Substrate issues in dirted tank

PoissonRouge

Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Mar 20, 2016
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Hi,

Not sure if I can be of help to you, but I have a dirt planted tank and although I have read tons of information to guide me I have had it fail on me 2x now, but I am learning from it. Despite my failures I am sold on dirt, the plants go nuts. I have followed others advise of success and although they have succeeded with their methods, I ran into some problems

1x 1-2" miracle grow potting soil capped with an 1" sand - looked great never had soil coming up because I used sunshading screen to retain soil. 2 months later despite the beauty i found my plants with rotting roots that smelled like a sewer, I even had live black worms added to help aerate soil

Round 2 - mineralized the miracle gro mix for 2 weeks and added a "MUCH" thinner sand cap less than 1/2 inch after reading about sand caps being too compact for soil substrate, added worms again and had better results with my plants that were big rooters. But like you I constantly had dirt coming up and loose collapses like you speak of, so my cap wasn't big enough. I tried to wait it out thinking it would settle and the plants would take over but this did not happen because the extra nutrients being released from the soil was such a mess that there was a constant cloud and my plants suffered...when i dug up the tank, despite my mineralization the spots where the roots didn't reach were very sulfuric still. I had my heart set on sand but after reading so much and different opinions I finally choose something different.

3x seems to be the charm - gravel over dirted areas and areas dedicated completely to sand. I used cardboard barriers when. I set it up to keep everything clean and then slowly removed after. The dirt is never over 1" deep and never is the gravel cap over 1" it seems to allow enough access so I am not getting anaerobic areas but the gravel is heavy enough to keep my dirt contained. I am super happy with results. I did not mineralize dirt this time and all seems well. But of course made my soup/mud mix before setting up and capping

Sorry for the long story but it sounds like you are going through what my tank did in the 2nd try. Picture was when it was first set up so the plants aren't huge yet

image.jpeg
 
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Lil g

Gambusia
MFK Member
Jan 25, 2016
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Hey thanks so much, after much failing with the dirt I managed to save what plants I could and start over in a bigger tank with different substrate.. So far my only issue now is algae.. But my plants are doing well despite the algae problem. I just had to give the dirt up lol.. My gosh when I took out that dirt did my house smell like a bay lol!

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PoissonRouge

Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Mar 20, 2016
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Sorry I just realized how old your original post was, of course you figured it out :) gorgeous tank! I am always so amazed now with the people that get the dirted tank just right The first time. It sounded so easy and although I still have one that is working each failure was a nightmare and stinky pain in the ***! And I am glad you were able to save some of the those beautiful plants. I have been lucky and salvaged many of mine too but lost probably $159 worth of plants through the process. Just because my lfs sucks so I have to order my plants :) Algae... Hmm finding that perfect balance is rough, I still struggle with it a bit. Good luck and once again beautiful!
 

ECW

Aimara
MFK Member
Sep 11, 2011
1,322
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Oahu, Hi.
I've done the dirt tank capped by substrate. I placed the dirt down (organic potting soil) and wet it. I made sure to pack it down good and let it sit and settle for a day. Then placed cinders as the top layer. When planting I only place the roots in the cinder (any rhizomes go on top or tied to wood). The plant will make its way down to the soil at the bottom. I just set the tank outside in my backyard. Threw some guppies in and let it grow. No filtration. Nothing. It's like a jungle in there of different plants.

Lol. I noticed the post date too just now. Your updated tank looks nice though!
 
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