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Currently I have the 125 with a dirt button capped with gravel the lights I have are 4 23watt daylight cfl bulbs running about 10 hours filtration is just some filter floss in a sump setup. The lights I just changed a bit ago and the plants seem to be responding good to them as old cryps gave new growth. So the lights I'm planning on keeping unless others give me good ideas for lights. I also plan to reuse the dirt and gravel except making like a third of the tank only pool filter sand and the other two thirds dirt with a gravel cap. Plan to add clay with some osmocote inside the clay balls for the dirt side and just osmocote under the pool filter sand side.


Current plants
Swords
L. Depend
Onion plants
(Plants to be added)
Baby tears
Crypts
Val
Dwarf sag
Water wisteria
S. Depend
Rotala indica

Current fish
3 boesemani rainbow
5 black shirt tetras
4 black neon tetras
3 virus
1 bristle nose pleco
5 Bolivian rams
8 nerite snails

My hope is to keep it low maintenance with no dosing little to none water changes just top offs. Any input and opinions are greatly appreciated.
Here are some pics of my tank


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> I've toyed with the idea, but I just can't wrap my head around any advantage of using dirt. You're forced to wash away the water soluble organic nutrients through many, many water changes or washes lest you end up making algae soup. It's the same if you mineralize the soil. So you're left with a medium that only has marginal mineral content (nearly none if you used a store bought commercial potting mix that isn't real dirt)...that will no doubt be used up by rooted plants pretty quickly. So then you have to use ferts and root tabs anyway unless you start over. It seems to me better to start with an inert material to begin with. I prefer silica sand although many report success with play sand or very fine gravel.

> I wonder and worry that Osmocote and/or other slow release chemical terrestrial plant fertilizers are 1) not exactly what aquatic plants need and 2) might be hard on the fish that absorb anything and everything in the water through osmosis.

> On the subject of ferts, why are some so obsessed with filtering out and removing organic (fertilizer) waste and then adding chemical ferts? We might better balance the bio-load and add chemical ferts very sparingly, only as absolutely necessary.

> I think in a very heavily planted tank, you might reduce water changes far less than 50% a week, but any and every tank benefits from removing old and adding fresh water - if you attempt to emulate nature, into every aquarium some rain should fall.

I like the idea of a minimalist eco-system approach that emulates the natural world in appearance and function. A good thumb rule is in thinking..."Despite the confined space, if I was a fish, would I like living here as much as I would in the wild?"

Disclaimer: I'm old school in the hobby, but new to the planted tank so if you're convinced and bound and determined, simply forgive and ignore the ramblings of an old man.
 

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You definitely want some lids on that tank. The lights without reflectors are much less effective, so the 23w bulbs will be fine. But the surface agitation plus the heat from the bulbs will cause evaporation which means moisture on those bulbs. I have had a spiral CFL bulb crack on me and it isn't exactly fun.

I don't think you have a setup that would work without water changes. You will see the nitrates quickly rising. If you test for them, they will be very high before too long. I would suggest performing regular water changes. The no water change approach requires a minimalistic amount of stocking aside large biomass. I had a 75g stuffed to the brim with fast growing plants and still performed weekly water changes for peace of mind. I was definitely overstocked though.

I personally prefer inert substrate. I have some O+ in my substrate, but it isn't necessary.
 

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> On the subject of ferts, why are some so obsessed with filtering out and removing organic (fertilizer) waste and then adding chemical ferts? We might better balance the bio-load and add chemical ferts very sparingly, only as absolutely necessary.

> I think in a very heavily planted tank, you might reduce water changes far less than 50% a week, but any and every tank benefits from removing old and adding fresh water - if you attempt to emulate nature, into every aquarium some rain should fall.
I suppose there are people that are obsessed, but unlike nature, a fish tank doesn't have enough of a tide to move excessive amounts of organic matter or a place to send off the excess to. Sure we use power heads, air stones and other gadgets to create current, but despite that, things still need to be cleaned from time to time. Dead leaves need to be trimmed and removed as otherwise ammonia pikes happen.

Plants in a tank do not have the ability to break down food bits that get caught in places that fish cannot get to fast enough. Leaving moldy food in a tank is never a good idea. It's bad for the fish and their environment.

In the wild fish go elsewhere should a area become contaminated with things they'd rather not be around. The betta that lives in a 5 gallon tank with perhaps a not-so-mindful owner does not have that option.
 

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Went with (unwashed )dirt capped with sand,gravel,or black diamond blasting media some years back and never looked back.
Also use sprinkling of Osmocote (macro nutrient's) on bottom glass before covering it with the afore mentioned.
Also add dry mineral salt's KNO3,KH2PO4,K2SO4,and CSM+B once a week or two.
Water changes of 50% once a week or two.
Photo in my avatar, or under my thread's (300l litre low tech) been running for nearly three year's with same substrate.
Dirt based tanks are not in my view suited for those who uproot or move plant's about frequently.
Plain top soil,and or Miracle grow organic choice is used by many with success.
No need to rinse either dirt or miracle grow, but I do sift out the wood pieces from both before using.
Have not vaccumed any of my tanks for year's and couldn't if I wanted to,too many plant's.
I trim plant's and trade em for store credit along with shrimps and fishes.
 

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I suppose there are people that are obsessed, but unlike nature, a fish tank doesn't have enough of a tide to move excessive amounts of organic matter or a place to send off the excess to. Sure we use power heads, air stones and other gadgets to create current, but despite that, things still need to be cleaned from time to time. Dead leaves need to be trimmed and removed as otherwise ammonia pikes happen.

Plants in a tank do not have the ability to break down food bits that get caught in places that fish cannot get to fast enough. Leaving moldy food in a tank is never a good idea. It's bad for the fish and their environment.

In the wild fish go elsewhere should a area become contaminated with things they'd rather not be around. The betta that lives in a 5 gallon tank with perhaps a not-so-mindful owner does not have that option.
I believe that the key is balance. Decomposition bacteria break plant/fish waste and uneaten food into plant usable organic nutrients (Just like organic gardening/farming)...nature doesn't use chemical fertilizers! If we focus less on removing all detritus/mulm, we could add less chemical ferts (if any).
 

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I just used dirt/topsoil from the property here - no "mineralization" necessary.
Mineralization isn't necessary with bagged soil either.

Same with my 2 gallon Betta bowl sitting here next to me. Dirt
Dirt....Dirt....Dirt....it's what nature made for plants to grow in.

I wouldn't go any other way - the advantages are just too acute to give up.
I see no point in "hmmm...I see all these plants growing in dirt in nature...I plant my vegetable
garden in dirt...well I guess there's no real
reason for all that...think I'll use something inert for my planted aquarium!"
 
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