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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'm doing a 10 gallon planted single betta tank as soon as my ammonia arrives.

Fishless cycle using:

Ammonia: Fritz Aquatics Fishless Fuel Ammonia Solution for Aquariums
Live Bacteria: FritzZyme 7 Nitrifying Bacteria

Equipment:
Tank: Aqueon 10 Gal Black Aquarium w/ lid
Light: Finnex Planted+ 24/7 CRV Aquarium LED Light
Filter: AquaClear Power Filter, Clip-On Aquarium Filter w/ pre-filter
Heater: HITOP 50W Adjustable Aquarium Heater

Hardscape:

Using a tank-wide piece of large Spider wood laid horizontally.

Substrate:

Base Layer: Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix
Fert in base layer: Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food Plus
Cap layer: Flourite Black Sand

While tank is cycling I will decide on which plant species to add. Please give some suggestions on which plants to use!
1025797
 

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Following - I plan to do a similar setup in my office whenever I go back to working there. It’s been a few years so I’m rusty on the details and got rid of all my supplies so I’ll be starting over. Are you planning to use CO2?
 

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looks great!, one thing, just keep in mind you might just want to get a algae scraper if things get out of hand, plus. if your going a heavy planted tank you should get some aqua scanning tools just to help a little (they don't have to be expensive).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Following - I plan to do a similar setup in my office whenever I go back to working there. It’s been a few years so I’m rusty on the details and got rid of all my supplies so I’ll be starting over. Are you planning to use CO2?
Yeah I was thinking about it, but it’s a little unsettling how few full system setups are available for nanos.

This one seems to be a reasonable setup that has everything included.
 

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I'm not sure I would add root tabs straight away - fresh soil and root tabs together is a lot for a fresh set up. If you are not running CO2 you are going to need to dim the light quite a bit. You'll have to experiment with how much, but it's made for that kind of adjustment. (You may need to turn it down even with co2, but without you'll need to cut it down a lot.)

But, if you start your cycle before you add plants, keep the tank as dark as possible! I would cover the tank with a blanket or trash bag to exclude even the ambient room light. The bacteria is fine in the dark, but algae will take advantage of any light without competition from larger plants.

Have fun!
 

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I never buy ammonia. Just drop 1 piece of food shrimp in (no cocktail sauce ;) ) and you'll start having ammonia build-up real quick. I also never buy bacteria; I just squeeze a sponge filter from another tank into the new tank after the tank sits over-night with filters running. Remove nasty decaying shrimp once ammonia spikes. Plant very heavily at the start including some easy fast growing plants. Assuming you have access to an established tank, of course.
 

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Definitely skip the osmocote if you are set on going with dirt. Dirt has a LOT of nutrients already in it. You do not need or want osmocote as well.

I've done a few dirted tanks now and frankly I will never ever go back to them. They are very difficult to do correctly over the medium/long term. Every major fail I've had over the past 2 years since I first tried dirt has been because of dirt. Anyway you can get the same benefits as dirt with none of the drawbacks (except price) by using aquarium aquasoil. And even price is not a huge one. 20 dollars will buy you a bag of fluval stratum. 40 dollars will buy you a bag of any aquasoil you want. You only need enough to put down 1/2 inch of aquasoil and then cap it with whatever inert cheap substrate you want to go with. Plenty of aquasoil left over for other tanks.

Anyway assuming you ignore all that and go with dirt just make sure you put down a VERY VERY VERY small amount. 1/8 inch is ideal, if you insist 1/4 inch maximum, no more or you will dearly regret it. Cap it with 2 inches of your inert substrate of choice. Dirt is an active substrate just like aquasoil so for the first month you need BIG water changes and frequently. 50+% every day the first week, every other day in week 2, three times in week 3, and twice in week 4. Thereafter once a week. Do this and you can have success.. until you disturb it.
 

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Could you elaborate on your failures?
I had a 40 breeder quarantine tank that I redid multiple times, each time with dirt. The algae was crazy. Staghorn took over and never went away no matter what I did. Didn't matter how densely I planted or what plants I grew the algae was there. It was because of the dirt. It was releasing too much nutrients into the tank and the plants couldn't keep up.

I also had a Walstad fish bowl. This one I kept up for about 1.5 years. It had some very good times early on but in the second half of its life it went through a lot of very bad times. Some plants that grew great in other tanks wouldn't grow in this one. Algae was an issue off and on during the first half of the tank (had green water 3 times and needed uv to correct it), but in the second half, every week I was manually removing handfuls of algae. I had some other issues that killed it as well, but the algae really is what ultimately ended it.

I moved all of those plants into my newt tank when I started that and they are growing great in there with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of aquasoil under sand. Less algae then any tank I've ever run. Same water of course.

Anyway there is no benefit to running dirt over say aquasoil other then cost and the cost aint much. So why go dirt?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I had a 40 breeder quarantine tank that I redid multiple times, each time with dirt. The algae was crazy. Staghorn took over and never went away no matter what I did. Didn't matter how densely I planted or what plants I grew the algae was there. It was because of the dirt. It was releasing too much nutrients into the tank and the plants couldn't keep up.

I also had a Walstad fish bowl. This one I kept up for about 1.5 years. It had some very good times early on but in the second half of its life it went through a lot of very bad times. Some plants that grew great in other tanks wouldn't grow in this one. Algae was an issue off and on during the first half of the tank (had green water 3 times and needed uv to correct it), but in the second half, every week I was manually removing handfuls of algae. I had some other issues that killed it as well, but the algae really is what ultimately ended it.

I moved all of those plants into my newt tank when I started that and they are growing great in there with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of aquasoil under sand. Less algae then any tank I've ever run. Same water of course.

Anyway there is no benefit to running dirt over say aquasoil other then cost and the cost aint much. So why go dirt?
I hate the way aquasoil is packed into little balls. I want the black sand look for a sense of scale. I've read numerous posts that eventually the sand falls between the little balls and it just looks terrible in the long term. Before this tank I did a 5 gallon no filter planted. I did the exact setup I'm doing. Dirt, with peppered in osmocote and a sand cap. It flourished, zero algae. We'll see where this setup takes me.

P.S. I've watched numerous videos online comparing garden soil to aquarium soil visually side by side, hands down, garden soil yields fuller and greener plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Ammonia arrived and I attempted to set up last night. Apparently my elongated Spider wood sinks when it's vertical but not when it's laid horizontal. SO I had to halt everything. I ordered some flat reptile slate slabs to screw into the bottom. I've read that some pieces can take months to sink. I don't feel like waiting for that so I'm just going to use a mason drill bit and attach one of these large slabs of slate to get it to sink. UPDATE COMING TUESDAY NIGHT!
 

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You could try just getting some superglue and some cotton. Position the wood how you'd like on the slate, slide a piece of cotton into places where it'll touch, then soak it in the superglue. This way you don't have to fiddle around with a drill and screws that might rust or leech heavy metals into your water. Just make sure it's aquarium safe glue, cyanoacrylate or something like that is the safe kind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
You could try just getting some superglue and some cotton. Position the wood how you'd like on the slate, slide a piece of cotton into places where it'll touch, then soak it in the superglue. This way you don't have to fiddle around with a drill and screws that might rust or leech heavy metals into your water. Just make sure it's aquarium safe glue, cyanoacrylate or something like that is the safe kind.
I made sure the screws were stainless steel, I just really don’t like super glue.

I’ll use it for plants but when it comes to stabilizing hard scape, all it takes is one accidental bump when you’re cleaning or something and it snaps.
 

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Have you considered capping the front 2-3 inches of the tank with sand in order to avoid the aquasoil mixing with sand? I honestly would steer well clear of miracle grow inside of fish tanks. The nitrogen levels are through the roof and you will be dealing with algae for years. There's also potential for the sand and dirt to form anaerobic pockets of gas with tightly packed substrates

Like others have mentioned, skip the nutrient tabs for a long time. Miracle grow has so much added to it you will not need to fertilize until the initial nutrient spikes have been dealt with
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Have you considered capping the front 2-3 inches of the tank with sand in order to avoid the aquasoil mixing with sand? I honestly would steer well clear of miracle grow inside of fish tanks. The nitrogen levels are through the roof and you will be dealing with algae for years. There's also potential for the sand and dirt to form anaerobic pockets of gas with tightly packed substrates

Like others have mentioned, skip the nutrient tabs for a long time. Miracle grow has so much added to it you will not need to fertilize until the initial nutrient spikes have been dealt with
This will be my 2nd planted tank using Miracle Grow and Osmocote peppered in. I'm only doing it because of the outstanding results I had with my first tank. To reiterate, I won't be making tabs. I'm going to just sprinkle a little in the dirt when the tank is initially set up. I sifted the MG through a really fine colander and the remaining dirt is like soot, it's so fine and has zero wood chips or any large pieces (took me like an hour to do, felt like I was pannin for gold!).

But again, aqua soil just doesn't do it for me. I don't want to give up tank space just to ensure the two mediums don't mix. And again, I've watched videos on youtube where dirt tanks are compared side by side to aquasoil and (in my opinion) the dirt planted tanks were greener, fuller and the user said they lasted longer. I have experience using dirt and overall just seems like the way to go if you want a true natural tank setup. If I get algae blooms then I'll eat my words but I've already done this exact setup in a 5 gallon and I had insane pearling, lush, green plants and a full dwarfgrass carpet. It looked like a co2 tank with no co2. I copied this exact setup from a youtuber about 4 years ago. You just simply turn the dirt into mud, before you add the sand and you get no dry pockets.

So this will definitely be an experiment in a 10 gallon but I'll just be mimicking my old 5 gallon setup that flourished.

This guy is a master and makes us all look like Padawans, suggestes MC above all. Then look at the #1 comment, it's a professional biochemist saying that when she studies these aquatic plants in the field. It is always dirt capped with sand.
 

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I’ve used organic top soil with no issues. It should last much longer than aqua soils, as well. Long term, dirt should re-introduce processed nutrients into your ecosystem more efficiently than the clay-based aqua soil products. You’ve got my vote for the dirt, but I would suggest trying organic instead of any pre-fertilized stuff. I sift the organic stuff into an extremely fine dirt, then wet it and cap with 1.5 inches of 1-3mm gravel (the little stuff). Works like a champ. As a side-note, I recommend reading Diana Walstad’s book—Ecology of the Planted Tank—something like that. It’s not the easiest read, but it’s absolutely packed with information on dirt planted aquariums.
 

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My favorite easy plants are:
Moneywort
Hornwort
Super red Ludwigia
Java fern
Amazon sword
Dwarf anubus

I think all of these should do very well in your tank. The Amazon sword should love your dirt bottom spiked with Osmocote.

I also love a dirt substrate. I agree with Patriot4098 completely. I have never added Osmocote to my dirt substrate when setting up a tank. I am not saying there is anything wrong with this, I just don't have any experience with it.

I like having my tank planted when it is cycling. It gives the plants some time to get established before adding fish. For me algae in a new tank seems inevitable so I plan for it. With only plants but no fish when the algae comes I can knock it down with Metracide / Seachem Excel at high doses without worrying about the fish. I have read that some plants do not do well with Medracide like vales but I had the list above along with S Repens and Dwarf Hairgrass in my 180 while cycling and saw no signs of and adverse reactions to high levels of Metracide. The Metracide did do an excellent job on the several types of algae that were trying to establish themselves.

P.S. At the very first sign of algae I also introduced ramshorn (common pond) snails to my tank. They did not notice the Metracide either and did a good job of keeping the algae at bay after the Metracide took most of it out.
 

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I would highly recommend seeding your Miracle grow organic potting soil with a bit of soil from your established 5g tank! Dirt bottom tanks are full of hundreds of varieties of beneficial bacteria other than the Nitrifying bacteria that get all the press. My belief is this bacterial diversity is what makes dirt bottom tanks so productive. If you can introduce this bacteria from your 5g tank at startup the tank should come to a balance much quicker. I am not talking about cycling but coming to a balance in the bacterial bio diversity of the dirt in the tank.

I used a bit of dirt from my 5 year old 35g dirt bottom tank in my new 180g tank and the CO2 bubbles from the dirt seems a LOT less frequent and faded MUCH faster than they did with my 35g that had no soil bacteria seeding even though the 180g has many times the amount of MGOPS and at MUCH deeper levels.
 
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