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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It's been a long while since I last posted. My original plan was to do El Natural for a goldfish tank but the buggers just kept pulling everything out. Oh well. Advance a couple of years and now I want to do a small (2.5 - 5 gallon) tank for a betta at work.

I purchased a small bag of MiracleGrow Organic Choice potting mix and currently have it soaking in a bucket. From what I've read, it's a good idea to soak and/or let the mix air out for a while. My questions are:
1. How long do I soak?
2. Do I do soak, dry, soak, dry? If so, how many times and for how long? Last thing I want to do is get rid of the beneficial stuff while getting rid of ammonia.

I'm not planning on adding a fish for a while, or at least until I know the ammonia will be safe. Since it'll be a work fish, I won't be in on the weekends to check on him and I'd hate for an ammonia spike to get him while I'm away.

Thanks much!
Willow
 

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I've tried a few different methods, from just putting it in the tank from day 1 to wetting and fully air-drying...


I've had the best experience when I soaked for 1 day and let it air out for 1 day, then soak for 1 day...swapping over a 7-12 day stretch. When I've done this the plants and fish were happy from the day 1 of planting, though in my office tank I waited a week before adding critters. The two times I did this I also added a little yard soil to the mix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply, Mudboots! How would you recommend draining the soaking soil? I was thinking a cardboard box lid and just slowly dump the contents of the bucket into the lid. After the water's drained out, give the soil a stir and wait a few hours, stirring again; repeat until 1 day is passed. Does that sound right?
 

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For the most recent tank (34 rimless bow front);

I put all the soil in a 5 gallon bucket and filled it and let sit for a day. The stuff that's still floating I scooped with my hand and placed it in a large plastic tub that coincidentally had some cracks in it. Then I poured off the water from the bucket carefully, as the rest of the soil was well sunk. Then I dumped the saturated mess into the tub on top of the floating material and the excess slowly leaked out from the cracks. Because I had also added some yard soil I would mix it up at this time to keep the material fluffed and the bacteria evenly spread throughout. I'm not sure if that's necessary, but it worked anyway.

By the end of 7 days almost all of the floating material sank, and the little that would not I tossed out. I also noticed a significant reduction in the mass as a lot of the organics broke down. So by the time I put it in the tank it was a fairly stable substrate.

I started with enough material to have a 1.5-2.0 inch layer, and ended up with less than an inch, which worked fine because I had more capping substrate than I needed.
 

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Just to confuse things a bit, I soak my soil for at least a week, stirring several times and then pouring out the old water and adding new. I then use the soil as is without airing.

The main purpose of soaking and airing is to reduce the amount of organics in the soil. That in turn reduces or eliminates the ammonia spike that might otherwise occur.

Good luck!

Bill
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Mahalo for the replies, guys! I'm guessing that the lack of a fish for a few days while the tank settles won't deprive the plants of anything major. Especially not at 5 gallons.

I think I'll try a combo of your ideas - soak for a couple of days, air for one, soak again for a couple of days, air out and maybe repeat. I'll see how desperate I am to get this tank set up :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
One other question - would it be a good idea to "seed" the new tank with substrate from my already established tank? I believe it's Amazonia, but it's been over a year since I set that tank up (basic community tank, planted fairly heavily). Otherwise, would using some of the established tank's water be better whenI do set up the new tank?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've got one week to go on the soak/dry thing. A thought did occur, though: since the idea is to introduce oxygen to the soil to begin breaking down bad stuff, would adding a pump and air stone help while in the soaking phase?
 

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I've got one week to go on the soak/dry thing. A thought did occur, though: since the idea is to introduce oxygen to the soil to begin breaking down bad stuff, would adding a pump and air stone help while in the soaking phase?
IMO, no. The several water changes will provide all the oxygen that might be needed.

After a week the soil should be fine to use.

Bill
 
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