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Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

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Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  COCOBIRD on Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:18 pm

Thinking ahead here, I'd like to add a bit of topsoil under the pfs in an established tank. I can't really back up and lay the topsoil down and then cover with the pfs at this point.

I read online that others freeze cubes of mud and insert them under the surface of the pfs little by little around the plants or wherever desired. It seems to avoid clouding the water and keeps the dirt under the sand. Has anyone tried this?
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  Amp2020 on Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:36 pm

Got to use lots of water when freezing top soil. Damp soil with begin to thaw as soon as it hits the water. Leaving you with a dirty layer on the PFS, cloudy water, and possibly small bits of floating debri. Try using a ziplock bag. Fill the bag about 1/3 full of damp soil and freeze. Then pour in ice cold water around the frozen soil and quickly refreeze. Basically you'll have soil encased in a layer of ice that will give you more time to bury it. Make sure there's no air pockets in the soil while freezing. The fact that ice floats will make it difficult to bury. Use two hands, one to hold the block in place and another to cover it up.

Be sure to mineralize the soil before putting it in a tank with fish. This prevents an ammonia spike from occurring if there's a lot of organics in the soil you chose. Keeping the soil in a bucket of water for a week will allow you to test for any signs of ammonia before using it. Mineralizing soil is a long process. I would only recommend this method if there are fish in the tank already.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  COCOBIRD on Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:21 am

Awesome tips, ty.

I have some sitting in water. I'll try a little experiment first and if it doesn't work I'll move on.

Thanks again!
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  Fern on Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:32 pm

Small bags made with panty hose, fill em, wash em and shove em under! The plants will root through the panty hose just fine. You will only get a bit of mess when doing it, best way I have found.

Make sure that the soil is JUST soil. no manure, or any additives! Usually the cheapest bag is the one you want. Scotts has less tannins, Timberline has more tannins. both have worked well for me. so Timberline for a soft water tank and Scotts for a not so soft water tank. Those are the only 2 I have used, never found any other brands in my area that didnt have additives.
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  VeeSe on Sun Apr 07, 2013 1:21 pm

Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (make sure it is Organic Choice) is pretty much the consensus go-to dirt if you don't want to spend the time mineralizing and just want to use something out of the bag.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  COCOBIRD on Sun Apr 07, 2013 3:11 pm

The panty hose idea seems cool Smile I have a leftover bag of soil that I used when I put together my first tank and was able to layer substrate from the get go!
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  neogeo20041 on Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:39 pm

I'm bout to dirt my 75 this week so excited but at the same time I have to wait bout a month before I can do anything Sad
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  Fern on Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:07 am

I never had any ammonia issues from the dirt, I always topped it with 2x the thickness in sand though. I'm talking deep substrate 3-4" on my planted tanks, 1" dirt the rest sand. Never had any kinds of issues other than gas off bubbles and those dont hurt a thing, just nitrogen leaving the tank is all that is.

Mineralize????? Explain?
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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:42 am

Fern, I'm with you on "mineralize".... I did soil tanks back in the early 70's.. and a few years ago did one using just $1.09 dollar bagged topsoil... Like you said.. the cheaper, the better. I did however, heat treat the soil on a cookie sheet and brought it to a temp of 130 degree's for a period of 30 minutes. My research back then indicated that the heat treatment would kill off any organisms and stuff. There was a warning attached that taking the soil any higher than 130 degrees would result in a toxic (to fish) mess to deal with.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  VeeSe on Mon Apr 08, 2013 12:49 am


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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:04 am

It's a nice lengthy article explaining the term "Mineralization" but I don't see any data supporting the requirement other than opinion offered... As I stated before, I've set up soil tanks over 40 years ago and had no algae problems.. nor have I in my latest efforts. Perhaps my heat treatment negated the by-product of that algae growth mentioned. But thanks for the input... I'll have to delve a bit deeper than the single resource citing the one individual. Bill

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  VeeSe on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:16 am

I don't think much of what he said about algae is why people use mineralized topsoil (MTS). That's just his opinion. The reason why a lot of people do it is that it adds nutrients that are missing in topsoil (via Dolomite for Ca/Mg and clay for iron) to really make your topsoil more comprehensive nutritionally. In addition, the bit about the organic materials breaking down sooner also helps. The algae part I've never heard before either with regards to MTS.

There's no requirements to do any of this stuff, nor is any more thorough research required. You can dirt a tank just fine without doing it, but doing it will give you a better substrate (with more nutrients in it) if you want to.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:26 am

Vee.. where is the definitive data that supports the statement: "but doing it will give you a better substrate (with more nutrients in it) if you want to."? Particularly the concept that it will add more nutrients? I'm at a loss!

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:38 am

Vee. this is from the definitive source on soil tanks.. http://www.theaquariumwiki.com/Walstad_method
I tried to do some research on Sean Murphy as referenced and don't see his practical application of his concepts other than government or grant sponsored efforts.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  VeeSe on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:43 am

It's quite simple. topsoil doesn't have much iron, calcium or magnesium in it. It's got stuff like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which are the main focus (macronutrients) of growing plants. By mixing in clay and Dolomite, you add more of these other nutrients in. That's all.

And yes, the Walstad method works as well. I have that book. It's just one way of doing it, however, and very far from the definitive source. Actually, I think of the Walstad method as one of the more specialized ways of maintaining a dirt tank rather than a general how-to.

edit: Also, I have no idea who Sean Murphy is either. For all I know, he's just some random dude. I just found the first link I could on how to mineralize topsoil in case someone wanted to do it. The rest of that stuff about the why and stuff in that link and all that crap about algae is BS though. Do you need to mineralize? Absolutely not. Just trying to present an attractive option. As I said in my first post, I recommend MGOCPM if you don't want to do this, the same recommendation that Diana Walstad makes.

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:55 am

Vee.. I hear ya!.. My mentor, Fishvixen, that got me back into the hobby after a few decades of hiatus, she'd just go out into her backyard and dig up a pail of soil for her tanks... her plants? Had to be hoe'd with a backhoe!... Whatever floats the particular boat you choose to ride!... Bill

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  VeeSe on Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:03 am

Yep...

I've seen a journal of a tank that had dog poop, coffee grounds, and various other potentially disastrous things as substrate. Plants did well in that tank too. And most of us (myself included) have inert substrate like Eco-complete, Safe-T-Sorb, etc. and plants grow just fine too. You can have any range of substrate and still make it work, as long as you provide the things that plants need. Mineralizing topsoil is just going all the way with the dirt if you want to. In higher tech tanks where you have pressurized CO2 and high light, the plants grow fast enough to where fish poop and stuff isn't enough, so at that point you have to dose nutrients. You can dose the water column like I do, or you can just do it through dirt. As long as you have all your bases covered, you should have a successful tank. You can go even further than that and establish good balance between all of the plant needs, and now you'll have yourself an algae free tank, where the glass stays crystal clear with no scrubbing, and you don't see staghorn or BBA or all those other nasty algaes either!

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  williemcd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 2:08 am

I do admit to bouts of BBA but that's somewhat due to 16 hrs of lighting!... If I'M GOING TO KEEP fish, I wanna see em!... I guess I need yo take a job so that I'm not exposed to them to that duration!

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Re: Adding Topsoil to Established Tank

Post  Sketch804 on Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:37 am

+1 for what vee said about the MTS. Stuff works great, I have never heard anything to make me believe that this ISN'T a good choice! Seen it done many times and if you have the time, it works great. Good luck!

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