This tank has been in the planning phase for about 3 months and actually setup for 10 days now. All of the dirt tanks, especially WeekndRacer's tank, on TPT have inspired me to setup my own dirt tank. So, I was at the dollar store buying some cheap plant pots to use in tub pond experiment I'm attempting when I spotted 8lb bags of potting soil for $1. Since dirt was already on my mind the $1 price was extremely appealing. Being the skeptic I am I immediately look at the ingredients to see why this dirt is so cheap. Here's what it says on the bag: Organic Compost, Peat Hummus, Sand, Composted and Aged Softwood Bark Fines, and Perlite. Nothing really raised any immediate red flags in my mind so I bought a bag.
Not wanting to create a complete disaster in my empty 20g I decided to experiment with the Dollar Store dirt in my container pond. The indoor container pond will be moved outdoors when the weather permits. But for now it's just a half filled 18g rubbermaid storage bin with a 23w CFL in a clip on shop light. There are 5 or 6 juvy male platys along with a lonely black skirt tetra. I do have a Tom's mini filter in there for water circulation. There is a sponge in the filter, but I'm not sure how much good it really does. So I took two plant pots and filled them with 3.5-4" of the Dollar Store dirt and then capped with an inch of leftover Fluorite Red. I planted some crypt spiralis, hygro tiger, water wisteria, ludwigia repens, and rotala rotundifolia in the pots and let them grow for two months. Everything started growing immediately and continues to grow well. I paid special attention to how the fish behaved on a daily basis and to how the soil broke down. I did some random testing with cheapo test strips and never experienced any unacceptable parameters. 50% water changes every 1-2 weeks depending on my schedule seems to work great. The entire two months I was poking and prodding at the dirt pots to check for signs of it going anaerobic. Small bubbles would occasionally rise but they did not have an odor. So I deemed my dirt pot experiment a success and got the courage to setup a Dollar Store Dirt Tank.
Tank Size: 20g
Substrate: 16lbs Dollar Store Dirt (Gardenscape All Purpose Potting Soil) with a 15lb Seachem Onyx Sand cap
Lighting: 2 15w CFL in clip on shop lights
CO2: 2 DIY yeast bottles with Hagen Mini Elite diffusion
Ferts: RootMedic Macro and Micro Liquid Ferts
Fauna: 3 platys
Flora: alternanthera reineckii, cabomba carolinia, bacopa carolinia, ludwigia repens, hygro tiger, eichornia diversifolia, water wisteria, water sprite, rotala rotundifolia, needle leaf java fern, glossostigma, bacopa sp "japan", limnophila sp. 'guinea broad-leaf', crypt spiralis, and anacharis
Seachem Onyx Sand and Dollar Store Dirt
I set the tank up and added the fish the next day. The filter was in my 55g for 2 months as prep for being used on this dirt tank. I didn't rinse any of my substrate this time and was pleasantly surprised at how clear the water was right after setup. The Seachem Onyx Sand isn't really sand IMO. It's more like smaller pieces of Fluorite and does kick up little dust clouds when disturbed, but I'm really happy with the way it looks. For some reason I really like dark substrates. Especially if there is a possibility of some of the dirt coming up. I could probably use another 1/2" of cap, but the dirt is already 2" thick so I didn't want to risk it. As the tank matures and stabilizes I might add more cap later.
Week 1 - Took this shot about an hour after setup. 04.09.11
I'm really surprised at how much the plants grew in one week. I don't think I have ever had to trim a tank after only 1 week of setup. The DIY CO2 really helps IMO. Cheapo test strip results are all normal. Fish are looking good, behaving normally, and eating well. I did a 70% WC on Sunday.
Week 2: Added more plants and replanted what was trimmed. 04.19.11