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toastedtoast 12-30-2011 10:54 PM

Toast's dirt 20g long, update 7-20, cory fry! (56k)
Update 7/22/12

Original Post

Over the past year I've been fooling around with a low-tech dirt 10g, testing plants and farming algae as I waffled over how I wanted to set up my first attempt at a planted display tank. I've been stuck in a loop of reading forums and planning for a while now, but the gift of a de-rimmed 20g long from a friend provided the impetus I needed to actually get moving.

The goal for my 10g was "keep plants alive underwater", and as that's been a (qualified) success, I'm going to try and take this tank one step further and attempt some organization beyond a random mix of whatever manages to stay alive.

With that out of the way, here's the setup I'll be starting with:

Standard 20g long tank (30x30x75cm)
3x13W CFL bulbs in hanging shop lights (only 2 generally turned on)
Eheim 2213
pressurized co2
Dirt substrate with fluorite cap

Lilaeopsis mauritiana
Anubias nana (regular+petite)
Narrow leaf java fern
Echinodorus quadricostatus
Vallisneria nana
Sunset hygro


The tank:

Setting up the substrate contours:

Filled with dirt (+ a couple sticks I was using to get a feel for the proper slope)

The substrate arrangement actually changed quite a bit from this, but I forgot to take a photo--it will be obvious later

Lilaeopsis planted

What little standing water is visible in this image was removed, the tank was saran-wrapped and the lilaeopsis was left to grow as a dry-start for 6 weeks.

6 weeks later, time to add the rest of the plants and some water

The victims--E. quadricostatus and the anubias are cuttings from my other tank, the others are from the LFS. Not really sure if I want the hygro, but I needed one more plant to get 25% off the lot so it was basically free. If nothing else it can help at the start and I'll rip it out later

Anubias attached

Java fern

Everything else, using a small brick to hold the wood in place for now.

Filled with a mixture of water and fluorite dust

MitchellLawson 12-30-2011 10:57 PM

Looks great man!

toastedtoast 12-31-2011 06:14 PM


Originally Posted by MitchellLawson (Post 1654612)
Looks great man!


The biggest problem I've noticed so far is that I was fooled by the thickness of the lilaeopsis sod into being fairly aggressive with water additions. while the roots did a good job of keeping the substrate from moving, they were unable to prevent the bloom of fluorite dust. I should have been much more gentle, but for now I guess the best I can do is keep packing floss into my filter and hope for the best.

gomesj 12-31-2011 10:08 PM

Nice job so far. It will look very nice once everything fill in and tank balances out. What the "waffle" looking things you used to suppor your substrate slopes?

toastedtoast 12-31-2011 10:49 PM

Re: waffle things: They're the racks that pipet tips come loaded in.

A quick googling turned up this image that shows how they look with tips loaded.

In the lab where I work we use thousands of tips and consequently throw away a bunch of the packaging every week, so I try to come up with inventive uses for them. They worked out really well for this application because they're similar to egg crate, but with a mesh on one side--and they interlock for easy stacking to whatever height.

Hilde 01-01-2012 04:46 AM

Can't wait to see if finished. How are you planning to keep the gravel on the left separate from the sand?

plecostomouse 01-01-2012 08:00 AM

i love it, im definately subscribed!

ibmikmaq 01-01-2012 11:42 AM

Wow I love it! Will be watching this one!

toastedtoast 01-01-2012 07:52 PM


Originally Posted by Hilde (Post 1656127)
How are you planning to keep the gravel on the left separate from the sand?

I'm not sure. My initial thought was that I'd just let the groundcover grow out to cover the border and hope that holds it somewhat but I have no experience with substrate boundaries like this.

I don't mind a region of mixed gravel and sand as long as it doesn't get too big (>30% of the sand area maybe) but I don't know what will happen.

I'd certainly appreciate any suggestions or comments on the best way to go about it.

toastedtoast 01-04-2012 12:38 PM

Well the tank has been filled for a few days now, and so far the results are a mixed bag. On the plus side, the sod doesn't seem to show any ill effects of flooding (so far) and the new plants are looking good.

Unfortunately though, there was some BGA growing down in the substrate under the grass during the dry start and while it's not really spreading it's not dying either.

I'm thinking I should just pick up some maracyn on my way home from work and nuke it. I don't really want to try blackouts with new plants, and I might as well take extreme measures now while there are no fish and not much time invested in the cycle

At least the fluorite dust has cleared up

Hilde 01-04-2012 02:47 PM


Originally Posted by toastedtoast (Post 1660362)
Unfortunately though, there was some BGA growing down in the substrate.
I'm thinking I should just pick up some maracyn on my way home

Well the maracyn will probably get rid of the BGA but you need to correct the imbalance that caused it to grow. Otherwise it will come back. I am thinking that Seachem Equilibrium would help. If you can't find it locally you can order it here. Two other places that ship to Canada are aquarium supplies and pets.

toastedtoast 01-04-2012 04:53 PM

I'm pretty sure it grew during the dry start, due to high ammonia leaching from the soil etc and zero circulation. I had a few low areas in the substrate that were probably wetter then they should have been.

Now that the tank is filled and has a good bit of water circulating it's not expanding any, so I think it probably won't come back if I manage to kill it outright.

freph 01-04-2012 05:35 PM

Looks good. Good luck with the BGA and such. I think the grass should be growing fast enough to help with algae. I like the lighting system...can't go wrong with CFLs.

toastedtoast 01-12-2012 01:38 PM

So I think Hilde was on the right track here, and my fears were a little too hasty. I shifted my spraybar to aim the flow directly on the areas where BGA was growing and added a diy CO2 bottle and within a couple days the slime had pretty much gone.

Other then the BGA scare things are looking fairly stable, and as the tank seems to handle ammonia dosing pretty well at this point I've added a school of pygmy cories.

They seem happy enough so far and are eating like pigs--as you can see here, as a couple of them try to eat a pellet as large as their heads. Once the pellets soften up they managed to eat it pretty quickly.

ciscokid 01-16-2012 03:28 AM

I've got a 20 long and I have the same lights, but only 2 of them with 27 watts of cfl.
I'm using dirt as well..and pressured you think I need the third light to be on par with the dirt and co2?

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