Should I use clay top soil as a substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
 3Likes
  • 2 Post By DaveKS
  • 1 Post By ElleDee
 
LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-04-2020, 05:39 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 35
Should I use clay top soil as a substrate?

I do not have access to the commonly used substrates such as flourite or ADA.

I looked up the Mineralized top soil process to make my own, however, I am only limited to clay soil, could this be an issue? Or I could just buy some potting mix.

What would be the best option here?
FlintMint is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-04-2020, 07:35 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
Quagulator's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Forest City ON, Canada
Posts: 2,302
Any soil will work, so long as it's free of toxins / loaded with extra added fertilizers.

Or you can just go with cheap inert sand from any hardware store.

"No Ice? Just Freeze Some Water"

My 30g (25g after learning how a tape measure works) Journal:
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.


To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
Quagulator is offline  
post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-04-2020, 07:53 PM
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2020
Location: Southeastern US
Posts: 45
There are many good things about clay, but I would be concerned about it clouding your water and getting very compacted. By definition clay particles are teeny tiny, so they don't settle when disturbed and they can form a very tight soil with very little pore space to allow for the flow of water, exchange of gases, and root growth. Organic topsoil or potting soil is cheap and has been tried by a lot of people. I am starting a new tank where I have added some of my native red clay for the mineral content and high cation exchange capacity, but I didn't use that much and it's mixed in with (non-mineralized, from a bag) topsoil that I hope will form enough soil structure to keep it out of the water column. I am confident I didn't use enough to cause an issue with compaction.

If someone has already tried a clay soil in their tank and was successful I'd love to hear about it, but I think it's risky at best. Aquasoils are clay-based if I understand correctly, but they are engineered into little balls to avoid the issues I described.
ElleDee is online now  
 
post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-04-2020, 09:07 PM
Planted Tank Guru
 
DaveKS's Avatar
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: 67212
Posts: 2,299
Yep, buy organic topsoil, prep it for a couple weeks by flooding it, airing it 2-3 times to turn it into aquatic soil.

Then get some of your clay soil and bake it on cookie sheet at 225° for about 30min to sterilize it, you should end up with some clay crumbles.

Then on bottom glass sprinkle clay crumbles so they cover no more than 30% of bottom glass then cover that with no more than 1” of your prepped topsoil.

Use a putty knife other flat object to bevel soil away from outer edge of tank glass so it won’t show.

Then fill around edges and 1-1.5” of 1-3mm sand on top of real soil. Add decor and slowly trickle fill, add plants once you get 2-3” above sand and then finish filling. Being as you have preleached and prepped soil there should be very little browning of water and you’ll be months ahead on tank stabilizing.

But be warned soil tanks aren’t for everyone and come with their own specific needs. If your a total OCD type who can’t handle a little soil being pulled up when you prune and replant it might not be best route.

As pointed out above you can have a successful tank using just 1-3m HTH pool sand or black diamond med grain blast sand as a inert substrate, it will be a stable base for many years to come. You just simply dose water column and plants will pull what they need from there.
Farmer and ElleDee like this.
DaveKS is offline  
post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 03:03 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElleDee View Post
There are many good things about clay, but I would be concerned about it clouding your water and getting very compacted. By definition clay particles are teeny tiny, so they don't settle when disturbed and they can form a very tight soil with very little pore space to allow for the flow of water, exchange of gases, and root growth. Organic topsoil or potting soil is cheap and has been tried by a lot of people. I am starting a new tank where I have added some of my native red clay for the mineral content and high cation exchange capacity, but I didn't use that much and it's mixed in with (non-mineralized, from a bag) topsoil that I hope will form enough soil structure to keep it out of the water column. I am confident I didn't use enough to cause an issue with compaction.

If someone has already tried a clay soil in their tank and was successful I'd love to hear about it, but I think it's risky at best. Aquasoils are clay-based if I understand correctly, but they are engineered into little balls to avoid the issues I described.

I guess I'll just buy potting soil, I'm wondering however if it is OK to use used potting soil? It's a year old and I planted many things in it before, so I don't need to worry about "extra chemicals/fertilizers", but I'm not sure if this also means it is depleted of nutrients.

Also, don't you think the mineralization process would probably get rid of most of the clay in the soil anyway?

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Yep, buy organic topsoil, prep it for a couple weeks by flooding it, airing it 2-3 times to turn it into aquatic soil.

Then get some of your clay soil and bake it on cookie sheet at 225° for about 30min to sterilize it, you should end up with some clay crumbles.

Then on bottom glass sprinkle clay crumbles so they cover no more than 30% of bottom glass then cover that with no more than 1” of your prepped topsoil.

Use a putty knife other flat object to bevel soil away from outer edge of tank glass so it won’t show.

Then fill around edges and 1-1.5” of 1-3mm sand on top of real soil. Add decor and slowly trickle fill, add plants once you get 2-3” above sand and then finish filling. Being as you have preleached and prepped soil there should be very little browning of water and you’ll be months ahead on tank stabilizing.

But be warned soil tanks aren’t for everyone and come with their own specific needs. If your a total OCD type who can’t handle a little soil being pulled up when you prune and replant it might not be best route.

As pointed out above you can have a successful tank using just 1-3m HTH pool sand or black diamond med grain blast sand as a inert substrate, it will be a stable base for many years to come. You just simply dose water column and plants will pull what they need from there.

The point of using soil based substrate is because I don't have access to any kind of liquid fertilizers, I can't even make my own but I do have DIY root tabs.
FlintMint is offline  
post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 07:48 PM
Algae Grower
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: May 2020
Location: Southeastern US
Posts: 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlintMint View Post
I guess I'll just buy potting soil, I'm wondering however if it is OK to use used potting soil? It's a year old and I planted many things in it before, so I don't need to worry about "extra chemicals/fertilizers", but I'm not sure if this also means it is depleted of nutrients.

Also, don't you think the mineralization process would probably get rid of most of the clay in the soil anyway?

Bump:


The point of using soil based substrate is because I don't have access to any kind of liquid fertilizers, I can't even make my own but I do have DIY root tabs.
No, I would not reuse old potting soil because it will be stripped of its nutrients already. The emphasis on organic potting mix or topsoil is because chemical fertilizers will quickly leach into the water when you flood the tank at much too high a rate.

I have never remineralized my soil. This is partly because I'm lazy and partly because I don't fully understand how it's supposed to work. (I know the difference between organic and mineralized forms of nutrients, but I don't understand how wet/dry cycling is supposed to accomplish mineralization exactly. If someone wants to drop a link with the science behind that idea, gimme gimme.) It's not a required step, though it seems like some people have been very successful with it. At any rate, clay is just tiny (<0.002 mm) rocks, so I guess it's possible that some of the clay could wash away in the mineralization process, but it's not going to be transformed in any way.

You may want to look into Diana Walstad's book/El Natural planted aquariums that don't rely on supplemental fertilizers. There's a lot of resources out there, but here's a primer: Walstad method. It's definitely not for everyone and can be challenging for beginners, but it can potentially be a lot cheaper and less reliant on specialty products than other methods. I am pretty new to the hobby myself and have essentially Walstad tanks, but I also have a master's degree in horticulture.
Farmer likes this.
ElleDee is online now  
post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 08:06 PM
Planted Tank Enthusiast
 
PTrader: (1/100%)
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Palm Springs, CA
Posts: 653
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Then get some of your clay soil and bake it on cookie sheet at 225° for about 30min to sterilize it, you should end up with some clay crumbles.

Then on bottom glass sprinkle clay crumbles so they cover no more than 30% of bottom glass then cover that with no more than 1” of your prepped topsoil.
Another option would be to use SafeTsorb. It's a commercial baked clay product that has many of the beneficial qualities described, but if washed won't cloud the water as much. SafeTsorb makes a great (cheap!) standalone substrate, but you can also layer it with other substrates if you like.
Desert Pupfish is offline  
post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-15-2020, 01:09 PM
Planted Member
 
PTrader: (0/0%)
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 164
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlintMint View Post
Also, don't you think the mineralization process would probably get rid of most of the clay in the soil anyway?
Not really. As I understand it, one of the main points is to get rid of some of the more organic compounds and/or convert them into an inorganic form. Clay is a mineral and is part of the inorganic portion of soil which provides minerals for plant growth. When you flood soil in the mineralisation process, you discard anything that floats. That's all going to be organic matter. If anything, I'd say you're going to be left with more clay-like soil.

For what it's worth, there are plenty of aquatic environments that are nearly 100% clay and plants thrive in them. I have no experience using it in the aquarium but if it works in nature then surely at least partially mimicking that will be a step in the right direction. I'm also for not baking (sterilising) things I use in my tanks. Bacteria, microbes, fungi and the like are very beneficial in most cases. You'll also find that in most cases they out-compete their malicious counterparts. Often the secret to the success of a soil (not just in the aquarium) is bacteria and fungi. They do nearly all the work in our aquariums as it is. I figure if you kill the ones that are in your soil then there are not there to do the specialised jobs they do best. But if you want to be safe and aren't too adventurous, then, buy all means, sterilise away.

I have started a tank at work where I took almost 100% clay I collected and mixed it with sand to make it a little less glue-like and easier to plant in. I'll be putting up a thread once I plant it. You can see how mine goes if you like.

If it were me, I'd just give it a go. The worst it can do is fail. I used to live on a farm and didn't have access to commercial aquarium products. To a large extent, I used what I found. I don't know where you live, but I'm sure there are things you can use that are free. Plants included.
Farmer is offline  
Reply

Tags
None

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the The Planted Tank Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in










Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page
Display Modes
Linear Mode Linear Mode



Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome