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  #81 (permalink)  
Old 04-24-2011, 08:02 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Originally Posted by Ed View Post
two inches is more than sufficient. I have tanks where much less is used with no problems with plant growth.
You just have to make sure the clay can drain throughly. I use an air gap under the false bottom to allow the clay to drain throughly.
This air gap is a must have. Your clay will only stand up to the test of time with a false bottom to get the air gap. If it is constantly really wet, it will quickly break down.
So you want an eggcrate false bottom with the air gap. A layer of fiberglass window screen over this. The next part is optional and that would be a layer of Turface (infield conditioner) about an inch thick. I do this for extra root growth and so that I can get away with a little less homemade clay. It makes the batch stretch a little further. Now put your layer of homemade clay substrate on top of the Turface. I do NOT put screen between the Turface and the clay substrate.
I do not use weedblocker instead of window screen. I don't understand why people wish to limit the root growth of your plants. Let your roots go where they will. If they go down into the water at the bottom, fine! It will freshen the water and fertilize the plants. Besides, have you ever tried to run water through a piece of window screen material? It runs right through it! Very well drained. Try that with a piece of weedblocker. You will be amazed at how poorly the water runs through. Very poorly draining material.
I have done tanks with one inch of Turface and one inch of clay and they are doing great. Sounds like Ed has experimented with even less with good results.
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  #82 (permalink)  
Old 04-24-2011, 10:23 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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two inches is more than sufficient. I have tanks where much less is used with no problems with plant growth.
You just have to make sure the clay can drain throughly. I use an air gap under the false bottom to allow the clay to drain throughly.
Excellent - a drilled hole just below the height of the egg crate will work perfectly for that. Thanks Doug and Ed.
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Old 04-24-2011, 11:08 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Excellent - a drilled hole just below the height of the egg crate will work perfectly for that. Thanks Doug and Ed.
That is exactly what I do.

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Old 04-24-2011, 11:15 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Excellent - a drilled hole just below the height of the egg crate will work perfectly for that. Thanks Doug and Ed.
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That is exactly what I do.

Ed
Me too. A 5/8 inch hole with a short piece of clear flexible 5/8 o.d. hose through it, silicone it in place inside and out. I don't even bother with a bulkhead and I've never had a leak.
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Old 04-24-2011, 11:40 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

I posed questions a few pages back regarding firing temps vs clay longevity, but never got an answer. Figured it would be best to do some experiments of my own.

Air dry and 300f - Very quick breakdown and became soft/mushy within 1 minute of being submerged

415f - Same sh*tty stats as above

~800-900f (3 hour oven self cleaning cycle) - It held its shape much better then previous temps. When submerged in water, it will degrade and become soft, but it happens slower then before. This mean that if a heavy tank misting/rain cycle is on, it will be able to withstand this much better, so long as it has proper drainage after the fact. I wouldn't use it near a water feature though, unless you want a large clay clump down the road. Try keeping it in dry sections of the tank, as with all clay substrate.

1800f (typical kiln firing temp) - Clay turned into a ceramic, and after 3 weeks has not broken down at all. This would be good as a substrate additive for high drainage, but I doubt it will ever break down. This pretty much removes all the calcium benefits from making clay substrate, and you end up with expensive rocks haha

Ideally, Im guessing firing at 1000-1200f would be the best option, however it is difficult to fire something in this temperature range while being cost effective. Home ovens will not reach it, and to get a kiln fired at a specific temp costs 50-65$. Im happy with the results using the self cleaning oven cycle though. It definitely beats air drying it, or low oven temps.

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Old 04-25-2011, 03:40 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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I posed questions a few pages back regarding firing temps vs clay longevity, but never got an answer. Figured it would be best to do some experiments of my own.

Air dry and 300f - Very quick breakdown and became soft/mushy within 1 minute of being submerged

415f - Same sh*tty stats as above

~800-900f (3 hour oven self cleaning cycle) - It held its shape much better then previous temps. When submerged in water, it will degrade and become soft, but it happens slower then before. This mean that if a heavy tank misting/rain cycle is on, it will be able to withstand this much better, so long as it has proper drainage after the fact. I wouldn't use it near a water feature though, unless you want a large clay clump down the road. Try keeping it in dry sections of the tank, as with all clay substrate.

1800f (typical kiln firing temp) - Clay turned into a ceramic, and after 3 weeks has not broken down at all. This would be good as a substrate additive for high drainage, but I doubt it will ever break down. This pretty much removes all the calcium benefits from making clay substrate, and you end up with expensive rocks haha

Ideally, Im guessing firing at 1000-1200f would be the best option, however it is difficult to fire something in this temperature range while being cost effective. Home ovens will not reach it, and to get a kiln fired at a specific temp costs 50-65$. Im happy with the results using the self cleaning oven cycle though. It definitely beats air drying it, or low oven temps.
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Thanks Grimm, I'm afraid I'm in the dark about trying higher temps. I baked it simply to speed the drying. I would be concerned that firing it too high (and too hard), could lock the calcium up into the hardened clay pellets so that the frogs were unable to digest tiny bits of it.
Actually Grimm, I did post my opinion on firing the clay. I think you are changing it to something you don't find in nature. We are trying to recreate the rainforest clay with this type of substrate. I think that any degree of hardening will make it much less digestible. I'm sure it will still work fine to grow stuff in, but more like a LECA without the calcium benefits. The way we use it now, it is soft enough that bits of it come off and get stuck to the bugs as they crawl through it. Your frogs benefit from that when they eat the bugs. It is soft enough that as the frogs sit on it, some of the calcium can be absorbed right through the frogs skin. I would just be worried that any hardening would cancel these benefits.
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  #87 (permalink)  
Old 04-25-2011, 04:09 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

It definitely breaks down when fired at 900f, just not in 1-2 minutes. If you have any extra lying around, toss it in a clean cycle and check it out. Im sure your oven needs it's yearly cleaning anyways, and the wife might appreciate it

I had a private convo with Matt Mirabello and at the time he was also trying to find the perfect firing medium between longevity and benefits. Im not sure what temps he came up with, but I wouldnt be surprised if it comes in around 1000f. Ideally it would be perfect to have the clay break down over a few years. I could see that happening as long as my clay is kept on the drier side.
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Old 04-25-2011, 04:38 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Why not just use turface then? It is low fired and decomposes slowly over a period of about 20 years.

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Old 04-25-2011, 04:51 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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It definitely breaks down when fired at 900f, just not in 1-2 minutes.
Granted, my clay substrates are only a few months old, but they show no signs of collapsing. They have certainly lasted longer than 1 to 2 minutes. If you made my recipe and it's only lasting 1 to 2 minutes before breaking down, then you are doing something very different than what I've posted.

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Why not just use turface then? It is low fired and decomposes slowly over a period of about 20 years.

Ed
Agreed.
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Old 04-25-2011, 12:26 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Just to save people some time, here is where you find the closest Turface dealer to you:

Distributors | Turface Athletics
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Old 04-25-2011, 01:39 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Alright sorry for adding my experiences with it. As I said before twice, it breaks down, just not as fast. I can take pictures if you like. A slimy film forms over it when submerged, but it doesnt become a sloppy mess right away. And I am testing it in the worst possible scenario, when submerged. Not slightly damp as it would when be used as substrate.

Last edited by GRIMM; 04-25-2011 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 04-25-2011, 04:17 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Don't apologize, there isn't any need. I was just trying to figure out if low firing some clay is going to be be better than turface since that is an already low fired clay.
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Old 04-25-2011, 04:40 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Cool. I'll definitely try and post some pictures of how it acts when moist. The peat no boubt gets burnt off durig the firing process, but the main benefits should all still be there. Just with a little added longevity.

I might just run another test using the 900 degree clay in a clear glass. 1" of water, rocks as the main drainage layer, clay above that and perhaps a few leaves on the surface. I'll mist it daily and keep it covered with saran wrap. Hopefully this will mimic the environment the clay will be in and see how well it acts. I still have a few weeks till I'll be using the substrate in a tank anyways. Cant hurt to try.

I'd like to see the results from Matt's different firing temps and if the clay still retains all it's positive properties. He hasnt posted in a while.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:43 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

One of these days I'll take a picture of some unfired clay that is still holding holes etc down into the substrate. It went two years with a 4 minute misting 4 times a day with a mistking set up,.. I have for the last year only rub the misting for 15 seconds/twice a day.

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Old 04-30-2011, 02:41 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Thanks Dave, that hardware cloth is the stuff I use to mold the clay into proper sized pieces. Ed originally recommended using the 1/4 inch size and I totally agree that the 1/4 inch makes for a very "microfauna friendly" size.
The link to the groat float is not working. Can you try again on that please? I would like to see it.
Sorry I missed the question about the grout float.
We'll see if this reference sticks around.

The following is a google search of "Grout Float".

Google Search for Images of Grout Floats


Grout Floats have a handle and a rubber bottom and are designed to push thick, heavy concrete grout deep into thin, tiny voids or lines which are found between newly installed tile. These grout lines can be as narrow as 1/16 of an inch, but are most common at 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. This is really the same kind of thing we are doing here as we push thick, heavy clay through the 1/4 inch holes in the hardware cloth.



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Old 04-30-2011, 03:14 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Nice Dave. Thanks. That looks like the proper tool for what my little rubber sanding block is being used for.
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Old 05-20-2011, 04:20 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Would there be any problem in laying down the clay substrate over a couple inches of ABG mix? I would assume I would need at least an inch or 2 of the clay over it.
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Old 05-20-2011, 04:41 AM
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Would there be any problem in laying down the clay substrate over a couple inches of ABG mix? I would assume I would need at least an inch or 2 of the clay over it.
That would probably be fine. Both myself and Brett Brock have used pockets of ABG mix around the roots. It gives them a bit of a head start but is not necessary.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:02 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Thanks Pumilo for this very informative thread. It is solid information like this that gives us amateurs the courage to try out new things. Thank you Pumilo and all contributors. I am working on a tank and it seems to take forever to make up my mind on what to do or use.
Substrate is one of those....... things.
While I have no doubt about the benefits of your mix to me it seems labor intensive and I was wondering if there is a SIMPLE way to possibly incorporate the calcium and other mineral requirements into LECA or Hydrton. If I were to make a liquid with all that and rolled or coated the hydrtons in it and then baked or dried it..... ?? I'm also guessing that the round shape of the Hydrotons would allow for more gaps , "microfauna real estate".

I am aware that there might be something simple I'm missing here that would totally ridicule my suggestion and I'm hoping some feedback will enlighten me.

Thank you.
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Old 05-31-2011, 12:42 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Leca/Hydroton are fully fired clays. There are no small particulates that are going to be sticking to the microfauna or ingested by the microfauna that will have mobile calcium. In addition Leca/hydroton are full fired clays so thier ability to retain and release cations like calcium are not the same as a clay substrate.

It may seem like a lot of work but it actually isn't when you look at the lifespan of the an enclosure. There are substrates like this that have been running for more than ten years now.

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Old 05-31-2011, 04:59 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Leca/Hydroton are fully fired clays. There are no small particulates that are going to be sticking to the microfauna or ingested by the microfauna that will have mobile calcium. In addition Leca/hydroton are full fired clays so thier ability to retain and release cations like calcium are not the same as a clay substrate.

It may seem like a lot of work but it actually isn't when you look at the lifespan of the an enclosure. There are substrates like this that have been running for more than ten years now.

Ed
Thank you Ed,

It was 6 AM and I had been up all night reading about substrate options so there is a possibility I was delerious when I got the idea. I've had less than 4 hrs of sleep and I'm ready to go again .
I thought I could just make a slurry containing the calcium and other needed minerals and then coat the Hydrotons with that mix. I'm hoping this coat will break down into smaller particles that can benefit the animals via ingestion or absorbtion. Like a candy coated apple or something only here the apple

Laziness.......... makes you do things lol.. I already bought a 50 l bag of hydroton.

Apart from the cation thing I thought maybe the round shape and less weight might be an advantage. Here I was thinking I discovered something

Either way I've read enough good things about clay substrates to tell you that I will be using one way or another.
Thank you all again.
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:36 PM
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Thank you Pumilo and all contributors.
Thank you for acknowledging the hard work that others have put into this. Much of what I did here was simply gathering the most pertinent info in all the clay threads, gathering it into one place. There is still some great info in the Ultimate clay thread, too.

Quote:
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While I have no doubt about the benefits of your mix to me it seems labor intensive and I was wondering if there is a SIMPLE way to possibly incorporate the calcium and other mineral requirements into LECA or Hydrton. If I were to make a liquid with all that and rolled or coated the hydrtons in it and then baked or dried it..... ?? I'm also guessing that the round shape of the Hydrotons would allow for more gaps , "microfauna real estate".
What Ed said. If you really wanted to try it, I think the proper way would be to mix up the whole recipe, thin it out into a much wetter slurry, and repeatedly dip and dry your LECA balls. As far as gaps and real estate, this is why we borrow Ed's suggestion of pressing it through the 1/4" screen made of hardware cloth. The 1/4" pieces allow lots of gaps.

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I am aware that there might be something simple I'm missing here that would totally ridicule my suggestion and I'm hoping some feedback will enlighten me.
Very few questions are worthy of ridicule. These are the types of questions that allowed clay substrates to be "born".

Thank you.[/QUOTE]

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Leca/Hydroton are fully fired clays. There are no small particulates that are going to be sticking to the microfauna or ingested by the microfauna that will have mobile calcium. In addition Leca/hydroton are full fired clays so thier ability to retain and release cations like calcium are not the same as a clay substrate.

It may seem like a lot of work but it actually isn't when you look at the lifespan of the an enclosure. There are substrates like this that have been running for more than ten years now.

Ed
Hey Ed, Regarding Leca, Calcium mobility, and ability to retain and release cations. We discussed this once regarding Turface and it's calcium mobility, and ability to retain and release cation. You had said that Turface may still have some of these abilities. I had thought that Turface was fully fired also. Is Turface perhaps, only partially fired?
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  #103 (permalink)  
Old 05-31-2011, 07:18 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Tuface is fired at a low temperature which allows it to degrade over time (we are talking on the scale of decades..). This liberates small particulates that can be ingested.

At this point, the last several tanks I set up have relatively thin layers of clay over turface. The clay depth is between 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick over about 1/2 of turface. This produces very light tanks once you drain the water and seems to satisfy the needs of the microfauna (and plants can root through the clay right into the turface and water area.

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Old 05-31-2011, 08:23 PM
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Would there be any problem in laying down the clay substrate over a couple inches of ABG mix? I would assume I would need at least an inch or 2 of the clay over it.
This sort of defeats one of the primary purposes of a clay-based, primarily non-organic substrate. Eventually the ABG mix under the clay will break down, decompose and become pretty rank...then you'll have to tear everything out and rebuild at some point. Using all clay helps eliminate that need...unless 30-40 years from now my Turface substrate breaks down to the point of being no good, and then I can swap it out for fresh.

ABG mix was designed to grow great plants. The clay-based soils some of us have been experimenting with over the last few years are an attempt to understand and hopefully mimic more accurately the actual environments and ecological processes taking place in the tropics where Dendrobatids come from. That, for me, is the primary emphasis and concern, and I cater the plants I use to ones that will work well in that context/substrate. Trying to mix the two 50/50, I think, misses some of the major purposes of this method.
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Old 06-05-2011, 01:17 AM
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Thank so much for posting this, I used this recipe to make my own. I bought a play-dough fun factory clay press and made my own die out of brass to create a shape that I hope ill provide some sturdiness and also lots of nooks and crannies for isopods and springtails to crawl all over.
It worked fairly well, but it would have worked much better with a finer peat and finer grain sand, larger chunks of it tended to clog the die quite often. Next time I will use finer stuff.
After squeezing these clay shapes out I would let them dry a little them use a knife to cut them into smaller pieces.




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Old 06-05-2011, 01:41 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

I know this is off topic, but is anyone selling a pre-made clay substrate yet? I'm pretty lazy and don't want to make my own
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:40 AM
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I know this is off topic, but is anyone selling a pre-made clay substrate yet? I'm pretty lazy and don't want to make my own
I don't believe so Mitch. I have discussed trades with a couple of people but the work involved would make it pricey. To top that off, it's expensive to ship, even though you would ship it dry. Still, for the right trade (thumbs or eggfeeders), I would consider it.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:15 AM
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Mitch, it really isn't that bad to make. I can be kind of lazy as well. I just mixed up everything in a bucket, spread it out on a sheet of plastic, let it dry in the sun (and some in the oven), then broke it up into chunks.

The substrate has only been in the tank for a little over a month now but, it seems to be holding up fine. I think that having a nice layer of leaf litter over the clay helps save it from misting.
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Old 06-06-2011, 12:53 AM
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I don't believe so Mitch. I have discussed trades with a couple of people but the work involved would make it pricey. To top that off, it's expensive to ship, even though you would ship it dry. Still, for the right trade (thumbs or eggfeeders), I would consider it.
Eh, seems kinda unfair to trade frogs for a bag of clay. Haha

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Mitch, it really isn't that bad to make. I can be kind of lazy as well. I just mixed up everything in a bucket, spread it out on a sheet of plastic, let it dry in the sun (and some in the oven), then broke it up into chunks.

The substrate has only been in the tank for a little over a month now but, it seems to be holding up fine. I think that having a nice layer of leaf litter over the clay helps save it from misting.
Trust me, I'm lazier than you! This is the theme song to my life (not to hijack the thread):

Anyways, how long has it taken you guys to make the stuff? It seems like it could end up taking a few hours per batch.
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:32 AM
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Eh, seems kinda unfair to trade frogs for a bag of clay. Haha



Trust me, I'm lazier than you! This is the theme song to my life (not to hijack the thread): LINK

Anyways, how long has it taken you guys to make the stuff? It seems like it could end up taking a few hours per batch.
Guess that's pretty much my point. Nobody's going to make you a batch for $10. It's pretty much do it yourself, or live without it. Thus, the do it yourself guide!
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:39 AM
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Guess that's pretty much my point. Nobody's going to make you a batch for $10. It's pretty much do it yourself, or live without it. Thus, the do it yourself guide!
Yup! Great guide by the way. When I set up my final masterpiece viv (still in the planning stage) I'll definitely consider using a clay based substrate. This guide makes it much easier/more understandable as to how to do it. When people talked about it before I had no clue what they were doing to make the stuff until you made this thread. This should be stickied!
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Old 06-06-2011, 01:58 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Would you ever fire the clay to make a similar product to hydroton or LECA?
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Old 06-06-2011, 02:10 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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Yup! Great guide by the way. When I set up my final masterpiece viv (still in the planning stage) I'll definitely consider using a clay based substrate. This guide makes it much easier/more understandable as to how to do it. When people talked about it before I had no clue what they were doing to make the stuff until you made this thread. This should be stickied!
Thanks Mitch.

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Would you ever fire the clay to make a similar product to hydroton or LECA?
You might talk to Grimm about that. He was going to experiment with partial firing. Personally, I would be afraid that any firing would tend to "fix" the calcium into the clay so it would not be available to the frogs. Besides, some of the early clay mixes have been up and running for 10 years now so I don't see why it would be necessary or beneficial.
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:39 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

well i was thinking that with constant moisture that you couldnt stop it from compacting.
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Old 06-06-2011, 05:24 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

If you follow the recipes, then microbes and microfauna action will keep the clay from compacting.

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Old 06-15-2011, 03:47 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

I never have had compaction issues, unless you physically mash down the mixture. Even with water from misters the clay holds its shape quite well.
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Old 06-15-2011, 05:41 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

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If you follow the recipes, then microbes and microfauna action will keep the clay from compacting.

Ed
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I never have had compaction issues, unless you physically mash down the mixture. Even with water from misters the clay holds its shape quite well.
All you have to watch out for is that you don't go digging around in it. Set your plants in while it is still dry. If you need to add plants later, just push cuttings in, or, lay the root mass on top and cover with leaf litter. It'll root in quick enough.
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Old 07-23-2011, 07:06 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

So I am in the planning stages for my first vivs and this thread has been a great read I think the "ultimate clay thread" has gotten a little out of hand(long).

So here are a few questions for the people that are running clay substrates so far.

What types of plants thrive in the clay substrate and which plants do poorly?
Does anybody have pictures of their vivs that have been set up for awhile with clay substrates? I am particular interested in seeing how some of the older systems are still holding up?

By the way, a big thanks to all those who are taking the time to answer questions for us newbies and making sure we get started on the right track.


-Byron
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Old 07-23-2011, 08:38 PM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

This is a 20 gal using a locally collected clay/silt based soil, set up for 2+ years at this point:



And here is a 30 gal tank using Turface as a substrate that has been set up for 3+ years:





Some of the plants are grown in the substrate, but many of the species I use are also epiphytic--I think of the other hardscape pieces (roots, woody debris, etc.) as substrate more than the actual clay-based soil. For that I prefer to have predominantly leaf litter. But, as you can see, even areas of bare substrate are minimal in these tanks so I have to occasionally do some pretty heavy pruning.
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Old 08-11-2011, 05:41 AM
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Default Re: Clay Substrate How-To

Any big differences in what source of calcium? The one I used lists calcium gluconate and calcium lactate, it also has cholecalciferol(Vitamin D) in it..

What ya think?


Hmm.. after doing some research, I would say carbonite is the way to go, it's listed as the most concentrated form of calcium.

Last edited by Bonobo; 08-11-2011 at 05:59 AM.
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