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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey gang,

I figured out how to DIY my own Ferti-Plant plus for pennies on the dollar:

The main active ingredients are Lignite, a low grade coal rich in humic acids, and also Laterite which we should all be familiar with. Many hobbyists are touting its efficacy, so this tells me that the humics are the key. This is especuially true for higher light tanks, though I suspect the this substrate enrichment would be great for low light, low maintenance, and non-CO2 tanks.

First, Ferti-Plant + is *mostly* a quartz or volcanic sand, (I can't tell which) which has been enriched. Any sand will do, but a finer grade is better as it will hold the laterite and other goodies down better, and ultimately will provide more surface area. I used #1 blasting grit, but any fine gravel or coarse sand will do. I suspect that Pumice sand in a similar size would produce the best results due to high porosity.

The big mystery is the Lignite. This is simply a low grade coal which means that it won't burn as well due to it not being as far along in the decomposition process as a higher grade coal (Google Lignite). IE: it is high in undecomposed organic matter. After a search, I learned that Leonardite is a special deposit of Lignite and has the some of the highest quantity of natural occurring humic acids known. This is a popular product for organic gardening, and hydroponics. I found Leonardite at a hydroponics store under the brand name "Diamond Black" and is a General Hydroponics product. 1lb was $10 where I got it and I'd bet you could get it cheaper shoppong online. A Google search yields many options.

Next is the laterite. I used Aquarium Products at the recommended quantity, but you could use any laterite. I learned from Jamie Johnson's web site that Aquarium Products laterite has the highest Fe content of any laterite on the market, although many hobbyists report inferior growth to Dupla Root. That shouldn't matter much in this case. At any rate, the quantity of laterite in FertiPlant + is low and in powder form.

Viola, DIY Ferti-Plant. I used significantly more laterite in my mixture than Ferti-plant does, and about the same amount of humics (Lignite or Leonardite) as FP. I figure it comes out about like this for cost for 100lbs of DIY ferti-plant:

-100lbs blasting sand- $5
-1lb tub of humics- $10
-110oz AP laterite- $30 from Big Al's including shipping. This is a generous helping of laterite. Add $10-$15 for Dupla Root substitute.
total: ~$45-$60 for 100lbs

Versus 11lbs of Ferti-plant + for ~$50 including shipping (Florida Driftwood)

So, you see, even if you wanted to add another pound of humics or use Dupla Root, the savings are still substantial.

Happy gardening.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ptahkeem,

Use about a half inch as a base and cover with whatever substrate you usually use. I like Eco-Complete or plain coarse sand. If you don't want to make 100lbs (!), then just take the amount of sand it takes to make a half inch layer on the bottom of your tank and add the manufacturers recommended dose of laterite. I use 2tbs per 20 gallons of Humics outlined above. I'd use about a 1/4 cup or maybe slightly less for your tank. You could use more or less-- It's not an exact thing, but be aware too much will destructively acidify your substrate. I'd stick to 4-6tbs in your 40g case.

One important issue is to make the entire substrate deep enough. 3" minimum to get best Fe reduction/avaiability.

Jay,

I amended the above formula further. I only outlined the way to DIY the ferti-plant. I also used a whole cup of worm castings (20g tank) in addition to the above as well as a couple handsfull of activated carbon (that's an experiment). There's not much to compare between substrates really. Last time I used plain gravel. I have to use about 1/3 of the traces and Fe that I did before, and so far, I'm getting more reliable growth across the tank. Also, plants that did so-so, or not well at all before are thriving. Wait until you see the Blyxa japonica.

I also notice that I wasn't able to dose the last tank with NO3. I attribute being able to now (proceeding cautiously), because the last tank was Fe limited due to the lights, O2, and no place for the substrate to make it available again. Providing iron is the key, IME, with really intense lights, and I wasn't able to do that as well before.

A full blown soil tank is the next project.

Hey, if I'm around, you guys are more than welcome to pop by and check it out. Maybe I could tag along to AC? Lemme know as soon as you can and I'll have the tanks nice as possible for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hmmmm-- Laterite from any LFS or cheaper from an online source like Big Al's, Drs. Foster Smith, or Dupla Root from Florida Driftwood. Blasting grit from any building supply. Look in your phone book for the closest ones. Be careful that it is pure quartz and contains no limestone or shell fragments. Apparently, blasting grit content varies by local.

http://www.altgarden.com/ is just an example of a place to get Diamond Black-- first place I found on Google. Go to the "Additives" section and scroll down. If you'd like to shop around simply Google "Hydroponics" and pick a store:)

HTH
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Just an addendum to the initial post:

Please be careful when combining humics or other acidifying agents with Laterite as the aluminum can become toxic at low pH's. You don't need much to get the benefits. The above level, 1tbs per 10g, has proven safe for me.

Enjoy!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hey Erik!!

Yeah, we chatted about Diamond Black and other substrate stuff which prompted me to look more deeply at the whole situation-- I stumbled on it while looking for worm castings at a HP store like the day after. It's exactly the same stuff as Ferti-Plant. I'm just glad that you told me about it or I would've passed it right up :)

Pyrosol which you also mentioned looks promising as a substitute for Laterite. I'll get around to giving that a shot one day...

I actually meant to give you credit for the DB stuff, but I forgot. :oops:

Did you get the Vladimir Simoes method translation from Enrico? He mentioned that you were also asking for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah, there's no significant nutrient that Lignite/Leonardite will provide on its own. It has all the right juices to make the ones you add along with it more available, though. But you knew that, Tom 8) What are the issues with Lignite enriched soils?

A good NO3 soak is a good idea... What about a urea or NH4 soak? Frankly, I'd just as soon add what I need to the water for macros. Too many algae variables when constantly uprooting for 'scaping purposes, but the soak could be a great method for "low-tech" tanks...

At any rate, I added some NPK via the worm castings, granted it's not much. Iron, and I guess other traces, are my main concern at the high light levels I've been experimenting with as they seem critical for macro use by plants-- That's where the castings excel, I believe. So far, the Fe/traces that I've needed to dose is MUCH reduced, and as roots continue to develop, I expect it to become less critical.

Peat is great-- I love it, it works. It's also much messier than granulated humics and has less *punch* as far as I can tell. The *punch* may or may not be an issue for most plant tanks, but the mess and stain are from peat. Enter activated carbon... That was just a little something I added on top-- It was laying around. Not sure if it's doing much(?) other than adsorbing tannins and metals.... I'm sure it's full by now, though-- ripe for plant use.

Laterite is just convenient (can be bought in smaller quantities for less), and is a main, active component of FP+. Flourite sucks, but could be brought to life by the humics, I guess. Eco-Complete is kinda on my ****-list (excuse the French) because it is so potent, it grows algaes right in the bag at the LFS, and seems to foster green algaes in the tank all things being equal. If you can get it past the first 4-6 weeks, I *really* like it. It would probably be a champ as a medium for the substrate outlined above capped with plain, coarse sand. I don't have experience with either FloraBase or Onyx.

FP+ seems to be becoming more popular, but it's a rip off at the going price. I can brew 100lbs per 10lbs of FP+ for the same cost or better. If peat is the same or better, I can brew 200lbs for the same price. Lignite is cleaner and more potent per quantity, I suspect, so I'll stick with that.

Thanks for the input, Tom and Erik.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The macro soak will definately work, but to what end? I'm not sure-- It might be awesome or insignificant. My preference with macros is to keep the majority of it in the water where I can easily adjust them. Being someone who's constantly uprooting plants... You can see the dilemma there. If you wanted to try this scientifiaclly and report back it might be nice.

Use distilled water, a known quantity of NO3 or PO4, and soak the lignite in it for a a predetermined time and test how much nutrient is left unbound in the water afater your time is up. Easy experiment and ultimately useful for us, I think. I don't have the testing equipment, or I'd try it.

No need to soak it in traces. That's what your plant soil is for. Soils have a limitless supply of traces, at least for our purposes, and they'll be rejuvenated everytime you add liquid ferts, mulm accumulates, etc.

No need to add peat, but it won't hurt anything in moderation.

Hehe-- Schultz APS is even cheaper than laterite. It may be the cheapest solution.

I only tried to copy FP+ as closely as possible in the inital thread, but substitutions are feasible or smart. As Tom mentioned, laterite kinda sucks compared to the stuff we have available now. The most potent thing would be natural soils, but that's probably overkill in most situations.

The essential ingredients for this type of substrate are: an appropriate filler, organic matter to provide humics, and a long term source of traces. Anything else is a frill, but maybe appropriate for your case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
toshi said:
Hey John,

I think the Diamond Black is definitely promising as an additive to substrate builds... I received Vladimir's translated text but I must do some editing before it is publish-worthy! :lol:

Yeah, I heard that. I got a good chuckle when I recieved it:)
 
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