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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I decided to take the time to establish a few guidelines for hobbyist using the Dry Start Method. I will attempt to not create a novel here. I've successfully dry started/flooded Micranthemum Monte Carlo. This was a 10 week dry start using ADA Aqua-soil, in a 40 LONG. I've dry started in multiple tanks, and I have multiple containers full of MC that I keep for.... absolutely no reason. The advice below is purely from my experience, hours of research, failure and persistence. Hope this helps... enjoy!
If you clicked on this, then you are already aware of the DSM.

First and foremost, do Not cheap out on substrate. There are literally dozens of posts of hobbyist using inert substrates, but you don't often see the final product. There is a reason for this. I will get into why later in this post. I prefer ADA Aqua soil. Use a soil that can supply the plant/root with nutrients on its own.

Use a quality "carpeting" plant. Micranthemum Monte Carlo, HC, etc. Use tissue cultures. The reasoning for tissue cultures is simple. Tissue cultures are prepared, sealed, and grown in a closed environment. TC's greatly reduces the chance of bacteria/mold growth. Mold is the enemy that we must prevent from gathering/evolving/destroying your plants. When you receive your TC's you must inspect them to ensure there is no growth of bacteria/mold, no die off, and no deficiencies. Do not dry start with unhealthy plants.

Sterile/clean as can be! So you have your substrate which is hopefully not saturated and being used as a mold farm. You have the sealed tissue culture plants. Obviously, you cleaned the tank with H202. You've made the setting as sterile as possible in an unsterile environment. When you do anything on your DSM tank, you wash your hands. You sterilize your equipment. You do not introduce any additional bacteria to our tank, and you definitely don't handle your plants with unwashed hands. Please take this seriously, we all have mold in our homes, in our bathroom, on our house plants, do your best to not bring any into your DSM.

Prepare the plants! Our expensive tissue culture plants are going to be introduced to a new climate/environment. This can be a time sensitive project. Separate the plants carefully. The smaller you separate, the faster the carpeting will take place. Please refer to other videos and guides for separating, if you are unaware of how to do so. Preferably, place the trimmings on a sheet of cardboard or paper towels. Mist the trimmings as you wait to plant. You do not want to keep the trimmings in the household climate for long periods. Depending on the size of your DSM, you may need assistance or you may need to do it in sections. I try to get the planting done within an hour.

Plant! Mist the soil, DO NOT SATURATE. There is no point in "filling" the tank an inch below the substrate line. You don't need a collection of water anywhere in the DSM. A general rule is to mist the soil until the top layer remains moist/dark. If the top layer of soil is darkened by the moisture you have introduced, then there is more than enough moisture for your rooting plants. Preferably, you want the top layer of soil to remain nearly dry and the soil underneath to contain moisture. There is absolutely no need to push/shove/insert/plant rooting plants into the soil. This is an unnecessary step that not only takes time, but it also damages the tiny roots that you just took time to carefully separate. This is not to say you should just throw trimmings on top of each other. Simply plant in a grid like form, 1cm apart, and cover the tank. Lay the trimming on the soil. You will later force the roots down into the soil using water and gravity. There are many different DSM journals online you may refer to regarding plant trimmings. Personally, I like to do a 1-1.5 inch long (2.5cm-3.8cm) trimming of the plant. Spray the plants(once), rather lightly, utilizing gravity to pull those roots down to the soil.

Controlled Humidity! So you misted the soil to a darkened state, you planted(placed) your plant trimmings onto the soil, and now you have to create an environment where the plant can thrive WITHOUT allowing those mold spores to grow into a true monster in our DSM. Cover the tank with plastic wrap(kitchen wrap). Depending on the size of the tank, you must create openings in the wrap to allow air exchange. I start with 10% of the tank opened(usually a section along the rear of the tank). Please spend the 8.00 USD to get a hygrometer from Amazon. We want anywhere from 85-90% humidity. Perhaps as important, we need some type of airflow in our DSM(usually accomplished with the opening in the rear of the tank). Without a break in humidity, and no air flow to keep those leaves dry, mold will surface. You are working with an unsterile environment, you need air flow, and you need to keep those leaves dry as much as possible. 68-75 degrees F is adequate for the DSM(tested with MC).

DO NOT SPRAY! AND DON'T SPRAY FERTS. In fact, don't spray at all. There is absolutely no need(outside the initial spray to use gravity and pull those roots toward the soil), to spray plants in your DSM, ever. If you notice your soil is too dry, you grab the spray bottle(fresh RO water), and you "squirt" a stream of water around your plants and directly into the soil. Spraying H20 on your plants in a humid environment allows the water to sit on the leaves.<-- This is BAD. This is a Dry Start. Plants like MC or HC NEVER need their leaves wet. They are constantly shooting roots down into the soil in search of nutrients/water. Just like your shower, sitting water on a surface(your leaves), in humidity, equals mold growth. It should be quite clear as to why "spraying" fertilizers in your DSM is a bad idea, but lets dig deeper. If you refer to the "popular" fertilizer directions, you will notice that there is information regarding mold in their liquid fertilizers. In a flooded tank this is not an issue, but in a DSM this is huge. Outside of the mold issue with fertilizers and spraying, spraying ferts on your leaves can result in burns, discoloration, and death. Carpeting plants can turn quickly when they are not happy, and they tend to go down as a group. Don't spray, and for the love and time of this adventure, buy a quality substrate and don't spray fertilizers.

Time! MC and HC will begin rooting almost immediately(when happy). Within a week, the roots will begin to take hold of the soil. You should notice roots digging through the soil. Plants will begin to spread. At the beginning it may be hard to notice without pictures to compare. Some slight die off may occur. Die off is a result of weak plants, the transition, drying out, and deficiencies. Within a couple of weeks, you should have obvious growth. Do not flood before 5 weeks. Check the bottom/sides of tank for progress. The longer you dry start the better.

Mold! Mold spores are going to be present in your DSM. There is no preventing that. Try your best to not introduce bacteria/mature mold into our tank. If you keep the humidity in check(85%), leave the top layer of soil nearly dry, the bottom barely moist, do not spray, do not spray ferts, and allow airflow in the tank then you will not see mold. Most dry starts fail with mold because of the urge to spray. MC and HC don't need to be wet, the top layer of soil should NEVER appear saturated, leaves should always be dry, and there is absolutely no need to have any amount of water collected on the bottom of your DSM. *****Keep some dry soil next to your DSM for comparison. Note the color difference, and simply keep the soil in your DSM darker than the dry soil. ***** Follow this rule, provide the setting, you will carpet. If mold surfaces in a white fuzz state, flood the tank. I've intentionally grown mold to combat it with h202 with horrifying results. There are two outcomes in my experience, the mold endures and obliterates the plant, or I up the h202 and kill the mold along with the plant. When in doubt, flood.

Once flooded, allow a week for the plant to settle into it's new environment before trimming down. Begin EI dosing, or half EI dosing depending on your plant mass. If you waited it out, and have a full carpet, EI DOSE that tank all day. Use c02, looking for that bright lime green into yellow on the drop checker. Currently dosing macros every other day, micros every other day, rotating. Monday/macro, Tuesday/micro, Wednesday/macro and so on. Liquids will suffice for smaller setups(cost).

MC tends to transition into the flooded setting better than HC. On my current DSM, I trimmed the MC on the first day. I currently trim every 3 days with unbelievable growth.

Cycling/advantages of DSM. When using a substrate similar to Aqua soil, bacteria will colonize to an extent. When flooding this particular tank I read 0 Ammonia at the beginning up until now. Mind you this is also in great part due to the massive plant mass. After a few days of reading 0 ammonia, I did stop changing against ADA instructions. I tested daily, however, if you do not have the time or can't test then I would recommend following ADA's instructions regarding water changes. Note- I did receive immediate nitrate readings indicating the tank was cycled(0 ammonia-0 nitrite). After a few initial water changes the discolored water consistent with Aqua Soil startup went away. I did change around 80 percent of the water during the first two days. Important- Never drain tank below the substrate line(this will muddy the water for weeks). 1 single 50% change a week following the EI method.
As you can see in the imagery, once flooded get that flow going. Powerhead located directly over the C02 diffuser. Removing debris off the MC or HC, spreading nutrients, and getting debris to that filter is imperative to the transition. This tank currently has near 1500 GPH of flow going.
Also, when banking a slope in a tank that would be otherwise impossible, the DSM secures substrate in the tank with roots firmly holding your slopes. This would not be possible with normal submerged planting. This is huge for me. On the tank featured here, the slope at its highest goes from 1" to 7" over a 12" span/width. Note- this has not moved in the slightest with 1500gph in flow.

It should be stated that besides minor diatoms on the hardscape, I have ZERO algae.

Quick tips: Sterile as can be. Aqua Soil. Dry start, not saturated start. 85% Humidity. Airflow. Small trimmings(as your patience allows). No misting of the plants. Mature mold day means happy flood day. Minimal room climate exposure. 68-75 F ambient temperature. Place not plant. Patience, 5 weeks or more... Resist. Monitor!

Please take note of the directions above. Feel free to comment, post, or direct message me if you're having any issues or confusion. I hope this helps!

Image 1- 2 weeks in DSM
Image 2- Around 9 weeks In
Image 3- Flood day
Image 4/5- Trimmed down(2weeks after flood)

Once again, this is advice based on my experience, research, failure and success. I do not intend to step on other's methods, disrespect, or insult any other information available.

Chhr05
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Update: Well, the growth has been out of control. The MC triples in height every week, and that is truly not an exaggeration. This has become a little bit of a nuisance, as it needs to be trimmed weekly to keep the bottom from getting shaded out. Trimming takes well over an hour. Some diatoms on hardscape but otherwise still algae free. It is in near perfect health overall.

Light is on for 5 hours 45 minutes a day, but to be honest I'm thinking of cutting it down to 4 hours to help slow down the growth of the MC.

Does anyone have experience/knowledge regarding 4 hour light periods? I will continue to trim if 4 hours is not enough I just don't wish to spend near 2 hours weekly trimming MC.
Also, any way this guide can get a sticky? Would really love for it to be viewed more conveniently for people doing the DSM.

Thanks for any feedback on the guide. Thanks for answers to the above two questions.

I will post additional pictures if anyone has anything specific they wish to see

I will be ordering some Lily pies and a black or white background as well as an inline heater. Suggestions on color welcome.

Oh ALSO! Stocking ideas please! I have two Amanos and 20 healthy ember tetras to be transported soon.

Thanks again for any feedback.

Chhr05
 

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Quick tips: Sterile as can be. Aqua Soil. Dry start, not saturated start. 85% Humidity. Airflow. Small trimmings(as your patience allows). No misting of the plants. Mature mold day means happy flood day. Minimal room climate exposure. 68-75 F ambient temperature. Place not plant. Patience, 5 weeks or more... Resist. Monitor!

Please take note of the directions above. Feel free to comment, post, or direct message me if you're having any issues or confusion. I hope this helps!

Image 1- 2 weeks in DSM
Image 2- Around 9 weeks In
Image 3- Flood day
Image 4/5- Trimmed down(2weeks after flood)

Once again, this is advice based on my experience, research, failure and success. I do not intend to step on other's methods, disrespect, or insult any other information available.

Chhr05[/QUOTE]

Awesome tank man great job on the carpet!!

I'm about to follow this same dry start method for a Monte Carlo carpet in my 15 gallon.
I wanted to asked.. How do you think the MC would do if I did the DSM like this then flood with co2 and regular dosing for a month or so while they transition, if I lean off the co2 and lower the light intensity a bit to eventually take out co2 completely and just do light dosing with medium lighting? Could that be an option to grow a carpet first then keep it slow growing and low tech from there once it has fully established??

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hey Fiji,

Well DSM will absolutely help you get to the point of a fully rooted carpet. That on top of c02 and fertilization will only further their stability. As for withdrawing to a med or low light and non c02... I like the idea, it should be fine as long as you get the balance correct after withdrawing c02. I'd approach it with very limited light after c02 withdraw and increase it from there. I have MC that I took c02 away from in a 12 gallon long and while it seems extremely limited on growth, it survives through everything. I rarely fertilize, have the light on for 5 hours, rarely change water and have neglected maintenance. MC is quite strong, tends to hold on for dear life as long as it is rooted well. I think you will be fine.
I'm interested in what you experience, let me know when you get it done!
Also- Mc transitions in a split second with c02 and ferts. In fact, it takes off almost immediately. MC **does not transition well from flooded to dry** If you do really small strands from the start and achieve a full carpet during the DSM, I don't think there is a need to start c02 when flooded. Just watch that photo period.

Chhr05
 

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First and foremost, do Not cheap out on substrate. There are literally dozens of posts of hobbyist using inert substrates, but you don't often see the final product. There is a reason for this. I will get into why later in this post. I prefer ADA Aqua soil. Use a soil that can supply the plant/root with nutrients on its own.
Thank you Chhr05 for an amazing post! I plan to start a DSM tank in the next couple of weeks and this post has been incredibly helpful.

Quick question on the substrate. I was planning to use Eco-Complete, but could easily be convinced to try the ADA Aqua Soil. I have read that some people recommend rinsing the ADA Aqua Soil prior to use. Any thoughts on that?

Cheers!
Mighty Quinn
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Hey MightyQuinn,

Eco Complete is going to need fertilizer in a DSM environment. I'd strongly recommend you choose a substrate that contains what you need, aka Aqua Soil. While not impossible, spraying fertilizers usually results in a poor outcome. Aqua soil contains everything you need, it will start the bacteria cycle, and it will give you a much better shot at a successful DSM into a flooded transition. Spraying fertilizer can result in mold formation way too easily. Aqua soil is near a necessity.

Get aqua soil, resist the flood, aim for as long as possible, and you'll be set. You'll have a dense, establish carpet. The cycle will have started, and you will not see an ammonia spike. As you know, this greatly reduces the chance of an algae bloom.

No, do not rinse aqua soil.

Thanks for the feedback on the post. I felt DSM was really difficult to understand by reading the minimal/scattered information available out there. Glad I could help.

Let me know how it turns out!

Chhr05
 

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Hey Fiji,

Well DSM will absolutely help you get to the point of a fully rooted carpet. That on top of c02 and fertilization will only further their stability. As for withdrawing to a med or low light and non c02... I like the idea, it should be fine as long as you get the balance correct after withdrawing c02. I'd approach it with very limited light after c02 withdraw and increase it from there. I have MC that I took c02 away from in a 12 gallon long and while it seems extremely limited on growth, it survives through everything. I rarely fertilize, have the light on for 5 hours, rarely change water and have neglected maintenance. MC is quite strong, tends to hold on for dear life as long as it is rooted well. I think you will be fine.
I'm interested in what you experience, let me know when you get it done!
Also- Mc transitions in a split second with c02 and ferts. In fact, it takes off almost immediately. MC **does not transition well from flooded to dry** If you do really small strands from the start and achieve a full carpet during the DSM, I don't think there is a need to start c02 when flooded. Just watch that photo period.

Chhr05
Thanks for the feedback!

I have a finnex planted+ for the light at about 12" to substrate so I'm pretty sure that puts me in really high light for the dsm.
But have a a dimmer for it so once I cut the co2 (if I use the co2 at all) Ill probably dim it 50% and go from there maybe?
I was think about just doing "siesta" light hours once I cut the co2 as well.
Also using ada soil so hopefully that make everything smoother for me too.

I should have it set up by this weekend so I will let you know how everything goes!
Might need some help during this for its my first time attempting this method lol

Bump: Also do you have pictures or a journal of your 12 long?

I really want to get one of those eventually
 

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Get aqua soil, resist the flood, aim for as long as possible, and you'll be set. You'll have a dense, establish carpet. The cycle will have started, and you will not see an ammonia spike. As you know, this greatly reduces the chance of an algae bloom
Chhr05
Cool! I am convinced! Aqua soil has been ordered!

I'm planning to do this project with my 10 year old son, who asked for an aquarium for Christmas. Little does he know that this is going to be a multi-month project! I bought him a lab notebook and we are going to take lots of notes and photographs to document the whole process from empty tank to flooded with swimmers and crawlers. I will post a journal when we get started.

Cheers, and thanks again!
Mighty Quinn
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Careful what what you wish for-

Well, lights down to 4 hours a day (in attempt to slow plant growth). Minimal algae. Added 30 tetras and a couple of amanos. Ammonia will never register. Same with nitrite. Growth of MC is overwhelming. Obviously, would rather this issue than algae etc, but, getting multiple inches of MC growth in a week...

The pearling is incredible. The plants ability to fight ammonia/nitrite is crazy. Trimming about 3x a week. If the goal is plant growth, then it has been accomplished. I will say, I did not intend to have a need to trim multiple times a week, but it is what it is.

I will be stocking with another solid 30-40 Tetras, 10 ottos, and about 10 amanos. Daily auto 10% water changes will be done, @ full stock. I will continue to update. Hope this is entertaining!

Chhr05
 

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Hi Chhr05,

I just kicked off my dry start yesterday. I have a question for you about spraying fertilizers. What about plants that are not in or on the substrate, like faux bonsai trees made from moss?

Cheers,
TMQ
 

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Love the guide, really considering doing this on my build.

I'm assuming all plants will benefit from the DSM and not just carpet plants right?

I would like to establish a few stem plants, is this going to be a waste of time as they need to convert to submerged or still a good idea if I plan on having a carpet?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey guys,

I would not start moss with a carpet dry start. If doing a dry start, I stick to carpeting plants only as they can be rather tricky to plant and establish roots without disturbing soil/causing other issues.

Moss, from my experience, requires a much higher humidity to do well in. Being that moss is relatively easy to grow and attach to hardscapes... I don't see any reason to dry start it.

I've heard of a few stem plants being successfully dry started, but I do not have any experience in doing so. They will absolutely not adapt to a flooded situation such as MC would. I would assume there would be large amount of die off. Again, since stems are an ease in comparison to MC/HC trimmings when it comes to planting, I just don't see any huge gain in dry starting anything but carpeting plants.

In conclusion, I'd get your carpet going with the DSM. You'll have a large plant mass to handle water chemistry spikes, and allowing for easy planting of your stems. There is not much info available on dry starting much else, and I'm assuming there is a reason for that.

Remember! DSM for carpets are to establish a plant that can be otherwise hard to plant/root/spread. Everything else should be a breeze when it comes to planting/growth. Light + Ferts+ C02+C02+More C02... oh also, balance!

Cheers,

Chhr05
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Update Imagery 1/19

17 Ember tetras
16 Neon tetras
9 Harlequin Rasbora
7 Amano Shrimp
7 Ottocinclus

0 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 30 Nitrate
Lights on for 7.0 hours.
EI dosing
0 fish fatalities

Neon tetras acclimated over the course of an hour (drip). Same with Ottocinclus. Neon fed brine initially, transitioned over to flake after they got their beer guts going. Ottos get wafers every 3 days. Fish get fed every 2-3 days. Letting tank stabilize a few more weeks and then adding 15 more Neons. Eheim cleaned once thus far. C02 cranked.

Bump: Yeah, Idk why that one image is sideways but whatever. Little sloppy trimming on the MC, but it gets tiring ; )
 

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Hey,
Thanks for posting the guide. I am thinking about starting a dry start in the future for a MC carpet. What light cycle do you have running during the dry phase? Are you running them for a longer period of time because you are trying to promote growth and algae can't grow?

I am debating buying one of the new spec 16 gallon tanks for this. It has a canopy/hood/light, so I'd have to look at it to figure out how I could seal it off and still get an opening for air flow. Thanks!
 

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Hello, I just started my DSM. I have a UNS 3 Gallon and using the controsoil by them as well. I planted Dwarf hair grass and staurogyne-repens. I also have 2 Buce plant that I gently place on soil for the time being. I am trying to figure out which super glue to purchase that is safe to glue the buce plant onto the wood or dragon stone. I wouldn't need any CO2 after my plant carpets around would I? I wasn't planning too, but I don't want my plant to die after I flood it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hey CPD, I do not glue plants on hardscapes, so you'd have to ask elsewhere. That being said, nothing wrong with using aquarium floss or cotton floss to tie your plants on. This can be removed later after rooting has taken place.

Flooding without c02 can be difficult. HC, big no. While I'm sure it is possible, it's not going to grow at fast rate resulting in algae, die off, and failure. MC has been done without c02, and of course you'd be better off with a fully carpet at the starting point, however, it too will grow at a slow rate. The balance is going to be very difficult to find. Without c02 you must drastically reduce ferts as well light. The MC may very well survive, it can be a tough plant once established, but the lush growth you're used to seeing will not occur. Dwarf hairgrass is also difficult without c02. Hairgrass is especially prone to algae growth. The dense growth and length of hairgrass causes a lack of flow/light to the lower region, resulting in die off, into algae, and then a teardown hehe. Without c02 for the hairgrass, it will struggle to spread. I've personally had hairgrass without c02 and it held on for dear life, but never sent out runners, and never created a carpet. This was over many months.

With the above being said, c02 can be purchased for such a small tank at a fair price. I don't see any reason to do a non-c02 planted tank. It is a night and day difference. For me, if I am investing all this time and money into a dry start, there is no way I am flooding without c02.

Hope I helped.

Chhr05
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Is it growing? I can't tell (heavily sarcastic)

1.5 Week since last trim.... Those are 11 inch Aqua scaping scissors, just an FYI.
 

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