I have toyed with the idea of using dirt as a substrate in one of my tanks for quite a while now. It seems to have a lot of benefits for plant life, and is much less expensive than other substrate choices. In the end of August I moved from Illinois back to Michigan, and figured... while the tank is all torn apart, why not throw some mud in the bottom of it? Anyway, onto some pictars!
Here is what it looked like about a year ago. Low tech, gravel only substrate, 3xT8 flourescents.
Particularly fond of that madagascar lace plant. I've had it for around 5 years.. out of nowhere it decided to flower about 3 years ago.
This was on August 23, 2013. I was preparing to move the tank the next morning. I had already removed most of the wood/rock, and a good share of the plants. That rotala was really rooted in there deep!
On the 24th I netted all the fish (i moved 7 aquariums and 5 reptile habitats that day), distributed them to buckets, saved a butt load of water in other buckets, and made the trek back home to Michigan!
That afternoon/night (it kind of a blur lol) I set up the tank back up. (sorry no pictures of my process of dirting, but i had no clue where my camera even was at that point!).
> I added Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix, straight from the bag no sifting, to the bare tank, lightly patting it down with my hand and added a bit of water from a gallon jug until i had a roughly even layer of 1.5in.
>Next came scoops of mixed sm/med gravel that used to be in the tank... I labored forever picking out handfuls of 'shallow creek pebble' i had mixed in years before because i felt like the size was too large for the plant roots. If I thought ahead I would've just bought some smaller,darker gravel or possibly blasting sand. I piled this up to a depth of about 1.5in as well, as i had been informed that you want your soil base and cap to be around the same depth (initially i though about doing a deeper soil bed).
At the end of that i re-introduced the fish and just chucked the plants in to float. I finished setting up the rest of the tanks, and then we jumped back in the cargo van and drove back to Chicago... LONG friggin day! We spent the next week in IL finishing up packing our stuff and then on the 31st packed up a box truck and a few vehicles and finished off the move.
Stuff was real hectic at first, with constant trips to storage, painting and fixing misc stuff around the place, having to assemble all the random things my lady bought at the store, etc. It took me a few days to get around to planting the tank.. .so the plants floated for around 10 days. Not the end of the world for many plants, but my lace plant lost nearly all of its leaves, and shed the rest once it was planted
. I was really bummed out and beat myself up about not re-planting it sooner.
Aaaaanyway, the next week i bought a good chunk of bargain bin plants at Bluefish in Grandville. Mostly crypt wentii red, some beat up java ferns, jungle val, zosterfolia, and a little blyxa japonica. I used this and some plants yanked from a couple other tanks to fill in a lot of holes. This is what the tank looked like by then. A bit stained from the organics in the MGOCPM perhaps, but I don't really mind that very much.
I was delighted to see new growth from the root mass of the lace plant! ^_^
Did a large water change yesterday, 35 gallons or so. Also added sponges to the filter intakes of my Fluval and the Aquaclear HOB filter, since they were crudding up with plant matter so quickly. Today I started dosing Flourish Excel and am eager to see how much of a difference it will make in the plant growth rates.
The gravel was a little thin in a few spots from planting, so i added a few handfuls of gravel to the spots that needed it, attempting to lightly mix it with the surrounding gravel.
The lace plant is coming back very nicely... I'm always impressed with how quickly its' leaves grow.