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#1 Guest_ColtenB_*

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Posted 07 March 2012 - 11:39 PM

Ok i have only gravel subtrate and i have to say i don't want to deal with all stress and stuff of emptying my fish tank to put dirt in the bottom of it...anyway my point is will the gravel kill my plants off? right now i have 2 wisteria and 2 ludwigea <== "im sure thats not spelt right' and some jungle val on the way....will that be fine aswell? thanks Colten

#2 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 12:42 AM

I tried to grow plants in gravel for years and every time they failed to grow roots and eventually withered away and died. It was only after I added kitty litter to the gravel that the plants would grow roots at all, and only after I switched to full kitty litter that they grew really dense fine tendrils of roots.

Here is a test:
Pull up a stem of each of the two species you planted. Is the stem crunchy when snapped and are there tiny baby roots coming out of them? Or is the buried portion of the stem limp and rotting? If it's the second, well, there's your answer.

Edited by EricaWieser, 08 March 2012 - 12:43 AM.

#3 Guest_dafrimpster_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:22 AM

I have grown all the plants you mention in gravel. They do MUCH better in a more appropriate substrate.

#4 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:49 AM

If you have enough animals eating and pooping, that may provide enough for your plants. "Stem plants" like Ludwigia, Myriophyllum and Hygrophila take a lot of their nutrients directly from the water (which is whay they grow pretty well floating too). Vallisneria, Sagittaria, Echinodorus, and other basal-rosette plants rely more on root uptake from the substrate. One trick is to roll up little balls of clayey soil, dry or freeze them, then poke them into the gravel (quickly) around your rooted plants. I've also heard (havent yet tried it) of mixing Osmocote Plus granular fertilizer into the clay balls, or putting it inside gelatin capsules and poking it down around the plants.

#5 Guest_steve_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 01:57 PM

Going with potted plants might be an option for you. I've got several crocks in my 150 with elodea and cabomba growing in them. I just used top soil capped with 1"-2" of play sand in each of the crocks. No mess in the tank at all, fairly quick, not real stressful for fish, and the plants are doing great. Doesn't look too bad either.


#6 Guest_rickwrench_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 05:02 PM

+1 on the frozen dirt/mud with osmokote.
A couple plastic ice trays filled about halfway up (easier to slip under the gravel) with mud+osmokote cubes should do the trick without tearing down the tank.

On the other hand...
Well planted dirt tanks cycle very fast. If you use your old gravel as a cap, it should "cycle" pretty much instantly.


#7 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 05:30 PM

On the other hand...
Well planted dirt tanks cycle very fast. If you use your old gravel as a cap, it should "cycle" pretty much instantly.

Beneficial bacteria lives on surfaces. The surface area of the sponge-like material in the filter can be up to 200 square feet per cubic foot of media (source: http://www.bioconlabs.com/abtqs.html ) so with like 5 square feet of surface area on the top of the gravel and 100 in the filter media, the population of beneficial bacteria in the filter is way more significant than that in the old gravel. So... You don't have to keep your old gravel if you don't want to. Just keep the filter sponge wet with dechlorinated water during tank de/re-contronstruction and dechlorinate the new water and the tank should stay cycled.

The potted plants suggestion is a good one if you want your plants to grow well without all the hassle of draining and refilling your tank. Another good idea is a sink-faucet siphon connection, which will drain and fill your tank without you ever having to lift a bucket. I really like my Python No Spill Clean 'N Fill. The dirty tank water drains right down the sink, and the new water goes right into the tank. It's very convenient, and makes draining and refilling the tank really easy.

Edited by EricaWieser, 08 March 2012 - 05:34 PM.

#8 Guest_ColtenB_*

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 06:23 PM

Thank you guys i will have to combine everything to make my tank the best it can be :D

#9 Guest_nkambae_*

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Posted 07 April 2012 - 03:16 AM

Kitty litter/Turface/SoilMaster (SMS) Select/Oil Dry are inert kiln fired clay products that have very few nutrients BUT do have a high cation exchange capacity (cec). Simply put, cec is a substrate's ability to store nutrients. They typically are relatively high in some minerals but low in organics. They can, to varying degrees, adsorb some minerals and organics from the water and store them for gradual release as the plants need them. I prefer products like Turface and SMS because they are less variable from batch to batch and geographic areas than are the various kitty litter and oil dry products.

Dirt capped with small gravel is a very effective plant substrate as well. Just make sure the dirt is mostly dirt without too many "sticks" in it and that it has no addtional fertilizers in it. Even gravel will work (although not as well in my experience) as long as you use root tabs and some water column ferts as well. CO2 is beneficial but not necessary in many situations. Seachem's Excel (glutaraldehyde) can be beneficial as a carbon supplement and has an added benefit of having a negative effect on many types of algae.

Most of my planted tanks are dirt based. I have used dirt from the wooded area near my home, dirt from a freshly turned Red River Valley farm field, worm castings, the cheapest topsoil from your favorite lawn and garden or big box store, mineralized topsoil, and silty muck from a swampy area and they all grow plants very well. I have capped the dirt with SMS Select, sand, gravel, and flourite and they all grow plants quite nicely. Three of my tanks have pressurized CO2 and a dozen or so don't. I add ferts to all of my planted tanks. Even the low light and ambient light tanks get powdered ferts. Just not as much as the higher light CO2 tanks. It isn't complicated and it is cheap. $25 or so gets about a years supply delivered to my door.

Try to avoid the temptation to put a blazingly high intensity light fixture on top of your tank. Light is like a throttle. The more light you have the more fuel your plants will need: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (n, p, k), and micronutrients. You can have a very attractive planted tank without having a miniature sun for a light fixture. Google low and medium light planted tanks. Good luck.


Edited by nkambae, 07 April 2012 - 03:17 AM.

#10 Guest_gzeiger_*

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 04:20 PM

Use the forum search feature to find Erica's last post on kitty litter. It was actually quite comparable in nutrient content to topsoil or commercial products like Fluorite. It's been working great for me.

Certainly there are many different clays out there, and results may vary from one product to the next, but Walmart Special Kitty is all I'll ever use again.

Do make sure you get the very cheapest litter though - one that's just baked clay. Premium prices are for chemicals, scents and odor neutralizers that are not beneficial, and may be harmful, to your fish.

#11 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 08:57 PM

As requested by gzeiger, here is a quote from Jamie Johnson on http://www.thekrib.c...rate-jamie.html ,

Being born with a very stubborn, analytical brain, I had to research. I was very curious to find what my substrates were made of, elementally. Since I work at a lab and do trace metal analysis, I knew it was only a matter of time before I got the best of myself.

I did analysis on 3 samples: Fluorite, Wal-Mart Special Kitty litter, and soil from my garden. 1g of dry sample was pulverized by a mortal/pestal and digested according to Method 3050B EPA Soil method.

Attached File  kitty litter substrate content.png   23.13KB   1 downloads

Based upon Jamie Johnson's digestion results, soil, kitty litter, and Fluorite® all have very good nutrient contents for growing plants. Any of the above would work to provide enough calcium, magnesium, and iron for the growing plants. The high CEC (cation exchange capacity) mentioned by Nkambae is further down the page. http://www.thekrib.c...rate-jamie.html

I use kitty litter myself because it's $4 for 25 pounds at Walmart. A fertilizer-free soil would also work, including one dug up from your yard. Because I rent an apartment, I don't have the luxury of digging up soil in my yard. Buying bags of it is my only choice. Clay like Special Kitty brand kitty litter is my favorite over potting soil because it doesn't need inches of gravel or sand as a capping layer.

As Nkambae mentioned, regional variation is a big deal.
Here's a picture of roots growing very deep into my gray colored, hard-water-inducing Cleveland Ohio kitty litter: http://gallery.nanfa...ageViewsIndex=1 It brought tank water up from DH 6 in tap water to DH 16-20 in the aquarium.
Full tank shot: http://gallery.nanfa...ageViewsIndex=1
The kitty litter from Winston-Salem North Carolina is a light beige color: http://gallery.nanfa...+flash.jpg.html and http://gallery.nanfa...nlight.jpg.html The DH is 0 in the tap water and aquarium.

Also note the ridiculously high level of lead in Jamie Johnson's backyard soil above. Without testing these substrates it's hard to know what any batch of kitty litter or our yard soil has in it. You take a risk with regional variation with kitty litter and soil, which is why expensive products like Fluorite® have merit: quality control. But for something like $100 to fill my tank with the stuff, I chose kitty litter instead. There's no single 'right' answer. I've even heard some people using pea gravel (*shudders*) with fertilizer sticks and having success. There are multiple paths to healthy plant growth. Just check your plants' stem for crunchiness instead of wilt like I mentioned in my first post. If it's mushy, get a different substrate. If the plants grow thick, finely branched roots, it's a good substrate.

Edited by EricaWieser, 11 April 2012 - 09:43 PM.

#12 Guest_fundulus_*

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Posted 11 April 2012 - 09:58 PM

I never thought of kitty litter as being enriched in nickel?

#13 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 12:56 PM

The elemental analysis tells us very little about suitability for plants growth, since plants dont follow EPA analytical chemistry method 3050B. Coal is mostly carbon, so does that mean plants can uptake carbon from coal? No. Bio-availability depends on what molecules those elements are in, and the bonds and interactions between those molecules within mineral complexes. To analyze plant substrates you need to use methods that mimic reactions that occur in natural soils, which excludes many analytical chemistry methods.

Also, there's a million mg in one kg, and the highest total (all elements) in any of those samples that J.Johnson tested above is around 38,000 mg (litter sample). So what's the other 96 percent? silicates, carbonates, phosphates ... ? To me Johnson's analysis is not very useful or complete. Much of the analysis provided by substrate marketers is similar; even if it's chemically "accurate" it may not be biologically relevant.

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