MGOCPM, Kitty Litter, Clay, AND Top Soil? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
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MGOCPM, Kitty Litter, Clay, AND Top Soil?

So I'm one of those people who, when asked "chocolate or vanilla ice cream?" Say "yes please!".
Would you like a ham, or beef sandwhich? Yes please!
Well, would I like a dirt, kitty litter, or miracle grow soil? Yes please!

After reading around I doubt I'll see any real advantage here, just a lot of extra time spent, satisfying my desire to know exactly what's in my tank and how it got there, so this is what I am currently doing.

I've soaked some MGOC in a bucket overnight, removed the floaters (because they drive me nuts when I see them re-planting later), but kept the sinkers (about 40% of the original mass).
This will be my organics. (in nature, soil is never 100% organics, but often contains other minerals which vary by diameter of grains.)

Having clay in my tank is good for the plants, so long as it isn't in excess. I have very clay rich soil in my back yard, so out comes shovel fulls, they get mixed in water, and then the suspended fine grains (clay) are poured out on my drive way to dry, where they will be swept up with a broom and dust pan, giving me a very fine powdered clay.

So there's another 20% of the substrate, add in the 20% miracle grow organics, and the rest should be something like silt or sand, but just buying sand won't be the same as true soil. SO, soon I'll be off to buy a few cheap bags of top soil, and begin mineralising them.

I have patience, but I only intend to give it one maybe two wet/dry cycles as winter is coming and soon snow and cold would threaten the process.

Then I plan to mix it all up, along with about 10% baked, fracted clay (like oil dri) which has a high CEC capability and I've found in tests that the kitty litter brand I chose (not sure about others) also leaches minerals that add to the GH of the tank, which the plants would likely appreciate.

Aside from thinking I'm a glutton for punishment, anyone have any thoughts, suggestions, or recommendations?
Originally I was going to just dirt the tank, but upon finding out that my back yard is mostly clay I realized it could do some more harm than good at those concentrations.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 07:21 PM
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I had a good laugh reading this. You sure have your work cut out for you.
Hurry up and get it done though, like you said "Winter is coming".

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According to my husband, I have a habit of jumping right in!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 07:49 PM
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Well a ham and beef sandwich is a Cuban special.
Where I see a slight POSSIBLE glitch is the combining of the kitty litter(clay) with
the back yard dirt(clay heavy) which to me implies a chance of over doing the clay ?
I just got 55g of "Pure Laterite" so something like 2 LB of clay for $8 instead of $8
for a bag of kitty litter...LOL...Well FWIW...
But by using a whole box(without reading the direction[are you kidding me, read directions for using clay]) of it in a tank that the directions say use 20g for each 10g of water capacity of a tank, I burnt several plants to a crisp.
I have now bought it again to use in my latest experiment in foolishness.
A tank/w a dirt only sub. No cap. But...I am mixing 20g(thistime) of the Laterite/w
MGOCPM for the bottom layer and using Miracle grow Organic top soil for the top layer of that. I plan to collect river rocks to completely cover the bottom over the dirt sub leaving cracks between them in one layer on most of the bottom. So plants can grow between those cracks. So the rocks will act as a partial cap.
We live on the esoteric side of the fence because we like it there.
I applaud the creative nature of the Aquascape contest entries.
But I'm skeptical at the same time. I frequently see plants put where they won't last for more than a couple of months without getting algae for closeness to the light source.
Let me see that tank after it is 2 years old and I'll cease and desist immediately.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 10:12 PM
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Awesome, me too I dug out clay out of my backyard few weeks ago to setup my new 20 long.
Ask me: Do you want clay or pond soil or play sand?
Answer: Yes please.

So I made a three layer cookie about 2 1/2" thick. And I wanted the creamy layers to be visible unlike 99.9% of the community.



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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daisy Mae View Post
I had a good laugh reading this. You sure have your work cut out for you.
Hurry up and get it done though, like you said "Winter is coming".
I sure do! But I'll be happy with it.
In the end it'll give me a few things I wanted:

a) Less floaters when I uproot things
b) more organics for longer nutrient payout than my dirt would give
c) higher cec content than the dirt would give
d) still pretty much cheap as dirt, minus all the time and effort.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-07-2015, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
Well a ham and beef sandwich is a Cuban special.
Where I see a slight POSSIBLE glitch is the combining of the kitty litter(clay) with
the back yard dirt(clay heavy) which to me implies a chance of over doing the clay ?
...
I applaud the creative nature of the Aquascape contest entries.
But I'm skeptical at the same time. I frequently see plants put where they won't last for more than a couple of months without getting algae for closeness to the light source.
Let me see that tank after it is 2 years old and I'll cease and desist immediately.
The kitty litter is baked and fracted. Something not often discussed here is the difference (chemicaly) between raw clay (goopy stuff from the earth) and baked clay (think pottery). When clay is baked, and not at low temperatures, like in a kiln, it changes composition and does different things in the tank than raw clay does. Raw clay is super fine sediment that is nutrient rich and great for plants, they love it, the only problem is they don't love how hard it is for their roots to dig through, and it's anaerobic as a result of it's density. BAKED clay however can never again become the same material it once was. Even if you grind it to a dust and hydrate it, it isn't clay. See here if you're interested: The Drying and Firing Process of Clay - Physically and Chemically

Once clay is baked, it is useful for it's CEC capabilities. It absorbs goodies from the water, just like it absorbs oil from your drive way.

I'm told (and may be wrong), in essence, it seeks after balance. When it's submerged in a solution it tries to fill itself with a similar composed solution. So when clay bits soaked in salt water are dumped into fresh, they release much of the stored salt, only what we are after as planted tank enthusiasts are ferts. When ferts are in higher numbers, the clay absorbs it, when it begins to lessen, the clay leaches it.
My hope is that this property will help my root tabs last a touch longer, and that it will help any water column fertilization stay relatively balanced, reducing spikes, and managing depleted levels. I intend to put a thin layer of this directly on top of the soil before capping, to help with the water column ferts.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mariostg View Post
Awesome, me too I dug out clay out of my backyard few weeks ago to setup my new 20 long.
Ask me: Do you want clay or pond soil or play sand?
Answer: Yes please.

So I made a three layer cookie about 2 1/2" thick. And I wanted the creamy layers to be visible unlike 99.9% of the community.
niiiiiiiice.
Having it visible gives you a chance to teach too. "this layer helps with X, while this layer is good for Y". I was considering this since the tank I am putting this in will be in a class room. I think I'll make it visible from the sides, but not the front, so it looks nice head-on but is still accessible for teaching.
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 12:56 AM
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Oh, if it's to be in a classroom, it would be also interesting if your tanks stand has open top. My stand is like so. I can look under the tank and see that roots have already crawled through the layers of pond soil AND clay. Tanks is one month old. I will post picture on my journal eventually.


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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 04:10 AM
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For a biology(?) teacher your posing a rather unscientific statement...
Once fired, clay can never become clay again. Or it seems unscientific because of this...
The people who sell Pure Laterite are selling it for it's mineral content which it gives to the plants in the tank. Of course the question is are these two clays dried in the same manner ? If not then my thinking on this and the unscientific assessment are both wrong.
Actually I just checked one site that sells the Laterite and they have changed the details of the contents that they used to have which mentioned the drying process. No big deal either way to me, I just though that the two of them together might give more iron than intended for you.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line...in the opposite direction...

Last edited by Raymond S.; 10-08-2015 at 04:21 AM. Reason: more info
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 07:08 AM
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@ Blacktetra
Quote:
I'm told (and may be wrong), in essence, it seeks after balance. When it's submerged in a solution it tries to fill itself with a similar composed solution. So when clay bits soaked in salt water are dumped into fresh, they release much of the stored salt, only what we are after as planted tank enthusiasts are ferts. When ferts are in higher numbers, the clay absorbs it, when it begins to lessen, the clay leaches it.
My hope is that this property will help my root tabs last a touch longer, and that it will help any water column fertilization stay relatively balanced, reducing spikes, and managing depleted levels. I intend to put a thin layer of this directly on top of the soil before capping, to help with the water column ferts.
The water in the column above the substrate and the water below the substrate (lets leave out the substrate surface margin) won't be homogeneous. The nutrients levels in the water column of the tank would vary dynamically and fast with additions, water-changes and absorption by the flora. The tank water column will usually be at an higher temperature than the substrate water. So essentially we will have 2 pockets of water without any flow between them. That would mean any movement of nutritional elements between the two pockets of water, would have to depend on the slow process of diffusion.

I would grant that the substrate surface margin having better contact with the tank column of water may very well be active according to your desired design. Then again such activity would naturally have a filter effect (to what extent I can't tell) tending to keep the water of the substrate isolated from the tank column water.

The observation and phenomenons that you are using, does well in crop fields on dry land - to what extent they will work in the tank I would like to know very much.

If you have a choice, you have a problem, till you elect your choice. No choice, no problem, only consequences, learn to live with them.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blacktetra View Post
So I'm one of those people who, when asked "chocolate or vanilla ice cream?" Say "yes please!".
Would you like a ham, or beef sandwhich? Yes please!
Well, would I like a dirt, kitty litter, or miracle grow soil? Yes please!

After reading around I doubt I'll see any real advantage here, just a lot of extra time spent, satisfying my desire to know exactly what's in my tank and how it got there, so this is what I am currently doing.

I've soaked some MGOC in a bucket overnight, removed the floaters (because they drive me nuts when I see them re-planting later), but kept the sinkers (about 40% of the original mass).
This will be my organics. (in nature, soil is never 100% organics, but often contains other minerals which vary by diameter of grains.)

Having clay in my tank is good for the plants, so long as it isn't in excess. I have very clay rich soil in my back yard, so out comes shovel fulls, they get mixed in water, and then the suspended fine grains (clay) are poured out on my drive way to dry, where they will be swept up with a broom and dust pan, giving me a very fine powdered clay.

So there's another 20% of the substrate, add in the 20% miracle grow organics, and the rest should be something like silt or sand, but just buying sand won't be the same as true soil. SO, soon I'll be off to buy a few cheap bags of top soil, and begin mineralising them.

I have patience, but I only intend to give it one maybe two wet/dry cycles as winter is coming and soon snow and cold would threaten the process.

Then I plan to mix it all up, along with about 10% baked, fracted clay (like oil dri) which has a high CEC capability and I've found in tests that the kitty litter brand I chose (not sure about others) also leaches minerals that add to the GH of the tank, which the plants would likely appreciate.

Aside from thinking I'm a glutton for punishment, anyone have any thoughts, suggestions, or recommendations?
Originally I was going to just dirt the tank, but upon finding out that my back yard is mostly clay I realized it could do some more harm than good at those concentrations.
My tank's are similar to what you are planning (ie) miracle grow/cat,litter
and peat mixed in near equal proportion's.
Capped with Black Diamond blasting media for a total depth of substrate near five inches , to accommodate large echinodorus plant's .
Another tank has same set up but plain topsoil mixed, rather than miracle grow.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Raymond S. View Post
For a biology(?) teacher your posing a rather unscientific statement...
Once fired, clay can never become clay again. Or it seems unscientific because of this...
The people who sell Pure Laterite are selling it for it's mineral content which it gives to the plants in the tank. Of course the question is are these two clays dried in the same manner ? If not then my thinking on this and the unscientific assessment are both wrong.
Actually I just checked one site that sells the Laterite and they have changed the details of the contents that they used to have which mentioned the drying process. No big deal either way to me, I just though that the two of them together might give more iron than intended for you.
hahah, sorry Raymond, no, I'm not the teacher. My wife is, she's the smart one. I'm just the one in charge of the tank, and hopefully in the future I'll be the one responsible for explaining how the tank works so if she wants, she can teach a bit with it.

What I was saying is that there is a chemical change that goes on when clay is fired (nearly 1,000 deg F), I was informed of this when I took a pottery class in college years ago, and it holds up to some of my experiences. I've personally dug up bits of pottery that, given their location, were supposedly over 1,000 years old. (Spent some time at archaeological sites in Israel once) And if you've ever been to these sites, clay shards are found by the bucket load, and they're dumped in a pile as trash. Despite age, varying degrees of moisture (some sites are near the ocean) and lots of time, this baked clay has never again become the soft goopy stuff in the ground. That was all I was getting at. I have no idea what the change is on a chemical level, but I think "dried" and "kiln fired" are different. I have dried clay from my back yard, no idea if it compares to laterite or not. And I have non-specific "kiln fired" cat litter clay.
I'm sure laterite has great contents, but doesn't it degrade and break down with time to give those contents to the plants, becoming soft and mushy again? If so, it's dried, but not kiln fired.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-08-2015, 04:59 PM
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Only recently(2 years ago)added it to my sub. So as yet have not dug any up to answer that question. A few random pieces have surfaced in one tank. The one where I mixed it/w Fluorite(original color) has blended in so well that you can't tell which is which.
But the first tank I put it in I layered it under Eco so black on grey does show.
Those pieces which have surfaced look identical to when I put them in..go figure.
But have not tested any by removing and trying to distort/mash in any way.
I also was told that the red pottery clay sold in like Hobby Lobby is much higher in iron
and that is what gives it the "red" color. But it's only in a premoist form, not powder as I would think would mix much better/w your dirt. "They say" to just make little balls of it and scatter them evenly across the bottom first. I bought the Laterite instead.
At least I can easily mix the small granules.
To be honest, this likely will be my only try at a dirt sub in my thinking.
End of usefulness cycle is the reason. A fine gravel sub takes in mulm/detrius and turns it into ferts. Gets better/w time instead of running out. However the Walstad type tank
is becoming very appealing to me as it seems it converts a dirt sub to rejuvination possibility via mulm accumalasion being a fert source.
I'm fine/w my Fluorite/Laterite mix for now. Seems to be getting more nutrients as time passes because I leave in the mulm/detrius for the same reason as the Walstad tank has.
Even if some of what you added doesn't come much into the mix it still looks like you should get better than average results from it. Due you for the effort...LOL...
You have a start up picture there; just please follow it up/w monthly or bi monthly pictures of the progress.

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