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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi. I have garden soil from the store (no fertilizer added) in my aquariums.
Can getting this soil to the surface of the aquarium water cause any problems? Specifically, I am concerned with algae problems that could result from a sudden excess of nutrients in the water. Or does such a situation abruptly change the water parameters?
Of course I mean small amounts of soil (often after such a situation I suck out the soil that got to the water surface to minimize the risk of problems).
In my aquariums so far I haven't used a mesh separating the substrate from the gravel, and when pulling plants for sale the soil often leaks into the water.
I have a terrible algae problem in each of my aquariums despite a huge number of plants (many of which are fast-growing), and I'm wondering if this might be contributing to it. The second biggest suspect is the lighting which is perhaps too strong, even though they are 6500K led bulbs drawing minimal power. They do however have a higher lm output with low power consumption. Nothing here makes sense to me, but after all, there has to be a reason.
I plan to write a separate post with a detailed description of my aquarium problem.
I'm trying not to break down in this situation, but it's been going on too long.
Thank you for your reply
(forgive me if there are any language errors, English is not my native language).
 

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You're being too hard on yourself. I don't know anybody who uses a mesh to separate the substrate from their gravel cap. That's overkill. Soil escaping and algae outbreaks are both common phenomenon in new Walstad tanks. How many hours a day of artificial light are we talking about here? Do they include a siesta period?

Also, when you say, "when pulling plants for sale", does this mean, the tank has been in operation for a long time?
 

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English is fine--actually better than some native Americans.
When you disrupt the soil, it should settle back down within a few hours.
However, you need to turn off filter or any powerheads or bubblers while you are disrupting soil (i.e., replanting, etc) and work gently. Attached is photo of my tank after catching fish, shrimp and doing some cleaning. It's cloudy from STS clay and mulm, but the cloudiness disappears within a few hours. That's because of bacterial biofilms that hold the clay particles together into clumps that will sink (my book, pages 69-71).

There is always a reason for algae. Overall plant growth (total biomass) may not be enough to outcompete algae. Lots of reasons for that. Tank photos would help to see more of what's going on. How long are the lights on? Floating plants?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Thank you so much for all the responses! I loved Ms. Diana's book and plan to read it a second time. It is passionate literature!
I will describe the problems of my aquariums and send pictures, but now I have to solve an urgent problem with the choice of soil and I would like to write about it.

I am setting up a new aquarium and I really don't want to make mistakes.
I have a problem with potting soil. I cannot find any fertilizer free soil anywhere.

I can buy what is in the store or order the right soil online, but I really wanted to make this aquarium today.... However, I want to do the right thing, even if I have to wait..

I have three options if I were to buy in my city

1. ingredients: high peat, compost, calcium carbonate, guano, horn meal, PH 5-7
2. the second option is humus( only humus was in the ingredients)
3.The third option (actually it will be hard for me to buy it locally): Ingredients: low peat 90%, high peat 10% PH 5,5-6,5

Which option is the best? Should I use dolomite lime since the PH level starts from acid 5.5?

I was considering option 1, but due to the large amount of natural fertilizers I'm afraid of an algae outbreak all over again. I'm reading about CEC now and wondering if I mixed (50/50?) Compo soil with pet gravel (bentonite) or horticultural clay (these products are readily available) would that solve the problem?

I have a whole wasted day, I really hope you will solve my doubts, for which I thank you very much!!
 

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Thank you so much for all the responses! I loved Ms. Diana's book and plan to read it a second time. It is passionate literature!
I will describe the problems of my aquariums and send pictures, but now I have to solve an urgent problem with the choice of soil and I would like to write about it.

I am setting up a new aquarium and I really don't want to make mistakes.
I have a problem with potting soil. I cannot find any fertilizer free soil anywhere.

I can buy what is in the store or order the right soil online, but I really wanted to make this aquarium today.... However, I want to do the right thing, even if I have to wait..

I have three options if I were to buy in my city

1. ingredients: high peat, compost, calcium carbonate, guano, horn meal, PH 5-7
2. the second option is humus( only humus was in the ingredients)
3.The third option (actually it will be hard for me to buy it locally): Ingredients: low peat 90%, high peat 10% PH 5,5-6,5

Which option is the best? Should I use dolomite lime since the PH level starts from acid 5.5?

I was considering option 1, but due to the large amount of natural fertilizers I'm afraid of an algae outbreak all over again. I'm reading about CEC now and wondering if I mixed (50/50?) Compo soil with pet gravel (bentonite) or horticultural clay (these products are readily available) would that solve the problem?

I have a whole wasted day, I really hope you will solve my doubts, for which I thank you very much!!
Whatever you do, don't mix ordinary clay and potting soil! See, bottom of page 132 of Diana's book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Whatever you do, don't mix ordinary clay and potting soil! See, bottom of page 132 of Diana's book.
And does it make sense to mix cat litter (bentonite) with soil? This is about what was written about 'CEC'. So that substances that should not enter the water column remain in the soil because the bentonite retains them.
 

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And does it make sense to mix cat litter (bentonite) with soil? This is about what was written about 'CEC'. So that substances that should not enter the water column remain in the soil because the bentonite retains them.
Do not mix cat litter with your soil. You can read about my experience here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do not mix cat litter with your soil. You can read about my experience here.
Omg thank you very much good man!, I would have committed the same disaster tomorrow if not for your warning....
Ahh I don't know what to do anymore. I'm just afraid that the soil I want to buy has 'too rich' and there will be problems with algae (or whatever). I can't find suitable soil anywhere in my town.
From what I read the soil you used also had a lot of natural fertilizers in it. Have you noticed any problems due to this?

This is what the ingredients of the land I want to buy look like: high peat, compost, calcium carbonate, guano, horn meal, PH 5-7
Natalia
 

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Omg thank you very much good man!, I would have committed the same disaster tomorrow if not for your warning....
Ahh I don't know what to do anymore. I'm just afraid that the soil I want to buy has 'too rich' and there will be problems with algae (or whatever). I can't find suitable soil anywhere in my town.
From what I read the soil you used also had a lot of natural fertilizers in it. Have you noticed any problems due to this?

This is what the ingredients of the land I want to buy look like: high peat, compost, calcium carbonate, guano, horn meal, PH 5-7
Natalia
You're welcome! :)
The soil I used had the least amount of fertilizers in it that I could find. I haven't had any real problems with the restart of my tank but I am having a bit of an issue with hair algae. Plant growth is much better this time around. I can't really comment on the ingredients of the soil you're considering except to say the company doesn't provide much information about what's in it. Is it possible for you to go somewhere and dig some local soil instead of buying it? If not, are you able to mineralize soil you purchase? If so, that will help remove excess nutrients. The key is having some patience when you first start setting up your tank to give yourself the best chance of success. This may mean taking some extra time to get soil that will give you the best chance at a healthy tank.
 

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So where does that leave the whole cation exchange capability (CEC) discussion? At the top of page 124 of ETA, Diana seems to suggest that humus is a good source..
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
You're welcome! :)
The soil I used had the least amount of fertilizers in it that I could find. I haven't had any real problems with the restart of my tank but I am having a bit of an issue with hair algae. Plant growth is much better this time around. I can't really comment on the ingredients of the soil you're considering except to say the company doesn't provide much information about what's in it. Is it possible for you to go somewhere and dig some local soil instead of buying it? If not, are you able to mineralize soil you purchase? If so, that will help remove excess nutrients. The key is having some patience when you first start setting up your tank to give yourself the best chance of success. This may mean taking some extra time to get soil that will give you the best chance at a healthy tank.
There is a nice forest near me, but due to the close proximity of cities, I still wonder if this soil will be safe. However, on what basis do we believe that store-bought soil is safe? We only know the ingredients that are listed on the package. Nothing else.

You are right, haste is the greatest enemy of wise action. I think I have only 3 options, the first is to use soil with added natural fertilizers but to mineralize it (only mineralize it, without adding anything to it except possibly dolomite). Unfortunately, according to what I have read, this takes at least a week (soaking and drying the soil 3-4 times each).
The other is to order soil over the internet without any additives (however, such soil has only peat in it and I don't know if this is OK?!).

The third option is to use soil from the forest, with dolomite added (since I don't know its pH I would add to just in case). Thinking logically, the forest has a powerful cleansing power, it's the perfection of nature, so potentially proximity to cities and roads shouldn't be a big problem because the trees neutralize that to some extent. However, I'm not sure how much.
Just as I wrote, we should have exactly the same doubts about potting soil.

I suspect that your problems with algae may be caused by what I want to avoid, i.e. the fact that your soil has many fertilizer additives.

These are the conclusions I came to at the moment, maybe someone will solve my doubts concerning the use of one of the potting soil I wrote about.
 

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I dunno. I'm probably talking out of turn, here. But, I've managed to get by with very old potting soil, the main advantage being that most of the nutrients have gone stale and all that's left are the organic particles. It worked out perfectly for my lily and lotuses because it probably supplied just enough CO2 to get them to the stage where they produced emergent leaves (and no longer depended on CO2 from the water column.) So, maybe someone nearby has some old bags or old pots sitting around they don't need?
 

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I would just use ordinary potting soil designed for growing houseplants. Soil designed for houseplants generally has low fertility, because houseplants are shade plants and don't growth that fast. Try to get a soil with low fertility and/or slow release fertilizers. If still confused, go to a garden center and ask for their help. Your question should be, "What is your best brand for growing houseplants?"

Otherwise, try the forest soil with a little dolomite lime.

Don't mix anything with the soil. Forget about CEC business. Ordinary soil has plenty of CEC.
 
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