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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm wanting to switch up my 120g to a dirt tank but I know I'll have lots of questions along the way.

Does anyone have experience using this dirt?


(I used tiny URL cause the original link was massive. It takes you to a soil sold at Walmart.)


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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Looks like there's added fertilizers- could be asking for trouble.
I missed that when I first looked at it.

I think I was to focused on the word "organic".

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It really becomes silly when you've got 7 different "organic" soils and you're scouring and comparing what's in the ingredient list 😂 people look at you pretty funny. I believe a lot of people use the miracle grow organic potting soil. I, honestly, never stuck with a type of soil besides my personal "compost", but it's not a good idea to use traditional compost. From relatively few experiences in purchasing soil I found garden soils easier to sift than potting soils but you've gotta be more diligent in looking through ingredients because most potting soils are up front about fertilizers, most garden soils aren't. Another thing to avoid is anything with manure in it.
 

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I'm pretty anti-dirt so I would say unless this is just an experiment that you can have better results with a bag of aquasoil and capped with something inert just like you would do with dirt.

If you really really just want to use dirt then my advice is to get a shovel and dig it up out of your backyard. Spread it out on a cookie sheet and then heat it in the oven till it is at least 170 degrees all the way through. This will kill anything alive. Its also free, and frankly the dirt in your backyard is going to be better then anything you can buy because its going to have much less of things like bits of wood, bark, leaves, and other floaty bits that are annoying to deal with. You want to put down enough dirt to cover the bottom 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. Lots of tutorials will say 1" thick but this is a mistake in my opinion. The amount of nutrient leech at 1" of dirt is extremely high.
 

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As mentioned it does contain fertilizer. But I def get your troubles there are so many organic soils it's hard to decide which to use. I think most people use the miracle grow organic potting soil. I experimented with using fox farm's happy frog and ocean forest and mixing them. I read that people don't use it because it's too hot for the roots, but I tried to remedy that by mixing it. I didn't do everything quite right (I didn't sift, oops) but it does grow stuff well with a flourite cap and I never had any issues with it so far. I'd probably do things differently moving forward but no complaints here.

Probably be best to go the simple route and get MGOPS if you wanna do dirt
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
It really becomes silly when you've got 7 different "organic" soils and you're scouring and comparing what's in the ingredient list 😂 people look at you pretty funny. I believe a lot of people use the miracle grow organic potting soil. I, honestly, never stuck with a type of soil besides my personal "compost", but it's not a good idea to use traditional compost. From relatively few experiences in purchasing soil I found garden soils easier to sift than potting soils but you've gotta be more diligent in looking through ingredients because most potting soils are up front about fertilizers, most garden soils aren't. Another thing to avoid is anything with manure in it.
Haha Yeah I had some really strange looks when I was comparing the organic soils this morning. The nursery I was at didn't understand why I didn't want fertilzer in my soil even after explaining it to them 15 times. Oh well 🤷‍♂️

I'm pretty anti-dirt so I would say unless this is just an experiment that you can have better results with a bag of aquasoil and capped with something inert just like you would do with dirt.

If you really really just want to use dirt then my advice is to get a shovel and dig it up out of your backyard. Spread it out on a cookie sheet and then heat it in the oven till it is at least 170 degrees all the way through. This will kill anything alive. Its also free, and frankly the dirt in your backyard is going to be better then anything you can buy because its going to have much less of things like bits of wood, bark, leaves, and other floaty bits that are annoying to deal with. You want to put down enough dirt to cover the bottom 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. Lots of tutorials will say 1" thick but this is a mistake in my opinion. The amount of nutrient leech at 1" of dirt is extremely high.
This is pretty much just an experiment. I don't have any real reason for going dirt route other than I want to try it. The kicker for me is that I will be using high light and CO2 so I'll have to modify things to account for that.

Unfortunately where we live the soil here is 75% sand so it's not really usable for this application.

As mentioned it does contain fertilizer. But I def get your troubles there are so many organic soils it's hard to decide which to use. I think most people use the miracle grow organic potting soil. I experimented with using fox farm's happy frog and ocean forest and mixing them. I read that people don't use it because it's too hot for the roots, but I tried to remedy that by mixing it. I didn't do everything quite right (I didn't sift, oops) but it does grow stuff well with a flourite cap and I never had any issues with it so far. I'd probably do things differently moving forward but no complaints here.

Probably be best to go the simple route and get MGOPS if you wanna do dirt
I can't find any of the MGOPS anywhere around me so I ended up getting some top soil. I've also heard that that is a good route to start with so we'll see.

I was looking at the Fox Farms soils this morning.
 

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I can't find any of the MGOPS anywhere around me so I ended up getting some top soil. I've also heard that that is a good route to start with so we'll see.

I was looking at the Fox Farms soils this morning.
Yeah, that was my issue I kept reading about it and when I went to look I couldn't find it anywhere of convenience. I think the general consensus is to just get plain ol' dirt as plain as you can so topsoil should be fine.

I complain about MGOPS being hard to find but Fox Farms was also slightly a pain to find but only because I was trying to get the most bang for my buck and was being stingy with shipping I didn't want to pay. I ended up driving about 45 mins into DC to get it from a hydroponic store because all the local nursery's were sold out because I started messing with dirt at the beginning of covid which was when everyone decided to take up gardening.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah, that was my issue I kept reading about it and when I went to look I couldn't find it anywhere of convenience. I think the general consensus is to just get plain ol' dirt as plain as you can so topsoil should be fine.

I complain about MGOPS being hard to find but Fox Farms was also slightly a pain to find but only because I was trying to get the most bang for my buck and was being stingy with shipping I didn't want to pay. I ended up driving about 45 mins into DC to get it from a hydroponic store because all the local nursery's were sold out because I started messing with dirt at the beginning of covid which was when everyone decided to take up gardening.
That'd be a bad time to start looking for sure! You mentioned earlier that you might do things differently if you did it again, can you let me know what you'd do differently?
 

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Nurseries are the worst when it comes to understanding aquatic planting unless they have an aquatic gardener. Hydroponics stores tend to be more keen to be able to help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Nurseries are the worst when it comes to understanding aquatic planting unless they have an aquatic gardener. Hydroponics stores tend to be more keen to be able to help.
Well they also opened at 8am but nobody showed up until 9 so I wasn't super hopeful for top quality employees.
 
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That'd be a bad time to start looking for sure! You mentioned earlier that you might do things differently if you did it again, can you let me know what you'd do differently?
I didn't sift my dirt when I first did it. I also made the rookie mistake of making my dirt layer too thick thinking oh that'll be helpful for the plants. Nothing really too different aside from just prepping my dirt better than I did. I was too excited that I threw all prep out the window lol. My cap wasn't thick enough, because of the logic I had so I had dirt coming through in some spots. And the perlite that was floating haha. Other than that I might just mess around with different layers or adding in some laterite and such.
 

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I didn't sift my dirt when I first did it. I also made the rookie mistake of making my dirt layer too thick thinking oh that'll be helpful for the plants. Nothing really too different aside from just prepping my dirt better than I did. I was too excited that I threw all prep out the window lol. My cap wasn't thick enough, because of the logic I had so I had dirt coming through in some spots. And the perlite that was floating haha. Other than that I might just mess around with different layers or adding in some laterite and such.
I can feel the backlash coming, lol, but my fave layer combo was an inch (though I don't think I'd go above a half inch now) of dirt, a sprinkling of worm castings (seriously not a lot at all) and a quarter inch of laterite mixed with crushed lava stone under an inch and a half to 2 inches of sand (could probably do an inch to an inch and a half with less than a half inch of dirt).... Just thought I'd throw that in there.
 

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I can feel the backlash coming, lol, but my fave layer combo was an inch (though I don't think I'd go above a half inch now) of dirt, a sprinkling of worm castings (seriously not a lot at all) and a quarter inch of laterite mixed with crushed lava stone under an inch and a half to 2 inches of sand (could probably do an inch to an inch and a half with less than a half inch of dirt).... Just thought I'd throw that in there.
I don't know what backlash you'd get. That's more or less similar to what I was considering or at least brainstorming so it helps knowing others have similar ideas lol
 

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I don't know what backlash you'd get. That's more or less similar to what I was considering or at least brainstorming so it helps knowing others have similar ideas lol
I'm always weary of dirt tank conversations because I've had some bad experiences, not here, but back when I first started keeping walstads. There's a lot of people that are die hard against it for some reason. I still have to laugh at the amount of times I've been called stupid and careless- oh and ******* 😂 for simply liking to experiment with ntp/ dirt... Not a lot of love for it nowadays. Glad to see it's still getting some love here and there's some like-minded individuals. My first experiences with planted tanks were based on a lot of research into ntp/ dirt/ walstad methods so it holds a special place in my heart... But I'm not allowed to start down the rabbit hole lol
 

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I'm always weary of dirt tank conversations because I've had some bad experiences, not here, but back when I first started keeping walstads. There's a lot of people that are die hard against it for some reason. I still have to laugh at the amount of times I've been called stupid and careless- oh and ******* 😂 for simply liking to experiment with ntp/ dirt... Not a lot of love for it nowadays. Glad to see it's still getting some love here and there's some like-minded individuals. My first experiences with planted tanks were based on a lot of research into ntp/ dirt/ walstad methods so it holds a special place in my heart... But I'm not allowed to start down the rabbit hole lol
That's a bummer, but I definitely understand why you'd feel that way. I've had similar situations that keep me from talking about certain topics. I had been wanting to go into dirt for a while but it was daunting, it still is to some degree as I'm no expert but I've been spending my free time just researching and looking up stuff. I've also been leaning into biotopes so the dirt definitely helps replicating some environments
 

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That's a bummer, but I definitely understand why you'd feel that way. I've had similar situations that keep me from talking about certain topics. I had been wanting to go into dirt for a while but it was daunting, it still is to some degree as I'm no expert but I've been spending my free time just researching and looking up stuff. I've also been leaning into biotopes so the dirt definitely helps replicating some environments
That got me started down the road to breeding 😉👍 enjoy the ride!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I love to watch people go down rabbit holes. That's where we all learn the most!

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I'm always weary of dirt tank conversations because I've had some bad experiences, not here, but back when I first started keeping walstads. There's a lot of people that are die hard against it for some reason. I still have to laugh at the amount of times I've been called stupid and careless- oh and ******* 😂 for simply liking to experiment with ntp/ dirt... Not a lot of love for it nowadays. Glad to see it's still getting some love here and there's some like-minded individuals. My first experiences with planted tanks were based on a lot of research into ntp/ dirt/ walstad methods so it holds a special place in my heart... But I'm not allowed to start down the rabbit hole lol
I think dirt can be good in very specific situations, namely where you have a tank, especially a low-tech tank, where you are not going to rescape for at least a few years and you aren't using plants that need to be uprooted. I think people that like to rescape their tanks or plant fast-growing plants try out dirt and it ends up being a messy, algae-ridden disaster.

I also consider it true that aquasoil has all of the advantages of dirt with none of the drawbacks. I reuse my aquasoil so I'm using a $50 bag maybe every 2 years for all my aquatic projects. For me, that's an easy calculation to make. But it is fun to experiment with different layered dirt substrates, and in the right situation they do a spectacular job of growing plants in a very low-maintenance fashion.
 
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