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