Help W/ Dirted Tank

  • #1
Hey guys. Considering a dirted tank. (Well doing...) questions on a couple products.

I got Miracle Gro - Natures Choice/Care Organic (w a water additive that prevents over/underwatering) Basically it feels a bit more spongy.

I added a bit to a cut w/ a gravel cap and it seems to stay under the gravel just fine. Will it work?

Also got some clay. See photos attached

I bought this basically thinking... Eh its only 10$. I have read to stay away from 'modeling clay' will this be sufficient for added iron?
It is wet. Should I ball it and add it, or dry it and crush it?
I have read that drying the clay may change the compounds and make it unable to provide iron. If that's true why does everyone do it???

If you have used either product for your tank w/ shrimp/fish please let me know. It will be a 29 gallon w/ Finnex Planted+ 24/7 and Fluval CO2 injected and dosed w/ Easy green / Seachem Flourish / maybe iron if I want.

Above is currently being done w/ no dirt/clay.

Also as a last note, if the clay dissolves into the water, that's good right?

Bithimala TexasDomer
  • #2
Sorry, no idea. My only dirted tank was a mess, so now I stick with sand or Turface Pro League.
  • #3
Dry out the clay! I repeat Dry out the clay!!! I'll show you why
1470024181559.jpg Tank with dried out clay added, picture taken almost immediately after
1470024215790.jpg this tank I did first and didn't dry out the clay, this was taken two days after. Dried balls of clay=crystal clear. Wet clay=mud puddle!

Edit** on YouTube, there's a guy named dustin who talks a lot about dirted tanks, he swears by it. He can be annoying at times but he knows what he is talking about. He uses an organic miracle grow although I don't remember which one. Along with red clay, he used some kind of Mexican red clay he found at a craft store so I'd assume you'd be fine as long as you don't have added ingredients. Above all good luck with your planted tank, would love to see pictures

EDIT 2*** the guy I bought from did say to add wet but add quick which is easiest if you preball then, I dried mine almost all the way so I could get them under my sand before a mess was made. (In the one with clear water)
  • #4
Sorry, no experience here either. Mine are sand, gravel, and/or coral.
  • #5
I just use organic gardening soil with earthworm castings for my dirted tanks. I spent about $4 at my Walmart for (I believe) a 40 pound bag and have done several for myself and a few for friends, and still have soil leftover. You do have to spend some time sifting out things like wood chips, but since I am cheap and have lots of time - I opted to do so. I did not add any clay. I have mostly low light plants, but I am very happy with my results. I do not add as much soil as Dustin recommends - I go with more like 1/4 - 1/2 inch...if I know I will put something more demanding in a corner I add a bit more there. The gravel/sand cap - and NOT losing it when placing plants is the biggest frustration. Make sure the cap is nice and thick.

here is my 29 gal the day I set it up 7/19/2016 :

IMG_20160720_165051 [Original Size].jpg

and a pic I took just yesterday...I am still adding "filler plants" as they come in the mail...added some crypts today....


and one I set up just a few days ago...horrid bright pink/purple rocks I let my son talk me into - they may get covered over eventually.

Michael Briggs
  • #6
Some suggestions after sifting the dirt to get the big stuff out put the dirt in a large tote. Fill the tote with water till it's about 6 inches above the dirt. Mix the dirt really good and let set for 24 hours. Scoop any thing still floating on top and poor off the water and repeat once more.

The reason for this is the stuff that floats can eventually work there way to the surface and make a mess. The wood will also release tannins that can make your water brown in color. The less big organic materiel in the soil the faster it will cycle.

Hears a pic of my 29 gallon dirt tank about 3 months after switching to dirt.

And yes that clay will work and I mixed my dry in to the soil. And u should get the dirt wet before you cap it. Add water till the dirt is the consistency of pudding if you get it to wet just let it dry for a little while.


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  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Thanks all! I did get Miracle gro organic. And I also went and bought MexI clay. Couldnt help but to listen.

Just watered the dirt after breaking down tanks. Every bit of dirt is floating in about 6" of water. Will this settle? Or should I have capped it? Thought I wasn't suppose to. W/ this I would have rather dirted and capped then did like, 3 drain/fills.

Hopefully this settles and works in the long run. I did put a bag over the dirt when pouring water but alas it all floated.

I did ball up about a lb of the clay and set infront of our room fan. Hopefully it will be dry in about 18 hours.

Maybe tomorrow I'll just start over and dirt, cap, fill, drain, fill, drain, fill, drain, add clay, then fill. Depending on the dirt. I'm a bit more impatient. (Should have used that idea in a bin instead of my tank -,-)
  • #8
The clay should be dry enough by then, I left mine under a desk lamp overnight and it went pretty smoothly!
Good luck with everything!
Also a big tip from the dustin guys page is to plant heavy and go easy on the lighting, because you're going to have excess nutrients which most times leads to algae.
Michael Briggs
  • #9
Yea that's why I suggested to fill with water then let sit for 24 hours so the dirt could settle. I have found that rushing switching to dirt leads to more problems down the road.

  • Thread Starter
  • #10
I did let it soak in about 6" water last night from 11pm ish til 4pm today. I looked 8 hours in and was disappointed. But. We will see. Hopefully I will be happily surprised tonight!

Also. My lighting is going from a 20Long to a 29 gallon so the lighting will be reduced. =]

EDIT: I do think its possible I have been using too much light which is one reason for the upsize.
  • #11
By easy I mostly meant length of time the don't need 10-12hrs a day. You just have to find what works for you. Alot if the you tubers with BEAUTIFUL dirted planted tanks only have their lights on for 6 hours a day
Michael Briggs
  • #12
None of the dirt settled in that amount of time? If so I would say that soil is probably not good for use in a fish tank. Now if most of the dirt settled out and the water is just muddy then that's good. Suck off the muddy water this removes any particles that don't easily settle. The reason behind this is if when adding or removing plants you pull up some dirt it won't cloud up the tank to bad and will settle faster.

  • Thread Starter
  • #13
I see. About half settled, and I just said screw it, ....... And completely forgot to use the pre soaked dirt... I'll keep updates. We might soak it overnight but I think the large cap of gravel/sand (fine gravel) will keep it down nicely. Gotta learn from my ups! =]

My mess ups. **
  • #14
I only had one dirt tank and it's a ten gallon betta sorority All I did was use some old dirt that my family had kept worms in for fishing all year and some all natural clay that I dug up years ago while camping. I got the dirt all muddy and picked out the few bits of twigs and acorn caps that the worms didn't eat up, added the bits of dry clay that I crushed up and added that to the dry tank. Then I capped it with flourite red, gently filled it up, then drained it half way. Then I added all the plants, filled it, drained it once more and filled it up one last time.

There was a minimal amount of red cloudiness from the flourite but that was taken care of by the filter in under a day. I had no issues with the dirt getting into the water. The tank is still fairly new so some problems might pop up in the future but so far so good

  • Thread Starter
  • #15
I got it filled and swapped stands today. Its late, so tomorrow I'll be planting everything. Tank looks bear with the additional 10g. (29g) maybe time for new plants this weekend!

Will upload photos tmo
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Here we go! Still a bit to add!!! Still have the D Hairgrass to add tmo!

(Yes different photo, zoomed ... Or not zoomed... Idk)

I'm experimenting w/ adding O2 into the powerheads at the night. My theory is it will help plants off-gas CO2. I have a fluval 88g running on this (2 weeks so far atleast still lots of PSI, I have a 24oz. Tank to add when it runs out)

The O2 is added an hour after the CO2 turns off, and O2 turns off an hour before CO2 turns on. CO2 is regular timing an hour before the light reaches its 70% power, and runs until it drops back to 70% then off.

Lemme know what you think. Havent had any issues w/ dirt yet, no weird deaths. I added some safestart when I got it all situated w/ the filter, and the added powerheads w/ sponge intakes should help to reduce any spikes.

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