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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I messed up big-time. I'm new to soil substrate tanks and I started with a 75 gallon, oops. I used organic potting mix (mgrow) with a little dirt from a frequently flooded area in my backyard. I did not mineralize. I made a 1.5 inch layer of dirt mix and an inch of pool filter sand for cap. I planted a bunch of plants and 4/days into the project it's a complete disaster. Obviously I messed up not mineralizing, I saw posts online where people skipped it and I thought that fish were the reason you did it (excess ammonia), not anoxic meltdown. The gas is everywhere under the substrate. I pulled most of the plants out and put them in a tank I have on a screened porch to hopefully hold them for a while since I lost half of them to melting. I drained my tank halfway trying to vac the dead plant material out and I have an air stone going with my canister filter shut off for now. It's almost 2 am and I am exhausted and feeling defeated. What I am wondering is if it could be saved. Should I just take the plants out and let the dirt run its course poking the hell out of it? Leave some in and just keep running air (I didn't do that until yesterday) Or should I take all the dirt and sand out and set it the sun, re wetting and drying? Or do I have to start completely over with new dirt and mineralize next time (I am guessing that's the answer but I have hope). I realize that I rushed and I knew better. I get really excited about this hobby and I got carried away. My friends and family don't get it (the hobby) and think I'm obsessed. I don't know what's wrong with being really into something like this rather than watching TV endlessly or some other waste of time. The bad part is they were watching my panic when i was pulling plants out when i realized what was happening and and had a ”told you your crazy attitude" anyway who cares...went off topic, I'm tired.. Any feedback and advice would be immensely appreciated. I'm going to bed.

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Hi. The first thing I would do is stop panicking.

Secondly, since organic soil is being used, is to remove it and mineralize the same soil. There is great benefits in doing so, for fish and plants.

Just wait for a few min in case somebody has a better idea.

Regards

Muhammad




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Also just because there are bubbles coming from the substrate doesn't mean it's bad... 4 days is hella fast for anoxic areas to develop. More than likely just traped air working is way out of the substrate. I have 2 dirt capped tanks that I didn't mineralize and have had no issues at all
 

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I dont think I would rip everything up. This has been dealt with before. When you pulled the plants did you pull a bunch of dirt up with them? What type and how much plant mass do you have? I am curious if you did an ammonia test to see how much ammonia is actually in the water? Rather than pulling everything, which I have done before and is a major pita, if the ammonia is that high why not do some basic water changes? You can also pre-seed the tank with bb with something like tetra safe-start but this probably isnt necessary either. The soil bubbling is normal, especially if you didnt pack it down and it was just placed very loosely in the tank. I wouldnt panic as you will just create a lot more work than is necessary. I believe this is a manageable issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you very much for your replies. When I tested the water a couple of days ago nitrite and nitrate were at 0ppm but ammonia was at 2 ppm. So in order to get nitrates in the water I seeded the tank with ceramic filter media and porous lava rock from an established tank to jump start it in bb. The next day I got a .25 reading of nitrite and I added more lava rock from the other tank. The bubbles do have the gassy smell when I poke the substrate so I assumed that it's anoxic and fubar because I packed it in loosely and didn't mineralize it. When I pulled up some plants a little dirt was released here and there. If it is manageable where would I go from here? The tank is drained about 30 percent and still could use more vacuuming to remove dead plant matter. I will vac it some more removing more dead matter right now until I know more. BTW, I have air running into the tank ATM and have had it running all night, if that makes a differwnce.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
To answer the question regarding plants in the tank, the bottom of picture with the addition of crypts, micro sword and a lot of jungle vals. My friend and I went to our LFS and they had a bunch of plants in that I didn't know much about, he decided to buy the whole lot and offered a bunch of them to me so I would have a lot to start off with https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6EMaSHmGrlNM096ZWRnWDV0MGs/view?usp=drivesdk

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I am unclear from your original post if the potting mix and dirt was soaked and wet when you put in the tank, or if you put it in dry and capped with pool filter sand?

If your tank truly smells foul, like rotten eggs for example, then yes, you likely have anaerobic conditions in your substrate. Otherwise, the gas bubbles coming out of the potting soil are likely a normal, if messy, part of the process.

I set up my first dirted tank in February, and did not mineralize. In my limited experience, it takes quite a while for the substrate to settle; plus, I don't think my dirted tank is ever going to be totally pristine substrate wise, but it is vey natural, the plants are happy, and my serape tetras seem to enjoy it. It may take a month or two for the water chemistry to settle. Personally, I found I needed to be patient with the process, but it is really starting to pay off.
 

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I think you overreacted a bit. The initial ammonia spike is normal depending on how much partially decayed organics are in the soil or potting mix you're using. If anything, you could of just kept on doing some 50% water changes to bring the ammonia down then added some fast growing plants once the ammonia stayed steady at 1.0ppm.
 

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Just keep poking the substrate. I would toss a few trumpet snails in there as well.

Bump: One more thing. Patience, patience, patience. I takes awhile for things to settle and really take off. The plants have to settle in, the water conditions as far as ph, gh, kh, etc are most likely different than the lfs. There is the shock of being moved. Any chance you can post some pics of the plants?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The ones in the clear tank is a 75 gal on my screened in porch running a Marineland emperor with a few goldfish for nitrates. It's where I'm stashing the plants for now until I get a handle on the situation. The murky tank in the 75 soil tank. It's a little brown from driftwood right now and half drained.

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I would recommend some purigen to get rid of the tannins and organics. Get some floaters to soak up excess nutrients from the water column. Get some mts to keep the soil from going anaerobic. Keep up with water changes. You will soon be on your way. Oh and go ahead and fill the tank up lol.
 

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Monrankim,

OK, I used the same potting mix in February. If memory serves, it has a lot of peat in it, and peat takes a long time (days, maybe weeks) to fully hydrate and stop trying to float. So, if it was a quick soak, then it isn't surprising if air bubbles are trapped and the dirt is trying to escape from under the sand (I am guessing you have dirt clouding your tank?)! Poking the substrate will help release the gas. Plus, I know ammonia is often high for around the first month with fresh potting mix; water changes are your friend. To reiterate thedood, patience, patience, patience.

In terms of the dead plants, some die off or melting is pretty standard for some species of plants (such as crypts) when you first plant them. My vals actually melted too. Plus, you don't know how the plants were handled before you got them; it may take some time for the plants to readjust to your tank, and this is a normal part of the process. If you have stem plants, they just loose leaves now and then, even when well established. If your plants still look alive, and are not entirely slimy mush, even if only the stems or roots look good, then they have a good chance of recovering after adjusting to your tank. Water changes, 6-8 hours of light, and patience, patience, patience:)

If your plants are entirely mush, or a rotten egg smell comes from the gas bubbles (tell us if this is going on because hydrogen sulfide is TOXIC, I almost knocked myself out with an anaerobic substrate years ago), then that is different, but otherwise, my best advice is take a deep breath or 2, learn from the process, and cultivate, you guessed it, patience. An adult beverage is, if age appropriate, optional:)

Photos will help when you are able to upload them. Also, do you know the temperature and basic water chemistry parameters of your tank?
 

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Ahh, you got the photos up before I completed my post. I think you are in pretty good shape; from what I can see the plants look OK at this point; all your hard work must be paying off.

A lot of fish actually like some tannins from the driftwood, for what it's worth.
 

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Is there any cons to MTS that I should worry about?

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I would read up on carbon vs purigen. In our planted tanks purigen is much better. Purigen is rechargeable where as carbon is used up in a week or two. I have two packs of purigen for every tank and I swap them out every time I clean the canister, about once a month I rinse out my sponges and bio media in tank water and swap the purigen. A 100ml pack of purigen is good for 100g tank. Two 100ml bags is about 17 bucks shipped and if taken care of lasts quite awhile, a lot longer than 17 bucks worth of carbon. It also does a much better job of eliminating organic wastes from the water.

As long as you dont over feed mts are beneficial to the planted tank. They keep the soil from forming anaerobic pockets. They also consume dead plant matter from the tank. If you over feed they will multiply like crazy.
 
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