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Re:Vermiculite rationale?

> Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 18:41:42 -0400
> From: "Arisetty, Hari K (Hari)** CTR **" <harisetty at lucent_com>
> Subject: vermiculite rationale?
>     .........My understanding of the use of soil in vermiculate is to get a
> more optimal substrate particle size, not b/c of any nutrients that the
> soil might have.  So I was thinking of using kitty litter mixed in with
> the verm. to gain that optimal particle size, not to mention the fact
> that it would be a little cleaner, esp when uprooting plants, etc
>         Has anyone tried this?

Hi Hari..

My tank is set up this way.  In addition to the kitty
litter/vermiculite, I added some low-phosphate fertiliser from the
garden centre and some micronized iron. (I didn't have pond tabs handy,
or I would have used them instead, as per Jim Kelly's article.)

The substrate has been in place for a year now with good plant growth. 
Initially, I used PMDD in this tank but discontinued after a few months
with no apparent ill effects, probably due to the richness of the
substrate.  I have an amazon sword on one side of the tank that has
grown to the top and has leaves covering most of the half the surface.
It has recently produced about 10 baby plants.  This in a tank lacking
CO2 and with only 60 watts (one 30 watt Hagen Aqua-Glo -?- and one
Chroma 50) of fluorescent lighting. Stem plants (ludwigia, h. difformis,
h. polysperma) are doing well.  Anubias is growing well in the shade of
the sword plant and a little c. wendtii has started to spread in the
last couple of months.  Java fern does poorly in this tank, with leaves
staying quite small.  Algae is no problem, except on the sword's older,
dying leaves, which I remove.

My one regret so far (I realize the substrate is young by most standards
on this list) is that I made the vermiculite too soupy in some spots,
allowing the gravel cover to sink. My gravel is 3 - 5 mm diameter, maybe
a little large for this application.  I ended up with vermiculite mud
covered in a thin layer of gravel in those places.  Makes a mess when
moving plants, but settles out quickly - mostly on the plant leaves,
unfortunately.  Because of this I will soon have to redo the substrate. 
If I keep the vermiculite, I think I'll mix a lot of gravel into the
vermiculite layer (more closely resembling a laterite implementation,
physically) to firm it up and prevent the disappearance of the clean,
top gravel layer into the soup.  I don't think the beneficial properties
of the substrate would be lost with this arrangement.

Summary is the vermiculite/kitty litter substrate works for me but can
be messy.

Paul Chapman
Saskatoon, SK, Canada