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Vladimir Simoes Method

24344 Views 34 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  ShaneSmith
I got this off of the e-aquaria website and I thought it might be helpful...:wink:

The use of earthworm castings requires some prep-work but offers excellent results: lush, healthy plant growth.


- A bucket for rinsing the castings
- Earthworm castings (without additives) - tap water
- a stove and pot for boiling the castings

Preparation: 1) Obtain 100% pure additive-free earthworm castings 2) Rinse the castings in your empty bucket - allow water to flow slowly thru. Turn the material over with your hand to distribute water throughout. Eliminate all that floats. 3) Boil the castings in a pot. There should be plenty of water so that the castings do not dry out. Boil 10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally. 4) Allow to cool. Deposit the castings back in your bucket, repeating step 2. Once again, eliminate all floating debris. 5) After thorough rinsing, the bucket water should become relatively clear. 6) Drain the bucket and place the castings in shallow pans or on sheets of cellophane in thin layers under the sun, allowing them to dry completely. The dried castings can be stored in ziplock bags for future use.

Usage: Earthworm castings should be used in moderation, and do not need to be completely dry for usage. They should be diluted with washed sand in a 50-50 ratio. The combination of earthworm castings and sand should approach 1kg of mixture for every 50 liters of aquarium water (for example, in an aquarium of 100 liters I recommend to use between 2 and 4 kg of earthworm castings). It is best to use the mixture as the first, bottom-most layer of your substrate. If you plan to build an extremely deep substrate, it can be used within the middle layers.
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I've tried castings in the past as their composition seems ideal for planted aquariums. However, the result was less than impressive.

Why would they be any better than good old peat?
Art_Giacosa said:
I've tried castings in the past as their composition seems ideal for planted aquariums. However, the result was less than impressive.

Why would they be any better than good old peat?
Well, ya use what ya gots... the above technique was developed in Brazil I think, I could image a lack of peat bogs locally would make castings an attractive alternative. Good job on the translation whoever did that, the original babbelfish-translated email I saw a few months ago was downright funny :D

The castings in theory should supply more macros than peat, as they will break down faster. Also, castings should cause the lower substrate to go slightly anaerobic a little faster than peat alone, but I think the technique was developed a little more out of necessity than choice...

I'm considering making worm castings part of the Dangerous Understory in my substrate along with peat. And who knows what else...
Art, that's weird...Enrinco's tank uses this mix, doesn't liquid fertilize, and his E.stellata is still pinkish! I mean that's got to be something from the substrate :wink:
Some tanks in Brazil that use this method...

Rony Suzuki's 26 gallon

Enrico Monteiro's 30 gallon

Enrico Monteiro's 66 gallon

NO liquid fertilization.

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hi everione!

i have used this metod and with bad results.....
when you set up the aquarium many macro-nútrients (specialy PO4) get in the water, causing a BIG ALGAE INVASION!!!!!!!
i don't recomend.

besta regards: André Daniel Nóbrega
Raul-7 said:
Enrinco's tank uses this mix, doesn't liquid fertilize, and his E.stellata is still pinkish!
Well its not dead... I wouldn't call it completely healthy - the tank would seriously benefit from some water column ferts. The idea here is that in a very high light tank, iron is screwy and every little bit you can do to help is good... I'm not so sure the castings are providing the nutrients directly, what I think is going on is that the organic matter lowers the redox potential in the substrate, mobilizing the iron from a clay such as laterite... I say this because I don't think it really matters whether you use worm castings or not, peat, mulm, lignite, all that stuff should be just fine...

Re: too many macros... Worm castings (if slow release fert has not been added) are not that strong a fertilizier. You are very correct, lots of things can go very wrong, the idea of this forum was more advanced topics and this is definately one for someone with experience. Thats why a fine gravel of at least 2" is really necessary to slow diffusion from the substrate into the water column down. It also seems possible to add way to much OM, if the redox potential drops too low you favor the:
NO3- ->NH4+
chemistry instead of denitrification, also can promote excessive H2S generation... there's a fine line here which requires some experimentation to find...

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JLudwig, the point is if plants can survive for more than one year without any liquid fertilization, just relying on the substrate, then this the ideal substrate method. It's probably better than any commercial products available, since with Flourite and Eco-Complete you usually dose after the first 4-6 weeks. I bet that you can't get the same results Enrico gets, using just Eco-Complete and no liquid fertilization.

taslixado, the key with this method is to use really fast growing plants that use up nutrients from the water column(I prefer using Egeria densa) and not to fertilize for the initial 4-6 weeks. Then you can plant whatever you want! Did you dilute the castings with sand?

yes, a did it!

the bir problem is whan you move plants with realy greate roots.
is a completely disaster!

best regards!
I had the opposite experience of the one taslixado desribes.

My substrate consisted of worm castings mixed with pumice and laterite. I boiled the castings exactly as the origianl Brazilian site suggested.

The top layer was about 1 inch of inert gravel.

I checked the P and N in the water right after filling up the tank as well as in the course of the next few weeks. They were always 0.

10 gal tank, 2.6 wpg, KH=2-3 and pH = 7.0.

The tenellus, Hygro polysperma, and the Java Fern in that tank did not grow at all for about 3 months (at which point I tore the tank down). Granted I had too little CO2, but there was no growth whatsoever in that tank. I don't know what to think because the plants developed good roots.

Uprooting did not raise the N or P.

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The problem is that the amount of nutrients in humus differ from soil to soil. So the question, is how much NPK and other nutreints, does the humus Enrico uses have?
The sole reason I never got into using OM is the total disaster they can create given the uprooting of a plant with a healthy root mass. One could use potting soil really if you weren't concerned with you tank becoming a mud puddle every time you disturb anything.

Anyone else care about water clairity?
Algae grows just fine at high or low levels of macro nutrients except NH4.

DON and DOP are another matter completely.
Organic forms are much easier for algae to use and these levels can be far below any detection testing method you have available just about anywhere in the USA, Asia or Europe. Periphyton matts can grow quite healthy when a Lamott test kit say 0.0ppm.
This is not something I've seen, or speculate, this is fact and we have seen this in the Everglades with mountains of research and field testing to support it.

Big water changes are not a bad thing. They remove this Organically bound component.

As far as the worm castings giving you issues: the boiling should oxidize most of the NH4, which is the only real component that might cause any problems.

After all, I can add everything else, NO3, PO4, K, traces, CO2, light etc far beyond limiting conditions and no algae.

What does worm castings have that soil or dirt does not as far as minerals and nutrients

I got a wooden nickle says boiled dirt will do the same thing.
Or most any other compost material with high NPK.

Plants all use the same stuff, folks.
There's no secreat method about that.

You can remove the NH4 a number of ways, but eventually you will need to add some N, P, K, etc to the substrate. We also don't seem to know the water quality of their tap water either................

I had high PO4, a friend in Demark had high NO3/PO4. Not knowing that might lead us to conclude we don't need any N and/or P etc.....

I used RFUG with nothing in the substrate and made nice tanks also, so is it a method or is it the aquarist?

Keep these ideas in mind when you consider other methods or have problems with yours.

Otherwise you'll end chasing some method every few weeks/month/year and not work on the basics of plant metabolism, all plants need these nutrients to grow. That does not change.

Where you want to put them is up to you.

Tom Barr
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But Tom, I thought plants do mcuh better when they get some nutrients from the substrate? Plus limiting NPK to the substrate limits algae...
Plus limiting NPK to the substrate limits algae...
Algae requires MUCH MUCH MUCH less nutrients than plants. The leaching of nutrients is enough to sustain an algae population. In fact, even if there's no leaching, the mere presence of fish and decaying matter in the tank is enough to feed algae. While we don't know exactly why a properly maintained tank does not foster algae, we do know that limiting macronutrients isn't one of them.

Let's take PO4 for example, tsunami, myself, and many others keep PO4 nearer to 2 ppm and dose macros exclusively via the water column, and algae is not a problem for us unless we slack off and allow the plants to suffer in health. Then, the algae creeps in. Tom often preaches that the goal should be to grow plants, NOT how to kill algae. There is truth to that statement because algae will recede significantly when plants are healthy. Algae will never disappear altogether, but enough as to not bother all but the most anal of aquarists. ;)
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<<Tom often preaches that the goal should be to grow plants, NOT how to kill algae. There is truth to that statement because algae will recede significantly when plants are healthy. Algae will never disappear altogether, but enough as to not bother all but the most anal of aquarists. >>

About the only element I've added, in appropriate/reasonable amounts mind you, to the water column which has noticeably increased algae growth is iron.

I've therefore started shoving Fe into the soil around the roots and noticed a definite improvement. But which plants?, one might well ask, as many reddish stem plants seem to have little in the way of a root system which which to absorb iron via the substrate. Eusteralis may be an exception here.

Algae is like cancer, in that there are many, many types and I wonder if some have anything more in common with one another than the label "algae".

There seem to be some forms, certain BBA and coarse green hair, for instance that seem to have evolved to take full advantage of just the conditions some of us try so hard to provide for our flashy, mostly stem type plants, high light, high nutrients and ... CO2? Naw, Co2 seems to help plants and hurt BBA. That green hair I'm not sure about, but that one I know loves Fe.

These are the algae that most bother me when they show up and the ones I've heard most folks complain about. That's provided we are, in fact, all describing the same algae -- one can never be entirely sure in that respect. It's really only when these algae occur in ridiculous, rapidly increasing amounts that they become a problem.

Why is it that only sometimes, or only in some tanks, that the little bit of BBA inconspicuously hanging out in the back of the tank, usually attached only to some inert object suddenly explodes into life, multiplying, attaching itself suddenly to only the most beautiful of plant leaves and generally making a pest out of itself in rapid order?

How come the tank right next to it, one with almost the exact same parameters and composition, can at the same time, have no algae?

That is the weird part...

All things considered though, I think Tom's approach to be the best philosophy overall-- pay attention to the plant's needs and concentrate on growing them well and in abundance. When one does that, at some point algae usually ceases to be much of a problem.

If one wishes to take direct action against the algae as well, it will be a combination of many little things, water changes, pulling off the algae manually, constantly harassing the algae in many ways, which will ultimately yield the best result. It's not about some magic bullet or single product or treatment alone, it's best fought mainly as a war of attrition.

Bobo in South Florida
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About the only element I've added, in appropriate/reasonable amounts mind you, to the water column which has noticeably increased algae growth is iron.
That's interesting, Bob. Ever since I've been adding more iron, I've been noticing a decrease in algae. :)

Plants seem to grow differently in different tanks. Some tanks seem to need more iron than others to get going. I just dial in my numbers for PO4 and NO3 for each tank, but the iron/trace dosing takes a while to play with and fine tune for each one.

I don´t understand the meaning of "earthworm castings", but i normally use in my sustrates that in Spain we name "earthworm composed". It´s a very rich black sustrate result to the action of earth worm on the vegetal brush in the sustrate. I think that speak of the same...

I use mix this composed with red clay, vermiculite, blond peat, a regular gravel or river sand. And i put it on the bottom, i cover it with a plastic mesh and a regular sand layer to protec the mix.

The result is very good, and i dont´add liquid ferts

Check for see pics

In followings 2 month, it´s produced a big explosion of algae, but only 2 month during.

This is the finel result

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The worm castings are exactly what you describe - basically the waste that worms produce after feeding on organic matter.

Your web site is very interesting. I personally find the use of the mesh between the inert gravel and the rich substrate to be a great idea. The weaving of Java Moss around a thread and then wrapping it on a branch is very clever!

Also this picture of the paludarium with the emersed Java Fern is very beautiful.

How much light do you have over the cube tank with the Chocolate gouramies?

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