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Hello!! I鈥檓 planning to use Miracle Grow in a 14 gallon cube & would appreciate advice about how to go about this. I want to cap it with Seachem Flourite. Should I cap sand then Fluorite? How do I do this without turning the water brown from the MG? TIA! 馃槉馃悹
 

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Hello!! I鈥檓 planning to use Miracle Grow in a 14 gallon cube & would appreciate advice about how to go about this. I want to cap it with Seachem Flourite. Should I cap sand then Fluorite? How do I do this without turning the water brown from the MG? TIA! 馃槉馃悹
Stockton - what are you trying to accomplish by using soil in a tank? If it is for a planted tank, there are a couple of immediate concerns. Make sure the soil is organic, as in - has no added fertilizers or additives (as most MG products do). Something like black earth or potting soil (organic) can work. I used soil bases in many of my ponds and learned early that you鈥檒l need some patience for success - especially in a smaller body of water - like a tank. Some of the things you鈥檒l need to do: sift your soil and remove all foreign objects (sticks, leaves, etc.) If you don鈥檛 do this, this stuff will slowly rot and decompose over time and you鈥檒l be faced with all kinds of water parameter issues. Think of it like using RO water - start with a neutral base and then remineralize the environment to the levels you want using macro and micro nutrients.
鈥楢nother precaution I took was to sterilize the soil by baking it. Spread it out on a sheet pan in a thin layer and pop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 300F. Let it cool, then give it another sift. This kill off any unseen residents, microorganisms and even seeds and pods naturally found in soil.
Spread the soil at least an inch thick on the bottom of the tank then sprinkle with a bit of water so you can pack it down. Then add your layer of substrate (fluorite) at at least 1 鈥 ensuring you get a solid covering layer. Then fill SLOWLY making sure you don鈥檛 stir up the bottom layers. Try putting a bowl on the gravel and let the water flow in slowly from the tube and then spill over gently. Once filled, use cheesecloth or a net to strain and remove any obvious debris - but you鈥檒l need to let the water settle for a few hours. Once it has settled, start your filtration, using a sponge pad, lots of filter floss and carbon - it could take a day or two to clear (depending on the tank size). Once you have nice clear water, replace the floss, wash out your sponge filtration (not with tap water but tank water)and add your biological media (ceramics or balls).
Before you do anything else, now is the time to test your water! Get a base reference of your PH, GH, KH, TDS
Now - you鈥檙e at the starting point where you want to follow the usual steps for establishing you parameters using macro and micro nutrients. Make sure you CYCLE the tank before adding anything living!!
Note re: sand - sand IMO presents another set of headaches that deserve a conversation of their own. If you鈥檙e just looking for a rich substrate for growing - don鈥檛 bother...
Regardless of advice - go for it!! You may not succeed at first, but you鈥檒l have the ultimate benefit of knowledge, and sometimes the best way to learn - is to fail...
 

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Personally I hate dirt tanks. I've done a couple of them and they are a lot of trouble. My advice is to skip dirt and instead buy a bag of aqua soil of your choice, and just put down with thin layer of aqua soil capped with whatever you want to cap it with. Alternatively if you're just really interested in doing a dirt tank, put down a very thin layer of dirt 1/8 to 1/4 inch maximum capped by 2 in of substrate such as sand or fluorite either will work. If you want to mix both together and cap the dirt, that's fine too it won't matter. Regardless your water will be tinted brown when you first fill it up and you'll need to drain it, and slowly refill a few times. If you choose to go with aqua soil instead will avoid a lot of problems and essentially have no drawbacks compared to dirt.
 

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Personally I LOVE dirt tanks! I like an active live substrate instead of an inert substrate and will no longer do a planted tank without dirt.
I like to line the perimeter of the bottom of the dry tank with Seachem Flourite so it comes up the tank sides about 1/2" as a first step. This is only for looks, it will hide the dirt and make it look like your substrate is all Seachem Flourite.
Put the Miraclegrow organic potting soil down in the middle of the dry tank about a 1/2" thick or so.
Then cover the MGOPS with Seachem Flourite directly on top of it. I would not add a layer of sand between the two.
Put a large Tupperware lid on top of the substrate to use as a splatter shield while adding water.
Cycle the tank (I prefer fishless cycling) for several weeks.
Add fish.

Miracle grow potting soil will put off tannins for about a month or so then the water will slowly loose its yellow shade. The more water changes you do the faster the yellow will disappear. The tannins will actually help restrict algae growth.
 

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I too love dirted tanks! A 10ish gallon low tech tank with dirt has been running for about 3 years; the plants, fish, shrimps, & snails are still thriving. Late last year I started using root tabs as the benefits of the soil will eventually stop.

Tip, plant as much as you can before putting fish to help with the algae that'll come. Add snails once the tank is cycled to also help with the algae.

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