JamesC's 200 litre Akadama journal

Discussion in 'Journals' started by JamesC, 4 Feb 2008.

  1. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    After the success of my 25 litre PFK tank using Akadama as a substrate I decided it was time to change the 3.5 year old silica sand in my 200 litre Rena tank over to Akadama. The planned day arrived and the rest of the family went to Bluewater to give me some space :D

    Tank Details:
    200 litre Rena tank
    Eheim 2028 filter
    Aquamas external CO2 reactor
    Hydor ETH300 heater
    Arcadia T5 Luminaire
    Approx 4WPG for 8 hours straight
    PMDD+PO4 dosing

    I decided that because I had loads of shrimp and some fish I'd pre treat the Akadama to prevent the KH from dropping which is common with baked clay substrates. If you plan on setting up a new tank with no livestock for a while, then the pre-treating could be skipped.

    I calculated that three bags of Akadama should be enough. This was all emptied into a dustbin and the following was added to a bucket of water to try and dissolve:
    120g Calcium carbonate
    105g Magnesium sulphate
    30g Potassium sulphate

    This solution was then added along with more water to completely cover the Akadama and left for one week. Makes a lovely red brown coloured water. Settles to look like this.
    1AkadamaSoaking.jpg
    The stuff floating on top are small roots that must be dug up with the Akadama. As it's all baked they are perfectly safe. Smells a bit earthy as well.

    After a week the Akadama was rinsed really well. Easiest way I found was to use a kitchen sieve under tap water. I put the rinsed Akadama back in the bags for storage.
    2AkadamaRinsing.jpg

    This is what the water is like when rinsing.
    3DirtyWater.jpg

    Everything is now ready. Bin to put fish in. Three bags rinsed Akadama. Small bag of sphagnum moss peat. Gravel scoop. Buckets. Trays to put plants in.
    4ReadyToGo.jpg

    Plants removed first
    5Plants.jpg

    Fish and shrimp removed. Removing old substrate. This scoop I brought from Aqua Essentials is really good as it has holes in it to let the water out and makes life easy. Surprisingly the old substrate wasn't that dirty and had no signs of black anaerobic patches. Notice the BGA that had grown along the glass in the substrate.
    6RemovingOldSubstrate.jpg

    After the tank was emptied and cleaned it was time for the substrate to go in. But first I covered the base on the tank in a thin layer of sphagnum moss peat. It should be just thick enough so you can see the glass still.
    7SphagnumMossPeat.jpg

    On top of this I added about a half inch of Akadama. This is to prevent the peat from being disturbed when the mulm is added. Cleaned the filter out to collect as much mulm as possible. This was then spread evenly over the thin layer of Akadama.
    8MulmAdded.jpg

    The rest of the Akadama was now added. Approx 2.5 inches deep at the front and 3.5 inches deep at the back. About a quarter of a bag was left so my guesswork was fairly close. Frisbee is great for adding water and not disturbing substrate.
    9AkadamaInTank.jpg

    Partially filled. Added wood and planted up. Planting was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I was expecting lots of floating plants, but it turned not a single plant came loose.
    10TankHalfFilled.jpg

    Filled to the top. Fish and shrimp returned. Had a cup of tea and then took this photo. Clarity not too bad.
    11Finished.jpg

    Took me most of the day to do this but can now say it was well worth it. The new Akadama substrate is much better than the silica sand IMO. Next day the water in the tank was crystal clear, even looking along the whole four foot length.

    I did some GH and KH tests on the water to see how the parameters would change. The water that was added has a KH of 3.3 and GH of 5.6.
    After a few hours KH=3.3 and GH=11.2. GH was a lot higher than expected. Most likely because the Akadama wasn't rinsed properly after it's pre-treatment.
    After 24 hours KH=3.3 and GH=13.4. GH has risen a bit. Nothing too much to worry about as it's KH that I'm more concerned with. The KH has remained steady which was my aim and which so far has worked. Going to see what it is like at the end of the week now. Water changes will bring the GH back down to normal levels in time.

    I'm now thinking that perhaps my pre-treatment amounts were too high. They were a guess anyway. Perhaps cutting the amounts in half would work fine.

    I'm going to update this journal regularly to document the progress of the tank, good and bad. See my thread on Akadama in the Substrates section for more detailed Akadama information - http://ukaps.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=741

    Thanks for looking
    James
     
  2. George Farmer

    George Farmer Founder Staff Member

    Messages:
    7,089
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    Quality journal, James. Thanks for sharing.

    Interesting on adding dry ferts to the Akadama.
     
  3. Garuf

    Garuf Member

    Messages:
    4,959
    Location:
    Leeds.
    Agreed, what's the reason for adding the ferts? Is it to ensure the Akadama is "charged" before adding it to the tank or is it part of the ageing process?
     
  4. Ray

    Ray Member

    Messages:
    474
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Thanks for this thread James, I was looking at doing this in my forthcoming tank.

    Basically you are making ADA Aquasoil as far as I can tell! If we just use Akadama neat will it absorb nutrients from the water column or won't that work so well? I guess we don't really know, but soaking garantees a good start?

    Also why so little peat - I would have imagined 1cm thickness or more would be better - or are you worried about the PH?

    I was also considering sphagnum moss, like you can also get from the Bonsi shop, instead of peat.
     
  5. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    It's all to do with CEC. Adding the ferts, or more specifically Mg, Ca and K to the Akadama beforehand theoretically prevents the release of H+ into the water which reacts with carbonates lowering KH and pH. Fish don't take too kindly to KH swings. When I tested it a while ago the Akadama was dropping the KH from 5.6 to 0 overnight which is quite a drop. Took many water changes to reduce this effect.

    More details in the Akadama thread in substrates - http://ukaps.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=741

    James
     
  6. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    Yes, if you want ADA AS copy then add an ammonium compound like ammonium nitrate or ammonium chloride. As NH4+ is a cation it will be taken in by the Akadama and make available N for the plant roots. Pre-treating just speeds up the process that would normally take a few weeks with aquarium water, that's all.

    This amount is what is recommended by Tom Barr and others so is what I went along with. Actually both the mulm and peat idea I got from Tom Barr.

    If you get sphagnum moss make sure it's sphagnum moss peat. Think most peat would be OK. I got mine off ebay pretty cheap.

    Thanks
    James
     
  7. Ray

    Ray Member

    Messages:
    474
    Location:
    Switzerland
    Is this the only way to attach macro's to the substrate? I'd like to attach nitrates without using Ammonia. If I did would pure neat ammonia work - like I've used to cycle my tank in the past - would it compound with nitrate/chloride and attach to the Akadama?

    Doesn't what we load our Akadama with initially effect what the plants can get from it? I mean, one loaded from a nutrient rich solution without Calcium would have more value than one that loaded itself with KH from your tank?

    What extra is in the peat that is not in the sphagnum? Wish I'd listened more carefully in my O Level Chemistry! :arghh:
     
  8. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    As long as it is a cation it should be held onto by the Akadama. So Mg++, Ca++, K+, NH4+ etc. There are varying degrees that each will be held though. Anions like NO3-, H2PO4-, Cl-, etc won't be touched by the Akadama.

    Tap water mainly contains the cations we want, ie, Mg++, Ca++, K+ in varying degrees. Pre-treating will give it an initial boost but over time an equilibrium will most likely be reached. KH is carbonates which are anions and they are not absorbed by the Akadama. The KH is only affeceted because the Akadama releases H+ which reacts with the carbonates.

    Sphagnum moss is just moss and is often used in hanging baskets and added to bonsai soils sometimes. Peat is very different. Looks like potting compost a bit.

    James
     
  9. sks

    sks Guest

    correct if I'm wrong James, but you had a whole lot more plants before than after? :D Did you just got rid of the excess.
     
  10. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    Just looks that way. They were all chopped back with just the tops replanted and the bottoms were chucked. Some excess HC and blyxa went in another tank.

    James
     
  11. Arana

    Arana Member

    Messages:
    1,054
    Location:
    London
    Another great journal James :D

    Love the Nano on the shelf as well :)
     
  12. Bingy_bong

    Bingy_bong Member

    Messages:
    25
    Location:
    Colne, Lancashire
    Spot on James. Nice and easy step by step instructions complete with pictures to help me out. Tremendous. Im a bit of a thicko regarding the chemisrty things. I Will try to understand but at the mo its going in one ear and straight out of the other :oops:
    I hope you dont mind me sticking to copying all that you do, that way i might get to look at something other than a total mess

    Right need to get to B+Q for a dustbin and fleabay for some Akadama Bonsai Soil. :lol:
     
  13. Themuleous

    Themuleous Member

    Messages:
    4,126
    Location:
    Aston, Oxfordshire
    Excellent James, much appreciate the effort to explain the process to us all. I will probably do a similar thing when I get my 4 foot tank, as its a dam sight cheaper than 'aquarium' substrates.

    Sam
     
  14. Joecoral

    Joecoral Member

    Messages:
    694
    Location:
    Neath, South Wales
    that gravel scoopy thing looks handy, whats it called cuz i cant find it on aqua essentials
     
  15. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    It was called Aqua Scoop, but I can't seem to find it on the AE website either. It was a year and a half ago I brought it.

    James
     
  16. TDI-line

    TDI-line Member

    Messages:
    1,535
    Location:
    Yaxley, Peterborough
    Excellent journal James, love the scape.
     
  17. StevenA

    StevenA Member

    Messages:
    515
    Location:
    Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
    James where did you buy the Akadama from, i've tried Homebase, and two of my local garden centres, but to no avail? :(

    Great journal by the way, very inspiring.
     
  18. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    The only places I've seen it for sale are Bonsai dealers. Yellow pages or Google to find a place close to you. I got mine from http://www.lvbonsai.co.uk/ as he's only five minutes drive from me. Mail order can be pricey because of the weight and size. Make sure you get the double line hard quality type as some are quite crumbly and soft.

    James
     
  19. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    A quick update after a week.
    After 4 days the GH had risen a bit more to 14.6 from 13.4 three days earlier. KH was the same at 2.8. Did a water change which brought GH down to 9.0. After seven days GH was up to 11.2 and KH was still 2.8. Not so worried about GH now as it's only drifting up a bit and KH is remaining constant at 2.8 so will just resume my weekly water changes from now on. If I do the pre-treatment of substrate again I think I'll just do 25% of the amounts I used this time.

    Plants, fish and shrimp are all doing well. Only one clump of HC has floated to the top, most likely due to the corys digging around so much.

    I've only got a cheapo point and shoot camera so can't get the great detail photo's that other members seem to achive but this photo shows how the plants are doing.

    After7days.jpg

    James
     
  20. StevenA

    StevenA Member

    Messages:
    515
    Location:
    Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire.
    Looks great James, very healthy. I've been in touch with the guy you recommended to me about the Akadama, and he will ship a 10kg bag to me for £14 all in. Not a bad price for mail order, cheapest i've found so far. Thanks for the link.
     

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