Dirting a tank

Discussion in 'Aquarium Plants' started by DanB80TTS, Aug 14, 2015.

  1. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    Need a bit of info on dirting a tank, wanting to do a layer of dirt under play sand (don't know where to get pool filter sand by me, no Home Depot) plus I figured play sand would cap it better, but I'm not sure since I've not done it before. Don't know if it would be worth doing it in a super low light tank, but I will probably upgrade the lights in the future so I wouldn't want to have to tear up the tank to dirt it.

    Id like to avoid being directed to dustins fish tanks, I know a lot of people like his stuff a lot, but I've watched a lot of his vids and I don't really get much from him, he's too shouty and I just find it hard to get information out of his videos.

  2. DTurnerValued MemberMember

    Hey Dan,

    I ended up buying the sand i used to cap from Amazon. I just used Organic Gardening Soil for the base, with some Red Flourite for Iron, then capped with Black Sand. Not sure if any of your LFS have simple sand but that would work as well.

    How big is your tank? For my 20 Gallon tank I ended up using about 10lbs of Carib Sea Moon Sand and about 5lbs of Red Clay Flourite.

    Is this a brand new setup or a pre-existing aquarium that you just want to remove current substrate and add dirt?

  3. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    This is a 55gallon tank that I recently got my hands on. I'm not 100% on whether to dirt it or not, but from my research it seams it could be beneficial since I will be using almost all root feeders, swords and crypts mainly.

    Im not sure whether to just do root tabs, or do dirt, I'm not planning to heavily plant and it will only be a low tech set up, my other theory is to just dirt the rear corners as that's where the larger heavier root feeders will be.

    As for LFS, I literally (to my knowledge) have 0 around me, 2-3hr drives and I think most of them are focused on reef aquariums. The best I have is petco and petsmart.

    How beneficial has dirt been for your plants? Is it worth the effort?

  4. Blk69Valued MemberMember

    Dustin is a high intensive guy! From what I have learned, dirt substrate is great for a while then the nutrients get used up. You than have to use root tabs and such....just like a gravel tank.
  5. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    I don't dislike Dustin, but he's one of those guys where you have to be in the right mood to watch his stuff.
    From what I have seen in his vids, you are looking at 5+ years without the need for ferts if you do a decent layer, chances are my tank would be torn down before the soil became dormant.
  6. junebugFishlore LegendMember

    Ideally, you wouldn't ever use root tabs in a dirted tank. A large part of the reason Diana Walstad uses gravel in her NPTs as a cap is so the fish waste will fall through it and re-fertilize the soil. I also occasionally dose a comprehensive fert in my tanks (they are all NPTs) to get some micro/macro nutrients in the water, because most of my tanks use RO water that requires remineralization, but with tap water, this would be less of an issue.
  7. DTurnerValued MemberMember


    Yeah blk69 is correct eventually nutrients in dirt do get used up, but from my research that can be 2-3 years down the road, event longer if you have a proper balance in the tank and are dosing proper nutrients.

    As far as my plants benefiting from the dirt, here are a few photos. The first one is of my tank shortly after planting.

    The second one i just took. Its so much more lush now after just almost 2 months.

    Also Attached is a side view of the dirt, fluorite then sand and you can see the deep roots as well.

    Attached Files:

  8. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    very nice tank, I see you have CO2 also, I won't be using CO2.
    Im going to have 30watts over a 55 gallon, so I'm very on the fence about putting the effort into a dirt tank. Is it going to be beneficial in any light intensity?
  9. DTurnerValued MemberMember

    30 watts in a 55 gallon is perfectly fine with low light plants, just ensure they are in the realm of 6500 kelvin.

    Plants in general can root in almost any substrate. With tabs and ferts you should be fine keeping it with simple substrate instead of dirt. And also no CO2 is fine as well for low light plants. When the light intesity goes up so should the CO2 typically as plants do use them in harmony.
  10. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2015
  11. DTurnerValued MemberMember

    I would say give it a shot, its not as hard or as complicated as some people make it out to be.
  12. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    Dare I even touch on whether I need to mineralise the soil or not...
  13. junebugFishlore LegendMember

    Uhm a 30 watt light over a 55 gallon won't be enough PAR for anything more than Java fern and anubias. Maybe one species of floating plant, but that would negate the possibility of any plants growing under water.

    What is the actual PAR rating for your tank?
  14. DTurnerValued MemberMember

    So mineralised soil is mostly used when you are getting soil straight from your back yard or garden. When i did my tank just got a bag of Miracle Grow Organic Garden Soil which worked fine.
  15. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    I know this lighting sucks, I don't have the funds to upgrade it yet, I'm only planning on Amazon swords, and maybe some Java fern with frogbit for floaters. They should all do ok in the low light, they have done for me before.
  16. junebugFishlore LegendMember

    An amazon sword will rot at the base in that low of lighting, without at least a few hours of daylight to supplement it.
  17. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    Well the tank is near a sliding door, and will get decent ambient light, my 29g used to be there but when I added a Finnex light the water turned green. I was going to cover the side of the tank to block out the extra light that it will get, but maybe it will work to my advantage on this tank.

    I know the PAR rating is going to be unbelievably low, why they make a 55 gallon tank with 2 of the hoods you get on a 20 high is beyond me, it's all about the money. I got the set up for free though so I can't complain.

    Eventually I will probably get 2x 20" planted plus 24/7 lights for this tank.
    or perhaps a versa top with a 48" fixture.
  18. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    DTurner I guess you used fluorite as a substitution to clay?
  19. DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    So I just discovered these

  20. DTurnerValued MemberMember

    DanB80TTS yes i used the red clay flourite as a substitute for just clay. Looking at that light it is only 5500 Kelvin which is a bit low, however may be fine. Its not meant for plants specifically however it may be just fine.

    I personally used this light and they make them in many lengths. Its a  .

    However t5 is a very high light output light and would make your tank go from a Low Light to a Very High Light tank. The T8 LED Bulb you found would probably be able to grow Medium Light, However If there are 2 T8 bulbs in your fixture I may suggest using 1 of the 5500 Kelvin and 1 of the 7000 Kelvin lights.

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