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Old 07-25-2020, 12:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Mineral soils in NPT

Does anyone have experience using mineral soils in a NPT? I don't mean mineralized soil, I mean where it's primarily made up of broken down rock (i.e. sand, silt, and clay in some combination) and a more limited amount of organic matter? It seems like most people use organic soilless mixes because they are easy to find and there are tons of other people to learn from, but I wonder if there's a difference in how the two perform, especially in how they hold up in the long term.

If you have used a mineral soil, what was the source? Did you add anything to it? How'd it go?
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Old 07-25-2020, 03:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

What yoiu call a mineral soil, I usually call a natural top soil. Natural soils rarely have more than 5% organic matter, and that would be typical of a forest or prairie soil. Desert soils would have even less.

Natural top soil works well as a substrate, and requires no preparation other than removing trash, rocks, etc. Natural soils in my region usually have a lot of colloidal clay which clouds the water for a LONG time, so I don't use them. But I have used soil from an old capital "O" Organic vegetable garden, and it was great. It probably had more than 5% organic content, but nothing like the 100% organic mixes sold in stores.

A natural top soil probably would not give the CO2 boost to a new tank that more organic soils do. Less organic matter in a more stable form means less decomposition and less CO2. But otherwiae it would be fine.
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Old 07-25-2020, 03:50 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

I hope this isn't too far off topic, but isn't some of the "new tank boost" due to the ammonia that is generated by the rotting organic matter?

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Old 07-25-2020, 06:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

Sand, silt, clay, little organic is also called loam. I’m thinking of making some.
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Old 07-25-2020, 08:20 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

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What yoiu call a mineral soil, I usually call a natural top soil. Natural soils rarely have more than 5% organic matter, and that would be typical of a forest or prairie soil. Desert soils would have even less.

Natural top soil works well as a substrate, and requires no preparation other than removing trash, rocks, etc. Natural soils in my region usually have a lot of colloidal clay which clouds the water for a LONG time, so I don't use them. But I have used soil from an old capital "O" Organic vegetable garden, and it was great. It probably had more than 5% organic content, but nothing like the 100% organic mixes sold in stores.

A natural top soil probably would not give the CO2 boost to a new tank that more organic soils do. Less organic matter in a more stable form means less decomposition and less CO2. But otherwiae it would be fine.
Did you find any particular advantage in using the soil from your garden beyond what you would expect from a typical 100% organic mix?

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Sand, silt, clay, little organic is also called loam. Iím thinking of making some.
Yeah, that's sort of where I'm going with this. I understand that people do have NPT that they've had going for a long time, but I don't understand how an all organic substrate is conducive to that. I understand the idea that fish mulm ends up providing a good bit of plant nutrients, but what about the soil structure and CEC of organic soils once they break down?

(I am new to the hobby, but my education and professional experience is in (terrestrial) horticulture. I know a lot about growing plants and a lot about soils, but planted tanks are so specialized that it's not always applicable. I'm certainly learning a lot.)
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Old 07-26-2020, 05:10 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

I’ve used mostly top soil over 100% organic soil. The main issue is the soils tend to go anaerobic so it’s recommended to only have an inch of it with an inch if capping substrate. I think I could have more substrate with top soil. I think you’re right about the CEC capacity. The top soil seems to last longer but it’s only anecdotal. Definitely generates less CO2 than 100% organic soil. I added CO2.
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:22 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

I think the main reason so many people use manufactured "soil" from the garden center, hardware store, etc. is that they don't live where good topsoil is easy to get. People also like to be able to buy a bag of something they know the contents of, where digging up real topsoil means risking it having pesticides and other chemicals in it. I had my best experiences with dirt I dug from a river bank, and it was probably mostly silt - fine sand, with lots of random natural organics in it. I have yet to equal that experience using something sold in a bag for garden use.
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Old 07-26-2020, 06:49 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I had my best experiences with dirt I dug from a river bank, and it was probably mostly silt - fine sand, with lots of random natural organics in it. I have yet to equal that experience using something sold in a bag for garden use.
Interesting. I bet it's the silt & clay that you don't find in a bag.
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Old 07-26-2020, 09:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Interesting. I bet it's the silt & clay that you don't find in a bag.
I don't disagree. But, I'm no longer close to a river where I can dig around. And, it is now much harder for me to carry a bucket of damp dirt. (Note, that is a "p" on the end, not a "n".)
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Old 07-26-2020, 10:04 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Mineral soils in NPT

I think I'm going to make my own silt. Espoma sells some Ca, Mg, K, iron mineral rocks I can crush up to make silt.
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