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Re: Steve Puskak on Micronized Iron

Steve P. is experiencing some problems with his home computer, and asked me
to post the following for him. The comments within the [snip] marks are
those I made in a recent post concerning Micronized Iron.

Steve's comments on typical subsoil and the COD that can occur during the
"transition period", when there is organic material in the substrate is well
taken - in my soil based tank I initially (for about the first three months)
noticed that a high percentage of Hygro cuttings failed to root properly,
and ended up rotting at the gravel level. Obviously, the substrate was not
providing the proper conditions for root formation. After the first three
months however, the problem lessened and now, almost a year later, is
non-existant. Everything seems to grow well in this tank now. My feeling is
that the "Krombholz Soil Soup" procedure (outlined on the KRIB) is a wise
move for anyone contemplating a substrate containing soil and/or peat. I
obviously didn't let the substrate "cook" long enough for the excess organic
nutrients present in the soil to be mineralized before its use in my

Peat's affinity for Calcium is well known - that's why it can be used as a
cheap and effective way to soften water. It has a similar effect on
Magnesium. Vancouver's water is already pretty soft (a lot softer than
Toronto's, that's for sure), so I would expect that Steve would find this
more of a problem than I experienced. But I did find it helpful to use
Ca(Mg)CO3 tablets occassionally to boost my Ca++ and Mg++ levels. At this
point, almost a year after setup, water changes alone seem sufficient to
maintain those ions at the proper levels in that particular tank.

And now, over to Steve...
(In case you missed it, that was another of my plugs for following a recipe
exactly unless you have the experience and know how to make proper
substitutions. In Steve's soil recipe, micronized iron and peat work
_together_ to provide useable iron for the plants. Leaving either one out or
making improper substitutions won't necessarily work.)

I've reviewed the instructions on my website and I should probably add the
following note:

F-T-E and micronized iron are not generally required for a substrate which
contains a good soil with a clay component.

In areas where there is red clay, the clay is superior to micronized iron
as a source of iron so I would not even bother with micronized iron.

Hong Sungmin asked: "What's the micronized iron? They don't sell it in
gardening shops here S.Korea. is it the 'iron powder' that chemical company
make, or the same one we can gether from the soil by a bar magnet?"

If you are finding magnetizeable bits of iron in the soil, I'm not sure
what that means. Probably that there is iron filings in the soil and
perhaps you should consider the soil contaminated as there could be other
metal filings such as zinc, lead or copper.

Normally iron oxides are not magnetic but maybe some geologist knows of
naturally occuring Fe minerals that are magnetic.

The proportions given on the web page are not precise; I experiment with
different kinds of dirt and amounts of peat. The substrate I set up on the
weekend used a ratio of about 30 pounds of subsoil dug from a nearby field
with about a pound of peat. I also added about 20 grams of 14-14-14 slow
release fertilizer on the bottom of the aquarium and 2 grams of F-T-E for
good luck. The dirt I used is quite sandy in composition and I wish it had
more clay but there is enough clay to color water and to coat the particles
of sand and peat.

Raymond Wong asked what would happen if you used too much peat as in a
layer of peat and soil 1" deep. I don't think too much would happen. You
might get yellow water for a few months. Its probably of more concern to
the fish than the plants.

One effect of a lot of peat might be that it would absorb calcium from the
water and so you might need to dose calcium more frequently. If you have
water high in calcium, this is probably not a concern.

T Tran <zzttzz at hotmail_com> wrote to Raymond about excess peat and said:
>Subject: too much peat>Date: Tue, 08 Jun 1999 11:46:32 PDT>
>soil turns anerobic and suffocates plants.

Peat by itself doesn't decompose very quickly and probably won't make the
redox potential really low. A book I was reading about composting indicated
that the ratio of nitrogen to carbon is very important for bacteria (the
agents of decomposition) so if you add a lot of nitrogeneous material
(compost, nitrogen fertilizer) together with peat, you could accelerate the
oxygen demand in the substrate. For plants like Crypts and Swords this is
probably no big deal. Stem cuttings -might- have a tendency to rot when
placed into a "fresh" substrate since they don't have a developed root
system. I think this is something James and I have noticed about soil
substrates during the transition period.

Credit for first mention of Micronized Iron should go to Karen Randall who
has used it with potted aquarium plants especially Swords.

Steve Pushak

[posted for Steve by James Purchase, Toronto]