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Yep I use non-fertilized top soil in all my big tanks (55+ gal) but make sure it's not from a big box store there stuff is almost all pine bark which is bad for aquariums. Go to a landscaping or orchard supply store and get a 50lb bag of non-fert'ed soil for $4 or $5 (it will say that) and cap it with PFS or something to that effect (SMS, Turface, etc).

I like to add a dusting of sphagnum peat moss (lowers pH), potash (for potassium), and Iron Chelate 10% (Fe) to the bottom of the tank before adding the soil just for a bit of the benefits that MTS gives you to jump start the plants. You can get those at the same place you get your soil for pennies on the dollar.

- Brad
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
My sister just picked up some topsoil from WalMart. Here's what it says on the bag:
Earthgro Topsoil (the bag is white with red on it)
Ingredients: This is regionally formulated from organic and inorganic materials derived from one or more of the following: peat, forest products, compost, ash, sand, or native topsoil


Does this sound okay or should I get something else?
 

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i did alot of research on nonmineralized top soil i picked some up but i forgot the name and it had like 3 ingrediants in it.

I talked to a few people on here who done it and helped me in finding what I needed. Then im going to use bonemeal, kelp meal, and greensand as a underlayer and top it off with sand

I think it was kellogs from lowes. Ill get you some pics tomorrow.
 

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Because it can cloud and algae bloom your water column, due to the pine bark (which does nothing for aquarium plants) and the terrestrial fertilizers they add just like with a bag of Miracle Gro there simply not made for aquariums. I recommend landscaping and orchard supply stores because there easy to find and have the cheapest soil ($4-$5 for a 50lb bag).

Feel free to use any brand you want I'm just giving advice based on my experiences plus the many people I've helped deal with algae blooms after there cap broke. Allot of people setting up Walstad style tanks for the first time use big box store soil's and or dirt from there back yards and have *allot* of problems in the beginning. I like to at least attempt to lessen the pain when I can.

As long as your cap is solid and not disturbed you can use any type of filler you want just make sure it doesn't break.

- Brad
 

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It's iffy if you don't mineralize. Your soil might go anaerobic and that's not good.

You don't have to do the step by step mineralizing soil but at least soak the soil and skim off anything floating like bark and twigs. Do that several times.
 

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If you are too lazy or in a rush, simply boil the soil for 10 min in a slurry of water, or you could use worm castings and boil it for 10 minutes also.

This is the "fast version" of oxidation which si what moinberalization is doing.

A 3rd option is to do a DSM and then once the plants are grown in after 1-2 months, the soil is mineralized by then anyway, then you flood and the tank.

So there's a few options and alternatives that make good sense available.


Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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How does boiling affect the soil? And how would worm castings be used?

I found a landscape supply place very near my house, so when I get a chance I'll check it out and see what they have.
The soil will be loaded with organic compounds, including things that break down into ammonia. When you boil it you convert those compounds to inorganic ones, containing nitrates. And, soils sold for terrestrial plants are often improved by adding fertilizers, including urea, which breaks down into ammonia. What is great for terrestrial plants isn't necessarily good for aquatic plants and fish.

Mineralizing by soaking drying a few times allows bacteria to convert the organics to inorganics. Boiling does it with heat.

Worm castings are loaded with organic compounds, so they need to be mineralized too.

If you use Diana Walstad's method you can work with the organic materials, but you do have to understand her method and follow the important parts closely. The rub is knowing what parts are the important parts.:icon_frow

This is my understanding of the process, but may not be 100% accurate.
 

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Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Soil 32 Qt. (dry) bag was $8.00 and I used nearly ½ the bag for a one inch layer in a 55g tank. It’s full of organics as the name implies but no chemical ferts. Very little in the way of sticks or bark pieces in the bag I bought. Also not much in the way of 'float out' (very very little) through the cap after flooding and planting.

Set up string on this tank including tested results on water quality by posting date.
http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/low-tech-forum/86457-55-gallon-low-tech-soil-sub.html

Just remember this stuff is bagged all over the country and even the time of year collected may change the content.
 

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i did alot of research on nonmineralized top soil i picked some up but i forgot the name and it had like 3 ingrediants in it.

I talked to a few people on here who done it and helped me in finding what I needed. Then im going to use bonemeal, kelp meal, and greensand as a underlayer and top it off with sand

I think it was kellogs from lowes. Ill get you some pics tomorrow.


thats the one IM going to use, hopefully 1CUft is enough for my 4 foot tank.

it was actually from a nursury and costs 4 bucks
 

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how thick does the top soil have to be? would 1cu ft be enough for a 55 gallon 4x12'' tank?
Staying around 1" decreases the chance of it going anaerobic. Not going with MS the organics transition from dry emerged decay to a submerged state with less oxygen available for the bacteria. Lots of changes occur during the first month or so then settle out. I used a 1" layer.
 

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You can check with Pond stores as well in your area. I have organic pond potting soil in 2 of my tanks with a layer of crushed quartz to keep it down. Just sift it well and wash it and then dry it. Works like crazy and my plants love it.
 

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Why is pine bark bad for aquariums?
Pine bark is harmful to the fish.

I use Scotts Top soil $2
Shultz Cactus soil $5
River Sand from landscaper for capping $3

I like the river sand for it doesn't need a lot of rinsing. I just shift the big partilcles out. Used the Cactus soil because it has a lot of humus which reduces amount of Co2 needed for plants. Recently found that you have to put plastic over it when filling with water or the dirt will come up.
 
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