Hello! I have been lurking around these forums for years but after weeks of researching dirted tanks I finally feel confused enough to post for the first time.
With Petco's $1/gallon sale going on, I finally decided to replace my old, leaky 29 gallon with a new tank. I was so excited, until I started agonizing over substrate choice. I got this silly idea in my head that I wanted to try out this "dirted tank" thing and see what all the fuss is about. It seems the more I read the more confused I get. Lately, I have been reading some pretty scary horror stories, so I was hoping those with more experience could help clarify a few things or point me in the direction of any resources that you found helpful.
So, here are some of my questions:
1. I see people talk about Mineralized Top Soil and Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix. My question is, should the miracle grow product also go through the mineralization process? or is this only done if you use topsoil? Should the other products such as clay, potash, and dolomite be added to the miracle grow? or are they only used with mineralized top soil? Essentially, if anyone could explain the difference between the two and their preparation (if there is one), I would be forever grateful!
2. I have heard a lot about plants melting or significant die back as well as severe algae overgrowth of nightmarish proportions. I get that water changes are crucial in the beginning as well as heavily planting, from the start. Is there anything else I can do to prevent a heartbreaking disaster? I am quite attached to my plants and I really would rather not kill them. Also, I do not currently have CO2 on this tank (although I am considering it) would I want to keep dosing with excel while the tank is cycling?
3. I have corydoras (cutest little buggers) and so I would like to stick with a sand cap. The tank is also home to a school of black emperor tetras that just keeps getting bigger (I didn't realize they would breed so easily). We would prefer to use a lighter colored sand so that the fish actually stand out. is it a terrible idea to cap the dirt with white sand or PFS? am I just asking for a mess?
4. I have seen reference to plants that "do well" or "do poorly" in dirted tanks but have not been able to actually find a list of actual species. Is there a list somewhere or perhaps a logical thought process that I am just missing?
I am pretty excited yet terrified about setting up a dirt tank. The last thing I want to do is screw it all up. I would really love any help or advice that anyone is willing to offer. My husband has started dodging me and I think he may be sick of hearing about CEC, fertilizers, and dirt, sand, eco-complete, etc... I dont know what his problem is
. It is nice to know there is a forum full of fellow fish-geeks to help me sort through my substrate problems.