Mineralized soil review - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:09 PM Thread Starter
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Mineralized soil review

Maybe I'm not the best person to be giving any sort of "reviews" of methodology, but I figured I would debunk a few of the myths surrounding this substrate. Maybe they're not myths, but things I was told would happen when I first looked into purchasing this stuff. (yes I BOUGHT it instead of making it. Torpedobarb has much lower prices than ADA. what can I say lol)

first off what is the tank like?
75gal
pressurized Co2 (a lot of it)
mineralized soil obviously
dual 350gph canisters
inline reactor followed by fractioning impeller to mist any co2 that escapes the reactor. (I will be removing the reactor entirely soon, but I've been lazy)
very small UVS
inline Hydor 300W heater
4 x 54w Catalina T5HO lighting. 2x10hours all 4x4hours

What was I told?

#1: Cloudy water: I've been told this about most every decent substrate I've tried. I think a lot of people don't understand the value of filling a tank slowly on first fill. (I also don't think most people understand the meaning of SLOWLY lol) I turn the python on and just let it literally trickle into the substrate for the first few inches of the tank, at which point I turn up the flow slightly. I've never had anything but crystal clear water from the get go with any substrate I've used this method on. On my mineralized tank, I even used 3M colorquartz UNRINSED and had zero issues with this.

#2 GREEN water: I was told a nice huge case of green water should be expected with this substrate as it settles in. (I've heard the same of most other nutrient rich substrates as well)

#3 Acclimation: I was warned that the tank would take a few months to start really perking up and looking nice, as the plants had to "get used to root feeding". I think I translate that as growing a large enough root system to pull all the nutrients from that location, vs. leaf surface. I'm not a botanist, so don't take that to heart.

#4 You won't have to dose anything: Yup. The major claim to fame with mineralized soil.

#5 and most important: Algae battles. Everyone I've talked to who has any experience with this substrate has told me it was NOT for beginners, as inevitable algae battles were sure to be on the horizon for at least a few months.

My experiences?

#1 I sort of already explained that. Just fill slow dummy. (and cap well)
#2 erm... I haven't had this issue, but I have a UVS (cheap $20 ebay one) installed that runs each night for a few hours.
#3 This bit is sort of true. SOME plants seem to take forever to get used to the idea, but all the plants I've tried have come back around and gone gangbusters. Rotala Mini "1" is the exception here, but it's started increasing growth a smidge in the past few days, so I'm still hopeful. I think the root system on these was very small (for a very small plant) when I got it and it's taking it forever to get through the very large cap of 3M colorquartz over the soil. But I digress, there may be a plant or two out there that just does not want to root feed. (macrandra grows fine for me, but hasn't colored up bright red quite yet. however, it is the last plant I put in and I keep forgetting that so the rest of them have a few weeks on this guy)
#4 this one is also slightly true. Aside from adding K (which I haven't had to do YET) once the supply in the soil runs out, you aren't supposed to have a need to dose anything. This is true. However, I do dose iron constantly in this tank. For me (and maybe I am way off here) you can never have enough Fe lol. I wanted to see what the colors of the L. Aromatica would do, so I dosed it as an experiment. It worked so I kept dosing. but no.... it's not needed.
#5 ALGAE BATTLES!!!! okay... let me run down the list of all of the types of algae I've had in this very highly lit tank...

GDA

yup.... that's it. I had a dusting of GDA on the rocks, and glass and I simply wiped it off every week or so until I put the Oto's in the tank. Now I don't even have to do that part. I have seen not a SINGLE STRAND of any nuisance algae in this tank since day one. My water change "schedule" is shoddy at best. I forget to do them, I don't do them at all for a few weeks, but I do have a few theories as to why this tank has done well that I haven't shared until now, as I didn't want to throw ideas out there that had no merit.

#1 Good, constant, Co2. I cranked it ever so slowly until the fish showed stress signs, and backed off a smidge. Also, the flow pattern for this tank seems to get every inch of the tank covered, even through to the middle of the bushes of stems.

#2 UVS. I only have a very small one on the tank and I just stuck it on a timer to run a few hours at night. I don't know if it's actually helping, but oh well lol.

#3 light fishload. This tank is 75gallons and has 30 very small tetras swimming around in it.... that's it. no angels, or discus, or.... If I did have angels or something in the tank I'd remove a good portion of the schools to keep the fishload down. (also I have amanos, otos, MTS... all in all a decent cleaning crew in the tank that might be helping)

#4 maybe the most important? I make sure and dose copious amounts of Co2 to help the plants grow, then every day I add 5ml.... of excel. Yup. Office of Redundancy office, how may I help you? This is like a little miracle drug for planted tanks and I don't understand why people slam their heads into walls about which thing to dose, and run up calculators to figure out PPMs that might be causing algae, and never think to just buy a 2 liter bottle of this stuff and drop a cap full in every day ALONG WITH good Co2 injection. Cost is a factor of course, but if you buy Excel in big bottles online, it's not that bad. $30 every 6 months or so is not that shabby. Even if you don't do it for plant growth, it helps stave off algae, AND it's supposed to help iron become bioavailable quicker (or something) all around a good bang for your buck even if you already inject.

So... my thoughts? This substrate is (so far) the best I've tried FOR MY NEEDS. Not everyone likes the type and speed of growth you get in these tanks, but the results are great. (at least the best I've had for myself) I like being able to concentrate on plants and not PPMs. I don't think other people who used this substrate were doing things WRONG, as I've seen pictures of AaronT's tanks and they're simply gorgeous! However, he did have to go through a lot of algae headaches to get there, and I think maybe I did something that helped me get around that (probably on accident).

If you got this far without pictures, I commend you. You are a cut above the average American lol So I'll reward you with the latest two pictures of the tank I'm talking about. (you can see all the pics and whatnot in my journal in the link at the bottom)





there you are. questions, comments, flames are all good. Just putting my experiences out there.

all in all... this substrate gets the.....


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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:22 PM
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Gorgeous tank! Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you did a great job of explaining what to expect from this type of setup.

That's interesting that you've been dosing iron with no algae effects. How much iron are you dosing?

You could probably add more fish if you wanted to, especially with two filters running all of the time. I just make sure to gently sweep the top of the substrate when I do water changes with the python when I see too much debris accumulating on the bottom.


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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:26 PM
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nice work on this synopsis. and your tank is beautiful!
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:33 PM
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Thanks for sharing your experiences. I can't see pics from work, but I'll check it out later at home.


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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:35 PM
 
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Thumbs up

Thanks for a great review. I see Mineralized Topsoil as being too controversial and so it is nice to see a review like this. Because of all the controvesy, I have put any plans to redo one of my 10 gallons with mineralized topsoil until I get a good handle on what other peoples' experienes are. For now, I have set up a couple of emersed setups that I will be flooding and decided to use ADA AS II instead of Mineralized Topsoil as I had some ADA AS II I had to use up and I ADA AS II has met and exceeded my expectations in the tanks I have previously set up using it. For me Mineralized Topsoil is still virgin territory and I would rather wait and see what others discover before plunging my self deep into the method. You have a fairly large tank. Perhaps, it is just coincidence but I wonder if this has contributed to your success, given that larger aquariums tend to be more stable in general and balance is more quickly achieved in such tanks, at least that is my experience. Also, it seems that most success stories I am reading about have to do with the use of Mineralized Top Soil or even plain potting soil on very large tanks 55+. I would be more curious to see if such success translates a mass to low tech and high tech tanks in the 3-10 gallon range.
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jargonchipmunk View Post
#1 Good, constant, Co2. I cranked it ever so slowly until the fish showed stress signs, and backed off a smidge. Also, the flow pattern for this tank seems to get every inch of the tank covered, even through to the middle of the bushes of stems.
As long as you have some source of nutrients, this is 95% of the issues folks have. If you reduce and modify the light, which you can do since it's suspended lighting, then you can tweak even further.

Quote:
#2 UVS. I only have a very small one on the tank and I just stuck it on a timer to run a few hours at night. I don't know if it's actually helping, but oh well lol.
Might a bit, but you can likely no longer use it and see. No biggie, you can turn a switch on/off anytime if there's anything negative.

Quote:
#3 light fishload. This tank is 75gallons and has 30 very small tetras swimming around in it.... that's it. no angels, or discus, or.... If I did have angels or something in the tank I'd remove a good portion of the schools to keep the fishload down. (also I have amanos, otos, MTS... all in all a decent cleaning crew in the tank that might be helping)
This might be debatable. I have high loading and rich sediments without issues.

Quote:
#4 maybe the most important? I make sure and dose copious amounts of Co2 to help the plants grow, then every day I add 5ml.... of excel. Yup. Office of Redundancy office, how may I help you? This is like a little miracle drug for planted tanks and I don't understand why people slam their heads into walls about which thing to dose, and run up calculators to figure out PPMs that might be causing algae, and never think to just buy a 2 liter bottle of this stuff and drop a cap full in every day ALONG WITH good Co2 injection. Cost is a factor of course, but if you buy Excel in big bottles online, it's not that bad. $30 every 6 months or so is not that shabby. Even if you don't do it for plant growth, it helps stave off algae,
Certainly.
But this is really a CO2 issue, Excel is another item to add to help/get the CO2 dialed in prior. You might try using less light and Excel alone.
Use CO2 to get things grown in, then slow things down.

You can also gert DIY Excel from Alan.

Quote:
AND it's supposed to help iron become bioavailable quicker (or something) all around a good bang for your buck even if you already inject.
I have serious doubts about this claim.

Quote:
So... my thoughts? This substrate is (so far) the best I've tried FOR MY NEEDS. Not everyone likes the type and speed of growth you get in these tanks, but the results are great. (at least the best I've had for myself) I like being able to concentrate on plants and not PPMs.
Amen!
Your focus has been much more on CO2 here.

[quote]
I don't think other people who used this substrate were doing things WRONG, as I've seen pictures of AaronT's tanks and they're simply gorgeous! However, he did have to go through a lot of algae headaches to get there, and I think maybe I did something that helped me get around that (probably on accident).
[quote]

It's not a question of right/wrong.
It's a question of making sure that the method/s are done correctly.
You cannot fairly judge a method if you messed up.....say CO2..........or had too much light to balance the CO2/nutrient demands.
Or neglected the tank, or or or 1001 reasons.

If you can show a good result from a method, whether or not it's you or someone else, it's likely that the method works..........

So simply because a person fails, or has issues, does not imply the method is bad/failed etc. A more important question is why they failed and what can they do to correct it.

Sediment ferts seem to help those more obsessed and ready to finger ppm's in the water column as a source of their woes. But that's not true either.
Still, whatever gets you there and adds the ferts.

Quote:
there you are. questions, comments, flames are all good. Just putting my experiences out there.

all in all... this substrate gets the.....
Have you tried adding water column ferts - KH2PO4/KNO3 (well you do anyway, Fe, K+ and CO2) or modified the light/measured the light?

While that seems to be the big selling point, do need to dose, you still do dose the water column, but it's much less critical. Likewise, if you dose the water column, there's much less critical issue with having a source of nutrients in the sediment.

Those issues(dosing) are often human based, not inherent of the method itself. So trying to make a method that suited the human factor is more critical. Sediment ferts are very good to this end. But so are water column ferts, so I suggest both and then see what works best for you.

If you do not try it, how do you really know?

Many claimed algae would occur if you added water column ferts also, but that's never been the case in each tank I've done it.

Over time, say a 6-12 months, I ended up having to add more water column ferts to attain the same rate of growth. It's hard for folks to quantify the amount/richness of their mineralized sediments also, there's certainly variation there, perhaps quite large, we do not know. Light and species types also play into that. So some should last longer/less than others.
Larger fish loads, or more fish added later will also act like a water column source also

Keeping fish and feeding them well would work very well with this method if you are against KNO3/KH2PO4 dosing of the water column also.

Regards,
Tom Barr




Regards,
Tom Barr
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:18 PM
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another neat thing about this system is that it's a better model of the dynamics of real aquatic plant ecosystems out in nature--how many real natural lakes have you seen that are lined with kitty litter and dosed with N,P,K & traces?

i wonder if mineralized top soil contributes any CO2 on its own, or if it no longer has this capacity because the organics have mostly been burned out(?). from what i remember of reading the Walsted book, the carbon dioxide produced as the organic matter in topsoil decomposes is an important advantage of using regular topsoil.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jargonchipmunk View Post
All in all, your stamp of approval gets:

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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:37 PM
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I agree with everything you have said Jargon.
I don't have UV and I have had no green water...NON!
I have had GDA that I'm still dealing with.
I would like to add one observation too.
I was told that I better have my scape down pat or I'd get algae outbreaks with moving plants around. I've had non! I move plants all the time and just combine the moving of the plants with a water change.

also thanks for sharing your tank is stunning!


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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:45 PM Thread Starter
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Aaron - I'll be honest here. It's something of a source of pride to hear you compliment my tank. It might be obvious by the setup of the plants in the tank but I loved your Rotala rainbow tank lol.

I actually LIKE a light fish load. I had some angels in the tank for a very short period and they always got in the way when I was trying to look at stuff in my tank lol. Sad to say, but I think I've gotten to the point where the fish are the extra, not the plants. (don't get me wrong I love my fishies! just added a couple GBR's a couple days ago)

As for the Fe... I have no clue what ppm's I'm adding. I used to dose by the ml of a liquid solution on my old tank. I just add the smallest spoon in my arsenal (erm... 1/16th I think?) of 10% powdered chelated Fe daily a few minutes after the excel. (to give the fish time to eat their flake before I toss the iron in the tank... they always try and eat it lol)

Homer don't be scuured! lol If I had a bag of ADA AS hanging about the house, I'd probably use it too. This substrate originally was a way for me to get away cheaper than buying that stuff, and I was moving into a new realm anyway (an actual scape) so I figured it was high time for an experiment. Larger tanks are always more stable than smaller ones, but I don't know if that has anything to do with anyone's "failure" in comparison to ADA AS, as that has its own can o' worms with leaching ammonia etc.

TOM - I think I finally understand it. Dosing is a religion for you lol. Just like a devout person it can't stop with you believing, you have to make me believe too. Don't worry I (and most other people reading this I'm sure) have done EL on a tank or two before, and had success with it. This method is not a replacement. I can see why some people might not even be happy with it, but I am. If I see any sorts of deficiencies in the plants, I'll certainly start dosing the water column, but in the meantime, I'll enjoy my tank sitting on my bedside letting my leopard geckos warm themselves on my hands. (soon to get a beardie too! :-) It just comes down to me taking a few minutes after work each day to relax and view, whereas I used to have to take those minutes to spoon out, mix, drip, clean algae, etc. The one thing I'd like to go ahead and focus on from your post is...

Quote:
whatever gets you there and adds the ferts.
see there? Tom Barr's official seal of approval for using sediment fertilization only methods!!! bwahaha I love taking things out of context! thanks for the response Tom, I certainly take your advise to heart, and if this tank ever shows signs of a crash, I'll drag out my calculator, spoons, mixing bottles, and scales again.

Hydrophyte I wouldn't really call this a model of anything too natural, but I guess it COULD be said to be a smidge closer to a lake than some other tanks. This "soil" is so far removed from normal soil anyway.

I doubt the soil is adding Co2 of any appreciable amount. The mineralization process is there to remove all of the organics. Certainly nothing compared to the misting from my 20lb tank lol


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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:46 PM Thread Starter
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Colton Thanks. I've followed your big tank with much enthusiasm as well. Mostly because we set up at about the same time I think and I wanted to see yours do well so I'd feel safer about mine haha.


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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 04:47 PM Thread Starter
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epic haha. thanks! If all my tanks miss the mark, at least my stamp got a stamp! WOOT!


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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 09:31 PM
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Great review, thanks. It gave me much to think about when I'll start my 75g mineralized. If this method is going to work for me, I'll definetely use it on all my future tanks. No offence to anyone who uses EI or any regular water column dosing, but it simply sucks for me. It just feel like your tank is a drug addict that will crash if not given his dose. Don't get me wrong, I saw many beautiful tanks using those methods so I know it works, but as jargonchipmunk said, I'd rather sit and enjoy my tank for a couple of minutes than worry about chemicals.
One more thing, can you point me to that Alan DYI Excel thread? Thanks.

Ckeck out my photography&travel blog

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Last edited by smoq; 09-12-2009 at 03:21 AM.
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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 09:33 PM Thread Starter
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hey marc, make the short trip down to KC and build me some stands lol


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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 04-22-2009, 09:51 PM
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from this thread i will up my excel dosage.
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