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The Soil Substrate or Dirted Planted Tank - A How to Guide

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by Tim Harrison, 9 Dec 2011.

  1. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,851
    willsy and dw1305 like this.
  2. willsy

    willsy Newly Registered

    Messages:
    16
    Thanks very much Tim, that's perfect.

    Also, thanks so much for your guide... I setup a tank a few years ago following your guide and had fantastic success...

    I'm currently in the process of carrying out a full re-scape and I'm back here for your guide again! :)

    Will.
     
    Tim Harrison likes this.
  3. willsy

    willsy Newly Registered

    Messages:
    16
    One more question if you don't mind Tim...

    As I'm replacing substrate etc in a fully cycled tank running with a canister filter, I was going to put the fish and shrimps in a plastic box while I did this and then put them back into the tank on the same day.

    I notice in your guide you refer to the fact that the soil will give out ammonia for a week or two afterwards though.

    Do you think I would therefore need to move my fish etc to another temporary home with a running filter for a week or two whilst the tank soil settles down?

    Thanks very much.

    Will.
     
  4. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,851
    I think it'd be wise to keep them in a temporary home until nitrite and ammonia levels are as near as damn it zero. It's one of the only times I advocate using a test kit.
    If your filter is cycled it shouldn't take too long, and you may not even experience much of an ammonia spike at all...but best to be safe than sorry.
    Daily water changes will help as well.
    Back in the day I used to put critters back in the tank same day without ill effect...but I wouldn't recommend it now.

    P.S. I should add my tanks were always heavily planted from the outset.
     
    Last edited: 1 Jan 2017
    willsy, zozo and PARAGUAY like this.
  5. willsy

    willsy Newly Registered

    Messages:
    16
    Thanks... I've invested in a temporary plastic tank.

    Should prove useful in the future for various things too!
     
  6. Progen

    Progen Member

    Messages:
    193
    I'm in the process of setting up a 2' cube the cheap way by using ordinary garden compost from a nursery at like USD0.80 per 7.5 litre bag. No hurry to put fishes in so can take my time to do water changes and let the ammonia / nitrates / phosphates and whatever slowly drop. Have currently planted some dwarf hair grass and am waiting for the monte carlo to arrive. Will post photos IF successful. :D
     
  7. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,851
    Hi Progen, sounds like a great project, maybe it'd be a good idea to start your own journal;)
     
  8. zozo

    zozo Member

    Messages:
    3,136
    Tim? Ever thought of mixing your own soil? For example part peat, sand, clay and or loam and add extra whatever you think is necessary? But i guess those 3 components about cover it all for a start.. What are your thoughts about that?

    I ask because when i look at the bags description i always kinda feel to see things in there i have my doubts about..For instance Lime and or a percentage organic ferts which could be anything. :)
     
  9. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,851
    I did in the distant past - loam, grit and peat. Now I just use 1:1 aquatic compost (which is mostly peat) and peat, perhaps with some grit or cat litter.
    Without the added peat it tends to become very cloddy once it's gone through mineralisation.
    There also might be an increase in the period of time that CO2 is given off.
    I know what you mean though about undesirable ingredients...but i've never encountered any problems.
     
    zozo likes this.
  10. zozo

    zozo Member

    Messages:
    3,136
    Ok thanks.. It's just that i'm investigating the composition of available commercial garden/pond soils a little bit.. And for example it's often stated it's inriched with humus. And this can be a lot today, found in nature like it used to be, or just made (shreded composted) from green waste from the trash dump, the stuff i throw away myself in the green bin. Is sold back to me as humus... And a bit to much of organic green waste not yet fully processed is something i feel a little reluctand to use. This idea awakens the control freak in me.. :rolleyes:

    I realy like to try this dirted tank idea and i'm planning a little experiment with this in a small tank maybe 40 litres cube.. Since it is just so little water volume i would like to keep it as sterile, clean and controlled as possible..So i thought of making it myself, to prevent any undesired rotting processes in the soil with so little water. 1/5 clay, 2/5 peat and 2/5 sand seems a good recipe i found in an article from an oldfashion Dutch style aquascaper doing it like this for decades.
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2017
  11. Zante

    Zante Member

    Messages:
    26
    Tim, I'm planning a planted riparium, and by that I mean well planted both above and below the water, even with some epiphytes on emerging wood. The theme will be Amazon, both in flora and in fauna. That will also mean soft water and low ph. The main fish will be discus, but quite far down the road. First I want to make sure the plants are very well established, then the fish will start going in, especially with those little bulldozers that corys are.

    The whole thing to be capped with a couple of cm of play sand.

    I was initially thinking of a 50/50 mix of sphagnum moss peat and soil from the woods owned by a former neighbour. I specify this because I know there is no chemical spraying of anything for several hundred hectares.
    I have recently been considering of also adding cat litter and/or sand. Then I was pointed in the direction of this thread.

    I'm also planning a smaller "pilot" tank with a smaller scale of the same project, with blue Rams instead of discus.

    What kind of mix would you suggest for my tank?
    When you talk about proportions, are you measuring in volume or in weight?
     
  12. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,851
    Wow...that's a difficult one for me not having ever kept discuss, so TBH I don't really have a definitive answer, especially since I know many Discus enthusiast keep their fish in bare bottom tanks.

    If it were my tank though I think I'd be inclined to use a higher percentage of peat and use compost instead of soil since it tends to be fairly predictable; although I'd definitely stay clear of any compost with additional lime or any other ingredient that will raise TDS.

    When it comes to proportions I measure by volume.
    I would also use a soil tidy or divider to stop the soil mixing with the capping substrate or being disturbed by your corys...you can cut one to fit out of something like this https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Garden-N...27&sr=1-1&keywords=gardman greenhouse shading I think it can also be bought by the metre.

    So much of soil substrates is experimental, so the idea of a pilot tank is a very good move and I'd definitely get that up and running first, and see how it goes.
    Either way I wish you all the best with your new projects, they sound very exciting:)

    P.S. Another good move would be to start a journal...check out Tom's https://www.ukaps.org/forum/threads/toms-bucket-o-mud-the-end.14521/. It'd be great to see your progress, and we have plenty of experienced and knowledgeable members who could offer advice and help along the way should it be needed;)
     
    Last edited: 31 Jan 2017
  13. Zante

    Zante Member

    Messages:
    26
    Thank you for your answer.

    In the meantime I have been convinced elsewhere to drop the idea of using collected soil, so at the moment I'm looking at a mix of sphagnum peat, sand, red clay and compost. I still have to decide what the proportions will be.

    Yes, because of the little bulldozers I was already planning on using something like that to keep the layers separate, although I'm also planning a microfauna of worms and other invertebrates to live in the soil, so I don't know how long the separation will last anyway.

    The pilot tank is exactly for that reason. It'll be a lot easier to set up a traditional tank for two pairs of rams coming from 120 litres in case things go downhill than for discus, tetras, plecos and corys coming from 1200 litres. That way I can learn from the smaller tank and then apply that experience on the larger one.

    As for the journal, I'm planning to put the lot on YouTube and open myself to ridicule :D
    ... and advice will always be welcome, of course. I've never been shy of publishing my mistakes when I was keeping a video journal of my reef, even when i had a total wipeout.
     

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