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Earth worm casting for nutrient enriched sediments, how to

Discussion in 'Sediment / Substrate' started by Tom Barr, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The use of earthworm castings requires some prep-work but offers excellent results: lush, healthy plant growth.

    Materials:

    - A bucket for rinsing the castings
    - Earthworm castings (without additives) - tap water
    - a stove and pot for boiling the castings

    Preparation: 1) Obtain 100% pure additive-free earthworm castings 2) Rinse the castings in your empty bucket - allow water to flow slowly thru. Turn the material over with your hand to distribute water throughout. Eliminate all that floats. 3) Boil the castings in a pot. There should be plenty of water so that the castings do not dry out. Boil 10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally. 4) Allow to cool. Deposit the castings back in your bucket, repeating step 2. Once again, eliminate all floating debris. 5) After thorough rinsing, the bucket water should become relatively clear. 6) Drain the bucket and place the castings in shallow pans or on sheets of cellophane in thin layers under the sun, allowing them to dry completely. The dried castings can be stored in ziplock bags for future use.

    Usage: Earthworm castings should be used in moderation, and do not need to be completely dry for usage. They should be diluted with washed sand in a 50-50 ratio. The combination of earthworm castings and sand should approach 1kg of mixture for every 50 liters of aquarium water (for example, in an aquarium of 100 liters I recommend to use between 2 and 4 kg of earthworm castings). It is best to use the mixture as the first, bottom-most layer of your substrate. If you plan to build an extremely deep substrate, it can be used within the middle layers.

    This is the protocol from Mr. Vladimir Simoes' method.
    =======================================

    I use a different source and method for DIY sediment. I use the delta wetland clay, then wash and screen it, allow it to settle for 1-2 days in a wheel barrow. then decant off the water, allow the soupy soil to settle more and dry out.
    I transfer to a bucket and then allow the muck to dry. When it's a nice semi soft clay consistency, it's ready for use. As it's been washed, and then dried some, the oxidation has already occurred and some mineralization has occured.
    This can be mixed with 3:1 sand: clay. Then a 1" layer of pure sand on top of this. It will be slightly N limited over time. Any sediment method can use Osmocoat time release grains, ground peat etc (This applies to sand only sediment also-they will benefit from this). I generally will add about 1 handful per sq ft for peat, and 1 table spoon for osmocoat per sq ft.

    Mineralized Soil is also becoming more popular, see TPT forum for more on that. I think one thing to consider with these, there's some user variation, it's not as aesthetic as ADA AS, however, it's very cheap, works well. It's also easy long term for a nutrient supply. So you can and should still dose the water column, but if you forget or want leaner amounts, this sediment will allow you more flexibility. Likewise, dosing the water column will extend the life of the sediment, reducing the % draw from that source. Most of the issues folks have had with soils/clays etc, are due to pulling up roots without care, not processing the soil prior to oxidize it(mechanically-washing/drying/boiling, chemically(Zeolite), or biologically).
    When that is done and folks do not too much organic matter (OM)%, then they have better results. Too much OM is bad for roots/plants and uses up too much O2, causing the redox levels to drop too far. Mineralizing it, boiling etc reduces most of the reduced OM. This is why and how several different works well. The DSM also works very well in conjunction with nutrient rich sediments and during the grow in phase, the sediment gets mineralized anyway(several weeks)

    There are various amendments. Add some K2SO4 and mix with clay to provide long term bound up K+. Some folks add dolomite for Ca/Mg. Some add Traces in clay. Clay allows the plant roots to access the nutrients but not leech away into the water. Some folks add Jobes sticks and other "tabs". For soils and clays, you may freeze the soil/clay in ice cube trays, then insert the "mud ice cube" into the sediment below plants to add and enriched the sediment over time without making a mess or redoing the entire sediment. Simple little trick.







    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  2. torpedobarb

    torpedobarb Junior Poster

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    great post! thanks for the info.

    question.. with using the clay loam and a little bit of the worm castings together.. is this a long term sediment like the topsoil? I know that dosing the water column will definitely extend the life. just curious because this is the method that I am going to be doing.. of course with your help ;)
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    It should last as long, if not longer than ADA AS.

    It has more nutrients.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Tom,

    1. Is the sand required to form a more solid mixture? Can other products be used? Can just the castings be mixed with a substrate or placed as the bottom layer?

    I have black flourite and was thinking of adding the EC mixure and adding the flourite on top. A section of tank at a time. I wouldn't want the sand or clay to show.

    I would like to have a fertilied substrate but like the flourite and do not want to swap substrates completely for say ADA.

    I would like to try this method.

    Are these the castings we speak of:

    100% Pure Earthworm Castings

    Thoughts?
     
  5. nytowl83

    nytowl83 Junior Poster

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    Cool! i was asking in one of my local forums about earthworm castings.. now i found it here!

    I am starting a backyard vermiculture myself and earthworm castings are readily available to me as well...

    I shall surely give this a try!
     
  6. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    I have the same questions as Gerryd for the 11gal I'm dry starting in a couple of days. Mixing with Flourite Black Sand for a bottom layer and putting a second Flourite Black Sand layer on top would work like when mixing with sand?

    And could I use some Biological guarantied casting, not earthworm made and follow same procedure?
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yes, these are what you want to use.
    I see little issue with flourite use.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Hi,

    Many thanks for the precisions Tom
    I can't find any worm castings in my area so just ordered some garden compost with a "Bio" Label. Would it work the same you think? Any fermentation risk once immersed?
     
  9. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    If you use it as prescribed above, there should be no issues.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Many thanks again Tom,

    Now, it's all clear for me. Getting the tank/compost tomorrow. I'll feed back soon on my nano starting dry using this mixed soil
     
  11. nmullens

    nmullens Prolific Poster

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    Wow this made me feel like a kid again, thanks for the direction Tom. I lined the bottom of my 120gal and I covered it with eco at the back of the tank where all the larger plants go, and fluorite black sand at the front half where my HC goes. But what a process, I had to do three batches before I had enough and it took me all night. I started elbow deep in mud mixing off the floaters. After I had several pots of boiling mud on the stove at once and got hit with many boiling popping mud bubbles, had to do a few rounds of this. The rinsing after you boil them was next to impossible for me. I let the mud pots cool and by that time most of the casing had dropped to the bottom, I would try to carefully poor off the watter on the top trying not to let the castings mix into the watter again. Once I had most the watter poured off I would fill with watter again and repeat. I did this over a dozen times on each pot but never did my watter run clear. I dried them under my tank lights over night and was able to mix them with sand the next day. In the end I ended up with about an inch of casting mix to line my substrate. It was a tone of work so I hope it work as good a people say.

    About rinsing till the water goes clear, was I doing that wrong or does anyone get it clear?

    After adding the rest of my substrate, filling the tank with watter and planting it I still had no water clouding.
     
  12. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    Personally, I didn't rince Flourite Black Sand and the boiled worm castings had the floating removed, but no rinsing process: really unhappy to loose any nutrient with rinsing...

    Removing floating parts means really loating debris on surface, parts that will not sink
     
  13. jazzlvr123

    jazzlvr123 Guru Class Expert

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    Which one do you think Would prove to be more beneficial mixed with soil and used for frozen fert plugs:
    osmocote or earthworm castings? and why?
     
  14. nmullens

    nmullens Prolific Poster

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    Just an update. Before I had the castings under my substrate I had HC in my tank for 3+ months and had minimal growth. Now two weeks after adding worm castings and planting HC, it is already starting to carpet with good growth daily.

    Thanks again Tom.
     
  15. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    From this report http://www.barrreport.com/attachments/barr-report-newsletter/1019-ada-nutrient-analysis-power-sand-aqua-soil-adaaquasoilpowersoilanalysis.pdf

    May be ADA AS a less messing choice with better CEC, more clay, and higher nutrients?
    (I know the report doesn't include worm castings, but...it seems AS is generally better than others
    in the report)

    And may be cheaper too. Because for a 100 liters tank, you will need just 1-2 kg of AS mixing
    with 1-2 kg gravel to make 2-4 kg material. I think about this after seeing earth worm casting
    price + shipping cost. A nearby LFS sells ADA AS, while earth worm casting must be mail
    ordered (same country, not international). A bag of 9 liter ADA AS is about 9 kg I heard.

    (I like sand/gravel surface better)
     
  16. jonny_ftm

    jonny_ftm Guru Class Expert

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    AS and earthworm castings are not same thing. One is mineral soil, that is nutrients that are directly availble to plants, the second, is organic soil. It is like having a deposit of resources that will make your soil last much longer than any mineralized soil, it will provide both nitrogen and phosphate and will be an excellent bed for bacteria in the start. AS will need few months so that some organics deposit in it and make it a really alive soil.

    Here, earthworm castings cost less than any soil you can afford, furthermore, if you have a castings reactor for recycling, you can even make it yourself :)

    But, you must not use them as a sole soil, rather mixed and prepared as Tom said.

    My expierience starts bad, as I have a BGA (cyano) issue now, just 24h after immersion. My mistake as I didn't clean the organic mess on soil surface before submerging
     
  17. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    FYI, it is not my method honestly, it was rather popular in Brazil for a few years with some nice aquascapes coming back in the 2002-2003 range I think using the method + good CO2/lots of traces.

    A few folks in the local club tried it with good results.

    I've not read any negative reports if you followed the protocol and planted and did not move things around much or carelessly.

    BGA is fairly common in the initial stages, EM or a BO + KNO3 takes care of that.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  18. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Adding WC does not replace ADA AS however, nor does it work like ADA AS.
    Adding it will not hurt and is good/will show an improvement independent of other factors say compared sand/flourite etc, whereas adding 5 different macro based products, say peat, soil, Clays etc in a mix vs say soil alone will be much less noticeable.

    You add 2 or more things that do similar things for the most part or things that are better suited to the water column.

    I think many like sediments because they think and have been BS'ed into the belief that excess nutrients, not light/CO2 balance is the cause of their algae issues.

    This applied to virtually all who market and promote these types of products and methods. I find that curious even in face of the 15 years of evidence to the contrary. I can see why if you are business and want to sell the products.

    But hobbyists and DIY folks?
    What excuse do they have?:cool:

    If you can know and test both locations, then you know much more.
    It's the old only looking at one side of the coin issue. These folks cannot escape that issue in their argument and result suggest it has nothing to do with it.



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  19. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    If you think I'm asking about rich sediment because I start to believe in ‘too much nutrients
    (especially in water column) causes algae’. Please don't. In the previous version of my tank,
    it was very lean but still got algae. And I saw folks trying to control algae by reducing nutrients.
    The result was there was still algae, but this time with worse looking plants. I've never
    seen a case that reducing nutrient could stop algae in a tank that already has algae.
    But people (here, in local forums) still say the same old song like broken record.
     
  20. nipat

    nipat Guru Class Expert

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    I asked that because I just want to buy a 3 kg bag of AS, crush it (the grain isn't
    that hard, isn't it). And use in the same fashion of MTS or worm castings. Call me
    not dedicating enough, but if I don't have to go out and dig wet land soil or buy worm
    castings then rinse it, mineralize it, etc. Then good. I'm not expect super rich substrate,
    just wanting something in the gravel that is better than rood tabs.
     
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