Dirt Capped With Sand?

  • #1
Kind looking for an extremely cheap way to keep my 29 gallon planted. I really hate it atm. The white sand is mixing with the two different colored flourite. I want to keep sand since I have corydora. Any ideas? I don't want just sand since I want it planted. Would dirt with an extremely fine sand cap work? What are the pros and cons of this?

  • #2
All but 2 of my 6 planted tanks are dirted. Pros are you get great growth and don't need to use root tabs with heavy root feeders. Plus dirt is free.

Cons are it is a bit messy when setting up and removing/adding plants can cause some dirt to get into the water column. Another con is you will often experience an ammonia spike shortly after dirting the the tank as all the micro organisms in the dirt die off and decompose. So adding fish right after dirting the tank isn't the best idea, but it can be done if monitored carefully. Adding extra plants to soak up all the ammonia (duckweed works wonders) is a good idea.

A fairly recent minor problem I'm experiencing is the MTS digging around and disturbing the dirt. They don't make a huge mess but it is still annoying at times. Plus my male BN is digging pits and that is really annoying.

If you don't want to deal with the mess and ammonia spike but still have the tank planted (while using root tabs and such) you can just use plain old sand. It works just fine and I recommend using only sand if you don't mind adding extra fertilizers.

Another thing to try is using flourite black "sand" as the dirt and capping that. One of the 2 non-dirted tanks is planted this way and it had no ammonia spike yet the plants still do well.

Ryan P
  • #3
I have a 60 gallon dirted planted tank and plants are loving it so far, had to deal with fishless cycle since random ammonia spikes are bad for the fishes. I used a mix of play sand and blasting sand and I like the looks of it. Main issue I'm dealing with right now is dusty like subtance on my water because it substrate gets distubed by my corydoras. hoping that goes away in time specially when my carpets spreads out.
  • #4
I've dirted two of my tanks and plant growth has been great. They are capped with bdbs - black diamond blasting sand.

Demeter is correct though in that you will an ammonia spike after dirting a tank and its hard to tell exactly when that will happen. One of my spiked 6 days after dirting and being filled. The other one did it 14 days later. But you don't want fish in there when it spikes because its not a little spike. Better to dirt, fill and plant the daylights out of it and let it cycle for a while. I figure at least a month before adding fish.
  • #5
My 55 gallon is dirted with organic potting soil and topped with black blasting sand. As mentioned above, the ammonia spike following can be big. Ours went up to .50ppm after about one week.

Pros: plants are doing fantastic. Even without co2, root tabs and ferts. Catfish or bottom dwellers love it. Snails enjoy burrowing in.

Cons: ammonia spike when starting up. If not careful with water changes can cause soil to erupt into water column. Unremoved soil can damaged filtration systems. HOB filters, wavemakers or gusts of water can send sand into water column. Catfish fights will send sand into water column. Cats will burrow to soil disrupting substrate. Shows fish waste.

Despite the cons I love the look of it. My plants love it and the fish love it. Soil does make aquascaping slightly difficult, some rocks and driftwood is buried and when moved, if not carefully, will cause soil to erupt into water column. Just because I love how it looks and love sharing it I've attached a picture

Edited to add: blasting sand, depending on where you live can be purchased at TSC stores for $10-15 for a 50lb bag. I used 2.5bags of spoil at $5 each. I'm in Canada.


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  • #6
Thanks everyone!

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