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Re: Kitty litter review

> Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 22:27:32 -0500
> From: krombhol at teclink_net (Paul Krombholz)
> Subject: Re: Nutrient deficiency symptoms related to lighting?
> Next, I would recommend you try a plant potted, not in kitty litter, 
> but in ordinary topsoil that you get somewhere near your home from 
> relatively undisturbed soil where untended plants are growing.  In 
> most places in North America, the topsoil has a considerable amount of > iron, which gives it a yellowish color.  The kitty litter we use (for > our cats, not our plants) is grey, and I wonder how much iron it has. 
    I gotta admit, it bothers me when I read that kitty litter may not
be a good choice for a substrate. It's also frustrating when the remark
comes from a respected APD helper that has probably never tried it.   
    I really think this subject needs a little debate and perhaps be
more informative if someone had the ability to have some kitty litter
analyized. That aside, here are some points I would like you to think
about when choosings a substrate.

1. Because "clay" kitty litter is mined in many parts of the USA, I
suspect that there is quite a varience from brand to brand. Those that
are mined in the western part of the USA seem to raise the pH which
generally I don't reccommend. The majority of kitty litter is mined in
Georgia. Those brands seem to have no effect on pH and the one brand I
advocate called "pH 5" by Hartz Mt. has actualy lowered the pH in
several tanks I have played in. 
2. If you ever drove through Georgia it becomes quickly apparent that
our red soil is laced heavily with iron and I suspect it would be most
difficult to mine any clay in this state without iron in it.
3. I have used kitty litter that has been charcoal gray (it worked
well), but the most common color is a tan. Since kitty litter is heated,
I suspect it changes the color from it's natural color. I recently tore
down a tray of plants that used Hartz Mt. litter. The clay was still tan
but some of the remaining water in the bottom of the pan was reddish-
4. I have many tanks that have been set up for many years with kitty
litter and after the intial dose of substrate fertilizer I have never
added any more fertilizer of any kind other than fish food via the fish
5. Lets compare K.L. to Laterite. Although there has been much
discussion about where Laterite comes from and what it is, I'm not sure
there ever was a concensus on what it is. This is especially true when
some mfgs. claim to be mining a product they call Laterite in the USA
while others claim that Laterite is a product of Africa and perhaps a
few other countries. Certainly the cost of Laterite is out of sight
compared to K.L. The point I'm trying to make is, that it seems a mfg.
can package any clay that has iron in it and call it Laterite even if
it's really K.L. 
6. I don't know if Laterite contains more iron than K.L. But lets assume
that Laterite has 4 times as much iron as K.L. What difference does it
make? Iron is a trace element, there seems to be a long lasting supply
and perhaps even equal supply in both clays. I also wonder why if
Laterite is so special why so many that use it still add more iron.
7. Even if K.L. had no iron in it, I would use it because I consider the
value of K.L. to be the mere fact that it's clean clay and clay has the
abilty to break down the iron molecule that most other coarse substrates
do not. In this sense it's equal to Laterite. 
8. Several tests that I have heard about indicate that backyard soil out
preformed all other substrates tested. As I recall the other substrates
that it was tested against were either rich in organics or fertilizer. I
do not believe backyard soil was tested against K.L. or Laterite. That
would be an intersting test!
9. Who's back yard? Certainly Florida and other sandy states wouldn't be
a great choice for a substrate. I also think that states with a great
deal of organic material such as Illinois wouldn't do to well. Then
there is roots, rocks, and little critters that need to be removed
before using backyard dirt. What about pesticies or herbicides that may
have drifted into the zone where you collect the soil. Certainly all
backyard soils are not the same, so how do you know if you have a good
soil with out putting your plant collection at risk? Seems to me a $3.00
bag of Hartz Mt. kitty litter is a safer and easier choice.  
  I've been advocating K.L. as a cheap and reliable substrate and have
yet to see any substantial argument against it. Hopefully I won't, but
if I do, you know I've eaten crow in the past.
Dan Quackenbush-