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Homemade substrate question

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by cwb141, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. cwb141

    cwb141 Junior Poster

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    I'm planning on starting a new planted tank by January and redoing a current one and had a couple questions about putting together a substrate.

    Tanks are 20 gallon long and 29 gallon. One will be low light (35W fluorescents) and the other high light (65W + 65W for 4hrs PCFs). Eheim classic filters and CO2 injection). Tetras, dwarf cichlids, and kuhlis will be fish species. Maybe a rainbow shark in the 29 gallon.

    Now, my questions have to do with how to fertilize the substrate. I have a 5 gallon bucket of aquariumplants.com substrate as the main gravel (inert? probably). I also have earthworm castings that I am going to mix in beneath the top layer.

    1. According to Steve, http://home.infinet.net/teban/substrat.htm, there are 6 macro-nutrients used in large amounts, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and potassium (K). What will the earthworm castings contribute as far as these go?
    2. How do you add other dry ferts to the substrate? If I ordered from aquariumfertilizer.com would I be able to add the ferts to substrate by mixing with clay and then into bottom/middle substrate levels?
    3. From what I've gathered I could do the gravel, ewc, and some dry ferts mixed in clay such as potassium sulfate, dolomite, a phosphate, and maybe a trace mix. Would this be okay?

    Thanks,

    cwb141
     
  2. cwb141

    cwb141 Junior Poster

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    Nevermind, I'm going to use the 5gal bucket of gravel and worm castings only in the substrate. I might splash a little dolomite on the bottom. I have iron, phosphate, macro, and trace tablets that will last me another year. I'll worry about fertilizing when the time comes I guess.
     
  3. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    No Magic...

    Hi cwb141,

    The oft quoted “Analysis of earthworm casting reveals that they are richer in plant nutrients than the soil, about three times more calcium and several times more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. (K.P. Barley, Advances in Agronomy, Vol. 13, 1961, p. 251)” ;)

    Thanks to our friends that grow a certain Mexican ditch weed (for medicinal purposes only, I am sure :rolleyes:), the best I can find is that the commercially available worm castings are from red-worms, highly dependent on what the worms are fed, N-P-K ranges from 0.5-0.1-0.1 to 3.0-2.0-2.0 with high Calcium and Magnesium. Generally the worm castings are high in micronutrients. The worm casting nutrients are highly available to plants.

    Worm castings are actually high humus or close to humus.

    I am not sure that our use of worm poop is so much to do with the nutrient content as much as the high cation exchange capacity (CEC) due to the humus content.

    Remember in our enriched substrates we (literally) rinse and boil the crap out of the worm poop prior to mixing. :eek:

    Most of the time I use worm poop mixed with Osmocote Plus. :)

    {Full Disclosure: I do not now, nor have I ever used commercial substrates.}
    The aquariumplants.com substrate appears to be an Eco-Complete knock off, nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell...

    The loss on ignition (LOI) seems to indicate very little organic or water being shipped. (I am assuming LOI (weight %) = 100 x ((n2-n3) / (n2-n1)) and that it has not been over heated. :gw

    All options are available to you, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish, it is hard to offer guidance without knowing what you want. :)

    Good luck.
    Biollante
     
  4. cwb141

    cwb141 Junior Poster

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    I'm just trying to mix a good substrate together. I've used Aquasoil before, but it's expensive.

    Here's my idea. Back corners form triangles of tall plants that reach outward. A sword plant behind the driftwood that extends above water. Glossostigma and dwarf hairgrass that extends from front right, almost to front left, and then to the back middle. I then want some larger leafed plants in front of the driftwood to hide it a little more. The only things going into tank are the filter intake and outlet pipes. Heat and CO2 is inline.
    [attachment=742:name]

    20 gallon long tank concept2.jpg
     
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