Can I add dirt to an already established tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
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Can I add dirt to an already established tank

I have a 20 gallon aquarium with 5 plants and 6 serpae tetras. I am using root tabs right now but they are to expensive and I want to switch to dirt. But the problem is I only have a bucket to put my fish in while I add the dirt to the aquarium and most people say you should leave the fish out for atleast a week after adding the dirt, but would it hurt the fish to add them back in right after I added the dirt
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 12:25 AM
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If you're getting the API root tabs, then, I suggest you don't because yes, I agree they're expensive, but you can find sellers on here that make their own and it is a lot cheaper than the ones that you buy. What kind of dirt is it? Did it come from the yard? Did you bake it to get rid of any bad bacteria, etc? Dirt will need to be capped. You may be to re-cycle but I don't use dirt, so don't trust my judgment on this. Good luck!
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 01:00 AM
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Originally Posted by kelsey1 View Post
I have a 20 gallon aquarium with 5 plants and 6 serpae tetras. I am using root tabs right now but they are to expensive and I want to switch to dirt. But the problem is I only have a bucket to put my fish in while I add the dirt to the aquarium and most people say you should leave the fish out for atleast a week after adding the dirt, but would it hurt the fish to add them back in right after I added the dirt
Will it hurt the fish, I would say most definitely. You will have ammonia spikes after adding the dirt and will need to do big water changes preferably daily. The fish will be fine in a bucket provided the have a heater and aeration.

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 01:23 AM Thread Starter
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how long do I leave the fish out of the tank
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 01:28 AM
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I'd say close to a week on the high side. As mentioned above though you can make your own root tabs on the cheap. Some 00 gel tabs and a bottle of osmocote+ and you'll have hundreds for about $20.

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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 02:54 AM
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Making your own root tabs from Osmocote+ filled gel caps is way cheaper and will last a long time. About $10 will make you several hundred root tabs and many people here use them with great success, including myself.

I hope you plan on draining your tank because if you try to add dirt to a tank of water, well, you end up with mud and it will never settle and destroy your filters. You didn't mention draining the tank so I thought I'd mention it. I'm sure you are draining the tank.

Your fish can live for years in that bucket if it's heated and filtered with no problems at all. Think of it as a 5 gallon Betta cup with a filter and a heater.

Also make sure to cap your dirt well.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-02-2016, 05:33 AM
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Your fish can live for years in that bucket if it's heated and filtered with no problems at all. Think of it as a 5 gallon Betta cup with a filter and a heater.
Unless the filter came from an established tank, there will be no BB to handle the ammonia the fish will generate and they could perish in a bucket in 24 hours or less!!! The only way this might not happen is if the water becomes acidic enough so the ammonia is converted to ammonium...but use caution and ensure your holding container has sufficient beneficial bacteria.

And since you'll be draining the tank for a substrate w/dirt, you might as well refill with fresh water (making the 'established tank' question moot).
Note: An exception might be if you had not been doing routine water changes and your fish had adjusted to poor water conditions - then you might want to do several small water changes before doing the whole project.

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