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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a long established 20 gallon long that I want to upgrade. The tank currently furnished with sand. The sand is about 1.5 inches deep at it's deepest and probably half that at it's shallowest.

I would like to keep crypts. Crypts are root feeders, and I don't think think the shallow layer of sand I currently have in the tank is gonna cut it. I have three options:
  1. Increase sand depth up to 2-1.5 inches (or deeper?) and start using root tabs.
  2. Increase sand depth some, mineralize some top soil and add it to the tank by freezing it in cubes and burying it.
  3. Mineralize some top soil and completely overhaul the tank turning it into a full dirted tank with 0.5-1in of soil capped with sand.
Whatever I do I need to be able to keep the fish in the tank while changing the substrate. I will move them to buckets when actually changing the substrate, but I have nowhere else to house them long term.

A few key questions
  • How long will root tabs last (e.g. the NilocG tabs)?
  • Will the dirt ice cubes last longer than the tabs?
  • Will option 3 result in ammonia leaching even if I mineralize the soil correctly?
  • How long will the dirt last before it needs to be replaced?
What option should I take?
 

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It's a myth of sorts that crypts are "heavy root feeders." They'll take food wherever they can get it and grow perfectly fine in inert sand within no additives as long as you dose the water. Root tabs might help maximize growth, especially if something is lacking in the water, but they are not needed for healthy growth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It's a myth of sorts that crypts are "heavy root feeders." They'll take food wherever they can get it and grow perfectly fine in inert sand within no additives as long as you dose the water. Root tabs might help maximize growth, especially if something is lacking in the water, but they are not needed for healthy growth.
Really! That's interesting.

Should I still add some more sand? It's really quite shallow in there. I might get some NilocG tabs anyway and add them. The tank will be dosed with NilocG and I plan on adding a CO2 setup too.
 

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Really! That's interesting.

Should I still add some more sand? It's really quite shallow in there. I might get some NilocG tabs anyway and add them. The tank will be dosed with NilocG and I plan on adding a CO2 setup too.
Yep, sounds like that's your option #1. That would be far and away easiest, the dirt choices will be much more difficult and you will open yourself up to alot of issues. Co2 is of course good for all setups and all plants. Makes growing everything easier. If your just dropping in washed sand to the existing sand you shouldn't have to remove the fish. Whenever your adding substrate just make water changes to be on the safe side. You can even do it over the course of several days if you want instead of all at once.
 

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Asteroid is right you don't need dirt to grow healthy plants or even nutrients in the substrate. I have a tank with amazon sword plants in straight sand and they are growing great. I only dose the water, no root tabs. Amazon swords are fast growers and most people consider them quintessential 'heavy root feeders' but the reality is that the aquarium water goes everywhere, the leaves and the roots. So dose the water and the plants will all get it.

Next you need a good fertilizer to dose the water. There are a lot of options, from 2 part systems, to many part systems, to all in one fertilizers. I use nicolg thrive on most of my tanks and its a good all in one option. Just couple it with big 50+% water changes once a week.
 
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