Sanity check. Using last seasons potting soil - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-11-2012, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
Algae Grower
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Sanity check. Using last seasons potting soil

I'm a lazy gardener working at becoming a lazy aquatic plant keeper.
We just got a new aquarium after several years without one, and I'd like to try my hand at plants this time. (Lazy = very low tech)
I've spent the last two weeks reading through posts here.

I was getting ready to start the MTS process, when I realized that we had a good candidate already. We have half a dozen large clay pots for annuals that we typically dump and refill every Spring. Last year, we refilled it with our own organic compost. Lots of great worm castings, a small amount of natural local clay, plus some sand mixed in. We screened it prior to putting it in the pots.

So, this soil has been sitting outside in the pots for about 10 months. They are regularly rained on, but have good drainage. No additional ferts, pesticides or herbicides. I just dug through the sail, and it seems to be the perfect consistency, very grainy although still frozen in spots. Has a great earthy smell to it.

My plan was to throw out the top couple of inches, screen out the annual roots, and then soak the rest for a couple days to remove anything that floats.

Does this sound reasonable? I feel like I should be able to skip most of the rest of the MTS process after that. Maybe test the PH and add the dolomite?
Anything else I should look for?

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 03:00 AM
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Sounds interesting.
Usually the problem in potting soil (even DIY soil, that sounds the same as the stuff I make) is the organic matter fraction.
This can do any of several things when you put it under water.
a) Produce ammonia. (I would test before adding fish)
b) Float. (you have this covered. Soak it for at least 24 hours, and anything that floats gets scooped out. Also, sift through it, and anything large enough to still identify, remove it.)
c) Produce CO2. This is good. Once you have a) and b) covered, I think you will have a nice aquarium soil.

It probably is bringing in a nice assortment of microorganisms, so let it age in the aquarium for a month so the ones that will survive and grow do so, and the ones that will not make it will die off, the ammonia spike will happen and go away before you add fish.
You can plant it right away. Some plants do not mind some ammonia at levels that would kill the fish, other plants are more sensitive.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-15-2012, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply.

I'm on schedule to have the substrate in the tank this weekend.
I'm going to try to photo journal the process.

I'm OK with ammonia - because I still need to Cycle the tank.
I've pulled out all of the roots, twigs and small rocks and after a couple days of water changes in the bucket, the water floating on top is (more or less) clear.

Now, I just need to find some hardy plants to start with.
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