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Peatmoss
April 7, 2011
12:56 am
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Don
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hello everyone just wondering im thinking about starting my 10 gallon as a planted shrimp tank i was thinking about used peatmoss and silicasand as a substrate and i've heard of dry starting my plants any one else heard of this ??

April 7, 2011
6:50 am
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Bully
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Depending on your source water, the peat may reduce your pH to unacceptable levels (unless that is your intention). If you're going for a planted tank then I would recommend using a dedicated planting substrate (of which there are loads these days). The Dry Start Method is pretty well documented now, and plant guru Tom Barr probably has the most information regarding it. Here's a post that he made about it on the PFK website:

Dry start method(DSM), an example using a 180 gal tank

If you really wish to research it in depth then I recommend joining the The Barr Report Forum.

April 7, 2011
7:16 am
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Colin
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You should try and avoid using peat moss at all. Peat is extracted from bogs and is totally unsustainable.

Peat has some beneficial properties in that is can adsorb contaminants, lower pH and GH, introduce humic substances and a few others but there is nothing there that we can't do by using other methods that dont destroy important habitats.

Peat makes a lousy substrate, especially for planted tanks...

For eight years I have been using garden top soil and a thin layer of fine children's play sand. Dont use silica sand as you will introduce silicates which will encourage diatom algae blooms.

I actually use soil straight out of the garden, but you may need to go elsewhere if your garden has had herbicides and fertilisers etc used in it. A garden centre will sell top soil.

I use about 2-3inches depth and about an inch of washed sand. My longest setup tank with this method was about three years but i had to move house and strip it down. I now have another similar tank on a windowsill which is getting on for a year old. These are the only tanks I have ever had that have zero nitrate and zero phosphate.

This last tank has a mix of plants. Most of them grow out of the surface of the tank which is an 18" cube and stand about 36" tall during the summer before dying back.

I added fish after about two weeks of filling it up - no dry start. I'll need to read the links above to see what the reported benefits are to be honest. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

I have seen no difference between a dedicated planted substrate and garden soil - apart from the huge cost of dedicated soils.... call me a cheapskate!

April 7, 2011
7:42 am
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Colin
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PS - I have just had a read at some of the methods from Tom's site and I have to mention that my technique is a seriously lazy way of doing it compared to what's on his site!!! Maybe not what you are after? Works for me though and no hassles.

He does mention garden soil but recommends mixing the soil with sand first...

"You can DIY a sediement and use some earthworm castings, or some soil and boil, bake, or soak for 3-4 weeks in a shallow pan, mix this with 66% sand and then add about 6-8cm of that on the bottom, followed but another 3-4cm cap."

April 8, 2011
7:10 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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QUOTE (Colin @ Apr 7 2011, 06:59 AM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
You should try and avoid using peat moss at all. Peat is extracted from bogs and is totally unsustainable.

Peat has some beneficial properties in that is can adsorb contaminants, lower pH and GH, introduce humic substances and a few others but there is nothing there that we can't do by using other methods that dont destroy important habitats.

You know Colin, you've just made me think about a bunch of our species profiles in which we recommend using small amounts of peat for black water fish species. I may need to do some editing...

Cake or death?
April 8, 2011
2:59 pm
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Colin
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sounds good to me - I can do some info on a more sustainable approach if you like?

April 8, 2011
5:12 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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That would be amazing, yes please. /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

Cake or death?
April 11, 2011
9:49 am
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JazzBora150
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you suggest the use of peat as part of a biotope setup for Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi is this just for staining the water and not needed??

April 12, 2011
7:08 am
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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That'll be changed shortly. Don't want to be recommending non-sustainable practices.

In answer to your question though no peat isn't just used to stain the water but to simulate natural conditions via a cocktail of chemicals it releases.

Cake or death?
April 13, 2011
1:48 pm
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Senor Bastardo
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Nothing wrong with using peat. I use it in several tanks and have had no ill effect on neither fish nor very low pH. The thing is to boil it first and rinse it will leach tannins and stain the water but not as much as "raw" peat which by the way take forever to sink to the bottom.

April 13, 2011
6:11 pm
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Bluedave
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It's not that there's anything wrong with peat for the fish Senor Bastardo, in fact some will love it as it gives them the water conditions they thrive in.

The argument is that it's not sustainable and boglands full of wildlife are drained in order to obtain it etc etc.

April 13, 2011
8:14 pm
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Senor Bastardo
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It wasn´t the point that I opposed rather the dropping pH levels and so forth.

Being a serious fish nut isn´t really sustainable either, correct me if I´m wrong. I know you shouldn´t think that way and all persons should do their bit etc etc but the minute amounts used in the hobby should pale when compared to the amounts used in gardening.

April 13, 2011
8:20 pm
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Bluedave
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peat free compost....... or even better - make your own compost - i've got 3 No. 250 litre compost bins, pmsl

April 14, 2011
8:03 am
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Senor Bastardo
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There are alternatives in gardening absolutely. On our allotment cottage we never use peat but make our own compost.

April 14, 2011
8:11 am
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Colin
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Everyone has to do their own wee bit. I suggest that if there is a less-destructive alternative that we should use that instead.

With regards to gardening it is actually very difficult to buy peat these days in the large DIY stores or even garden centres now and quite a large proportion of the compost mixtures now boast that they are peat-free

April 14, 2011
11:04 am
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Bluedave
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I agree with your sentimants Colin.

Only about 30% of the compost is peat free - the biggest selling and voted best by Which magazine is the B&Q stuff - only 37% peat free /sad.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":(" border="0" alt="sad.gif" />

April 14, 2011
3:11 pm
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Senor Bastardo
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QUOTE (Colin @ Apr 14 2011, 07:54 AM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
Everyone has to do their own wee bit. I suggest that if there is a less-destructive alternative that we should use that instead.

With regards to gardening it is actually very difficult to buy peat these days in the large DIY stores or even garden centres now and quite a large proportion of the compost mixtures now boast that they are peat-free

That´s weird, in Sweden it is quite common. Sweden tries hard to market itself as an enviromentally friendly country but seem to have missed out on this part.

For annual killies there aren´t many good alternatives to use as substrates though.

April 19, 2011
11:47 am
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Jarcave
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QUOTE (Colin @ Apr 7 2011, 07:59 AM) < {POST_SNAPBACK}>
I have seen no difference between a dedicated planted substrate and garden soil - apart from the huge cost of dedicated soils.... call me a cheapskate!

I do sincerely believe it depends on the species of plant you are trying to grow. Measuring any difference in performance of the two would need to be measured by using several different species. I've used both and some Echinodorus species really are not that fussy. HC Cuba and Glossostigma elatinoides definitely did better in a commercial aquatic plant substrate though.

April 19, 2011
12:17 pm
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Colin
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Yeah totally - the plants will have different requirements.

You would need to set up control tanks see what the differences really were but as you said the Echinodorus and Crypts etc are probably much hardier in the first place. Garden soil works fine for my needs as I dont go into the plants requiring much effort LOL:)

I'd encourage people to try the cheap method unless they are dead-set on the idea of a specially set up substrate

April 19, 2011
6:47 pm
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poshsouthernbird
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I've used garden topsoil as a substrate before, the plants did well but of the two tanks I used it in one had no problems at all while the other developed what I assumed were anaerobic patches. At least, it bubbled a lot, didn't smell too good and 'went manky' to put it technically. The fish got quite ill as a result, but I've only tried it twice so I guess it was just bad luck. Echinodorus and crypts did indeed do very well, as did hygrophila, ludwigia and sagittaria. Vallis wasn't at all happy though for some reason. Like Colin mentions above, I had very low nitrates and phosphates - only tank I've ever managed that in. I'm probably going to give it another go if I ever get to setting up my shrimp tank.

I'm no scientist or plant/substrate expert by any stretch of the imagination so I did a lot of reading up about using garden soil at the time (I suspect I could be in danger of 'teaching people to suck eggs' so forgive me if this is the case!) as I didn't quite believe it would be ok in a fish tank. Whilst I mostly found positive comments on it I did come across a couple of words of warning. Quite a lot of sources recommended leaving the soil to 'air' for a couple of weeks to avoid releasing ammonia into the water. Bearing in mind I was following the methods of Diana Walstad in her book 'The Ecology of the Planted Aquarium' and she advocates putting the fish straight in once it's set up on the grounds the plants will be the filter. Obviously you wouldn't be wanting ammonia being released if you intend to put fish in with no filter, I guess it wouldn't be a problem if you were setting it up to add fish to once cycled.

Also, Walstad's book warns of what she calls 'chaos in freshly submerged terrestrial soils' (if you have the book, p130, if not hopefully the following will suffice). She states that as the oxygen supply to the soil is cut off and used up by bacteria and soil chemicals the soil releases various soluble metals which in turn displace other elements from the soil generally causing instability. The organic matter in the soil is used to being in aerobic conditions; bacterial decomposition of this organic matter under anaerobic conditions releases ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and organic acids into the water. She does state that terrestrial soil will settle down in a few weeks and become more stable. I left mine set up for about 4-6 weeks (can't remember exactly) before the fish went in and they didn't suffer any ill effects. They may have been perfectly ok if I'd put them straight in but I wasn't confident enough to risk it. Tested the water a lot and I did see ammonia and nitrite at the outset (before the fish went in so can only assume the soil was the source) but it sooned tailed off to zero.

I did a 'jug test' to see if the soil affected the pH, it did affect it slightly in the jug (I think it lowered it, this was some time ago now so memory is not what it could be) but didn't make a difference in the tank, presumably a larger body of water was better able to buffer the pH than the small amount in the jug.

I fear I've gone on quite long enough! Hope that's of some interest and not too much egg sucking! Walstad does report cases of fish deaths due to the terrestrial soil releasing things into the water at the outset so better safe than sorry /smile.gif" style="vertical-align:middle" emoid=":)" border="0" alt="smile.gif" />

Oh, on the gravel vaccing - never do what I did and go into autopilot forgetting you now have a soil substrate, not just plain gravel, and start the vac while it's resting on the gravel ... it sucked up a siphon-full of soil and made 'a right mess', lol. And persuading soil to go back under gravel is mission impossible.

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