The kitty litter idea... - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 05:22 AM Thread Starter
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Hi all, I'm new to the board. I've been an aquirium hobbyist for 7 years now, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I'm always experimenting and trying new things with both plants and fish. I found this board and saw how friendly people seem to be, and a few mentioned an idea of kitty litter as a substrate. Some have even tried it. So, I decided to join in the experiment. I had a spare tank and figured, hey what's $2.00 for a 25-pound bag of 'Special Kitty' from Wal-mart (remember, ALWAYS use unscented). I also had a bunch of old gravel from my grandmother's tanks after her 'baby' passed away after 8 years. She was so sick when her Koi died. But anyways, back to the subject.

First I started off by pouring about 3 pounds of the dusty, dirty, kitty litter in a 5 gallon bucket to be rinsed. I grabed an old fish net and sifted a little while i filled the bucket with water. after I sifted, I put what I had in the tank that was still in my net. Then I poured the water out of the bucket and repeated this process about 10 times. This stuff gives you a work out.

Anyways, I made about 2 inches of the kitty litter on the bottom, and then I put about a 1 to 1 1/2 inch of gravel on top. I let the water settle overnight so I can see what I'm doing, then I put my plants in. I'm using just Anacharis as of now. I'm just using one flourescent strip light that comes with a 10 gallon hood. Didn't look at the wattage, but I know it's not much. I plan on getting a glass canopy and have two lights, that is my ideal lighting. But as of now , I just want to see how they do with one light in the kitty litter. I'm not putting any fish in for about a week or so since I want to make sure that the water is conditioned. Ill probably only put in some Zebra Danios to cycle the tank.

I'll keep everyone updated on the status of this experiment, and I wish all those who are trying this idea the best of luck.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 02:03 PM
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I'm glad you're taking the plunge and trying this experiment! Kitty litter certainly has its disadvantages. If you like to re-arrange your plants often, you'll get frustrated with how cloudy the water will get every time you disturb the substrate. But I've get to see more impressive roots from ANY other substrate I've tried (Laterite, Flourite, Sand, regular gravel). Try getting some plants that can grow some really nice roots structures. The Anachris just doesn't do much else than grow upright and send out a few runners.

I've got some Hygrophilia Siamensis (Giant Hygro) with long, thick, trailing roots in my 15g tank that has 50% Special Kitty substrate. In my 55g tank with Flourite, the same plant gets just a small patch of threadlike roots that barely hold it down.

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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 03:09 PM
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I'm glad you rinsed it good! Like GCA said, you will get roots like you've never seen before. Plant your tank well, the more the better and don't be to afraid to add fish. The plants will use up most of the amonia thus little stress to the fish. The only thing is it helps to mix some gravel with that first layer(kitty litter) . If you don't, over time it will pack up and be hard to plant in. If you have a diatom filter, run it for a while right after planting to get the cloudiness cleared up....no more. Good luck and enjoy!
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 08:33 PM
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I usually mix in equal parts 1:1 of play sand with Kitty Litter to help keep it from compacting (the clay won't bind with the silica) and then top it with a layer of regular gravel, the color of my choice, just for aesthetics.

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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 09:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by GulfCoastAquarian
I've got some Hygrophilia Siamensis (Giant Hygro) with long, thick, trailing roots in my 15g tank that has 50% Special Kitty substrate. In my 55g tank with Flourite, the same plant gets just a small patch of threadlike roots that barely hold it down.
Very interesting. Plants should only put out the minimal amount of energy required to get the job done, so it would appear that a plant, this plant, can get the root-only available nutrition it requires with tiny, weak roots in Flourtie but requires long massive roots in clay.


I'd guess that the more open porosity of the Flourite allows more nutrients to travel to the roots, where the more dense clay requires that the roots travel to locate nutrition as it is used up. While clay can hold lots of nutrients by virtue of it's high CEC, it still has to have nutrients delivered to the sites to be held until needed and utilized. Now if that clay were mixed with a complete fertilizer, I wonder if the results you saw would be any different?

In land plants you have gravity allowing water to run past, carrying nutrients that are bound to the available sites in the clay. But in a tank with dense clay, there would be very little motion of nutrients unless you had heater cables I suppose.

Just theorizing here, based on your comments.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-25-2003, 10:38 PM
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Interesting interpretation of the results, though. I've always considered thick, prodigious root production with healthy plants. But you might be right. Hmmmm

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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-26-2003, 01:52 AM
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I have to agree with anonapersona here. I know in my dirt garden plants that are well fed in good soil develop less of a root system than plants in poor soil. I see this same thing with trees also.
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 02-26-2003, 02:14 PM
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I can understand concerning water convection through Flourite being considerably better than Kitty Litter, but Kitty Litter has 15x the Cation Exchange Capacity that Flourite has. This is obviously affected by its brittle nature, and subsequent much larger surface area.
Regardless, it is good advice to mix some sort of gravel to aid in water convection through the substrate.

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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-01-2003, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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I decided to buy three bunchs of Amazon Sword plants to see how they do. I also added a strip light to the tank, so I estimate its getting a nice wpa. Also, instead of buying danios, I decided to get some Buenos Aires Tetras. They were just as cheap and I honeslty like them a lot better. Love watching them eat as well.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-06-2003, 10:52 PM
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for those of you interested in some long (and sometimes heated) discussions about the pros/cons of kitty litter, try:

http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/

do a search for kitty litter. there are a lot of posts by a fellow called Dan Quackenbush.
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-06-2003, 11:54 PM
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Now I learned that one of the substrates is made of Fuller's Earth, which is the same clay that many kitty litters are made of, I think the stuff was Profile.

anona, who can argue both sides with no problem
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-17-2003, 03:45 PM
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Having Kitty Litter in my Aquarium now for about 5 months, let me just say I wish I had never heard of this idea! Yes, the cation exchange in kitty Litter is exemplary, and yes Litty litter contains much more Iron. I have mentioned on several occasions that my water out of the tap is hard enough to drive nails. This is a constant battle for me to fight even with the help of RO water. I have even shyed away from Potassium Sulfate so as to exclude adding Magnessium. After all this caution, my waters GH continues to be high. I am at my witts end! I went back and closely examined the specs of Kitty Litter as compared to Flourite. Kitty Litter contains enormous amounts of Ca and Mg. I don't believe I could EVER remove enough of these elements to make my water soft. I can get to a certain point with having nice healthy plants and then it goes downhill causing me to have to go back and try again. I am at this time looking at substrates once again. I will remove this HEADACHE from my tank and hope the garbage men will take it. My order goes in to "Litemanu" today and the "no salt", "stump remover", "epsom salts", and "fleet enema" go back on the shelves where they came from. No more "short cuts" that become "long cuts" for me! I'm hoping the plants and fish will survive while I extracate the "Kitty Litter" and replace it with something known to be a proven sucess as a substrate. I am so disgusted with this "Kitty Litter" idea I can't find enough words to completely express myself! Anyone considering this route... save yourself many headaches and get a proven substrate. :cry: ops: :evil: :twisted:

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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-17-2003, 04:49 PM
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Yes, there are two types of montmorillenite, (excuse the spelling, too lazy to look up the info, recalling a discussion on a koi board) one is Calcium something, the other Sodium something. Koi Clay was one type the kitty litter was the other. Koi Clay will cloud the water then settle, leaving behind something that makes koi glittery, very good for skin and health, kitty litter clumps, both were used to kill string algae. Bentonite and Fullers Earth are all types of this same stuff, with small differences, Profile substrate is made of Fullers Earth. I think it was CyberFins.com that had the discussion archived. Sorry I can't recall more.
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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-17-2003, 06:27 PM
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Sorry to see you've had such a foul experience with Kitty Litter, ridns. Did you use a mixture or 100? I have fairly hard water as well and haven't noticed a trend of rising KH over the years I've had Kitty Litter in there. That is not to say yours is not causing a problem, but when used just as fuller's earth might be used, it is an economical alternative.

One thing is certain, though, no DIY quick fix is as sure a thing is a proven formula. I wish you luck in finding stability in your system!

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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 03-17-2003, 08:48 PM
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I'm just happy to have finally figured out what my problem is. I also noticed there are two kinds anonapersona, I evidently got the bad stuff. Now I find I have another problem. The substrate I picked to replace the kitty Litter is going to cost me an arm and a leg. Does anyone know of a bargain counter for substrates? :? :shock:

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