Red clay for dirt substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 04:43 PM Thread Starter
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Red clay for dirt substrate?

Hi all--

I'm creating a dirted 75g tank, and remember reading up about adding natural red pottery clay as soil amendment & iron source. They'd recommended Amaco Mexican red pottery clay, but this is in a post dating back to 2011. Went to Michael's and thought I'd found exactly what I needed--a 10lb box of Crafstmart natural terracotta clay made by American Art Clay Co (Amaco). But reading the small print on the box, it says it's "treated to ensure freshness." No idea what they use as a preservative. Reading online, I see mention of sulfur sometimes being added, but no way to tell if that's what's being used here.

Has anyone used clay in their substrate? If so, what kind did you use, and where did you get it? I'm already using SafeTsorb to cap my dirt, so maybe that has enough clay in it? If I'm not 100% I'll just skip it, but was hoping to be able to use clay to blend in and weigh down my potting soil which has lots of perlite in it.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 07:41 PM
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You should use soil that does not have perlite. I would skip the clay. Regular dirt has many years worth of iron already in it. If already using dirt there is no need for clay.


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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 08:02 PM
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Back in the 90's I used to buy clay from Sera that you would form into balls and put in the substrate. I had decent luck with most common plants back then, but no idea if the clay provided much benefit. For sure, it made vacuuming a tank a nightmare.

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by minorhero View Post
You should use soil that does not have perlite. I would skip the clay. Regular dirt has many years worth of iron already in it. If already using dirt there is no need for clay.
The only organic soil I could find available locally was a Miracle Grow organic potting soil that has lots of perlite, and just peat & "decomposed forest products"--no clay. I've heard of people using perlite as part of a substrate because it has an insane CEC value. The soil in these parts is pure desert sand, so it has no clay. That's why I'm trying to find some to add so it's more like real soil as you suggest. Gonna chance using some the perlite: if it does manage to float up through the soil & STS, it should be easy enough to net out.

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Back in the 90's I used to buy clay from Sera that you would form into balls and put in the substrate. I had decent luck with most common plants back then, but no idea if the clay provided much benefit. For sure, it made vacuuming a tank a nightmare.
Thanks. I'd come across this as well, but all those thread were really old. The fact that nobody's talking about it now suggests to me that the pros didn't outweigh the cons. And the STS is clay so may already have some iron in it, and with help from the MTS may breakdown over time. Iron is easy enough to dose in the water column, and presumably a high CEC substrate will absorb & release it later for plant growth.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 10:03 PM
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FWIW I sift all soil and then soak it to remove anything that floats.


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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 10:31 PM Thread Starter
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FWIW I sift all soil and then soak it to remove anything that floats.
Thanks. I did that last time around, and the cheap (but organic!) potting soil had so many twigs & big pieces of bark there was barely enough left to cover the bottom of the tank.

This time around, it's good well-decomposed potting soil, and I've already done two soak & drain cycles to leach out the nutrients. But if I removed all the floating perlite once again there'd be little left. Was hoping some clay could help weight down the perlite. Think I may chance it--as I said if needed I can just net out any that floats up
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-19-2020, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Desert Pupfish View Post
Thanks. I did that last time around, and the cheap (but organic!) potting soil had so many twigs & big pieces of bark there was barely enough left to cover the bottom of the tank.

This time around, it's good well-decomposed potting soil, and I've already done two soak & drain cycles to leach out the nutrients. But if I removed all the floating perlite once again there'd be little left. Was hoping some clay could help weight down the perlite. Think I may chance it--as I said if needed I can just net out any that floats up
Is this a completely new tank or the same tank rescaped? Just curious.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 01-20-2020, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Is this a completely new tank or the same tank rescaped? Just curious.
New tank. I did do a similar substrate with the 55g I set up about 8 mos ago for a group of juvenile angels I got in Sept. Fast forward less than 4 months, and some of them have grown far faster than expected and are already pairing off and wreaking havoc with their siblings. They've already killed one, so I'm rushing to set up this one that I had waiting in the garage to set up next month. Nothing like murder & mayhem to spur one to action.....

I've started a new tank journal for this one: Desert Pupfish's new 75g tank. Gonna have to retitle the journal my old one now that it's not so new.....
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