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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I decided to setup a shrimp tank since it's been several years since I last had one. I "plan" for a heavily planted tank with RCS.

I say "plan" because I already put one together, but the silicone I used is probably killing everything in it (NEVER use hardware store silicone, even if it's 100% silicone with no apparent additives). Luckily, I didn't lose anything too valuable.

Anyway, since I'm starting from square one, I was thinking maybe a Walstad tank, but I find the claims of no necessary fertilization a little iffy as well as the need for no CO2 additions. I want to have a least some plants that require high lights (like baby tears, dwarf hairgrass, etc.), which usually requires more ferts, or so I've read.

In the past, I've done well with gravel+laterite or pure fluorite substrates, with little to no need for ferts, but that might of been because of the plants I had. Not exactly thrilled with fert dosing til the end of time, but I usually stay away from the heavy eaters anyway.

How does mineralized topsoil capped with eco-complete sound? I prefer a black substrate with fine grains, so I can plant plantlets. It's sort of Walstad-ish, although the MTS probably has little bacteria in it (or so I think, since it's dried several times to produce it), but I can supplement that with a little fresh potting soil mixed in to jump start if necessary.

Lastly, forgive me if I have a few or many things wrong here. I've been keeping fish and plants for years now, but it's only recently that I've been re-educating myself. Time to catch up, now that I've got some funds to work with (yay... job).

Any suggestions and/or comments are greatly appreciated.
 

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Ok we'll go top to bottom. You're right if you are going to have high light you will want to look into a dosing scheme and Co2 injection just for plant health. Remember... light drives the need for ALL ferts and nutrients (including Co2). If you don't dose you will grow a lot of algae with high light.

I don't know if MTS is used as the body with pot ash and dolite under and capped with <insert your fav substrate here> or if MTS can be used by itself. Someone will have to chime in here to help with that question because I'm a florite guy.

I would love to provide suggestions for you but I don't have a good feeling for what you are really caring about. I guess the best question I can pose to you before we get really in depth is:

Is this a shrimp tank with a few plants or is this a planted tank with a few shrimp?

Abe
 

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There is no reason that you can't tank some of the principles associated with the Walstad naturally planted tanks and adapt them to more aggressive and high tech set-ups.

In terms of the soil you can go with a 'dirt' soil like MTS or Miracle-Gro Organic Complete Potting Soil (what Walstad recommends for her shrimp bowls and what many of us are using in bigger tanks) and cap it with whatever you want. This gives you a ton of nutrients and ferts built into the soil. Many people 'cap' this substrate with Flourite (or Flourite sand) or Eco-Complete or another high CEC (typically a clay based substrate) substrate. Or you can cap it with sand.

There are a few obvious downsides to using 'dirt' or soil in the tank which include a moderate spike in ammonia and nutrients when the tank is new (although Aquasoil has these issues to some extent as well) and primarily the fact that aquascaping can potentially bring some of the soil up and mix it both with the water column and whatever you are using to 'cap' it. If you do a lot of digging around in the substrate it can potentially get messy but there are ways to be careful and work around those issues.

If you are willing to go hi-tech (pressurized CO2, high lighting) it is not only possible to do so with soil based tanks it is actually easier, IMO. The nutrient rich substrates (soil/MTS, Aquasoil, etc.) help with every plant as far as I can tell and while many people still dose ferts heavily when using these substrates you can get away with a lot less/infrequent ferts when the plants have a rich soil to work with.

With sporadic fert useage I have noticed a big difference in my soil based tanks vs my eco complete tanks.

I personally think that some of these fertilization dosing regimens are insane and I can't imagine ever using them myself.

If you want a heavily planted tank then having a nutrient rich substrate is a really good place to start, IMO.
 

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I would love to provide suggestions for you but I don't have a good feeling for what you are really caring about. I guess the best question I can pose to you before we get really in depth is:

Is this a shrimp tank with a few plants or is this a planted tank with a few shrimp?

Abe
Great distinction there.

I just broke down and bought AS for my new shrimp breeding tanks just for the reliability and predictability of the soil. I want to get OEBT and want to have closer to ideal water parameters.

For a plant focused tank though (where I was adding shrimp from an established colony rather than putting all of my eggs into that one basket) I can't imagine that I will ever use anything other than soil capped with an inert substrate again.

Even then the concern mainly applies to people with high grade Crystal Red Shrimp and other Cardinas. Red Cherry Shrimp and related neo cardinas don't require the lower pH and softer water and just more hardy in general.
 

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Question on shrimp tank substrate

BTW, I have shrimp in a tank with Eco-complete as the only soil and I have tanks with Taihitian black moon sand as the top layer. In the sand capped tanks it seems almost impossible to aquascape without stirring up mulm or debris. In the Eco-Complete tank the small particle stuff must sink down through substrate. It doesn't get it out of the tank but atleast it doesn't result in stirring it up into the water column either.

At this point I don't think I will do another shrimp tank with sand as the top layer.

Your suggestion of capping your soil with Eco-Complete sounds good to me assuming you are willing to spring for the cost of the Eco-Complete.

So, I decided to setup a shrimp tank since it's been several years since I last had one. I "plan" for a heavily planted tank with RCS.

I say "plan" because I already put one together, but the silicone I used is probably killing everything in it (NEVER use hardware store silicone, even if it's 100% silicone with no apparent additives). Luckily, I didn't lose anything too valuable.

Anyway, since I'm starting from square one, I was thinking maybe a Walstad tank, but I find the claims of no necessary fertilization a little iffy as well as the need for no CO2 additions. I want to have a least some plants that require high lights (like baby tears, dwarf hairgrass, etc.), which usually requires more ferts, or so I've read.

In the past, I've done well with gravel+laterite or pure fluorite substrates, with little to no need for ferts, but that might of been because of the plants I had. Not exactly thrilled with fert dosing til the end of time, but I usually stay away from the heavy eaters anyway.

How does mineralized topsoil capped with eco-complete sound? I prefer a black substrate with fine grains, so I can plant plantlets. It's sort of Walstad-ish, although the MTS probably has little bacteria in it (or so I think, since it's dried several times to produce it), but I can supplement that with a little fresh potting soil mixed in to jump start if necessary.

Lastly, forgive me if I have a few or many things wrong here. I've been keeping fish and plants for years now, but it's only recently that I've been re-educating myself. Time to catch up, now that I've got some funds to work with (yay... job).

Any suggestions and/or comments are greatly appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Abrium, it's mostly a planted tank with some shrimp in it. If it's really successful, I'll up the population, if possible.

Madness, when you said a big difference between your soil tanks and your eco-complete tanks, what did you mean? Did the soil tanks fare much better? The only reason I thought of using MTS was to go all Walstad-style, where the soil supposedly produces CO2 (I still don't get it). Of course, I'll be supplementing with CO2 (not sure if I'll go yeast or high-tech, I have both right now). The Walstad style may be less headache in the long run.

I'm particularly worried about the need to use root tabs once the potash and dolomite are used up. Granted, it'll probably take some years, and I usually don't have tanks that stay exactly the same for more than 5 or so years at a time, resulting in me breaking 'em down and building it back up so it's different. I'm trying to break that mold with this tank.

Somewhere I read that some people consider eco-complete to be an inert substrate. They're talking water-chemistry-wise, right? Or is it a reference to it's inherent ferts that are locked up just for the plants? Some people make it seem like there is no advantage to using eco-complete other than it's a CEC (forgot the exact meaning of this acronym - cation exchange ...) and thus I'll have a hard time over-fertilizing the tank, within reason, since the eco will adsorb it until it's needed.
 

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Ok well the great thing about it being a planted tank first is that we have a direction to go in.

Don't listen to the substrate battle because its all subjective and based off of your own personal preference. I don't know if eco-complete is inert, I use florite and even I don't care if its inert. The truth is that too many people come into the planted arena and instantly start EI dosing the water column because that is what is out there, its easy, and there is A LOT of documentation regarding application and troubleshooting. A lot of new people, including myself, don't know/forget that if we purchase substrate geared towards plants that a lot of the nutrients required will already exist in the substrate. And IF you are looking for an all-around great substrate you need to look at MTS here. I personally have never used MTS but I have got to be honest I have been reading a lot about it here lately and from what I read it is far superior in quality and cost savings. The savings doesn't only apply to the creation of the substrate but also in the amount of money paid to dose the water column. AND this will alleviate the need for root tabs.

On the invert side of the house, soil and the bacteria that accompanies it are GREAT for shrimp to sift through all day. Soil is natural also so there is no need to worry about any impurities, unless the MTS isn't made properly.

Best of all if you get the chemistry right and provide a good environment the shrimp will populate for you :)
 

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I have never tried MTS (primarily because of the hassle of creating it).

The fact that the organic nutrients have been mineralized seems to point to it being more stable and easier to get started with.

Both MTS and MGOCPS qualify as nutrient rich substrates (and 'soil' or 'dirt') substrates. Aquasoil is also nutrient rich.

The nutrient rich part is the important part.

As I said before - I can't imagine ever starting another planted tank without a nutrient rich substrate. Which nutrient rich substrate you would choose would depend upon your individual requirements and circumstances.

Not having to dose the water column as much or as often makes it easier, IMO, to avoid water parameter swings which is always a good thing when dealing with shrimp.

The idea of using aggressive ferts and aggressive CO2 in a tank with a lot of shrimp seems like more risk/challenge than I would be up for but there are people who apparently do it with success.

edit: nevermind - looks like wkndracer is going to be out of commission for a little while.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Doesn't MGOCPS (miracle gro, right?) have ferts in it? I checked the scott's miracle grow website, and it states that the organic choice potting soil has [regular] and time-released ferts in it, which evidently is "bad" since it will make startup a hassle as algae will quickly set up shop to eat those ferts (in a Walstad tank, anyway). However, I have also read that Diane Walstad recommends that specific soil for her style of tanks.

I might just use all 3. Approx. 1" layers of each for a grand total of a 3" deep combined substrate. If this works out, I'll might have enough of each to put together another tank.

Abrium - I too read that thread on MTS, which helped in my decision to go with MTS.
 

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Doesn't MGOCPS (miracle gro, right?) have ferts in it? I checked the scott's miracle grow website, and it states that the organic choice potting soil has [regular] and time-released ferts in it, which evidently is "bad" since it will make startup a hassle as algae will quickly set up shop to eat those ferts (in a Walstad tank, anyway). However, I have also read that Diane Walstad recommends that specific soil for her style of tanks.

I might just use all 3. Approx. 1" layers of each for a grand total of a 3" deep combined substrate. If this works out, I'll might have enough of each to put together another tank.

Abrium - I too read that thread on MTS, which helped in my decision to go with MTS.
I don't really know what is in the MGOCPS. I just made sure to get the exact same kind as Walstad recommended and I went with it. I had read threads from people on here having success with it in little shrimp bowls so I figured "why not give it a shot." I haven't noticed any algae in my bowls or in my 30G XH and both are about a month old. Both are heavily planted and have a lot of floating plants and neither has CO2. All that I do with either is top-off evap water.

To be honest I don't really much attention to either set-up. I do know that the 30G took longer than one week to get zero readings even when using established filters and sponges. It also burped gases for a couple of weeks. I had nothing in it but plants until about the 3 week point so I didn't bother to pay attention to the water parameters until before I was ready to stock it. I just let the plants and bacteria do their thing.
 
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