New to Dirted Tanks- Help! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 05:57 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy New to Dirted Tanks- Help!

So last night I set up my first dirt tank. Its a 25gal with Miracle Grow Organic Potting Soil (about an inch and a half) with an Eco Complete cap (about an inch). I soaked the soil for an hour prior to putting it in the tank. I capped it with the Eco Complete and some black inert sand in other places. I tried the garbage bag method as to not disturb the substrate, but being a newbie I still managed to stir up the dirt. I did a bad job at filtering out the little wood chips (is that mulch?) and now its everywhere, as well as a little layer of dirt and much has settled over everything. I did a 90% water change just now and the water looks a lot better but its still terrible. Will those wood chips break down over time, or should I remove them manually (which would be maddening). Can I just add another 1/2 inch cap to the whole substrate?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 06:06 PM
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wood will break down but not quick

you will have to keep up with the water changes for a couple weeks as the wood and dirt leaches

use you siphon to suck up the chips and escaped dirt

lots of people screen out the wood before adding Miracle grow to tank, me i just rip open the bag and pour it in

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by hambone870 View Post
wood will break down but not quick

you will have to keep up with the water changes for a couple weeks as the wood and dirt leaches

use you siphon to suck up the chips and escaped dirt

lots of people screen out the wood before adding Miracle grow to tank, me i just rip open the bag and pour it in
Yeah i've heard about people doing that. In hindsight I definitely would have taken the time to do that. Newbie mistake. Thanks for the input, i'll definitely try to siphon out some of the grimey stuff.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 06:13 PM
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Yeah i've heard about people doing that. In hindsight I definitely would have taken the time to do that. Newbie mistake. Thanks for the input, i'll definitely try to siphon out some of the grimey stuff.
i use just the tubing for the siphon and not the actual larger siphon head, gives you more control and less risk of the siphon emptying back into the tank and knocking the dirt back up

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 09:12 PM
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I soaked my mgopm in a bucket for a week before assembling my tank and had no issues with floating bark. You will need to water change every day for awhile but it will clear up.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 09:17 PM
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i dont think sundevils bark is floating, i think it just made its way on top of the cap

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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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i dont think sundevils bark is floating, i think it just made its way on top of the cap
Its doing both haha. But I skimmed whatever floated to the top, and I used your method of using the siphon hose to suck up whatever was on top of the cap. It worked great! But it revealed the spots where the water pushed away the cap so I will have to fill those back in with the sand and eco complete. Thanks!
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 09:38 PM
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Don't let the siphon steel your cap make sure you use your thumb to stop the intake of the Eco and sand up the hose

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-02-2013, 09:43 PM Thread Starter
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Cool, good to note. Just in case I do miss some of the dirt, will that affect my ammonia levels or be harmful to fish in another way? Or will it just break down over time once the cycle is complete?
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 02:44 AM
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Cool, good to note. Just in case I do miss some of the dirt, will that affect my ammonia levels or be harmful to fish in another way? Or will it just break down over time once the cycle is complete?
The exact same thing happened to me, I ended up restarting the whole tank and throwing away all the gravel and dirt because the mulch chips started to grow white fungus that won't go away and my fish started to die rapidly. I think it was ammonia that killed them, but I didn't have a test kit. I think the white fungus started to grow because it was on the surface of the gravel. Next time, I recommend you use a sifter to sift out the large mulch chips and allow the dirt to pass through the tiny holes. You could also use a grinder or a blender to crush the mulch chips into small particles you could add to the dirt. I hope the mulch chips don't grow white fungus...
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 07:28 AM
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I've use mgopm is a few tanks. The only time I ever had an issue is when I presoaked the dirt/mix.

I think the issue arises that the cap sinks into the soft saturated soil and mixes
-kind of similiar to stepping into mud, it doesn't just get on the bottom of your shoe.

if it is dry then the cap just sits in hard dry 'ground'. no where to go and then very few debris in the tank. this is why it is also recommended to try and compact the underlayment before you cap

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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 09:48 AM
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I filtered the wood out of the dirt with a kitchen strainer. It does a great job. I filled the tank with DRY dirt. Followed that by using a spray bottle to wet the dirt to the saturation point. I compressed the soil, with a wooden spoon, to squeeze out the air - but not to hard.

I poured my Eco-complete (and its water) into a 5 gallon bucket. I scooped out the eco-complete with a small measuring cup (1 cup), and slowly covered the dirt. Once the Eco-complete was covering all the MGO, I scooped out the water, and slowly poured into the tank.

This took a long time - however, its was cleaner than my earlier attempts create a dirt tank.

I'd either commit to having little wood chips in your water, or try adding more eco-complete (very slowly) to seal off what you've already done.

My work tank is a mess, I learned a lot about setting up a dirt'd tank. I left the small wooden bits, there as I used natural gravel. The wood in facts make the tank seem more 'natural'. I worked hard setting up home tank (29G) tank, with a beautiful all black substrate, only to have my dwarf puffer, litter it with empty snail shells. Can't win, just pick your, so you can live with the results.

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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 10:42 AM
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Let me add that I THINK there is a world of difference between soil and potting mix, never used soil though. I wouldn't even consider pre-soaking soil first after the disaster the mix created.

--although for MTS I made that in to a batter put in tank and then let it dry overnight. again a firm surface to prevent the cap from sinking.

maybe adding clay to soil, mixing well and letting it dry a bit in the tank until it firms up before capping might work. but that is quite a bit different than just pre-soaking

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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Good to hear the different viewpoints and perspectives, as well as some expieriences similar to mine. Yesterday and today when I did my water changes I made sure to siphon out most of the crud that settled on top of the dirt. It looks much better and my water looks much clearer. After I made sure to clean most of the dirt/wood chips, I added maybe another 1/2"-1" of Eco Complete and inert black aquarium sand to the parts that needed it. My last question is that now that I have added more depth to my cap, are there any issues I need to be aware of concerning that? I have heard issues of caps not being deep enough, which usually results in what I just went through. Is there anything wrong with having too deep of a cap?
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 09:08 PM
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I poured it in no filter. Just made sure that I packed it down so it's compressed.

Nothing wrong with a deep cap except you will have to stick your plans all the way down

I have a 4 inch cap here


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