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[APD] Re: Dirt and how to enrich an established soil tank

"When setting up your soil based tanks did you add large amounts of humus
under the soil layer or perhaps mixed in with the soil? I seem to recall Tom
Barr saying that he uses a half inch layer of humus mixed with vacuumed
detritus from an existing established tank, covered by a 2-3 inch layer of
the soil and then capped off with 5cm or so aquarium gravel. I am planning
on using this recipe but would also be interested to hear of your methods if
you don't mind as you seem to have good experience with this type of setup.
Thanks a stack for any input or web links offered."

I diod noit say this "to add 2-3 inches of soil or 1/2" humus layer.
Maybe 1/2 -1" of soil or peat on the bottom and some mulm for a non CO2 aquarium with a 3-4" cap of sand/Flourite, Turface/sand mix etc, maybe 1/2-1" of kitty litter/mulm and a cap etc.

I'm not sure what all the hoodoo is over getting soil, just go down and get some organic potting soil and soak it 2-3 weeks, slap it in, add some mulm, cap and you are done. Heck, soil is dirt cheap.  
Turface is cheap, so is sand, given the cost issue.

Mulm alone is enough if you find enough or dry it out and add later, peat can be added with fairly similar effects.

Whoever can go on about the soil all day, but it's still the same stuff for the plants, NPK, traces and a Carbon source that lowers the redox in the substrate. 

You ideally do not want too much reduction and not too little. 

The amounts I suggest for each type of tank method reflect the reduction levels that work well for each method(non CO2, water column limited/substrate rich, water column rich/substrate back up, nutrient poor substrate /rich water column, trace additions vs macro additions to the substrate etc.)  

I feel some slight amount of organic matter is ideal for any new tank since this will help lower the redox for some time till the bacteria and organic matter from roots/plant leaves, fish waste have a chance to build and start cycling properly. 

But not so much as to make a soupy mess later when you replant your tank.
After some time, I'll deep vacuum my tanks to remove excess mulm actually. 

If you wish to re enrich a soil substrate, it is quite easy, make mud, freeze in ice cube trays, add these under the gravel deep as you can, they melt, they mud have been delivered where you want it. Small amounts of soil do not need to be soaked prior(non CO2 re enrichment or thin layers for a CO2 tank).

All manure, castings, and various forms of organic matter/fertilizer have pretty similar effects till they run out and you generally need to force the plants to take from the substrate(eg limit the nutrients in the water column) for the plants to gain any real benefit from this method.

This works best when growth is slow/
When growth is fast(say add CO2) then the plant will exceed the limits of substrate fertilization in many tanks.

Adding a good sized, but balanced fish load and feeding routine will also prevent the depletion of the nutrients in a substrate(or water column) and reduce the removal rate of nutrients from the substrate.

As far as I know, few people have ever done the RFUG methods I did with CO2/High light and had a baseline to note the effects of additions of various nutrients to substrates. I also did some work with Cables as well.

RFUG have no nutrients in them other than bacterial surface films on the grains of the silica gravel.

This makes an ideal starting point if you wish to discuss substrates and their role in any method for planted aquariums or testing.

You need a control baseline.

Once you do this and prove this to yourself, then folks have a much better understanding. 

Tom Barr



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