Dirt substrate and nitrogen - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-26-2018, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Dirt substrate and nitrogen

My primary reason for wanting a planted tank is to get rid of nitrate. I have orandas and fan tail goldfish, so they excel at making ammonia (not to mention uprooting plants). I am transitioning from a 36-gallon tank to a 90 and want to take the lessons learned from the past 10 months as I plan to plant the new tank. I have an under gravel filter and no dirt. Some plants that the goldfish allow to live haven't exactly thrived, Amazon swords and crypts, for example. It seems that they are root feeders and want dirt. It just seems like I'm adding nitrogen to the tank if I go with dirt and or root tabs and defeating part of my original motivation.
Am I wrong? Will there be a net reduction of nitrates even with the dirt?
I know there's a lot of debate about clay and that some say it draws nutrients from the water and makes them available to the roots. Others say no.
My plan is to let the plants establish for at least a month before moving the fish over. So I have a window of time to try and do it right. I have LED lights, so it's not really low light. I may have to upgrade to co2 to get plants growing faster than the fish can destroy them.
Any thoughts is greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-26-2018, 07:02 PM
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@DrexHillJon I think you have some misconceptions about plants in a tank. Plants will consume nitrates, but we aren't trying to eliminate nitrates via plants. In fact, if you eliminated nitrates completely, your plants would turn yellow and die rather quickly.
I think the bigger problem with dirt and fish that root is you're going to end up with a massive mess. Goldfish LOVE to stir up the bottom, so a planted DIRT tank would be a bad idea. Something like Black Diamond Blasting Sand(BDBS) or Pool Filter Sand(PFS) would be a great option. You can utilize root tabs by your plants(goldfish could be a problem again, just make sure you bury the root tabs deep), or just fertilize the water column. I prefer water column fertilization and no root tabs.

I would look into a good fertilizer regimen, that will be the best thing for your plants. CO2 is optional, but certainly kicks things into gear...as long as things are balanced.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-26-2018, 07:50 PM
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You also have some misconceptions about light if you think having LEDS means that you're not low light. There are loads of LED lights specifically made for aquariums that are way to weak to grow most plants.

You might want to give some careful consideration to the plants you're going to try. Things like java ferns and anubius are physically pretty tough. Tough leaves that are hard to eat. They're also low light plants. I don't know if goldfish will mess with them much or not. That and maybe some floaters like Anacharis. Let the fish pick at that and maybe they'll leave the other stuff alone.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-26-2018, 08:30 PM
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My primary reason for wanting a planted tank is to get rid of nitrate.

Sadly, in practice doesn't usually work that way...
Plants, in my experience, can rarely keep up w/ even a moderate biological load.. YMMV.

What does seem to work for many is using a terrestrial plant "sink" for Nitrates..
Never did it myself, but contemplating it ..............

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-27-2018, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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I'm sure I have a lot of misconceptions. lol. One of them is probably that I think it's possible to get my plants growing faster than my goldfish will uproot them. As for nitrate, I'm consistently testing at zero in a overstocked tank, although I'm sure it's not really zero. I do 10-12 percent water changes weekly, but nitrates aren't elevated before the change. As for lights, my red ludwigia turned red again when I replaced the fluorescent with LED. I'm sure most people here have a better light setup than I do, but to me if red ludwigia is red, it's not truly low light. Maybe dirt with goldfish is wrong for multiple reasons. I know there are people who say they have used a nutritive substrate, not sure it was literally dirt, with goldfish and a good cap of pebbles or small rock. Right now, I have a precariously balanced tank. The plants are surviving, but not thriving. That's what I'm trying to get a handle on before setting up the new tank. I'll research fertilizers. But I can't see myself adding nitrogen to the tank, unless there's a way to get it to the roots and not the water column. Thanks for the feedback. I realize most plant guys aren't goldfish guys and vice versa. But I'm on a mission. I will have a heavily planted tank with some big, fat, happy goofy-a gold fish.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-28-2018, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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This has been bugging me all day. A couple of replies yesterday said the object isn't to eliminate nitrates via plants and I was naive to think that way. I'm new here and asking for advice so I bit my tongue. But I don't think I'm the only one who would dispute this. There are a gazillion YouTube videos of people talking about heavily planting tanks to remove nitrates. Someone here said that if if you removed nitrates completely, your plants would turn yellow and die. This is wrong. The only way to eliminate nitrates completely would be to get rid of the fish. No one suggested that. If your fish and plants are in balance, the nitrate level is virtually nil and the plants are healthy. I'm willing to be corrected and I'm here for advice, but my nitrates are low and my plants aren't yellow.
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