How to do dirt.
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Old 01-07-2014, 07:35 PM   #1
cbachmann
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How to do dirt.


I'm setting up a 29 and possibly and 20 long. How does one go about setting up a dirted tank? I imagine you have to have it fully planned and planted before really putting it together.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:01 PM   #2
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http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...d.php?t=184631

check out the mineralized top soil links there.
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Old 01-08-2014, 01:51 AM   #3
James M
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Don't mineralize your soil - unnecessary waste of time and effort.
People that say it isn't are always those that (of course) went through the effort.

Also, given the volume of threads/information here I suggest using the search function - it's simply too much to
type when it's all been written before.
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Old 01-08-2014, 01:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James M View Post
Don't mineralize your soil - unnecessary waste of time and effort.
People that say it isn't are always those that (of course) went through the effort......
Some people always look for the easy way out, effort is not in their vocabulary.


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Old 01-08-2014, 02:03 PM   #5
roadmaster
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Plenty of folk's have had success with just plain topsoil or Miracle grow Organic choice capped with gravel or sand.
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Old 01-08-2014, 02:19 PM   #6
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I've just set up my 75g with Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil (2.25") and capped it with mixed gravels and eco-complete (1.75"). Let's see how is that going to turn out.
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Old 01-08-2014, 03:32 PM   #7
James M
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DogFish View Post
Some people always look for the easy way out, effort is not in their vocabulary.


DogFish
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Hey I know - make your own glass by melting sand, no need to use the glass that's already available. Using pre-made glass is the easy way out! Also, be sure to purchase automobile sized boulders and use a sledge hammer to make your own gravel - no sense in collecting gravel that's already of the appropriate size and ready to go. "Effort" is not in our vocabulary after all!

Yes I'm being silly.

The point though, is that all the effort is a waste. It's unnecessary and no benefit aside from perhaps requiring slightly less patience while the tank settles in. Of course like I pointed out in my post, the people who think their efforts to mineralize their soil will take offense at this. Meanwhile the rest of us use the soil as is (from the ground in my case, from the bag in others) with great success. By all means though, have fun with the mineralization.

Last edited by James M; 01-08-2014 at 03:43 PM.. Reason: edit
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Old 01-08-2014, 04:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James M View Post
....Yes I'm being silly.

The point though, is that all the effort is a waste. It's unnecessary and no benefit aside from perhaps requiring slightly less patience while the tank settles in....
Yes, James you are being silly.
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Old 01-08-2014, 07:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Yes, James you are being silly.
Yet much less silly than "mineralizing" perfectly good dirt.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:00 PM   #10
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I don't know, I haven't done any MTS myself, but at the very least, I imagine it's more stable, and less likely to change it's character much over the first couple months.

Anyways, I went with MGOCPM (miracle grow organic choice potting mix) right out of the bag, and it seemed to work okay. No sifting even. Did get a couple odd twigs/chunks that surfaced after a couple months. Had pretty dark water, but I also had a bunch of wood in the tank. Really extensive root systems when I tore it down.

Just set up another tank, and sifted the MGOCPM this time. it's too new to say anything. I'm just going with the MGOCPM because it's easy to use straight out of the bag, it's commonly available, and quite a few people have used it with good results. I'd probably try to make the MTS if I had more space and was a bit more diligent, but it will have to wait for some later project. If you have access to a clean, non-polluted, non-fertilized area, you can probably just go dig up a couple shovelfuls of dirt outside.

Back to the original topic, what I found works for me is to wet/moisten the soil a little bit before setup. If it's already moist, no problem, otherwise I'll toss it in a container, and then add a little bit of water, and let it sit and soak that up while I go to work or whatever. Then I'll get the tank set up, padded, etc., and set up the hardscape (driftwood bolted to slate in my case). Put down whatever sub-soil stuff you are planning. I threw some dolomite chips in, I think some people do some osmocote. Some people add muriate of potash, but I suspect it's too soluble, and will wash out after a few water changes, even under the soil.

Add in the moistened soil, mush it around and tamp it down a bit, make sure it's evenly spread. Then add the cap. At this point, I usually give the substrate a pretty thorough misting of treated water. Mostly I'm trying to wash the fines down into the lower layers. Then I'll start planting, taking regular breaks to mist the substrate and the plants. Make sure you like the arrangement, because transplanting in a dirted tank is rather messy. Once I get that done, I'll throw in some excess filter sponge, and then slowly pour water onto that to fill the tank. (My current setup has a mattenfilter, and I just added water behind that). I don't get any clouding doing this, and that's using dirty, unwashed, straight-out-of-the-bag substrate.
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Old 01-09-2014, 03:56 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James M View Post
Yet much less silly than "mineralizing" perfectly good dirt.
You "win" James

Last edited by DogFish; 01-09-2014 at 04:08 AM.. Reason: not worth it
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:45 PM   #12
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I love the folks that argue against what has become a highly recommended method of doing things with nothing to back it up.

I've done both though. Having set up a 55g planted tank in haste, not having enough time to mineralize, nor enough eco complete to either cap enough or use on its own.

I've had success with both. But I do think non-mineralized soil gives a HUGE boost up front. It was my first real planted tank. I saw inches a day of growth from the miracle grow (w/o ferts) capped with eco, pressurized co2, and 4 t5ho over it. the tank was a growing monster. But it was a pain to do any work in... and sort of plant work short of just trimming resulted in a huge mess. planted, removing plants, etc.

I ended up giving away all my fish to break that tank down and redo it with mineralized. and it too grew really well. that ran great until i broke that down to focus on my 20g long.

In fact I still have a large amount of mineralized soil in the shed. it's probably frozen right now... but I think i'll redo my 20g as a low tech MTS tank for my incoming jae barbs.

I've done both. I like both. I'd rather use MTS as it's less of a pain inside the tank.
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Old 01-09-2014, 02:00 PM   #13
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You can combine the 2 method. You can let the soil soak in water for a week and drain and let dry.

The problem with using it straight out of the bag is it'll turn swampy on you when you have too much organic matter. sandy top soil is good straight out of the bag.


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Old 01-09-2014, 02:59 PM   #14
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I dumped four bags of Miracle Gro in my 75G and it gives me 2.25" substrate. I didn't soak the soil and my tank looks fine. Just do couple water changes afterwards.

I've also added a large driftwood without boil it. So the water is alittle tan, probably from the driftwood.
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Old 01-09-2014, 04:04 PM   #15
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We can argue about which is best, mineralized or not, but I don't think there is any argument that non-mineralized soil substrates do emit more gas bubbles, which have at least some hydrogen sulfide in them. If you aren't bothered by that, or feel you can control it by poking the substrate periodically, then it probably doesn't matter which way you go. But, if you strongly dislike the bubbles, as I do, mineralizing is at least a little bit better. Of course both methods have been proven to work very well for many people.
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