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DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

Discussion in 'Advanced Strategies and Fertilization' started by Ian H, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    I've never been convinced that substrate fertilisers add much to rooted plants welfare, but on the assumption that they could it strikes me as not too difficult a task to make your own fertiliser pellets.

    A modified dry PMDD mix in a clay carrier would be the way. I say modified because it may be worth considering adding a small ammount of bone meal for slow release phosphates and dolomitic limestone for calcium and magnesium.

    I'd be most surprised if this hasn't been tried before. Does anyone have any data on this or any thoughts or personal experience?

    I know I'm crazy but is it time to give the men in white coats a ring? Bare in mind that these pellets must be made without metal impliments due to local mental home restrictions. :)

    Ian
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    It was discussed often in the 1990's.
    Steve Pusak loves his clay balls and is enamored with substrate fertilization.

    Algae does not grow in the substrate, plant roots do, I don't really care about growing plant roots, I like the stuff above the water. Algae grows there.

    Limiting the water column serves no usefulness near as I can tell.
    The substrate nutrients will be used if......and only if there is not enough in the water column to begin with.

    This goes for swords, Crypts etc............

    Plants need their nutrients to do well, it does not matter that much where it comes from, the substrate can be used as a back up but adding a relatively decent amount of PO4 and KNO3 down there each week, month etc can be a hassle, then the mess of the clay..........
    You also have no easy way to test for the nutrients in the substrate.

    The main thing it helps: makes dosing a bit easier if it's all you rely on for dosing and you have lower light.

    I've threaten to make a macro nutrient for substrates,a slow release thing, like agar which will slowly release things, Osomocoat can make something I want also, but it's aways off, I see some minor need, but not for plant growth, mainly as another way to do dose for those that forget too often:)

    Cheack APD archives.
    I've ripped Steve a new one more than once.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  3. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    While I tend to agree, I do have a question...

    If providing plants with nutrients through the substrate is not the best way to do it, why are "specialized" stand-alone substrates such as Flourite, Eco-complete etc so widely used? :confused:

    I've read that they are a source of iron but isn't that better dosed through the water column too? (Never used these substrates as we can't get them here yet...)
     
  4. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    You've taken the words right out of my mouth Laith. I think that Tom likes Onyx sand. Is it good for the texture/colour or the nutrient levels Tom? Are enriched substrates a marketing ploy? Do they have a placebo type effect on the users?

    Ian
     
  5. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    That is an excellent question that has been asked before at other sites and never really answered.

    Why not use plain 2mm - 3mm inert sand as the substrate and supply all nutrients via the water column? Why spend $100 on a special substrate if it doesn't add anything except appearance, if that?

    Bill
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    I've answered this question numrous times.

    Here's the skinny:

    Porosity
    Trace elements

    The pororsity allows faster cycling of nutrients and reminerlaization by both anaerobic ansd aerobic bacteria. Each grain is a functional unit and can be moved around and the internal spaces protect the anaerobic bacteria inside.

    The anaerobic enviroment allows the reduction to occur to provide the trace elements for the plants. Plants are also active and will go after the traces, fungi also live in the the substrate and these substrates with their large grain sizeds allow these to grow better.

    Macro nutrients are needed in larger amounts, traces can be supplied through the substrate to a large degree, especially in lower light tanks.........

    But as you increase lighting, the plants need trace nutrients everywhere, trace metals can be hard to transport from the water column into the substrate but macro nutrients are much easier to transport generally(NKP).

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Got that, thanks Tom. So overall it would be beneficial to change my fine granite gravel and sand mix for Onyx which presumably has the required porosity. It strikes me that the expanded clay granules that I have would fit the bill...............Now if I could only stop them floating to the top.

    As to grain size, I have always worked on the principle that small is better for the development and spread of roots. On this basis would Onyx sand mixed with inert smaller grained sand be a better root environment by filling the water spaces between the Onyx grains?

    Ian
     
  8. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Ok, so it helps with making trace elements more available to the plants...

    Can the lack of Flourite (or similar) then be compensated for by extra dosing of traces?

    Or will there be a sort of "permanent" handicap involved if one is not using porous Flourite type substrates?

    If it does seriously make that much of a difference (at least enough to justify the extra cost) then I will look into trying to get some Flourite as I think it can be found in the UK now (shipping will be hell though! :mad: )
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Well flourite and onyx are pricy in the UK, thery are densie though.
    No floating:)
    Turface plus a similar colored sand is a nice cheaper mix.

    Smaller grain does not allow for good O2 flow initial root growth/when you replant stem plants.

    It's fine once you have good established roots.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Turface? I thought it was one of your spellers Tom until I googled it. Looks unavailable in the UK however.

    I fancy a black tank floor so Onyx plus black sand fits the bill if not the pocket.

    Ian
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    MPV turface is available in black/grey onyx like color also.

    Runs about 8-13$ for 50lbs.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  12. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    I think my question slipped between the cracks:

    "Can the lack of Flourite (or similar) then be compensated for by extra dosing of traces?

    Or will there be a sort of "permanent" handicap involved if one is not using porous Flourite type substrates?"

    Opinions on this much appreciated! :)
     
  13. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Sounds good value. When you pop over to West Yorkshire drop us a bag off please. It's not available in the UK. :)

    Regards,

    Ian
     
  14. chubasco

    chubasco Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Laith, Flourite, Onyx, Eco-Complete, etc, all have a higher CEC than sand and
    gravel, as well as being nutrient-enriched in the first place. Their porosity
    also enhances nutrient retention. Crushed red lava rock mixed in the bottom
    layer of the substrate might work too, and has more iron in it than black lava rock. I've used Schultz's clay soil conditioner (high CEC, too) as a mix with sand and gravel to good effect, but this is not as good as Flourite. With Flourite you see immediate and qualitative results in a new setup. Look at the 350g tank Tom setup: he must have used a boxcar load of flourite for that! This gives a new tank a heck of a jumpstart over homegrown substrates, where they have to be seasoned-in through fish droppings, mulm, and the like to promote good root growth. Ferting the water column of course will help, and if you use RFUG, the nutrients will enrich the substrate a little quicker than no-flow. Tom has promoted RFUGs in the past, but he states the best-of-the-best is Onyx or Flourite, with an underlayment of peat and/or leonardite. If you don't want to go the expense of "designer substrates" a Walstad-style with soil underlayment (using medium to low light) might be something you would be interested in. Tom has promised to cover this, in a later thread.....

    Just passing the time till Tom shows up,

    Bill
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    It's been about 20 years since I've been there.
    Flourite and onyx sand may be available, I know SeaChem shipps there, but it cost as much as ADA substrates and most brands.

    Local sand 2-3mm and leonardite(available through hydroponic places), peat and mulm are good additives.
    Laterite I suppose. I'm not sure it does much if you dose the water column with iron............I had a hard time telling whether laterite did anything vs none in the substrate.

    The 90 gal open top in my gallery has plain sand, nothing else.
    RFUG's do well also. No laterite there.

    But I did see a definite short and long term difference with the specialized subs.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. chubasco

    chubasco Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    I wish SeaChem would make a substrate that was dark like Eco-Complete,
    and be the same weight as Flourite. Under strong light Onyx looks a couple shades darker than kitty litter, not a bad thing, mind, but my killies would
    really stand out with a dark substrate. I guess I could go with an all peat
    substrate aahhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnnot.

    Bill
     
  17. Laith

    Laith Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Ok, that makes sense. Thanks for the reply.

    I guess I'll start finding out what the shipping cost of Flourite is from the UK to here and use it the next time I redo one of my tanks.
     
  18. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    I've done a lot more swatting on substrates now and I'm trending towards Ecco complete as the answer maybe with something called Tahitian moon sand added.

    In the UK Ecco is not cheap. In my 75 litre tank I estimate I need 40 lbs, My regular online shop sells this for £46 (46 UK Pounds). I found a US source that sells it for £6 for 20lbs...............Trouble is that shipping cost take it to a silly price.

    Still looking for a dark sand.

    This is almost certainly the last time I will ever change my substrate and I want to get it right. Any comments guys?

    Ian
     
  19. Wö£fëñxXx

    Wö£fëñxXx Prolific Poster

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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    Take into concideration that Eco Complete is very light, if you mix sand with it, all the sand will end up on bottom, I have two tanks with 100% EC started out mixed with alot of mulm, both tanks, have been running flawlessly for well over a year.
    I also have my hightech tank, Flourite and Tahitian Moon sand, both subs seem to be A1, my preference is flourite though, mainly because it is heavier and easier to plant.
     
  20. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: DIY Substrate fertiliser pellets

    I know there isa UK distributor for SeaChem stuff, email Greg Morin and ask where to get it.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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