Have Kitty Litter as a Substrate? I do! *Pics - Page 3 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #31 of 53 (permalink) Old 02-19-2012, 04:08 PM
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I have a layer of peat moss UNDER my SK kitty litter.. I haven't mixed it up. I did have a sand over peatmoss substrate once before and when i pulled o ut a plant it was like a volcano of peatmoss. I may have done something wrong but I believe the peatmoss likes to float.
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post #32 of 53 (permalink) Old 02-19-2012, 08:31 PM
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Did it take FOREVER to wash out the KL?? Mine seems to be very dirty
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post #33 of 53 (permalink) Old 02-19-2012, 10:01 PM
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In that case, I'll probably just float a peat moss ball in one of my HOB filters but may try to mix it. We'll see. Really just want it to lower my ph for angels I'm going to eventually put in tank. Thanks
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post #34 of 53 (permalink) Old 02-21-2012, 07:30 PM
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Did it take FOREVER to wash out the KL?? Mine seems to be very dirty
Between the 50 lbs of KL and 25 lbs of Flourite it was a headache! BUT patience pays! I rinsed the bucket and sifted thru it quite a bit 5 gals at a time. Thought I had it good and filled the water VERY slowly! it was still a mess. after filtering the tank a bit a few vacuums it seemed to settle really well. It just takes time.
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post #35 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 03:20 PM
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Its been in my tank for 16 months now and it honestly looks the same and feels the same as the day i got it. It doesnt seem to break down into mush, if thats what you were afraid of. Although i've only had it for a year and a half, it seems that it could last much longer.

As for DE, i havent tried to keep any shrimp so I cant tell you much. I do have snails that do very well.

The downside is that I want a different color substrate ... the upside is that i'm only out 12 bucks if i get something new because the litter is so cheap
1 - what made you decide on kitty litter? I have read that it has a fantastic CEC so I am thinking of using it
2- Do you dose any ferts?
Also I think it looks great for a one species/no hardscape tank

I just want to learn. I appreciate everyone who teaches.
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post #36 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 06:48 PM
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1 - what made you decide on kitty litter? I have read that it has a fantastic CEC so I am thinking of using it
2- Do you dose any ferts?
Also I think it looks great for a one species/no hardscape tank
Hi @symstep,

Wow, a 2007-2012 thread...way to dig up the past!

Actually, clay substrates do have a high CEC however even Special Kitty kitty litter is a little 'soft' and breaks down after a year or so. I prefer calcined Montmorillonite clay which is 'fired' longer to make it harder so it doesn't break down as quickly. I've used several different types over the years, the one I currently use is Safe-t-sorb (STS), a 40# bag is available at Tractor Supply Company for $6.49.

Here is a 10 gallon with STS, low light ([email protected]), Ferts, no CO2 but Excel / glutaraldehyde
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post #37 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 07:54 PM
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Hi @symstep,

Wow, a 2007-2012 thread...way to dig up the past!

Actually, clay substrates do have a high CEC however even Special Kitty kitty litter is a little 'soft' and breaks down after a year or so. I prefer calcined Montmorillonite clay which is 'fired' longer to make it harder so it doesn't break down as quickly. I've used several different types over the years, the one I currently use is Safe-t-sorb (STS), a 40# bag is available at Tractor Supply Company for $6.49.

Here is a 10 gallon with STS, low light ([email protected]), Ferts, no CO2 but Excel / glutaraldehyde
Hey man! Thank you for your reply. I know, it seems I am a few years late on the thread haha
Looked up using the sts and of course found you https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfis...y-safe.292621/

In terms of the kitty litter, A guy (dr kevin novak) claims he uses it is his denitrification baskets and has not seen any kind of breaking down in over ten years. Has this not been your experience? Possibly a different type of litter?

You mention a few types of substrate you have used with high cec, May I ask what one is your favorite and why? Would any substrate with a good cec lower the ph temporarily? In my preparation this has been a oversight. So you say it absorbing minerals and carbonates from the water until it is full, does that mean it will have less room to hold things like the ammonia ions for plants? Sorry to throw so many questions

I just want to learn. I appreciate everyone who teaches.
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post #38 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-19-2019, 11:33 PM
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Hi @symstep,

I cannot speak to other individuals results, just my own. I have used Special Kitty (the cheap stuff from Walmart) for about 10 years in my emersed 'plant bank' as the topping layer in my pots. After a year it still retains most of its granular integrity, difficult to break up a grain. After two years it is softer and the grain breaks more easily. After three years the I can break a grain between my thumb and forefinger. These are grains of Special Kitty that are not submerged however subject to very, very high humidity. On 02/27/14 I set up my 75 gallon with STS. It ran until 11/27/17 when I did a complete break-down; about 3-3/4 years. At that time the STS was about as soft as the Special Kitty is at three years.

Regrettably the calcined Montmorillonite clay material I like best is no longer available (at least here on the West Coast). It was Soilmaster Select Charcoal colored. It is still going strong in tanks 9 years old. Yes, the higher the CEC of a substrate the more it will lower the pH by stripping out the carbonate ions. Actually I believe most of the nutrient ion exchange occurs with the roots on the surface of the grains of substrate, not within the substrate.

My emersed 'Plant Bank' with humidomes


You can see the Special Kitty as the top layer in this picture.

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post #39 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 02:59 PM
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Seattle_Aquarist, what are you using for lighting on that 10 gallon tank?

RAOK Club #55
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post #40 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 03:12 PM
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Hi @reddhawkk,

At the time the picture was taken I was useing 2X 10 watt CFL Lights of America aquarium lamps from Walmart. I have since switched to 2X 7 watt LED lamps which also gives me [email protected] however I think a 9 watt would be a better choice. I tried a 13 watt and it was way too bright without CO2. Here is a post I did.
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post #41 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-20-2019, 11:17 PM
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Hi @symstep,

I cannot speak to other individuals results, just my own. I have used Special Kitty (the cheap stuff from Walmart) for about 10 years in my emersed 'plant bank' as the topping layer in my pots. After a year it still retains most of its granular integrity, difficult to break up a grain. After two years it is softer and the grain breaks more easily. After three years the I can break a grain between my thumb and forefinger. These are grains of Special Kitty that are not submerged however subject to very, very high humidity. On 02/27/14 I set up my 75 gallon with STS. It ran until 11/27/17 when I did a complete break-down; about 3-3/4 years. At that time the STS was about as soft as the Special Kitty is at three years.

Regrettably the calcined Montmorillonite clay material I like best is no longer available (at least here on the West Coast). It was Soilmaster Select Charcoal colored. It is still going strong in tanks 9 years old. Yes, the higher the CEC of a substrate the more it will lower the pH by stripping out the carbonate ions. Actually I believe most of the nutrient ion exchange occurs with the roots on the surface of the grains of substrate, not within the substrate.

My emersed 'Plant Bank' with humidomes


You can see the Special Kitty as the top layer in this picture.
So based on your experience you would say that sts is just barely better (25%) in terms of longevity then the kitty litter?
Also you are saying sts would then be your favorite?

I just want to learn. I appreciate everyone who teaches.
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post #42 of 53 (permalink) Old 04-21-2019, 01:54 AM
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Hi @symstep,

Yes, I would much prefer STS over Special Kitty for a substrate in an aquarium.

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post #43 of 53 (permalink) Old 05-05-2019, 09:23 PM
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I've used kitty litter for my personal tanks and for research in the past with success. Aside from any chemical properties it may have, it's excellent for reducing compaction when mixed with soil or fine grained sand, such as pool filter stuff. I recommend an 80/20 mix of soil/litter capped with an inch and a half of litter or a 50/50 sand/litter mix. Make sure you're getting calcined clay for the reasons Roy mentioned above.
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post #44 of 53 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 05:52 AM
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So if a high CEC substrate like STS lowers the pH (and presumably the KH as well) of hard water, how long does this effect last? Presumably you'd get an initial big drop while cycling the tank, but then what? Once the STS has reached saturation with calcium ions, does the pH & hardness then go back to whatever those levels are in the water you use? And how long does that take?

I'm starting a new tank with an organic peat potting soil covered with STS, and what to know what to expect. Don't want to be stressing my fish or plants with drastic swings, nor do I want to invest in fish or plants that prefer low pH/low hardness if it's just going to eventually go back up the high pH & hardness of my tap water. (I know I could use RO, but I'm trying to keep things simple & cheap)
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post #45 of 53 (permalink) Old 05-08-2019, 08:07 AM
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So if a high CEC substrate like STS lowers the pH (and presumably the KH as well) of hard water, how long does this effect last? Presumably you'd get an initial big drop while cycling the tank, but then what? Once the STS has reached saturation with calcium ions, does the pH & hardness then go back to whatever those levels are in the water you use? And how long does that take?

I'm starting a new tank with an organic peat potting soil covered with STS, and what to know what to expect. Don't want to be stressing my fish or plants with drastic swings, nor do I want to invest in fish or plants that prefer low pH/low hardness if it's just going to eventually go back up the high pH & hardness of my tap water. (I know I could use RO, but I'm trying to keep things simple & cheap)
Really from what your describing you need to slightly rethink your approach. Use probably 1/3-1/2 as much organic/humic layer as your envisioning in your head and use a CEC layer with a much lower potential than your envisioning. Most setups like your envisioning perform great (spectacular actually) when first setup but once reality sets in and top layer of substrate build up some mulm things quickly nose dive about 6 months in.

If you want to give me dimensions of your gravel bed, lighting estimate, plants you want to keep, and co2 situation and I’ll try to formulate a more long term reliable solution for you.

I prefer setting up a tank so it may under perform at 1st but at max of 3-6mo in it will start excelling and be as low maintenance as possible.

Last edited by DaveKS; 05-08-2019 at 08:24 AM. Reason: Typo
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