is dirt really the answer? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-19-2020, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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is dirt really the answer?

Hi everyone. starting a new high tech planted tank.

15g rimless, sponge filter, kessil a160we
cherry shrimp and maybe some neons

dwarf hair grass and an HC cuba carpet, as well as some other higher light plants.

Stuck on what to do for substrate.

was going to use fluval stratum but the reviews seemed mixed.
Is a dirted tank really the end all to be all?

how often are you guys breaking down and re-dirting your tanks, and when you do.. what do you do with your critters?

even if someone can just link a really good comprehensive article ide really appreciate it ---

thanks
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-19-2020, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anchor View Post
Hi everyone. starting a new high tech planted tank.



15g rimless, sponge filter, kessil a160we

cherry shrimp and maybe some neons



dwarf hair grass and an HC cuba carpet, as well as some other higher light plants.



Stuck on what to do for substrate.



was going to use fluval stratum but the reviews seemed mixed.

Is a dirted tank really the end all to be all?



how often are you guys breaking down and re-dirting your tanks, and when you do.. what do you do with your critters?



even if someone can just link a really good comprehensive article ide really appreciate it ---



thanks
Not the answer, its a unstockable supplement willing to help fertilization

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 01:46 AM
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No, I don't think it's accurate to say that dirt the is "end all be all". It has some advantages and some disadvantages like all substrates do, so you need to do your research and decide which one best fits your needs. The substrate forum has a sticky with pros and cons of different options and here's an article talking about substrate selection. The bottom line is that there are successful tanks run with all sorts of substrates. I have dirted tanks and I'm happy with that choice, but its hardly the only reasonable option.

There are concerns with dirt and aquasoil about what to do when their nutrients become depleted and it seems like there are a number of ways to manage this, but it's not like you absolutely must break down your entire tank to replace the substrate. If you *want* to rescape your tank often, dirt might not be the best option for you. But as for what to do with the fish, you can run your sponge filter in a 5 gallon bucket and put the fish in that while you work.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 01:26 PM
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In nature, everything grows in dirt. we use branded/standard substrates for aesthetics and predictable chemistry that comes with using a particular brand. There is a certain "Unkonwn" factor with dirt collected from the garden because of which we take some risk using it. Unless you get it tested in a lab for its properties you will not be sure what it does to the water chemistry. Plants will adapt to anything that is not too acidic(low Ph number) or too basic(high Ph number). How ever your fish and shrimps will die and it will be very hard to identify the cause. I do not want to dissuade you from using dirt. Just be aware that you MAY have to deal with a lot of un necessary problems and will not be able to pinpoint the root cause.
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-Preeths

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 08:44 PM
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@Anchor I would recommend you trying dirt on a smaller tank to see how you like it before moving to your "feature" thank. I personally did two smaller 5g tanks with dirt to see how plants react and grow over 2 years before I put it in my 27g cube.

To what Elledee pointed out, if you are the type to change things up often or have to move things around, dirt's probably not for you. Same with what Preeths said too, if you're collect dirt from your garden there might be unintended issues with it. However, as with branded substrates, there are branded dirt that i've seen lots of people use and the issues around that are known. Such as Miracle grow organic potting soil seems to be the most mentioned. Having said that, it's not like others haven't just gone out in their back yard, dug up some dirt and had nothing but success with it ie MD tank's channel for a more famous example.

Dirt is a preference just as high tech vs low tech and all the other things that come with this hobby, until you tried it, you just don't know. This to me is a preference topic, you're going to get just as many thumbs up as there are thumbs down, but hey, try it without livestock "fish" and just grow plants with it for a bit. If you don't like it, you can always rip it out later and replace with other substrate. Cost wise it's probably cheaper to start with dirt
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-20-2020, 10:37 PM
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Fluval Stratum! I mess with this tank a lot and move stuff around and it doesn't break down as easily as Aquasoil. I'm sticking with this for all my future scapes.


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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 02:40 PM
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Fluval Stratum! I mess with this tank a lot and move stuff around and it doesn't break down as easily as Aquasoil. I'm sticking with this for all my future scapes.



Nice looking tank!


Can you gravel-vac Stratum, else, how do you pickup all the detritus that builds up in substrates?

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-22-2020, 07:28 PM
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Nice looking tank!


Can you gravel-vac Stratum, else, how do you pickup all the detritus that builds up in substrates?
I don't gravel vac this tank. I'm pulling stems up all the time to trim and replant. I've only had the tank up and running for a few months now so I can't give you an idea of long term detritus buildup.
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-23-2020, 11:36 PM
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In "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise", by Diana Walstad, she includes more than enough scientific and practical information with using soil within the substrate. https://dianawalstad.com/
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 12:53 AM Thread Starter
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@Anchor I would recommend you trying dirt on a smaller tank to see how you like it before moving to your "feature" thank. I personally did two smaller 5g tanks with dirt to see how plants react and grow over 2 years before I put it in my 27g cube.

T Such as Miracle grow organic potting soil seems to be the most mentioned. Having said that, it's not like others haven't just gone out in their back yard, dug up some dirt and had nothing but success with it ie MD tank's channel for a more famous example.

)

thanks ive decided im going to go with the dirt you linked.

i havent decided on my cap yet. kind of leaning torward fluval stratum but i hear its very light and some carpets lift
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 01:45 AM
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thanks ive decided im going to go with the dirt you linked.

i havent decided on my cap yet. kind of leaning torward fluval stratum but i hear its very light and some carpets lift
Black Diamond blasting sand 1240 is pretty great as a cap or just by itself. Welcome to the dirt club btw.


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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 02:05 AM
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Fluval Stratum! I mess with this tank a lot and move stuff around and it doesn't break down as easily as Aquasoil. I'm sticking with this for all my future scapes.
Hi @Capsaicin_MFK,

The one Erio is showing chlorosis (yellowing); do the newest leaves come in green? Also as are a couple of leaves of the crypt(?) in the center that look a little yellowish, are these older leaves?
-Roy

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 01:42 PM
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Hi @Capsaicin_MFK,

The one Erio is showing chlorosis (yellowing); do the newest leaves come in green? Also as are a couple of leaves of the crypt(?) in the center that look a little yellowish, are these older leaves?
-Roy
The yellowing of the Eriocaulon was due to me splitting the plant in half. The yellow half grew a plantlet off the side which is nice and green. The crypt leaves look yellow because of the picture/lighting.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 06:29 PM
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I have had tanks over 50 years and always wonder why anybody would use dirt or a jacked up substrate for the aquarium. That is unless of course you want to replenish the dirt or substrate every 6 to 9 months. The normal cycle of a tank with fish waste etc. is sufficient enough to grow great plants as long as you have proper lighting. As it is now without fertilizer I have to cut out a lot of plants on my tanks about every 2 to 3 weeks. Granted I know I donít have needy plants but rather plants such as a Anubisís, Val, swords, bacopa and hornwort. Of course if you care to....use ferts.
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-24-2020, 09:30 PM
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I have had tanks over 50 years and always wonder why anybody would use dirt or a jacked up substrate for the aquarium. That is unless of course you want to replenish the dirt or substrate every 6 to 9 months. The normal cycle of a tank with fish waste etc. is sufficient enough to grow great plants as long as you have proper lighting. As it is now without fertilizer I have to cut out a lot of plants on my tanks about every 2 to 3 weeks. Granted I know I donít have needy plants but rather plants such as a Anubisís, Val, swords, bacopa and hornwort. Of course if you care to....use ferts.
Sticking to undemanding plants certainly gives you a lot of flexibility across the board.

But you definitely don't have to replenish a dirt substrate every 6 to 9 months! I'm sure some people do, but I don't think that's typical, and that goes double if they have a system with easy plants that subsist on just fish waste and fish food like you described. After all, that's basically what the Walstad method is!

@Anchor if you are going with dirt, I recommend getting the book. You don't have to stick to the method 100% (lots and lots of people add filtration, for example), but it'll give you some good fundamentals.
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