pH test & Organic substrates:

> From: WILFRED M MILES <PFWMM at acad2_alaska.edu>
> Date: Fri, 26 May 1995 06:26:28 -0800
> Subject: pH test
> I have been folowing the discussion about water chemistry with interest.
> I use R/O water with 7pH and test with Aquarium Pharmaceutical using 
> bromothymal blue that is over a year old. The test indicates initially
> pH 7 then as it stands for several hours it shows more and more blue till I
> get a reading near 8! 
> Question: How come? Which is my true reading?
You should take your reading immediately. Gases (esp CO2) will escape
from your water sample with time and the pH will change. The new pH is
what your water would be without CO2 (I think). Your sample becomes
more alkaline as the carbonic acid dissipates.


> From stevensj at calshp_cals.wisc.edu Fri May 26 05:35:25 1995
Subject: Re:organic substrates
Joanne sez:
> Hi Stephen,
> I'd be interested to know what (if any) responses you got to the post you
> made to the aquatic plant list last week regarding Organic substrates.
It seems not too many people use high organic substrates.
I'm interested in them for Aponogeton madagascariensis.

Joh Wilson sez he raises lace plants using only goldfish poop for fertilizer
in a 220 gal tank w/o laterite & pH 7.65!!
He calls it carp fertilizer. :-)
I don't think he's on this mailing list 'cause he responded to a post
on the newsgroup.

Shaji sez he tried potting soil once but it went anaerobic but later cleared
up. I'll quote his response later.
> I am in the process of deciding whether to go with a new substrate on my
> 25 and 10 gal tanks.  I have a well-planted 125 gal tank which I am trying
> to sell (because I'm moving & don't think it will be too practical to take
> it overseas with me - if I don't sell it though I will take it with me, but
> In the interim apartment I'll be in I can't put it up but I can put up the
> smaller tanks).  The 125 gal tank has an UGF with just gravel & plants did
> very well once I got the water chemistry right (started with hard, alkaline
> water & no CO2).  The 25 tank has two aquaclear 150 powerfilters on (no UGF),
> about 3 inches of gravel & the plants grow pretty well in there too (better
> in the 125 though cause there's more light in there).  The 10 gal is
> currently a breeder tank with a bare bottom & some floating plants in.
> I'm trying to decide between putting laterite in the gravel or using peat +
> soil + gravel, or making no changes!  But no change is boring!
> Originally when I started my 125 gal tank I had plants in pots (cause people
> told me the plants would not like the UGF) but they soon outgrew the pots
> & did fine just stuck in the gravel.  I also put about a teaspoonful of
> houseplant potting mix in the pots to get the plants going (don't know if
> it really had an effect or not but it certainly did not seem detrimental).
> I kept lots of fish in my tank: up to 1 fish per gal of water, until I had
> problems with angelfish dying & too much algae.  I cut down to 0.5 inches
> of fish per gallon & nitrates are now zero & everythings peachy!
> I have never tried heating cables but I would like to.   I can't justify
> the hundreds of dollars for the commercial ones & even with the nice 
> article in Aquarium Fish Magazine I'm not sure if I could DIY it.
> Overall I'd have to say my planted tanks have been very succesful but it
> took me about 12 months to acheive the right balance of water chemistry
> & fish numbers but then I got good growth.  I'm going to miss my 125 gal
> tank.  Actually, as I type this to you I think my best bet for improving
> plant growth is additional lighting on my 10 & 25 gal tanks much more
> than substrate additives - but I always like to try something new.
> I'd appreciate any insight or comments you might have.
Shall I just rave a bit more about the benefits of CO2? I'm sold on it.

later Joanne sez:
> Steve said:
> > is it ok if I post your questions & my answer to the list? I think it will benefit
> > everyone.
> Thats fine with me.
> > 
> > short story: I'd only use soil or composted manure with Aponogetons esp. the
> > lace plant. Most other plants don't need that rich a substrate. If you do, then
> > the concensus is you need UG heating cables or circulation to prevent
> > anaerobic decay.
> > 
> Since I won't be trying the lace plant & have already had success with other
> aponogetons in just plain gravel I think I'll just try laterite.
> One thing I've been wondering:  are Tetra's Hilena initial D, Dupla's Duplarit
> and Terralit all laterite?  There's quite a price differential!
Gosh, I dunno. I asked about Terralit before.
> Also, what brand pH kit do you use.  I'm aware that there are discrepancies
> between test kits & I currently use Red Sea fish pHarms test but I'm thinking
> of trying something else since this one is running out.  Any suggestions?
I use bromothymol blue but it's not accurate below 6.0  I'm sure one of
the others will have a better suggestion.

Shaji said:
> In message "re:Aponogeton Madagascariensis", you write:
> >What ratio did you use of potting soil? Was it in pots or substrate?
> >If I used 10% manure or potting soil in a pot mixed with sand, laterite
> >and gravel do you think it would be ok for the fish? I have access to
> >mud from a lake too but don't know how to sterilize it. Boiling? Dry it
> >and screen it to remove insects and twigs? This might be better. Heck,
> >maybe I should just grow my A. mads down at the lake!! :-) (naaa just kidding)
> It was not in pots.  I used it in a 55 gallon tank.  The bottom third
> of the substrate was equal parts by volume of potting soil, peat and
> gravel.  The rest was washed gravel.
> The substrate did go anaerobic ( I could see the bottom of the tank
> darken) for two or three months, but after that, everything was fine.
> Yes, I did have fish in the tank.
> If I were to do it again, I'd probably use potting soil and gravel in
> a 1 to 2 ratio in the bottom of the tank.
> About lake sediment:  Have you considered sterilizing it in your oven?
> 80C for a couple of hours should do the job.

Below is a message from Neil Frank off the net. It should be revealing!

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From Neil.Frank at launchpad_unc.edu (Neil Frank)
Newsgroups: alt.aquaria,rec.aquaria,sci.aquaria
Subject: [F]{P} Soil Tests (incl. laterite)
Date: 13 Feb 1995 00:09:50 GMT
Content-Length: 4210

In a recent post Shaji noted a similarity in Dupla laterite and
composted cow manure.  I carefully re-examined the test data
(which included replicate samples among many printouts) and
discovered a reporting error for two materials -- ***the Dupla
laterite was mislabled as a top soil, and visa versa.***
The complete results (with correct labeling) are now presented.
Code    Description                  Abbr.    Description
----------------------------------   ----------------------------
APL Aquarium Products laterite       HM%  Humic Matter, % by vol.
Lm  back yard loamy soil             W/V  weight per vol.
DL  Dupla Laterite                   CEC Cation exch. capacity
KL  Kitty Litter                     BS%  Base saturation, %CEC
    (i.e. Montmirillonite clay)      Ac   Acidity
PM  Peat Moss                        pH   Hydorgen-ion activity
TS1 Top soil (Black Kow brand)       P-I  Phosphorus Index
WD  Soil (from Winn Dixie)           K-I  Potassium Index
CM  Cow manure (black Kow)           Ca%  Calcium, % of CEC
TS2 top soil (black kow2)            Mg%  Magnesium, % of CEC
THD Tetra Initial D                  Mn-I Manganese Index
                                     Zn-I Zinc Index
                                     Cu-I Copper Index
                                     N    Nitrate nitrogen
Soil HM% W/V CEC  BS%  Ac pH  P-I  K-I  Ca% Mg% Mn-I Zn-I Cu-I  N
APL 0.0 0.96  3.6  89 0.4 6.4 009   12 58.7 28.5 51  041  182 004
Lm  0.5 0.76  5.8  66 2.0 5.3 005  38 46.5 15.8 625+  049  18  -
DL  0.2 0.95  7.6  90 0.8 6.3 008   88 65.6 18.1 625+ 242 318 008
PM  0.3 0.12  8.8  28 6.4 4.1 004    8 17.0 10.2 98  036   16 002
KL  0.0 0.55  9.4  36 6.0 4.4 042   58 13.8 19.5 68  133   60 001
TS1 0.7 0.75 10.2  61 4.0 5.0 007   6  52.8 6.8  28   011  12 044
WD  0.2 0.56 16.5 100 0.0 7.2 166+ 502 54.4 30.4 461 369  250  -
CM  0.2 1.01 26.6 100 0.0 7.5 166+ 502 71.7 18.9 309 999+ 256 161
TS2 0.9 0.78 32.6 100 0.0 7.0 166+ 502 76.9 15.4 171 999+ 544 294
THD 1.0 0.84 38.2  80 7.6 3.8 003  104 65.6 13.1 554  157 118 031
The tested materials are presented in ascending order of cation
exchange capacity.  CEC tends to be high in clay and organic
soils.  Near the top of the list are the two laterites (AP and
Dupla), peat moss and kitty liter (a montmirillonite clay).  Also
included in this group is a loamy soil from my backyard; note the
similarities to the laterites. 
Some observations on the low CEC materials:
    * The CEC for the laterites are mostly Ca & Mg. The others
    are less basic. 
    * The Dupla laterite has high Mn, Zn and Cu and moderate
    amounts of K and a little bit of N. 
    * The AP variety has less K and N. 
    * The kitty liter has moderate amounts of P & K. 
    * Peat moss is low in Ca, Mg and other micronutrients.
The high CEC materials are cow manure, one of the top soils, a
cheap grocery store soil and Tetra Hilena D.  The first three are
relatively rich in NPK, Among these, the Tetra product has very
low pH, virtually no P, but moderate K and moderate N. The Tetra
product is different than all other materials and is likely a
mixture including peat moss.
Also shown is another sample of Black Cow brand top soil,
purchased previously.  It is dramatically different.  Although
its black color and its W/V are the same, the second sample has
many more nutrients and may in fact have toxic amounts of
micronutrients (e.g. Zn, Cu).  This highlights the potential
problem in using soils without testing and or experimentation.

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