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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
We actually have a lot of clay where I live, but I assumed clay wouldn't be good for this type of thing....
 

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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...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
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?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yep! Here you go. The discoloration is because I dosed it with Tetracycline, in accordance with the Tawainese exporter's instructions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
And...crap. The water just turned from a light tea color--which I expected with the Tetracycline--to a kind of pinkish brown. What on earth?

Here's a pic of some I pulled out, in a white bucket so you can see the color. I'm not sure what to do. :-/
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Huh. I see at least one reference that says Tetracycline turns brown when exposed to sunlight, and that it might look pink. This tank does get natural sunlight for a short time each day--maybe that's what it is. It's causing fuzzy algae growth on the plants, too. :-/
 

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I would change as much of the water as I can. I don't know why it would be that color but that would sure freak me out too!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Oh, jeez. I changed the water, forgot to pour slowly, and muddied it all up again. I give up. I will just go dig myself some good clay, replant it, and hope I can get it near as pretty as I had it.
 

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I'm in the process of writing a guide, but it wont be done for a bit.

Any big clay pieces can be baked until crumbly.

Easier to screen when its dry.
 
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