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Old 09-03-2007, 12:02 PM
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Default The ultimate clay-based substrate thread

With the recent discussions on a few posts concerning Brent's redart clay substrate I was wondering if anybody is thinking of switching to this substrate and how you were planning on doing it.

Merged Red-Art Clay thread and part of Husbandry improvements thread from Science and Conservation - Oz
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Old 09-03-2007, 03:32 PM
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after seeing his set up and trying to combine with some of mine I decided it was best not to use it with a water fall or drip wall.I've been using pond plant soil that I found a home depot(a cheap version of flourite).Unfortunately the pond soil,which is nothing but shattered clay fragments, doesnt give you the microfuana build up that the moist redart clay does.A misting system seems to work best for the clay substrate.
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Old 09-04-2007, 12:58 AM
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I mixed up clay substrate (bentonite) about 75/25 with peat as a trial and it holds up well to a drip system as long as you don't let it dry out.

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Old 09-04-2007, 01:42 AM
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There are a couple of efforts ongoing to try to replicate a more "rainforest like" soil.

I think the key thing to note which is a big thing I am fighting is that most normal substrates do not handle the extended damp conditions of our tanks. They break down over time.

At least for larger collections or well misted ones I am thinking that even fine aquarium gravel would be better than some of the common substrates, but don't quote me on that. :-)

I am going to test a couple of different things and see how they do over time as I think a number of other people are as well.
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Old 09-04-2007, 01:52 AM
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Is the purpose of the redart clay to keep the substrate from breaking down and needing to be replaced? Or does the redart clay contain minerals/trace elements that are beneficial to the frogs?
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Old 09-04-2007, 02:05 AM
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I think the clay in general is for drainage, but some of the "soil geeks" would need to explain the real reason.
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Old 09-04-2007, 03:33 AM
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Quote:
.....does the redart clay contain minerals/trace elements that are beneficial to the frogs?

I dont know if there is a direct benefit to the frogs but the plants seem to appreciate it.There is so much clay in the soil around here that I decided to try it out in my tank with a layer of cypress/cocofiber/moss over that followed by leaf litter.I still prefer the bentonite,but I dont know where to find it down here. It has a waxy consistency that holds better in saturated enviorments.I'm still looking for a better way to bind the clay to the wall, It had interesting texture to it but it wasn't able to withstand the moisture and fell down.
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Old 09-04-2007, 04:01 PM
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Yes there are benefits for the frogs, check out the posts on soils by Brent... one of the benefits talked about was the higher calcium levels found in substrate microfauna that were being fed on by froglets in a tank produced by Matt Mirabello (check out his thread for more) and how Brent does not have calcium problems in tank raised pumilio froglets on his soil substrate.
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Old 09-04-2007, 10:58 PM
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The question I have is can the calcium levels be adjusted in other soils with some of the same methods?

I just ordered some of this to try, and plan to add some laterite and some other things to it.

I am also trying one of the suggested clay based soils, but currently do not have any pumilio to get a true test. I may have to break down and get some escudos to test with. :-)
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Old 09-04-2007, 11:39 PM
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Yes the calcium level of the soil can be adjusted but you have to know the calcium content first...
Also you have to have soil invertebrates which are going to be in the soil for the frogs to ingest...

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Old 09-04-2007, 11:48 PM
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Guess the link would help...
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/Product/P ... 004+113555

Interesting Ed and Im trying a couple of things. At least my current thinking is to use one thing for pumilio and something else for the none egg feeders. Having had poor luck with pumilio until now I am preparing a larger tank for another shot at it. I am hoping to use a "Brent based soil". :-)

If I had to guess at my problems they would go like this in order:
- too small of a tank
- poor substrate which broke down over time and became infested with mites.
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Old 09-05-2007, 12:45 AM
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Flora Base, interesting, let us know how that works out. I just ordered some Fluorite to give that a try.
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Old 09-05-2007, 02:03 PM
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Has anybody bought a large bag of the redart clay and wants to sell a small quantity of it?
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Old 09-05-2007, 04:34 PM
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We just received a 1000 lb shipment of tropical Laterite clay and will have it for sale on our website very soon. It will be offered in powder and crushed forms. Pricing will be .50 per lb and we can fit 5 lbs in a 1 gallon bag. Shipping is USPS priority flat rate box. Two 1 gallon bags can be shipped in one box to save on shipping. We have personally tested this product for over a year and it is currently being used in all 60 + of our tanks with very good results.


We do have both for sale.


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Old 09-05-2007, 04:41 PM
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Interesting - what % are you using in soil?

I use ABG mix, so I'm not sure that this would be a proper additive for it, but I'm very interested in Brent/Matt's view on the soil world.

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Old 09-05-2007, 04:50 PM
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So why would one choose Redart vs Lateralite (sp?)?
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Old 09-05-2007, 05:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UmbraSprite
So why would one choose Redart vs Lateralite (sp?)?
I'm interested in the answer to this as well before I buy one or the other.

From previous discussions it sounds like the calcium level in the substrate is what people are concerned about. Does one or the other contain more calcium? Are there other advantages to using one over the other?

THANKS!!!
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Old 09-05-2007, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
I use ABG mix, so I'm not sure that this would be a proper additive for it, but I'm very interested in Brent/Matt's view on the soil world.
If you're thinking of the clay in terms of using it as an additive in more organic substrates, I think you're missing the philosophy behind it (I'm not picking on you at all, Scott--just pointing out the idea of using it as an additive, which has popped up in nearly every thread about soil). Organic substrates are useful for growing plants. A clay-based substrate is about helping bridge the gaps in the ecological cycle in our vivs and the overall health and well-being of the frogs contained in them.

Organic substrates break down into muck and lose their structure over time. Clay-based aggregates hold their structure, providing a permanent habitat for microfauna to inhabit and repopulate. Adding aggregate to an organic substrate defeats the purpose, because you eventually end up with clay particles surrounded by dense muck--there isn't any suitable space provided for inverts.

Dealing with clay-based soil is a complete shift in mindset from working with organic substrates. I don't see that the two can be cohesively integrated.
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Old 09-05-2007, 06:07 PM
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Thanks! That's why I asked... I've followed it, but not as closely as I could (or will).

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Old 09-05-2007, 06:37 PM
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I know tree fern (loose) is an organic substrate, but it seems to hold up well over time for me. Would making a mixture of that and the clay still defeat the purpose of using the clay?

KRM, I too would like to hear more about any comments you might have on laterite vs. redart, thanks.
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Old 09-05-2007, 06:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gary1218
Quote:
Originally Posted by UmbraSprite
So why would one choose Redart vs Lateralite (sp?)?
I'm interested in the answer to this as well before I buy one or the other.

From previous discussions it sounds like the calcium level in the substrate is what people are concerned about. Does one or the other contain more calcium? Are there other advantages to using one over the other?

THANKS!!!
I belive you use the redart as an unfired clay, it will basicly turn to glop in the bottom of the tank.
Laterite is fired, and will not turn to glop, and will provide drainage for ever.
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Old 09-05-2007, 07:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dancing frogs
I belive you use the redart as an unfired clay, it will basicly turn to glop in the bottom of the tank.
Laterite is fired, and will not turn to glop, and will provide drainage for ever.
If I remember Brent's post correctly he mixes up the redart clay powder with water as if you were going to use it to throw a clay pot. Then he lays it out as a 1/4" slab to completely dry out. Then he smashes it into smaller pieces to mix into his substrate. I don't think he has a problem with it then turning into glop in the bottom of the tank.

Hopefully Brent will pick up on this post and give us his input.
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Old 09-05-2007, 07:25 PM
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That would work so long as you don't spray the tank heavily on a regular basis...
But unfired clay, exposed to moisture, will turn to muck.
Trust me, I grew up with clay.
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Old 09-05-2007, 08:14 PM
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I was told fluorite is the one that's fired and even though laterite is sold in a granular form for aquarists it isn't fired and will not hold it's form once wet. Not to doubt the above info, just trying to get to the bottom of what I was told and where the misinformation lies.
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Old 09-06-2007, 01:16 AM
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If it can't turn to some level of "muck" (although this does depend on drainage...) then it is hard for the substrate to present in/on the invertebrates to be ingested by the frogs... When dealing with clay in some of the tests I have made, you can actually sculpt areas (peaks) in the substrate that are dry to the touch on the top... The lower levels will turn to some levels of muck...
When dealing with these items in the terraria you hydrate the substrate and sculpt it into place and then let it dry for about 24-36 hours so it can "set" into place. Once it has set it is pretty stable but if you let it really dry out and then wet it, you have to let it set again. In an enclosure at work, I have a clay/peat admixture covered with a live moss, holding a rock waterfall together over which the unrestricted outflow of a magnum 350 runs...

People also need to understand that you need a variety of soil invertebrates so the frogs can try to meet thier nutritional needs by modifying thier diet (as wild frogs do....) Just having isopods and springtails is probably going to be an insufficient variety....

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Old 09-06-2007, 03:17 AM
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To answer the ?? on Laterite & Redart -

Laterite & Redart are both made from a red soil found in tropical and subtropical regions that has been leached of soluble minerals, aluminum hydroxides and silica. They are both rich in iron, which is an important nutrient for plants, and also gives it that rain forest floor red look.

Most all Laterite & Redart clay is currently mined from different parts of the US. You can find Redart in most pottery supply houses. Laterite can be a bit harder to find and comes from just a few specific places throughout the US.

Laterite will have a brighter and richer red look over the Redart clay due to the slightly higher iron content.

Both versions of the clay come in raw pulverized powders that have not been fired. When fired, they lose their benefits needed for making a clay soil. It would be the same as using crushed clay pots or Hydroton.

When we prepare the crushed clay, we use a mixture of 30lbs of Aragonite sand to 50lbs of Laterite.

Why do we use Aragonite sand?

1. It gives the clay structure and strength.

2. The calcium slowly leaches into the soil with watering and age. This provides a direct source of high calcium for the soil invertebrates which the froglets feed on, making them healthier and their survival rate higher.

We then mix the clay with water to a consistency of thick mud and place it on a hemp canvas for two weeks or until dry. It is then folded and crushed to a size of 20mm and smaller.

You can mix the clay with any type of sand, peat, coco, or sphagnum with good results. Just make sure the substrate is not over watered. We usually only water 20 seconds every other day, just enough to wet the plants.

Sprinkling the clay powder over the previous soil also works well. When watered, it too will work its way into the soil.

I believe most people will find mixing, drying, crushing and sprinkling it over their previous soil a lot easer to do.

Here is a photo at one month so you can see what the soil looks like without the crushed clay. The mix we use for this setup is Redart clay, Cocogrow, collected forest soil, and peat/sphagnum moss. It is mixed and then placed on top of a 2" layer of Higromite with black screen in between the two.



Hope this can help in any way.

Kevin
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Old 09-06-2007, 05:16 AM
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doesn't the argonite affect the PH of the soil, making it too alkaline?
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Old 09-06-2007, 02:28 PM
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In the amount we use its not enough to effect the PH on any large or small scale. You would have to use quite a bit of Aragonite to raise the PH value of the soil. Tropical soils range from 4.3-7.0 depending on where it is tested.

A good target range in soil is 6.2-6.5 and this will give that desired lush green growth we all look for.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:40 AM
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So Aragonite acts as a supply for calcium? Where is a good place to buy it?
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Old 09-08-2007, 04:07 AM
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One of the more common places is reef tank suppliers. HERE is some. However, a MUCH cheaper alternative (if you're in the right area of the states) is the SouthDown or Yardright brand playsands. Check your local Home Depot for it. It's a playsand for sandboxes, but it's actually collected in tropical waters, so it's actually an aragonite sand. Check this out: http://www.crabstreetjournal.com/produc ... ysand.html
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Old 09-08-2007, 04:56 AM
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"Aragonite is a constituent of many sea creatures' shell structures; a curious development since calcite is the more stable form of calcium carbonate. Most bivalve animals and corals secrete aragonite for their shells and pearls are composed of mostly aragonite."

Aragonite sand is made of crushed corals and mollusks. These both have extremely high content of calcium carbonate. This is why calcium pills are usually made of oyster shells or coral calcium; it's almost pure calcium.

You can find Aragonite reef sand at most saltwater shops and Petco's, but be prepared to pay the price. The product to look for is Aragonite #0 or #1. We choose #1 because it closest resembles sand size particles and we combine this with our clays and soils to make a wonderful substrate for our vivs. Remember, you will not be using this in large quantities in your soils; it is simply an additive and must be treated as that. More does not mean better.

After working with reef tanks for the last 20 years as a business, I am learning that I can incorporate certain aspects of that into the frog world. I hope that sharing this knowledge will help others in this hobby.
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Old 09-15-2007, 01:31 AM
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Default preparing terrarium soil

I have been meaning to post my soil recipes for a while now. On Monday I will have some exact numbers, pictures, ideas and recommendations.

For now I just want to touch on a couple things that have been said already. The soil benefits the frogs not only through calcium but a better balance and delivery of nutrients to the frogs. The key to getting it to be a success is for the soil arthropods to survive in the soil. For this to occur you need a reasonable depth of soil that is not waterlogged or compacted. The soil arthropods will live, eat, and breed in the pores of the soil where they are safe from frogs. Inevitably, and hopefully, they will wander out of the soil and a portion of their population will become frog food.

Although most of the tropics is covered in red-orange soil this is not essential for a healthy arthropod population. In fact temperate soils of clay/silt origin are much more enriched in all nutrients (except nitrogen). Furthermore I have been to parts of the tropics that are covered in very nutrient rich soils that are of volcanic origin, these soils are black.

For those of you in the southwest United states (and even through Maryland) you have access to Ultisols, a red/orange soil that is similar to tropical soils.

The key steps to being successful is getting soil aggregates that do not break down despite repeated wetting/raining from misting systems.

My experimental IAD soil tank is doing well and the soil is not having its aggregates break down. the pore spaces are maintaining and you can see organisms moving in these spaces.

In my next posts I will go over some of the ways I have found to do this and will try to have some soil available at Frog Day
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Old 09-15-2007, 05:50 AM
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:?: Not trying to jack this thread, but maybe a soil guru can answer a few ?'s for me. Does anyone have any experience/opinions of Eco-Complete planted aquarium substrate from CaribSea? I just picked up a bag from local pet shop for a new viv. I know it's not rainforest-like, it's black, but it is a very fine gravel and I'm planning on constant water running over media to keep humidity up. It says it's "mineralogically and biologically complete". My concerns are will it work? I'm planning on using a false bottom, will the media's mineral content quickly deplete due to water changes? Also, would it need to be an under another layer of substrate, because it contains minute fragments of gravel that could be accidentally ingested by PDFs? (I can take a pic of the mineral content if it would help.) -Thanks.
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Old 09-15-2007, 02:15 PM
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Just a minor report that I have been testing 2 new soils. One being a store bought clay based soil, and another from a well known member here. My early thoughts are they are both very different compared to the normal dirt, coco bedding, or sphagnum substrates. They both dry rather fast and as do the plants and leaf litter. The frogs though seem happy and active and seems to find food much better than on the sphagnum.

I am waiting on some supplies to make more but so far I think we are all missing the clay based substrate train. :-)

Can't wait to see Matts formula. :-)
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Old 09-16-2007, 01:57 AM
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Well ME coming from the planted aquariums side of hobbies similar to this has been wondering since I got into that hobby about this hobby's substrate mixes since all it really is is a drainage layer with plants and leaf litter on it.

Could anyone post links to the other posts that are being talked about? Would be interesting to read them...

Kyle: flora base is a great substrate in my opinion in my experience with planted fish tanks, and is a good size to maximize micro fauna growth. It slowly breaks down but also keeps it's size particles varied well so it should work the same way in the viviaria in my opinion, but I haven't tried that. Another substrate to look at is one that is pretty much swamping the Planted aquarium hobby, ADA AS stands for aquarium design amano's aqua soil. They aren't a vendor here that I know of but I don't think drs. foster and smith is either... either way if the link shouldn't be in my post edit it out. Here it is: http://www.adgshop.com/Substrate_System_s/1.htm You may know Chris or Jeff from similar boards great guys from what I've seen/heard.


Quote:
Originally Posted by skylsdale
Dealing with clay-based soil is a complete shift in mindset from working with organic substrates. I don't see that the two can be cohesively integrated.
I agree, but I've always been surprised that there isn't another school of thought similar to this. The only drawback I can think of is possible smell, but I doubt that would be much different than the decomposing substrate mixes used presently by the majority.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gary1218
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dancing frogs
I belive you use the redart as an unfired clay, it will basicly turn to glop in the bottom of the tank.
Laterite is fired, and will not turn to glop, and will provide drainage for ever.
If I remember Brent's post correctly he mixes up the redart clay powder with water as if you were going to use it to throw a clay pot. Then he lays it out as a 1/4" slab to completely dry out. Then he smashes it into smaller pieces to mix into his substrate. I don't think he has a problem with it then turning into glop in the bottom of the tank.

Hopefully Brent will pick up on this post and give us his input.
If this is what is being done, there isn't any point in not buying a pre-made mix that is used in the aquatic planted tank hobby, its the exact same stuff which is going to hold form much better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Corpus Callosum
I was told fluorite is the one that's fired and even though laterite is sold in a granular form for aquarists it isn't fired and will not hold it's form once wet. Not to doubt the above info, just trying to get to the bottom of what I was told and where the misinformation lies.
Flourite is mined. The other ones above are fired. (I may be incorrect though, flourite is most likely fired as well to make sure it holds its mined form and doesn't break down)

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Originally Posted by kyle1745
So Aragonite acts as a supply for calcium? Where is a good place to buy it?
I would actually reccomend oyster shells as a calcium supp. much cheaper than purchasing large ammounts of REEF sand.

Just some rushed thoughts,
-Andrew
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Old 09-16-2007, 02:22 AM
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I have a tank with the flora base but I think it is a bit too light for the frog tanks. It is also based on volcanic clay which I had thought someone mentioned broke down faster and had less nutrients than others. It is also rather expensive.

The soil I made, while a pain to make, seems to be working great. Its hard to say how either this or the above will hold up over time but so far I am liking the home made a bit better.

In my case price is a big deal as I have a number of tank that need refreshed. Interesting idea on the crushed shells for the calcium.

Are there cheaper options than the flora base? That may hold a little more weight so they do not stick to the frogs.
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Old 09-16-2007, 03:54 AM
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Kyle,

How 'bout that recipe?

With all the new tanks purchased during the Petco sale, there's ample opportunity for the community at large to put some of these ideas to the test. Maybe Matt, and Brent will post theirs as well so we can have a few different ones to try.

I've got 4 more tanks to set up and wouldn't mind trying out a couple different new substrates.

Steven
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Old 09-16-2007, 04:02 AM
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Sorry I can not give it out, as it is not mine. I am by no means a "soil" expert as some of the members are. :-)
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Old 09-16-2007, 04:33 AM
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Laterite is mined from rainforest type soil(often after the land has been clearcut)...and dissolves underwater.
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Old 09-16-2007, 11:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kyle1745
Sorry I can not give it out, as it is not mine. I am by no means a "soil" expert as some of the members are. :-)
Any chance you can get the person who you got the recipe from to post it?
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