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Old 05-08-2013, 05:45 AM   #1
Jojoba
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Question about dirt and college


As this is my first ever post, I'd like to preface it by stating 1. I've learned a ton from this site, so thanks! and 2. I've done my best to look at old posts as to avoid making this thread to redundant; however, throughout the course of multiple nights of research I'm actually more confused about substrates than beforehand (ignorance is bliss) so I'm just going for it and if this topic has already been discussed at length, then I'm sorry.

At any rate my dilemma is this: Currently I have a 30 gal planted tank with a gravel bottom... it's time to make the switch. After doing research I've determined one of the best substrates is dirt, especially for the price. I was about ready to dirt my tank; but I was confronted with the reality that since I'm a college student I have to move my tank 4x a year. Furthermore, since this is my first planted tank I'm going to be moving plants around for a while. So, my first question (more will follow depending on the answer to this one) is: despite me moving my tank and moving plants, will dirt still work or am I just asking for a disaster? I'd be happy to provide more tank specs as needed.
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:25 AM   #2
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For moving plants in dirt there are a few tricks to cut down on clouding, like starting a siphon near the plants before pulling them to suck out as much as possible before it clouds the tank and by just removing them a certain way. As for moving the tank 4x a year you may find yourself starting from scratch after draining and prepping for a move.

With any substrate, I think, you get better results when you just leave the plants alone and let them settle in. Even if you use a dedicated plant substrate moving plants will always cause some debris to float around after you build up waste from fish and other decaying matter.

I'm no pro but this is just my opinion. I think you should try the dirt, since it is cheaper, see how you like it and when you do your first move you can decide to keep it or try something else. This will also depend on your budget and if your willing to change if you don't like it. Welcome and good luck.

Last edited by kingjombeejoe; 05-08-2013 at 08:27 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 05-08-2013, 03:15 PM   #3
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Thanks for the help! I know moving my tank four times a year isn't good for it by any means, but since I'm in college that's just how it's gonna have to be. So I guess to clarify, you don't think my tank will get too messed up when moving it with dirt? Oh, and why exactly do you think I might have to start from scratch when moving it?
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Old 05-08-2013, 04:25 PM   #4
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If you feel like moving rooted plants and changing the scape is going to be a monthly event then don't use an organic base.
(Can't believe I'm posting not to dirt a tank LOL)
Root tabs and sand or a fine frag would be a better option for those compelled to rearrange often.

question: Either way (dirt or not) moving the tank would it be drained for more than 24hrs?
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Old 05-08-2013, 05:21 PM   #5
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I've gotten the process down to the point where it's generally drained for about 3 hours (1 hour of draining to tear down, 1.5 hours to transport, .5 hours to refill). Does that make a big difference?

For moving the plants, I have a pretty good plan together for how I want my tank to look. So presumably if I dirted my tank, I would have all the plants in place and from then on out it would only be replanting any clippings and occasional minor rearrangements.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jojoba View Post
Thanks for the help! I know moving my tank four times a year isn't good for it by any means, but since I'm in college that's just how it's gonna have to be. So I guess to clarify, you don't think my tank will get too messed up when moving it with dirt? Oh, and why exactly do you think I might have to start from scratch when moving it?
It sounds like you have experience moving the tank so it should only get easier.
I wasn't sure how involved your moving gets and a 30 gallon tank filled with a few inches of wet mud can be pretty hard to move if it's not planned out the right way. It's sometimes easier to just take everything out of the tank to prevent damage to the glass and seams. Just make sure to move it on something flat to prevent the glass and silicone from flexing too much.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:47 PM   #7
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At MSU they provide us with big carts to move out with, so getting a flat surface isn't really an issue. I moved my 10 gal 4 times last year, upgraded to a 30 and moved it twice this year, then found a 30 my dad forgot he had in the garage (its been hidden since the 80s no joke, still holds water hahaha) that I upgraded into and have moved it twice. I have the process down pretty well; however, catching all of the fish fish plants in there and not tearing them all up is quite a pain, but ultimately worth it. So, in your opinion (Kingjombeejoe) I should be okay with a dirted tank with a sand cap, providing I'm not too shaky while moving it?
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:24 PM   #8
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Try to drain the tank all the way to the substrate then tape plastic over it to keep things from drying out. Asked about the travel time because cycle bacteria die off pretty quickly. Keep the filter flooded or the media soaking in a bucket and you should be good to go. I moving a 55g leaving only about 1" over the substrate,,,, you would be amazed how much it sloshed braking and leaving traffic lights. Tried a wet bath towel and that wasn't much better. Moving the last time I wrapped the top and had much less damage and the tank bounced right back.

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Old 05-08-2013, 08:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jojoba View Post
At MSU they provide us with big carts to move out with, so getting a flat surface isn't really an issue. I moved my 10 gal 4 times last year, upgraded to a 30 and moved it twice this year, then found a 30 my dad forgot he had in the garage (its been hidden since the 80s no joke, still holds water hahaha) that I upgraded into and have moved it twice. I have the process down pretty well; however, catching all of the fish fish plants in there and not tearing them all up is quite a pain, but ultimately worth it. So, in your opinion (Kingjombeejoe) I should be okay with a dirted tank with a sand cap, providing I'm not too shaky while moving it?
I think you will be fine. Just do what wkndracer said and drive slow. Also if you put more sand than dirt you will get less clouding the sand keeps it down better than gravel.
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:31 PM   #10
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I have a dirt substrate and from my experience you don’t want to pull out a well rooted plant I had Wisteria I wanted to move so I gave it a tug and felt the root system running under half the tank . what I do is to cut the stems just under the gravel cap and let the root system decompose naturally in the substrate ( I have Malaysian trumpet snails) no mess and I can put whatever I want in its place .
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:49 PM   #11
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Maybe you could put the plants in little mini-containers or something (like maybe a strawberry basket, or something made out of eggcrate or plastic canvas), line it with some porous organic material like coconut coir (you can get pretty thin sheets used for lining hanging planters), and then use it as a small area where you can add dirt and some plants.

Use a couple of those, and then put them in the bare tank, and add an inert substrate to fill the gaps/serve as a cap.

It would probably take more planning, but should allow you to remove the plant clusters with minimal mess prior to moving, yet still give some benefits of dirt.
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Old 05-08-2013, 10:21 PM   #12
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After reading all of these, I've determined that I pull off dirt providing that I am careful about it, which is good because I'm broke and dropping $60-80 on Eco complete, flourite, ADA, etc. is kind of out of the question. So form this I have two more questions: 1. When I move the tank will the sand and dirt end up mixing together and negate the purpose of having a cap or if I'm careful I should be fine (luckily it's primarily highway driving to and from school). and 2. I'm sure this has been discussed elsewhere but will the dirt affect my Ph or Kh or will the sand cap prevent that, and if so how much?

oh and about the filter and such, just a little anecdotal story: My filter did not contain water when I moved it (got it home on Thursday, May 2) and I still have 0 ammonia, and 0 nitrites. But will definitely fill with water next time
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Old 05-08-2013, 11:01 PM   #13
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For the record I don't have experience with dirt..... yet. But if I were in your shoes, I would leave dirt alone but that's just me. 4x a year is alot. Eco and Flourite aren't really that expensive in my opinion. Petco always has eco complete for 20 bucks a bag. Between it and flourite it's less of a mess, less hassle and is reusable. After awhile moving could get old for you and you could start caring less and less about your tank. Cheap is not always the best route. But this is just my 2 cents.
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Old 05-09-2013, 03:08 AM   #14
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That's a good point, eco complete and/or flourite would definitely be less messy, but after reading about them here, I'm sure how useful they truly are. Three more questions (and I know this is gonna change the nature of this thread a little bit): 1. How has eco complete and/ or flourite worked for you? I've heard varying results from awesome to useless. 2. I'm a little confused why people say flourite is inert and has no nutrients? Seachem says it's chock full of them on their website. 3. Personally, I really like white sand, so if I went that route I would cap the flourite with sand. Would that defeat the purpose of the flourite/ eco complete? i.e. would the plants still root in it (the planted tank "expert" at my LFS did not seem to think so and suggested mixing the sand and flourite together) and would the flourite still be able to absorb nutrients? Thanks again to everyone for all of the help!
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Old 05-09-2013, 05:04 AM   #15
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I don't use fluorite or eco complete but here is my take.... They both are relatively the same in the sense that they have no nutrients but have a high CEC ( cation exchange capacity). Basically both these substrates have the ability to hold onto nutrients/minerals at a high level. Both of these will work relatively well with root tabs, and unlike soil there is no mess involved.

Dirt has nutrients but will be depleted (how quickly depends on many factors) over time. Some people say around a year and others say soil can supply nutrients for 2+ years.

I just set up a 40 breeder after months of research and I hate dirt. Every time I move a plant I bring up dirt particles which look terrible against the black sand. I will be switching over to eco complete or fluorite this coming up week.

I'm in college as well and I don't think dirt is worth the hassle. Don't get me wrong I love having my hands in the tank and keeping it looking good but I've been spending so much time removing the dirt in the water column that its just not worth it. From what I've been reading it seems as though eco complete/fluorite + root tabs = soil (in terms of nutrients)

I hope this helped in some way

More experienced people hopefully will correct me if I'm wrong
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