Screening Miracle Grow - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 01:47 AM Thread Starter
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Screening Miracle Grow

I could have posted this in the substrate section but I figured its more of a general thought. Okay I am on my 2nd bag of screening my MGOPM and its a slow process that's for sure. No big deal really. The goal is to dual screen it all using 1/4" hardware cloth and then 1/16th fiberglass screen. Am I over screening by running it thru the fiberglass as well. This is my first run at doing soil substrate and I am not sure if by dual screening if I am getting rid of good decomposable materials that will extend the nutrient level in the soil itself.

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post #2 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 01:56 AM
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When I recently did mine I just screened it through a cooking strainer...I've never been that picky, myself. Still ended up with a pretty fine mixture of dirt.

The biggest problem is that, depending on the bag, you end up with twigs or large wood chips or even stone. That's the stuff you really want to get rid of in my experience.
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post #3 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 02:26 AM
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Maybe... I used a cooking strainer. Then, I soaked the soil with tap water, in a 5g bucket. All the lighter and larger contents would float to the surface. I, then, scooped them out. The heavier and finer soil would sink to the bottom. That's about it.


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post #4 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 02:41 AM
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IMO one of the best things about mgopm is the different size stuff. The smallest stuff will breakdown fisrt and provide most of the nutrients from the beginning. All the large chunks you are screening out will take a long time to decompose and could be providing nutrients for several years from now.

I never understood why anyone screens mgopm?

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post #5 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 02:50 AM
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IMO one of the best things about mgopm is the different size stuff. The smallest stuff will breakdown fisrt and provide most of the nutrients from the beginning. All the large chunks you are screening out will take a long time to decompose and could be providing nutrients for several years from now.

I never understood why anyone screens mgopm?

Because the larger chunks would float to the surface more easily??? And excessive organic contents in the soil for aquarium use can be deadly for fish and exacerbate the anaerobic condition?

I screened most of the larger chunks out. I put fish back into my tank within 3 days. Fish have been doing great. No excessive organic contents in the water column. Initial NO3 reading after the conversion was only 2ppm. I never have a sudden eruption of anaerobic bubbles at all. They are usually very non-eventful and very gradual. These bubbles never cloud up my water. No extreme rotten egg smell at all.


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post #6 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 04:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone for the quick replies. The wood chips and stones are strained by the 1/4" hardware cloth pretty well. Softer bending grass like twigs are getting thru though. Sounds like I don't have to dual strain after all then. I have about 7 tanks to setup in which all will be dry starts. Once one is flooded, I will setup the next and so forth. I also plan to run them at least a year as aquatic gardens. The tanks are in my garage in which is unconditioned so I need to experiment with the change of seasons before I attempt to place fish in them. So for a year, I won't have to worry about fish. The focus will be only on keep the plants thriving.

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post #7 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 05:08 AM
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I've set up 3 tanks using MGOPM. The first one I strained and sifted. The other two I just threw the bag in and capped with sand. In my experience there was no difference between the first tank and the last two.
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post #8 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 01:23 PM
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Because the larger chunks would float to the surface more easily??? And excessive organic contents in the soil for aquarium use can be deadly for fish and exacerbate the anaerobic condition?

I screened most of the larger chunks out. I put fish back into my tank within 3 days. Fish have been doing great. No excessive organic contents in the water column. Initial NO3 reading after the conversion was only 2ppm. I never have a sudden eruption of anaerobic bubbles at all. They are usually very non-eventful and very gradual. These bubbles never cloud up my water. No extreme rotten egg smell at all.
the same for not sifting. there is no difference. except I put fish back in same day. larger chunks just need a bit longer to absorb h2o, but since the weight of sand is holding it down there aren't any issues. smaller particles that breakdown faster and easier will have more of an immediate effect on water quality. larger particles will take months to years to breakdown completely.

I'm not saying sifting doesn't work, it does. But the end result doesn't impact aquarium conditions in a positive way.

It just doesn't seem to make an impact. So why do it?

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post #9 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 01:31 PM
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the same for not sifting. there is no difference. except I put fish back in same day. larger chunks just need a bit longer to absorb h2o, but since the weight of sand is holding it down there aren't any issues. smaller particles that breakdown faster and easier will have more of an immediate effect on water quality. larger particles will take months to years to breakdown completely.

I'm not saying sifting doesn't work, it does. But the end result doesn't impact aquarium conditions in a positive way.

It just doesn't seem to make an impact. So why do it?
The weight of the sand also would prevent the soil to breathe on its own. That's why sand isn't recommended as a cap. Guess what, I am using fine gravels to cap my dirt and in some sections they are only half of an inch THE MOST. Now try that with sand or try that with fine gravels without sifting out larger wood chunks.


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post #10 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 02:39 PM
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The weight of the sand also would prevent the soil to breathe on its own. That's why sand isn't recommended as a cap. Guess what, I am using fine gravels to cap my dirt and in some sections they are only half of an inch THE MOST. Now try that with sand or try that with fine gravels without sifting out larger wood chunks.
I've never read that sand is not recommended as a cap. I believe that the roots provide some exchange of gases in the substrate and diffusion to some extent.

I wouldn't, personally, ever just use 1/2"cap but nor would I use gravel. But that is just preference I guess.

So, I will amend. If capping with sand, 1" or more, there is no need to sift.

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post #11 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 03:18 PM
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Theres no need to sift no matter what cap you're using. Dump it into a bucket of water, let it sit for an hour, then scoop off anything that is still floating. The rest is ready to go into your tank.

In my experience, sand is the best cap. I have better growth in my sand capped tanks and its easier to plant and move plants. No idea where you heard that sand wasnt recommended, as the majority of people with mgopm use sand caps. I have used both, and prefer sand.

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post #12 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 03:51 PM
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Theres no need to sift no matter what cap you're using. Dump it into a bucket of water, let it sit for an hour, then scoop off anything that is still floating. The rest is ready to go into your tank.

In my experience, sand is the best cap. I have better growth in my sand capped tanks and its easier to plant and move plants. No idea where you heard that sand wasnt recommended, as the majority of people with mgopm use sand caps. I have used both, and prefer sand.
Well, a simple google search on ""dirt tank" sand" should produce interesting results. There are too many reasons why one shouldn't use sand... I am using fine gravels with high CEC (aquariumplants.com substrates) because I have them already.


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post #13 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 05:12 PM
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I've used sand before...can't think of a reason why it would be an issue.
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post #14 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 08:38 PM
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I've used sand before...can't think of a reason why it would be an issue.
The argument against sand wasn't about the material, but the grain size of the sand. Fine grained "play" sand was thought to pack tight enough to keep substrate gas trapped. True? False? I dunno.

I've been using a "large grain" (~1/64" size) sand for 25+ years. From time to time I have some hydrogen sulfide escape even with the larger grain. So, the whole argument seems to fall apart.

Take away? Plant heavy and use a cap that is attractive to you.
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post #15 of 62 (permalink) Old 08-17-2013, 08:53 PM
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Black diamond blasting sand all the way. It doesn't pack down due to it's consistent grain size. It's the variation in grain size that allows it to pack down. Sifting is good, be sure to manually break down the larger clumps so there is less wasted soil, the only point of shifting is to removing sticks and stones.

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