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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've seen a few different methods of sifting (or not) MGOC in preparation of adding it to the tank. I decided to go with the "soak the soil in water overnight, and then remove all the floaters."

Well, I soaked it overnight and came back and I would said a solid 80% of the soil is still floating. I bought 24qts of MGOC potting mix for a 20g long and I think, if I sifted out all the floaters, I wouldn't be left with enough for a dirt base. I would have to go buy a lot more dirt.

Thoughts/suggestions?
 

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It isn't unusual to lose 50% of the volume of bagged soil mixes, but 80% is a lot! Try leaving the floaters in the bucket for another day to see if they sink. If you must buy more bagged soil, try the cheapest brand you can find. Or use good topsoil from a garden.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
It isn't unusual to lose 50% of the volume of bagged soil mixes, but 80% is a lot! Try leaving the floaters in the bucket for another day to see if they sink. If you must buy more bagged soil, try the cheapest brand you can find. Or use good topsoil from a garden.
I'll give it another night. No kidding on the cheap stuff! This was $8/8qt and only one store in town carries it...


Edit: I just found this post by Diana responding to someone who has the same problem as me: Suitable soils for the Walstad method
 

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Edit: I just found this post by Diana responding to someone who has the same problem as me: Suitable soils for the Walstad method

Well, I soaked it overnight and came back and I would said a solid 80% of the soil is still floating. I bought 24qts of MGOC potting mix for a 20g long and I think, if I sifted out all the floaters, I wouldn't be left with enough for a dirt base. I would have to go buy a lot more dirt.
I never put soil in a bucket of water, and the only thing I discard from the soil--straight out of the bag-- are sticks and large twigs. Otherwise, I use 90% of the bag.

Glad you found the link to my old post. Here it is again--9 years later.

"I think letting MGOC stuff float on the surface won't get the gas out efficiently. You need to somehow hold the soil underwater and let the weight of the water and the increased water pressure squeeze the gases out. If you just let the soil float on the surface, it will take forever for it to degas.

In my tank setups, I degas the soil automatically when I put a 1" gravel layer over the 1" layer of wetted MGOC. The gravel holds the soil down as I slowly and carefully fill the tank with water. After that, the weight of the gravel and the water helps force the gas out of the soil so that the soil quickly degasses and does not float.

Another possible solution is to add the soil to the tank, wet it as usual, and then cover it with something heavy (i.e., rocks, dinner plates, casserole dishes, etc). Let it sit overnight and then add the plants and gravel."
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I never put soil in a bucket of water, and the only thing I discard from the soil--straight out of the bag-- are sticks and large twigs. Otherwise, I use 90% of the bag.

Glad you found the link to my old post. Here it is again--9 years later.

"I think letting MGOC stuff float on the surface won't get the gas out efficiently. You need to somehow hold the soil underwater and let the weight of the water and the increased water pressure squeeze the gases out. If you just let the soil float on the surface, it will take forever for it to degas.

In my tank setups, I degas the soil automatically when I put a 1" gravel layer over the 1" layer of wetted MGOC. The gravel holds the soil down as I slowly and carefully fill the tank with water. After that, the weight of the gravel and the water helps force the gas out of the soil so that the soil quickly degasses and does not float.

Another possible solution is to add the soil to the tank, wet it as usual, and then cover it with something heavy (i.e., rocks, dinner plates, casserole dishes, etc). Let it sit overnight and then add the plants and gravel."
I appreciate the confirmation. By the time I was able to drain the bucket, it had already settled so I went ahead and filtered the floaters just because. The floaters and settled stuff are in two different buckets now. Should I mix them back together?

The settled stuff looks like chunky chocolate pudding and smaller wood chips appear to make up most of the floaters. No sticks or twigs.
 

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Those smaller wood chips are the organic matter that will slowly decompose and release CO2 and nutrients slowly. It will also make the soil less dense. I have never discriminated against soil organic matter. Attached is my article on setting up small planted shrimp tanks. I just remove twigs and put all the potting soil into the tank straight out of the bag. If you're not sure how to handle soil, my advice is to start with small expendable bowl/tank to get experience and raise aquarium plants for your permanent tank. You will have end up with adapted plants and gained experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I wonder why the "immerse the soil and sift out the floaters" advice/technique became so prominent, it's everywhere.

I have a 1.5g shrimp tank I started 18 months ago, I have literally not fed or done any maintenance in that time and the shrimp and snails are still kicking. This is my scale up to a tank with fish so I want to make sure I get the nuance right. Last time I just dumped the dirt in, floaters and all, but since this is a bigger tank with more consequence and investment I've been doing more research on the preparation... and most research comes back with "sift out the floaters first."

I'll mix them back in, hopefully no major harm done.
 

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I wonder why the "immerse the soil and sift out the floaters" advice/technique became so prominent, it's everywhere.
I am partly to blame for that, LOL! I like to prepare soil before putting it in the tank so that water changes are minimized once the tank is set up. I also dislike tannin-colored water. And it drives me crazy when after planting the surface of the water is covered with little floating sticks.

This is a personal variation of Diana's method and no one needs to do it if they don't want to.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I am partly to blame for that, LOL! I prepare soil before putting it in the tank so that water changes are minimized once the tank is set up. I also dislike tannin-colored water. And it drives me crazy when after planting the surface of the water is covered with little floating sticks.

This is a personal variation of Diana's method and no one needs to do it if they don't want to.
I could absolutely see how it would cut down on mess. Have you noticed any short or long term issues that arose due to the lack of that floating organic material remaining in the substrate?
 

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I could absolutely see how it would cut down on mess. Have you noticed any short or long term issues that arose due to the lack of that floating organic material remaining in the substrate?
That is a good question, I've never done a well controlled test. I can see how removing the less-decomposed material might reduce or shorten the production of natural CO2 in the soil.
 

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I like when all the dirt comes up from my substrate but dosent float and slowly my substrate turns into pure soil with gravel like it would in nature
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
That is a good question, I've never done a well controlled test. I can see how removing the less-decomposed material might reduce or shorten the production of natural CO2 in the soil.
I feel like it would be very involved and take a considerable amount of time to do a well controlled test. Sounds like a job for a book writing scientist... 😂
 

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That is a good question, I've never done a well controlled test. I can see how removing the less-decomposed material might reduce or shorten the production of natural CO2 in the soil.
Larger pieces would take longer to decompose, so their presence would slow down the decomposition process. The soil would produce CO2 and nutrients for a longer time period. I think a mixture of small and large pieces is ideal.
 
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