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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm looking at making up my own underlay soil mix, and am planning on using either worm castings, or a mix of composted manure and mineral garden soil, or possibly all three together. (I posted this within another thread but thought it might be best to give it its own discussion).

I'd be boiling the mix for 15 minutes (outdoors) once I add the other ingredients so I'm not worried about the ammonia/etc as that should immediately mineralize it. I'm also thinking of adding a little sand to give it a little weight, 15% green powdered clay to flocculate it together, (though I do worry about the potential for clay to cause cloudiness whenever disturbed). And following the boiling I'll let the entire mix evaporate to a fairly solid mud form, or possibly an altogether dry form which I can then use as powder.

I'll add a sprinking of Dolomite Lime, Potash, fritted trace elements, and Micronized Iron as well. before I'd put the MTS down in the tank, unless I should keep it in the mix instead? The dolomite would compensate for the potential acidity caused by the organics in the soil, so should all be safe.

I was also considering adding some peat, but don't want it tinging the water I guess, and it can overeact with the iron. And then I'll cap that with something similar to 3M ColorQuartz Sand. However, I was worried that using composted manure would add too much sulfur and risk problematic Hydrogen Sulfide production, as well as having excess phosphates? I appreciate manure is not recommended as it's quite labile and tends to change, but if I boil it it seems like that should reduce it as necessary to a stable form which won't have most those potential problems. I have a bag of 'stable composted manure' in my garden, and it looks and smells relatively decent of a rich soil.

And though I know they're not considered necessary now in terms of keeping plant roots warm, I'm still thinking I'll use substrate heating cable to keep a little flow in the substrate to try and keep allelochemicals flushing out, but would that flush out the nutrients as well, and make them available to algae instead of the plants?

The only nutrients I'd thus plan to dose in the water column would be Potassium, Calcium, and Magnesium, which it seems plants much prefer to have in the water column.

And I'd be going for a low-tech approach, hence the use of organic soil which will add CO2 to the substrate, instead of just regular garden soil which is mineral soil and has very little organic content >5%. And I'd like something which will remain stable and productive for many years without maintenance, which is why I chose this particular recipe.

And I'd like for my tanks with this mix to be at a pH between 6.5 and 7.0, with water just slightly on the soft side. Is this achievable with things like dolomite in the substrate? At least if it's sequestered in the substrate, and balanced by the acidity resulting from the organic soil as well as natural decomposition, then it may well be safely buffered and won't influence the water chemistry enormously?

I based the plan in no small part on this article, though I felt free to diverge from its recommendations as well because I'd be boiling the mix - http://home.infinet.net/teban/substrat.htm

Does that all seem like it should work well?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It's significance? I can try and explain that. I'm 'lazy'!

I want to achieve great results with plants, and don't want to; have to dose nutrients everyday or even every week, do frequent water changes just to ensure the nutrients aren't accumulating to damaging levels, or test regulariy for half a dozen different parameters to see whether or not they're depleted, worry about algae in case I'm dosing too much or not dosing enough or if they're in the wrong proportions.

With most of the nutrients sequestered within the substrate plants can reach them while algae cannot. So less work, more enjoyment, a more natural simpler methodology, the best plant growth, and the substrate helps provide some CO2 to your plants as well which is helpful in case you're not running pressurized CO2, (which I'm not doing with my next small tank). You also don't need to worry about regularly trying to stick fertilizer tabs under every plant which is rather disruptive and not an easy thing to do.

That's what I've gathered about it, although I've just started playing with it myself. There is some initial effort, messiness, and inconvenience, but from what I gather the good outweighs the bad. Soils do of course vary widely so it's a bit more unpredictable of a route, and a few people have experienced some problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Here's the article for making your basic mud courtesy of one of our great luminaries, Aaron Talbot, http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...-mineralized-soil-substrate-aaron-talbot.html. This is a classic.

Now, if you want something more experimental to add to the mix, have a look here but take it with a grain of salt, http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...oliciting-input-new-way-make-mineralized.html.

Enjoy!
Thanks, had already read both of those links, and you certainly had some interesting information on your thread, which had in part inspired my recipe. I was also considering adding carbon as you'd suggested. That wouldn't be an integral part of the mix but might help keep it light as well, though I was also worried with that and with peat that those two substances might tend to work towards to top surface as they're relatively light. I'm still not sure about the peat though, does it tinge the water with tannins when used as such? I'd like a substrate that kept the tank water around neutral so was thinking that peat might help with that.

Have you ever considered using a bit of gypsum as well? It seems not recommended for aquarium use, at least not as gypsum rocks for aquascaping purposes and is said to raise hardness. But I'd also read this - http://www.npk.ltd.uk/gypsum.htm

And I like your signature line by the way, sounds very applicable to the field of Physics!...
 

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Thanks, had already read both of those links, and you certainly had some interesting information on your thread, which had in part inspired my recipe. I was also considering adding carbon as you'd suggested. That wouldn't be an integral part of the mix but might help keep it light as well, though I was also worried with that and with peat that those two substances might tend to work towards to top surface as they're relatively light. I'm still not sure about the peat though, does it tinge the water with tannins when used as such? I'd like a substrate that kept the tank water around neutral so was thinking that peat might help with that.

Have you ever considered using a bit of gypsum as well? It seems not recommended for aquarium use, at least not as gypsum rocks for aquascaping purposes and is said to raise hardness. But I'd also read this - http://www.npk.ltd.uk/gypsum.htm

And I like your signature line by the way, sounds very applicable to the field of Physics!...
The peat I can't see staining the water too badly if it is under a good quality high CEC substrate, especially since it will be rather compressed with the humus or MTS. Using the dolomitic lime is what will help buffer the mix so no need to worry too much there. I would advise plant charcoal as the carbon of choice if you feel comfortable enough to experiment with it, something like this, http://www.amazon.com/Good-Earth-Organics-17502-Charcoal/dp/B001ACPZ0W.

My last batch of MTS, I used something more like the ultimate GH booster as an additional buffer and to add calcium but gypsum can work the same. You can most certainly use it.

My signature is very close to many technical people like physicists. It's the standard of a very special class of nerd that indulges in a little something that has been absent from American business for far too long: Operations research! We need more of these and a lot less MBA's. That's how things used to be.
 

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I'm looking at a Nano that i added peat to my MTS. Just put in some C.Parva. Two hrs ago. Hasdf a little cloudy water, did a 25% H2o change, let it settle (30min.) turned the HOB back on. ALMOST crystal clear.

I put down my potash, a layer of worm casing, dolomite, layer of peat, them my MTS. I have 1/2" of sand on that. I have young MTS (snails) in the tank and no i cloudy water.

So a modest amt of powdered peat should not be a problem
 

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... aside from the DIY aspect can you explain to me the significance of using dirt to any degree in your tank?

Sorry don't mean to hijack Mxx.
Co$t on two levels. Start-up cost should be under $20 for a 50gl Aquarium. On going cost savings as one should not have to do any root feeding ferts.

Sorry don't mean to hijack Mxx....X2
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Co$t on two levels. Start-up cost should be under $20 for a 50gl Aquarium. On going cost savings as one should not have to do any root feeding ferts.

Sorry don't mean to hijack Mxx....X2
Hijack away however you like!

I'm starting to think my question starts to get into a greater level of depth than most anyone has had direct experience with anyway, though I thought it'd be good to nevertheless check.

I think many people have a start-up cost of less than that even, although you'll often end up with a lifetime supply of potash left over. So in comparison to the other expenses of setting up and keeping a quality aquarium the substrate is still usually a small part of that. Still, things like aquasoil seem stupid expensive but maybe it's justified depending upon the work put into making that product.

And I agree about the supposed amount of nutrients in soil, with those nutrients and with that mostly (apart from perhaps Potassium, etc) replenished continuously by fish food with decent stocking levels, you may very well have a rich enough supply of nutrients to support rich plant growth for a lifetime.

Yours has been set up for 2 hours? Okay, but let us know in more like 2 months or 2 years whether your water is still 100% clear so far as the soil is concerned! Thanks. ; )
 

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I'm starting to think my question starts to get into a greater level of depth than most anyone has had direct experience with anyway, though I thought it'd be good to nevertheless check.
Do let the thread live for a while as other with more precise info may not have seen it yet.

I think many people have a start-up cost of less than that even, although you'll often end up with a lifetime supply of potash left over. So in comparison to the other expenses of setting up and keeping a quality aquarium the substrate is still usually a small part of that. Still, things like aquasoil seem stupid expensive but maybe it's justified depending upon the work put into making that product.
One of our forum members is selling off his excess potash, dolomite & clay. i was able to "build" enough MTS for my nano a 10g, 20L & 2 40Bs for under $25. So, wise shopping can contain costs.



Yours has been set up for 2 hours? Okay, but let us know in more like 2 months or 2 years whether your water is still 100% clear so far as the soil is concerned! Thanks. ; )
No at that point it had been 2hrs AFTER adding rooted plants. This however a newer tank set up a two weeks.

The are many members of this forum with several tanks that have run for 3,4,5 yrs. One I believe since 1998???
 

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MTS is great to start a tank on.. it takes out a lot of the work.. im actually starting my shrimp tank with it.. its great for forming good root structions and it makes using root caps great and easy.. it takes a lot of work out of fertilizing in general..

IMO its better for low tech tanks but that doesn't mean it can't be used or be useful in high tech tanks. but in high tech tanks the requirements for fertilizers is much higher
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wait, following what you have stated Mxx and reading the how-tos posted by ukamikazu I'm picking up that the MTS provides the fertilization making the EI dosing into the water column not needed as much?
Or not needed at all. It'd be best for me to refer you to another thread here which discussed MTS in general terms, and where Plantbrain was discussing different aspects of MTS and fertilization. http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/substrate/72382-mineralized-top-soil-substrate-31.html

To crudely paraphrase this and the experience of others. MTS will typically provide almost everything your plants would need. I say almost because plants aren't able to absorb through their roots and distribute potassium to their leaves quickly enough. And so it helps to dose small amounts of potassium weekly. And dosing a little calcium and magnesium to the water column helps the plants even more.

However, many people report low-tech MTS tanks running for years and even decades with no dosing whatsoever yet rich plant growth. In a high-light tank with pressurized CO2 the rapid plant growth will eventually deplete the soil of nutrients. But it seems that in a typical medium light tank with medium stocking levels and medium feeding, the fish food will replenish the nutrients in the substrate at about the same rate at which the plants will use them.

And the MTS substrate acts like a bank of stored nutrients, ensuring they're always available to the plants in more than sufficient amounts. Walstad's book is of course the authoritative reference on this. Plantbrain suggests MTS works even better with a little bit of water column dosing, though that's not strictly necessary it seems and certainly not necessary to do daily. That's what some people like about it, they might still do a bit of dosing but if they're away for a few weeks it doesn't matter at all and their plants don't suffer. MTS in a high-tech high-light tank would certainly have many benefits as well compared to an inert substrate, though you'd likely still want to do dosing/EI in that instance. I'm however not sure of what the point is of running your lights so bright that you're doing constant pruning unless you really enjoy that sort of thing.
 
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