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tryank 09-05-2012 05:42 AM

20 gallon long dirt tank
This is my first tank journal. The only other planted tank I have had is a 10gallon, which was also "dirted" (for those of you reading who are noobs like me, "dirted" means having dirt as your main substrate so plants will grow better). For this 10g, I had a 24W "daylight" bulb in a reflector I got from walmart. I bought some HC (also known as dwarf baby tears) from PetCo, thinking they'd die after reading how hard they can be to grow, low and behold they grew even with that crappy little light. No CO2, only a little fert. dosing (Seachem Flourish I think). So 6 months later, my wife let me buy a 20g long tank, and for my birthday she upgraded my lighting situation a bit with a T5 HO fixture (it was on sale at PetCo). Starting this tank new, I thought I'd record my experiences for those like me who glean anything they can from tank journals. Here goes...

tryank 09-05-2012 06:03 AM

$1 a gallon sale!
There's a lot of stuff out there about how to dirt your tank, but I went as simple as possible. I dug up some topsoil from my backyard (in Idaho). Some people say to put clay down, then other stuff, then MiracleGro (never with fertilizer in it though-always organic). I'm sure that works better than just plain old dirt, and maybe the nutrients will run out in a year or two, but we'll see.

tryank 09-05-2012 06:14 AM

I should have done this a bit differently, but I didn't. I put the dirt right into the tank, got it a little wet (about the consistency of a lumpy SnakPak pudding) and mushed it around. Kinda fun playing in the mud. Anyways, I thought I would will the tank half full of water at this point so I could scoop out all the little wood chunks and other crap i could see that would float.
The mud stayed on the bottom for the most part, but I'm sure a lot of nutrients were pulled out and into the water. I should have "capped" the dirt right after the SnakPak stage and worried about floaters if/as they came through. (I'll explain "capping" soon. Just for the noobs like me.)

Here's just some of the crap I netted off the top. LOADS of stuff came up.

tryank 09-05-2012 06:15 AM

And don't make fun of my stand. I'm in college and it's all that was around that would hold the tank. I wish I had the cash to invest in a sweet ADA tank/stand, but this old shelving rubbish will do, right?

tryank 09-05-2012 06:34 AM

So about Dwarf Baby Tears. Also known as HC, short for Hemianthus Callitrichoides. When I first saw this plant, I wanted it all over the bottom of my tank. In fact, it's what drew me into giving the hobby a serious look. It's a gorgeous plant that, at least from what I saw on Google images, creates a lush carpet that little red Cherry Shrimp play on. So back a few months ago, I bought some at PetCo for like $7 or something. They were attached to a rock and looked promising. So I plopped it into my tank and googled around on how to plant them.
From what I read, HC should have CO2 and crazy good lighting. Not to mention that if you want a carpet like the ones I drooled over the HC should be planted emerged (when your tank has no water in it - just a mini greenhouse or terrarium) so it can take root and send runners. I was like, "Stuff it." So I took it off the rock and tried to tweezer the roots into my sand-capped dirt. The HC clump floated away every time. Then I was like, "Oh... so that's why they do the terrarium thing for a few weeks." So I came up with this idea based on the hope that if the HC is in constant contact with the substrate it should eventually take root on its own. Which it did.
I twist/broke paper clips into little "v's" so I could pin the HC down flush against the bottom. When I first did this in my 10gal I just pinned the whole clump that I ripped off the rock to the bottom. It eventually took root and spread. But I've since read that HC carpets best when it's split into smaller pieces and placed over a larger area, so that's what I did this time.

tryank 09-05-2012 06:47 AM

Here's what my HC looked like in March, a month or so after initial planting.
Then May, approx. 4 months after planting that chunk from PetCo. You can tell it has already spread quite a bit!
I loved that little shrimpie.

And here is that same tank earlier today, 4 months after that last picture, 8 months after initial planting. I really should have gotten a picture BEFORE I started ripping it up, but you still get an idea...

tryank 09-05-2012 06:56 AM

Back to the new tank. I siphoned out the cloudy (and probably nutrient rich:() water, left with this.
Then I capped, or topped, it with sand. Capped is kinda funny to say. Cap that tank! Are we shooting it?:icon_eek:
This is what I pulled out of my other tank. All from that little chunk I thought was hopeless...

tryank 09-05-2012 07:01 AM

I split up the big chunks into little "starters" and placed them using my paperclip method.

tryank 09-05-2012 07:08 AM

I read somewhere that putting a plastic bag down over your substrate when adding water would protect your planting and whatnot. So I tried it. Worked swell!

And here it is tonight, full of water.

I'll try and keep this journal updated. I'm always curious to know what the timeline is for others and seeing their photos month to month. Hopefully someone will get something out of this. I'd love suggestions!

Meganne 09-05-2012 08:17 AM

ah! when the ground cover spreads it will look as a mini under water Stone Henge! I think I will like this one.
I am a newbie, newbier than you, and will be watching and learning.
(enjoyed the shot of your with your birthday gift!)

PinkRasbora 09-05-2012 08:21 AM

Dude the look on your face in that picture of you holding that tank is freaken classic!!! I wonder if I looked like that too when I came out of the pet store with my new tank! LoL!!

And on the idea of reuse, with everything being so disposal now-a-days, its nice to reuse something over again!!

That light appears pretty purple, wonder if its the camera thats doing that?

tryank 09-05-2012 04:43 PM

Who doesn't have that face on when they walk out of the fish store with goods in their hand?

The light-bulb I have in is a ZooMed Flora Sun (T5). Compared to the 24W "daylight" cfl bulb, it puts out more red light for sure. The pictures I posted totally magnified it. It's not that purple in real life. The light makes all the colors POP though. I put the light over my old tank for the day while I was setting up the new one, and my dwarf coral platys were a deep and vibrant red. Now over the new tank it's making the HC really glow (can't say grow for sure yet, but I'm guessing so). Can't wait to see what a grip of cherry shrimp will look like chillin in there.

RWaters 09-05-2012 04:58 PM


Originally Posted by PinkRasbora (Post 2001538)
Dude the look on your face in that picture of you holding that tank is freaken classic!!! I wonder if I looked like that too when I came out of the pet store with my new tank! LoL!!

tryank - that hula girl lamp of yours is a classic as well! Nice start on that 20 long tank. Will you be using CO2?

loucas6290 09-05-2012 05:39 PM

Those rocks are really awesome and very unique looking!

TheBigSleep 09-05-2012 07:00 PM

Bahahaha @ PinkRasbora's comment, your face is indeed priceless! And is that a tomahawk on the wall behind the tank?! I get the feeling you'd be a fun guy to drink with...

Anyways I like the setup so far, good work. Just spent this past weekend setting up my own little planted tank & can't wait to try your paperclip method with some of my smaller, hard-to-get-them-to-stay plants. Thanks for the tip!

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