DIRTING an established tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-20-2019, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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Hey guys I got a 20 gallon high I’ve had for ab a year. It’s lightly planted and I’ve been stepping up my game so I want to step this tank up. Currently have gravel and sand in tank. No nurtients in soil besides root tabs.

I’m trying to take out everything and lay down dirt than put just the gravel back on as a top layer cap. I got angels rasboras and Cory cats. I plan on putting them obviously in a holding tank for atleast a couple of days.

I’m aware of ammonia Spikes with the new dirt in tank. Any tips on the process please let me know. And as well should I plant right away or let everything settle and is a few days enough for fish to be okay when I put them back in? Or am I basically cycling again. I’d think not as long as a full cycle because of the bacteria already on rocks and in filter but if anyone knows for sure please get back to me.

Or should I just lay down a different substrate?

Hope everyone having a good day. Thank you.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 02:37 AM
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You should pre-soak your dirt before adding to the tank. Do water changes on it every day for at least a week and then every two days for a week. Then every 3 days. Etc till at least a month passes. Doing this will reduce the release of nutrients into the water which is good. Then pull everything out. Put whatever you want to still have bacteria on it in a bucket with used tank water and build your scape with the dirt and your inert cap.

Doing all of these water changes will lose you a lot of dirt so start with 10 times the dirt you want. And no that is not an exaggeration.


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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 03:33 AM Thread Starter
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How long should I keep the fish out? And syphon gravel or just water column?
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 04:04 AM
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I no longer pre-soak my dirt. I do spend a long time hand-sorting it to remove stones, big wood scraps, etc, and breaking up clumps.

I have two developing organic soil + sand + gravel + Mopani wood, etc. tanks I planted, with no water changes, because I want all the tannins with the local hard water.

Anecdote over; if you were to save your water, you might be able to pull it off in perhaps 48 hours, but you might want to prime another filter in advance.

Style: Organic potting soil, gravel, sand, wood, plants, algae, biofilm, snails, shrimp, fish, dual siestas
Tech : Small tanks, Fluval Nano Plant Spectrum LED, Top Fin MF10, Neptune Systems Apex EL
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Last edited by Streetwise; 09-21-2019 at 04:19 AM. Reason: Edit
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 04:45 AM Thread Starter
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You fill the tank up with dry dirt and a cap? It doesn’t leech crazy ?
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 04:53 AM
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It does leach a bit, plus the wood, but it seeds the filter. My signature has links to my 7.5G and 16G. I should probably update the photos for those, but they are both very tea-like now.
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Style: Organic potting soil, gravel, sand, wood, plants, algae, biofilm, snails, shrimp, fish, dual siestas
Tech : Small tanks, Fluval Nano Plant Spectrum LED, Top Fin MF10, Neptune Systems Apex EL
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Last edited by Streetwise; 09-21-2019 at 05:27 AM. Reason: Dtails
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 05:00 AM
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Unless you destroy all bacteria in existing gravel you shouldn’t have to do cycle over again. Just watch ammonia and nitrites and change water if they start climb over 3ppm. If you keep your existing gravel bacteria bed healthy it should adjust to the ammonia spike from new soil in about 5 days unless you go totally overboard on soil layer thickness or use some funky super high humic content soil or something with added ferts in it.

I’d actually thought about just getting some 00 gel caps, filling with soil and plunging them down to bottom glass about every 1.5sq/in. Wait about 2 week, repeat and then do it again in another 2 weeks. Shouldn’t really even be a ammonia spike if you add a little at a time. You can keep fish in tank

It really doesn’t take much soil to enrich substrate bed. Even put 2-3 Osmocote Plus pellets in ea cap, should mineralize high CEC soil nicely.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 05:24 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the feedback guys.

And I was thinking about doing the gel caps. But I got sand in there I want out and lowkey Tryna rescape the tank so everything would be all over the place already.

What about scattering osmocote+ on the bottom of tank and than putting an organic top soil with a cap. (The gravel currently in there)
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThomasJ22 View Post
Thanks for the feedback guys.

And I was thinking about doing the gel caps. But I got sand in there I want out and lowkey Tryna rescape the tank so everything would be all over the place already.

What about scattering osmocote+ on the bottom of tank and than putting an organic top soil with a cap. (The gravel currently in there)
Osmocote and organic soil would be overkill IMHO. Organic soil can cause crazy ammonia spikes, and Osmocote could just exacerbate that. It could take a long time to cycle & stabilize, and you'd probably be fighting algae blooms.

If you're wanting to put your fish back in right away (or not move them at all), the soil in gel caps would probably be a better way to go. Wait awhile & see how the plants respond to the soil capsules, and then you can start fertilizing with liquid ferts and/or root tabs or Osmocote.

Otherwise you could just totally break down the tank & start all over--provided you've got another place to keep your fish up to month or more while the tank cycles & everything stabilizes.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 12:44 PM
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Plan on having your fish out of there for a while. Even changing inert substrate out can cause problems. If you can save the filter, redo how you want and use the old filter to help seed the tank. It will still take some time but it should speed things up a bit. I lost several fish changing from gravel to sand because I didn't have an alternate place for the fish besides a 5gal bucket. Some survived the ordeal but it still sucked.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.


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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-21-2019, 05:52 PM Thread Starter
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I was really planning on taking it down completely. I was going to use a 10 gallon with an aerator for holding the fish.

Will they be okay with a new filter in the same water so I can have the filter running on the cycling tank to speed up the process
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-23-2019, 09:16 PM
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What is the aerator? Is it a standard air pump? If so you can buy or build a cheap sponge filter. Have the sponge filter running in your 20g for a couple/few days then transfer it over to the 10g with a few of the decorations (any rocks, wood, few plants maybe). This theoretically should work pretty good to get the 10 going.

The water doesnt hold much of the bacteria, its primarily on items like the glass, substrate, rocks, plants, and in the filter.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-25-2019, 06:05 PM Thread Starter
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@Quint thanks for that yea im gonna do that. Have a few filters laying around just got to go pet store to get media for it. Would a sponge only be okay or should I get more media for it.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 09-25-2019, 06:24 PM
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Sponge only should be just fine. Many tanks run off sponge filters and do just fine.
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