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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello Everyone,
This thread will serve as a journal for the process of changing my tank into a "Dirted" - Naturally planted tank

I used to be around here quite a bit back in the day, then unfortantly strayed to the "darkside" for reef keeping. I used to live in Kansas City but have now moved to Chicago. Shortly after moving here I was given a free 55g tank that I could not resist setting up as a planted tank. So I now have both a planted tank and a full reef setup.

This setup has been running for less then 2 months so its still in its infancy

Here are some low quality pictures.

Some Stats

Tank: 55g
Filtration: Fluval 405
Lighting: 2x48'' Standard output T5 and 4x24'' T5HO
Co2: Paintball Co2 setup injected in a Rex Grigg type reactor
Substrate: 35lbs of generic composted topsoil. 50lbs of Paver Step 1 base sand, 50lbs of Paver Step 2 finish sand.
Additives: At this point, no ferts added.
Maintenenance: 15 gallon water change per week.
Misc: Water used for this tank is RODI waste water. This has been ran through various carbon and mechanical filtration cannisters

Fish
4 mixed cory cats
2 Albino bristle nose pleco, 1 L333 Zebra Pleco
4 Otto's
8-9 Blood fin tetra
5-10 male fancy tail Guppies(inherited..not my choice!)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Shortly after these pictures were taken I decided to tear the tank down and "Dirt" the tank.

4 1/2 hours later and my tank is now officially a topsoil and sand tank.
I wont lie, I was very nervous to see how this would turn out. I am happy to say that my worries were unfounded and everything turned out exceptionally well.
All live stock and the majority of the plants are back in the tank and appear to be happy/healthy. Its still to cloudy to see very far into, but so far so good.

The first picture shows the soil and first layer of sand in place along with rock/wood for the hardscape.
The second picture shows the filling proccess
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
At this point when the following pictures were taken it has been nearly 24 hours since I tore this tank down and "dirted" it. The water is still extremely cloudy but you can now get a feel for what it will turn out like. Most of the plants were replanted in temporary places as I could not see what I was doing. Once this clears up I will move the plants around to try to get this tank back in line with a aquascape I will be pleased with
All fish are accounted for and there has been yet to be any casualties.

The pictures below show how cloudy the tank is and what the sand consistency looks like
 

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COOL!!!

I am thinking of doing the same thing to my 55g! It has a Fluorite substrate in it now, and it co2 injected, but after reading about of members posts on here on how simple the upkeep is for a dirt tank, I am thinking of trying it out too!!!

I will be keeping a eye in your setup to see how it is going! Looks GREAT so far, and I like the types of plants Ya have in there! What Fish Ya have?

Keep up the great work!
Drew
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Drew,
I will tell you, this took me a while to get enough guts to finally commit to doing. Now that its done, I am wondering why I have never done this in the past!
The most nerve racking time was when I initially started putting the sand on top of the soil. Some of the soil was seeping out of the sand and made me rather nervous. I let everything sit a little bit longer and then continued with success.

I was given this tank for free and with that inherited approximately 100 guppies. I have since liquidated that population down to 15-20 fancy males. I also have 2 albino bristle nose plecos, 1 L333 zebra pleco, 4 mixed cory cats, 4 otocinculus and 8 blood fin tetra's.
 

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:hihi: Welcome to the dirty side of tanking :hihi:
Once you get muddy you're never clean again LOL

With this being a fresh start and your post count so low this would be an awesome thread for entry into the currently running RAOK. A complete CO2 system give away that's open for entry right now here on the tank.

The details being added to a dirt thread help others as they follow you're thread either way.

How much of what was used in each layer, water parameters as things settle in etc. All the things we all deal with but few document in detail helps others understand what to expect. I logged everything in my first dirt thread.

Hope you join the contest and looks like a great start.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, I have been around for many years here but tend to stay rather quiet. I currently am running a Paintball Co2 system on this tank. I would love to have the RAOK system, but since I am already running the paintball setup I would by far rather see someone else win it and use it

I will start documenting the parameters and anything else notable in this thread
 

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My hats off to you regarding the RAOK, that way of thinking is lacking in many.
I let things get out of control with what most call 'normal' tanking having so many systems set up but really enjoying the hobby none of it seems to be work at this point. Staying quiet kinda ended after setting up the third tank LOL.

Thanks for adding the details as things mature on your system. I know from the PM's and comments I've received on the thread I started in April '09 that folks lean on these journals for information so the effort can and does help others.

and again welcome back :smile:
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Alright here is my 48 hour update
I Came home today to a much clearer tank. All fish are still accounted for and all plants have stayed in tact as of today. I continued the 20 % a day water change and this greatly improved the visibility inside the tank.

I did not mention this in the past but I did not rinse-minerilize my top soil before placing it in the tank. I used a generic branded 100% Organic composte-topsoil designed for new plants. I placed 30lbs of top soil dry into the aquarium. I then wetted it and let it settle for 30 minutes. I then continued to place a mixture of 50lbs paver sand step 1 and 50lbs of paver sand step 2. This combination gave me a mixture of non-uniformity and mixes of coloration. I then continued to fill the tank with straight rodi water

My current params before the water change are as follows
Ph 7.6
Ammonia 5
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 35

My water changes have been done with RODI water to minimize excess nutrients introduced into the system. I also restarted CO2 injection to help lower the ph closer to 6.8-7.0.
I also replaced all filter media in my Fluval 405 and added 3 cups of carbon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Here some updated photos from today. All plants are doing well, not casualties of fish/plants. Still fighting some of the settling sand, but its getting better and better.

Ammonia and Nitrites have dropped to nearly Zero and the ph is holding solid at 7.2

FTS


Left Side


Right Side


Center, showing some of the dust buildup
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I did a planted tank many years ago with a fine sand. Everything seemed to root very well and grew well also.

Makes me wonder about using some of the specialized plant substrate, sand and dirt together.
I have used the expensive-name brand substrates with mixed results. This is my first ever sand substrate tank that I have ever kept outside of reef tanks. So far, in the short period of time I have had this setup the plant/root growth has already surpassed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
What bubble per second do you use on your co2 and about how long does a tank last you? Sweet lookin tank though!
Thanks, I am currently running between 2-3 BPS. I have had this 20oz Co2 tank for over 2 months now and its still reading well over the full range on my gauge
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Here's a quick update.
Got a few new plants and re-arranged a few things. No signs of nutrient deficiencies at this point, however I am starting to see BBA sprout up.


Here are some quick cell phone low quality pics
 

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