that the walstad method requires dirt. You currently just have an active substrate which is not typically used for this type of tank. Every one I have read about uses dirt with an inert cap.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 04:01 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
While I never read the book, my understanding is that the walstad method requires dirt. You currently just have an active substrate which is not typically used for this type of tank. Every one I have read about uses dirt with an inert cap.
Would using dirt with an active cap (i.e. the aquasoil) work, or would it be too much? From my understanding the cap is there to hold the dirt in place, so would it matter if the cap was active?
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 04:17 AM
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Would using dirt with an active cap (i.e. the aquasoil) work, or would it be too much? From my understanding the cap is there to hold the dirt in place, so would it matter if the cap was active?

I have never used aqua soil before but I could see it working as long as the aqua soil balls are not to large. If they are to large then they will allow to much nutrients to move from the substrate to the water column causing all kinds of issues. Any pictures of the aqua soil you have to give us an idea of the size? The cap is there to hold the dirt in place but it is also there to regulate the exchange of nutrients to the water column. I personally use pool filter sand or black diamond blasting sand on top of miracle grow organic potting soil. A true walstad method would go with organic potting soil, dirt from the yard or compost material. The later 2 leaves you open to many possible issues and this is why many go with bags of organic potting soil bought from stores. Using pool filter sand or BDBS will end up being way cheaper and work just as good. Do know with BDBS some people have stated that their BDBS had a petroleum like substance on it that could be toxic so test the bag in a bucket of water before using in a tank. I personally have used 10-20 bags of it over the years and never had this issue.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 04:40 AM Thread Starter
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I have never used aqua soil before but I could see it working as long as the aqua soil balls are not to large. If they are to large then they will allow to much nutrients to move from the substrate to the water column causing all kinds of issues. Any pictures of the aqua soil you have to give us an idea of the size? The cap is there to hold the dirt in place but it is also there to regulate the exchange of nutrients to the water column. I personally use pool filter sand or black diamond blasting sand on top of miracle grow organic potting soil. A true walstad method would go with organic potting soil, dirt from the yard or compost material. The later 2 leaves you open to many possible issues and this is why many go with bags of organic potting soil bought from stores. Using pool filter sand or BDBS will end up being way cheaper and work just as good. Do know with BDBS some people have stated that their BDBS had a petroleum like substance on it that could be toxic so test the bag in a bucket of water before using in a tank. I personally have used 10-20 bags of it over the years and never had this issue.
I agree with you, my problem now is figuring out whether I can somehow incorporate this aquasoil since I've already paid for it haha. It looks a lot like the normal amazonia type in this image:
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=...59017845349888

It sinks and feels a lot like gravel, hence why I thought it could be a good idea when I was buying it; a 2-in-1 soil and gravel together. I suppose now it's a matter of whether I:
1) Add extra aqua soil and hope that there's enough depth for the denitrification process to work properly
2) Use an inch layer of soil underneath the aquasoil (aquasoil then acts as gravel) and risk the gravel not being inert and therefore not controlling the release of molecules into the water
3) Use the aquasoil as soil and buy inert gravel to go on top, and hope that the aquasoil (which as bacteria in it already) can house anaerobic activity the way normal soil would
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 05:22 AM
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I agree with you, my problem now is figuring out whether I can somehow incorporate this aquasoil since I've already paid for it haha. It looks a lot like the normal amazonia type in this image:
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=...59017845349888

It sinks and feels a lot like gravel, hence why I thought it could be a good idea when I was buying it; a 2-in-1 soil and gravel together. I suppose now it's a matter of whether I:
1) Add extra aqua soil and hope that there's enough depth for the denitrification process to work properly
2) Use an inch layer of soil underneath the aquasoil (aquasoil then acts as gravel) and risk the gravel not being inert and therefore not controlling the release of molecules into the water
3) Use the aquasoil as soil and buy inert gravel to go on top, and hope that the aquasoil (which as bacteria in it already) can house anaerobic activity the way normal soil would
I completely understand about wanting to use the aqua soil in some way. It is quite an investment and you dont want to just throw it in the trash.I wish I could say for certain which route to go but without experience with the aqua soil I'm only guessing. After having used potting soil for the last 6 years I would go with option 2. The size of the aqua soil doesn't look to large to me so I would be inclined to give it a try.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 09:01 AM
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Any chance you want to just bag up the aqua soil and use it for another tank or the same tank but after the next aquascapes? To do it right is not expensive you just need to not use what you bought. But if you fill the tank with plants and it doesn't work you have considerably more of an investment in money and time.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-27-2019, 09:54 AM
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Yes, it is true that a Walstad tank is supposed to use soil, although not everybody sticks to the so-called rules and the tank police are not going to show up if you don't.

Putting soil either under or over Aqua Soil is going to leave a lot of stuff in the water column. Like root tabs, just because something is in the substrate doesn't mean it stays in the substrate. Aqua Soil in and of itself is a pain in the butt as it is full of ammonia and needs to be cycled.

Is this tank going to be heavily planted from the start to help start the process of balancing things out?
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 02:41 AM
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I use Fluval Stratum aquasoil over organic miracle grow soil and it works great for me. I believe Stratum is the same as ADA aquasoil. If so, you should be OK using it. I'm having great results. No filter, no co2, no ferts. Etc.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 04:19 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for your replies! I ended up buying some organic soil and black gravel and redid the tank last night. I've bagged up the aquasoil and will save it for another tank (how long will the aquasoil keep for? I assume it needs to stay wet since that's how it came in the bag to keep the bacteria alive) or see if I can sell it / give it away to someone who will use it sooner.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Kessie View Post
Thanks everyone for your replies! I ended up buying some organic soil and black gravel and redid the tank last night. I've bagged up the aquasoil and will save it for another tank (how long will the aquasoil keep for? I assume it needs to stay wet since that's how it came in the bag to keep the bacteria alive) or see if I can sell it / give it away to someone who will use it sooner.
None of the ADA Aqua Soils come wet. They try to sell people Bacter 100 or dry, dead bacteria. A person can grow their own beneficial bacteria in a bucket with a filter. I digress.

Did you buy Eco-Complete? https://www.amazon.com/CaribSea-Eco-.../dp/B0002DH0QM

The bacteria thing is a gimmick. If you did in fact buy Eco-Complete, I would have told you that you could mix it into soil. Eco-Complete is not a 'active substrate', it's clay with nothing in it. To the best of my knowledge, clay isn't considered cheating when it comes to a Walstad tank.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-28-2019, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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None of the ADA Aqua Soils come wet. They try to sell people Bacter 100 or dry, dead bacteria. A person can grow their own beneficial bacteria in a bucket with a filter. I digress.

Did you buy Eco-Complete? https://www.amazon.com/CaribSea-Eco-.../dp/B0002DH0QM

The bacteria thing is a gimmick. If you did in fact buy Eco-Complete, I would have told you that you could mix it into soil. Eco-Complete is not a 'active substrate', it's clay with nothing in it. To the best of my knowledge, clay isn't considered cheating when it comes to a Walstad tank.
I'm In Australia so I don't think what I bought was actually aquasoil in American terms, if that's a brand. I meant that when I was at the aquarium shop, I told the guy I was doing a Walstad tank and he said that they had a substrate that was soil and gravel in one, with aquatic environmental bacteria living in it (hence why there was water in the bag).
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