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MTS substrate(UPDATE: 12/16/10; Starting over, live and learn)

9833 Views 92 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  fishykid1
Hey everyone,

I'm thinking I may want to try a mineralized topsoil substrate, but don't want to make it complicated.
Any help or tips on doing this? I'm kind of lost on what dolomite and things like that are, so please help.
I have access to woods with lots of leaf litter and no chemicals going near it. Could I use some of that

thanks, fishykid
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Get a bag of the plainest TOP SOIL you can find. Sift it so you get all the wood and other chucks out.

I did this with my 40 and added some crushed coral to buffer it and I was fine. You'll get algae but keep your tank filled with the fastest of the fast stem plants in it and your cool.
Scotts brand topsoil was like $2.49 @Lowes for a 40-50lb bag

as mentioned, dry and sift it first tho as that will speed up the mineralizing process tho I doubt youll be able to do it for a few months as were going into the winter and youll need heat & sun to power the decomposing bacteria

but since you live in Raleigh
just walk in and ask...
I didn't realize you lived in Raleigh :) What part of Raleigh are you at? Are those nutrients absolutely necessary? The topsoil would be capped, but would that cause a algae problem still?
look, all you have to do is get some dirt and get it wet and dry it out. repeat that several times. then sift out the stuff that didn't break down. very simple.

i will add that the first couple of wet/dry cycles that you want to rinse the soil. like a layer of water over the mud. let it settle then dump out the water.

if you sift it first you will loose a lot of what we're after.

you can use just about any type of dirt. just make sure it doesn't have a lot of sand in it. i've used bagged topsiol, dirt from the garden, and dirt out of a forest. it all works.

as far as i'm concerned, the dolomite/crushed coral is optional(keeps it from getting too acidic). you do want to add some clay though. (helps hold it together)

edit - i still dose my tanks. just thought i should mention that. if done the way in the sticky you probably wouldn't need to.
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^^no one said its difficult...just time consuming (takes about a month per batch) so I dont understand the attitude/tone of your response...but its a nonissue

I had success with MTS but in the end didnt like it as much as store bought stuff (obviously) and now Im using kitty litter (which I really like...but its too light so my tiger barbs uproot my glosso pretty frequently) but may change that in the future to plain, coarse gravel

I didnt have algae problems...but did have problems with build up of gasses that would erupt periodically from my MTS layer and make my PFS cap look like a mess

...also the smell when I finally replaced the stuff...ugh!

Im in NW Raleigh...near NC State
No tone was intended. I just over thought it the first time around and was trying to keep it simple.
Before this gets ugly is done.back to thread.

Kitty litter? So you said its just to light? Does it give off anything to the plants?
I see no reason to buy dirt, when you already have lots of it. I agree with oldpunk that it can be as simple as soaking a bucket of ordinary dirt, spreading it out and letting it dry, preferably in the sun, then repeating 2 or 3 more times, until it doesn't have a swamp smell when it is wet. It takes me about a week to do this in the Summer, but it would take longer this time of year.

You can use it as is, or improve it some by adding some dolomite (best) or crushed coral in a very thin layer on the bottom below the MTS. You can improve it a bit more by adding a much thinner layer of potassium chloride (potash or salt substitute) with the dolomite. And, you could add a slight amount of Osmocote along with the dolomite and potash, to add a bit more nutrients, but that is really overkill.

Now, all you need is about a couple of inches of another substrate, as simple as pool filter sand, on top, and you have a fertile substrate.
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Hoppy that made it sound simple lol thank you.
Before this gets ugly is done.back to thread.

Kitty litter? So you said its just to light? Does it give off anything to the plants?
I chose kitty litter for the high ability to retain and hold nutrients (known as cation exchange capacity, or CEC for short) it doesnt really give off anything, it just stages the nutrients for the plants (IMO/understanding)

I figured if I put nutrients (Osmocote plus) on the glass bottom, add a thick ~2" layer of kitty litter...any nutrients released (ammonia, urea, potassium, phosphorus etc.) would be adsorbed by the kitty litter and waiting for the plants to take up, so no ammonia spikes and no algae problems to date...still wish I had more plants tho

I was trying to grow some glosso emersed (but that failed) but when I moved it to this [filled] started growing aggressively after about 2days

It has worked incredibly well except for the uprooting factor (a gravel cap would probably correct this)...if I could keep them away from the plants for 2days I think it would work beautifully...Im just too lazy/busy to fish em out and move them back (this week) aka other more pressing priorities at the moment...
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Hmmmm so I think I'm going to try that in my next tank. You think if I gave the plants about 2 weeks to root in it then I would be fine?
im only like a month into it myself...but yea, I like it so far

Im sure there are much better substrates or much worse...
So it would be okay to use dirt from my forested area behind my house? That dirt is jet black and doesn't have to much debri in it. I could also just go up to my local garden store and they have really nice organic potting soil for like 5$ for a 50lb bag
Organic is okay as well again just clean it of everything but the dirt
Your local soil will work fine too, and it costs just whatever you want to charge yourself for the labor. Incidentally, I have never sifted my MTS. I just pick out the big pieces, the bits of wood and rocks, as I smooth it out on a black garbage bag to dry, and as I get it back together to go back into the soaking bucket. I probably miss a bit, but it has never caused me a problem. I even used some river silt once that I only did one cycle of mineralizing on. Other than the fact that it made the house smell like a swamp for a few days, it worked very well.

Be careful with cat litter. You need to use the absolute cheapest you can get, or it will contain perfumes, etc. aimed to make it work better as cat litter. Those aren't good in aquariums.
thanks hoppy. I may just do the hunt in the woods method. Cheaper and i know that no fertilizers have been there. Nice soil back there aswell.
An aside: If you harvest soil and leaf litter from the woods, take only a couple pounds from each place. From an aquarist's point of view, it's the only ferts and carbon a woodland is 'dosed', ever. When you remove leaf litter, please spread some back on. It keeps moisture in, the tree benefits from the bacteria colonies in the leaves, and in a few years, that tree will have ferts for its use. It takes years to accumulate litter like that, and if it's removed completely, the trees will take years to recover from that stress. Don't harvest soil near the base of the trunk. There's nothing wrong with harvesting soil, but please do it responsibly :icon_smil

But that soil sounds really awesome for your plants! The darker the soil, the better, and you said it's almost black. That, fishykid, is good soil, and you've got a good eye :thumbsup:
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Thanks, I'll make sure it's filled back in. There's one area that's kind of swampy, but has extremely black dirt. Would this be a good place to look? It's literally coal black.
I can't speak on how good it would be for MTS, but I do know swamp soil tends to be fertile, silty, and smelly. In general. It has a boatload of nutrients, but makes for cloudy water, particularly if you disturb it. It might soften water, due to the amount of peat, clay and other organic matter in it. Perhaps if you mixed it with soil from the woods and tried it out in a test tank?
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