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I agree, there is a break in period for soiled substrate, but I would not go any other route because it's cheap, natural, and proven. One thing you can do next time is speed up the break in process by mineralizing the soil substrate. The main point is the drying process allow oxygen to get to bacteria to break down the soil quickly. Creating a thin layer of soil and wetting and drying the layer several time mineralizes the soil. Then when you put it in the tank, the soil has gone through a good deal of the break in period.
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