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Kittycat

So I finally did it- I put dirt in my aquarium!

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I had considered doing it for a while, but I finally ended up trying it to see if it would help my plants grow better. I used organic potting mix and top soil mixed together that I soaked in a tub of water for a few days. It maybe could have soaked for several more days to mineralize it, as I had heard suggested when I was researching it, but someone got impatient. :blush: I covered it with a good layer of black Ecocomplete, which was what I originally had covering the bottom of the tank, then put the decorative rocks and plants in place before filling it up with water.

As of now, there are no fish in it. I'll put them in later when it's been running for a while and the levels test out fine. On another note, when emptying the tank to get it ready for the dirt, I found a little surprise. I guess my lone guppy, a deformed female hunchback who I thought was incapable of reproduction, apprently can. There was one lone guppy fry. :o There may have been more at one time, but there is a chance the goldfish may have eaten them.

Right now the water is still kind of foggy and I still need to put some red clay in the substrate, but I'm really hoping this will work out better for my plants. :)

dirttank_zps5a08fc47.jpg

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How deep is the soil layer, and how deep is your eco complete cap?

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How deep is the soil layer, and how deep is your eco complete cap?

The soil is about 1/2 inch at the most, and the Eco Complete is probably about 3/4 inch sloping up to around 2 inches at the back. That's all estimated, though. It may be a quarter of an inch or so less- I've put too much substrate in my tanks before, and didn't want to repeat it. :P

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Congratulations! Since you don't have fish yet and it looks like it still has some clearing up to do, I would recommend taking a chopstick or something and poking around in the soil to make sure there are no air pockets. They can build up nasty stuff and "pop" releasing it later and cause problems. Have fun, dirted tanks are supper fun. :)

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Congratulations!!!

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Sounds good! I'll be watching your tank with interest, as I'm a big fan of dirt, myself. ;) Good luck!

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Congratulations! Since you don't have fish yet and it looks like it still has some clearing up to do, I would recommend taking a chopstick or something and poking around in the soil to make sure there are no air pockets. They can build up nasty stuff and "pop" releasing it later and cause problems. Have fun, dirted tanks are supper fun. :)

That's a good idea for me to do, especially because I added some dry gravel. I've also got some Malaysian trumpet snails that live in the tank, so they should help out with things too.

Sounds good! I'll be watching your tank with interest, as I'm a big fan of dirt, myself. ;) Good luck!

I'm kind of excited about it, and have high hopes for it's success! If it seems to do well and my plants take off, then I will definately go with dirt in my bigger tanks, too. My dream is to have a heavily planted tanks for my goldfish to frolic in, but so far that hasn't been happening. :(

The potting soil I used was Miracle Grow organic mix because I had heard that recommended when I researched things. If I end up going with dirt in my 40 and 75 gallon tanks, I think I'll probably go with a little cheaper off brand. It was very organic, yes, but it seemed like the majority of it was floaty bits of mulch and wood debris, along with a literally six inch peice of wood. :huh: It wasn't bad that I got it though, because I ended up using nearly all of it that wouldn't work for the aquarium to pot plants, because someones gone a little plant crazy lately. :blush:

I didn't get the red clay in time (before my impatience kicked in) because I had not realized that I would have to go to a craft store to purchase it. I literally went to two home improvement stores (one of them twice), a garden specialty store, a pet store, and Walmart.

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I'm pretty excited about the potential for my dirted aquarium- so much so that I ran out and got bags of dirt to start soaking and getting ready to put dirt in my other aquariums. I also went ahead and got some red pottery clay and bought the book by Diana Walstad for my kindle.

So I've got a few questions about the dirt substrate for those of you who are more experienced in this. :) I had seen Miracle Grow Organic Choice reccommended a lot for the dirt substrate, along with top soil. The organic potting soils have a lot of, well, organic debris in them, even after soaking and picking out the floaters. How important are these organic debris for starting a natural planted tank, and would just top soil work as well as the organic mixes?

I ask because I had gotten three bags of the Home Depot brand organic potting soil last night, and started soaking them this morning. Everything was fine until I dumped the last bag of the organic mix in the bucket of water. This last bag that I just HAD to dump in with the rest was NOT organic! :madrant:doh11: It had a bunch of green fertilizer balls in it, and I found a yellow one, too. This ruined all the potting soil I got for aquarium use. I don't know if I should just use the top soil I got, or if I should go get more of a different kind of organic soil to use with the top soil. :huh:

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My Lowes didn't have the Organic Miracle Grow, so I got a bag of some other brand of organic potting soil with the same stats. Only had a few floaters that were easily skimmed off. One bag was more than enough for about a inch for my 125 gallon. After seven and a half weeks everything seems to be working great.

Here are a couple of things Walstad recommends in her book that I didn't get a chance to read until after I finished:

Walstad recommends that after you put in the dirt you add a few inches of water, let it set for awhile, and then siphon out that water to remove the floaters more easily.

Walstad recommends using smaller sized gravel. I got a larger size because I liked the look. So far it still seems to be doing just fine, and might be safer for goldfish actually.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

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How does the tank look today? :)

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Good call on the MTS they are fantastic little snails. :)

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My Lowes didn't have the Organic Miracle Grow, so I got a bag of some other brand of organic potting soil with the same stats. Only had a few floaters that were easily skimmed off. One bag was more than enough for about a inch for my 125 gallon. After seven and a half weeks everything seems to be working great.

Here are a couple of things Walstad recommends in her book that I didn't get a chance to read until after I finished:

Walstad recommends that after you put in the dirt you add a few inches of water, let it set for awhile, and then siphon out that water to remove the floaters more easily.

Walstad recommends using smaller sized gravel. I got a larger size because I liked the look. So far it still seems to be doing just fine, and might be safer for goldfish actually.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

I flipped ahead in the book and started reading on the substrate. What I have read so far had me convinced to go ahead and get some more organic potting soil to mix in with the top soil for variety. I wonder if the big bags of river rock at Home Depot would work well for the top substrate layer. We got some to use in our garden pathways last year, and I thought it looked kind of nice. :huh:

How does the tank look today? :)

The water looks much, much clearer. In fact, I've been stopping and admiring the clarity of the water in that tank, but I think that partially might mean that I need to scrub the glass on the front of my other aquariums :blush: The plants don't look any different at this point, but it's only been a couple of days since I got it set up.

Good call on the MTS they are fantastic little snails. :)

There's a whole bunch of them in there and they're scooting all over the tank, so the water must be good enough for them at this point, which is a good sign I believe :P

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How does the tank look today? :)

The plants don't look any different at this point, but it's only been a couple of days since I got it set up.

Never mind about the plants not looking any different. I was just looking in the wrong place! My water lettuce appears to have much larger roots now- actually, the ones in that tank have the largest root systems out of all the water lettuce in my other tanks! Their leaves are still small and stunted looking, but hopefully they'll catch up soon!

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congrats on the new substrate! that's exciting!

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I've used pea gravel from wal-mart in my tanks before. $5 for 50lbs, you just can't beat it!! Just clean it well. What topsoil did you use and at what ratio?

Edited by Greg

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I've used pea gravel from wal-mart in my tanks before. $5 for 50lbs, you just can't beat it!! Just clean it well. What topsoil did you use and at what ratio?

I just looked at the pea gravel from Home Depot. I thought it was awfully pretty gravel when we used it on out garden pathway, but I might check out what Walmart has to see if theirs is a little different. I just know that I've already done the thing where I spend $20 a bag on gravel (for the Eco Complete) and I really don't want to do that to cover the 75 gallon. :blink:

For the dirt tank I have going now, I used roughly two thirds organic potting soil, and one third topsoil. The top soil was the cheap $1.25 for a large bag of it from the local home improvement store. The potting soil was Miracle Grow Organic Choice, although it seems like the organic potting soils have a lot of wood debris in them even after soaking overnight, which is party of the reason I used the top soil along with it. Also, the top soil has (obviously :P) more soil in it, along with more clay, so I figured a mix of the two should give a good combination of nutrients. Then I read in Diana Walstad's book not to mix top soil and potting soil as one can be acidic while the other is alkaline, and combined they can release too many metals. :unsure: But my plants seem to be ok, and I put an activated charcoal pack in the filter just in case.

I've checked the levels on the tank twice, once almost a week ago and the second time today, and both times they had the same, perfectly fine readings:

Ammonia- 0

Nitrite- 0

Nitrate- 5

pH- 7.8

GH- 6

KH-10

I'm going to go ahead and do a partial water change and add a fish. The snails in the tank are doing wonderful and are reproducing like crazy, so I imagine everything must be fairly healthy as far as things I don't have a test kit to check for.

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I went ahead and put dirt in my 75 gallon tank. It had needed some serious redecorating done, anyway. :no: I didn't take any before pictures, but it wasn't at it's best, with a bare bottom (that needed a good scrubbing), except for where my fish sucked up gravel from the pots and spit them on the floor. Also, the plants in that tank were probably doing the worst out of all of the tanks.

It was a rather involved ordeal, because first I had to clean my other tanks in order to move my fish over to them for a couple of days while everything gets settled in their main tank. Then I had to catch them, distributed them amongst the other tanks as I saw fit. Then I had to completely empty the tank while scooping out any plants that were still alive. I also scrubbed the walls of the tank from any algae that was on them.

I had a mix of organic potting soil and top soil that I have had soaking for about a week (every day I'd dump the water out, stir it up, and fill up the bucket again). I dumped out the water in this, then using a sponge, I soaked up any excess water and squeezed it it. This was very messy, and took a while. :glare: In the aquarium, I took a sponge and used it to get the last of the water out of it.

After that, I put red clay balls all over the bare floor of the tank.

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The red clay is supposed to have quite a bit of iron in it. I had heard of it either being directly mixed into the dirt or put in little balls on the bottom, and I chose the latter.

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Then I scooped the dirt into the tank. It's a wonder I didn't get any mud on the floor. The neighbors, had they been watching, must have thought I was crazy for hauling buckets of dirt and gravel into the house. :rofl I left a little empty space along the front to put gravel in, as I've seen suggested for aesthetic reasons.

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I sprinkled the top of the gravel with a mix of argonite and Eco Complete that I had used in the tank before. The pea gravel I got wasn't very fine, so I wanted something a little extra to help keep the dirt contained.

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After I had all the dirt covered (It took a little over a bag, maybe a bag and a quarter or so), I started filling the tank with water.

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Right about now, I had a bit of an "Oh crap, what have I done!" moment. :unsure:

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Here's the tank completely filled. The water didn't turned out to be as bad as I thought.

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This is it after about a day and a half of the filters running. Ignore the filter sponge on the bottom. I still have some more landscaping to do. :P

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Where did you end up getting the gravel at?

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