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Why are aqua soils "not fit for purpose"?

Yugang

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Just trying to understand why we buy premium priced aqua soils, and for the first weeks have to worry about them leaching ammonia and other unwanted side effects? Wouldn't it be feasible for manufacturers to market a product that is processed so that we can enjoy the benefits from day 1?
 

Gorillastomp

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Just my thoughts. Even though they would wash it, in transport the pellets would still be a bit damaged then exposing the middle again. It would need to be washed again to remove what the surfaces are leeching.
 

Hufsa

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I wonder if the initial large spike of ammonia is neccessary to have the product as rich as it is over longer term. I dont how that would work strictly in the practical sense though. I believe I heard they give the soil an ammonia bath, maybe the ammonia spike is the stuff on the surface of the granule coming into solution, while the rest of the ammonia has made its way into the granule and is released slowly like intended. Just a guess
 

Nick potts

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My guess would be cost. I would imagine they would need to go through the same soaking/leaching process we do, and on a massive scale, this would cost in terms of time, labour and storage, making an already expensive product out of reach for most.
 

Hufsa

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My guess would be cost. I would imagine they would need to go through the same soaking/leaching process we do, and on a massive scale, this would cost in terms of time, labour and storage, making an already expensive product out of reach for most.
I think so too. Thats why Dennerle advertises its gravels with ~bioactive particles on them to mature your tank~ (paraphrased), when in reality they probably just didnt want to pay to wash the dirty gravel before selling it to you.

Edit: Found it 😁
biofilm my ass.png
 
Last edited:

Yugang

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My question in this thread was, amongst others, triggered by another thread. Did not want to hijack that one.

Do want to share a helpful contribution from the other thread here:

What you consider to be a problem can actually be the benefit some aquascapers are looking for. The issue is that many are using these soils as some sort of neutral universal aquarium substrate, which is far from the reality.


These soils have a high cation exchange capacity (they can be "loaded" with nutrients) and are rich in ammonia. One of their goals is to provide a boost to plant growth during the setup of the tank. After this stage, they are to be reloaded with root tabs. They are also often designed in combination with specific fertilization systems. For example, ADA and Tropica soils complement the nutrition that is lacking from the ADA and Tropica water column fertilizer solutions (this tends to lead to the wrong assumption that these fertilizations regimes are extremely "lean" because the role of the nutrient loaded soil is ignored).

But we cannot assume that these soils are universal and do not require special attention. Of course, it does not help that social media "influencers" tend to ignore the daily water changes demanded by these soils to minimize their risks. But the extra ammonia is not an "unwanted" side effect but what some aquascapers are expecting for fast plant growth.

If you want a neutral soil then you can use a "shrimp friendly" soil (or just a DYI soil) that lacks all added substances, and then add nutrients according to your nutrient target values.
 

Yugang

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I am a rather average hobbyist, not the type of top notch scaper who creates a new tank regularly.
I have no place to give my fish and shrimp a home, for weeks, safe from an ammonia peak.
If I would rescape my current tank, I would prefer to make that a 1-2 day exercise using my plants, mature filter, hardscape and perhaps some old soil mixed into the new soil to avoid a too lengthy and too dramatic restart and provide a safe home for fish and shrimp. I would still do daily big water change for the first 2 weeks.
I love aquasoils with their mechnical properties (grains), color and especially high CEC that works so well to complement water column dosing.

(Of course there is a solution for me, I just need to pre-soak the new aqua soil for a few weeks, before tank rescape)

From this forum, I get the feeling I am not alone. And then we have some (perhaps many) beginning enthusiasts, who get a serious set back in their new hobby during the first weeks, as they do not yet realise what is the proper start up process with aquasoils. I hate to admit, but when I set up my first high tech tank several fish did not survive my ignorance.

Would it really be that expensive for the manufacturers to pre-soak a production batch for a few weeks in water, and serve a significant number of hobbyists? Their products are great, but should they come with an unnecessary challenge to the user?
 

erwin123

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From this forum, I get the feeling I am not alone. And then we have some (perhaps many) beginning enthusiasts, who get a serious set back in their new hobby during the first weeks, as they do not yet realise what is the proper start up process with aquasoils. I hate to admit, but when I set up my first high tech tank several fish did not survive my ignorance.

Would it really be that expensive for the manufacturers to pre-soak a production batch for a few weeks in water, and serve a significant number of hobbyists? Their products are great, but should they come with an unnecessary challenge to the user?
The expensive aquasoils with ammonia are usually sold by speciality fish stores so one would expect the LFS to be providing necessary advice to new hobbyists.

In my country, the aquasoil commonly sold in supermarkets, generic pet stores is from a brand called Gex which doesn't leach ammonia. I also started out using Gex soil due to its wide availability.

 

Wookii

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Just trying to understand why we buy premium priced aqua soils, and for the first weeks have to worry about them leaching ammonia and other unwanted side effects? Wouldn't it be feasible for manufacturers to market a product that is processed so that we can enjoy the benefits from day 1?

I've wondered the same thing to be honest - the ammonia leached is a real PITA! @Nick potts is likely right, its a matter of cost in terms of manufacturing process, they have to form the pellets of soil, then soak/spray on the nutrient solution, dry and bag - any further processing is going to add significantly to an already high manufacturing cost.

I get that cost factor, but I have always wondered why they can't simply use a safer nitrogen source instead of ammonia. If they used KNO3 for example, we wouldn't have the ammonia issue on start up.
 

PARAGUAY

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I ASFASK are example ADA soils are part of a system of lean water column dosing and rich nutrient substrate and looking at tanks that use it very successful and even with that iron tablets are added. But of course as explained in tutorial The Soil Substrate__ by Tim Harrison a cheaper option is nutrient free Pond Compost which can give excellent results with a change to water column dosing and plant selection
 

MirandaB

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I think so too. Thats why Dennerle advertises its gravels with ~bioactive particles on them to mature your tank~ (paraphrased), when in reality they probably just didnt want to pay to wash the dirty gravel before selling it to you.

Edit: Found it 😁
View attachment 181144
Agree with you there,I bought some of their River gravel and the amount of cra...er... bioparticles was ridiculous :oops:
 

arcturus

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DE
(...)
From this forum, I get the feeling I am not alone. And then we have some (perhaps many) beginning enthusiasts, who get a serious set back in their new hobby during the first weeks, as they do not yet realise what is the proper start up process with aquasoils. I hate to admit, but when I set up my first high tech tank several fish did not survive my ignorance.
You are certainly not alone, and I also share that opinion. However, weather we like or not, that is not the current trend. Soil ssuch as ADA soil and the dozens of its replicas and variants produced by other brands, is where the marketing is focussing today and the trend that many in the aquascaping community (especially on social media) follow.
Would it really be that expensive for the manufacturers to pre-soak a production batch for a few weeks in water, and serve a significant number of hobbyists?
These soils are produced using rather standard processes and are not made by the brands themselves but by a handful of industry partners. Adding extra steps to the process would require the manufacturer to create a different production pipeline, which will only happen if there is enough production volume to justify the investment.

The fact is that brands are currently able to sell out their ammonia-rich soils and get a large profit margin in the process. There is zero incentive to change this status quo. Maybe neutral/pre-soaked soils will be part of the aquascaping product portfolio in the future. Consider for example the "shrimp friendly" soils sold today which are sold at premium price. But if these products become more available in the future is not be because of the issues of ammonia-rich soils we are discussing here but because there is a market opportunity to explored and money to be made...
 

arcturus

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Unless they spot that there is a significant interest from the hobbyists, and through better meeting their needs gain some extra business.
Yes, but nowadays the hobbyists' interest would only be considered significant if it is visible in social media statistics.

You will have neutral aquasoils from the big brands hitting the shelves (at premium price, of course) once high-profile aquascapers and stores with strong social media engagement start recommending them as a superior alternative to ammonia-rich soils. This can happen when a big brand decides to differentiate itself from the competition and starts marketing the new premium product - after then other big brands will follow suit. The other option is less realistic, because it requires influencers and marketers to disregard their sponsorship commitments and start bashing ammonia-rich soils.
 
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