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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi. This is my first post here. I have been lurking on Aquaria Central and The Barr Report as well as old Krib articles and everything I can get my hands on. I am just about to start loading up my 125 which will be an Amazon tank with high lights and CO2. I have 100 lbs of Turface MVP Gray and am seriously considering options for adding something to it. At this point I am considering:
1. Peat- (Where can I find "Ground Peat"?) Some say use the stuff from Lowe's/HD, other's say don't do it. I have looked hard at Laguna Peat Granules http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=10804 as a layer under the Turface.
2. Zeolite-I think the idea of absorbing nutrients is a good one. It will/should allow access to plant roots later. I have found a good deal for 25 lbs for $48.00. Tom Barr has suggested this to me in a post on his site.
3. Diamond Black Leonardite-Seems like the advantages of peat, but heavier, concentrated and longer lasting.
4. Laterite- Because I'm old school??

I'm thinking the Turface + Peat OR Turface + Peat + Zeolite OR Turface + Peat + Laterite OR Turface + Diamond Black

My good friend/Marine Biologist/LFS owner says don't worry about it and just use the Turface, but he wanted me to spend $300 on Eco Complete... Anyway, thanks for any replies. I'm glad to have finally registered here.
 

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Where did you find Turface MVP grey? Since they have discontinued Soilmaster Select charcoal, there may be quite a few people in the area interested in the Turface MVP.

I setup all of my tanks with a light dusting of peat. Peat is quite safe as long as you don't add the type with fertilizers already mixed in. I get my peat from WalMart for about $3...I think it is the Schultz brand. The smallest bag they have should be enough for plenty of planted tanks. Here is a pictorial on how to set up the substrate, Setting up a Substrate in a Planted Tank. A "dusting" of peat can be hard to visualize without a picture ;) This is the amount of peat you would want to add since you plan on using CO2 in your tank.

Both Soilmaster and Turface products should be pretty good at adsorbing nutrients on their own so you probably will not not need the Zeolite. They both have a good CEC as well and should help in making the nutrients available to the plants. The leonardite probably isn't needed since you plan on using CO2. Peat is only needed for a short time during the initial setup phase until the bacteria become established in the substrate. Laterite is probably redundant as well when you consider that both Soilmaster and Turface products are pretty high in iron. These two products are very good substrates in my opinion and their only drawback is they can be a bit light in wieght and may not hold plants down as well as some other plant substrates. This is something I can live with considering the price of those two products. You probably saved about $250 by using Turface instead of the Eco Complete your friend recommended.

Since you are using high light and CO2, I assume you plan on adding fertilizers, KNO3, KH2PO4 and K2SO4. If you have these products on hand (if not, let me know and I can get you a starter amount of each until you order some) here is how I would set up the tank...

Add the "dusting" of peat to the tank then add about half of the turface...Do not rinse the Turface prior to putting it in the tank. If you do not add some of the turface to cover the peat, the peat will float when you add the mulm water and make a mess. Add your mulm water to the substrate to help get some bacteria loaded into the substrate. Once the mulm is added add the rest of the Turface to get the substrate depth you want.

Next, fill up a 5g bucket with water and mix in 1.5 tsp of KNO3 and 0.25tsp of KH2PO4 into the water in the bucket. You can add some K2SO4 if you have it but our water supply here in Dayton (and probably in KY) is already pretty high in K so it probably isn't needed. This is a highly concentrated amount of fertilizers considering the volume of the 5g bucket and should give you about 10ppm of NO3, 2ppm of PO4 and 7ppm of K based on the total water volume of your tank. Since Turface products are made to adsorb water, they will probably adsorb the nutrients in this water as well. You should be able to hear the Turface "hiss" when the water hits it and I would assume this is the Turface adsorbing the water. Adding the fertilizers to the initial fill water should give you some nutrients in the substrate until the bacteria can start converting the fish waste. If you rinse the Turface prior to adding it to the tank, it probably will not adsorb the KNO3 and KH2PO4.

Fill the tank very slowly using a plate or something similar to deflect the fill water. I did not rinse the Soilmaster (which is very dusty) prior to adding it to the tank in the link I gave you above. By filling the tank very slowly it should not be cloudy at all as you can see from my pictures.

I would wait to add any fish until you get your CO2 dialed in. I bumped my CO2 up a bit too high and lost quite a few fish the first time I set up a tank with CO2. Better safe than sorry ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Tremendous response. That is EXACTLY the information I was looking for. Thank you sooo much! I have lots of fish experience and am an avid (ground) gardener and am excited to do the planted tank thing correctly. I have always admired Mr. Amano's tanks in his books (before widespread Internet happened) and am definite on doing things correctly. The Internet has really expanded the knowledge base on aquariums, but opinions are wildly varying. You obviously know what you are doing. Tom Barr amazes me with his knowledge as well.

I got the Turface MVP Grey from a Lesco/John Deere dealer in Lexington. I got the store's contact info from the Lesco website. They had to order it for me. Apparently they had a supply in Massachusetts and in Maryland. The guy there was super helpful and it was transferred from store to store. It took less than a week to get here and was $18.00 per bag. They did not charge me for shipping. The specifics for what product to get were actually sent to me by the SMS folks as they have quit making SMS gray. This was their email:

Hi Mr. Ross,
Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your interest in Pro's Choice
products.

Pro's Choice Select - Charcoal is being discontinued for business reasons,
and it is no longer being produced.

As we do not have a similar product to recommend, we must refer you to a
comparable product: Turface Pro League Gray which is sold by the bag. LESCO
should carry this product, but if not, please go to this website for more
information:

www.profileproducts.com

Thank you,

Paula [/FONT]

The trick with not washing the Turface is well done. I put a little in a 10 gallon to test it and rinsed the heck out of it! In fact, I rinsed some of the black of of it, it would appear LOL. I would have messed that up for sure. I am currently using Seachem Flourish in my other tank, and have not purchased dry ferts/PMDDs yet. It would be very helpful to take advantage of your offer for a starter kit. :) I was wondering what it would take to "charge up" the substrate (which is whyI was thinking about using the zeolite) and your response has completely answered my question. Looks like I will go buy a bag of peat and get going! I just received 18 pounds of virgin cork bark flats and went out last weekend wood hunting (found the most beautiful stumps/roots). I am going to create the "bones" of the aquascape this weekend. I was thinking about growing some emersed HC as per Mr. Barr. I wonder how that would interact with your suggestions? Can I grow the HC in the charged substrate, or would there be too much ferts?

Again, thanks so much for your help. I think I can proceed with some confidence now. You have eliminated much trepidation and I can pull the trigger now, I believe.
 

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I'm not really sure if adding the ferts adds anything to the substrate or not but I would imagine the Turface will adsorb some of the fertilizers. A lot of people rinse their Soilmaster/Turface before adding it and still get cloudy water. As you can see from that earlier link I gave you, I did not have cloudy water and I did not rinse it at all.

I don't think you will have too many ferts in the substrate and it will probably wear out pretty fast. I only tried it once and it seemed to work well but I add water column ferts on a daily basis as well. I will do it the next time I use Soilmaster or Turface in a tank and will hopefully be able to do more water tests to see how much, if any of the ferts actually get adsorbed by the substrate.

My reasoning behind adding the ferts to the substrate was to hopefully charge it so it would last until the bacteria began to break down the fish waste into usable substrate fertilizer. There really aren't any substrates, except maybe Aquasoil, that contain macros so it really shouldn't be an issue with the HC. I think making sure you have enough light and CO2 will be more of an issue than the substrate ;)
 

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I too have purchased Turface at the local John Deere landscape store. After rinsing the Turface and a couple of days of cloudy water it has finally cleared. What's disturbing is the phosphate levels are at 5.0 ppm or maybe even higher. The levels were so high I tested the levels in a smaller tank and it was .25 ppm (normal). Any ideas on what might cause this?

This is a new (used) 90 tank that was formerly saltwater and still going through a startup cycling stage.

Stevo
 

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I have very mixed feelings about what has been posted. If you want to "charge" the substrate, you should ABSOLUTELY rinse the Turface. Why wouldn't you? As long as you do not use tap water, I don't see the problem with it. I am not trying to argue, in fact if there is a solid reason not to rinse the Turface with purified water, I would like to know for my own sake.

Personally, I would prefer to rinse it before putting it in my tank, but I am a bit OCD about what I put in my tanks. The most important thing to keep in mind here is the Cation Exchange Capacity, (or CEC), of Turface MVP. This is why it is so important HOW you rinse it. You must understand, Turface MVP has a CEC of about 33-35 meq/100g, (fwiw, Zeolite can have a CEC of up to 170 meq/100g if not more, since there are ovfer 200 types of Zeolite), therefore it is quite absorptive. This is why I said not to rinse it in tap water. However, if you use RO/DI water, this is how I would do it, (I'm sure if you search the forums or use google you will find plenty of more comprehensive guides on how to do this), I would get two tubs, and use one of them to rinse the Turface to get rid of any unwanted dust particles. Then, in the second tub, I would mix in your dry ferts with your purified water, allow them to dissolve, and then dunk the Turface in this overnight, or at least for a few hours, stirring occasionally. This will ensure that the Turface absorbs as much of the ferts in the water as possible, thus "charging" the substrate. I would then remove the Turface, (no need to waste the water!) and place it in your tank. Due to its CEC, it should now be "charged" with whatever fertilizers you have chosen. The plants will then use the nutrients as needed, and the Turface will slowly release them. Sorry I'm a little incoherent, it's six a.m. here, but this is my personal opinion. Like I said, I'm sure there are plenty more comprehensive guides out there if you are willing to take the time to read up.

Also, I'd think twice about using peat. Leonardite is great though, but I need some sleep, so if you want to learn more, do a google search and read up.
 

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Why wouldn't you rinse Turface with tap water? It is a dusty mess out of the bag. I could maybe see it if you had crummy tap water and didn't want to introduce something to the Turface, but I can't imagine rinsing would result in enough of anything in the substrate to cause problems. If your worried about chlorine double or triple a dose of Prime and wait a day. We do water changes with dechlorinated tap water all the time. It is going to take kH out of the water for about a month or so at a pretty good rate. My 40G breeder was loosing ~1 dKH a day for the first week, then it slowed down for a few weeks, now it is stable.

I think it is better to look at the substrate as a buffer for ferts, the CEC of the material allows it to move the ions freely. I don't think you can "charge" it with enough nutrients to sustain long periods of growth. It will absorb nutrients when excess is present in the water column and it will be available to the plants during times when nutrient levels might drop below what we consider optimum levels.

If you really want long term nutrient delivery from a substrate, you need to look at some of the ADA stuff or a variation of MTS. The high CEC Turface substrate is just going to make water column dosing a little more stable in terms of the levels we see in the tank.
 

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I hope I haven't chimed in too late. In my grad research in aquatic substrates I found that a 50/50 mix of Turface and cheap top soil works the best. Make sure to sieve any large bits out of the soil so all that's left are the fine particles; mix everything up and douse it with water with a heavy slug of GH booster in it for an initial dose of Ca, Mg, and K. Let the stuff sit in a container for a week then turn it over/mix it well and douse it with another hit of water+GH booster. Let it sit for a few days, drain it, spread it out to dry overnight then put it in your tank, cap with some coarse sand or a similar dense material and voila, you're ready to go.

My very first high tech tank, 14 years ago, had a substrate of Turface and play sand. I'd tried 100% Turface to start but it was too light. Adding sand to it helped keep it down and kept the plants from being uprooted by the filter. You may want to look into some cheap sand. 2mm average grain size "coarse sand" in geotech terms quartz sand from a water well supply company is perfect.
 
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