New Soilmaster User Ė Lessons Learned - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-21-2006, 11:40 PM Thread Starter
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New Soilmaster User Ė Lessons Learned

Well I took the plunge last weekend. I got a new 58G tank and decided to try Soilmaster for the substrate. Pretty interesting stuff. Itís grains are smaller than Flourite but bigger than sand. The charcoal color is very pleasant and seems to bring out both the greens and the reds in the plants. The ONLY concern I have at this point is that it is the stuff is very light. My plants with big roots were no problem getting replanted, but the stems and smaller plants were much more challenging. I had trimmed some of the roots to help encourage growth and that was a mistake. They really need all the help they can get to hold themselves fast. The way it looks I need to invest in a couple more packs of plant weights.

In terms of cleaning it, I wouldnít try to rush the rinsing process. I filled about 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket full of substrate, tipped in at about a 45degree angle, locked the garden hose nozzle on open, and just sprayed the stuff for about 10 minutes. It took about that long for the runoff to go from black to gray to sort of clear. If I could do it over again Iíd let it run even longer to get even more of the dust off it. The one thing to be careful of though is that if you put a piece of between your fingers you can crush the stuff into a powdery mud. That says that there must be a tradeoff between cleaning the stuff and spraying it so hard that the stuff self destructs and turns into more mud.

I ended up using about 40 pounds for a 58G tank. I carefully added water on top of the new substrate, trying not to cause more of a mess. The first 25% of the tank fill the water looked almost black. I made my best guess at where the plants should all go by reaching down into the muck and taking a wild guess. I didnít want to take the time to plant it after filling it and letting the cloud clear. My guess is about 8 hours from starting the fill to when the water was darn near crystal clear. I was squirming a bit waiting for it to clear as I was uncomfortable letting the fishies hang out in their aerated 5 gallon bucket any longer than necessary.

Overall Iím really pleased with the stuff. As soon as I get used to the consistency and master how to keep stuff rooted in it Iím guessing Iíll be a happy planted tank addict
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 02:55 AM
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Thank you for sharing your experiences. I haven't used SM yet, but it seems to be a really good alternative to more expensive substrates. Didn't expect it to be so soft though... I wonder how long it lasts then before turning to mud.

Regarding the water clarity, after the initial planting, I always remove as much water as possible (down to the bottom glass) and then very slowly fill up the tank. This works well even without (extensive) rinsing of the new substrate.


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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Well I sure hope that mud is nowhere in the future. I know that lots of folks have been using it and that's not been a concern that I'm aware of. I guess my thoughts are that just because you could physically break it down doesn't mean that it is ever going to do that by being exposed to water over a long period. Hopefully it proves to be a good, long term substrate.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-22-2006, 03:58 PM
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It seems that you use a smaller grain size version of soilmaster, my soilmaster has never crumble to mud. The grain size are about the size of flourite, a bit smaller. Don't rinse it, that might the be reason why you are getting alot of dust, the soilmaster grinding against each other cause the dust. Just put in the tank and slowly put water in and the water should be clear from the beginning. This is from my experience of 500 pounds of soilmaster use. I like alot, I now use it over anything else.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-23-2006, 01:32 PM Thread Starter
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It's not crumbling into mud, nor do I think that it will. However, I did notice when I was rinsing it that you could crush it between your fingers so I would suspect that you force it to break down. I don't think in normal usage the stuff is going to change form. It's great to hear you've used so much of it and are happy with the results. I really like the stuff!
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-25-2006, 04:45 PM
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My Soilmaster Select does not crumble at all unless I use my finger nails. I have used it once rinsed and once not rinsed. I don't think I would bother rinsing it again, except for maybe the very top 1" or so. The key is as WP said to fill the tank up once. I would add KNO3, KH2PO4, and K2SO4 at this point. Then drain the tank down as far as you can. Then refill very, very slowly. I took me over an hour to fill a 30 back up. Just fill very slowly.

As far as the weight goes, it seems to wiegh down somewhat over time. I don't know if it gets fully saturated with water or if it is bio-stuffs filling it. It never gets as heavy as Flourite or gravel, but heavy enough to keep most stems down. That being said, I am impatient, so I add black sand on top of it to hold plants down until it weighs down. The sand eventually falls to the bottom. If you can find T-grade 3M color quartz it is perfect because it is the same size as soilmaster.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-25-2006, 06:23 PM Thread Starter
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I didn't mean to imply that it crumbled easily, but like you said it is possible. I just brought up the topic because I was concerned the spraty from the hose might be breaking it up. Interesting about your success without even rinsing. I'm encouraged to hear that the stuff might get a bit heavier over time. I'll bet your right about becoming saturated. I appreciate the advice!
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