Newbie Dirting 5 Gallon
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Old 11-05-2013, 05:46 AM   #1
ApatheticAP
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Newbie Dirting 5 Gallon


Hey everyone. I'm "new" to the aquarium hobby and to this site. I'm 18 and live in Hawaii. I really enjoy this hobby and hope to get involved in the community to learn from others and put together an amazing tank

I've done a lot of research - some of it from this site - but not sure how to put everything together. In the process of doing my research I stumbled across this site and many others. So what i'm trying to do is redo my already established 5 gallon aquarium and dirt it. This would allow me to cut down on the use of liquid fertilizers and the such. So far my plant growth has been minimal and VERY slow... Dustin's Fish Tanks on Youtube is the reason why I wanted to dirt my tank.

Water parameters are: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and my nitrate never gets above 5ppm. I use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. I used to do weekly water changes, but stopped once I started testing my water because my nitrates were extremely low. I now do biweekly-monthly water changes, however nitrates are still low.

Current Setup:
- Aqua Clear 20 w/ 2 AC sponges, 1 bag of Biomax
- Hydor 25W adjustable heater
- Tetra fluorescent hood w/ 8w tube 6500k (or so it says, it came with it when I ordered it online)
**The hood was purchased not too long ago - around a month
- Plain black sand

Fertilizers:
- Seachem Flourish Comprehensive
- API Leaf Zone
- API CO2 Booster
** The use of fertilizers has been relatively new. Appears to have helped the already established java fern and anubias (anubias sprouts a new leaf every 1-2 weeks).

Inhabitants:
- 1 juvenile female betta named Maki
- 2 otos
- 1 feeder shrimp (my betta doesn't touch it)

Plants:
- Java fern (narrow leaf and windelov); sort of established and growing new stems and propagating on its leaves
- Anubias (growing very well and has attached to a large piece of driftwood I have in the tank)
- Hygrophila; corymbosa stricta and difformis (newly added; unestablished)
- Rotala Indica (just got it today, 11/4)
**Looking to get Ludwigia narrow leaf later along with some other plants. I want to aquascape/heavily plant this tank. Hard to find plants in Hawaii (or perhaps its just the stores close to me that don't have them).

The dirt I will be using is Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix. I'm also looking to add some clay to get the red out of my plants - Amaco Sedona Red #67 or Cedar Heights Redart - whatever I can get.

So should I simply separate the debris from the dirt, toss it in, dampen, and then cap with black sand followed by water changes to remove excess nutrients in the water column? It would also mean planting the plants I have and then putting all the equipment back in. And as a precaution for ammonia spikes and the such, the fish will not be going back in until everything has stabilized...
Or should I mineralize the dirt? This would be to wash/soak the dirt and then dry it out completely and repeat several times to prevent huge spikes from decaying matter, right? Or would it not matter if I heavily plant it like Dustin does?

As of right now my 5 gallon tank is untouched and undirted.

On a side note and I thought would be helpful... A week or two ago I dirtied a 2 gallon tank I had sitting around to get a feel of dirting and to experiment. Its cylindrical if it matters. Anyways here is how I set it up. I tossed in the dirt and skimmed off all the floating debris and large pieces. All the fine dirt and debris I kept and everything that sank I kept. I ended up with about 3/4 inch of dirt. Over the course of a week it sat (because I was busy) with the occasional water change. I noticed a white film starting to develop when I drained it on the day I was going to cap it. I stirred it up, let it settle and then capped with an inch of small black gravel. Then in went 5-6 small stems of hygrophila corymbosa stricta/difformis (majority was difformis). I have a small air stone running to prevent the water from stagnating. It has been a little under a week/a week and just today (11/4) I added 5-7 stems of rotala indica that I purchased from Petco.

I know it wasn't necessary to do some of the things I did and I will be doing it differently with the 5 gallon setup.

Sorry for the long post!

Anyways to summarize, I guess what i'm trying to get out of this is:
- Should I plant heavy after dirting or mineralize my soil first? Anything I should add to my dirt other than clay?
- Is what i'm doing right?
- What should I look for after the initial dirting and the following few weeks?
- Any advice on dirting? Experiences? Etc..
- Fertilizing after dirting? Liquid? DIY (powder/dry, etc)?
- CO2?
- Comments on lighting?
- When would it be safe to put my fish back in?

Just really don't want to turn this in to a mess and kill my fish as they have sentimental value, especially the betta...

What of my current understanding is correct and what is wrong? Where do I need work?

Last edited by ApatheticAP; 11-05-2013 at 05:59 AM.. Reason: Additional details
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Old 11-05-2013, 03:14 PM   #2
James M
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I don't have time to comment on everything right now (out the door for work) but mineralizaing soil is a silly waste of time that somehow got traction due to internet forums. Of course anyone who took the time will argue that point (because they took all that time to mineralize their soil after all) but it's useless. I've never bothered for good reason.

Use 1.5 inches of soil, 1.5 inch cap, and plant heavily from the get go with lots of floaters like water lettuce. Any spikes will be absorbed by the floaters. Using this method I can add fish immediately. With less experience, maybe wait a week.

You can relax on the added ferts with a soil substrate too.
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dirted tank, low tech tank set up, nano tank, planted, substrate

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