Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Deanna01 05-09-2013 08:24 AM

MG Organic Garden Soil vs. Potting Mix
So, I just finished getting my first NPT set up yesterday...and now I see a thread that indicates there's a difference between the Organic Choice Garden Soil and the Potting Mix (which I couldn't find at my stores). The Garden Soil contains cow manure. :-/ Do I need to take the whole tank back apart and redo it? I so much hope not, but wow, is this being a learning experience.

ao 05-09-2013 09:46 AM

you shouldnt have to. plant heavily and leave stocking for later

Geomancer 05-09-2013 10:10 AM

Soil is by far the most complicated of substrate choices, and the one with the biggest potential pitfalls. Soil can contain an enormous amount of organic material, which will decompose and in that process produce ammonia among other nutrients. It is one of the reasons why it can take weeks, to months, before stocking a tank.

All great stuff for plants, but not so great for fish. Best to test often (with a liquid test kit) and wait a bit to be sure you are 'in the clear' for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

EDIT: Manure. That could be questionable, as it can have pathogens or 'bad' bacteria. Not sure how that works in the aquarium. In gardening fruits and vegetables it is generally advised to avoid using manure because of that, so it may be the same for fish (but then being under water may kill them ... I don't know). I *think* if it is composted it will be okay.

Boredomb 05-09-2013 10:29 AM

I have always read not to use it because of the cow manure. My understanding here is that the soil mix can be more unstable at first and generally you get ammonia spikes with it. I might be wrong here soo will see what some others have to say. Btw that's the difference between the Soil mix and the Potting Mix. The Potting mix doesn't have cow manure but does have pasteurized poultry litter.

At this point I don't think I would tear it down but plant heavily with fast growers and floaters. I would also monitor it for awhile before adding fish.

redchigh 05-09-2013 01:00 PM

The cow manure in a mix will be well composted, and relatively sterile (as far as pathogens go)

It wont hurt the plants, but test before stocking (after a week, test once a week, and if you get 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and nitrates below 30 twice in a row a week apart, then do a wc and stock.)

The reasons mentioned here are why I prefer plain dirt and topsoil- they dont seem to have the excess nutrients than "potting mix", and sink better.
I even use clay-rich dirt for my emersed setups, because I feel its more authentic.

I have an abundance of clay rich soil in my area, and ive even considered selling it online.

Deanna01 05-09-2013 01:02 PM

We actually have a lot of clay where I live, but I assumed clay wouldn't be good for this type of thing....

redchigh 05-09-2013 01:30 PM

Flourite and laterite have been used for decades by aquarists, and they are clay.

Clay is great because it is nutrient rich, but the clay particles don't release the nutrients very easily and have a high cec (cation exchange coefficient).

Dense clay can also be used in a much thinner layer, say, 1/2 inch. Peat-based soils hold onto air, which is a great thing in a garden, but tends to float submerged. It also holds onto bubbles in the substrate. I had a OC Potting Soil tank that after a couple weeks started to bulge up in the middle from gas buildup... I then Made the mistake of disturbing it, and the substrate bubble exploded. The hydrogen sulfide was so bad, it was gagging me. I luckily removed the fish fast enough...

I've used clay ever since. I think a clay/vermiculite mix is ideal, but I usually don't mess with the vermiculite.

Also, according to D. Walstead's "ecology of the planted aquarium", the substrate should have a slightly higher pH than the water column, and she reccomends a
Small amount of powdered dolomite limestone (not pelletized lime) or crushed coral.
I don't feel this is neccesary, but many peat products have an easily soluble "pH up" chemical to counteract peats tendency to lower pH.

Geez, didn't mean to write an article...

Deanna01 05-09-2013 03:11 PM

Thank you, Red! I have that book on order to arrive Saturday, but haven't gotten a chance to read it yet.

I dug up a bucket of the dirt from the woods around my house and put a pic in another thread here. Can you take a look, tell me what you think?

Deanna01 05-14-2013 08:46 AM

I checked the tank today, a week after set-up, and have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and 10 nitrates. So far so good, at least!

redchigh 05-14-2013 09:49 AM

Can you post a pic?

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