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Old 11-30-2012, 03:27 PM   #101 
Juicebox
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i have put my organic potting soil and play sand cap into my 14 gallon,its been running for 3 or 4 days now, i put in some rocks and a fake plant and a cup for a cave, i put my betta inside the tank along with about 15 mts and 2 ghost shrimp, i have a nice amount of frogsbit floating,but i cant afford to buy any plants for mayb 4 to 6 weeks,will the soil stay good with no plants in it during this time?will it be ok to drain out most of the water when i get plants and then plant and fill it back up
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:20 PM   #102 
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For safety, I would remove the Betta....without enough active growing stem plants the water might get too toxic for a fish, shrimp and even the snails for that matter. Watch the snails and if you see them all going to the top-make a big water change. The frogbit will help some, I would make 2-3 50% water only changes in the mean time.

The soil goes through a lot of changes in the process of starting its life underwater.

Once you get your plants-drain the tank to a couple of inches-Plant-refill and make more water changes if needed until the water is clear.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:45 PM   #103 
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for the first 3 days i did a 90 percent water change every day before i added any livestock,waters crystal clear.

how do i know if the water gets too toxic other than watching how the inmates behave,will it be high amonia and nitrate,is it something i can test for? coz i will test for amonia and nitrates daily and do changes when i see it go high,in fact i might do 30 percent change every day just to be safe and 1 or 2 50 changes a week

i do have a 5 gallon tank,but i have 2 african dwarf frogs and 2 ghost shrimp in there,i am just afraid if i add a betta and a ghost shrimp into that tank now i will be over stocking
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Old 11-30-2012, 05:37 PM   #104 
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I would test daily and make water changes based on ammonia/nitrite, however the chaos that newly submerged soil can create when you don't have enough plants to help keep it controlled-won't always show up as ammonia/nitrite. The soil can become anaerobic, unstable and can become toxic. This is why it is so important to start a soil based tank with enough of the right species of plants from the start-For the safety of the livestock.....
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Old 12-01-2012, 12:06 PM   #105 
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Thank you OFL, this is the thread I have been waiting for. There are so many conflicting methods and answers I have received on other sites that have made me afraid to even attempt dirting a tank. After reading this thread however, Im going to follow your method as it seems to be very successful. I have 3 questions that maybe you can help me with.

How do you feel about aquarium sand as a cap over play sand? I really like the black aquarium sand they sell at pecto.

Is wattage of lights more important or is the spectrum? If I set up my 10 gallon with soil, I plan to use 2 13w 6500K CFL Bulbs. If I decide to dirt my 20 gallon, I'm going to purchase a T5 HO light with one 6500K sunlight bulb and one pink plant bulb (not sure of the spectrum but its the flora sun bulb by zoomed). Will those light choices be enough for me to have a successful system?

Last, Where is a good place to find plants? The LFS and petco in my area doesn't carry a good selection of plants. I can get a few tubed plants like anubias and java fern but there is no selection for stem plants.

I have received so many different answers. I don't want to have a high tech system, I just want to know the basics for having a low tech dirt tank that I can enjoy.

Thank you.
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Old 12-01-2012, 04:11 PM   #106 
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Your welcome and I am glad it helped you out...

Its the proper color temp that is most important for plant growth-the 6500k is what has worked well for me in my dirt based system. The bulbs you plan sound perfect=especially since they are new. I change mine out every 12 months since florescent bulbs intensity can be lost over time.

IMO-sand is sand-inert-I used that black aquarium sand on one of mine and it has worked well-can't really tell any difference between the pool filter and play sand...well...other than color....lol...plant growth seems to be the same..The dark sand/substrate in general can also help the color pop on the fish, inverts and plants IME-as well as some fish tend to like the darker hue.

As for plants-I would check and see if you have any local aquarium clubs-check out PVAS and even if its not near you- often a member will be-Local aquarium clubs are a great place to get plants.

That is what I love about the natural planted dirt based systems-Once they mature-easy to care for and usually you don't need any added ferts, however, as they get some age on them-I have found that my sword plants will need some extra Iron after a couple of years and even then-I make my own with my native clay soil-I make red clay balls and let them dry in the sun-then I cram them in the soil around the sword plants and crypts-Perks those plants up within a week...lol....And the beauty of the natural systems is that you don't need to inject CO2-As the organic matter decomps it will produce natural CO2 as well as when the lights are out-naturally. Personally I don't want to mess with CO2...lol.....

Look forward to seeing a new thread with pics once you get them setup-I will be looking for it.....

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 12-01-2012 at 04:14 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 09:43 PM   #107 
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what do u think about them lily bulbs oldfishlady,the ones they sell in petco in dry packets,3 bulbs for about 5 dollars,i saw a thread about them and was interested,do they have any place in a npt or are they too big or block out too much light for the other plants
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:08 AM   #108 
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I used the lily bulbs from wal mart and had a 50/50 success with them. Nice little plant-the leave float on top of the water like a lily pad. As long as the leaves don't cover too much of the top they shouldn't cause any problems. I do have to cut them back on a regular bases when I get too many leaves at the surface.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:43 PM   #109 
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I guess im stubborn about the MTS, but I'd much rather keep poking the soil until the tank is mature. Sorry for such a specific question, but how much do you have to poke? I think I read somewhere every inch you should. And do you want to poke all the way down, or just enough to slightly penetrate into the actual dirt?

Also,
I know you said vacuuming is bad, but I still feel I'd want to at least once ina long while if it gets too gritty. Is it safe to do the hover technique i read about, where you hover the vacuum over the sand/gravel cap and move the mulm up with your finger?

Last edited by MonteCarlo; 12-05-2012 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 12-05-2012, 02:22 PM   #110 
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IMO/E-the common snails are important for the natural systems-since they complete the little ecosystem we are creating. While the trumpets snails can help aerate the soil to prevent anaerobic issues. The common snails also help to rid the tank of debris-dead/dieing plant matter/organics, provide ferts for the plants...etc.... However, I do understand why you don't want snails since they can over populate and just like anything else we have to do for a closed system-like-water changes, trimming plants, removal of excess debris, algae etc.....we may have to remove some of the extra snails on occasion too-just part of the general up-keep of a closed system.

In place of the trumpets-I would poke the substrate all the way to the bottom in several different places 1-2 times a week-more or less. Once you have active stem plant growth-their roots should be able to provide the needed oxygen to the soil.

One of the hardest things some hobbyist have with the natural systems-Is letting it get dirty and/or allowing debris to lay on the substrate. The urge to keep everything clean is hard to over come when switching from a standard system to a soil based natural system. And while removing this debris won't cause the system to crash-It can upset the balance to a degree-I am not saying to let it get disgusting dirty-but that allowing some mulm/debris helps to feed the system in general.

You don't want too clean-but you don't want too dirty either.....Finding that all important balance so that everything works together.

The way I vacuum the mulm/debris-using my free hand I brush the excessive mulm/debris toward the vacuum. I do this maybe once a year in my 20gal-75gal NPT's and about 2-3 times a year in my 1gal-10gal's.
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