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I read through post of this thread, i have some simple question.

When you plant do you just move the cap layer to the side and plat in the soil then cover it up? Does it not get all mixed up? and do you not worry about cleaning the sunbrate when doing water changes?
 

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When I clean my tank that has dirt as gravel, I see debris settle where there is no water flow. (behind plants, wood, and ect.)To clean it I use my hand to make a flow of water to move the garbage that has settled, and let my filter pick it up.(I do it repeatedly) Thats what I do but im really not sure if thats thats right way. I also learned that the dirt makes the garbage on the bottem food for the plants.
-Ian
 

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How do you do such a fine job at pruning you plants? What is your secret? Thank you for answering all the other questions, because im learning alot! I think I have to give it a try with the soil.
 

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Cant find dolomite anywhere. Will dolomitic limestone powder work instead? Also found some reef tank stuff, which had Ca and Mg Chlorides in it. I am affraid it will dissolve very fast.
 

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I managed to find some $2 (singapore dollars) bags of soil. The lady at the store called it topsoil. It's dark brown, slightly moist but upon close examination you can see that it's grainy. I don't see much sticks and stuff though.

When I called them again for further clarification, they informed me that what they called "topsoil" was actually their own "mix" of soil and included things like fertilizers, compost, cocopeat etc. What they sold me they called "mix soil" which is a mix of burnt soil and black soil. They told me that this "mix soil" is similar to what you dig up from the ground and comes with no other additives. They just mix it themselves instead of digging it up. It is also good enough in nutrients to grow stuff like bamboo, bouganvillea flowers etc. So did I get the right thing?

edit: Would appreciate some advice on this asap :) I'm trying to redo my tank on an upcoming long weekend (public holiday) that is 3 weeks from today, so I need to start mineralizing within the next 2 days!
 

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I bought top soil from homer depot and all it was, sand and mulch; I strained most of the heavy particulates and I ended up with pure sand.. disappointing...
Did it look like this? This is the end result of some Treeline brand soil sold at HD and Lowes, supposedly all natural but had a ton of wood chips. Looks to me like nothing but sand and whatever wood slips through the screen. I wasted a whole month? :(



 

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Just registered to thank you for the informative article, Aaron. I'm looking at getting back into the hobby after a brief absence and the cost of the substrates marketed at planted aquariums always seemed ridiculous - hundreds of dollars for dirt!

I'll be giving this a whirl with at least one tank - maybe I'll post back in a few weeks (months? :p) when I get my act together and actually do it!

Do wish I'd found out about this (specifically the wash/drying cycle) before the Vancouver rainy season settled in, though. :) Oh well!
 

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I'm doing M-S-S, it is taking forever for my dirt to dry. It's been at least a week and it is still soaked... in the first wet dry cycle! (it is inside in a container... I know it would dry faster spread out...)

Other than that I have everything... I hope it works for the better.
 

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Stupid question....... What if u used a little of ash? would it effect water chemistry alot. I think it would have extra carbon right? I heard of ppl dumping ash on their gardens if they have a wood stove.
 

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I'm doing M-S-S, it is taking forever for my dirt to dry. It's been at least a week and it is still soaked... in the first wet dry cycle! (it is inside in a container... I know it would dry faster spread out...)

Other than that I have everything... I hope it works for the better.
In theory, you are getting more mineralization action from microbes. Aaron states this is the time it happens, when the moist soil is exposed to O2. I'm not sure if microbes and bacteria can keep performing as well in dry soil, but I actually prolonged my drying periods for this reason, by clumping the dirt into a pile while raking it periodically. Patience will work for you here and should lead to a higher mineral content.

Stupid question....... What if u used a little of ash? would it effect water chemistry alot. I think it would have extra carbon right? I heard of ppl dumping ash on their gardens if they have a wood stove.
Wood ash could raise the pH, not sure how much but I don't think I would do it.
 

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I have a question regarding Nitrate and phosphate readings in a tank with Mineralized soil. I have tested repeatedly since my cycle completed and both are at "0" and I expect will stay that way with no addition of ferts. Is this normal? Should I be concerned?
 

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There is no water flow through your soil, so the fertilizers are sequestered out of the water column. This makes for very happy roots, and typically sad algae.
 

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So, how long should I expect to wait until I can see further than an inch into the tank? I can see a sepia spectrum and that is it. I suppose having fish in there didn't help matters much. Any advice?

I filled up the tank with the soil on friday, and after 2 water changes and very careful filling, it is terrible. The plants are looking a mess. The leaves are limp and a dark green brown colour. I tried to cap it with sand but I ran out of sand.

AHHG

Here is what it looks like: (only brown)
http://www.outbackphoto.com/workflow/wf_74/gradient.jpg
 

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You can't use it without it being capped with sand... Mud puddles never quite settle out enough to be clear, and right now you're dealing with a mud puddle. Break it down and start over, make SURE your cap is complete from wall to wall before adding water.
 

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Very interesting and informative read. This whole thread is gold dust to a noob like myself. Looking to setup my first planted tank in the next couple of weeks. Will definitely be trying this out
 

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@AaronT and others.
Thank you very much for posting this howto it is a great source of reference for noobs like me.
I will try this method in a new tank I will be setting up shortly.
 

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I am very interested in trying the mineralized soil approach. I have been to a nurseries and they don't stock topsoil. When I asked them for plain topsoil, they show me products that are labelled "Lawn Dressing". They assure me that this is the same as topsoil. I am not to sure ....
Is it in fact the same thing? Can I mineralize this and have the same results?
I am just scared of putting something in my tank that will negatively affect fish and plants.
TIA
 

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Don't mean to sound stupid or anything, but in step 1, after you have added the water (the first time), you wait a day or two, then dump off the water, then add more water again. After adding water the second time, do you leave the 'mixture' again for another day or two before proceeding to step 2?
TIA
 
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