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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was asked a couple times recently for a guide on my clay substrate. I have copied the emails I sent on those, along with a few pics. Want to thank Matt, Brent, Jason, Ed, and others, for all the info they were so willing to share on clay substrates. Here is what I came up with.

My clay supplier is Mile Hi Ceramics, INC. 77 Lipan 303-825-4570
You are looking for RedArt and Bentonite.
Clay Recipe
3 Quarts RedArt powdered clay
1/2 Quart Sodium Bentonite powdered clay
1/2 Quart Calcium Bentonite powdered clay
1 Quart Brown Peat OR Coco Fiber (ground up like dirt)
1/2 Quart Fine Aragonite Sand
1/4 to 1/2 cup Calcium Carbonate
2 TBSP Sugar
2 TBSP Corn Starch
Mix all ingredients except sugar and corn starch in a 5 gallon bucket. Dry mix it. Boil Sugar and Corn Starch into water. Use water to hydrate mix. I use about 3/4 of a 2 quart container. Mix like crazy. I use a drill and a paint stirrer from WalMart. The better ones don't work as they get bogged down in the thick mix, get the cheapy with the red plastic stirrer on the end from WalMart.
Grab a handful of clay maybe about the size of a couple of golf balls. Squish clay into about 1/4 inch thick patties. Place patties onto 1/4 inch screen. I made a screen box out of four, 20" 2x4's with the screen nailed to the top.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Place a cookie sheet or a disposable aluminum cake pan under the screen so that your little cubes of clay will fall straight in. This will help to reduce the sticking together that you are going to get. Push clay patties through screen to make into little cubes. I like to use this rubber sanding block that I got at WalMart. I push down and then slide the block towards me while still pushing down. Doing small sections at a time makes it easy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Bake at about 300 until dry. Or you can just just air dry. After it has cooled, you will break up the chunks. It breaks up into small 1/4 inch cubes pretty easily. Some people don't bother with the cubes as it is the hardest part. I think it is important because it makes for lots of gaps between particles for springtail growth, soil aeration, drainage, and root growth.
Here are a couple pics before baking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Here it is in the viv and ready for the last step. This was in my brothers viv and we decided to hide the edges of the clay with ABG mix. For the last step you dissolve some mycorrhizae inoculant into water and begin misting the viv to re-moisten the clay. Some of the best mycorrhizae inoculants can be found at hydroponics shops. I used a brand called White Widow because it contains 12 different types/species of inoculant.
You want to moisten the clay gradually. Mist it down and wait five minutes for it to soak in. Mist it again and wait 5 more. Continue until clay is fully moistened.
NOTE: Once clay is hydrated it should be disturbed AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE! Too much handling will clump it together. Because of this, I choose to plant it while it is still dry and then quickly mist that planted section. If you need to add plants later, it is best done as cuttings so you can just poke a hole with a piece of wire or a drill bit and stick the cutting right in. You can also just lay the cutting on top and it will eventually take root and begin to grow upright.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Some explanations:
The bentonite you get at the pottery place is sodium bentonite, 50 lbs is about $12. That's what most people work with. Calcium Bentonite is available on eBay. It's more expensive at about $32 for 16 lbs shipped. The Calcium in it adds some obvious benefits but since you add calcium Carbonite anyway, You could really substitute and use just Sodium Bentonite.
Calcium Bentonite links 16.5 #'s Calcium BENTONITE Clay KOI ponds & plants WW - eBay (item 260711386448 end time Feb-20-11 21:22:42 PST)
5.5 lb Calcium BENTONITE Clay KOI ponds & plants - eBay (item 250616134654 end time Feb-09-11 16:10:19 PST)
The 16 lb size will last for quite a few tanks.
Aragonite sand is available at coral reef pet shops. (aquarium stores) You are looking for the smallest size of oolitic sand or sugar five aragonite sand. Again, you could just sub regular fine sand but I like the extra calcium and I had a bunch lying around.
Calcium Carbonite. I use the NOW brand with the orange label available at Vitamin Cottage.
The sugar and corn starch are to help in establishing a Biofilm which helps keep the particles, or cubes, of clay separate. It may mold just a little but springtails and isopods will help keep that in check and it will stop pretty quickly.
This recipe would also make a fine background mix although the cornstarch and sugar are probably unneccessary there. You could probably skip the sand too. The calcium may still prove beneficial to frogs but could be skipped. For a background recipe I would sub some of the coco/peat for some ground sphagnum moss to try to encourage future moss growth. My last batch I blenderized some live sphagnum and some live sheet moss in as part of the coco/peat/sphagnum. Time will tell how that works out.
Lay down an inch of Turface before the clay just to cut down on the amount of clay you need. Turface is available at a John Deere Landscaper. Ask for TURFACE or INFIELD CONDITIONER. The grade you want is ALL SPORT PRO.
Drainage so far has been excellent. I think the cubes method helps with this. Also, this is my RedArt clay. I do NOT trust a bentonite based clay (but obviously, I like it as an ammendment.) It is important to NEVER go digging around in your moist clay mix. If you need to plant something, either poke the stem down in or even just lay it on top. It will root and eventually grow standing up.
When I plant mine, I like to use a handful or two of ABG mix around the roots of each plant. I put some clay cubes over the ABG.
Remember to use LOTS of leaf litter!!

Sorry if we got a little scattered there, as I said, this is translated from a series of emails.
 

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got a few questions.So is the mane reasons for the clay substrate, to boost calcium in inverts .in nature the clay that walls up and bellow the wall aren't to many inverts . but in the moss and rotting logs and leafs . seem to a great amount more inverts .if most are eating fungi . mold doesn't like clay . here in the northwest seen mold in leafs and the ground spread for seemingly for every . the mold is keep in check buy lower humidity and heat from the sun . when it rains it has the ability to come up and form mushrooms and other type of fungi. just asking because when herping in the rain forest hear , that notice all i can and the most productive places are burned forest and volcano zone . after 80 eruption of st Helen . the zone now is super productive . sounding lakes are very productive. the fish in the nearest lake ,fish grow up at twice the rate of other lakes in area . just throwing my two cents in . I think I'm going to burn that cherry wood. use the ash and charcoal mix with fresh and rotting leafs coco peat ect. and may be some clay to hold the charcoal down . and has any used egg shell power as calcium upper in substrate . and fungi stains .I have power fungi stains about 16 in one power . think i going trow a spoon full in the mix to . for the plants mostly ,but the invert will eat the rest . and lite tank sit for month or two see it does . these is my two cent , if i'm wrong lite me know ,these is info from living hear not there.
 

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The clay provides several different functions..

1) the interaction between the clay and the leaf litter is typically very dynamic in the form of biological productivity.

2) clay that contains calcium can have the calcium taken up by the frogs either through thier drinking patch (if there are free calcium ions) or as calcium particles stuck to the inverts or in thier digestive tract.

3) mold may not "like" clay as clay as it stands does not contain organics to encourage the growth of molds.. I suggest taking some red art clay and mixing a bunch of corn starch and sugar into it and throughly wetting it and seeing what happens then... (don't add any mycrorhizzoids as they can inhibit how dramatic it can look...)

4) there are significant differences between the productivity of a disturbed system and the productivity of a mature established system. In addition to these two differences, they tend to support different species and in different numbers (as a suggestion, look up R/K selection theory and R/K species selection). Your comparision is an incomplete one.. (I have no objection to the use of charcoal etc as it has good effects in tropcial soils.. but you are using an incomplete decision... )

Ed
 

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Nice summary Doug..
I mix it all wet into a slurry and then filter it through some news paper over a screen. When it is the consistency I want I simply turn it over on the screen, pull off the newspaper (any that doesn't come off is simply invert chow) and push it through the screen with a putty knife although I want to see if any of the tools used for spreading tile grout would work better.
We both get the same basic results.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
got a few questions.So is the mane reasons for the clay substrate, to boost calcium in inverts .in nature the clay that walls up and bellow the wall aren't to many inverts . but in the moss and rotting logs and leafs . seem to a great amount more inverts .if most are eating fungi . mold doesn't like clay . here in the northwest seen mold in leafs and the ground spread for seemingly for every . the mold is keep in check buy lower humidity and heat from the sun . when it rains it has the ability to come up and form mushrooms and other type of fungi. just asking because when herping in the rain forest hear , that notice all i can and the most productive places are burned forest and volcano zone . after 80 eruption of st Helen . the zone now is super productive . sounding lakes are very productive. the fish in the nearest lake ,fish grow up at twice the rate of other lakes in area . just throwing my two cents in . I think I'm going to burn that cherry wood. use the ash and charcoal mix with fresh and rotting leafs coco peat ect. and may be some clay to hold the charcoal down . and has any used egg shell power as calcium upper in substrate . and fungi stains .I have power fungi stains about 16 in one power . think i going trow a spoon full in the mix to . for the plants mostly ,but the invert will eat the rest . and lite tank sit for month or two see it does . these is my two cent , if i'm wrong lite me know ,these is info from living hear not there.
The main reason is to supply tiny froglets, like pumilio, who are too small to take dusted fruit flies, with a source of calcium. When they eat a springtail, they will sometimes ingest a bit of clay along with it. The clay, of course, has been enriched with calcium.Pumilios are known for having calcium deficiencies and dropping dead after a few months. People who have been using the clay substrates for a while are reporting good results getting past this problem. When used with good amounts of leaf litter, and the occasional grape, bit of apple, mushroom, etc., Clay substrates have been proven to be very conducive to good microfauna growth. Microfauna, referring to springtails, isopods, and various assorted bug-beasties. These questions have been answered by people more knowledgable than I, in this thread. http://www.dendroboard.com/forum/general-discussion/22990-ultimate-clay-based-substrate-thread.html It's a long thread, but I encourage anybody interested in clay substrates to read it once or twice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Nice summary Doug..
I mix it all wet into a slurry and then filter it through some news paper over a screen. When it is the consistency I want I simply turn it over on the screen, pull off the newspaper (any that doesn't come off is simply invert chow) and push it through the screen with a putty knife although I want to see if any of the tools used for spreading tile grout would work better.
We both get the same basic results.

Ed
Thank you Ed. Of course my method directly evolved from your screening method. On mine I just slap the screen a few times to release the cubes instead of slicing them with a putty knife. So yes, just two different methods for the same result.
Thanks again for your help in my earlier batches of clay substrate and forming this method.
 

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Thank you Ed. Of course my method directly evolved from your screening method. On mine I just slap the screen a few times to release the cubes instead of slicing them with a putty knife. So yes, just two different methods for the same result.
Thanks again for your help in my earlier batches of clay substrate and forming this method.
No need to thank me.. I gave you thanks for the good explination..

Ed
 

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I read allot more. and it make a little more scene now. just got to the substrate on my tank and just wandering whats the best for these tank . it make scents what ed said by being incomplete . what is the PH after done with your substrate ? It seems to only benefit every thing . the only thing I wonder if the PH is higher . thanks for the feed back
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I'm afraid I've never checked the PH. I admit to going off others research as far as that goes. It was pointed out in one of the threads that calcium carbonate is probably a better amendment than your typical garden lime for just that reason.
 

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between the calcium boost and allot of trace elements. It seems that clay is the only medium that can hold all those elements (in place). the only thing I don't have is calcium clay . have to of allot of eggs shell powder and fine aragonite . wood ash is also 25 to 45% calcium carbonate, less then 10% potash and less then 1%phosphates .and allot of trace elements . seem that it wouldn't hurt any thing . and charcoal could help keep the clay from clumping ,while still having some air space for inverts. tell me what you think, if doing pretty much your clay recipe ,with the use of ash in the clay and adding charcoal in between the clay .and think I'll be alright not using calcium clay with adding so much pure calcium with egg shell, aragonite and ash , to the c-clay and standard bentonite i have.sorry if annoying you guys with a all the questions. thanks Theo
 

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Pumilio, just curious how the clay holds up over time. With heavy misting and high humidity, would it naturally clump and become impermiable over time? Also, how do you think the nutrient base would hold up over time? Would this have to be replaced over time, or do you think you could get several good years out of it?

Very informative, thanks for sharing.

Pat
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
between the calcium boost and allot of trace elements. It seems that clay is the only medium that can hold all those elements (in place). the only thing I don't have is calcium clay . have to of allot of eggs shell powder and fine aragonite . wood ash is also 25 to 45% calcium carbonate, less then 10% potash and less then 1%phosphates .and allot of trace elements . seem that it wouldn't hurt any thing . and charcoal could help keep the clay from clumping ,while still having some air space for inverts. tell me what you think, if doing pretty much your clay recipe ,with the use of ash in the clay and adding charcoal in between the clay .and think I'll be alright not using calcium clay with adding so much pure calcium with egg shell, aragonite and ash , to the c-clay and standard bentonite i have.sorry if annoying you guys with a all the questions. thanks Theo
Mr. Elder, I would think that the wood ash could be a good amendment for the calcium and other trace elements. Just be careful that you don't go overboard, as eggshell, aragonite, wood ash, and calcium carbonite can all raise PH. I never considered carbon as an additive. I have always used carbon in the ABG mix I use to help keep the soil smelling fresh and also for better drainage. I don't foresee any problems with using some carbon/charcoal between the clay particles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
So those that use the clay substrate have a much better pumilio froglet success rate?
Some are reporting great results with pumilio using the clay substrates.

Pumilio, just curious how the clay holds up over time. With heavy misting and high humidity, would it naturally clump and become impermiable over time? Also, how do you think the nutrient base would hold up over time? Would this have to be replaced over time, or do you think you could get several good years out of it?

Very informative, thanks for sharing.

Pat
Pat, the first clay I made was based on bentonite and I do not anticipate a long life with it. It seemed to get soft and soggy quickly. The redart based substrate seems much firmer even when wet. The clay substrates are supposed to be beneficial in keeping humidity up. You should be able to cut back some on misting and still get good breeding. I can only hope and guess that it will hold up well as I am a newcomer to clay substrates. Ed, Brent Brock, and Matt Mirabello would be more able to answer these questions. The calcium is mixed in, becoming a part of the clay, so should remain accessible over the life of the clay.
Clay substrates are still to be considered experimental but I do hope to get at least several years out of it.
Can people who have been using clay longer chime in here?
 
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