Idea - Composting your Clippings in the tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 04:49 PM Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Idea - Composting your Clippings in the tank

Anybody try burying their plant clippings back into the substrate?

I figure there they'd decompose, releasing a nice steady flow of nutrients & CO2...
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 06:13 PM
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And the proteins which end up as NH4 which causes algae blooms, the other issue, all the organic dead decayed matter......huge drain on O2 levels which is bad for fish.

The issue is one of rate, how much are you planning on adding?
A little, woud likely help, a lot? No, that would cause a lot of problems.

We add plant roots this way everytime we yank the stem plants up and trim them, some roots are always left behind, the roots also lose about 2-8 % of their total carbon fixed, but this also might include the leaf loss of carbon also, with terrestrial plants, 5-10% is about what roots lose to the substrate in carbon. Bacteria and fungi goggle this source of carbs up and use O2 to do so, then they respire giving off CO2. But for each carbon they use, they will use up 2 Oxygen molecules.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
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I mean the clippings from the plants within the tank already, not from outside.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 06:19 PM
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Some plants will fight their way to the surface and pop up in unwanted locations. I would look at it as more work. Besides, the Malaysian trumpet snails devour anything in the substrate.

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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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The reason I'm asking is:

(a) I get the impression that the high levels of CO2 in natural bodies of water originate from the soil, and also I read in Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants that when you use potter's soil in your substrate, the decaying organics supply the water with CO2, and...

(b) I don't have a planted tank yet (just lurking & researching, wating until we move into a house is a year or so), but frankly all the dizzying talk about complex fertilizer regimens, as well as the hassle around various CO2 dosing schemes, is a real turn-off. I'm lazy & I like simplicity. My background is reef tanks, where the only dosing I did was with kalkwater, and I'd like to achieve this same simplicity in my future planted tank. To that end, I'm thinking that burying the clippings would not only conserve CO2, but also return consumed trace elements into the substrate, mitigating the need for fertilizer dosing.
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 07:10 PM
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Quote:
potter's soil in your substrate, the decaying organics supply the water with CO2
This may be a somewhat valid point, but it is far from being the same thing as burying living plants and waiting for them to decay. Even so, I'm pretty sure that the carbon supplied from decayed/decaying organic matter is NOT in the form of co2.
And even if it was, the decomposition process takes so long and is so painful in terms of ammonia and oxygen consumption that your fish will hate you.

A better approach to attack the carbon issue from this angle is to add pre-decomposed material to the substrate (which you will NEVER catch me doing).

Quote:
I'd like to achieve this same simplicity in my future planted tank
So you see reef tanks as simple? Whoa dude, planted tanks should be a breeze. If you don't want the fertilizing and such, go low light and no co2 injection. A very nice discus tank comes to mind, but then there are frequent water changes and concern about pristine water quality (but likewise for reefs!).
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 07:44 PM
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Depending on the setup, a reef tank can be a lot simpler than a planted tank. Just like planted tanks, you have lower-tech setups (which sounds like in his case) as well as extremely complicated high-end jobs. Though I was not strictly reef-only I had a strong reef background and found planted tanks intimidating.

Today I still believe they are harder to maintain and I ran some pretty high-end reef systems.

As for burying old plant matterÖ.

No thanks. Iím sure it would be algae city. Seems to me it would be the same as why you add grass clippings to the bottle to grow green water.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by esarkipato
So you see reef tanks as simple? Whoa dude, planted tanks should be a breeze. If you don't want the fertilizing and such, go low light and no co2 injection. A very nice discus tank comes to mind, but then there are frequent water changes and concern about pristine water quality (but likewise for reefs!).
Reef tank maintainance is not so hard, IMO. The hard part is the planning stage, making sure you understand the issues regarding substrates, filtration, lighting, etc. However, once you have a well-designed reef system set up & running, actual maintainance is pretty straightforward: regular water changes, feeding the right foods, and gradual water top-off with kalk (unless you use some alternate method like calcium reactors or some sort of other dosing). The last one adds the most complexity, however it can be automated pretty reliably.

Oh, then there's the cost.

But geeze, trying to understand the whole fertilization scheme here with planted tanks is tough. there's a dizzying array of different compounds people add multiples times a week, not to mention the added confusion when they refer instead to brand name supplements instead of the individual chemical compounds. I will definitely go the low-tech route.

But back to the issue, I'm starting to get the impression that the substrate of planted tanks, and the chemistry & dynamics that takes place within, deserves greater scrutiny (just as the sandbed of a reef tank is a major player in the tank's chemistry).

I think for my first tank I'm going to go with 4 inches of substrate - a thin layer of peat, followed by an inch of potters soil, followed by two inches of eco complete, followed by an inch of larger gravel. I suspect that the greater thickness as well as the differing grain sizes will offer the plants a better & more diverse substrate. And re-burying the clippings may help with CO2 production & elem replenishment (hopefully they would be buried deep enough to localize the decomposition effects, such as ammonia, beneath the surface.)

Another issue is aeration & circulation in the substrate... I may have a powerhead gently blow water along the substrate surface. Other options are undergravel heaters (though kind of pricey), or perhaps some sort of undergravel water circulation system (using submerged PVC) <shrug>

Another question: Are worms or any other creatures used for substrate aeration?
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 08:48 PM
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Malaysian trumpet snails burrow in the substrate. They also breed well, and provide a steady source of substrate scavengers. I love the little guys. Get ready for algae problems if you use potting soil, and it might take a while before it balanced out. Don't get discouraged.

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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-13-2006, 11:45 PM
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Layering a substrate almost never works. Moving plants around and such causes havoc.

Why not just put down the thin layer of peat and 3" of Eco-Complete? That's all you need to do.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 12:19 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Grigg
Layering a substrate almost never works. Moving plants around and such causes havoc.

Why not just put down the thin layer of peat and 3" of Eco-Complete? That's all you need to do.
Maybe I'll just do that. You don't think the plants' roots would "appreciate" the layer diversity though?
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keck
Seems to me it would be the same as why you add grass clippings to the bottle to grow green water.
Err...huh? Why would you WANT to grow green water? And what bottle? I'm lost.

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 04:04 AM
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My 2 Cents:

All the different takes on dosing regimes and different componds is a bit much for me also...

I have had planted tanks for over 5 years now and for me it boils down to time = stabilty. Once a tank is broken in well - like 6 months or so - she tends to simmer down. Get in regular habits with a solid fertilizer - I use Tropica. And trust your eyes - if the plants look healthy- they are{.....and visa versa.}

dont borrow crap in your substarte - remove that kind o stuff if possible! Once you get a healthy filter running you will have plenty of debris breaking down naturally.


Peace
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 04:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheese Sandwich
I'm lazy & I like simplicity.
Cheese,

Have you read Diane Walstad's Book yet? She uses a very low-tech approach. I don't use her methods (I'm one of those "complicated" fert guys ), but I have seen them used successfully by others. Her wording is designed to be understood by the hobbiest, not the scientist. One things you won't be able to have is a super-fast growing tank, with a thick foreground and lots of pearling. You just can't have that kind of tank without lots of light and CO2, and plenty of that dreaded nutrient dosing . Still, it's possible to have a very nice tank using Diane's methods.

I have used the method that Rex suggested with good success. But Eco Complete can be pricey, so you may want to consider the frugal alternatives that Walstad recommends.

Regardless of the path you take, the more you can study up on things like Nutrients, CO2, etc, the more success you will have in this hobby.

Best of luck.

Ted


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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2006, 04:32 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unirdna
Cheese,

Have you read Diane Walstad's Book yet? She uses a very low-tech approach. I don't use her methods (I'm one of those "complicated" fert guys ), but I have seen them used successfully by others. Her wording is designed to be understood by the hobbiest, not the scientist. One things you won't be able to have is a super-fast growing tank, with a thick foreground and lots of pearling. You just can't have that kind of tank without lots of light and CO2, and plenty of that dreaded nutrient dosing . Still, it's possible to have a very nice tank using Diane's methods.

I have used the method that Rex suggested with good success. But Eco Complete can be pricey, so you may want to consider the frugal alternatives that Walstad recommends.

Regardless of the path you take, the more you can study up on things like Nutrients, CO2, etc, the more success you will have in this hobby.

Best of luck.
Thanks.

I've heard Walstad's book mentioned but have also heard some negativity re it (I don't recall specifics) so I haven't bought it yet. I'm currently reading Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants which so far has some very straightforward info. I definitely follow with interest any threads regarding the "low-tech" approach.

I'm still interested in the substrate topic, however. I suspect some important dynamics there. Maybe one day one of us can set up a controlled experiment with several tanks, each with the same lighting, water, and plants, except with substrate varying in material, depth, particle size, etc. Would be interesting.

For my first tank, I'll likely go with Rex's suggestion re eco-complete (I'd rather splurge on the cost before-hand to save some long-term hassle). So why the peat moss - to lower the pH?
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