Some questions on my 1st tank - soil substrate low tech
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Old 03-30-2013, 03:57 PM   #1
paul195
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Some questions on my 1st tank - soil substrate low tech


Hi to all.

I have got my first tank underway, which has had eleocharis planted in the foreground using the dry start method which has now been going for 2 months. Things haven't really gotten off to a great start as the substrate is now coated in a dark brown/green slime which I believe is BGA, and the grass has not really spread much and is going pale on the tips.

I was advised by my LFS to fill the tank (which I am doing next week) and try to syphon the BGA off of the gravel. I just hope the BGA will easily come away from the gravel and my grass won't uproot at the same time!
Even though the DSM was a bit disheartening, I'm hoping things will look up and the grass will do better once I fill the tank.


Tank details:

Filter__ 6x turnover external
Heating__ 300W Fluval internal
Lighting__ 1x 58W T8 6500 with reflector (1.35WPG)
Substrate__ John Innes 3 Soil capped with 2-5mm moler clay
Fertiliser__?
No C02 addition
Medium-high planting density
Medium stocking levels

1) Do I rely solely on the soil to provide the plants nutrients or should I be adding root tabs and/or water column dosing as well? dry vs liquid ferts?

2) Based on a medium-high planting density and medium stocking levels, how often/how much water to change? I know that large water changes create unstable C02 levels which can cause algae outbreaks. Would 20% every 2 weeks be preferable to 40% every 4 weeks, and do either of these suggestions sound reasonable?

3) To keep C02 levels as high and stable as possible, and oxygen levels safe, should I be looking for minimum or maximum turbulence / gaseous exchange? i.e should I add an air stone?

4) What (if any) are the pitfalls / special requirements of soil based tanks?

Thanks

Paul

Last edited by paul195; 03-31-2013 at 12:16 AM.. Reason: Simplify thread
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Old 03-31-2013, 02:24 AM   #2
mitchfish9
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Hey Paul- Welcome to the forum, and it looks like you are off to a great start!

1) Since you are essentially doing a medium/ low light tank with no CO2, the soil and fish waste should be providing you with plenty of nutrients for at least a few years. Root tabs arent really needed.

2) Theres HUGE variation of what people do regarding water changes. If you truly have a balanced tank then I don't think you will have any kind of algae outbreak because of a water change. My tank get 30-40% a week, and I have no issues. The most important issue is keeping your nitrate low. So i would test your water once a week, and see where that nitrate is, and roll from there.

3) Just keep the surface in a nice, steady ripple. Make sure there is movement up there, but not splashing around. Co2 should stay pretty balance and high. No need for an airstone in a low tech tank either.

4) By far the biggest problem people have with dirt tanks is the dirt that gets kicked up during a re scape. So if you plan on doing full out, pulling all plants re scape, then dirt may not be for you. But a little bit here and there is fine, just moves slowly, and do it during a water change to syphon off any mess.

Hope I helped a little. Feel free to ask more questions
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Old 03-31-2013, 03:53 AM   #3
paul195
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You have helped a lot! thanks. I have just finished purchasing my plants online which are due mid week next week. The list:-

Cryptocoryne legroi x2
Bacopa myriophylloides x2
Java moss Cup x3
Cryptocoryne wendtii green x2
Echinodorus argentinensis x2
Echinodorus compacta x2
Echinodorus harbii x1
Echinodorus purpurea x1
Echinodorus uruguayensis x2
Echinodorus xinguensis x2
Heteranthera zosterifolia x2
Hygrophila pinnatifida x2
Juncus repens x2
Ludwigia peruviana x2
Microsorium mini x1
Microsorium pteropus x1
Pogostemon erectus x1
Pogostemon stellatus x1

It's exciting!

A few more questions have come to mind..

5) Should I consider the use of liquid carbon? I can get 2000ml for 22 (based on 4ml per 200L per day) which works out at 500 days worth (more economical than I first thought). Here
Only issue with this is it has to be dosed daily so could be a problem if I go away anywhere.

6) What is the best method to ensure good circulation ? will I be able to achieve this with just the filter return from my 6x turnover filter, or should I consider employing a circulation pump like this to help?

7) When doing water changes, how do you treat the new water before adding it to the tank?

8) Seeing as my soil has been mineralizing over the last two months, does that mean it is cycled? I mean, I know I need to flush it out a few times, but in theory, after that it should be ready for livestock? (I will obviously test beforehand anyway).


Your guidance is valued!
Many thanks

Paul
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Old 03-31-2013, 04:07 AM   #4
paul195
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Oh yes, and one last thing....

Can anybody help me ID my algae please?



This was a picture taken around 3-4 weeks ago, the algae has now fully coated the substrate and has turned mostly dark brown with some green patches.


Cheers

Paul
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Old 03-31-2013, 01:41 PM   #5
paul195
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I have posted an updated picture and moved the algae issue to the algae board. in this thread.

Paul
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Old 03-31-2013, 01:49 PM   #6
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It does look like BGA and I would recommend using Excel or a liquid Carbon source. As a little aside, it also acts as an algaecide in most applications and can really help in controlling any nuisance algae that crops up. As far as treating water, I use Prime and dose my liquid ferts.
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Old 03-31-2013, 07:17 PM   #7
paul195
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This thread has seemed to be split across two so apologies for that! I will continue question about algae and liquid carbon in the other thread (link above).

So my remaining questions (sorry for so many!) for this thread are:-

6) What is the best method to ensure good circulation ? will I be able to achieve this with just the filter return from my 6x turnover filter, or should I consider employing a circulation pump to help?

7) When doing water changes, how do you treat the new water before adding it to the tank?

8) Seeing as my soil has been mineralizing over the last two months, does that mean it is cycled? I mean, I know I need to flush it out a few times, but in theory, after that it should be ready for livestock? (I will obviously test beforehand anyway).

Quote:
As far as treating water, I use Prime and dose my liquid ferts.
What I was getting at was about how to make water changes easier. Can I join my hose to a mixer tap and set the temp to the right ballpark, and then fill straight into the tank, adding the supplements while I do this, or must I start with cold water in a bucket and heat it to the exact temp using a heater and treat first before adding to the tank? If the second method, is there an easy way to get the water from a huge bucket into the tank without making a huge mess?

Cheers

Paul

PS. I will stick to one question per thread from now on!

Last edited by paul195; 03-31-2013 at 07:19 PM.. Reason: edit
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Old 03-31-2013, 08:48 PM   #8
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6) I would recommend a circulation pump, look into Hydor, they make great pumps. It will aid in extra surface agitation and your fish will thank you. They'll love swimming in the current and will reduce boredom.

7) Pick up a bottle of Seachem Prime. This will dechlorinate the water and help maintain the fishes slime coat. The dosing instructions are on the bottle.

8) Seeing as my soil has been mineralizing over the last two months, does that mean it is cycled? I mean, I know I need to flush it out a few times, but in theory, after that it should be ready for livestock? (I will obviously test beforehand anyway). It depends, mineralizing usually doesn't build the bacteria needed to cycle. Add the soil, test the water parameters and see where you're at. If you are not cycled and don't want to wait another month to cycle, you can significantly cut down the cycle time with Tetra SafeStart. It contains the proper Nitrospira bacteria needed in an aquarium and will cut the cycle time down to 2-3 days.

Hope this helps, good luck!
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