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I've heard different answers so i am quite confused. I plan on washing my sand cap though.
If you are doing MTS, then yes, and a bunch of times. If you are just using potting soil, then no. I have done potting soil a few times and if I did it again, I would likely let it soak in water, in the tank for a few days, given I had the time. Then you won't get a bunch of air bubbles under the cap. Soil may come up with the bubbles.
 

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Step 1: Soak your topsoil in a tub.
Step 2: Pour out the water along with the floating crud that came out of the topsoil.
Step 3: Spread the remaining topsoil onto a tarp and allow to dry completely.
Step 4: Sift the dried topsoil through a screen to remove as much large debris as you can.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4 over and over until your remaining topsoil no longer has an odor.

This is the process of preparing your topsoil for a MTS mixture. Now, let me tell you that I didn't like my experience with MTS. That being said, perhaps my advice is not what you're after...

Good luck!
 

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If your using something like MGOPS then washing isn't necessary. I've heard of people doing, but just to get any wood pieces or other not completely composted debris out so that it won't continue to decompose once in the tank. It certainly doesn't hurt to do that, but it's not a requirement for success.
 

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If you're making mineralized topsoil, then yes sift it and rinse it out. If you're using MGOCPM or any other organic potting mix, just lay it dry sticks and all into the bottom of your tank and cap it.
 

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i use mostly composted cow manure and kitty litter capped with paver base. i mix it up differently depending on what i want the tank to do, but usually i just soak it and dry it once or twice and then lay it down and cap it. it helps to mix it with just enough water to make it a little bit moist when you put it in the tank. it helps it soak up water without bubbles blasting it into the water column.

that said, i wouldnt suggest cow manure unless you are trying to grow your plants at break-neck speeds. it produces a LOT of ammonia and needs a well planted tank with high light and CO2 to maintain water quality. i usually have no measurable ammonia, but i run high light and am always on the verge of gassing my shrimp.
 

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Most substrates, sand and other materials:
I do not rinse most of these.

Some: Rinse in tank. Put the material in dry, or dampen it in its bag. Partially fill the tank deliberately making a mess, stirring it around. Siphon out the dirty water. Repeat until the water is clearer, though it does not have to be totally clear. This can be done in a bucket or plastic storage container, too.
When you are ready to fill the tank, put a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and allow the water to run in slowly and seep over the edge of the plate or bag to minimize cloudiness.

Specifically about sand:
If you are using a graded product like pool filter sand, Pebble Tek products, or any of several sand sized substrates available in fish stores you might want to give it a quick rinse, but there is only a very small amount of fines in it, since it is sieved to be all one uniform size. No rinsing works for most of these, just skim the water surface if there are any fines that float.
If you are using masonry sand (around here called Olympia #1) or play sand, then it has a LOT of fines, and you are better off rinsing it away from the tank. You may lose as much as half the material washing away the fines. Note: if you will be throwing away as much as half the product, that means it costs twice as much per pound. Buy the right product to start with. A graded product, anywhere from 30 mesh or larger particle size will have almost no waste.
 
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