why does no one seem to suggest red clay - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-09-2004, 06:13 AM Thread Starter
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why does no one seem to suggest red clay

Several years ago, I remember a common substrate suggestion on sites such as thekrib.com was the use of red clay found in the yards of the Southeast United States. The substance I refer to is what we in Georgia affectionately call Georgia Red Mud.

I used this in my previous planted aquarium and it seemed to work wonderfully. Basically, the procedure was as follows:
1. dig up some red clay from the back yard
2. sift it through two or three decreasingly fine screens (window screen over a wooden frame) to remove organic junk and pebbles
3. throw it in the oven for a little while to kill anything living in it
4. mix it with vermiculite to and water to a cake batter like consistency
5. place a couple of inches in the bottom of the tank
6. cover with enough gravel to hide it

This is free (except the vermiculite, which is very cheap) and incredibly high in iron! I used it in combination with 160 watts of NO fluorescents over my 55g tank with a 2 liter bottle DIY CO2 setup. My plants did marvelously. Unfortunately, moving out of my parentsí house and having nowhere to set up a tank for a while totally destroyed it! I'm getting ready to set up a 125g now that I'm in my own house and I'm planning to use this clay substrate again.

Why doesn't anyone seem to discuss this around here?

Thanks,
Steven
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-09-2004, 07:23 AM
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Because it's easier to recommend a commercial substrate like Flourite or Ecocomplete to beginners than it is to describe how to set up a more natural substrate that still has the potential of killing off the tank. Don't take this wrong, all my tanks are a soil/clay mix under gravel, but I have no qualms telling a beginner to go the easy route so they learn how to deal with water chemistry and algae batles in a tank that is easier to balance.

BTW I'd forget the vermiculite and use mineralized topsoil instead.

Sean

Aquascape? I'm a crypt farmer.

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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-09-2004, 08:16 AM Thread Starter
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2 questions:

1. What risks do you see in using the red clay?

2. Why the topsoil rather than the vermiculite? The vermiculite gives the mix a very "light and airy" texture, presumably making it very easy for the plants to grow roots in.

Please don't think I'm questioning your ideas, I'm just always looking for new perspectives.

Thanks,
Steven
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-10-2004, 01:57 AM
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Did you have any problems with the clay staying in suspension in the water column? Red clay particles are almost colloidal in size and would tend to stay suspended if disturbed, I would think (Just look at any river in the Georgia Piedmont). Wonder what would happen if you fired some kitty-litter sized particles in a potters kiln? I seem to recall from my Forest Soils class that red clay has a rather high aluminum content, but if it's been used sucessfully before it must not present any toxicity problems. I may have to give it a try, if it works I could sell off my yard on aquabid
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-10-2004, 02:02 AM
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I used to be able to get 40 pound bags of "clay" from a LFS that basically looked like finely crushed red brick or terra cotta, the plants did wonderfully in it and it was rather cheap as well, but now guy can't remeber where he got it from and everything he's ordered in since is rather high priced "laterite" which would cost a fortune to cover just a 29.

I use Flourite now simply because it's easy, it works and it doesn't have the problems I've experienced with layering gravel over soil or similar substances.


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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-10-2004, 05:01 PM
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I have used clay/loam in my substrates and while it works great for growing plants, the drawback is that you need a lot of patience or a diatom filter (I have both!) when relocating larger specimens with big root systems.


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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-10-2004, 09:33 PM
 
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Speaking of clay, i'm assuming clay is the same as fuller's earth. I just bought a bag of Profile, aquatic plant soil. I had gone to Canadian Tire looking for peat and found this under their pond display stand. It's not supposed to float, cloud the water, or effect the pH. It says it's some kind of mineral that's been kiln fired making ceramic granuels. One of my concerns is it says because it's inert barcteria won't grow in it. It's referring to harmful bacteria on the back of the bag, but i'm still not sure.
as well because it's inert will it provide any nourishment to plants, or would it only be good because it's porous and would absorb liquid firtilizers?
and one last thing, would i have to still add someform of plant soil, like peat, or topsoil or what have you?

If this is a viable option, it's a nicely affordable one
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-10-2004, 09:38 PM
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It sounds almsot like the stuff I have, is it reddish?

I did find this for you:

http://www.reade.com/Products/Minerals_and_Ores/fuller's_earth.html

From a uick study, it appears it's really just bentonite clay, I use it for soaking oil in my garage, in fact it's called "Oil Soak" on the bag.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 12:26 AM
 
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yeah it's a dusty reddish colour

so it should be fine?
and i should add flourite, or topsoil as well?
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 02:02 AM
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Seems I have seen Profile listed in the signatures of some members (Yup, see wasser's), but can't recall whether they used it straight or mixed it, probably both. Kitty litter has also been used as a substrate as well, but is apparently somewhat controversial.
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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 02:21 AM
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Search: Profile

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Lotsa stuff to read!


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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 03:59 AM
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I guess I'm supposed to answer these since no one else did, and I initiated the discussion too, didn't I.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steven
2 questions:

1. What risks do you see in using the red clay?

2. Why the topsoil rather than the vermiculite? The vermiculite gives the mix a very "light and airy" texture, presumably making it very easy for the plants to grow roots in.

Please don't think I'm questioning your ideas, I'm just always looking for new perspectives.

Thanks,
Steven
First let me say, PLEASE question ideas, no one has a good idea that is so well thought out that someone asking the tough questions would be wasting their time.

OK

1) These are some possible problems, not probable problems, pestisides and herbicides, pollutants, toxic chemicals. Unless you can verify that nothing has come in contact with the clay for a while you have these risks.

I can't verify this with the commercial topsoils I buy, and I didn't verify IRONITE but that's another story, BTW: Thanks Rex.

I would use the red clay, I'd even go collect some if I weren't happy with buying potters red clay. I also wet and dry my soils to try to complete the decompossition of humis which helps wash away pollutants.

2) Mineralized topsoil (MT) is a nutrient milkshake for plants, vermiculite(V) is nothing. MT is a great medium for plant roots, V tries to add something to the medium that isn't needed in an aquatic environment. MT binds to clay particles keeping the clay from going into suspension when you disturb the substrate, and keeping the clay mixed into the substrate where it can adsorb and release nutrients that are 'released' in the substrate from the soil, V can't take up enough of the substrate to do this better than MT.
V floats, yuck.

Beginners, do not use soil, please.

Sean

Aquascape? I'm a crypt farmer.

It's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

That IS an aquascape, it's titled "The Vacant Lot".
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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 04:44 AM Thread Starter
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Based on your description, I deffinately like the idea of the mineralized topsoil. My only big complaint from my experience with clay was the suspension issue. Whenever disrupted, the substrate takes a few days to settle back down. If the MT will prevent this, that's great. I thought though that the vermiculite helped keep the clay from packing and resisting the roots. Does the MT have a similar impact? What have you found to be a good ratio of the clay to the MT?

Will I find MT in a garden center of a store like Home Depot or Lowe's? Will the bag actually say "mineralized topsoil"?

Thanks,
Steven
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-11-2004, 10:14 PM
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I set up a MT/clay substrate in a ten gallon tank, capped with regular gravel, filled it up and accidentilly let it sit for a year, no rooted plants. I planted a couple sag subulata and crypt spiralis and they over took the tank. I think the substrate was as packed as it might get and the plants managed to get through it.

MT can say mineralized on the bag, however, not all parts of the country get bagged topsoil from the same place. I can't tell you what's in the topsoil in your area, I can tell you that you will want to give it the wet and dry treatment to ensure that any humis in it will finish decomposing before you use it. My ratio is a chef's ratio, what looks good today, all I can say is the soil is much greater than the clay in the mix.

Proceed with caution.

Sean

Aquascape? I'm a crypt farmer.

It's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

That IS an aquascape, it's titled "The Vacant Lot".
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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-12-2004, 12:37 AM
 
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Why shouldn't beginners use soil?
and do you mean beginners to aquatic plants or just to aquariums in general?

As well, i have kiln fired clay like granuels, and i think slate chips as a top gravel. I haven't actually put anything together yet because i'm trying to do this as right as possible the first time.
Anyway
If i layered with clay, soil and gravel
would i put an inch of clay, and say 2 inches of topsoil, and an inch or so of gravel?
It is ok to use gravel right?, i'd need something to keep the soil down?
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