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diY substrate

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by bgangler, May 25, 2008.

  1. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    Hi,
    first I want to say hello to everybody here!
    This is a wonderfull place for people that are addicted to the hobby.
    Sorry to bother you with such a questions, but as Im intending to arrange a aquarium with a lot of plants(mainly HC, Eleoharis parvula and Blyza japonica) I need to find the right substrate for the purpose. Unfortnately it is not possible to find ADA products in Bulgaria and Im frustrating in getting some decent substrate. The only products available are Sera and Tetra.

    Could you please advice me on how can I prapare myself a substrate, that will work out?

    Thank you in advance!
     
  2. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Plain, low organic topsoil, covered with 2mm - 3mm gravel, makes a fine substrate.

    Bill
     
  3. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    Thank you for the answer, but is it not very tricky to put soil in the aquarium?
    It will not be possible to replant , because the soil will come up in the water, isnt it?
     
  4. orion2001

    orion2001 Guru Class Expert

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  5. naman

    naman Prolific Poster

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    :eek:
    You do not need to do that hassle with your hands and spending several days(!) to do just what did earthworms :rolleyes:

    use Earthworm Castings (EC) instead of garden soil.

    It is dirt cheap and the best organic additive for substrate. Again, earthworms already mineralized organics for you.
    Your Glossostigma elatinoides will cover substrate lightning fast, even in a low light tank!
    The same result as with garden soil, but without mess in a tank, rotting, water cloudiness, planting problems etc.
    I am very pleased with results (~3 years from now), and grate thanks for Vladimir Simoes (Brazil) for this "old new" method.
    It is absolutely suitable, and even needed for high light/co2 tank.

    Low labile organics (almost totally degraded) in EC preventing from algae outbreak and anaerobic conditions=rotting caused by fast mineralization of high labile organics during first weeks after starting your tank.
    This is why earthworm castings IS much better additive than garden soil, bull/cow/begemoth/tapir manure etc scrap (sorry)

    We know about soaking garden soil for 2 weeks, but this operation gives completely different results – it is for eliminating ammonia, this do not mineralize organics.

    You will have to put much less of EC (/3-5) comparing to garden soil as it is THE THING (humus) which makes plane sand to be the garden soil.
    This makes substrate more "loose", less prone to rotting, better oxygen supply for roots etc
    No need to mix EC with sand or clay - actually it will make bad substrate.

    However, I am very pleased to see AWM's article "How to Mineralize Soil Substrates" as it is the very first one (at least for me) among my own written in Russian :cool: indicating on importance to have low labile organics in a planted tank instead of putting not treated soil.
    I am pleased someone else think the same (20+ years back actually) so i have support now.
    I am not a biologist, so i felt a little bit embarrassed writing my own article.

    Maybe Tom will explain more on lability, plz, plz, plz...

    naman
     
  6. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    Thank you for the topic, but Im wondering about the dosing of the EC.
    I presume that if excess amounts of earthworm castings are used , that can liberate enough macro-nutrients to kick a severe algae problems?

    The aquarium is 75/40/35 mm and the lighting is 3X 18 Watts (Silvania Grolux, Silvania Aquastar and Phillips 840) and CO2.

    What should be the tickness of the gravel for the top layer in this case? I intend using a 3mm gravel?
     
  7. Joetee

    Joetee Prolific Poster

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  8. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    Thank you very much, that sounds resonable and prety easy. I may give it a go. Just start looking for the right soil/clay substrate.
     
  9. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    This is a great article! Thanks. I'm saving the link.

    The importance of adding clay and/or dolomite, etc. depends on the kind of water being used and the composition of the topsoil. People with hard water don't need the dolomite. But neither can hurt.

    Bill
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I agree with Naman here.
    I think Sean has suggested the AW scaping thread.

    But the EC works great.

    I also would suggest mixing about 1" of EC's with 3 parts sand, 2-3 mm, then add about 2-3" of that, then cap with a 1" layer of sand.
    Essentially EC is already pretty well mineralized in the gut of worms.

    You can boil it a little and it's very ready to go. Quite a few folks in Brazil and else where that are into sediment based sediments, do not have access or are willing to spend the $$ for ADA, this is not a bad idea to use.

    Still, working on the water column and the sediment is wise, not just one or the other.

    Rather, both........and it's hardly everything about planted tanks, I'd say maybe 20%, 60% is the CO2, and the other 20% is light.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
    We used it here for a time in the SF bay and most gave it two thumbs up.
     
  11. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Dolomite differs from ordinary limestone in that it has some magnesium carbonate in it in addition to calcium carbonate. So, it is a very good source of both calcium and magnesium. (Just a random fact I learned several years ago.)
     
  12. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    Thank you Tom, I think this is my approach to the right substrate. It will be far easier to find EC than a good soil - just dont know much about clay and so.
    Will share the result!
     
  13. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Clay is up to you, it's messy, I mix justr a little in with the other stuff.

    Some folks like a mix of various different things, but rarely....if ever........measure or testing them individually, then later, have no clue as yo what is causing the success(or failure) of their new sediment.

    Adding to this problem further, they often do not associate the water column effects, which vary widely tank to tank, to the results they see with plants.

    The water column can greatly influence the results.

    Adding a mix of everything, which is about the only advice and "new methods" I've seen in the last 20 years from folks, ADA, and all sorts of folks, is typical.

    Who knows if it's the Aqua soil? Or the Touramline? The power sand? The Pernac(hoohoo, hheeehehee aaacchhhk!hahaha) or the dolomite, or the peat etc.

    VERY VERY few folks have used just the sand + EC, fewer yet use just peat and sand, few have tried to compared the PS with and without AS.

    They add it all in there just to be safe and never know if it helps or not.
    Some rationalize it by saying it does not cost much and it will not hurt.

    But then they cannot say a darn thing about it later and tell others to do based on their "guessing" it might work(which is to say they have not a damn clue if it does or not nor can present any argument to the effect that it does, having never tested it themselves..........

    But I'm a bad guy to say this about their argument and have tested such things with sediment:rolleyes:

    Point is, be careful in your assumptions, nothing wrong with adding all sorts of things in there, just do not read too much into the Steer manure conclusions. You really cannot say that much about it and there are many other variables beside the sediment alone that play a large massive role with plants.

    Aquarist are bad enough when it comes to isolating PO4 from a test let alone the variables involved with sediments. So focus on everything, not just one area.
    This will help and make you and your tank more resilient overall.

    I think there's clear evidence that a nutrient rich sediment(N and P) makes sense and logically it does as well on a few levels even with non limiting nutrient levels in the water column, excellent CO2/light etc. The question is what is causing that, and if you do not test and do not know, guessing does not make you know more:D

    If you are more interested in a test, pots work very well to pull different treatments in/out of tanks combined with massive water changes frequently.

    Then you can test many variables at once, but have lower rep's.
    Not bad for a pilot test. Done quite a few of these.




    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. JDowns

    JDowns Lifetime Charter Member
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    That made me laugh hard enough that my dog looked at me funny.
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Poor confused dog, understand human behavior, mimic them and what they mean.

    Come on, you know Penac is the "ADA Secret" after all............because Amano adds it to all his tanks( but interestingly, many older tanks without them also had similar qualities). That one is easy to pick on.

    Few folks support that or even try because the entire mumbo makes for an easy target. Still, the same logic that goes into that, also goes into Touramline and some of the other stuff.

    I can put Excel in a bottle and tell folks to add it to cure algae.
    Add some colorant, fragrance to throw folk's off.
    I can add PO4 in a bottle and call it a daily plant enhancer.
    I can sell earthworm castings, add some osmocoat, some peat, little clay, leonardite etc and call it Tom's Miracle Earth for Aquatic plants.
    Charge 3x what I paid...........

    Just say "I cannot tell you, trade secret etc".

    Many large scale growers of ornamental plants both here in CA, as well as aquatic nurseries carefully guards their "culturing methods" , but any farm adviser that deals with several places will tell you they do the same thing even they will not talk to each other.

    This is very common in horticulture and it is common in this hobby as well.
    Why the hell folks wanna make it out to be some real in depth research novel thing, not even acknowledging such marketing ploys is beyond me.

    Perhaps ignorance is bliss...........till you figure out you've been had for a decade......then you are madder than a hornet.

    The other thing is you have been sitting on a lot of it($$$ out of your pocket), and spending a lot of $$$ on advertising(more $ out of the pocket), and you had been makinjg good $$$ on the old ads and sales methods, why the heck would you stop? I cannot blame them for that either.



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. bgangler

    bgangler Junior Poster

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    That sounds interesting!
    As my occupation is bouned up with trade and advirting I must agree with you Tom. Most of the producers are selling illusions. The wisdom of their bussiness is: Say to people, whatever they want to hear from you.
    This is what sells most of the products.
    As you said, we are not buying something new, but the old stuff in a new flashy box.
    The problem is that the people dont have time, or probably desire to make any reserches and to get really into the matter. In the most of the cases we prefer to go to the supermarket and to buy everything from there, even when we know that this product is not really good or healty. It is the same in the aquaristcs.

    Any way Im interested in geting to understand the rellations and the processes going in my tanks. I think that this could make my life easier in the future.
    I dont mind spending money for something good and helpfull, but I rather to know how it works.

    In this manner I would like to ask, what is the purpose of the peat, because this is the most infertile soil available? The only use I assume is to lower the PH.

    Regards

    Antoni
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Many aquarists do not want to know more than what they see.
    However, aquariums make awesome models for understanding the relationships in nature.

    How things effect the others.
    Scoffing off this interest really is sad.
    But they can chose to do it if they wish, many simply do not have the time, energy etc, but are interested.

    Many fall into that latter group.

    Still, you can see very well that the same business approaches work well, we sell preception, not reality.

    I can manipulate a client, or a customer into believing most anything. I can tell them how great this product is, and it's now on sale(but not any different in price), etc.......

    Tell them how they look great and if they like wine, golf or some other interest........they will come back if you are nice to them and appear genuine.
    If you ever meet Amano, you will see he is pretty good at that, you will seldom get a straight answer however.

    I know the BS there, and so do many of my clients, they appreciate the straight talk, not the BS, they know it and it's what they often do, like myself, they do not want nor pay for that. Which is why I keep most of my clients and they pay me well.

    Just keep that in mind when approaching things.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  18. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Lifetime Charter Member
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    No, not only to lower pH. Peat is compose of decayed organic matter which means that it has organic carbon that can be consumed by the bacteria in the soil. The nitrifying bacteria need not only NH4 and oxygen, but carbon, phosphorous and other elements to grow. Later on the plants supply dissolved organic carbon to the bacteria but during tank startup this helps to feed and establish the bacteria colonies. So really any form of organic carbon placed in the substrate is a good idea, not just peat.

    Cheers,
     
  19. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Adding to this, peat is not particular labile, thus will not be broken down readily.
    So adding it will not cause anaerobic conditions in the sediment, unless you really "lard it on". Garden soil can and does, the forms of carbon available to bacteria are far easy to break down, thus bacterial decomposition rates will be much higher, generally a few orders of magnitude higher than with peat or leonardite etc

    An issue for many is how to add the right amount, enough to supply the bacteria and plants with nutrients, but not so much as to cause very low O2 levels, low redox levels.

    But think about it, plants live in these places naturally, submersed plants do best with relatively low OM in the sediment, 10% or less generally (see Barko et al on this topic for a reference). When we add CO2 etc and high light, the rates of growth are 10-20X what they are in natural systems.

    So the plant roots are much better at dealing with low O2, lots of OM near their roots since they modify their environment by pumping O2 down into the sediments. Emergent plants are even better at it.

    But you need to consider the influence of CO2 enrichment when making comparisons, that really amplifies the amounts of O2 in both the water column as well as the root zones.

    So all the hogwash about cables, and larger grain sizes for circulation etc is poppy cock. Engineers need to get out, test the biological question with real plants in their models, not just pore sizes alone in static soils without measuring OM, bacterial rates of respiration, Redox and how plants modify the system.

    Healthy growing plants are able to change and alter most systems to their liking.
    The key is simply to keep them growing well.

    Most of that tends to be centered around CO2 and good routine nutrient supplies.
    However, texture does play a role for some plant species, Barko seemed to suggest this as well, but said most of the issue was organic matter(OM) %.

    Too much= bad, too little = bad.
    So a way around it is to mix it and encapsulate it in clay, much like ADA AS, but very unlike ADA PS.

    This sort of tells you why ADA As is the main player in the effectiveness of ADA substrates, not ADA PS.........which goes along with observed results, as well as theory and research.........

    I think there's 2 main ways to do this: DIY soil/mineralize it yourself, go collect it from a delta etc, use some composted material like Earthworm castings etc, let it mineralize some for a few weeks, or boil or bake it for a bit, mix it well with 2" sand and add about 3:1 or 2:1 in this sand base layer, then cap with 1-2" more of sand(2-3 mm is the ideal size). Or use something like ADA AS.

    Now you can certainly add less soil/compost etc and say add only 1/4 of this suggestion, and still have decent results, but it will not last as long either.

    All this also depends on water changes, good CO2, dosing etc.
    You take better care of the water column, you get more out of the sediment.
    Sediments tend toi be set and forget for many months or years.

    Most of variation comes from the water column.
    When I test sediments on plant growth rates as well as other researchers, we need a control, so often times they will grow the plants emergent/hydroponically etc or in flow through systems that remove everything from the water column except dissolved gases.

    We tend to use a complete sediment/fert mix, then an inert one, then the sediments of interest in between.

    This gives a good indication of how well they perform.
    You can also look at tissue content for N, P, Fe, K+ etc if you wish as well(cost more, more labor/effect).

    This way you can isolate the sediment's impact on plant growth.
    However, in the real world, we add things to the water column or they are present in tanks, in natural systems etc.

    So then you go back and see if you have any differences when you add those parameters into your test. Now you can say something about the effectiveness of a particular sediment of interest on plant growth.

    But this information is still limited to the set up you used and tested(folk's tanks will be somewhere between). Also, you need to test each species of aquatic plant.
    So about 300+ species/varieties.

    Say 6-8 replicates X 300 species of plants, in a flow through system you could add them all, then a similar set up for a non limiting water column and one with and without CO2 enrichment at 30ppm.

    So that's 7 reps x 300species x say 5 soil types x 4 bin treatments(No water dcolumn nutrients, CO2 or not, and water column nutrients CO2 or not).

    Yikes.......42000 pots of plants.
    One species: 140 pots.
    So you could do that fairly easily and do accurate dry weights to get Relative Growth Rates.

    So if you want to know why no one has done this, there's your answer:)
    Give me a bunch of $, I can, but it'll take awhile.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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