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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I am interested in a dirt specifically packaged for planted tanks.

I'm a big dirt fan, have 8+ dirted tanks. I've used my own organically amended soil, MG,... I am aware they work wonders and are cheap and everything else. But I specifically need a soil packaged for planted tanks and I'm looking for a true soil, not ada amazonia, eco-complete, and other similar substrates but actual dirt (sand/soil/silt with preferably some organic matter and organic amendments).

Does anyone know if a product like this is on the market?

Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I thought aquasoil WAS a type of dirt....just a pre-made mineralized top soil kinda thing...
'Kinda thing' is the key phrase there. Unfortunately pelleted clay and slow release fertilizer balls are not quite the same as soil - very very different than unmineralized organically amended top soil (you wouldn't want to put mineralized soil in a tank; for some reason this forum thinks that wetting a soil and removing the floating organic matter is mineralizing the organic amendments, which is very very far from the truth).

Or am I looking at the wrong product? I assume you are talking about the amazonia, africana, malaya and similar lines? Can you link me to what you are talking about so I can be sure?

Sounds like a great manufacturing/marketing opportunity for some enterprising person...
I couldn't agree more. And it's very easy to get dirt privately labeled with any mixture you want. Someone jump on it! :)
 

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very very different than unmineralized organically amended top soil (you wouldn't want to put mineralized soil in a tank; for some reason this forum thinks that wetting a soil and removing the floating organic matter is mineralizing the organic amendments, which is very very far from the truth)...
This is very far from the truth! I would do some research before making statements like that. There is far more going on than just wetting and removing floating matter, AND there are a ton of people doing far more than that to get their MTS. Again, please do some research...

That being said, i think it would be great if there was an easy, relatively cheap option to buy something similar to our wetted soil with floating organic matter removed, that isnt anywhere close to what all the scientists and experienced hobbyists have been telling us we were using :icon_roll
 

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for some reason this forum thinks that wetting a soil and removing the floating organic matter is mineralizing the organic amendments, which is very very far from the truth).
I think you should do a little research on how organics are mineralized, and how the mineralization process advocated on this forum takes place. I'll give you a hint, bacteria and/or heat are involved.

That said, I don't see the point in offering a completely non-mineralized soil - pre-mineralized dirt is easier to work with for most folks (gas bubbles from organics, while not toxic, have been known to cause panic).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
This is very far from the truth! I would do some research before making statements like that. There is far more going on than just wetting and removing floating matter, AND there are a ton of people doing far more than that to get their MTS. Again, please do some research...

That being said, i think it would be great if there was an easy, relatively cheap option to buy something similar to our wetted soil with floating organic matter removed, that isnt anywhere close to what all the scientists and experienced hobbyists have been telling us we were using :icon_roll
I think you should do a little research on how organics are mineralized, and how the mineralization process advocated on this forum takes place. I'll give you a hint, bacteria and/or heat are involved.

That said, I don't see the point in offering a completely non-mineralized soil - pre-mineralized dirt is easier to work with for most folks (gas bubbles from organics, while not toxic, have been known to cause panic).
Really not trying to start a debate here but I have a natural resources degree, a sustainable agriculture degree and understand soil science fairly well, or at least I hope so :) Mineralization is the slow slow process where bacteria and fungi break down essentially inert nutrient containing matter into usable plant nutrients. If you mineralized your soil before putting it into your water your mobile nutrients would mostly all enter the water column, kill your fish, and then leave with the first water change regardless of how high the CEC is of your soil. If you wanted you could create an organically amended soil, add beneficial bacteria, get it wet, let is sit for months and months (three to six) at which point a bit more of your amendments would be mineralized compared to before. Again this wouldn't be advantageous. Most every time I read mineralized on this forum it is being used incorrectly.





Adding soil chalk full of water soluble (active mineralized free floating) fertilizer would be about as great as adding a large dose of ammonia to the tank.

I'm not saying that whatever you guys do to your soil isn't helping in some weird small way, it's just not accurate to say you're mineralizing your soil. If you want slow release of organic amendments it's just not the way to go. Now growing terrestrial plants with premineralized soil is a bit different - mostly because there are no fish to kill.

But don't take my word for it. Go visit your local university and ask a soil scientist.
 

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I think most of us are using dirt with a cap of something or other. I'm not sure that concept can really be put in one package.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
so what do you recommend for soil? are we wasting our time with "mineralization"?
I don't think you are wasting your time except by calling it "mineralization". A rinse of the soil will remove large floating organic particles which aren't bad but are annoying in aquariums. You are also rinsing out some tannins as well as quite a bit of nutrients which might sound bad but is likely beneficial due to the type of nutrients they are; Scotts products (MG) as with most high end potting mixes and top soils have a range of organic amendments, both immediately available water soluble sources like bat guano and earthworm castings and slower initially inert amendments such as alfalfa meal, feather meal, bone meal, greensand, rock phosphate... The slow release amendments are what will sustain your tank over the long run as they slowly undergo the process of mineralization. The immediately available nutrients will flush out with your rinse which isn't bad as they are in an overabundance for aquatic plants and will create a very high initial spike which will actually slow down the mineralization process of your slow release amendments and is usually the cause of your initial algae bloom in dirted tanks. That being said rinsing the soil is not necessary if you are starting dry, or starting wet and plan on waiting a long period before adding fish and don't care about the initial algae blooms and tannins.

And by leaving your soil to dry for a week or two and wetting again will kick start the mineralization process and if you are wetting with aquarium water you are also kicks tarting your cycle.

I think most of us are using dirt with a cap of something or other. I'm not sure that concept can really be put in one package.
Luckily capping material is readily available. I'm looking for a dirt that would still be capped - cap sold separately is no problem as people like to differentiate that based on taste.

You are obviously an expert. Go figure something out and educate this forum on how to properly do a dirted tank then. Heck, you may be able to start selling something here as well.
It's a thought :) I personally would start by recommending that people use MG top soil over the potting mix. The potting mix is called a "mix" and not soil as it contains very little soil - keeping in mind that soil is defined by sand, clay, and silt. In fact many potting mixes contain zero soil but instead 'bad' organic matter; by bad I mean that many of the sources such as coco fiber are very very difficult to break down and your bacteria eats mostly bio-available carbon - for every 1 N your bacteria want 50 C so although carbon is present it isn't really available. Good for your living room as it doesn't break down, bad for your tank as it doesn't break down. Additionally potting mixes generally have higher levels of water soluble nitrates.

Aquatic plants on the large part grow in bogs or sandy/silty river streams. For these reasons I would advise a clay loam ammended with ~10% humus pHed to ~6.8. The soil would be amended with bone meal, greensand, kelp meal, alfalfa meal (if finely ground or premineralized in small quantities with the humus), rock phosphate, feather meal, and cotton seed meal to start. Unfortunately for aquarium use much of this mixing and sourcing would need to be to a higher standard than typical soil mixes. The humus for example would have to be from particular sources to guarantee tank safety (toxins) and to deter pH fluctuations.
 

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Really not trying to start a debate here but I have a natural resources degree, a sustainable agriculture degree and understand soil science fairly well, or at least I hope so :) Mineralization is the slow slow process where bacteria and fungi break down essentially inert nutrient containing matter into usable plant nutrients. If you mineralized your soil before putting it into your water your mobile nutrients would mostly all enter the water column, kill your fish, and then leave with the first water change regardless of how high the CEC is of your soil.
I know what the process is. Perhaps I just don't understand what people on this forum have been saying then, because I thought that was the idea: create something essentially inert with very high CEC.

At any rate I think my dirt was pretty darn mineralized when I finished with it - I kept my soil at 20C, damp, dark and well oxygenated for two months. I'm sure there was still some organics left, but I doubt there was all that much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
I know what the process is. Perhaps I just don't understand what people on this forum have been saying then, because I thought that was the idea: create something essentially inert with very high CEC.

At any rate I think my dirt was pretty darn mineralized when I finished with it - I kept my soil at 20C, damp, dark and well oxygenated for two months. I'm sure there was still some organics left, but I doubt there was all that much.
create something essentially inert with very high CEC. Exactly! This is the goal. So we want a soil with less organic matter than typical bagged soil (more stable in the long run) and a high clay content (higher CEC than organic content and more similar to the natural plants environment (typically)). We want it chalk full of slow release organic amendments in their premineralized inert form so they can slowly break down and become available to our plants. Once mineralized the nutrients are no longer inert; keep in mind the end product of the N cycle before uptake by plants is nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia. Of course if you are using fresh manures you will want to thoroughly compost it into the soil for many months before use. For terrestrial plants you can premineralize it all - you'll end up with a high N burst which is great in the initial vegetative phase using it up before it can flush out, and the P and K are much less mobile and will sit there patiently waiting to be used so for a dry start this might be ideal. The aquatic environment is a bit different though.

Here is me overemphasizing on what will happen in two months to a heavily amended organic soil. This is accurate but of course not disastrous as you can surely testify.

So in two months you might have mineralized the majority of your kelp meal, part of the bloodmeal, and a tad of the alfalfa meal, all of your non water soluble bat guano (most bat guano doesn't need mineralization). The potassium from any kelp meal isn't a big deal, you'll just use it up fast and then it'll be gone and lacking later on but you will loose all your beneficial plant growth regulators as most will flush out into the water column. The high spike in phosphorous levels when you fill the tank from any bloodmeal might cause pH problems. Any mineralization of the N in alfalfa meal along with the amazing natural PGRs associated with it will instantly enter the water column and be flushed away with the first water change while spiking your nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels.

Bone meal (this one depends greatly on processing), feather meal, cottonseed meal, greensand, rock phosphate, ... take many many months to 10+ years to slowly degrade. Premineralization of some of these can be great, other pointless, and other will create a small negative spike initially.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
No... My ambition is often short lived. I did come up with my own personal mix which I've had great success with. My mix is not perfect but it's what I had on hand - for instance the bat guano should be rock phosphate but I had already premixed bat guano and one of the others in large scale - luckily it binds to the GFO and doesn't all just hit the water column.

I start with Happy Frog Organic potting soil - a much heavier potting soil than nost others with much more actual soil (sand/silt/clay). I amend, get wet, let it sit two weeks, rinse it to get rid of whats water soluble and to float the perlite out and thats about it. Essentially the same as what everyone else is doing.

This is what I've been amending with. I mixed to match my NPK with that of flourish tabs.
 
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