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Old 03-23-2012, 05:09 PM   #1
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Inserting Clay into an Established Tank

Several of my plants for a long time, have been suffering from iron deficiency, most have gotten along by without it, but I'd like to get the most out of my tanks. When i first set up my tank, I never bothered to mineralize my soil, but now I see why I should of.

Would it be safe to add Red clay into the substrate of my tank? I'd rather not start dosing chemicals into the tank on a regular basis, and adding the Red Clay would improve the healthiness of my plants. I have Miracle-Gro organic soil underneath a Gravel cap.
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Old 03-23-2012, 05:16 PM   #2
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If you aren't careful it will quickly make a mess of your tank. Instead of just straight clay, what about making root tabs?

Are you dosing ferts in the tank? Soil is already a good medium for planting, so I don't think you'd get any major benefit from adding clay as far as cation exchange capacity goes, and you can just dose chelated iron if it's one of your missing components.
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:00 PM   #3
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I think Rootmedic actually makes a special porous clay root tab (only clay, nutrient root tabs sold separately).
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:05 PM   #4
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Don't get me started on that particular brand, but wouldn't a fired-clay substrate material work about the same?
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:11 PM   #5
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I don't dose anything in the tank, and wouldn't root tabs have to be placed back into the tank every couple of months? I've also heard of several people having a clouded tank after putting in root tabs.
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Old 03-23-2012, 06:17 PM   #6
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Root tabs won't cloud your water if you insert them deep into the substrate. But either way, it's the clay in the root tab that clouds the water since clay is such a fine material.

I'd probably start with e.i. dosing to see how they do, usually soil has a good amount of nutrients in it for several years, but it might be missing a few components, and also some plants are not heavy root feeders. They may put some small roots out but they will get the most benefit out of dosing into the column.
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Old 03-23-2012, 07:37 PM   #7
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Note that EI is 'calibrated' for a system where light is the limiting factor, ie, plenty of CO2. You will need to bring the dosing down if your not injecting CO2.


Yes, root tabs will need to be replaced after a few months. You can't expect them to last forever. The soil in the substrate will also run out eventually too.

What are you seeing that you think indicates an iron issue?
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Old 03-23-2012, 08:31 PM   #8
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On several of my plants, the leaves are Green but the rest of the plant is turning yellow and starting to become clear. I might also have a slight C02 Defiency, because i'm seeing several of the symtpoms of c02 Deficiency (holes in the plants that are definitly not being caused by fish). I don't use an c02, but I do have some Flourish Excel that I might start dosing in small amounts. Additionally my 3 Java ferns are basically half-dead, and only have small leaves growing out then dying again.
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Old 03-23-2012, 08:34 PM   #9
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You might also have a nitrogen issue. Yellowing of the leaves is a pretty classic example of that.
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Old 03-23-2012, 09:17 PM   #10
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I was told that if you add clay you should also add peat moss into your filtration to help release the iron intp the tank
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Old 03-23-2012, 10:42 PM   #11
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If the issue is lack of Nitrogen, i might just start cutting back on water changes again. This all seemed to start happening when I started doing Weekly Water changes and not allowing Nitrate levels to start rising (which even after 1 month of WC, never got above 5 ppm).
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Old 03-23-2012, 10:46 PM   #12
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Are you shaking the heck out of your nitrate test kits first?
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Old 03-24-2012, 12:21 AM   #13
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I shake the ever loving stuffings out of it, follow the directions to the letter. The highest it has ever been was a solid 5 ppm after 1 month of a lack of Water changes.
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:46 AM   #14
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Sounds like you need more fish
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Old 03-25-2012, 11:07 AM   #15
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I'm actually fully stocked already!
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Old 03-25-2012, 11:38 AM   #16
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I use Amaco Mexican Pottery clay in all my tanks and the under side of my Ludwiga Repens is constantly red showing sufficient iron. I bought mine at Hyatts Art Supply Store. The best way to add it is taking small chunks or rolling small chunks into 1/2 or 1 inch spikes, let them dry out, takes about two days. Then just push the spikes or chunks into the substrate near each plant. You won't lack iron after that. If you move the plants just remember to be gentle as you will get a red cloud if you disturb the clay. You will see your roots growing around the clay if you pull the plants out. Hope this helps.............
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Old 03-25-2012, 11:55 AM   #17
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Hers' pics of my tanks, each have red clay added.

The 56 gal has 3 39 watt sunblaster 6400k 36 inch
The 29 gal has 1 39 watt 36 inch and a 24 inch sunblaster
The 20 gal has a spiral compact in a clamp on shop light from home depot.

All light are on for 12 hours, water changes are 50% one a week.
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Old 03-25-2012, 01:56 PM   #18
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Those are some beautiful tanks you have there! I've been hearing good things about that Brand of clay (Watching Dustinsfish tanks on Youtube and he made a good suggestion for it)

I'm likely going to buy that and stick them near my Swords and other plants, do you ever have to replace the clay, or is it good for years to come?
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:25 PM   #19
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My clay has been in for about a year, just be careful when up rooting plants as you will get a cloud of red. As far as how long it lasts i don't know.
That's a question for Dustin's Fish Tanks..............
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:34 PM   #20
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Red clay is red clay, as long as it's natural and not the synthetic stuff it's ok. I've heard of using the amaco mexican pottery clay. I usually get mine in powder form and mix it myself. It lasts for years, although the iron portion of the clay will inevitably get spent at some point, just like any other ferts in the soil. How fast of a process that is depends on the amount of plants and their level of uptake. The best part of using clay is the high cec which helps deliver nutrients to the plant roots.
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