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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-10-2013, 03:06 AM Thread Starter
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Dirt/Soil

I've been thinking about doing a dirt/soil tank for planted aquarium. I have watched several youtube videos on it, but i have a few questions:

- Dirt
Does this need to be organic? If so is there a certain type that does not contain any lethal fertilizers?

- Life of nutrients in Dirt
Will the nutrients deplete when there are plants in it.
Do I need to add substrate root tabs/ferts to keep it charged so to speak?
How long will the dirt last before it's no longer beneficial for the plants?

- Replacing Dirt
Do I need to periodically remove and replace the dirt with new dirt?

- Clay
Do I need it?
If, what kind?

Thanks,
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-10-2013, 04:24 AM
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Does not need to be organic. Lots of people use mineralized topsoil as well. But the type people use(including me) is called miracle gro organic choice potting mix. That is the exact name you want. The life of dirt depends, but I think that the fish waste continue's feeding that dirt for a long time. You probably won't need to replace it for at least a couple years. Root tabs are not needed, but do dose ferts depending on what kind of set up you have. You don't need clay, its great for iron though. I used the amanco brand red clay without problems.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-10-2013, 06:46 AM
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yea. not only does it have to be that name, it has to be a orange and white bag.

You don't have to change the dirt, it last for about 10 years, but after a few years, a root tab here or there is pretty nice.

But be careful, it can fail easily if you don't have enough lighting or plants. Do not start one if you dont have enough plants. Also either use mts, or poke the sand every few days until your roots are estalished, or the tank will smell from anaerobic soil .
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-16-2013, 07:05 PM Thread Starter
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My goal is the following:

Fish:
Geo. Tapajos (which I have in a planted tank now)
Discus (perhaps)
Apistos (I have)
GB Rams (I have)
few various Rainbow (i own)

Tank:
125 US gallons 6'

Substrate
Dirt (if I choose the dirt route) underlying sub...
Silicate or PF Sand.

Tank set up layout:
Plants
Driftwood
Non plant areas for Geos to have fun sifting....


Should I dirt the whole tank or place dirt where I plan on placing the plants?

Thanks,
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2013, 08:56 PM
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It is tricky to have a nice dirt set up, even with a sand cap when you have dedicated digging fish (Geos) in the tank.

I would omit that mix of Cichlids, just stick with one species. Rams dig a little bit, might not be a problem. Discus do not dig. Not sure about Apistos, probably depends on species. But Cichlids are generally territorial and can be aggressive, especially when they are breeding.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-17-2013, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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Diana, Thanks for the input. Currently not sure if I want to go the dirted route or just stick with a silicated based substrate. I noticed some forum member us Aquasoil in their tanks. It looks nice but too expensive use in a large tank.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 02:06 AM
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Originally Posted by ramireziguy View Post
Diana, Thanks for the input. Currently not sure if I want to go the dirted route or just stick with a silicated based substrate. I noticed some forum member us Aquasoil in their tanks. It looks nice but too expensive use in a large tank.
preferably organic potting mix from Miracle Grow. It means that no artitifial ferts have been added. You need to screen the dirt out of all bigger chunks like woods and stems. You really want the dirt to feel very fine. Use no more than 1 inch to 1.5 inch of dirt. Too much you may have excessive dead spots with bubbles. You should cap it with fine gravels. I would avoid sand since they are too fine and it would exacerbate more anaerobic condition in the soil. Cap the dirt with no more than 1.5 inches of fine gravels. That leaves little room to setup hill or to creating some dramatic scapes. You should not need to add root tabs to the soil for a while. However, you would need to dose the water column. From my experience (I just setup a dirt tank within 7 days). I have zero nitrates in the water column.... With 3ppm of phosphate strangely. Rescaping isn't recommended for the obviously reason. Once the substrate or your gravel cap is disturbed, dirt underneath it would flow up. You don't want that.

Oh, about the fish waste??? Is a myth. You really have to overstock your tank and overfeeding your fish to create enough bio mass to re-fertilizer your soil.


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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-25-2013, 12:05 AM Thread Starter
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I just got a couple of bags of Filpro Sand (NJ1) for a capping substrate.

Now the dilemma.... Should I use dirt or us something like eco-complete/flourite...

I would love to make this a planted tank similar to my smaller tank but have more areas for the geos to "play" around in.

Thanks,
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 04:21 PM Thread Starter
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This is what I want to do. Please advise differently (looking for feedback)

Bottom of tank:
Egg Crate
Dirt Substrate (mixed with flourite)
Filpro Sand (NJ1) for a capping substrate.

Decoration:
Driftwood
Rainbow slate rock
Plants (Crypts, Vals, Swords and tiger lilly)
___________________________________

Egg create is for the rocks so it would minimize potential impact on bottom of tank if it should fall. After install the egg crate, lay dirt down. Then placing the rocks in a way that would go(slice) through the dirt and lay directly onto the egg crate to create formations and rock caves. Next add Driftwood. From there, plant the plants in various places of the tank(heavily concentrated on Ends/back corners). Next add the Filpro Sand for the cap.

I already have a nicely (aged) cycled eheim 2028 canister filter to offset any potential cycling issues.

Thanks,
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 04:29 PM Thread Starter
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Also currently reading "Ecology of the Planted aquarium". It's a great read. Even though I have kept planted tanks (low tech/non-dirt) I am learning a lot.

Oh yeah, the light will be a 72" build my led light. (not sure if I want the "show tank" or "planted tank" light)
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-29-2013, 06:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tetra73 View Post
preferably organic potting mix from Miracle Grow. It means that no artitifial ferts have been added. You need to screen the dirt out of all bigger chunks like woods and stems. You really want the dirt to feel very fine. Use no more than 1 inch to 1.5 inch of dirt. Too much you may have excessive dead spots with bubbles. You should cap it with fine gravels. I would avoid sand since they are too fine and it would exacerbate more anaerobic condition in the soil. Cap the dirt with no more than 1.5 inches of fine gravels. That leaves little room to setup hill or to creating some dramatic scapes. You should not need to add root tabs to the soil for a while. However, you would need to dose the water column. From my experience (I just setup a dirt tank within 7 days). I have zero nitrates in the water column.... With 3ppm of phosphate strangely. Rescaping isn't recommended for the obviously reason. Once the substrate or your gravel cap is disturbed, dirt underneath it would flow up. You don't want that.

Oh, about the fish waste??? Is a myth. You really have to overstock your tank and overfeeding your fish to create enough bio mass to re-fertilizer your soil.
Zero nitrates? I had a hard time with algae when I had no nitrate reading in my dirt tank. I ended up having to dose KN03 to keep it at 10ppm, which really helped.
For OP, I'm assuming your "aged" filter is currently running on another tank? If not your BB is gone. I'm not sure that only 1.5 inches of each is quite enough. I did ~2" of dirt and ~1.5" of eco complete and now that it has settled I wish I had added a little more. I guess it depends on the method used. I made the mistake of not wetting the dirt a little before I added the cap. I think that would have made things easier. As mentioned above be sure to sift out the large pieces of wood. I made the change to dirt in one afternoon and put my fish in shortly after (without knowing any better). Luckily I didn't lose any even though I had a slight ammonia reading for several days. WC's fixed that and everything has been fine since. I have great growth in this tank. My only regret is that I can't move plants around. Be sure you know your scaping plan when you plant, and plant heavily from the start.

Oh, and after roughly 6 months I did need to add root tabs for my crypts.

Last edited by Amy9; 07-29-2013 at 06:23 PM. Reason: add info
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-31-2013, 11:57 PM Thread Starter
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Hi Amy9,

Yes the canister filter is has been and is currently running on my other tank. The one hesitating factor of plunging into a dirt substrate is that it seems like once you place you plants, rescaping can be a nightmare due to dirt floating into the water column and into potentially the filter. Thus potentially damaging the filter and making a mess of the tank.

What I may end up doing is just using flourite as a substrate, then capping it with Filpro sand then just adding root tabs and other water column ferts when needed. I do not want to go the CO2 route.

Anyone else with thoughts or advise?
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-01-2013, 12:20 AM
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Originally Posted by ramireziguy View Post
Hi Amy9,

Yes the canister filter is has been and is currently running on my other tank. The one hesitating factor of plunging into a dirt substrate is that it seems like once you place you plants, rescaping can be a nightmare due to dirt floating into the water column and into potentially the filter. Thus potentially damaging the filter and making a mess of the tank.

What I may end up doing is just using flourite as a substrate, then capping it with Filpro sand then just adding root tabs and other water column ferts when needed. I do not want to go the CO2 route.

Anyone else with thoughts or advise?
It shouldn't be a mess for the first couple of weeks. If the plants are settled in for few months and they are root feeders, well, you know the rest of the stories...


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