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Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Dirted Tank

  1. #1

    Default Dirted Tank

    0 Not allowed!
    So I'm going Joe Dirte style on my 75...

    anyone have experience with this, I've tried some other forums, but really unless you have been on them for a yr plus nobody seems to pay any attention to you... (i hope we really don't do that here, i never felt ignored on here)

    thinking miracle grow organic as the product of choice

    any tips on other options? I can't do mineralized topsoil because i don't have the time to do so

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Jacksonville, FL

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    0 Not allowed!
    with a half inch cap you can do pretty much anything.
    FW: 1 45gal, 1 40gal, 3 10gal, 3 30gal all community tanks of different species
    Sw: 1 55gal, 1 30gal show, 1 29gal show, 1 20gal and 2 10's

  3. #3


    0 Not allowed!
    I have not bothered with a dirt substrate, simply because there is no real benefit long-term, but there are several issues initially of which you must be aware and prepared for. Many experienced sources recommend six months before any fish are added (there can be very high ammonia, algae issues, and so forth). You also have to be careful with the soil used. Most sources I have come across recommend one inch of dirt, capped by one inch of clean sand. Planting must be done before the sand layer, since mixing the dirt up is a real mess. You also want to avoid burrowing fish. Corys generally don't go below an inch, but many loaches and pleco will easily tunnel to the bottom glass.

    Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

  4. #4


    0 Not allowed!
    hmmmm.... the no fish thing for 6 months is new, and if that were the case would end any thoughts like that.

    My plan currently was to mix my current substrate (turface) in with the MG so that it gave it a higher CEC (therefore hopefully lasting longer)

    I have a few BN plecos, but have never really seen them burrow, the rams are the ones that do the most damage to my substrate slopes

  5. #5


    1 Not allowed!
    You probably know the name Diana Walstad; she introduced (or if not introduced, at least she promoted much wider interest) the concept of soil tanks a few years ago. She has an entire chapter on this subject in her excellent book, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, and she has laid out the principles in several articles and online. She is careful to caution on the issues during the first few months. Other sources have adjusted certain aspects to avoid some of the issues; things like dry start or wet start, no fish for six months, etc.

    One thing Diana does mention is not mixing substances in with clean unsterilized soil. And all sources that I have read suggest no more than one inch, capped by an inch of sand or fine gravel. Turface, primarily used to aerate, might be inadvisable. Just a caution.

    One thing that always strikes me, is that all these people admit that after about a year, the soil substrate is no more effective or beneficial as a substrate of plain sand that is left alone so it develops a healthy bacterial population.

    Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]

  6. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. #7


    0 Not allowed!
    I would not use miracle grow because of the high level of macro nutrients. For my dirted tanks I used topsoil from a grassy area that has good drainage and has never been exposed to pesticides or fertilizer. I then mineralized it before use. With this method I was able to introduce fish within a month.
    <-- Click for journals
    "There is no right way to do the wrong thing." - KingFisher "Only bad things happen fast in this hobby" - Cliff

  8. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    A while ago I put a dirt substrate in my 120L. I used John Innes 3 mixed with a fistful of bonemeal and capped it with JBL Sansibar. I stocked it after cycling: 2 adult C Apisto, 10 glowlight tetras, and 1 albino BN pleco. I haven't lost a fish and the Apistos regularly breed.This is my experience with it:


    There was substrate upheaval for months with bubbles coming up from the settling dirt. These bubbles were harmless to the fish, but they did bring soil up through the sand cap which doesn't look great but can be syphoned off. I haven't been diligent enough about removing it and it's clogged and destroyed two filters.

    Mould. It developed a white mould which took a few months to go. Again it was harmless to the fish and in the end it disappeared overnight.

    BBA. I've been battling BBA in there recently. I started to add EasyCarbo a couple of months ago, along with reducing food and draping it in a towel to keep out daylight and it seems to be getting better.

    Algae. No green algae in the tank, but there's a strip of bright green along the front, under the substrate. This is lessening since I started to use a towel to keep out the daylight.


    Cost. Compared to aquarium substrates it's dirt cheap ;) €60 for substrate versus €5 for a bag of Innes made it my only option.

    The plants love it, and that's the most important thing. I have giant Vals, crinums, AM swords and a crypt and they're doing great. I had to pull out all the hygrophylia because it was impossible to keep under control.

    It looks good. The look of a sand bottom without having to worry about root tabs.

  9. #9


    0 Not allowed!
    Yea, I've gotten so many mixed reviews.

    I do plan to try it and document (with pictures) and brief write ups on the progress

    Plan involves:

    Possibly using red clay to hold the nutrients longer and then capping with black diamond.

    Will be using many stem plants and also have a floating ball of java moss to help absorb the excess nutrients right away

  10. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Just make sure there's no manure in whatever soil you decide to use.

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