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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm setting up a new low-tech tank shortly and thought I'd test out mineralizing soil beforehand by boiling it, and the result wasn't quite what I'd expected... I heard that was a quick and easy way to oxidise all the ammonia and other bits which would otherwise take quite a while to break down.

I had some soil and very processed worm castings together in a very old compost bin, so I took a few scoops of that and soaked it in a bucked to remove all the floaters. I poured off most of the water and then dumped the remaining mud into a pan which I covered with tinfoil, heated on the range, and then let boil for 10 minutes as I later stirred it. Be very careful doing this, as it very easily turns into a huge frothy mess which can easily boil all over the range... It didn't smell bad at all fortunately, simply like an earthy vegetable stew if anything, and almost on the very of appetizing quite surprisingly. Nevertheless, I got the mess cleaned up before my wife got home, as she doesn't understand such things, and especially not for using her kitchen as such I'm going to have to bet.

But what are you supposed to do with it then at that stage? I wasn't sure, so I dumped it back into a bucket of water in order to skim off all the frothy top. The majority of the rest of the 'soil' had turned into a very liquid soupy mud however. I managed still to scoop out a few handfuls of loose silty mud from the bottom, and got those into the jar where I more or less capped them with Flourite and then ran water into the jar until the water in the jar was fully clear and all the free bits of soil were washed out.

I feel as if surely I'd been doing something wrong doing this, but I'm certainly glad I did a trial first. Would the silty heavy mud that I collected been the part of the MTS that I wanted? I've left the rest sitting in the bucket a few days and it never settled at all and seems more or less permanently liquid instead of solid as a result of having been boiled.

I suppose that I either needed to start with many times more soil than I need in order to end up with the right amount? Or I perhaps need to place the boiled soil in a large tray and then let it slowly dry out through evaporation until it once more coagulates into a semi-solid usable form?

I didn't add clay this time, which surely would help bind the mix, but is it better to do that before or after boiling? I was thinking that powdered clay would be much easier to add and mix in thoroughly by hand, instead of having to 'borrow' the mixer as well, and so I was looking up powdered pottery clay on Ebay and all that I could find was powdered clay used for doing cosmetic masks or that which people eat for some medicinal purpose... That's either green clay from France which wasn't too bad a price so long as I don't require an enormous amount. I heard red clay is better as it has more iron, but the Moroccan red clay I found was pricey at about $40 a pound... As my tank is small I guess I could get a mix of mostly green clay, and add half a pound of the Moroccan clay which is very red and I thus presume has plenty of iron in even small quantities of it.

I still need to buy some potash, but I wasn't sure whether to buy the muriate of potash fertilizer, or the sulphate of potash though. The dolomite lime/magnesium limestone seems easier to narrow down fortunately.

By the way, do you tend to plant in capped MTS in the wet or in the dry? I'm considering adding the MTS in a dry powdery state, capping it, and then just just moistening it to plant in. In case moistened MTS substrate would be easier and less messy to plant in than in a flooded tank? Or perhaps the clay will act as a sufficient flocculant that the soil won't make as big a mess as it currently seems???
 

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thanks for the post

I have no advice to offer as natural soils are my substrate of choice but you're post was a great read.
 

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Interesting post! I think I would pour the whole soup into a shallow container and leave it in the sun to dry it out to at least the thick mud stage, then use that whole batch as MTS. If you do small batches at a time you might be able to do quite a lot of it, and have it all together in the shallow container to dry out. Of course you might want to hand your wife a credit card and send her to Macy's first:icon_smil
 

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I've boiled soil many times, Hoppy has the right idea. I usually skim off all the "froth" and then let the pot sit for a few hours. The dirt eventually settles to the bottom of the pot. I then spread the soil out flat and let it dry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So it will coagulate back into a solid stable form then? I was just worried by evaporating the boiled soil back to a dryer form I'd have just been making the equivalent of instant coffee mix - put it into my tank, add water, and presto!...

With the weather here this summer I'm pretty sure it wouldn't ever actually dry out in the sun. But if I cover it to at least keep off the rain then it might evaporate to a dryer condition in time.

Might it have been better to add the clay powder prior to boiling it, in case the boiling process would help the clay and soil to flocculate?
 
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