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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not sure if this should be in the substrate forum, but I know many of the tanks in this forum use soil as a substrate, so it might be more useful here.

I am trying to set up a tank with a Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix / Pool Filter Sand substrate. I have been reading everywhere that it is very important to mineralize your soil so that the nutrients it releases are accessible to the plants. Otherwise, in the initial months, it will release nutrients that are mostly available to algae and can cause other problems, as well.

From the research I have done, this method seems to be the most agreed upon for preparing your soil for an NPT.

My question is, has anyone had success with a dirt substrate tank without going through this month long process of soaking, air drying, soaking, air drying, etc?

Are there any faster ways to mineralize soil? It is cold and wet where I live this time of year, so air drying in the hot sun isn't really an option for me. I've read that baking at a low temp (~140 F) is not a good idea because it will kill the bacteria and other organisms you are trying to propogate.

I really wanted to try and somewhat follow the Walstad method and maybe save a few bucks on substrate, but if I can't get the soil ready until summer, what's the point?:icon_roll
 

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I'm new here, but from what I understand the MGOPM doesn't have to be mineralized, though there seem to be differing answers on whether you should (briefly) soak it first or not. Some people seem to just put it in dry, add the cap, and get going that way. I'm eager to see knowledgeable responses to your questions since I plan on dirting my son's 4 gallon today.
 

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Hi,

I always just sift the big stuff out and put the soil right in, cap it and go. Tanks with it are growing plants better than the tank without it weather it is a huge boost to mineralize or not I can't say but I can say that unmineralized the soil still adds alot and my plants love it. Just my $.02 YMMV and all that jazz. Good luck.

Rafal

Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk 2
 

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I've used the Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix without mineralization, though I did add pottery clay to the soil before capping it. I dampened it in a bucket and allowed it to sit for a day, put the moist soil in the tank, added the dried and crushed clay, mixed it a bit, then capped it. The only issue I had was the occasional eruption of bubbles from the substrate, sometimes spewing a bit of soil up with it. After I saw it happen a couple times, I pressed down on the substrate to force all the bubbles out and did a water change. Seems to have worked, as I didn't see bubbles after that. Tank has been up and running for about 6 months, growth is good, only algae in the tank is cladophora, and I kind of like its appearance so I've let it live. Also I'm to lazy too take a toothbrush to it.
 

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"My question is, has anyone had success with a dirt substrate tank without going through this month long process of soaking, air drying, soaking, air drying, etc?"


In very simplistic terms mineralization makes your dirt nutrients time release.
you don't have to do it, just like you don't have to change the oil in your car. But, just like regular oil changes the car will last longer.

There are very successful tanks that use Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix right out of the bag. Look at my Toxic Ten link, I took that to an extreme to illustrate the point. I definitely feel MTS is worth the effort.
 

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I use potting soil all the time without doing anything to it but I never add fish for the first month or two. I do find it is best to soak it and remove the worst of the floating debris before adding it. Takes just an hour or two. Algae problems in a new tank set up this way do occur. They seem to be dependent on a numbsr of factors like plant mass and plant health. The tank is cycling after all! So it is not uncommon that I am doing large water changes and cleaning the tank frequently. Though there are times that it just all falls into place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all for the great feedback.

BruceF, I was also thinking along the lines that I will most likely be letting the tank cycle for at least a month with no fish - allowing the soil some time to mature. I understand that the algae issue with a newly setup tank is mostly unavoidable, so it is heartening to hear that sometimes things can just "fall into place" depending on planting scheme.

From what I have read, it is important to initially plant heavy with an NPT, so that is what I plan to do. Hopefully the large amount of plants will help to absorb the intial influx of nutrients released by the soil during the "settling" period.
 

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I am trying to set up a tank with a Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix / Pool Filter Sand substrate. I have been reading everywhere that it is very important to mineralize your soil so that the nutrients it releases are accessible to the plants. Otherwise, in the initial months, it will release nutrients that are mostly available to algae and can cause other problems, as well.

My question is, has anyone had success with a dirt substrate tank without going through this month long process of soaking, air drying, soaking, air drying, etc?
I'm re-thinking whether I want all the bacteria and other what nots that are living in the dirt still alive before tanking it but that's another topic.
I tank the MGOCPM right out of the bag.
In very simplistic terms mineralization makes your dirt nutrients time release.

I definitely feel MTS is worth the effort.
Ummmmm, think we have a foobar of opinion.
Mineralization makes your dirt nutrients readily available NOT time release.
Tanked twigs, bark, peat, leaves etc aren't nutrient available for uptake until the bacteria break down the organics so that is what I would call time release ferts :wink: The submerged rate of decay puts the total breakdown at >yr based on poking around in my older tanks.
I tank the high organic content and allow the breakdown to happen within the tank, thats time release :smile:.
(these are not the only dirt tanks here).
Opinions vary as does plant selection. I use sponge equipped powerheads for water movement on a number of tanks.


Potting mix, Flourite, 4x32WT8 and a sponge equipped power head. :biggrin:
Flooded 4/30/2009 update pic is from May 2012 still not dosing on any schedule.
No filter other than a single sponge equipped power head on all these 55g tanks. The office 40g does have a canister on it.





* the pictured HOB on the lower tank is used for mixing in GH minerals after water changes because I use 100% RO and build the mineral content in tank. :icon_roll

Rubbed the key print off a keyboard posting about dirt tanks (broke the spacebar anyway LOL). Dirt works for me :smile:
 

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I've done a few tanks and never did the mineralizing. I tend to plant fairly heavily from the start and never had algae issues. I usually put some DIY CO2 on the tank when I first start it up, so that helps a lot too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Beer, I thought about doing the same thing in regards to starting with DIY CO2 for the first month or two, then weening the tank off of it (because I don't want to deal with it, lol).

What was your timeline for this, or how did you know when the tank was stable enough to remove the CO2? Did any of your plants die off because of the removal?
 

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My 20L is MGOPM raw, and it was a mistake. I should have at LEAST screened out the composting wood chunks, the amount of decomposing lumber in my tank right now is ridiculous. I cannot comment about length of time to "mineralize", because I did a month long DSM before filling and a month long cycle of the tank with no livestock to see how the plants would hold up. The parameters were _all_ over the map for most of that month, but I didn't have any particular problem with algae. Big diatom bloom, very small bba outbreak that took some adjustment of the light cycle.

I have since removed a lot of the dirt from the substrate (hence the lumber on top) because I was way under-planted and developed some anaerobic pockets. I only have dirt where there are roots now, and my carpet ambitions have been put aside.
 

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Top soil right into my 29 and planted. No mineralization. No nothing. No fertz after a year or more. Fish on and off. Resident frog sometimes. (Did I mention it's outside on the back porch) No filter. No heater. No algae. Just some unreal plant growth. Knocked it down a few weeks ago to move it to the fish room. Well I removed most of the water, moved it, filled it. I've done the top soil to about 5 tanks now with no problems.
 

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No plan exactly. Usually at least a few months until the plants are established pretty well. It was usually my work schedule and traveling, combined with some laziness, that determined when I stopped adding CO2. I'd still do half doses of Flourish once every couple of weeks or at every water change, if I remembered.
I think it's important not to mess with the tanks too much once they have established themselves. Let them maintain themselves. If you try to control it too much, you run into issues.
Just keep an eye on it in the beginning and keep it heavily planted and you should be good. When parameters level out, it coasts along on its own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
A little off the mineralizing topic, but I didn't want to start a new thread.

I will probably be planting my tank this Sunday. Will it be a problem if I add the MGOCPM and PFS tonight (Tuesday)? I have water in the tank, just started a fishless cycle. I will just run the tank with no lights until I add the plants.

I just don't want an algae bloom or something from the dirt being in there with no plants to support.
 

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I would use topsoil still instead of the Miracle Grow stuff. There will still be plenty of organics available this way at first. Most people don't know this, but that Miracle Grow potting mix really should be mixed 50/50 with dirt when using it for it's intended pupose. Otherwise you end up with plenty of carbon and not a lot of minerals. Make sure to screen it with something like chicken wire to get the big chunks of wood and rocks. If anything they become unsightly if you move things around a lot in your tank.

Make sure to start with lots of plants right off the bat if you choose not to mineralize the soil. Also, plan your layout so you aren't moving things around much for the first few months.

Once they plants develop healthy roots systems they will mineralize the soil in the tank. So in the long run either way you end up with mineralized soil in your tank. I like to prepare it this way as I tend to run things high-tech and it poses less initial problems.
 

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A little off the mineralizing topic, but I didn't want to start a new thread.

I will probably be planting my tank this Sunday. Will it be a problem if I add the MGOCPM and PFS tonight (Tuesday)? I have water in the tank, just started a fishless cycle. I will just run the tank with no lights until I add the plants.

I just don't want an algae bloom or something from the dirt being in there with no plants to support.
I see no harm in this. Allowing the base to soak a few days I would suggest that you reach into the tank and with a flat palm pat/press down on the substrate, this aids in releasing trapped air. When you plant the tank drain about 1/2 the water then refill it. Also unless you have a nasty film develop on the glass blocking the view into the tank try to leave things alone as much as you can until the cycle is completed.
After about two weeks if you can wait that long do a test and water change then. After a couple changes the tannins fall off to a large degree.

HTH
 
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