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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey Guys,

I set up this tank with plain natural gravel - bad idea I know, I used it before and my plants did ok, overall I liked the look.. I let the tank "cycle" for a week (yeah rushed, but whaetevr,.. it was full of plants and I squeezed filter media from my friends LFS to expedite)

I tossed in a few fish I'd prefer to not kill and have no other running tank at the moment to move them to ( I moved cross country and put the hobby on pause)

I want to switch to either eco complete/gravel mix or a soil/sand mixture - how can I do this without being too harsh on the fish in there, and whats the best option overall?

Also, the gravel is raising my PH really high, and no matter how often I lower it, it shoots right back up!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
You can do the switch to ecocomplete without too much trouble but not the soil and sand route. You'll probably have to drain the tank if you want to do soil and sand. I've done the gravel switch before by scooping it out over the course of a few hours with all the fishes in the tank. I slowly scooped the eco complete in after.

~:)
I was going to net the fish (maybe not the feeder... sorry guys) and scoop out 75% of the gravel, swap with eco-complete. I ordered an overpriced bag for 30.99 shipping included before I realized petco sells for 16.99!! Not worth returning and shipping back, so I'll eat the loss =/

I kinda like the potting soil/sand idea, but heard it takes MONTHS to clear up =/

Id stick with just gravel, I had plants grow well in it before because I guess nutrients make it to the roots easily?!!
 

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I'm new with the dirt method so take this with a grain of salt. To be done properly it probably should take a couple weeks. However, I think this might be doable if you are ready to put in some major work. I just did my first dirt tank after reading about it on here for a month. Granted, it's a little 5 gallon, but size really doesn't matter assuming your filter is the proper size for your tank.

I think if you put your fish in a cooler, with an airstone, heater, and the water from the tank your draining, they should last for a few days. It's basically a crappy aquarium, right?

Then get to work on your tank. Dirt it, cover it in your current gravel (to keep some of the bacteria), plant the living heck out of it (with lots of easy top water growers like duckweed or whatever too), then plan on 2 or 3 25-50% water changes for maybe three days, and run your filter (and any extras you may have) non stop. Try to use some of the water from your old aquarium to fill the new one, keep it in a bucket or something.

I did this, my water wasn't crystal clear on day 3, but it tested good enough for fish. On day three I put five ghost shrimp in mine and they are all alive. You really gonna have to keep an eye on it though, just in case the soil part flips out and spikes something on you. It's a gamble, but I managed.

Maybe I got lucky, but this is what I did on a smaller scale and I was able to add fish on day 3. :icon_conf

Again..I'm new to using dirt, so get a second opinion...I'm just sharing my limited experience. :icon_mrgr
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm new with the dirt method so take this with a grain of salt. To be done properly it probably should take a couple weeks. However, I think this might be doable if you are ready to put in some major work. I just did my first dirt tank after reading about it on here for a month. Granted, it's a little 5 gallon, but size really doesn't matter assuming your filter is the proper size for your tank.

I think if you put your fish in a cooler, with an airstone, heater, and the water from the tank your draining, they should last for a few days. It's basically a crappy aquarium, right?

Then get to work on your tank. Dirt it, cover it in your current gravel (to keep some of the bacteria), plant the living heck out of it (with lots of easy top water growers like duckweed or whatever too), then plan on 2 or 3 25-50% water changes for maybe three days, and run your filter (and any extras you may have) non stop. Try to use some of the water from your old aquarium to fill the new one, keep it in a bucket or something.

I did this, my water wasn't crystal clear on day 3, but it tested good enough for fish. On day three I put five ghost shrimp in mine and they are all alive. You really gonna have to keep an eye on it though, just in case the soil part flips out and spikes something on you. It's a gamble, but I managed.

Maybe I got lucky, but this is what I did on a smaller scale and I was able to add fish on day 3. :icon_conf

Again..I'm new to using dirt, so get a second opinion...I'm just sharing my limited experience. :icon_mrgr
Hey man,

Thanks for the knowledge - any feedback helps - I am tempted to give this a whirl, problem is I am leaving town for a week come thursday so I dont wanna go thru the whole hassle of doing this and have everything croak during that week. I also dont have my lighting yet so the plants arent doing their thing all that well right now :(

Gonna play it by ear I guess and see when my damn eco-complete arrives!

Hope your tank is doing well!
 

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No problem. For the record, this is day 5, my shrimp and Betta (got him on day 4) are still alive and well in my rushed dirt tank. I think the key was reusing the rocks, a lot of the water, and filter from my old tank. The biological equivalent to a jump start, if you will.

I definitely would not start the process if I wasn't going to be around everyday, from what I've read some dirt tanks will jump around chemically for a couple weeks. I also wouldn't attempt it without having the ability to grow a massive amount of plants from day one. Everything I have read and seen keys on massive amounts of plants from day one if you want to add fish quickly.

The plants are the key. The good news is it's totally worth it when you get things done. I've had a ton of fish tanks, my planted 20 is by far my favorite, and it's as close to self sustaining as an aquarium can get. Good luck!
 

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10-30 gallon totes from walmart for 5 bux. u can wash it and dup fish in with water and filter attached plus heater.. is it ideal no.. but i've done it twice and my fishies are no worse for wear

also if u have to rush putting the fish in.. nutrafin cycle helps convert quickly. AND floating plants are key.. they absorb frm the water colum quite well. id establish some first with some roots then watch them grow as the water fills with ammonia and nitrates

edit: make sure the water colum has other available nutrients as well or ur plants won't be able to use the ammonia and nitrate..
overdose is a key here... especially for the floaters (micro mixes and phosporous and potassium)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
10-30 gallon totes from walmart for 5 bux. u can wash it and dup fish in with water and filter attached plus heater.. is it ideal no.. but i've done it twice and my fishies are no worse for wear

also if u have to rush putting the fish in.. nutrafin cycle helps convert quickly. AND floating plants are key.. they absorb frm the water colum quite well. id establish some first with some roots then watch them grow as the water fills with ammonia and nitrates
My concern is, although I will have over 15 plants in there with a fairly light bioload, Ill be swapping out most of the gravel where my bacteria probably is. I can keep the water, and the filter media - which I squeezed out a bunch of water from my buddies LFS's filter media :D - I just want to get the dirt in, plant it, and let it sit for a few days clearing up, add the fish back, and VIOLA!

:(

What do you recommend for good growing dirt that wont need a ton of ferts and will clear up fairly fast?
 

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All they guys/gals here use Miracle Grow organic Potting Soil, and so did I. From what I gather it has no built in regular plant fertilizers (bad) but all the good stuff aquarium plants need (good). I've also read about people using small amounts of some sort of clay...still looking into that one, lol.

What you are building...I gather, is a soil bottom low light setup right? Minimal maintenance, a few fish, and tons of plants yes? If so, drop down to the low tech section and just start reading threads. Low tech, that's what tanks like ours are called around here. Low tech meaning you don't plan on spending $500 in lights and injecting Co2. :)

There are like hundreds of pages of info on low tech stuff down there. That's where I learned the small amount of info I know now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
All they guys/gals here use Miracle Grow organic Potting Soil, and so did I. From what I gather it has no built in regular plant fertilizers (bad) but all the good stuff aquarium plants need (good). I've also read about people using small amounts of some sort of clay...still looking into that one, lol.

What you are building...I gather, is a soil bottom low light setup right? Minimal maintenance, a few fish, and tons of plants yes? If so, drop down to the low tech section and just start reading threads. Low tech, that's what tanks like ours are called around here. Low tech meaning you don't plan on spending $500 in lights and injecting Co2. :)

There are like hundreds of pages of info on low tech stuff down there. That's where I learned the small amount of info I know now.

Actually, I am strapping a DIY co2 system in it, and it will be running dual 24watt T5HO bulbs :)

I bought it for a STEAL, so now its a high/very high light system lol =/
 

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Actually, I am strapping a DIY co2 system in it, and it will be running dual 24watt T5HO bulbs :)

I bought it for a STEAL, so now its a high/very high light system lol =/
I'm not sure how big your tank is...unless it's small I think your still considered "low light" around here, don't quote me on that. Some of these guys are pumping serious serious light into the tanks, lol.

Low Tech or not, the Low Tech forum is where a lot of talk about dirt tanks takes place, that why I suggested it. :thumbsup:
 
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