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Scotts Premium Topsoil + Eco-Complete

Discussion in 'Sediment / Substrate' started by Left C, Aug 29, 2007.

  1. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Hi

    I'd like to start up a 20g long or a 37g using a mix of topsoil and used Eco-Complete with a white sandy area in the front. I have a huge piece of driftwood (20"x10") that forms a 'snakey M' shape. Inside the 'M' will be the white sand. Behind the 'M' and to the sides will be the Eco-Complete + topsoil mix topped with black gravel or black sand.

    I have a new 20g long and a new 37g. I can use either. I'm planning on using pressurized CO2 and I have a 30" 2x65w Orbit fixture that I can run one lamp or two. One lamp is the Coralife Colormax/6700K and the other one is the Current 6700K/10,000K. I also have a new Eheim 2028 and a new Filstar xP2. Again, I can use either.

    The topsoil that I purchased has me a little concerned about it's organic matter. I bought a 0.75 cubic feet bag of Scotts Premium Topsoil (Product No. 71130750). I couldn't find any info about it at Scotts' website: Scotts: Product Guide: Soils

    The ingredients section on the bag says: "This product is regionally formulated with organic materials (derived from one or more of the following: peat, composted forest products, aged rice hulls or compost) and Sphagnum Peat Moss. {In California this product is formulated with composted forest products and Sphagnum Peat Moss.} I'm in NC, so I have the first product mix.

    I have a few questions:
    Will this topsoil work in a planted aquarium?
    Will the compost cause a problem? I don't think that it contains manure.
    Do I need to get a 'lesser' quality topsoil?
    Do I need to bake it or soak it?
    Should I just return it and get some ADA Amazonia?

    Thanks for any info.
    Left C

    PS: While Googling I found a good article about substrates: Substrates for Aquarium Plants
     
  2. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom Barr advocates either soaking soil for two weeks or boiling it for two hours to mineralize the nitrogen in it - get rid of ammonia and ammonium. When I set up my tank using river silt and SM I knew I would lose my marriage if I tried to boil the silt in the kitchen, so I just poured boiling water, about a gallon at a time on the silt, stirred it, and let it sit to cool down. I did that three times, a day apart. So far I have had no problems that might indicate ammonia. So, you might want to try one of those methods.
     
  3. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Hi Hoppy

    I'm glad that you chimed in. I read your river silt/SMS DIY article. That's what got me thinking. Your tank looks very nice.

    Would baking the topsoil @450° F for ~ an hour accomplish the same thing as boiling it? Or is boiling it the best way? I can do either.

    Left C
     
  4. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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  5. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I think it's time for the real guru to answer those last questions. My guru license just expired!
     
  6. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Thanks Hoppy for your help and input.

    I guess that there are some things that need to be test driven by a guinea pig. I have more than twice of every thing that I need and I can try it based on a 'best guess theory.' Heck, the worst thing that can happen is that I end up with a little bit of mud. I'm sure the plants will make it just fine.

    Thanks again
    Left C
     
  7. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Hi,
    I don't have a guru license at all (maybe a learners permit, that's about it). I was wondering why you were wanting to mix the Eco Complete with the topsoil at all. It just seems more trouble than it's worth, unless it's for cost, design or aesthetic purposes. Eco Complete is enough to grow you plants brilliantly as is. I had a look at the substrate link you provided and while there is a lot of interesting data, there seems to be one overlooked point; chiefly, based on your intended configuration of 3-5 WPG and CO2 injection there is no way soil alone is going to satisfy the growth demands of your plants properly. You'll have to dose the water column, presumably using EI. If that's the case, the plants will then feed predominantly from the water column because they are aquatic, and therefore you really needn't worry too much about finding the perfect substrate.

    If you were attempting a Non-CO2, low light tank, then yes, water column dosing would play a much less prominent role and the soil property would be a preeminent concern, but that's not the configuration you have selected. I think that it certainly won't hurt the plants to use topsoil but that things may get rather messy when you try to uproot plants to change things around or disturb the substrate in any way. Life is so complicated I would hesitate to make it more so as there are more than a few easier soils such as that which you mentioned, the AS and the Eco Complete, both excellent.

    As I said, if you enjoy using the topsoil or if there is a cost concern, or if you are just wanting to experiment then that's another issue altogether, but based on what I see from your intended configuration it just seems unnecessary.

    Cheers,
     
  8. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Hi ceg4048

    Thanks for chiming in.

    I'm not really sure if I want to try this or not. I have ~ 30 lbs of used E-C and I was wanting to use it up. I saw Vaughn's tank using delta silt and SMS and it got me thinking about trying something like it. Then I read Tom's Report Newsletter - "Analysis of Sediments" and it made me more curious.

    Today I went around to various stores to see what topsoil is available. I saw a broken open bag of the Scotts Premium Topsoil like I purchased. It was full of organic matter, wood chips, sticks, etc., but it was a nice black color. I think that there could be a decaying problem and other problems with this stuff. The ingredients section on the bag says: "This product is regionally formulated with organic materials (derived from one or more of the following: peat, composted forest products, aged rice hulls or compost) and Sphagnum Peat Moss.

    Today, I found another topsoil product. A bag was broken open and it was more of a sandy clay substrate. I think that it would probably be better in the long run. It was Scotts Earthgro Topsoil. The ingredients section says: This product is regionally formulated from organic and inorganic materials derived from one or more of the following: peat, compost, ash, sand or native topsoil.

    I've done some research and Tom recommends mixing soil with Seachem's Onyx Sand. If I go that route, I may as well try some ADA Amazonia. There wouldn't be much difference in the price then.

    It's a head scratcher for sure, ceg4048 and I'm not sure what I want to do. In may ways, using the Amazonia for this tank makes a lot of sense like you suggested.

    The tank will have pressurized CO2. I already have an AP.com's "The Best" regulator and an AM Reactor 1000. If I use the 20g long for this, the 2x65w Orbit will be temporary and I may get a 30" Nova 2x24w HO T5 freshwater fixture for it. That'll be 2.4 wpg then. The Orbit fixture was originally purchased for the 37g and that would be 3.5 wpg.

    As far as ferts are concerned, I can do EI or most any other dosing regimen. I'm doing this fert regimen for three tanks now and it's working really well for me.

    I'm really not interested in doing an experiment or trying to 'reinvent the wheel' or anything like that. I don't know what to add to the soil to make it work. I just want a simple planted aquarium to house some dwarf cichlids.

    Left C
     
  9. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    If you live near a flowing body of water you should be able to find some silt to mix with the EC, which would give you usable nutrients and, if the silt is largely clay, some CEC too. I'm not recommending that you do that, but it is a way to try something new that Tom's research suggests might work well. Just be sure to cap it with an inch or so of EC, or mix less silt with the EC and vacuum up the silt from the top. I'm still very pleased with my experimental substrate.
     
  10. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    If you are going to use "topsoil" you are better off with the cheapest, no-name stuff that you can find. With that you won't have to worry about additives or excessive nutrients, and you will save a few dollars.

    As far as treating it is concerned, i soak mine for two weeks or longer, stirring it and changing the water. Since i started doing that I have had no substrate problems whatsoever.

    I know that Tom says that boiling the topsoil is one way to get rid of excessive nutrients, and I'm sure he is right, but I wonder how that would work if the soil were very rich, like, for example, Miracle Grow Enriched Potting Soil (which, BTW, if used untreated will grow most kinds of algaes known to man, and quickly, too. Don't ask how I know that :)

    Good luck.

    Bill
     
  11. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yep, cheap old no name stuff works quite well.

    I think mineralization via time/soaking, bacteria is the best method.

    Think about fishless cycling, what do you think the 2-3 week time does for all the bacteria chomping at the NH4?

    You kill everything with boiling/baking etc.
    But it's faster, that's the trade off.

    Given an option, the soak is good.

    I'm not sure why Diana did not suggest these various methods, mine came from several folks who used soil, manures and my own nutty experiments with algae and NH4.

    I know what ALGAE IS NOT INDUCED BY!
    Using that, and then applying it to the various issues folks have with soil sediments, you really see a nice pattern.
    I go after my most likely suspect, NH4.

    This same pattern, if you account for higher lighting, CO2 etc starts to make good sense for the high light CO2 tanks as well.

    Then you can see that the plants and algae grow and can tie all the methods and everything in between together.

    What changes is the rate.

    I think most that can and have mastered CO2 can master a non CO2 and really enjoy it.

    They have at least three methods to try or consider, soil or water column or both.
    And the same is true for CO2 enriched systems as well.
    See if you can do all six with and without CO2.

    Otherwise, try one of each, I think you'll enjoy it a lot.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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