Organic Potting Mix / Wilting Plants / H2S? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Organic Potting Mix / Wilting Plants / H2S?

I apologize for not reading through discussions, etc., and perhaps not asking this in the right place or something. I previously had a planted tank and this site was a wealth of good info.

I friend told me about using Jiffy organic seed starting mix as a base substrate, which I did under an eco-complete cap. I think I may have gone too deep with the organic mix (2” at the back). It created tannins for two weeks. Still no fish yet.

But now, the stem plant’s old leaves started wilting and I smelled gas. If I poke thru the cap I get bubbles of, I’m assuming, hydrogen sulfide H2S. Is there any kind of plant or snail or something that could use to eliminate this issue or do I have to take the tank down?

Thank you,

Sagittaria subulata
Vallisneria
Echinodorus martii
Mayaca sellowiana
Nymphaea zenkeri
Mazanita Wood (has some white fungus)

54 gallon corner bowfront aquarium
Eheim 2217 with their media
Magnum 350 with carbon
78 watts of T5HO lights for 8 hours.
Pressurized CO2 with a diffuser I made from a JEBO filter.

Cycled with Ammonia
79 degrees
Ammonia 0.0
Nitrite 0.0
Nitrate 40ppm
pH 6.9
RO water

Dosing KN03, KH2PO4, K2SO4, Fe Gluconate and Trace alternate days 6days/wk
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 03:43 AM
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There’s a reason why no more than about a 1”, 1.5”max is recommended for soil layer, anoxic conditions with no circulation and high organic content is a sure recipe for the foul smell and gas bubble of sulfur/methane your getting.

I’d pull it down, put soil in tub, flush it with dechlor water a couple times, drain it, then set it out to partially dry in air, high oxygen environment will foster good aerobic bacteria, keep it slightly damp. Repeat one more time. This is prepping soil to be more like real aquatic soil. All terrestrial soil mixes have way to many organics and tannins for aquatic use.

Also putting a nozzle or spraybar pointing down at deepest part of substrate will help avoid anoxic conditions. This pushes micro currents of oxygenated water down through top gravel layer to soil layer. A little bit of anaerobic activity is fine as long as there is way way for gases to be carried away.

The gray area at bottom here is ok but it should not contain organic matter (which is impossible in a soil tank) and it should be easy for water movement to gradually carry gases back into oxic zone, not go stagnant, build up gases and become putrid. Your tank you need to avoid that gray zone at bottom completely. Inert gravel in that layer only.

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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much for a clear and concise answer. The chart is also very helpful to understanding what is going on with the substrate. And, I have a path forward (Not, of course, what I wanted to hear).

Moral of the story: spend some time here reading about setups before embarking on your quarantine project, alone!

Here’s the aquarium before I take it down.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 06-07-2020 at 02:30 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 07:12 PM
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A less severe option would be to poke the substrate to release the bubbles and promote gas exchange. I am not sure what is in the potting mix, but presumably it's high in organic matter if it's going so severely anaerobic at just 2 inches depth. If you can wait for some of that matter to break down and you are helping to aerate the soil mechanically the tank might right itself.

If it were my tank, I would not tear it down just yet, especially since you won't be gambling with any livestock.

Here's some reading that may help:
HOW DEEP CAN I LAYER SOIL? DOES THICK SOIL ALWAYS BECOME ANAEROBIC AND CAUSE PROBLEMS?
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 07:36 PM
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Another option is Malaysian Trumpet Snails. They keep the substrate aerated and mixed and I have never had an issue with my dirted tanks with MTS in them.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-06-2020, 11:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the responses and the links.

I might try a combination of the latest recommendations as, until I get fish, I could always tear it down later. Although problems could manifest later, even if the recommendations appear to be working initially.

The Jiffy Organic Seed Starting Mix is claimed to be composed of 60-70% Canadian sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, coir pith, and lime for pH adjuster -- with no soil and no fertilizer.

I used it in at least 2" thickness in the back of the tank. I also could tear out only the back half of the tank and replace it with pure eco-complete, so I could save half the plants.

Again, thank you.
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 12:59 AM
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The MTS recommendation is good, and also keep in mind that if you have rooted plants over the thickest part of the soil the roots will help with aeration too.
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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 01:01 AM
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I might have missed this, but why do you want to use dirt. Your using pressurized co2 with good light why not use an inert subsrrate or an active granular one like aquasoil or the like?


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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 12:30 PM
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I'd try again with this. I've used it several times with success. If you have the ability to sift out the larger chunks, it helps.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 03:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capsaicin_MFK View Post


I'd try again with this. I've used it several times with success. If you have the ability to sift out the larger chunks, it helps.
I just want to point out that the ingredients in this (here's the packaging) are pretty similar to the Jiffy mix wrt organic matter content. I'm not saying at all that this is a bad choice to use in a dirted tank, but if you put this mix in with a lot of depth you may also have H2S issues, especially if it is well sifted (I would still sift it, but not sifting would help with this specific issue).
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post #11 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-11-2020, 12:29 AM Thread Starter
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O.M.G. !!! So I pulled the plants and put them in heated tank water and emptied the aquarium.

The smell from that soil was knee-buckling (I’m lucky I’m still married)!!! I don’t know whether breathing that stuff or absorbing it thru the skin is bad (I should have used gloves.). I was dizzy the next day!

I rescued what I could of the eco-complete cap, rinsed it with dechlorinated water, and spread it thinly out on a shower curtain outside. I didn’t let it completely dry out, repeated the rinsing and put it back in the tank. Maybe 60% of the plants made it through the replanting.

Someone earlier asked why didn’t you just use inert soil since I have CO2, fertz, etc. That’s a good question.

An acquaintance told me that their plants grew remarkably well with organic planting mix as a base, so I foolishly thought it would scale up to my tank and I’d be the better for it. Boy, it must work for some people, when done right, but geezzzzz!!!

I hope my plants recover and grow in what now is about 1/3 the total thickness and what I hope is mostly eco-complete. A bit of research here beforehand is a good idea. Thank you everyone for your thoughts.
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