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I have been spending a lot of time researching substrates and needless to say i've got questions. First a little info: I will be changing over my 55g to a 75g (48"x 18" footprint). The tank now contains hundreds of cherry shrimp, 7 Amano shrimp, 7 pygmy corys, 1 oto, 1 galaxy rasbora, 1 emerald rasbora, and 1 kubotai rasobora (yes I know its a dwindling fish stock). There are a few rotala, dwarf hairgrass bellum, micro sword, and a ton of sagitaria subulata. The main failing factors in this current tank were my inability to consistently dose fertilizer and using some rocks from a local creek that i believe leeched minerals into the water causing one algae issue after another. In the new tank I plan on using and own a pressurized CO2 made by ISTA, a Coralife 48" 54w x 4 t5 HO fixture (216w total), an eheim 2236 canister filter, and a closed loop with a submersible pump to run my co reactor, inline heater, and spraybar.

That being said i would like to try the mineralized topsoil method in order to keep the tank balanced with minimal maintenance, I read the notorious recipe by Aaron Talbot posted a few years back ( ) and i have begun the process on some topsoil that was stored in my backyard it has very low organics, pretty rocky clay stuff. I have also read all of the post by umikazumi ( ) about a new recipe for MTS.

My Questions:

1. Is the pottery clay, muriate of potash and dolomite still considered to be beneficial ingredients?

2. Have the ingredients in Umikazumi's recipe proven successful? I already have Azomite and plan on using some. The recipe seems pretty comprehensive but is all the fancy stuff worth it?

3. In a dirt setup is the high CEC gravel considered to be essential? I already own 3 bags of eco-complete I plan on using for a cap and I considered pool filter sand, more EC, or safe t sorb to mix in to make up the rest of the cap. If CEC is not essential than the PFS seems easier to work with but i'm not sure it will mix well with EC.

4. Will this low organic, rocky clay topsoil be suitable or is a more organic rich topsoil going to be more beneficial?

My plan: I plan on using the homemade MTS i am working on, mixing in laterite, finely crushed aragonite, azomite, Horticultural Charcoal, sul-po-mag if i can find it and possibly anything else that seems beneficial for a low maintenance system.

Any suggestions on keeping my livestock safe and the usefulness of my equipment would be greatly appreciated.

Hopefully I have'nt lost you by now with the long-winded post, please shoot my plan full of holes with your scientific reasoning and experience. Many Thanks in advance for help, this is obviously a confusing subject.

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Hi ZedLepelin! Welcome to the forums.
1. People still use those additives in a dirt tank/ planted tank. While I only have tried pottery clay, I still an not totally convinced that it still have that many benefits.

3. I don't suggest mixing the sand and safe t sorb because it might be a pain to clean and siphon because the particle sizes will be all mixed up. While I currently have eco complete in my dirted tank, I found that the plants that benefited the most from the initial start up were the ones that were able to root beyond the eco complete and into the dirt the quickest. If you're looking for high CEC, I think eco complete is already good enough.

4. Not sure what I can offer you on this but I'm curious to see what type/ brand topsoil you're going to use.

As for livestock, I suggest catching the fish first before you attempt to go after the shrimp. Once you have all the fish out, I suggest draining the tank as much as you can to make the job of catching shrimp easier. I'm sure you'll probably find that you have a lot more RCS than you think because usually the ones you see are only a fraction of what is actually there.

Good luck and hopefully you can post some pics!

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I have never used potash and dolomite as I can't find them. It works for me without them anyway. I have tried pond clay (meant for pond) when I failed to find topsoil. Honestly, clay didn't work very well for me but topsoil works better. I have never mixed clay and topsoil because during one of my experiments, the clay was unavailable when I found topsoil (initially I intended to mix them). :(

If I ever attempt another experiment, I would like to try adding some crushed coral before adding topsoil to see whether there is any benefit for livebearers (I have soft water in my area).

What does it mean by organic? I think you need to find out the ingredients. You don't want topsoil with manure in your tank. You also don't want too much dead leaves & dead branches in the soil. You might have come across someone who bought topsoil consisting of no soil but manure in Aaron's famous thread - you don't want this in your "topsoil" :D

Yes, it would be fun if you can post some photos when you play with mud. I always love photos of el natural in progress :)
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