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Hey WBS.
So it's basically 2 days soaking, change water, 2 days soaking, drying, repeat X 4 ...
Thanks for all the help so far. This will be my first planted tank, so I still have lots of questions ....
 

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Hey darryn:

When I made my substrate, I just went to the Home Depot and went through their soil section one brand at a time. I either looked for a torn bag or tore one a little myself and dug in. If it looks like mulch, potting soil (has perlite/fillers or fert spheres), compost or if a handful feels warm or wet, try something else.


Here's what I bought. It was dirt cheap (yuk yuk). I think $2-3/40lb. bag.


A handful before any screening


As used

Of course, not pre-treating it or anything I had a huge green water problem, but that eventually subsided. That's another reason I'm so keen to try the mineralized method on my rescape.


Planted


A few months later...
 

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Discussion Starter · #164 ·
When you dump off the water, do I remove the floating 'bits' as well, or should I mix them back into the soil?
TIA
No, it's best to remove them. I remove them later during the screening process myself, but it doesn't hurt to skim them off of the water either.
 

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Here is a way to test any soil you are thinking of using. You need about a handful to a double handful. It should be dry to start with.

Put a piece of masking tape on a jar so you can write on it. The jar should be straight sided. The tape will go from top to bottom. The jar might have a volume of half a liter to a liter.

Break up any clods and put the soil sample in the jar. It might half fill the jar, maybe 2/3. Grinding it with a mortar and pestle is best. Pounding it with a hammer might be a low-tech way of making sure all the pieces are broken up. Tamp it in a bit to get rid of larger air masses. (Tap the jar on the table) Mark on the tape where the top of the soil is.

Now add water and a little bit of soap. Pretty close to fill the jar, maybe 3/4 full. Certainly more water than there is soil. Dish washing soap, hand washing soap... does not matter much. Just a drop. Powdered detergent is fine, too, a few granules.

Secure the lid and shake...and shake...and shake... (This is why a jar much larger than a liter is not so good) If you find you did not add enough water add more. When you are sure all the soil is really well wet:

Set the jar down and time it. Be ready to mark the tape:

In less than 30 seconds sand falls out. At 30 seconds mark the tape where the top of the soil seems to be.
Between 1-2 minutes silt falls out. Silt is a soil particle size that is almost too small to see, but is not clay. Mark the tape where the top of the soil seems to be at 2 minutes.
The colored water that remains has clay particles suspended in it.
Anything you see floating is organic matter. It will not have gotten wet enough yet to mix with the water or settle out.
Over a period of 24 hours the larger clay particles will settle out.
If the water is still cloudy it has coloidal clay. This is clay particles that are so small that Brownian motion keeps them suspended.

Interpreting the results:
If the water is still cloudy after 24 hours forget it. This soil MIGHT be OK after mineralizing, but maybe not. Over the years in the garden microorganisms will bind clay together so it is better soil for the plants and all the life in the soil, but I for one do not want to wait that long to set up a tank.
If there is a lot of organic matter floating, and you have to pay for this soil, then think of the waste. You will need to remove most of it. Floating it off will work as described above. Each time you cover the soil with water, skim the surface.
If this is free dirt you have shoveled up from your back yard this is not much of a $ problem, just start with a bigger batch. You might even screen it before starting the mineralizing to get rid of the larger pieces.

Now look at the amounts of sand, silt and clay that have settled out in the jar.
The sizes of these particles are very carefully described in soil classification charts, but I have found that the stuff that settles out as sand and silt make better soil for an aquarium. If there is too much clay (more than 5%) then it is too much clay.
Somewhere around 70-80% sand, and the rest mostly silt is really good. Clay has the highest cationic exchange capacity, but it does not take much to handle the needs of an aquarium. (Or a garden)

Note that I am NOT saying to go buy a bag of sand. I am saying the soil scientists' description of soil uses the word 'sand' to describe the particle size that works well in an aquarium. In a mixed soil sample the 'sand' will be all the sizes from coarse enough to feel gritty to an almost smooth feeling particle size.
Silt particle sizes will feel smooth, but not gooy or sticky, and clay will feel smooth and gooy. A blend of sizes mostly in the 'sand' size range, with a reasonable amount of silt and a little clay is great.

Note also that this does not say anything about what nutrients are present in the soil. Some clay is high in iron. Some soils are high in Ca and Mg.
You can use your aquarium test kit to test the water that has cleared in the jar, but better to avoid the soap by repeating the shaking of a separate sample of soil and water in a jar, but do not add soap. If your GH test shows it is high in minerals you might not want to add so much (or any) dolomite. If the iron test is too low, then add some laterite.
There are also garden soil tests that you can use at this point.

I see several people have asked about variations in the wet/dry cycle, and storing the soil in containers.
The timing of the cycle is based on the growth of certain microorganisms. In cooler weather they grow slower, and using the length of time it takes for the soil to dry as a timing method is pretty good.
These microorganisms need oxygen, so spreading out the soil is important. It will not mineralize very well in an open container like a bucket. I suspect that doing this in the shade would be better in really warm weather.
 

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Is it possible to use Potassium Carbonate(K2CO3) instead of the Potassium Chloride(Muriate of Potash)? Continental Clay Company here in Minnesota sells everything needed for this except the Topsoil.


Edit: Found a place called Brew & Grow in Spring Lake Park, MN that sells Muriate of Potash. I am spending about $15 for the MTS mixture and I already have 3M ColorQuartz for the inert substrate. I love the internet for it's searching power!
 

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I tried doing mineralized soil before, was going great until I poured too much water into the soil to get it saturated before I put a layer of gravel on top. Whole thing was ruied. Huh. Maybe next time I'll try again....
 

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Discussion Starter · #168 ·
Diana K - That's the best explanation I've heard regarding what type of soil to look for.
 

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Is there any value in repeating the rinsing/drying process more than the 4 or 5 times mentioned in the first post?
I have just finished the 5th 'cycle', but my tank is not ready yet. I was thinking that if there is some value in more cycles, I would continue until the tank is ready.
TIA
 

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Wow,

Diana K, THANK YOU!

Even for doing a straight 'El Natural' type tank (not pre-mineralizing) that is a great way to assess the kind of soil to use. This question comes up constantly on the El Natural forum.

What a great and straightforward way to test this!

Many Thanks,
Jane
 

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Discussion Starter · #172 ·
Is there any value in repeating the rinsing/drying process more than the 4 or 5 times mentioned in the first post?
I have just finished the 5th 'cycle', but my tank is not ready yet. I was thinking that if there is some value in more cycles, I would continue until the tank is ready.
TIA
It probably wouldn't help much at this point. If you haven't sifted the soil that goes a long way to getting rid of bits of leaves, rocks and twigs that don't help things down the line.
 

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It probably wouldn't help much at this point. If you haven't sifted the soil that goes a long way to getting rid of bits of leaves, rocks and twigs that don't help things down the line.
Sorry, I don't understand.
Are you saying that they is no use in doing more repetitions of the cycle?
Not sure what you mean "that goes a long way to getting rid of bits of leaves, rocks and twigs that don't help things down the line".

Could you please clarify?
TIA
 

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Hello all,

I just read the wjhole thread, cause I'm in the process to setup a new small (35L) planted aquarium and wanted to try something different, something more natural, so I searched for topsoil and finished here.
Thank you for the big help you are giving me understanding how to do this task.

Just a stupid question: as fas as I understood, the mineralization process can exist if the microbes and bacteria are exposed to O2, or, in another words, to the air.
What if we leave the topsoil submerged in the water, and instead pump air into the container, with some air pump and, let's say, few airstones?
This should add a lot of oxigen to the water, and also "stir" continuously the soil until mineralized.
What do you think?
This way we could leave the soil into the water for as long as two-three weeks, and simply dry it at the end.

I've used this method in the past with hydroponic cultivation, to keep the root of the plants (roots completely submerged in the water) well oxigenated and prevent them to rot; it worked amazingly well, my cultivations were amazing, the roots was breaking down nutrients with an amazing rate, the growth was unbelievable.

Ciao,
Giovanni
 

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Discussion Starter · #175 ·
Sorry, I don't understand.
Are you saying that they is no use in doing more repetitions of the cycle?
Not sure what you mean "that goes a long way to getting rid of bits of leaves, rocks and twigs that don't help things down the line".

Could you please clarify?
TIA
Yes, there's not much use in continuing the repetitions. Once it's mineralized it's good to go and 4-5 cycles is usually more than enough.

I always let my soil dry completely after the last cycle and screen it to remove any sticks, stones and other organic materials that cause algae problems down the road. Not to mention that the sticks and such will float around in the tank every time you uproot something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #176 ·
Hello all,

I just read the wjhole thread, cause I'm in the process to setup a new small (35L) planted aquarium and wanted to try something different, something more natural, so I searched for topsoil and finished here.
Thank you for the big help you are giving me understanding how to do this task.

Just a stupid question: as fas as I understood, the mineralization process can exist if the microbes and bacteria are exposed to O2, or, in another words, to the air.
What if we leave the topsoil submerged in the water, and instead pump air into the container, with some air pump and, let's say, few airstones?
This should add a lot of oxigen to the water, and also "stir" continuously the soil until mineralized.
What do you think?
This way we could leave the soil into the water for as long as two-three weeks, and simply dry it at the end.

I've used this method in the past with hydroponic cultivation, to keep the root of the plants (roots completely submerged in the water) well oxigenated and prevent them to rot; it worked amazingly well, my cultivations were amazing, the roots was breaking down nutrients with an amazing rate, the growth was unbelievable.

Ciao,
Giovanni
That does work in theory, but it's far less effective and would take longer than 2-3 weeks. The amount of oxygen that's exposed to the bacteria in the soil by drying it in the open air is far greater.
 

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That does work in theory, but it's far less effective and would take longer than 2-3 weeks. The amount of oxygen that's exposed to the bacteria in the soil by drying it in the open air is far greater.
I know, but here in Bergamo (italy) now we are in the middle of the winter, the outdoor temperature oscillates around 0°C (32°F), so doing the mineralization outside is impossible.
More over, I'm not allowed by my wife to play with mud inside the house, so mineralization inside is also impossible...
The idea was to set up a bucket into the garage and let it run until ready; I really need few liters (I want to try this method in a 35L (9 US GAL), so something about 4 liter (1 US GAL) should be enough.

What if I do the process as decribed in the thred but leaving the soil into the bucket? Being a little quantity should work.

Ciao,
Giovanni
 

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Discussion Starter · #178 ·
I know, but here in Bergamo (italy) now we are in the middle of the winter, the outdoor temperature oscillates around 0°C (32°F), so doing the mineralization outside is impossible.
More over, I'm not allowed by my wife to play with mud inside the house, so mineralization inside is also impossible...
The idea was to set up a bucket into the garage and let it run until ready; I really need few liters (I want to try this method in a 35L (9 US GAL), so something about 4 liter (1 US GAL) should be enough.

What if I do the process as decribed in the thred but leaving the soil into the bucket? Being a little quantity should work.

Ciao,
Giovanni
Why not let it dry in the garage? True, it takes longer in the winter time, but still not as long as the method you propose.
 
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