Aquatic Plant Forum banner
1 - 20 of 26 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I continue have trouble growing plants using potting soil (Walstad method) in my new tank. so I set up a small jar with the soil I plan to use in my 29 gallon aquarium, but plants are not working as expected, I see little growth. So I continue to do the experiment to see how the soil behaves with couple more jars (some of the plants used: sagittaria, vallisneria, water wisteria, limnophila sessiliflora, etc.,), and noticed the substrate started to smell next day itself within few days smell increases, but no smell in the water. I did the experiment with very thin layer of gravel (to make sure cap is not causing any issues), and 1/2 inch soil. I did not see any major growth in those jars.

I did not take photos to post. Soil is 100 % organic soil, and no chemical fertilizer added. I checked with manufacturer before buying. Is there anything wrong with the soil? Does substrate smell within a day? I believe smelly substrate causing poor plant growth.

Attached photo of my soil ingredients.

Should I try different soil?

Thanks in advance!
 

Attachments

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
5,861 Posts
This soil is loaded with extra nutrients even though it is "organic" and has no synthetic fertilizers. Try using a very thin layer, or mineralizing it, or soak-and-drain, or mixing it with an inorganic high cation exchange capacity (CEC) substrate like Safe-T-Sorb.

Are you in the USA? If not it may be hard to find the high CEC ingredients we often recommend.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
88 Posts
I am no biologist but every substrate I have dug up smells terrible. I think its normal - its bacteria. A substrate without smell is not natural. A substrate should be a chemical factory. The worst substrate I have ever smelt (truly offensive, rotten egg smell) was one I dug up in the wild, by the side of a road. It was so bad I didn't want to use it. Its become my best substrate and the water means there is no smell (water acts as a smell barrier). I haven't smelt it since I put it into my tank but I doubt it would smell any better.

But I suspect that animal waste (manure) maybe too high in organics for a small tank. Never tried it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This soil is loaded with extra nutrients even though it is "organic" and has no synthetic fertilizers. Try using a very thin layer, or mineralizing it, or soak-and-drain, or mixing it with an inorganic high cation exchange capacity (CEC) substrate like Safe-T-Sorb.

Are you in the USA? If not it may be hard to find the high CEC ingredients we often recommend.
Thanks! In one of the experiment jars, I was actually using mineralized soil with couple of wet and dry following your advice from other thread. There was no smell coming from the wet soil, and felt like airy sand, so I decided to use. Do you think it needs more preparation wet/dry cycles? How do I know the soil mineralized? Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks again!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
5,861 Posts
That soil sounds good. "Mineralize" is a confusing term. What you are trying to do is rinse out excess nutrients and get decomposition started. If the wet soil smelled good, then it should be ready.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That soil sounds good. "Mineralize" is a confusing term. What you are trying to do is rinse out excess nutrients and get decomposition started. If the wet soil smelled good, then it should be ready.
Thanks! Here where I live it's very common to have cow manure added to soil.

Yes, I was using the prepared soil, but it was also smelly. Probably soil cant be used in aquarium? Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Manure amendments are used to give high yields for fruits and vegetables. Definitely not needed for aquatic plants.
The cow manure in the soil is well decomposed, it's not recognisable. Do you think still causing problems? Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
88 Posts
@pjcvijay, you have me wondering now. Cow manure is essentially just dead grasses. I will try some as I have access to cows. Sheep manure doesn't seem to work at all with plants, non-aquatic (sheep seem to have some strange guts). I have just started making my own composting and soils for aquarium plants. My sceptic tank outflow/orchard soil is looking promising but its only been 1 month, too early to say.

I will try some cow manure. I've been thinking of adding some vegetable refuse from the kitchen table to add to the compost mix but composting seems to take a long time, probably at least a year before you can use it. I think the important thing is not so much what your fertiliser is, but how much you use. Too much and you may overload the tank. A little is worth a go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
178 Posts
I'm all in favor of experimentation. Every brand of potting mix or soil is different; every backyard topsoil is different. That's what makes for discussions on substrate. For simplicity's sake, many APC threads tend to revolve around MGOC (Miracle-Gro Organic - I think the "C" stands for Choice) because it's widely available in the United States and the formula is about as consistent as a mass produced product can be. It's heavy on peat moss and light on animal manure and still manages to be "hot" when used right out o the box. But, there are lots of places around the world where MGOC is not available. So, by all means, try a little cow manure with your favorite "dirt" and let us know the results.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,788 Posts
It's hard to know what stage of decomposition a purchased soil is in. Cow or any kind of manure might be fine if it is well-decomposed. Earthy smell is always good.

Oxygenation can change everything. A soil sitting in a jar or a tank with no water movement can easily go severely anaerobic. In my tank setups with soil underlayers, I always had water circulation via a pump filter or gentle air bubbling.

Look for potting soils sold for growing houseplants, cactus or other slow growers. Avoid packaged soils designed for growing vegetables, lawns, roses, etc. A low NPK rating is another clue. Look for the soil with the lowest N content. The goal is to find the least fertile soil and then use it sparingly.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
It's hard to know what stage of decomposition a purchased soil is in. Cow or any kind of manure might be fine if it is well-decomposed. Earthy smell is always good.

Oxygenation can change everything. A soil sitting in a jar or a tank with no water movement can easily go severely anaerobic. In my tank setups with soil underlayers, I always had water circulation via a pump filter or gentle air bubbling.

Look for potting soils sold for growing houseplants, cactus or other slow growers. Avoid packaged soils designed for growing vegetables, lawns, roses, etc. A low NPK rating is another clue. Look for the soil with the lowest N content. The goal is to find the least fertile soil and then use it sparingly.
Thanks, Diana!

I'm sure the soil is well decomposed, and smells earthy. Either cow manure or something else in the soil creates anaerobic condition very quickly. I did have air bubbling for water circulation.

In India its hard to find the soil with the recommended quality, and manufactures not revealing thier NPK ratio for some reason.

It's too early to tell but I have setup 1 gallon jar with my well decomposed compost (dried leaves, kitchen scraps, etc.,), growth is visible from day one. It's into the third day only, already visible growth in multiple plants. More importantly substrate did not smell so far.

If it works that would be wonderful. I was preparing the compost with the intention to use in the aquarium, so did not add too much green materials (Nitrogen). Also, I was successfully growing plants including seeds with the same compost.

I keep you posted my progress on the jar aquarium.

Thanks again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,481 Posts
Banana peels make the best compost, with lots of potassium. The best compost is a mix of composted wood, kitchen scraps, peat, and leaves. The nutrient levels are also high like in manure. You need to cut the nutrient levels with sand and maybe a little clay.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
88 Posts
I wanted to jump off Diana’s back here and agree with using the soil sparingly.

I too used a soil that was nutrient rich. In my test tank set up: I made the soil level too high, and was met with annoyances and disasters. But when I used the same soil and laid a shallow layer, it was pretty successful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Kitchen compost is always good! After all, you know what's in it. :)
I like your ingenuity.
Yes, keep us posted.
After trying with my compost, I see good plant growth, but noticed substrate smells. Is that very common? Should I worry about it?

Day 1:

IMG_20210624_165522.jpg




After two weeks:

IMG_20210706_114218.jpg


Finally one brand revealed their composition.

IMG_20210706_180025.jpg


Is that fine for aquarium?

Thanks again!
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
2,788 Posts
Hard to say, because I don't know what those numbers mean and I see lots of variability. For example, the 0.52-1.61 nitrogen? Is that %. If so, it is very high. The soil (MGOC Potting Mix) that I used for my successful shrimp bowls contained 0.10 % nitrogen. [It had an NPK "rating" of 0.10, 0.05, and 0.05 (i.e., contained 0.10% N, 0.05% P, and 0.05% K).] Without other input on composition on the brand you have displayed, I would not recommend it. You would have to mineralize the heck out of it before putting in a tank. (If you go this route, see Michael's mineralization procedure.)

Your kitchen compost appears to be working very well. This jives with my results. Immediate good growth, clear water, and a hint of tannins (yellow tinged water).

I would not fault a brand because it does not advertise its composition. Look for bagged stuff in garden centers designed to grow indoor houseplants. Surely, storekeepers know which of their brands are working best for their houseplant customers. Folks, this is not rocket science or require technical wizardry. People have been growing houseplants for centuries.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
45 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Hard to say, because I don't know what those numbers mean and I see lots of variability. For example, the 0.52-1.61 nitrogen? Is that %. If so, it is very high. The soil (MGOC Potting Mix) that I used for my successful shrimp bowls contained 0.10 % nitrogen. [It had an NPK "rating" of 0.10, 0.05, and 0.05 (i.e., contained 0.10% N, 0.05% P, and 0.05% K).] Without other input on composition on the brand you have displayed, I would not recommend it. You would have to mineralize the heck out of it before putting in a tank. (If you go this route, see Michael's mineralization procedure.)

Your kitchen compost appears to be working very well. This jives with my results. Immediate good growth, clear water, and a hint of tannins (yellow tinged water).

I would not fault a brand because it does not advertise its composition. Look for bagged stuff in garden centers designed to grow indoor houseplants. Surely, storekeepers know which of their brands are working best for their houseplant customers. Folks, this is not rocket science or require technical wizardry. People have been growing houseplants for centuries.
Thank you for your inputs! I will use my compost.:) I mentioned about the smell in the compost after couple weeks of submerged state. Any thought? Sorry for asking too many questions. I really want to go in the El Natural path. I'm trying to do anything to go in that direction, Thanks!
 
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
Top