Regarding clay in substrates - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-21-2009, 05:23 AM Thread Starter
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Regarding clay in substrates

What is the importance of clay in the substrate?
I noticed some "recipes" for nutrient rich substrates included kitty litter (vermiculite). Why?? Aren't Jobes Spikes enough?
Lastly, can Miracle Grow spikes be substituted for Jobes?

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 04:26 PM
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Why use clay

Since none of the gurus have stepped up to answer your question I will tell you what I know. Gravel is totally inert and provides nothing to the plant except something to hold it down. Clay, on the other hand, has an ability to interact with the environment. These clay particles are microscopic and are porous with a large surface area which contain atomic size magnetic sites (-). Many of the nutrients required by plants are called cations (+) and are attracted to the clay's surface just like magnets of oposite polarity are attracted. When (+) nutrients enter the substrate they attach to the clays and are held until released by interaction with a root. For example, nitrate NO3+ enters the substrate and is grabed by the (-) site on a clay particle, it remains until a nearby root releases a hydrogen ion (+), a result of the root's matabolism, which replaces the NO3+ which is then absorbed by the root. (plant looses H+, gains NH3+, clay looses NH3+, gains H+, it all balances) This has an additional benefit because the (+) nutrients are trapped in the substrate and not available for algae. This property of clay is called the cation exchange capacity (CEC). This CEC is also available in large organic molecules such as found in peat, which some aquarists use under the gravel. Plants can, of course, grow in basic aquarium gravel as the level of fish wastes increases but will never be as healthy, and as the wastes decompose the nutrients are release to the water and not held near the roots.
Others may come up with more reasons to use clay but this is mine.
I hope this helps a little.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 05:38 PM
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After returning to the forum I realized I hadn't answered all your questions. I am new at this site and have not heard of using Jobe Stakes in an aquarium. I do know that most fertilizers use urea as a nitrogen source. This is a highly water soluble form of ammonia and could cause all sorts of problems in aquariums. Urea is the chemical in urine that gives it its name. Look on your box of Miracle Grow to see its source of N (I used the last of my MG on my hostas and threw the box away). I am open to be educated on this, but I would not use anything not specifically formulated for aquarium use. I am looking at my box of Seachem Flourish Tabs and the only source of nitrogen I can find is protein hydrolysates. I am not sure how bacteria metabolizes this, or the end product, but it must be Seachem's way of providing N without the dangers of ammonia.

Kitty litter is not a nutrient rich substrate. It is a clay, (vermiculite), and provides the benefits of clay, hold nutrients until released by contact with a root. The word clay only refers to the mineral component of a soil which may, or may not, have nutrients. It may have some iron, and other micro-nutrients, but still needs a source for the macro-nutrients.

I have a layer of laterite under regular gravel. Laterite is another clay, rich in iron but not much else. The nutrients come from fish wastes and decomposing plant material (and the occasional dead fish which has swam, with its last bit of energy, into someplace I can't see). I am currently trying the Seachem Flourish.

Again, I hope this helps.

PS Using tabs or spikes in the gravel will certainly help your plants and I have used them, but may not provide the ideal environment for the lush growth people on this site desire.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 06:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karkrash View Post
Since none of the gurus have stepped up to answer your question I will tell you what I know. Gravel is totally inert and provides nothing to the plant except something to hold it down. Clay, on the other hand, has an ability to interact with the environment. These clay particles are microscopic and are porous with a large surface area which contain atomic size magnetic sites (-). Many of the nutrients required by plants are called cations (+) and are attracted to the clay's surface just like magnets of oposite polarity are attracted. When (+) nutrients enter the substrate they attach to the clays and are held until released by interaction with a root. For example, nitrate NO3+ enters the substrate and is grabed by the (-) site on a clay particle, it remains until a nearby root releases a hydrogen ion (+), a result of the root's matabolism, which replaces the NO3+ which is then absorbed by the root. (plant looses H+, gains NH3+, clay looses NH3+, gains H+, it all balances) This has an additional benefit because the (+) nutrients are trapped in the substrate and not available for algae. This property of clay is called the cation exchange capacity (CEC). This CEC is also available in large organic molecules such as found in peat, which some aquarists use under the gravel. Plants can, of course, grow in basic aquarium gravel as the level of fish wastes increases but will never be as healthy, and as the wastes decompose the nutrients are release to the water and not held near the roots.
Others may come up with more reasons to use clay but this is mine.
I hope this helps a little.

Not exactly tho that was well put there's no need to be overly technical.

Clay based substrates tend to be inert (Fluorite, Eco, SMS/Turface, PFS) tho it can be enriched (ADA, MFS) the main reason to use an inert is so you know it's not changing your water parameters at all. Any substrate in the 1mm-3mm range will work well as it will hold beneficial bacteria easily enough.

~

Yes Miracle Grow sticks can be used but be very cautious they need to be cut in half and fully buried in your substrate and do not kick them up while vacuuming or scaping or you'll probably have a algae bloom on your hands.

I prefer Dupla Root tabs or if you can't find them Seachem Root tabs work nearly as well and can be ordered from most LFS.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 06:22 PM
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I think I replied to this in the general forum but almost all the substrates we use are fired clay even ADA which is enriched and Eco-Complete which has a 'wash' of nutrients after it's fired tho that wares off fast.

Any clay based substrate in the 1mm-3mm range will work fine as it traps and holds beneficial bacteria very well (which is the point).

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bradac56 View Post
I think I replied to this in the general forum but almost all the substrates we use are fired clay even ADA which is enriched and Eco-Complete which has a 'wash' of nutrients after it's fired tho that wares off fast.

Any clay based substrate in the 1mm-3mm range will work fine as it traps and holds beneficial bacteria very well (which is the point).

- Brad
I dont really think that is the point actually. Might be an added benefit but not the main reason. If you're referring to mineralized topsoil, the clay is added to provide iron, and to also act as a flocculant (help the soil settle out faster if disturbed). And when using it in this fashion it doesnt have to fired clay either, raw or powdered is fine and maybe even preferable.

Some of the other DIY substrates that i have seen that use kitty litter or quick dry (for clean up of spilled oil) type subtrates is also for the iron content. One thing i have seen suggested when using these is that the roots of some plants really seem to seek out the kitty litter or quick dry or whatever you happen to be using. Possibly for the iron but also maybe because clay is such an absorbant material that after being in the tank for awhile it has picked up all kinds of good nutrients for the roots. Might be acting like root tabs in a way.

Im not sure about using miracle grow sticks or not? I know you can use osmocote and its supposed to work great as a slow time released substrate fert.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 08:25 PM
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Oildri actually makes SMS/Turface for Lesco so it's not going to be much different than there other Oil-Dry products you just have to be careful about what additives that particular sub-product has in it.

~

Yes all clay products release iron that is the only usefully trace the inert substrates produce I assumed that knowledge was apparent sorry about that but it's not the only way to add iron to your tank (Iron Chelate) and it's not always the best method with plants that do not use roots at all.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-24-2009, 09:14 PM
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Sorry, I did sound a little geeky. I will try to control myself better in the future.
To avoid any confusion, if anyone is reading this thread, I agree that the clay products used by aquarists are inert. They do not change pH or hardness of the water. I believe they do have the ability to hold on to certain nutrients better than gravel, but I probably should have used a better word than 'interact'.
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2009, 01:31 AM
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I don't know of any plants that don't use roots to absorb nutrients, besides ferns?

Be careful with using either Jobes or Miracle Gro tabs; you don't want those touching your water column. You are likely to get an ammonia spike and/or green water. The people that use Jobes push them well down into the substrate and are careful to never stir them up afterwards.

Miracle Gro tabs I believe are high in urea (the main Nitrogen source), which isn't a great thing to add to a closed system like an aquarium.

And another major reason for using fired clay substrates is they tend to have a high CEC ratio, which means they'll absorb nutrients from the water column and hold them in a form easily absorbed by plant roots.

EDIT- LOL I just read your duplicate thread and wanted to say WTG Karatash (I probably just misspelled that...)





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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2009, 01:34 AM
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Excellent answers, Karkrash! Welcome to TPT!

And I personally don't consider Flourite, Eco, or any of the fired clays inert as they do contain nutrients that are bio-available to plants, especially iron and other trace.





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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2009, 02:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lauraleellbp View Post
I don't know of any plants that don't use roots to absorb nutrients, besides ferns?

Mosses, ferns, bladderworts, Riccia fluitan, Hornwort, Water Sprite (I think) and quite a few more that I can't think of at the moment.

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-25-2009, 03:00 AM
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OK let me rephrase that- I don't know of any plants that put OUT roots that don't use them to absorb nutrients besides ferns

And water sprite is a nutrient hog rooted or unrooted, LOL

Granted, there are some plants that absorb more nutrients through their leaves than their roots, but that's often in simple direct proportion to available surface area.





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