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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 01:29 AM Thread Starter
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Dirted tank questions

Do I have to use miracle gro organic potting mix, or can I use miracle gro organic soil? Also what are the benefits of using dirt vs root tabs? How long is the dirt going to last before root tabs will have to be added in again, and after the dirt hs been exhausted is there any negative effects from the dirt remaining in the tank?
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 01:46 AM
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Potting mix or soil will work. I stay away from top soil because it's got too much wood chips and stuff in it for my taste and effort. The benefits of dirt is that it comes with nutrients already in it. You wont need root tabs for a while. I cant tell you how long the dirt will last and as this leads into your next question, once the dirt is exhausted, unlike sand, or gravel, the dirt itself will hold any nutrients you put into it. So it's going to suck up the nutrients from root tabs and store it until the plants use it.

I would never have a tank that wasn't dirted unless i was not planting the tank. But what's the fun in that?! hah.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 05:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WickedOdie View Post
Potting mix or soil will work. I stay away from top soil because it's got too much wood chips and stuff in it for my taste and effort. The benefits of dirt is that it comes with nutrients already in it. You wont need root tabs for a while. I cant tell you how long the dirt will last and as this leads into your next question, once the dirt is exhausted, unlike sand, or gravel, the dirt itself will hold any nutrients you put into it. So it's going to suck up the nutrients from root tabs and store it until the plants use it.

I would never have a tank that wasn't dirted unless i was not planting the tank. But what's the fun in that?! hah.
Though all top soil is not created equally and ideally should be just soil, I have yet to find anything that isn't full of wood chips. Soil often leaches tannins but top soil, it just won't go away.

I have used a variety of potting soils, as long as they are good quality, you should be fine. Miracle Grow Organic Potting Mix is popular but I don't personally think it's anything special, underwater or in a pot, I have had luck with all sorts of stuff and usually use what I have on hand. Some recommend you stay away from stuff with fertilizer balls but I have never noticed a downside with that stuff either, though I have only used it once or twice and plenty add osmocoat anyway.


As for how long it lasts, there was a thread about mineralized top soil that was very explanative about how long nutrients lasted. Basically, some nutrients should last basically forever, or at least way longer than most would keep a tank up (10+ year examples were posted). Other nutrients need to be supplemented after some time.

In my own experience, I found that potting soil and a cap, not MTS, will do well with no fertilization for anywhere from one to three years. After that, I would add all ferts you would use in EI dosing, though maybe one EI dose per month. Basically, very little fertilization. Root tabs could likely supplement dosing the water column and using a something simple like Flourish Comprehensive worked fine for me as well. These were all low tech tanks however, my one attempt at a high tech dirted tank didn't come out well so I have yet to try again.

Also, unlike something like gravel, the tank won't just crash as nutrients get depleted because it is a much slower process. You may catch some nutrient deficiencies but you can wait months to deal with it or forget to fertilize for awhile with little issues. Imbalances don't happen super quickly. Once I found the light balance with my dirted tanks, I actually never got any real algae to speak of, from beginning to end. I actually don't love dirt tanks but I do love the simplicity of a low tech tank that you may not maintain as much as you would like.

-Matt

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 05:58 PM
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I would sift the soil or potting mix. My first tank that I dirted I used potting mix I believe and got some nasty fungus because of the wood chips. I'm trying out a different brand of soil this go around for a bowl to see if I get any better results. Definitely sift the dirt to get rid of all the "filler" the company uses to get more bang for their buck. You might be surprised how much garbage they put in to lessen the amount of actual soil.


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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-06-2015, 06:02 PM
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Yeah, the only algae I've seen in my tanks is staghorn. And that's because I'm having trouble with my regulator.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-10-2015, 05:57 AM Thread Starter
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Ok so my tanks been running for a few days now, and it has a yellow tinge to the water. I have been keeping up with daily 50% water changes to help with the excess nutrients. How long will the water keep this yellowish color?
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-10-2015, 05:24 PM
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Is the water clear or opaque?

If it's clear, the color could be from tannins in the wood chips in the soil. If that's the case I would keep up the water changes but it maybe awhile before your water is crystal clear.

If it's opaque, then you may be stirring up the dirt with the water changes. I sometimes place a small saucer in my smaller dirt tanks and then pour the water over the saucer. That prevents it for kicking up the cap and any dirt.


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Last edited by tuffgong; 10-10-2015 at 08:18 PM. Reason: clarification...
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-10-2015, 05:48 PM Thread Starter
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It's probably tannins then, because it's clear with a yellow tint.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-10-2015, 07:09 PM
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Unfortunately (or fortunately if you like the look), in my experience it takes a while for the water to clear, sometimes up to 3-4 months, but will slowly get better.

-Matt

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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-11-2015, 03:16 PM
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On the bright side, fish love it, so it's not terrible! But it does go away, with time.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-13-2015, 11:14 PM Thread Starter
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Is there anyway to avoid having the tannins? I would like to change my other betta tanks to dirted, but I don't want them to have all these tannins either. Also will I eventually have to dose liquid ferts?

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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 04:21 AM Thread Starter
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-23-2015, 06:35 PM
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Is there anyway to avoid having the tannins? I would like to change my other betta tanks to dirted, but I don't want them to have all these tannins either. Also will I eventually have to dose liquid ferts?
I hear that you can boil driftwood (and probably soil since I believe the tannins in there come from the wood pieces) to make the tannins leach out faster...otherwise it could take a while. Another option is just to do lots of big water changes initially to get rid of the tannins faster.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-23-2015, 07:29 PM
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I was reading that the Soil has cow manure in it and will cause water parameter problems where as the Mix only has cow manure traces and is less likely to cause that.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-23-2015, 08:25 PM
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Is there anyway to avoid having the tannins? I would like to change my other betta tanks to dirted, but I don't want them to have all these tannins either. Also will I eventually have to dose liquid ferts?
Some people use Purigen to get rid of tannins from driftwood.
Bettas like the tannins, but you're the one with the tank, so if you don't like it and it's there you won't be happy until it's gone.
Liquid ferts probably eventually, in a low tech tank my inclination would be to wait and see if it's needed at all. Could wait at least a year before the soil would be exhausted.

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