Re-Using Dirt? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2014, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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Re-Using Dirt?

So I just moved into a new house which means I had to break down and move three tanks. The largest is a 72 gallon bowfront that was dirted. The fish from that tank are in their new temporary home which is now a bare bottom 55 gallon.

When I first set up the 72 gallon I used dirt capped with pool filter sand and then some gravel on top of all that. When moving that tank I emptied the water and then tried to "skim" the top layer of sand and gravel out. What a mess!

Anyway I now have a 5 gallon bucket filled with a mixture of some dirt and sand (and probably a few dozen MTS) with some gravel and in the bottom of the 72 gallon tank is another 5+ gallons or so of more dirt/sand mixed.

What should I do when I go to set the 72 gallon back up? Do I somehow try to re-use the substrate? Should I even bother attempting to keep skimming off sand and separate it from the dirt? Is there any hope of doing so?

Or am I over-thinking the whole thing and maybe should just start fresh with new dirt capped by new pool filter sand? If I go that route I know I can sift out the gravel that I previously had in the tank and cap my new substrate with that?

Thoughts, comments, advice appreciated!
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2014, 05:44 PM
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I'd use what you have and recap it.

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2014, 10:01 PM
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Smile Can't See Getting Rid Of It...

I almost hate to admit this, but, once-upon-a-time I kept substrate for several months in a 56-quart Sterilite® storage box. It wasn’t dirt but it was rich with so many critters living in it I couldn’t bear getting rid of it.

I put a hang-on-back filter on it, added a few fish along the way and even stuck a few homeless plants in the thing worked well, sat out on the back porch. When I finally had a tank in it went, the whole thing went well.

I suspect the only real problems would be letting it stagnate, having areas go anaerobic.

Keep it wet and keep it stirred and I do not think you will have problem.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-03-2014, 11:45 PM
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If it were me, I'd add a fine layer of fresh soil on the bottom to 'boost' the old dirt, then sift out the snails and sand (if possible) and re-use the old dirt. If you were able to sift out the sand, I'd rinse it in de-chlorinated water to save the bacteria and mix with fresh sand if needed and re-use. Add snails back. Besides adding bio filtration, the bacterial coating on the used sand will also settle the sand grains...stop them and any finer mulm from floating into the water column.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-04-2014, 03:38 AM
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The top layer (gravel) will have the most microorganisms. I would sift to save the gravel to put back on top, and do not wait too long. Add the gravel to the bare bottom the fish are in now. This will keep the bacteria alive while you work on the main tank.

Go ahead and use the soil-sand blend as substrate in the main tank. You might want to dust the bottom of the tank with osmocote, other root tabs, or some minerals, if you thought there were any problems getting started with the old set up. The plants may have removed from the soil most of the nutrients.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-04-2014, 10:51 PM
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I tore down a dirted tank about a year back. I spread the dirt/flourite mix over a few buckets/bins, so it was only about an 1" or two thick, and let it dry out.

Whenever I did a water change (new setup), I'd pour the water into one of the bins, stir it up good with a spoon, and then pour off the water and floaties.

It took several cycles, but eventually I got pretty much clean flourite.

I imagine it would work with sand as well, but it will probably take more cycles.
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