The Planted Tank Forum banner
1 - 20 of 26 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,609 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I set up a number of soil based tanks for some folks, as well as myself for a number of years.

I've suggested things such as a good soak 2-3 weeks prior to use to leach out the NH4. Or alternatively, boiling for 10 minutes or so.

One thing that came up was something I've not seen others mention and many had been using the straight 100% soil on the bottom layer, generally about 1" deep. This works also.

But I never really liked that. My uncle owns a Green house in GA and suggested when I was kid to mix the soil with sand at 50-75% sand for each part soil to reduce the richness and when you uproot, it makes far less mess.

So I've pretty much stuck with it since.

The method is simple and gets around many of the issues that folks have with soil.

1.Soil is well, dirt cheap.
2. Rich in all the nutrient goodies
3. Available everywhere
4. Sand is cheap as a sediment gets as well, but lacks the nutrients

Mixing these two works very well.

So, I simply mix 1 part soil to 2-3 parts sand=> wet> then mix good.
You want nice dark sand, not "mud".
Then you add about 2-3" of this and maybe a cap of 1" plain sand.

You can add 3-4 parts sand and use it without any cap actually and then lightly vacuum the top to remove any leftover soil.

While this is not as rich as the pure soil, it also does not reduce the sediment nearly as much, and it's still a lot of soil, just spread out a lot more in 2-3" vs 1".

You can add the "mud cubes" later as the plants get growing well and remove most of the nutrients. Soil + water = mud. Add mud to ice cube trays: freeze. add mud cubes to the plant roots.

You may add anything you want to the soil also, root hormones, KNO3, CaCO3 ,more peat etc.

The results and usefulness are when you replant and the sediment does not get nearly as stinky and reduced, the sand provides better flow and less mess, better able to hold the plant roots down etc.

As far as having less nutrients than a pure soil layer, well think about it.........
the total amount is still relatively the same, but instead of a muddy mess, you have it spread interspersed with the sand.

Also, but the time it does run out of fertilizer, the tank's cycling is producing it's own waste to supply the roots/leaves etc.

You can then use the mud cubes etc, or switch KNO3/KH2PO4/Traces at small dosings to accommodate sustained growth.

I think it's pretty easy and folks should try this cheap method out.
It's been around a long long time and works well. Do many water changes for the first 2-4 weeks of a set up if you use CO2 or Excel.

I think this routine will resolve most if not all the issues some folks have with soil.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

·
Children Boogie
Joined
·
16,743 Posts
You can use a cheap topsoil too... It already has sand in it. And choose something without bark/wood in it and no added fertilizers.

And the only thing you have to worry about with soil is things going anaerobic. It'll produce hydrogen sulfide gas and smell like a swamp.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
192 Posts
What about the point that Diana Walstad brought up about it affecting ph and water hardness (as in increasing it) for a few weeks (pages 129 to 131 of her book). Boiling may fix the ammonia problem, but does it fix the instability problem?

I keep very softwater cichlids (this may be of concern for discus owners as well) and rising ph is a big issue for me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
328 Posts
Soil is not an element. It is a highly variable mixture. In some places, it will be a high percentage of silica (quartz). In others, it will have a high organic content. One should have a good look at soil before making any generalizations. Gardeners are usually aware of whether their soil can support acid loving plants (azaleas, for instance). Look toward information from local gardeners, perhaps, before blindly dumping soil in an aquarium.... my 0.02 cents.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,609 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Some the best soil is wetland soil. Black smelly goo.
We have lots here in the Sac river delta.
Not everyone has one of those however.

I think a decent rich black top soil is useful at a garden center etc.
Want softer water?
Add more peat to the top soil.

Want harder water?
Add limestone and so on.

You have many options available to you and many sources of soil, you can buy, collect your own, go out looking for dirt.

Each soil type will have different characters, but the overall result in the system ought to be reasonably close with some growing more longer than others.

The delta soil I collected was really great, but I used a rich black top soil in the past from Orchard's Supply.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,609 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I can't begin to imagine how contaminated the river bottom is in the Sacramento river delta. How much run off from all the farms and such are in that stuff.
Oh?

You mean the very same soil that serves the plants that are grown there to dinner tables all across the USA?

There are many farms out there that grow plants after all...............
The soil in the tank is far less of a concern than human health I would think.:icon_idea

I do not go to the boating docks, I go to the ends of the sloughs, Consumnes is particularly good.

When you speak of contamination, you need to be specific.
Pesticides break down rapidly by bacteria.
Metals are the main issue, but plants, unlike inverts, are highly tolerant of metals and sequester them and bind them, then the plants are trimmed and the nutrients/metals are exported.
So the main issue is high nutrient levels.

I've taken aquatic toxicology courses that focused specifically on the delta here in CA. I also study and do my research on herbicides on the delta.
Why do you think there are so many aquatic submersed weeds there?

I do agree that some parts are not good, but some common sense goes a long way when collecting soil for tank use. Hopefully those that use collected soil realize that(do not go to the boating ramp and near the sewer dumps etc).

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,145 Posts
Thanks for the heads up Tom! I saw Dorothy Reimer speak at the AGA Convention and I've been wanting to do a soil setup ever since! I appreciate the step by step, and your method sounds like the way to go (of course Dorothy's method of potting everything would work too, but maybe not be as visually pleasing).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
134 Posts
Tom,

Nutritionally how does a mix like this compare to a commercial product like ADA Aquasoil?

Any reason you couldn't use a finished compost?

Do you think the mud cubes would help much in an existing base like flourite.

Thanks for the ideas,
Bill
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,609 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm running and lab test at the lab to show the differences between this mix, the delta soil, the ADA AS, and the ADA + PS soil in a flow through chamber, the only effects of N and P come solely from the soil/sediment therefore.

It's the 3rd week and the everything is dead even near as the researchers and I can tell, we have 24 pots with various mixes.
4 stems of Eurasian Milfoil which makes good candidate.
I'll do the dry weights and shoot/root ratios etc later next week.
So far things the same. Details will be published in the Barr Report news letter.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

·
Children Boogie
Joined
·
16,743 Posts
can i buy planting soil? how will the coloration be when it is finished?
is it okay not to boil or soak it to leech out the nh4?
you can just spread out the soil to dry. The ammonia will evaporate. Try to use top soil.. A lot of the garden soil have extra ferts like Urea & chicken poop in them which you don't want for fish health issues & algae issues.
 

·
Children Boogie
Joined
·
16,743 Posts
where would i find this topsoil? around the house? just like anything?
Yeah, some people just go into their backyard and use that. Just watch for pesticides & herbicides. Or you can get a cheap bag of 'top soil' from Home Depot.. Avoid the ones with a lot of wood chips in them. A nice black earth is good.

If you want to test the soil before using it, just dump 1"-2" of it in a plastic bottle of water and let it sit for a few days - weeks. See how the it reacts to the water like cloudiness, ammonia, PH, anaerobic situations, etc...
 
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top