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Build Thread 40B MTS Nature Aquarium

Feb 1, 2023
475
769
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Hello all, I’ve been mentioning recently that I’m going to be restarting my tank and now that I’ve got what I need, let’s get this going.

To start, as the title indicates, this is going to be a Mineralized Top Soil tank. I’ve mineralized about half a bag of Black Kow Top Soil that I happened to have in the garage and completely forgot about. I was hestitant to use it as the company is famous for their manure compost, but some reading around suggested otherwise for this particular product. Not to mention, absolutely zero aroma came from the bag, that was a nice plus. This bag was surprisingly easy to work with, sifting it resulted in minimal impurities such as bark or stones, and it was a nice black dirt. For reference, this is the bag I used: 13FBFB20-20D3-40C0-B0C3-800C0DDFE8D8.jpeg
After a few wet/dry cycles, thanks to this recent rain, the soil is a nice airy/sandy consistency.

I will post some more of the materials I’m using as I continue along the process. The next step is to tear down my tank and transfer my fish, media, and plants I intend to save to a storage bin while I clean up the display and sump.

To get an idea, this tank is my inspiration for an island style layout:
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Thats a nice looking setup for your insperation. Do note 85% of all these plants dont need the soil substrate. Although anubias will grow crazy if its roots penitrate soil. The hairgrass and guppy grass do need soil.
I used to make mineralized soil all the time but it takes planning up here in WA State. Not a lot of sun. Then if you pull plants a lot like I do mineralized soil makes a huge mess.
 
Thats a nice looking setup for your insperation. Do note 85% of all these plants dont need the soil substrate. Although anubias will grow crazy if its roots penitrate soil. The hairgrass and guppy grass do need soil.
I used to make mineralized soil all the time but it takes planning up here in WA State. Not a lot of sun. Then if you pull plants a lot like I do mineralized soil makes a huge mess.
Yes sir, It will be loosely based on this tank. When I saw it, it just spoke to me. In terms of making a mess, I’ve learned from @Tim Harrison to use a soil retainer to keep the dirt down even when moving plants. I started using fine mesh bags instead, but it’s the same idea. It doesn’t need to be messy!
 
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Here’s the soil ready to go. Today I added a worm casting/peat moss blend to help acidify the substrate a little and add some soluble/insoluble nitrogen. I added roughly 10-15% of this blend to the already mineralized soil. This is probably on the higher side of the amount of organic material you’d want to add to avoid the soil being too hot, but I think this is just the right amount. Ideally you could even use this blend as a root tab, just stuff some into a gelatin cap and stuff it in the substrate, an organic slow release fertilizer 👍🏻
 

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Can you discuss a little why you have chosen mineralized topsoil as your substrate, please? Pros and cons?
I have done low tech Walstad tanks successfully in the past (filterless, low light/sunlight, dirt substrate, no added ferts, thickly planted), but was not aware of the practice of using a dirt substrate in a high tech environment. I’m very curious!
 
Can you discuss a little why you have chosen mineralized topsoil as your substrate, please? Pros and cons?
I have done low tech Walstad tanks successfully in the past (filterless, low light/sunlight, dirt substrate, no added ferts, thickly planted), but was not aware of the practice of using a dirt substrate in a high tech environment. I’m very curious!
Honestly I was intrigued by the idea, and the simplicity of it peaked my curiosity. Biologically though my glassbox is not the same as a river or pond that has so much more complexity to it in terms of the soil that feeds those plants and the processes that continue to make it fertile.

Walstad pretty much pioneered the idea of the low tech environment, but along with that came the assumption that soil was only okay for the natural planted tank. When you think about it, aquasoils are emulating soil as best they can, just in a more stabilized fashion to allow it as the main substrate and not make a mess. Arguably AS variety’s are your most plug and play option for a successful tank, but there is no reason a soil tank cannot produce the same results and actually, in the long run, last longer than AS.

In terms of pros and cons, I don’t have any cons except when it’s not properly utilized. There is a lot of conflicting info out there when it comes to setting up a soil substrate, and a new aquarist can meet their doom very quickly, I was one of them. If you’ve had success in the past the natural way, adding CO2 and high light will just be a balancing act like it would be with any other substrate 👍🏻
 
This morning I power washed all the stones, and while they were drying I laid down the egg crate to support them in the tank. I then put down a layer of a mixture of seasoned ADA AS and Safety T Sorb as a base between the soil and sand, sprinkled with potassium HCL. I then placed 6 bags of the soil across the planting area and covered it with pool filter sand. You’ll notice some darker specks in the sand which is actually some BDBS mixed in. This wasn’t by design, but I do think it gives the sand a more natural look. 55C94CE9-6761-4840-8B58-36121C7E18F7.jpeg 9A2F76C8-0CC5-4E29-8FAE-D04E31073D73.jpeg 526518AF-DEDD-4DF6-B7AE-E513CE5E940D.jpeg 9388176A-7289-4978-83BE-ED2FECCE7491.jpeg
 
Okay, here’s what I came up with. It might seem a little bare driftwood wise, but I am relying on epiphytes and plant mass growing in. Thoughts? I personally think it’s one if my best scapes so far but please tell me otherwise 😂

Stem wise in the background I haven’t decided yet, but in the middle between both pieces of driftwood will be tiger lotus, the idea is to get a nice blooming red right out of the split.
A72B43D1-5DAA-406E-8516-9C899B559661.jpeg AF3BC998-8DE7-45DE-9B22-764522821E90.jpeg 140F935D-8F3C-44E0-B287-96943BFDFDA2.jpeg 4C2D1C7A-2326-4DD1-ACE5-C3EB70078887.jpeg
 
Just imagining this all fillet in with stems in the back and various epiphytes on the hardscape - should look pretty good by summer :)
LOL, I was just trimmer a bunch of anubias nana off the hardscape in the wifes tank... I honestly can't remember what the hardscape actually looks like and you definitely can't see it now.
 
I’m thinking Juncus repens in the middle, Ludwigia Rubin and staurogyne porto velo on either side. I’ve got a nice variety of crypts (wendtii green and tropica, lucens, Petchi, undulatas red) to stick in the darker areas, and I’m also ordering some hygro pinattafida to use as an epiphyte with anubias and buce in the hardscape. Oh, and can’t forget the pillows of mini pellia.
 
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