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Converting to soil base planted aquarium

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#1 Guest_frogwhacker_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 12:53 AM

I hadn't quite got all the hardware I needed to set up my 75 gal. and I already set up my 55 with a soil base-sand capped substrate and planted it. I enjoyed watching the fish in the plants so much that I wanted to do the same with my 45 gal. which had a gravel only substrate. The only problem,..... there were fish already in it. It currently houses my male longear, some striped shiners, a couple creek chubs and some bigeye chubs. I just didn't want to subject them to being chased down and caught, put in a new tank, and then being chased down and caught again to be put back into something they wouldn't even recognize. I searched the internet and couldn't find any ideas for how to do this except freezing the soil first. I tried this with a small piece and didn't like what I saw, so I thought of another way. Before I explain this, remember, it's completely acceptable to laugh. I laughed at myself while I was doing it, and then I laughed when I was done because it actually worked. I think the fish were even laughing at me. They did seem quite curious about the whole thing anyway.

I condensed this into a 7 step process.
Step 1: vacuumed the existing substrate as thoroughly as possible. The substrate was already fairly clean so it only dropped the water level a couple inches. It was just about the right level in the end.

Step 2: Found some styrofoam egg cartons that hold 18 eggs. These are about 12" long and my tank is about 12" wide so it was a decent fit. I severed the bottom of the egg carton from the top and threw out the bottom. I cut the lip or flare off of it and cut the divider out of the center. I then lined the inside of the lid with cellophane
Attached File  step 2.jpg   195.49KB   1 downloads
Step 3: put soil in the lid until it was almost full.
Attached File  step 3.jpg   235.34KB   0 downloads
Step 4: wet the soil until it was completely moistened and I could see water standing in it.
Attached File  step 4.jpg   244.13KB   1 downloads
Step 5: covered the soil with sand. I let it mound up to probably nearly an inch thick or more and made sure the sand was completely wet.
Attached File  step 5.jpg   218.72KB   0 downloads
Step 6: slowly lowered the egg carton lid full of soil and sand into the tank. I piled the gravel substrate and scooped some out as needed.
Attached File  step 6.jpg   161.48KB   0 downloads
Step 7: repeated steps 2-6 until bottom of tank was lined full with egg carton lids, carefully tucking the excess cellophane in between the lids, and then slowly covering and filling all seams, bumps, and crevices with presoaked sand. Finally, I added decorations and plants. Still needs more plants. I collected more today, but they're not in these pictures. Most of these plants came from local ponds.
Attached File  step 7.jpg   132.47KB   4 downloads
I tried to time all my work so that the water had time to clear before my next intrusion. In the end, filling the holes with sand caused the most turbidity, but within an hour of finishing the tank was just as clear as it was before I started. I waited about 20 minutes before turning the light on to give the fish some peace and quiet. When I turned the light on they were acting hungry. The minnows, as always were ravenous and my male longear enjoyed a fat juicy night crawler.
I think I would prefer to do this the normal way with an empty tank, but I believe doing it like this was less stressful for the fish and it did save me time of setting up another temporary living quarters for them.


#2 Guest_Usil_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 03:59 AM

Pretty slick.


#3 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 09:39 AM

Are the egg carton lids still down there?

#4 Guest_exasperatus2002_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 10:07 AM

How did they handle the sudden temperature drop from putting all that frozen material in there? or did you add one, wait awhile then add the next so it was a gradual drop in temp.?

#5 Guest_frogwhacker_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 10:32 AM

How did they handle the sudden temperature drop from putting all that frozen material in there? or did you add one, wait awhile then add the next so it was a gradual drop in temp.?

The top soil I used wasn't frozen. I only tried a small sample of frozen soil to test and the water began to cloud up immediately, so I went with my own plan of what I've described here. The soil I used was room temperature as it had been setting in a bucket in the house for a few days so it should have been very close to the temp. of the water in the tank. Temperature drop was something that concerned me about that idea too. Another reason I decided to avoid it. Thanks.


#6 Guest_frogwhacker_*

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Posted 08 October 2011 - 10:42 AM

Are the egg carton lids still down there?

LOL, Yep, egg carton lids are still in place. The thought of that is one of the reasons that I decided to wet the soil before I installed the lids in the tank. The extra weight was just some insurance for sinking, plus it soaked the sand well and created the sealing cap that I needed to install them in the tank without a lot of mess. So far the only thing that likes to float is the floating leaf pond weed, but I just have to make sure the roots are buried well and they seem to stay put. I did wake up this morning to some big holes in my substrate with the soil exposed though. The extended lighting seems to be making my longear sunfish get in the mood to build more nests. Thanks.


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