Dirt and sand substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 10:18 PM Thread Starter
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Dirt and sand substrate

I am setting up a new 20 gallon tall, low tech, tank. I want to try to use dirt. Are there any cons with using dirt? I will be using miracle grow with the little white beads, but I will he removing these. I will be topping it with play sand. How much of each substrate should I use? Should I thoroughly rinse the miracle grow? Anything else I need to know before having a dirted tank?
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2012, 10:59 PM
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Hi, my naime is rey. Becarful that soil will have some fertiliser that may harm your fish and will give alergy to the tank. The most best way and thisis my opinium is to tri some clay substrate with some iron and minerals. I have a 10gl tank that I set up a long time and is full of lived plants and goupys, let me no if you need some plants; I can shre.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 02:31 AM Thread Starter
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This is the soil I want to use. Will this be ok if I remove all the white beads? Here is the ingredient list:
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 04:13 AM
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I would maybe recommend unfertilized top soil, really really cheap at like $1.50 for 40lbs, or a couple bags of miracle gro organic potting mix without the white bits. No rinsing, just a good sifting to get rid of larger particles. 3/4"-1" of dirt to maybe 2-3" of sand, I did 1":1" in a 6 gallon and my crypts would've probably liked a deeper substrate.

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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 04:58 AM
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I have organic miracle-gro below my substrate. You'd be just fine using it. Be warned it has a lot of wood chips in it that will float so if you uncover it in the planting process or when adding water/moving things around, those wood pieces could float up and cause a headache. Other than that it would great.

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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 05:48 AM
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Perlite is bad because it will float up.
The wetting agents are bad. I believe they are toxic to fish, but I could be wrong. Most people in the reading Ive done say not to use any soil with a wetting agent.
The fertilizers are bad because they will leach out right away and lead to algae blooms or worse.

Im pretty sure from the ingredients in your pic, that you have the "miracle gro potting mix" in the green bag. This is not what you want. You want the "miracle grow ORGANIC potting mix" in the orange bag. That is the one diana walstad recommends in her book, that is the one most people use in my extensive reading on this subject.
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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by altiuscitius View Post
Perlite is bad because it will float up.
The wetting agents are bad. I believe they are toxic to fish, but I could be wrong. Most people in the reading Ive done say not to use any soil with a wetting agent.
The fertilizers are bad because they will leach out right away and lead to algae blooms or worse.

Im pretty sure from the ingredients in your pic, that you have the "miracle gro potting mix" in the green bag. This is not what you want. You want the "miracle grow ORGANIC potting mix" in the orange bag. That is the one diana walstad recommends in her book, that is the one most people use in my extensive reading on this subject.
I can't speak to the first part of this post, but the last paragraph is correct.


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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Studman0143 View Post
I have organic miracle-gro below my substrate. You'd be just fine using it. Be warned it has a lot of wood chips in it that will float so if you uncover it in the planting process or when adding water/moving things around, those wood pieces could float up and cause a headache. Other than that it would great.
Does the dirt really benefit the plants? I'm curious, because I was originally just going to use play sand. I went and looked at ferts yesterday and I didn't realize how expensive they were. If I used dirt would I still have to use ferts?
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 04:37 PM
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The soil will provide nutrients to root-feeding plants for a while. For a low light tank, you would not need to add fertilizer.


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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 04:44 PM
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Does the dirt really benefit the plants? I'm curious, because I was originally just going to use play sand. I went and looked at ferts yesterday and I didn't realize how expensive they were. If I used dirt would I still have to use ferts?
What ferts were you looking at?

The organic matter in the soil, nitrogen, phosphates is what really helps the plants grow.

This is the ingredients of Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting mix



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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 06:07 PM
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Looks ok except for the perlite. It also doesn't mention having nitrogen or phosphate, not sure if that will make a huge difference though.


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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by DrGonzo View Post
I would maybe recommend unfertilized top soil, really really cheap at like $1.50 for 40lbs, or a couple bags of miracle gro organic potting mix without the white bits. No rinsing, just a good sifting to get rid of larger particles. 3/4"-1" of dirt to maybe 2-3" of sand, I did 1":1" in a 6 gallon and my crypts would've probably liked a deeper substrate.


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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-17-2012, 11:11 PM Thread Starter
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I keep reading horror stories from people who use dirt and I'm getting kind of worried. I'm worried about how messy it is and water quality. Any tips or suggestions?
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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2012, 01:19 AM
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I keep reading horror stories from people who use dirt and I'm getting kind of worried. I'm worried about how messy it is and water quality. Any tips or suggestions?
- plant heavy from the get go and have a really good idea of where you want all your plants and hardscape to go so you dont have to move things around a bunch after you get it all set up and filled.

- plant your larger rooted plants before you cap the dirt, then pull them up slightly to the right depth in the substrate. use forceps to plant smaller rooted plants once the cap is down.

- use 1 to 1.5 inches of soil with 1.5 inch of cap (sand, pea gravel what not)

- fill the tank up with a bowl or cup sitting on top of a plate and pour water into the cup.

Those are the biggies that come to mind.


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