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Re: Muddy thoughts

Look, if you're mixing laterite clay into your substrate you are
creating mud. That's a fact. You're not getting very much mud nor very
much micro nutrients and so the effect is similar to using a small
amount of any clay (say 200 grams, a half cup no less!) with your sand
for your substrate. The plain fact is you're not going to get very many
nutrients from it. You will be relying upon supplying all the nutrients
in solution, in the water.

And there is nothing wrong with that. 

It's perfectly fine and does not conflict at all with the statement that
"aquatic plants grow better in mud".

You can probably find soil which contains all the micro nutrients your
plants need to grow by looking in your back yard or by taking a short
trip in your car with a pail and shove. That's a fact. I have to say
"probably" because there are regions of the earth which are deserts, or
where the soil is so alkaline that it can't be made suitable, even with
the addition of sand and peat.

Olga said:
> I did not ask "is it true plants grow better in mud"?. You should re-read
> my post. My thoughts had to do with whether or not one should try to be so
> "real" in an aquarium. I, personally feel that a small unnatural ecosystem
> like an aquarium does not handle well a "natural" substrate...meaning mud.
> And I asked for thoughts on that.

I paraphrased what you said which was in essence "is it true?", the
parts which you paraphrased of what I said is "plant grow better in
mud". I was responding to the statement that it appears that you were
challenging, that plants grow better in mud. I did NOT say that plants
grow better in mud BECAUSE that is the way they grow in the real world
but that they do grow that way in the real world and it is incidental
that they also grow better in mud. You see the interesting thing is that
plants are pretty adaptable. They grow out there in the real world where
there ARE differences in lighting, minerals, nutrients and soils. The
variability of aquatic soils is not critical but the important common
factor with almost all the aquatic plant biotopes is that there is mud
and this is a valuable store house of nutrients for the plants during
their growing season. This is the KEY point I was trying to make.

BTW, I think your point was that aquarium conditions are so far
different from natural conditions that we should not apply any lessons
learned from nature to the aquarium. If one were to allude to muddy
thought,.... no no no that would be too punny...

> I know the idea is not to grow the biggest plants fastest, Steve. I have
> never felt that I am in a contest. 

I didn't imply that either. :-) I merely wanted to set the record
straight about what -I- said.

George said:
> >
> >>Olga asks: is it true? "Plants grow better in mud"
> >
> >Why certainly!!
> >
> >All plants (even algae) grow better when they have a good supply of
> >nutrients!
> I fail to see any logic in this pair of statements. What you are saying is:
> "If you have mud, you have the correct nutrients, QED."  As someone pointed
> out, all mud is not created equal. 

I did NOT say that "if you have mud, you have the correct nutrients,
QED" however, you have a much better mix of nutrients IN THE SUBSTRATE
than if you just use sand or sand + laterite. Your statement about my
statement lacking logic is a non sequitur. There is no deduction or
induction there, just an assertion. ;-) If you wish to find a deduction
how's this:

a) plants grow better with a good supply of nutrients.
b) mud is a good supply of nutrients.


c) plants grow better with mud.

If you prefer induction, here it is:

a) plants grow well in natural conditions where there is mud
b) plants grow poorly in natural conditions where there is only sand

c) plants in nature grow better in nature because of the mud (which
incidentally is a good supply of nutrients)

> And, of course, you are implying that "If you don't have mud, your plants
> will not grow was well as they would if they had mud."  

I'm implying nothing of the kind! :-) I'm stating it quite plainly. As
long as you don't use a wildly inappropriate mud, then you will almost
certainly have better growth from the majority of your aquatic plants if
you use a little mud in the substrate. The fact that you are paying
exorbitant prices to import your mud from the tropics is almost comical.

If I told everyone here that I had discovered a source of the most
fantastic mud in the world for growing aquatic plants, I hope nobody
would be -foolish- enough to pay $30 (Cdn) to get 200 grams of the stuff
mailed to them EVEN if it could be proved to be absolutely truly the
best mud in the whole world for growing aquatic plants. Nobody trucks in
soil from Malaysia to grow corn and nobody mail orders African dirt for
their house plants. A farmer would look at you like you were befuddled
if you tried to sell him mud like that! The plain facts are that aquatic
plants, just like terrestrial plants, are adapted to growing in all the
diverse soils where they are found. One of the interesting points which
Claus Christianson makes in the latest issue of TAG is that plants are
far more adaptable to diverse conditions than they are given credit for
in the aquarium literature including the variables: light, temperature,
mineral hardness, substrate and other conditions.

> I don't have mud in my tanks and I would opine that my plants grow better
> than your plants. Dueling photos at High Noon? 

Fine with me. Take a look at the pictures at
http://home.infinet.net/teban/Oct97/oct97.html There are some more at
http://www.geocities.com/PicketFence/4275/index.html I've seen your
pictures, and I opine that mine look better than yours anyhow. <g> = 

Oh, that red slimy sticky stuff mixed into the lower 1/3 of your
substrate is not mud? Gee, we better check the dictionary on this term.
Its pretty technical. Let's see.... 

"mud: a slimy sticky mixture of solid material with a liquid and esp.
water; esp : soft wet earth" - Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 1973

Let's see you slip out of this one George! (pun intended)

> Yes, mud may have more nutrients than sand, sand+laterite or sand+laterite+
> proper fertilizers. In fact, mud has TOO MANY nutrients and will, in fact,
> lead to algae problems. 

Where do you get this from? There certainly are some soils, that when
you mix them with water, they would have too many nutrients to be
appropriate for the typical aquarium. But you cannot say that all mud is
the same. (in fact we're violently agreeing that not all mud is the

Also, if we use mud, why can't we choose to mix it with sand as the
laterite users do? What's fair for laterite is surely fair for back yard
mud isn't it??!! The wonderful thing about it is that we can MIX it!
What a concept! Clay (mud) is low in nitrogen and phosphorus unless it
has been mixed with organic material so if you find a nice bank of clay
subsoil, its just fine as a low nutrient sub layer. If on the other hand
you collect river mud, chances are that you won't know how fertile it is
unless you test a small amount in a jar of water.

> When you use mud, you DO NOT have control over the
> nutrient level in your tank. 

BZZZT!! Warning, warning, Will Robinson!! Silly statement alert!!

If you have a choice of materials to create your very own custom mud,
then you certainly do have control over the nutrient level in your tank.
I've made this as clear as I can that if you mix highly fertile soils
such as compost, or topsoil which are high in nitrogen and phosphates,
that you need to be prepared to deal with algae. That's because algae is
a plant, and its doing what its supposed to do and growing well on a
good supply of nutrients. It doesn't mean you CAN'T grow plants on a
really fertile substrate. I've demonstrated that this is possible and
after I cured some initial problems with green water, this tank settled
down to be an excellent tank. I've also designed aquariums using soil
substrates that started up with no algae problems at all. Richard Sexton
has given a recipe involving mixture of composted manure, steel wool and
gravel. (Richard please step in and correct me if I left anything out)
This is HIGHLY fertile and he's using it to grow humongous Madagascar
Lace plants! Sounds to me like he's controlling the fertility of his
substrate pretty well and he's got it turned up HIGH!

When I use a mixture of peat, sand, subsoil and clay, I am certainly
controlling the fertility of my substrate. I'm keeping it moderately
supplied with trace nutrients and the peat is acting as a buffer for
dissolved minerals. I'm intentionally keeping the macro nutrients low.

When I add clay fertilizer balls in precise dosages, guess what! I'm
controlling the fertility again. This time, I'm providing spot feeding
of macro nutrients right at the roots of the plants I want to grow

Gee, controlling the nutrients again.

> If you use mud for a substrate, you are
> quaranteed to have an algae problem. Review some of your own postings if
> you don't beleive me. 

I don't believe that its a guarantee. I think its just plain silly to
scare people off using soil substrates by repeating all these statements
about how terrible a problem you are going to have with algae if you use
soil in your substrate. It is quite normal for there to be a temporary
green water problem with _some_ types of fertile substrates. I caution
about this and give methods for dealing with it. It's really not all
that hard to deal with. Beginners are far more prone to get green water
from having too many fish and not enough plants or by having their
mineral nutrients in short supply. In fact, I venture to say that if
they use a subsoil substrate such as the one I recommend for beginners
and minimize the additions of chelated trace nutrients, that they will
have LESS problems with algae than they would following the so called
traditional methods of using sand and dissolved nutrients in the water.

> >I think that laterite is a buzz word that is
> >very popular for marketing purposes (aside from its useful properties).
> I think it's more a buzz word used by newbies. As far as I know, only two
> products claim to use laterite: Duplarit and Substrate Gold. All the other
> buzz about laterite comes from people using art clay, red Georgia (not
> relation) clay and any other red dirt that turns up and calling it
> "laterite".   

I agree that laterite is a buzz word used by newbies. I take it from
your statement that you don't dispute that its also a marketing buzz

Now, I have some McKenzie river delta mud sent to me compliments of Dr
Dave Huebert and Chris Teichreb who were up there doing macrophyte
research this summer. This location grows some of the largest and
healthiest aquatic plants which Dr Dave said he has ever seen. During
the long sunlit hours of spring and summer, when the dissolved nutrients
in the river water are low, the plants grow huge and splendid. Only in
the fall when the plants begin to die, do the algae begin to take over.
This is part of the natural seasonal cycle which occurs in diverse
habitats throughout the world.

So I have this mud which is GREAT for growing aquatic plants! Is anybody
interested in paying me $30 for 200 grams of the stuff? You know a
little goes a long way! ;-) In this case, it has gone all the way down
the McKenzie river system into a sand bar, into a plastic bag, onto an
air plane and made the entire flight back here to Vancouver! Now if I
mail some of this off to the Philippines, it will have gone farther than
even George's most prized gooey red laterite.

Wouldn't it be a shocker if we mailed 200 grams of this stuff off to
George and he set up an aquarium with the stuff just as if it were
laterite and then he got wonderful algae free plant growth just like his
other aquariums? I'd even donate it for free and pay the postage if we
could get it through American customs!  ;-)

Steve Pushak                              Vancouver, BC, CANADA 

Visit "Steve's Aquatic Page"      http://home.infinet.net/teban/
 for LOTS of pics, tips and links for aquatic gardening!!!