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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I finally got the chance to switch my tank to a soil-based planted tank on Sunday. It was a looooooong process, but I'm happy it's done! However, I've seem to run into a problem.

Last night when I went to bed, the water column was clear. It took three complete drainings of the tank to get it that way, but the end result was water that was as clear as glass. This morning when I woke up (around 7:30am), the water was sort of murky, but not completely turbid. Then, when I came home from class, I noticed my tank water had gotten so dark that I could barely see anything in it. Out of curiosity, I decided to check the ammonia reading and it read an outstanding 8ppm. Thankfully, I had decided last night not to put my fish & snail back into the tank, so they weren't exposed to the sudden ammonia spike.

I'm just really confused because all of the guides I've read have said that you should be able to safely add your tank inhabitants the day you set up the tank, but had I done that, I'm pretty sure I would have come home to a dead fish this morning.

I have a 5 gallon tank that's filtered & heated to about 80 degrees.

- Lighting: One Zoomed Daylight bulb; 10 watts, 6500k; 12 hour photoperiod
- Substrate: Miracle-Gro Organic Choice All Purpose Plant Food * capped with Floramax
- Plants: dwaf saggitaria, giant hygro, hornwort, anacharis, narrow-leaf anacharis, bacopa caroliniana, two small stalks of bacopa monnieri, a tiny portion of a pennywort plant, wisteria, watersprite, "dwarf amazon sword", one stem of ludwiga, a little guppy grass, one marimo moss ball, duckweed and salivinia minima
- Fauna: my betta & mystery snail will eventually be going back into the tank, as well as three trumpet snails and a varied mix of about 10 pond & ramshorn snails.

* After having to set up this tank TWICE, I only JUST NOTICED (as in, while I'm typing this) that this isn't what I thought it was (Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting MIX). Could this be the reason for my high ammonia?
 

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Yikes :shock: It sounds like the potting mix must have chemicals that will be toxic in a fish tank.

If it were me, I'd start over with new substrate.
 

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Look on the bright side, at least you didn't add your fish back to the tank. You sure dodged a bullet with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I don't think it's the plant food you are meant to be using from the Miracle Gro range. Pretty sure it is the Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix. That could be why you got such a high ammonia reading.
Yeah, I discovered that while I was typing out my first post. When I saw bought it, I didn't really pay attention the what was on the bag, just the color of it. I'll be redoing the tank this weekend. :)
 

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Haha I saw that at the bottom of your OP after I had posted. It was lucky you tested your water and took your livestock out, as who knows what else was in there. Would have been horrible to poison your fish.

I was cautious about using even the Miracle Gro Potting Mix (using potting mix in an aquarium just seems weird), but I had a couple of fish in there a week or so after set-up and they did fine. The plants also loved it.
 

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dunno if this helps your cause but I currently have Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix in my 10gal NPT, its been over 4 weeks now, its usually at 0ppm, and my mystery snail/white clouds and plants are doing fine
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
dunno if this helps your cause but I currently have Miracle Grow Organic Choice Potting Mix in my 10gal NPT, its been over 4 weeks now, its usually at 0ppm, and my mystery snail/white clouds and plants are doing fine
Yeah, that's the soil that I THOUGHT I had picked up. But alas, I didn't and now my tank is a deathtrap for anything that goes in there, haha. I'll be sure to pay closer attention next time!
 

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Edit:eek:h wait...
rereads...

All purpose plant food?!?!

scrap the original post lol! pull the plants before they die!

Original post:
Wait! don't tear it down yet! get some black sand from petco or something and fill in the floramax. the flora max is likely not a good gap and allowing the ammonia to seep through.

to add the sand, first drain the tank completely

rinse sand well in a bucket, then take the sand and do a layer over the floramax. work your way around the plants. (assuming you have black? if not use whatever color sand your floramax is...)

cover everything with saran wrap, then fill. the saran wrap will prevent loose particles and dust from flying everywhere.

Allow the tank to run without livestock for a week or two. it WILL establish itself....do 50% water changes atleast once a week for the first few weeks...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wait! don't tear it down yet! get some black sand from petco or something and fill in the floramax. the flora max is likely not a good gap and allowing the ammonia to seep through.

to add the sand, first drain the tank completely

rinse sand well in a bucket, then take the sand and do a layer over the floramax. work your way around the plants. (assuming you have black? if not use whatever color sand your floramax is...)

cover everything with saran wrap, then fill. the saran wrap will prevent loose particles and dust from flying everywhere.

Allow the tank to run without livestock for a week or two. it WILL establish itself....do 50% water changes atleast once a week for the first few weeks...
Oh hi! :)

From what I gathered from my research before hand, a lot of people have had success using floramax as a cap which is why I went on ahead and bought it. I'm pretty convinced that the ammonia spike is from my soil, and I'm scared that even if it does stabilize, that it'll suddenly spike back up as the soil ages & releases more of whatever "nutrients" it has to offer. At this point, I'm just a lot more comfortable going with what I *know* will work. Plus, my tank smells absolutely horrid so I'm not at all opposed to starting over, haha. Thanks for the info though! If I weren't so impatient, I would definitely try your method. It would save me gas money for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)

So, I changed the substrate to Miracle Gro Organic Potting Mix and got the tank set up again. It's been running for a little under a week now...and I still have ammonia readings? Granted, this time it's somewhere between .25 and .5ppm, but that's not "safe" enough for me to allow my fish to swim freely in (which is why he's in his cup, as is my mystery snail (not in the same cup, mind you!)). Considering how heavily planted my tank is, it should read zero, right? Does anyone have any ideas about what's going on?

Oh, I should tell you that my tap water has .25ppm ammonia in it, and if it matters, Prime is my dechlorinator.

(also, sorry for the quality of the picture; i took it with my phone)
 

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I have a NPT too and it still has a little ammonia. It's going to leach a little but once your cycle kicks in (it has probably already started) you'll never notice. Your snail and betta will create a smaller load than the plants and good bacteria can eat you'll be fine.

Looking at your tank, I need more plants in mine. It doesn't help that I have a huge piece of wood in mine though LOL. Your plants should start exploding next week or the week after. You should see growth but then it'll go POOF and you'll need to do a trim. That's a very good sign.

Here's the thread to mine if you're interested.
http://www.bettafish.com/showthread.php?t=127007
 
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