New Dirted Tank...Rotten Egg Smell :( - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 04:20 PM Thread Starter
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New Dirted Tank...Rotten Egg Smell :(

Hey guys, I recently changed my 37 gallon substrate from plain gravel to dirt with a silica sand cap. As the day's have been going by the situation is getting worse and worse so I thought i'd get some external advice here. I followed the directions from Dustinsfishtanks to a T in detail and still i'm having bubbles coming from the substrate which smell like rotten eggs. It's even managed to turn some of the roots on my plants completely black and even turned the sand black/brown. I don't know what the hell I should do at this point, I'm pretty much ready to just throw the whole thing in the garbage.

Also, I have been pressing the substrate daily and doing water changes in order to help release some of the built up gasses. But it really doesn't seem to be helping at all.

Any help would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 04:25 PM
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It sounds like hydrogen sulfide bubbles. I had a similar problem before I added plants or fish. I just moved the soil everyday until it I got all the bubbles out and it went away after a while.

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 05:03 PM
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Totally normal, and no big deal. Poking the substrate all over with a skewer on a daily basis can cut down on the "eruption" effect.

Best solution is lots of plants. My tank with a DHG carpet had really minimal bubbling. The roots will take care of it, so the more roots you have, the fewer bubbles.

I have had the best luck with a 1" dirt layer and a 1" cap. The lighter in color your cap is,
the more visible the inevitable bits of soil are that get loose. It's just a part of dirted tanks. You can use a turkey baster to try and get all the darker bits up.

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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-03-2013, 05:43 PM
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Well, I think you did a search on the message board, you would quickly realize why sand isn't ideal. They are too fine and would further exacerbate the anaerobic condition of the soil. White sand don't mix well with black dirt. I have just converted 2 of my tanks to dirt. I do get these bubbles but nowhere they are causing my plants to die at all. If the pressure is enough, the substrate would kind of breathe by itself. I poke my substrate every other day too. In your case, depending on how you mixed your dirt, you may need to wait few months before the anaerobic condition in the soil is no longer an issue. I screened out ALL larger chunks until I am getting a fine texture in the dirt. I then presoaked it for 3 days, before putting them in my tank. I am also using the Miracle Grow Organic Garden Soil with manure....not the potting mix.


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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-04-2013, 12:16 PM
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The tan or light brown color developing would be diatoms (algae) is my guess. You'll see it on plants and the glass too. It passes with time. Very common with new starts. It's not the easiest with the information available to answer but the grain of the sand looks to be fine. White sand will work but it's hard to keep a clean appearance.

I've read through your recent posts here on TPT in other threads but don't have a clue what is recommended on Dustinsfishtanks, visited that site once for less than 15 minutes and left.

This post will be nothing but questions. What was the actual flood date for the tank? What do know about the water you use for the tank? What dirt, potting mix or soil did you use?
A full tank picture would aid in seeing how many plants you have in place. (Listing them wouldn't hurt)

The first picture has the capping layer looking like about 1/2" at the front glass. Not too thick for the gas exchange but over time you may need more so you can add some maintaining it as the upper layers mixes which is normal. How thick is the soil layer?

Rather than pressing down on all the cap material compressing it I suggest simply looking at the tank. Look at the surface of the substrate for mounding or hills developing where it was flat the day before. Use planting tweezers or a meat fork, chop stick, straight wire, (whatever) just something to poke through the cap allowing the bubbles to release. All this will pass given a chance. I've had a few stems go black and just topped the plants and put them right back in.

Test the water if you haven't (it's not mentioned).

Rather than talk to you about the worry and hype voodoo regarding anaerobic conditions and smells like rotten eggs or hydrogen sulfide bubbles I'll just provide this link.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume...e_7_1/dsb.html

Two (imo) HUGE considerations doing this.

Remember PLZ that while natural tanks (dirt base) and seeded filters can be stocked from day one go lightly with your first stocking list. Dirt goes through changes going from dry to saturated (submerged) and the rate of break down on the organics changes too. Sometimes it can be more than the tank and fish can handle.

Whether you want to or not test your water. Daily the first couple weeks and for the first two months every couple of days. Be ready to change water if the soil burps ugly readings into the water (it can happen). You might have tanks like mine that run straight through the issues quickly and are trouble free from then on. Lots of plants (including floaters), no hard scape to trap the soil gases, control the light (a big key to dodging algae), watch things and let the tank settle (just a month maybe two). The capping material needs to be small enough to contain the soil yet allow the gas exchange to occur. The sand should work and has for others.

That's the first trade off, attention starting out, more or less high maintenance in the beginning., Things can get busy if a bump in water parameters occurs. All the organic material and the bacteria that chew through it do give you free CO2 for a period of time. Gotta love that.

The second major trade off you make is that rooted plants are there to stay. Removing plants with a good root structure is a HUGE PITA. I had an Amazon Sword that had to go because I placed it wrong when it was small. Cutting around the root ball directly under it I killed the plant taking it out and left all the root runners in place. Thinning a field of crypts means a water change and repairing the cap (adding more cap material). Soil tanks are best as a set it and forget it type of tanking (imo). If you like to change things around, re-scape, swap out plants then NPT is not for you. If you want to top off the tank when the water gets low, trim to make room for the fish to swim and not dose for months it might be what your looking for.


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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-04-2013, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
The tan or light brown color developing would be diatoms (algae) is my guess. You'll see it on plants and the glass too. It passes with time. Very common with new starts. It's not the easiest with the information available to answer but the grain of the sand looks to be fine. White sand will work but it's hard to keep a clean appearance.

I've read through your recent posts here on TPT in other threads but don't have a clue what is recommended on Dustinsfishtanks, visited that site once for less than 15 minutes and left.

This post will be nothing but questions. What was the actual flood date for the tank? What do know about the water you use for the tank? What dirt, potting mix or soil did you use?
A full tank picture would aid in seeing how many plants you have in place. (Listing them wouldn't hurt)

The first picture has the capping layer looking like about 1/2" at the front glass. Not too thick for the gas exchange but over time you may need more so you can add some maintaining it as the upper layers mixes which is normal. How thick is the soil layer?

Rather than pressing down on all the cap material compressing it I suggest simply looking at the tank. Look at the surface of the substrate for mounding or hills developing where it was flat the day before. Use planting tweezers or a meat fork, chop stick, straight wire, (whatever) just something to poke through the cap allowing the bubbles to release. All this will pass given a chance. I've had a few stems go black and just topped the plants and put them right back in.

Test the water if you haven't (it's not mentioned).

Rather than talk to you about the worry and hype voodoo regarding anaerobic conditions and smells like rotten eggs or hydrogen sulfide bubbles I'll just provide this link.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume...e_7_1/dsb.html

Two (imo) HUGE considerations doing this.

Remember PLZ that while natural tanks (dirt base) and seeded filters can be stocked from day one go lightly with your first stocking list. Dirt goes through changes going from dry to saturated (submerged) and the rate of break down on the organics changes too. Sometimes it can be more than the tank and fish can handle.

Whether you want to or not test your water. Daily the first couple weeks and for the first two months every couple of days. Be ready to change water if the soil burps ugly readings into the water (it can happen). You might have tanks like mine that run straight through the issues quickly and are trouble free from then on. Lots of plants (including floaters), no hard scape to trap the soil gases, control the light (a big key to dodging algae), watch things and let the tank settle (just a month maybe two). The capping material needs to be small enough to contain the soil yet allow the gas exchange to occur. The sand should work and has for others.

That's the first trade off, attention starting out, more or less high maintenance in the beginning., Things can get busy if a bump in water parameters occurs. All the organic material and the bacteria that chew through it do give you free CO2 for a period of time. Gotta love that.

The second major trade off you make is that rooted plants are there to stay. Removing plants with a good root structure is a HUGE PITA. I had an Amazon Sword that had to go because I placed it wrong when it was small. Cutting around the root ball directly under it I killed the plant taking it out and left all the root runners in place. Thinning a field of crypts means a water change and repairing the cap (adding more cap material). Soil tanks are best as a set it and forget it type of tanking (imo). If you like to change things around, re-scape, swap out plants then NPT is not for you. If you want to top off the tank when the water gets low, trim to make room for the fish to swim and not dose for months it might be what your looking for.
Thank you for such a detailed response. I guess i'll begin with getting started by telling you the method in which I did and all that other information.

It's a 37 gallon tall tank with a HOB filter and very small marineland LED light. The tank previously houses piranha's but after removing the substrate and cleaning the tank in the shower i began the dirt process. I started the tank approximately 1 week ago today, last sunday July 28th with 1 bag of Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Soil and 30 pounds of white silica sand (white was my only choice, PFS was not available). I flooded the tank on Monday July 29th after purchasing the silica sand in the morning. By the afternoon the tank was flooded and i began planting.

The plants I included I made sure to be root plants, Crypt Wendtii Green, A.Rosefolia, Moneywort, Cabomba, Eleoda Canadensis, Amazon Sword & then 3 miscellaneous stem plants my friend gave me.

In terms of that water this is the only information I know about it "Toronto water has a neutral Ph 7.0 and hardiness "Toronto's water hardness is usually between 106 to 127 parts per million (the average for 2009 was 120 milligram/litre or 8.4 grains/imperial gallon)."

Everyday I try and do a water change after I gas the substrate but I feel like this really isn't doing anything for it, I see no noticeable difference the next day or anything. I tell you I really do dread ever following dustinsfishtank guide to setting up my tank, It's really not worth having a rotten egg smelling tank for the results you'll get from the plants. I'm going to give the tank a month to cycle or whatever but if it's just going to continue after that I'm going to tear down the damn thing, it's nothing but a pain in the ass and it's killing my plants.

I also removed the little hill i had in the corner and completely flattened out the substrate. The 1 bag of potting soil is roughly an inch or inch and a quarter high and there is a 1 inch sand cap but sometimes looks less due to moving the substrate around.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-04-2013, 11:47 PM
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I would bet your light isn't helping. Any PAR numbers available?

Just plant a lot of stems and some carpeting plants, and it will quit.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-05-2013, 12:18 AM
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I can't add much other than to second wkndracer's comments. Well put.

I will add an alternative to manual prodding: MTS. In my dirted tank capped with sand I rarely saw any bubbles. About the only times were when I was rearranging things (which, as mentioned, isn't easy when things get established). They are a bit limited by the dirt and aren't able to dive as deep but once you get roots that shouldn't be much of an issue anyways (which again will be a major PITA if you want to rescape).
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-09-2013, 06:03 PM
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I just converted two tanks to dirt and I agree with everything that has been said. Initially I had the same concerns. I expected some bubbling and hydrogen sulfide production but I was surprised with the volume.

The smell will go away. The only thing I did differently was that I use gravel as a cap. My tank burped pretty well on its own but i did poke it with some tweezers pretty regularly for the first couple weeks. Maybe the sand is holding back the gasses a bit more.

I learned about the concept of a NPT after hearing Diana Walstad give an interview and then reading her book. I seem to remember that she prefers not to use sand as a cap because its a little harder to stabilize.

Give it some time and keep doing what you are doing. It will work its self out.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-10-2013, 12:42 AM
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Trumpet snails will help, they will burrow into the substrate and help release the gas, and plants with good root structures will help loads as well, you soil/cap ratio is a bit off but yeah i have heard all different sorts of ratios usually its 2 to 1 so 2 inches of soil to one inch of cap in your case 1 inch to 1/2 inch of cap would be ideal, but even I do not go by this rule and it really depends on what you are capping with, I either use gravel or black diamond sad eco complete something like that I have been trying it all
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-10-2013, 01:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tetra73 View Post
Well, I think you did a search on the message board, you would quickly realize why sand isn't ideal. They are too fine and would further exacerbate the anaerobic condition of the soil. White sand don't mix well with black dirt. I have just converted 2 of my tanks to dirt. I do get these bubbles but nowhere they are causing my plants to die at all. If the pressure is enough, the substrate would kind of breathe by itself. I poke my substrate every other day too. In your case, depending on how you mixed your dirt, you may need to wait few months before the anaerobic condition in the soil is no longer an issue. I screened out ALL larger chunks until I am getting a fine texture in the dirt. I then presoaked it for 3 days, before putting them in my tank. I am also using the Miracle Grow Organic Garden Soil with manure....not the potting mix.
Absolutely wrong & incorrect !!!

If you look a my Toxic Ten thread you may learn something. Just because people "parrot" the same non-sence on forum after forum does not make it true.

Also, there is no reason to soak dirt for days, once it is saturated it can't hold amy more water. Long soaks are just a waste of time. Soak the dirt pour off the floaters & foam repeat if needed...Done.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-24-2013, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TorontoPlantMan View Post
Everyday I try and do a water change after I gas the substrate but I feel like this really isn't doing anything for it, I see no noticeable difference the next day or anything. I tell you I really do dread ever following dustinsfishtank guide to setting up my tank, It's really not worth having a rotten egg smelling tank for the results you'll get from the plants. I'm going to give the tank a month to cycle or whatever but if it's just going to continue after that I'm going to tear down the damn thing, it's nothing but a pain in the ass and it's killing my plants.

I also removed the little hill i had in the corner and completely flattened out the substrate. The 1 bag of potting soil is roughly an inch or inch and a quarter high and there is a 1 inch sand cap but sometimes looks less due to moving the substrate around.
Sorry for not getting back to your thread until today, honesty slipped my mind to check back. The depth of each layer is well within what should work without major issues. After about two weeks wet plant growth should start to really take off. Thoughts to follow,

Silica based sand is known to aggravate folks by increasing diatoms early on but it will pass with time. All new tanks go through this phase and with the sand it can be slightly more,,, challenging.

You have a great plant list but betting as mentioned the light isn't strong enough. Light provides the needed energy to get things growing.

Total water hardness between 106 to 127ppm with a neutral pH of 7.0 is very soft and I'm completely jealous! I run my well water through 7 stages of filtration before using it. That said Calcium and Magnesium might be too low. Any LFS close by that could test GH and KH to better define the 106-127ppm? I tank what I consider minimum hardness levels or 'soft water' tanks. The average mineral values here being 5dGH, 2dKH which equates to a TDS of 126ppm. That is with nothing added to my purified RO water but a packaged GH booster and baking soda. My actual tank values when tested are much higher with TDS values ranging from 155-195 or even higher right after a water change.

I'm thinking more light, more minerals if found to be lacking via a more detailed testing. And things should improve.
This link is to my first ever dirt tank and it had a few fun moments and I posted the details.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/sh...6457&highlight=

Hope things turn around for you and believe things will get better.


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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-24-2013, 10:19 PM
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Absolutely wrong & incorrect !!!

If you look a my Toxic Ten thread you may learn something. Just because people "parrot" the same non-sence on forum after forum does not make it true.

Also, there is no reason to soak dirt for days, once it is saturated it can't hold amy more water. Long soaks are just a waste of time. Soak the dirt pour off the floaters & foam repeat if needed...Done.

Well, to each their own... Wrong or not....my tanks are doing great. Tank got crystal clear within 3 days. No excessive organic contents or sudden spike in the organic loads causing fish deaths. Fish were put back in my tank within 3 days, until the water was crystal clear. Substrates never got dirty from the dirt, like white sand.

Green water algae? Saw none. Fish are dying because of excessive organic contents? None. In fact, NO3 was too LOW the first few days. I don't even get diatom algae at all....


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