To dirt or not to dirt - The Planted Tank Forum
View Poll Results: Dirt or no dirt?
Yes! Put organic soil under the Floramax 9 60.00%
NO! Just use the floramax 6 40.00%
Voters: 15. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 04:29 PM Thread Starter
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To dirt or not to dirt

Hey folks. Longtime planted tank keeper. Formerly very active on the forum. Fell off for a couple years. Now just lurk occasionally.

Running a 75 gallon semi-high tech planted tank. Manual dosing EI method by hand, but also CO2 injected. I toyed with low tech tanks for years and had abysmal results. Just never really could get anything to flourish. Last year I started using pressurized CO2 and it was a night and day difference in growth and health. I neglected the tank for about 6 months due to new baby and new job, so I just made sure to keep the co2 running but stopped dosing and doing water changes, even stopped topping off and it would get down to about 2/3 full. I imagine the TDS was outrageous. No big fish deaths or anything.

Substrate previously has been the classic mineralized topsoil recipe from several years ago, topped with 3" of turface pro league. It's done ok, but I hate the pale tan color, and especially how light weight it is. It has limited me to only planting the most root heavy, pesky stem type plants, and nothing more delicate or ornate seems to be able to hold down. As it stands my tank is just full of crypt wendtii, amazon sword, dwarf sag, and sunset hygro. It looks ok. Nothing show worthy or even photoshoot worthy, but the growth is very thick and it looks natural. A decent display tank for the dining room for anyhone who is NOT in the hobby.

My free time has finally come upon me, and I'd like to really rework the tank. I've purchased 9 bags of Floramax black that I'd like to replace the Turface with. I realize this will be a big lengthy process of draining the whole tank, removing all the fish, replacing the substrate, and refilling the tank. I've swapped substrates and moved tanks many many times before so the process is familiar to me. I'm looking forward to having a heavier, denser black substrate.

My big questions is whether to dirt it or not. I know floramax is inert, but has a decent CEC. I do have an abundance of root tabs, as well as the dosing regiment I have, so I'm not worried about running into low nutrients. I'm just debating on whether to drop the bags in and be done with it, or if I should do some organic potting soil under it. I know there will be a brief ammonia cycle due to the soil, but being that i'll be using alot of the old water, plus a very mature filter, that should be manageable, plus I have a ton of prime. I've changed substrates before without killing anything.

What would you say folks? Dirt or no dirt for the new substrate?
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 05:10 PM
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I'm not on the dirt bandwagon at this moment. Just too much of a pain when it comes to replanting and such.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 05:16 PM
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I figure enhanced substrates plus water column dosing is win/win for plant's, and allow's some comfort if water column dosing is missed due to vacation,sickness,etc.
Plant's/weed's been growing in dirt forever +.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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True on both accounts. What are people using nowadays for their dirt? It's been a while since I've read up on it. I know about 5 years ago, Miracle Grow Organic Potting Mix was all the rage, stuff in the brown and white bag. That still the case? I'm not going to use the mineralized topsoil again if I go this route, as it is way too labor intensive and doesnt seem to last any longer than anything else
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 05:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roadmaster View Post
Plant's/weed's been growing in dirt forever +.
Agreed, however Plants/Weeds have not been growing in glass boxes with artificial lighting in climate controlled residence for very long.. so what exactly is your point?

Planted tanks are inherently artificial environments, you can attempt to make them seem less artificial but that does not mean its any more natural...
In the end were the puppet masters pulling the strings, not nature, and the more strings I have the better I feel.

Ive been growing plants soil-less outside of my aquarium for a long time and I see a ton of benefit to it, faster growth, better health, quicker to both show and remedy deficiencies, bigger fruits/flowers, more consistent and predictable growth, fine tuning the feeding regimens to the plants needs, etc.. see no reason why thats different in a fish tank.


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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 06:29 PM
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Too limited in choices. With only two choices I can't answer. I would vote for dirt. Top soil. That's all you need. You only give a choice of organic stuff.

Dilution is the solution for the pollution.
Quote me as saying I was misquoted.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
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Having done topsoil before, are you suggesting using the cheap topsoil and just not mineralizing it? What topsoil in particular, there are several options here locally. I was generally trying to avoid doing mineralized topsoil because of how labor intensitive it is and It hasnt exactly been the long term miracle cure some hail it to be. Great growth at first, but kinda gets compacted and fizzles out in usefulness well within a year.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpb View Post
It hasnt exactly been the long term miracle cure some hail it to be. Great growth at first, but kinda gets compacted and fizzles out in usefulness well within a year.
I would expect this to be pretty universal, eventually nutrients will be exhausted and your back to supplementing them.. your not letting your plants die where they grew and rot back into the soil and composting new dirt in your tank.
Pretty sure figuring this out really helped humanity push agriculture, were working at faster paces than nature was designed for..


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, but my question still remains. Why do you prefer bagged topsoil over the MGOCPM?
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 07:33 PM
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My advice is to first figure out what kind of plants and tank you want to have.

If you going for a high tech with lots of stems that will need frequent topping/replanting - or - if youre the type of person who likes to move things around a lot, then no dirt.

If you're going low tech with lots of heavy root feeders, and you know pretty much where you want everything to go - for good, then dirt may be a good way go.

Personally I like to move things around too much to make dirt a viable option.


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-04-2015, 07:36 PM Thread Starter
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Good call. I'd like to get away from the heavy root feeders. I want to focus more on stem bundles and carpeting plants rather than broad leaf swords and such. I'll likely be getting rid of most of the plants I have.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 03:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpb View Post
Yes, but my question still remains. Why do you prefer bagged topsoil over the MGOCPM?
I like the top soil mostly because it is cheap. Two bucks a back or so? The 55 in the kitchen has been running for a couple of years now. If I ever took care of it I'd be trimming it all the time but I don't take care of it. In the fish house I have TS in net pots with stems planted in them then the pots put into the gravel substrate in my 75. I also take trimings from a few of the stems I have and just poke them into the gravel here. My 55 that started as a grow tank for stem plants has TS in containers from spinach I got at sams club. It was never meant to have fish in it. I really need to stop bidding at the society auctions. It has 6-8 healthy angels in it and still has no filter. At all. No water movement just plants filtering the water. My emersed setups all have TS in clay pots.

Why do I like TS? Maybe because it works. BTW I still don't own any type of fertz.

Dilution is the solution for the pollution.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 07:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nayr View Post
Agreed, however Plants/Weeds have not been growing in glass boxes with artificial lighting in climate controlled residence for very long.. so what exactly is your point?

Planted tanks are inherently artificial environments, you can attempt to make them seem less artificial but that does not mean its any more natural...
In the end were the puppet masters pulling the strings, not nature, and the more strings I have the better I feel.

Ive been growing plants soil-less outside of my aquarium for a long time and I see a ton of benefit to it, faster growth, better health, quicker to both show and remedy deficiencies, bigger fruits/flowers, more consistent and predictable growth, fine tuning the feeding regimens to the plants needs, etc.. see no reason why thats different in a fish tank.
Seriously?
The plant's you grow outside the aquarium have access to nearly unlimiting CO2 compared to plant's submerged under water.
This is primary difference.(without question resulting in better growth)
I merely responded to last question by the OP in first post of this thread so take it for what you will.
I can grow plant's in inert substrates and have in the past with root tab's and water column dosing.
I just prefer dirt,(that was the question) for I can mix the dirt with clay,sand,peat,and get maybe four year's from the soil in this way.
I can grow orchid's at work in boileroom with same mixture.
I have used Aquasoil,floramax,eco complete,flourite, and currently inert sand in one tank as well as Miracle grow organic choice in another.
No complaint's from me with none of them when one understand's their properties and or shortfall's.
Can make all of em work well .
Will stand by my statement,thank's for your input.

Last edited by roadmaster; 05-05-2015 at 09:12 AM. Reason: addition
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpb View Post
Having done topsoil before, are you suggesting using the cheap topsoil and just not mineralizing it? What topsoil in particular, there are several options here locally. I was generally trying to avoid doing mineralized topsoil because of how labor intensitive it is and It hasnt exactly been the long term miracle cure some hail it to be. Great growth at first, but kinda gets compacted and fizzles out in usefulness well within a year.
Soil's do not have to peter out .
Tank in my avatar,and under "My thread's" had been running for around a year and a half when I posted the photo.
Same tank is still going with soil,cat litter, for around three and 1/2 year's now, with only difference being plant mass has increased.
Is low tech tank with NO CO2 enhancement of any kind.
I never vaccum the tank,the fishes produce waste that fall's to the bottom ,the snail's and shrimps eat what scraps of food they may, and excrete what they eat back into the substrate with their daily/nightly movement's .
I also add dry nutrient's once a week .(macro's/micro's)
Maybe would not suggest soil based tank's to anyone who tend's to move plant's about frequently but for me (many other's) it work's well.
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 05-05-2015, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Gonna happen after work today. Finally going to have a few hours without a baby taking all of my attention (definitely not complaining, totally bummed she's gone to visit great grandmother, and I've gotta work so I am staying back). I think I'm gonna go with the MGOCPM, along with a tiny dusting of aragonite and muriate of potash which I have plenty of. I'll keep the layer shallow. I'm going to keep with the EI dosing, and actually cutting back heavily on my root feeders, and going for mostly fast growing stems. I may have to move them alot, but those are alot easier and less messy to move than swords are from experience. I think I could get away with the floramax alone, but I'll throw a little dirt in to help compensate for the fact that this substrate starts off as inert before it can start absorbing stuff. I appreciate the commentary and it sounds like the focus group is split pretty much which I kind of expected it to be. I know success can be had either way. i'm not too concerned with the cost of the potting mix vs the topsoil. It's only a few bucks. I also noticed my 5# CO2 tank is nearly empty again (down to about 10-20 psi on the high pressure guage), so I'll swap that out for a 10# tank I've had in waiting. Then I'lll likely upgrade the 5# tank for another 10, or potentially a 20 that way I don't have to refill them so often. I think I'll actually start a tank journal on this one. Been a member on here for 4 years and never did a tank journal.
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