MTS in Riparium Planters


Prolific Poster
Aug 21, 2009
I appreciate that there is some controversy on the use of mineralized topsoil (MTS) as an aquarium substrate, but I would like to relate experiences on using this material as a nutrient enhancement for emersed plants in riparium planters. I have been using MTS in a casual way for a couple of months and my un-scientific observations suggest that it does improve plant nutrition and that it might serve as a long-term, slow-release nutrient source inside of the planter cup. In this first post I describe the general planting method that I use when including MTS in the planter.

The following picture shows the material that I used.


I acquired a box of this in trade with a member of another forum.

Proceeding through the steps of planting that I followed, the next photograph shows the planter cup with the basic substrates. On the bottom of the cup is a layer of Hydroton clay pebbles. These are topped with planter gravel filled to about 1/3 of the depth of the cup. Lastly, a shallow layer of mineralized topsoil was added on top of the planter gravel. I included 1 1/2 tablespoons of MTS.


If you look closely you can see that the MTS layer is below the level of the suction cup keyholes in the back of the planter cup. Since it will be covered with another layer of gravel this placement will help to prevent it from washing out through the keyholes.

Here is the plant that I used, a few stems of Ludwigia repens. It forms a pleasing floating carpet if planted in the Hanging Planter, then trained to grow across a Trellis Raft.


This last picture shows the planter with all substrate layers, Trellis Raft and plant. The thick top and bottom layers of planter gravel should prevent the mineralized topsoil from washing into the aquarium. It will be even more tightly held inside the planter cup as the plant roots begin to form.


With time to grow and some pruning to control shape, the plant will eventually cover the raft and planter from above and form a nice floating carpet of foliage.


Prolific Poster
Aug 21, 2009
I knew that this thing was growing well, but I didn't have an idea of how large this C. wendtii ('Mi Oya', maybe[?]) had gotten to be until I pulled it out of my 55-gallon emersed crypts riparium. I grew this plant with a small amount of mineralized topsoil in the riparium planter cup.


I found a stake in the planter dated June 14. So this is a little less than five months' growth. I remember that it was just a couple of divisions with just a few leaves when I potted it up. Although I would need to do a more rigorous side-by-side trial for a valid comparison, I can say that this is much better growth from this plant than I have seen when I have grown in straight gravel and dosed with liquid ferts. If you look closely at the planter you can see the shallow lens of inerliazed topsoil between top and bottom layers of planter gravel. I think that I added just 1 tablespoon or so of MTS. The leaves have much deeper color than any I have seen in comparison with the plants I have grown without the MTS.

A second picture with spritzer for scale.


Here's more detail. The planter is really stuffed with leaves and roots.


Tom Barr

Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
If you read the ADA sediment newsletter, you will find that soil is pretty effective and that the mineralization process is likely not needed for many applications.

Diana Walstad does not use the mineralization step.
I have, but mostly for mess reduction, not N. I like clays much more than the typical garden soils.

They hold more and are less messy.
You can add osmocoat for a loign term supply of N, I'd go as heavy as you can with N and NH4 for osmocoat.

P, Fe , K+ etc, will be there over time in the sediment, N will be removed much easier, faster. The others(nutrients) do not have an atmospheric component, N does=> NO3=> N2 gas.

Tom Barr