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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I started off by using the search engine to find some helpful threads about this subject, as I have never yet put a layer of anything other than mulm under my substrates, but I didn't find anything really helpful. Actually, that's not true, I did find that old thread What does Pete look like which was almost just as funny the second time around as it was when it was a new thread, lol... but obviously, that thread didn't really help me.

Here's the deal: I know that nothing is required to be under 3mcq, but if I wanted to add something like peat, or laterite, or anything else, under the substrate, what's the best way to do so that prevents it from ever getting stirred up during a rescape? Is there a best way? I've heard of people putting screens over the bottom nutrient layer, but wouldn't that cause problems down the road? Or am I overthinking this?

All I know is, since I'm about to start up a new tank, and I don't have any money to buy ADA substrates, and all I have laying around is 60+ pounds of 3mcq, I thought I'd take the opportunity to experiment with something I've not experienced yet... in this case, layering substrates.

If it's a real bad idea to layer substrates when you think it's probable that you'll be rescaping later on, should I even consider this?

Anyone care to offer any tips or tricks on layering substrates?
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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ROFL I remember that thread! You made me bump it!

I put Pete... err... peat... under mine. But then I also put Flourite black over top. I used the peat b/c my well water is harder than rocks and to boost nutrient content, and I also used Flourite to boost nutrient content more, and especially for the CEC. There's a really detailed photo shoot thingy at the beginning of my 90gal journal where I showed what I did step by step, if that's the least bit helpful (prolly not, but it's there LOL)
 

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Yea I think your over thinking the problem, the trick is to not go overboard on what you put under your substrate there's never a good reason to put a inch of anything under it only a sprinkle ~ just enough to dust the bottom but not so much you can't still see the glass in spots.

I always put a dusting of sphagnum peat moss (lowers pH), potash (potassium), and Iron Chelate 10% (Fe) on the bottom of my big tanks then about two inches of non-fert topsoil and then a one inch cap of SMS or any other favorite substrate. You can make all that a bit prettier by putting 3 inches of your cap substrate in all around the edges so that you can't see the topsoil when you look at the tank think of it as a pie you have to make the crust before putting in the topsoil filling.

Work like a charm and doesn't cost an arm and a leg for near ADA results nor all of the work of making a MTS concoction.

- Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well dang, you got me thinking, I can probably go find a bag of some good, unfertilized topsoil, and put that underneath the colorquartz! I really don't want to bother with mineralizing anything. What type of topsoil do you use? A peat-based soil, or clay-based?

Also, what does anyone think about using a very thin dusting of some worm castings under there?
 

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I use a non-ferted top soil from a local orchard supply store (or a landscaping store) the brand doesn't matter just that it says 'non-fertilized' and doesn't have pine bark as it's main ingredient. Earthworm castings work great just replace the sphagnum peat moss with the castings in my above post. It's a better organic mix than peat and you can get it at the same store you get the topsoil.

EDIT: The topsoil should cost in the range of $5 to $8 for a 50lb bag. I've gotten it as low as $4 on sale before.

- Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Awesome. Now that's an experiment I'm excited about! I absolutely love what worm castings has done for my terrestrial gardening, and now just knowing I can experiment with it on my planted tanks just makes me smile.

Looks like I'll be taking a trip out to Worm's Way this weekend. I know they carry several different types of unfertilized topsoil, and I can get my organic worm castings there in a very small bag.

This is exciting!

So how does this sound? A light dusting of worm castings, then a half-inch or so of topsoil, then capped with 2 to 4 inches (there will be a slope) of 3MCQ? That should be able to supply the roots with plenty of nature's goodness, right? This will be in a 20-long, btw.

This post just got me thinking about some of the soil amendments I learned to start using with my terrestrial potted plants... and one of them is mycorrhizae, which are fungi that live in the soil and basically help plants make use of the nutrients and minerals all around them.

Does anyone use mycorrhizae in planted tanks? Has anyone ever heard of it being used in planted tanks before? (I just don't know if these fungi can exist in aquatic environments).
 

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That would work but if it was me I'd add Iron Chelate and Potash as well since it isn't a mineralized soil you need to get it from somewhere and I like the double bonus of soil based and water column ferts. I would be careful with mycorrhizae that's a common terrestrial fertilizer additive and we all know what Miracle Gro does in the water column. If you use it make darn sure you never break your cap layer.

- Brad
 

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But Coltonorr, I don't wanna mineralize anything. It takes too long! I wish someone would invent a drive-through LFS, actually.
heh, that's called Orchard or Landscaping supply stores. I find more cool stuff in those places than anything but a electrical/plumbing supply store.

- Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Let's all just relax, now. Everything's cool. I simply don't want to mineralize anything, nor do I want to buy someone else's already-mineralized topsoil. I just want to walk into a brick and mortar store and purchase what I need rather than waiting for something to be shipped to me.

I'm impatient. What can I say?
 

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When is this getting set up, Church? Did you decide on a final combination? I'm setting up a new tank in the next week or so and I'm going a similar route to one of Brads initial recommendations... Thinking of doing chelated iron and potash on bottom, but trying to decide if I should go straight to unfertilized top soil and then my sand, or if there are additional benefits to adding sphagnum peat moss under the top soil.

I just tested my pH and it's higher than I'd like my new tank to be, how drastically does sphagnum peat moss lower the pH?
 
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