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I recently set up a 110g dirted tank with black blasting sand as a cap. The dirt is made up of organic potting soil, earthworm castings, a pinch of iron and lime, a sprinkle of osmocote, some root tabs. 2 large pieces of driftwood and a few rocks rounded out the hardscape.

I placed a cycled canister filter on the tank. Moved over quite a few jungle vals, corkscrew vals, dwarf hairgrass & dwarf baby tears. My lighting is a Fluval 3.0.

I filled the tank and went to work fishing out the floaters and working out any bubbles from the substrate.

Fast forward a few days...Ammonia is 4+ ppm, nitrite & nitrate are also crazy high. All of the plants except the baby tears (amazingly) are toast. I am assuming that any biological filtration that was in the canister filter is toast as well.

Did I over do it with the soil mixture? Do I have to tear it all down & start again? The melted plants...should I pull them or water change the tank to death & hope the plants recover? I have been keeping tanks for 25+ years, but this is my first foray into a big planted/dirted tank.
 

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Short answer is probably yes. Normally you add one of the things you added to substrate, not all of them. I've also never added lime to a tank before and iron only in liquid form. And you definitely don't need iron if doing dirt, which contains a ton of iron naturally. If you plan to do a dirt tank you just add enough to put down 1/4" max of dirt and less would not be a bad thing. Dirt has so much more nutrients in it than anything else used in aquariums you really don't need to add anything else to it.
 
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