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Dirt for planted tank


Wingman12r
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On 12/5/2021 at 11:16 PM, Expectorating_Aubergine said:

I've used soil like yours. Worked just fine. I know wood takes up nitrogen  then releases it slowly as it breaks down.  So the sticks might be beneficial in that sense....

I found the wood to create a lot of tannins, not that they are bad. It's just not the look I was going for.

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Can you sort the wood out of the soil? Using a screen or colander or something?

The bits of wood may also float, which could be a problem if you try to cap the soil before adding water. One possibility is to put down the soil, add water, let it settle, scoop out any wood, and then very gently drain the water out so you can cap it. That sounds like a lot of work though. 😄

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Most sift out the large wood pieces. You don't need a lot of soil. For a first dirted tank I would under dose vs overdose the dirt. So your bag may only yield less than an inch of soil depending on the size of the tank and that will be just fine. A cap that will allow the plants to easily root and get down to the nutrient layer is the key. Not fine sand but medium grain sand (tractor supply has black diamond blasting sand go with the medium grit). Overplant rather than underplant as this will be a very nutrient dense tank for 1-2 years and utilize that to get the plants well established. Fast growing stems - bacopa, cabomba, PSO, ludiwgia and rotalas will grow like crazy in a tank like this, swords especially varieties with different textures and colors, and aponogetons will all do very well. This will be a fun journey. There will be ups and downs but they can be managed. Get some floating plants you can live with to soak up the excess nutrients the soil will release. If you haven't seen Father Fish's episode on Walstad Tanks I would highly recommend it. 

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That’s a lot of wood. 😛 If you want to try something different, you could get some leaf gro. It’s compost so it will be way more nutrient dense than soil—which means you’d have to mix it with sand or dirt from your yard to dilute it. I wouldn’t normally recommend a compost for a dirted tank, but it’s the only soil I’ve bought consistently enough to know it isn’t full of sticks.

@Streetwise gets his soil locally but he may know whether compost is safe to use, or just a nutrient bomb.

Edited by Hobbit
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@HobbitI would be worried about compost - I wouldn’t use more than 2-3 cups about 750 -900g or so of compost due to its nutrient density. A really good alternative is pond soil which can be had on Amazon - it’s made to be in water and covered by a cap. I used it for my plant qt grow out tank and I’ve had amazing success with it. 

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I don’t mind wood bits as long as they sink, because shrimp love them.

I got most of my organic topsoil from a local composter, but they got bought out by a trash and recycling company after Vermont mandated a certain amount of composting. I’ll have to find another compost bar where I can show up with a bucket.

I don’t like sand in my caps after several tries. Gravel or something more coarse seems better for soil. I do recommend reading Diana Walstad.

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I've used bagged topsoil in the past. It's cheap (around $3 for a 40 lb bag.) And it's just plain dirt. No peat, no vermiculite, no perlite, no added fertilizer, or anything.  No sticks, no stones, just dirt.

Something to think about is that most commercial aquarium plant growers don't use soil. Most use a sterile medium instead.  Whatever nutrients are in a dirted tank will eventually need to be replaced. Using a sterile, nutrient free planting medium kind of starts you out where a dirted tank will end up. Plants harvested from the wild obviously came from a dirt background, but many/most of the plants in cultivation today have never seen real dirt.

I've recently (ten-ish days ago) started a tank with the most inert planting medium possible in the form of a 2" thick 40 PPI sponge as substrate over an undergravel filter grid. Twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) it gets a half capful of Flourish for micronutrients. The fish (it's way overstocked and overfed) provide the nitrates. And so far, the plants are thriving. Most commercial growers use rock wool as the medium. It's also commonly used in the hydroponic field. If you can suspend the nutrients plants require in the water in large enough quantities without harming the fish, then the soil/substrate you use really doesn't matter. A dirted tank lets you trap lots of nutrients in the soil for the plants, but once they've used it up they need to be replaced and that's not always easy to accomplish. My sponge/UG filter should keep the nutrient rich water flowing past the roots nonstop. (Or so I hope.)

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“Nutrient depletion should not cause the substrate to give out. If you allow mulm to accumulate and replenish the nutrients removed by the plants, the soil should continue to support good plant growth for many years. I have three tanks that have the same potting soil underlayers they started with 6 or 8 years ago, and the plants continue to do very well. Other tanks with garden soil underlayers have been doing well for the last 4 to 5 years. (However, plants in pots with the same soil I use for the tank substrates do seem to go bad after a couple of years.)”

Excerpt From
Ecology of the Planted Aquarium
Diana Louise Walstad
https://books.apple.com/us/book/ecology-of-the-planted-aquarium/id661029773
This material may be protected by copyright.

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I found this, maybe it will be better than the stuff I have now. 

I'm not worried about nutrient depletion or tannins. I used about a 1/3rd of the bag after sifting just to get a 1/2" layer of dirt in a 10g. I used earth worm castings to make up a good portion of what I used. 

The usable volume vs purchased volume would be a better description. 

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