Dirt tank first time

  • #1
I'm thinking of starting a dirt tank with my 55 gallon probably with organic miracle grow as the dirt and gravel or sand to cap it. I know you have to rinse the dirt with water before I put it in the tank.

I'm just asking anyone past experiences with dirt, what they used, did, and things I should encounter when I start it.
MD Angels
  • #2
Welcome to Fishlore!

Great to see fellow Canucks on here!

It would seem that our dear JerI (Jerilovesfrogs) has started this great switch over to an easy, dirty, natural way of setting up tanks. I myself am converting ALL my tanks into NPTs.

I have used miracle grow organic GARDEN soil, and I did not rinse it (Do NOT use TOP soil - it was awful).lol I asked jeri, and she said she did not rinse hers, but you do need to "rake" through it with your hands to pull out any large bits of wood and to break up chunks. Also, I found tiny little pits of plastic bag in mine so look out for that. Add a couple of inches to the tank and cap it off with either sand, or gravel, at about an inch.

I first went by the directions of the Walstad method and planted, then added sand, but I found it was a pain in the butt so I just added sand then planted, and it was fine. Maybe it would be different if you were adding gravel.

Here is a link for Diana Walstad's method of a natural dirted, planted tank.

You should set up a new thread or blog about your 55 and take us through the process with lots of pics!
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
LOL your doing what I want to do, the walstad method, what happens after the first couple of weeks anything I should expect. GO SENS
  • #4
I've also taken Jeri's advice in setting up my first planted tank. I used garden soil too; potting soil has those little white styrofoam balls that absorb water...they also float, so you definitely don't want those in there. I also found a fair amount of sticks / pieces of plastic in the dirt, so definitely sift through it, but I didn't rinse mine either. Most people add the dirt, then the gravel/sand and then plant, but I planted the plants before I added the gravel. Unfortunately I didn't use enough gravel, so some of the dirt seeped through and made my tank a dirty mess. Make sure you have a thick enough layer of whatever top substrate you use (it took awhile for me to get the water clear again).

So far all my plants are doing well (save the initial die-back from transplanting) and I have not used any fertilizers.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
how much is this thing and where can I find it terra, home depot, rona?
  • #6
Welcome to the Dirted Tank Club, I started mine on April 14. I used the Organic Miracle Grow and topped it with sand. I didn't pre rinse my dirt, I compacted it with a spatula and added sand. My only advice is that you have a sketch or plan where you want your plants to go and have all the plants you want to go in. Once they are planted, it is going to be pretty hard to move things around without getting the dirt to float. If I had to do it all over again, I would of waited a month to add fish into the tank from my old tank. I've been doing daily water changes and poking the substrate to release any buildup in gases. Have fun.

this link is from PSLAM

  • Thread Starter
  • #7
OH heck what do I do if I already have fish in the tank. Another reason to buy another fish tank lol. How long would it take before I can add fish, until nitrates and stuff are minimal?

  • #8
  • #9
I also did rinse I just picked out all the little pieces of wood. I then placed sand over it and then added plants. worked great. I would suggest some malaysian trumpet snails if you go with sand. here's mine

  • Thread Starter
  • #10
sooo no fish and hI amazon passion
  • #11
you can do fish if you have no choice, HI Zander. I've had one fish death a Red Eye Tetra ( 3 years old) since I converted to a Dirted Tank and it could of been through stress, old age, but haven't had any other deaths in my tank.
  • #12
I haven't had any deaths and I even stirred up a whole bunch of dirt a couple of days ago doing a water change.
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
I'm just kind of curious how would they die from to much ammonia I do have a spare 12g but I have 10 fish and they will grow over the summer time.
MD Angels
  • #14
HI Zander,

First of all - WHY on Earth are you a SENS fan living in TO!?!?!?! I can't stand them, and I'm an O-town girl. I'm a Leafs fan and I bleed blue!!!!!

Lol now that I have it out of my system. *ahem . . .

You can still do it with fish already. For my 75, I'll be bagging, and tossing fish in buckets of tank water until the tank is drained, dirted, set up and filled back up.
I have not experienced a spike in ammonia or any other readings. You may want to fill, then do a few WCs, and fill again, if there is discolouration, or debris to clean out first before you add the fish. Be sure to acclimate them again before adding. And if you are worried, just test the water before adding, and keep an eye on it over the next few days.
  • #15
LOL your doing what I want to do, the walstad method, what happens after the first couple of weeks anything I should expect. GO SENS

sorry - go RANGERS!!
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Should I go with sand to cap it
  • #17
it is personal preference. I did sand with mine.

  • #18
hi! you've gotten some good advice! I have several tanks with 'dirt', and really enjoy them. my 12g has been set up since jan...and is really growing super well. as soon as I get the najas out, I'll get a new pic up. it is helpful to have some fast growing plants, such as najas grass, to absorb the toxins, while the rooted ones get established. i'd say 4-6 weeks.

during this time, I would do water changes 1 to 2 times a week...as the soil is probably releasing who knows what haha. after about 6 weeks, the water changes can really go down, and you can begin to top off.

have fun with this. oh, and I also used MGOC garden soil, didn't rinse. in the 12g I capped it with fluval plant stratum. in the 150, tahitan moon sand, and in the 20g, eco-complete (they were out of TMS, and I didn't wanna wait lol).
  • #19
Any idea how many cu feet of garden soil I'll need for a 75 gallon?
  • #20
well I can tell you for my 150g, I didn't even need 2 bags. so I would say one would definitely do it. you want about 1.5-2 inches of soil, then 1.5-2 inches of sand/fine gravel on top.
  • #21
HI hopefully you guys aren't ignoring this thread now, I searched and found this thread. What specific miracle grow organics did you most use? I just searched on home depot website and found one for roses and one for moisture control. The rose one said something about iron.
I have black gravel in my 20 gallon and really like the garden soil idea.
  • #22
I used Organic Miracle Grow Choice.
  • #23
I used organic Miracle Gro garden soil. Potting soil has the little white absorbent ball thingys you don't want.
  • #24
And an inch or so of that under an inch or so basic black aquarium gravel would be ok? When I plant the root plants make sure the roots are past the gravel and planted into the soil as well?
  • #25
I did two inch of OMGC and an inch of black sand. I submerge the plants half way into the sand making sure I didn't cover the crown of the plant.
  • #26
okay, so you mostly just plant in the substrates and let the roots feed their way to the dirt? Is it a good idea to let it sit and do a few water changes before adding the fish? or did you just fill it up and put the fish in?
how exciting I'm definitely going to do this. I never wanted to use that fluorite, or pricey planted aquarium stuff.
  • #27
If you have the time and not in a rush, I would wait for a month until you add fish. Let the dirt have a chance to cycle and do water changes.
  • #28
I have a miracle grow organic soil tank that I didn't cap with sand, bad idea.
The tank is very full of plants and 5.5g.

My readings have been crazy. Three days after a 100% water change was .25 ammonia, 5 nitrite, and 5 nitrate.

Five days after that 100% water change was 0-.25 ammonia, 2-5 nitrite, 5 nitrate, pH 8, and phosphate 5.
  • #29
I actually planted my plants in the dirt first, then covered with gravel, then filled with water. It took a few water changes to get the water clear, but the roots are all securely in the dirt. I definitely wouldn't plan on adding fish right away, though.
Matthew RJ
  • #30
So how long would you leave the fish out?

Here's a pic of my set up:
I have some vals in the back corner, a sword in the front, crypt front right, a large piece of driftwood, and in the back a small piece of driftwood (from the LFS) with I believe Java Fern.

I feed with Excel & Flourish, no C02 yet, and the lighting I couldn't tell you, but the LFS helped me pick it out and is suitable for a planted tank. (I'm sorry I can't be more specific about my set up).

In the gravel I did mix in some flourite about 2 years ago.

I also just started with root tabs. The root tabs are
046798167501_AquaticPlantFood.jpg cut into quarters (again suggestion from my LFS).

So a dirted tank sounds interesting. I'm not sure I want to wait for the time when I'm ready to do a second tank.
Is it too late, or can I move my fish to a 2nd tank short term, drain, play with soil, replant the plants, then fill?

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