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Aaron,

I believe my soil is ready. I've done the soak/dry process 5 times (got it to dry quickly by sifting most of the stuff beforehand, and spreading it REALLY thin). When it was last wet, it did have an odor, but it smelled like wet sand. Now that it is dry, I don't really smell anything. Is this ready to go?

Also, would using DIY co2 in the beginning be wise? I'm still pretty new to all of this and would hate to mess this up. This will be my 2nd planted tank, but the first tank I'm actually planning and putting real thought into.
 

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Discussion Starter #362
Aaron,

I believe my soil is ready. I've done the soak/dry process 5 times (got it to dry quickly by sifting most of the stuff beforehand, and spreading it REALLY thin). When it was last wet, it did have an odor, but it smelled like wet sand. Now that it is dry, I don't really smell anything. Is this ready to go?

Also, would using DIY co2 in the beginning be wise? I'm still pretty new to all of this and would hate to mess this up. This will be my 2nd planted tank, but the first tank I'm actually planning and putting real thought into.
I'm sure it's probably ready to go by now.

Using DIY CO2 is just fine so long as your lighting isn't too high. If you have high lighting use pressurized CO2. Also, with DIY make sure to take precautions to keep the mixture from somehow entering your tank.
 

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I am going to try this method for my upcoming 50G low tech tank so thanks for the inspiration Aaron.

How is this different from the Walstad method as that style also uses a soil substrate? Is it that the soil is added without the soaking and drying process?

What is the advantage of the soaking/ drying instead of the Walstad method?

This may have been asked before in this thread, but it is a REALLY long thread and I couldn't find it in there.

Thanks
 

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Hi Aaron,

I decided to try and mix what sounded like 2 great ideas: Mineralized soil and the Dry Start Method.
I have a 40 gal breeder tank and I filled it with about 1 - 2 " of MTS just the way you laid it out in the insructions and I topped it off with Estes black aguarium gravel. I set it up with a large piece of mopani wood, 2 medium slate caves and 2 pieces of slate buried and I planted some mosses, marsilea quad, staurogyne repens and dwarf hairgrass for the front of the tank via the DSM misting the plants and substrate with conditioned water and excel mix. I had 2 - 39 watt T5HO 500K and 6700K lights on this tank got 10 hours a day. After a couple of weeks I noticed that nearly all of the plants turned brown with a couple turning cotton white. I have since removed them all and noticed s slight pungent odor so I wonder if I should just fill the tank and plant as usual? Thanks.
 

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Do you have any idea what the shelf-life of Mineralized Top Soil is?

The reason I ask, is that I've been planning a new 120 tank, but am still about two months from putting water in it. Its September and I live in New Hampshire. If I start now, I can create the MTS with drying cycles outside, but the MTS will be ready before the tank, and I would have to store the dirt for a month or so. Is there a risk of bullding up organics again during that time?

Timing the MTS with the tank readiness would require waiting until October when weather is considerably cooler and there are the falling leaves and some pine needles to keep out of the mixture. I'm not optimisitic that October is a good month for outdoor drying, so if the MTS can't be stored for a month or so, then I think I'm looking at an indoor process which is less appealing.

What do you recommend?

As an aside, I assume I need to be careful with the product choice for the plastic drying tarp to avoid additives that kill bacteria so that stuff won't ultimately end up in the tank. Is a painters drop cloth a good choice?

Thanks
 

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Hi Aaron, Thanks a lot for the great article. I spent most of my day going through the pages of this thread. What an interesting read...

I want to try your method but I want to ask you about a challenge I am facing. I'm in Bangalore and what is readily available is red soil, and few garden stores prepare potting mix with red soil and organic manure. I was wondering if it would work. I asked in a few stores today and they only have red soil and stuff that they have made out of red soil. I see that in many gardens, this kind of mix is used for normal plants. I could still look around for normal black/brown soil but I wanted to know your opinion (and of other experts here) on this.

Thanks a lot in advance.
 

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Discussion Starter #368
I am going to try this method for my upcoming 50G low tech tank so thanks for the inspiration Aaron.

How is this different from the Walstad method as that style also uses a soil substrate? Is it that the soil is added without the soaking and drying process?

What is the advantage of the soaking/ drying instead of the Walstad method?

This may have been asked before in this thread, but it is a REALLY long thread and I couldn't find it in there.

Thanks
The Walstad method relies on the breakdown of organic matter in the soil to provide adequate CO2 for plant growth. In the case of MTS we are mineralizing those organics to minimize the risk of the buildup of toxic gasses that can result from the decomposition process. It also allows one to use higher lighting and injected CO2 if one so desires though neither is by any means necessary to enjoy a tank with MTS substrate.
 

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Hi Aaron,

I decided to try and mix what sounded like 2 great ideas: Mineralized soil and the Dry Start Method.
I have a 40 gal breeder tank and I filled it with about 1 - 2 " of MTS just the way you laid it out in the insructions and I topped it off with Estes black aguarium gravel. I set it up with a large piece of mopani wood, 2 medium slate caves and 2 pieces of slate buried and I planted some mosses, marsilea quad, staurogyne repens and dwarf hairgrass for the front of the tank via the DSM misting the plants and substrate with conditioned water and excel mix. I had 2 - 39 watt T5HO 500K and 6700K lights on this tank got 10 hours a day. After a couple of weeks I noticed that nearly all of the plants turned brown with a couple turning cotton white. I have since removed them all and noticed s slight pungent odor so I wonder if I should just fill the tank and plant as usual? Thanks.
This is late to the party, but I've never used the DSM myself. It sounds like maybe you had too much humidity.
 

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Do you have any idea what the shelf-life of Mineralized Top Soil is?

The reason I ask, is that I've been planning a new 120 tank, but am still about two months from putting water in it. Its September and I live in New Hampshire. If I start now, I can create the MTS with drying cycles outside, but the MTS will be ready before the tank, and I would have to store the dirt for a month or so. Is there a risk of bullding up organics again during that time?

Timing the MTS with the tank readiness would require waiting until October when weather is considerably cooler and there are the falling leaves and some pine needles to keep out of the mixture. I'm not optimisitic that October is a good month for outdoor drying, so if the MTS can't be stored for a month or so, then I think I'm looking at an indoor process which is less appealing.

What do you recommend?

As an aside, I assume I need to be careful with the product choice for the plastic drying tarp to avoid additives that kill bacteria so that stuff won't ultimately end up in the tank. Is a painters drop cloth a good choice?

Thanks
You can store it for all eternity if you so desire.
 

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Hi Aaron, Thanks a lot for the great article. I spent most of my day going through the pages of this thread. What an interesting read...

I want to try your method but I want to ask you about a challenge I am facing. I'm in Bangalore and what is readily available is red soil, and few garden stores prepare potting mix with red soil and organic manure. I was wondering if it would work. I asked in a few stores today and they only have red soil and stuff that they have made out of red soil. I see that in many gardens, this kind of mix is used for normal plants. I could still look around for normal black/brown soil but I wanted to know your opinion (and of other experts here) on this.

Thanks a lot in advance.
Is it safe to assume the soil is red due to clay content? If so, it might be too much clay.

Do you have any rivers, streams or creeks nearby? You could always use some of the sediment from one of those.
 

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Is it safe to assume the soil is red due to clay content? If so, it might be too much clay.

Do you have any rivers, streams or creeks nearby? You could always use some of the sediment from one of those.
Thanks Aaron. I looked around in that direction today. I managed to get some black soil that one nursery had collected from some lake nearby and they use it for their lotuses. I hope that would work. I also have some red soil to mix a little to add some iron.

What I also bought when I was at the nursery was two bottles of macro and micro nutrients. I just bought it and thought I would ask you if it would be a good idea to add some. Both are liquid and the instructions are to add it with water to the soil. I'm guessing that adding it in one of the soaking rounds and then drying it would add these to the soil effectively. Am I correct?

These are the ingredients of these bottles:
Macro Nutrients: 6 Macro Nutrients - nitrogen, phosperous, and potassium.
Micro Nutrients: Sulphur, magnesium, Boron, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, iron, chloride and sodium

I will add these if needed only if you say it is a good idea since I am not very good at understanding these things. :)

Looking forward to a great weekend working on this.
 

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You shouldn't need the liquid fertilizers. You can add them to the mud before you cap it with substrate to give the tank a jump start, but I wouldn't use much.

Once the tank is established for a few months you can dose the water column some as well if you so desire.
 

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Has anyone had success doing this anywhere in the North where it starts to get really cold this time of year?
You could do it indoors in a basement or garage. It takes longer in the cold.
 

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I mean that could work but I was almost thinking about setting up a tent in my backyard and doing it there. It would probably look like a science expedition in the North pole because I think we'll have a heavy snowfall this winter here in Western NY. I have this heater unit that runs on propane that could keep it just warm enough to where the dirt doesn't freeze. I mean I'm in no rush, it's just lack of room.
 

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Aaron when I initially rinse off the soil and go to dump it...the water will be black/brown mud water right? I just wanna make sure I'm not losing any good pieces of the soil?
 

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Aaron when I initially rinse off the soil and go to dump it...the water will be black/brown mud water right? I just wanna make sure I'm not losing any good pieces of the soil?
No, the water should ideally be clear. I think you are not letting the soil settle long enough. The initial wetting/rinse should allow u to identity floating particulate like wood pieces that are not soil components; These pieces should be scooped out and removed. If your soil contains a lot of silt, then your soil will simply take longer to settle as these are the smallest soil particles. If you identify other components that do not look like soil (like rocks), you can always stir u the soil and scoop them out with a large net. The soil particles should then settle to the bottom so you can easily decant a lot of the water off of the top. I'd let your soil settle several hours or overnight initially.
 
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