Looking at dirt - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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Looking at dirt

I've had a 90 gallon for a few years, low tech as it gets, with moderate success.

I have always had the urge to try something new, something I haven't done before, and a dirted tank has been catching my eye lately.

The tank has 2 oto's and a small plec, I think it is a pitbull plec, 2" long, 8 years old or so.... didn't even know it was in there.

Everyone seems to have different opinions on soaking the dirt. I was hoping to soak MGOCPM (with water changes) for up to a month to reduce the ammonia spike. Would this work when changing over an established tank to dirt? capping with blasting sand or PFS.

My overall goal was going to be a large colony of neo shrimp, a large school of micro rasboras and a large school of pygmy cory cats.

Should I be concerned over this plan at all?
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post #2 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 03:51 PM
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I have had dirt tanks. Cant argue with the results. If you go with a more general soil you may find you can skip mineralization and the ammonia spike. I never mineralized my soil but I avoided any soil that contained any additives and never had am ammonia spike. My favorite is actually yard dirt. That said you have a plan and I personally see no fault in it. If the tank is set up and you keep the filters running (put tank water in a bucket or something and run them on it to keep the o2 levels up) you will be good to go.

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post #3 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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I have had dirt tanks. Cant argue with the results. If you go with a more general soil you may find you can skip mineralization and the ammonia spike. I never mineralized my soil but I avoided any soil that contained any additives and never had am ammonia spike. My favorite is actually yard dirt. That said you have a plan and I personally see no fault in it. If the tank is set up and you keep the filters running (put tank water in a bucket or something and run them on it to keep the o2 levels up) you will be good to go.
Yea I have a marine land canister and an eheim canister on the tank, and just those three fish so I don't think the ammonia would be an issue if i soaked/water changed some MGOCPM. What is a good depth? .75" of dirt and then an inch or two of a cap?
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post #4 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 07:10 PM
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I usually went with an inch of dirt and an inch to inch and a half cap.

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post #5 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 07:27 PM
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Exposing animals to ammonia should be avoided whenever possible. I am a big advocate for dirt, but I would recommend against stocking your tank immediately after dirting it. Sometimes I don't get any ammonia spike at all, but it's not something I would risk - it really depends on brand and how long I've had the bag sitting around outside. I think your first idea is good: soaking the dirt and testing the runoff water for ammonia content.

I do not have personal experience keeping plecos in a dirted tank, however I have heard that they can distrub the cap if not given adequate hiding spaces. The cories are probably fine.

Good luck! I don't want to give you the impression that I'm discouraging you: dirt is the way to go, but getting the initial setup right is key.
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post #6 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Exposing animals to ammonia should be avoided whenever possible. I am a big advocate for dirt, but I would recommend against stocking your tank immediately after dirting it. Sometimes I don't get any ammonia spike at all, but it's not something I would risk - it really depends on brand and how long I've had the bag sitting around outside. I think your first idea is good: soaking the dirt and testing the runoff water for ammonia content.

I do not have personal experience keeping plecos in a dirted tank, however I have heard that they can distrub the cap if not given adequate hiding spaces. The cories are probably fine.

Good luck! I don't want to give you the impression that I'm discouraging you: dirt is the way to go, but getting the initial setup right is key.
I have sold off all my stock and only have the two otos, actually I have only ever seen 1 at a time, they are impossible to find most of the time, and the one pleco which is max 2" and I didn't even know it was in there until about a month ago, it is well over 8 years old so I doubt it will grow any more and disturb anything. I'm not trying to fully stock it right away, just those three, but the plan was to soak the dirt and attempt to avoid an ammonia spike. I have tons of plants as of now, and tons of floating water lettuce to help during the initial first few weeks. The eheim is 100% loaded with eheim bio media, the marinelend is 3/4 full of ceramic bio rings as well. I'm going to presume it can deal with a little ammonia after soaking and testing for a while. Of course if there is any signs of ammonia I will take action and remove these fish.
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post #7 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 08:41 PM
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I have had dirt tanks.
Key word had. If dirt is "the cat's pajamas" why not continue with dirt.
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post #8 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
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Key word had. If dirt is "the cat's pajamas" why not continue with dirt.
I'm not looking to use a fluorite/eco-complete/aqua soil etc. etc. I want to try something new, something I have never done before. Dirt seems to get the green light from most people, and as far as I can see dirted tanks look fantastic and it is on my tank bucket list.
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post #9 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 09:15 PM
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I'm not looking to use a fluorite/eco-complete/aqua soil etc. etc. I want to try something new, something I have never done before. Dirt seems to get the green light from most people, and as far as I can see dirted tanks look fantastic and it is on my tank bucket list.
'

Yes, I get that. I was asking thedood since he's used it before.
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post #10 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 09:32 PM
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Key word had. If dirt is "the cat's pajamas" why not continue with dirt.
Excellent question. Unfortunately my posts are a victim of the photobucket change or I would suggest you look at my journals. From a growth perspective dirt is great. It provided a good base for roots, it will hold nutrients, it is natural.

But for me there are issues with dirt that only come to light when things go a little south. For example try removing an amazon sword or a crypt thats been growing in dirt for 6 months or a year. To me that is the biggest draw back. Ever tried to clean a tank that has been dirted after the dirt? Its a mess, to me that is the issue and the only reason I no longer dirt my planted tanks and it is why I went to fluorite. I tend to like to change things up from time to time. I have heard of people moving plants with all sorts of gimmicks and how there was no dirt made it into the water column at all. I dont doubt the honesty but these are results I have been unable to reproduce.

In closing and in summation I will not try to discourage anyone from using dirt but since the question was asked I answered. One other thing I will add. The idea behind a dirt tank is low tech and simple. I think people in general tend to over complicate things including the simplistic dirt tank. Fancy dirts etc etc. A simple mix of basic yard dirt, yes dirt from your yard, mixed with some el cheapo walmart clay cat litter and thats it. No fancy soils. No mineralization. Just sifted yard dirt, kick back watch the plants grow in real time (almost). Thats my full opinion on dirt.

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post #11 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-04-2017, 10:55 PM
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@thedood

That's pretty much what most say so I'm not surprised. If your going to be moving stuff around dirt is very unforgiving not only with the mess it makes to the water column, but aesthetically since the cap is usually going to collapse and mix with the dirt. The cap is usually light while the dirt is dark so it makes it that much more obvious. When you have a single substrate you obviously don't have those issues.

I guess it depends on your approach to the hobby. If your going to have alot of plants you won't notice the mixing as much, although the foreground will be tough since you could see it through the front glass. If that's not a concern then go ahead and play in the dirt.
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post #12 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-05-2017, 02:11 PM
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@thedood

I guess it depends on your approach to the hobby. If your going to have alot of plants you won't notice the mixing as much, although the foreground will be tough since you could see it through the front glass. If that's not a concern then go ahead and play in the dirt.
I always had carpet plants, dwarf sag mostly, on my dirt tanks. I grew to not care much what the sub color was because given enough time you would never see it anyway.
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post #13 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-05-2017, 05:36 PM
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I use dirt exclusively at the moment due to the unavailability of planted tank specific substrates in my country.

Addressing the issue of seeing the dirt at the front of side viewing panels, that's easily solved by putting a small rim of sand or capping media as border before adding the soil. All you see is the sand.

Moving plants can be done but with much care and patience. With established crypts or swords, I'll pull and shake gently till the crown and probably an inch of roots are visible and then snip snip. I normally trim roots for planting anyway. This usually results in little to no soil being disturbed.

If you guys are interested take a look at my instagram page (dmdaquariums) and see some of the pitfalls and successes I've had. There's even a short vid showing me setting up a 10g using the sand border.
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post #14 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-05-2017, 05:42 PM Thread Starter
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I use dirt exclusively at the moment due to the unavailability of planted tank specific substrates in my country.

Addressing the issue of seeing the dirt at the front of side viewing panels, that's easily solved by putting a small rim of sand or capping media as border before adding the soil. All you see is the sand.

Moving plants can be done but with much care and patience. With established crypts or swords, I'll pull and shake gently till the crown and probably an inch of roots are visible and then snip snip. I normally trim roots for planting anyway. This usually results in little to no soil being disturbed.

If you guys are interested take a look at my instagram page (dmdaquariums) and see some of the pitfalls and successes I've had. There's even a short vid showing me setting up a 10g using the sand border.
My plan exactly, a sand border for the front and side viewing panels. Now this obviously wont stop the sand cap from mixing into the dirt over time, but there will be loads of plant mass by that time to help cover that mess, and I could always add more sand to any areas that get mixed up and are clearly visible. I'm looking for a new challenge, and I don't see any other planted substrate as cost effective as dirt seems to be.
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post #15 of 35 (permalink) Old 12-05-2017, 09:23 PM
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I like the sand border, works well. I look forward to seeing the tank. Are you going to use root tabs? A little sprinkling of osmocote+ on the bottom before putting down the dirt works well. If you do this go conservative. A little osmocote+ goes a long way.
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