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Dirt Tank -- Population wipe out

Discussion in 'Are you new to aquatic plants? Start here' started by PapstBenediktXVI, May 10, 2012.

  1. PapstBenediktXVI

    PapstBenediktXVI Subscriber

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    Hello there

    about three days ago I changed the substrate of my running 30g tank from sand to dirt capped with gravel; resulting in all my fish -except for five small red tetras- dying over night.

    As for details: I bought potting soil by the brand "Ja, Natürlich" (which means "Yes, of course" or "Yes, organic" kind of a wordplay) containing composted horse dung, worm castings and lava stone gravel.
    Though the soil was full of different little stones and pieces of wood (they should definetly rethink the diet of those horsies) I decieded to use it.
    I rinsed it twice, got out most of the wood, spread it thinly in my garden and kept it moist for about a month.

    After filling I experienced vast turbidity, couldnt even see the back of the tank, though with my fishes beginning to try and jump out of the bucket I replanted the tank and put the fish back in on the same day.
    So the next day I woke up (I think it was around 2 p.m. or smth) and find most of my fishes to be dead and those 5 ember tetras swimming at the surface. They are now in another small tank disturbing the peace of my betta female -though feelin fine.

    Does anybody have any clues where I could've gone wrong? Could the percentage of organic matter be too high, therefore choking my fish overnight? Or is there a chance of anything toxic leaching from some of those little stones?
    Any conclusions on how I should proceed? I really wanna try and see if this still works out without redoing my tank again; or should I try again with a different kind of soil? This is probably hard to answer, but do you guys have any ideas how i might find out what happened?


    As for organic matter: I tested the water and Ammonia is zero, Nitrite is abit high its 0,025ppm and Nitrate is about 20ppm so theres no issue here yet. Though my test set is pretty old so I cant say if those measurements are exact or anything

    heres a (bad) pic of the tank now.
    View attachment 3117

    and one (even worse) before planting etc.
    View attachment 3118

    thanks in advance for any advice :) I really did not expect this

    btw: I just found out apparently there is charcoal dust in there as well could this be a reason too?

    cheers papst
     
    #1 PapstBenediktXVI, May 10, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2012
  2. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Organic Load

    Hi Papst,

    Simply too much organic material at once, whether nitrites, ammonia, or just extreme biological oxygen demand, the critters were poisoned:eek: and the algae is an attempt to suck up the nutrients.:)

    If anything the charcoal would be helpful.

    Organic material needs to be mineralized; usually we would boil the material, lay them in the sun for a couple of months or soak them, with water changes, for a couple of weeks.

    Biollante
     
  3. PapstBenediktXVI

    PapstBenediktXVI Subscriber

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    Hi Biollante

    thanks for the quick reply :)

    well I guess this wasn't the best soil to use and/or my mineralization technique was inefficient....

    I suggest I'll do some waterchanges, maybe add some charcoal to the filter and wait out the worst.

    If my plants survive I'd guess the tank will be usable soon enough. Then I can start by introducing some snails to see if they survive...

    Whats worrying me is the turbidity, it has gotten a lot better though my tank still looks like some dusty western movie without the cowboys. Is there anything I can do to make that go away faster? The Diana Bible says that adding Calcium Sulfate does help with that which would be Eq.

    Any other suggestions (other than not doing that again) on what I can do to help the tank regain balance?

    cheers papst
     
  4. Rodney

    Rodney Junior Poster

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    Usually with dirt tanks I just push the water changes for a week or two after dirting.

    A good indicator can be if sensitive plants are surviving. Maybe try something delicate like baby tears.
    If its not getting cooked then you are getting close to the safe zone.
     
  5. PapstBenediktXVI

    PapstBenediktXVI Subscriber

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    Hi there

    wow, sorry it took me so long to reply again, had to work 12 hour shifts over the weekend again ):
    actually had a fight with a little bird over its owner, a patient we had to get to the hospital, yesterday.

    I'm definetly gonna try and add some hc. I put in some new stem plants to the right side of the tank ( old ones looked like crap, cut them poorly) and added some charcoal to the filter which is probably gonna stay in there or will be replaced a few times and then gonna stay in there.

    Each day the tank looks nicer again though most plants haven't rooted the substrate yet. Also there is some kind of weird colorless algea or bacteria covering some parts of the gravel which is normal and gonna dissapear I guess.

    Thanks for the replys so far :)

    cheers
    papst
     
  6. PapstBenediktXVI

    PapstBenediktXVI Subscriber

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    Hi there

    I thought I should do an update on my tank since it has given me bilateral signs lately.

    Most of the plants are growing well, the echinodorus which really didn't do anything for half a year now is currently developing 2 new leaves which is a good sign I guess. The stem plants are growing too, though the Hygrophillia difformis have some BGA growing on them. Might have to treat that if it goes out of hand.
    The Cryptocoryne walkeri (i think) are kinda melting though, no new growth -that I noticed- too.

    Also the water has gotten really cloudy and green so I think I got an algea bloom. (I can't really decide on the colour though; it's a bit like the Mona Lisa of stained water)

    Those things wouldn't be too bad -if not good- but I also noticed some fungus covering the gravel. It's just a few spots and they don't cover the plants. Though this is still worrying me. I hope it doesn't spread. Also the soil seams to be very anaerobic at the moment. Whenever I stick my finger into the soil -to test besaid situation- lots of bubbles rise up from there carrying the smell of rotten eggs to the surface. So I'd say thats H2S and not too good.

    I know this is probably just the bacteria in the soil having a massive feast on organic matter, but the fungus is worrying me since its supposed to be the main opponent of bacteria :eek:
    also I'm worried that the plants might not be able to root properly if ther soil is too anaerobic and stays that way too.

    Theres still no critters in there FYI

    I'm also thinking about checking the roots of my plants to see if they rot but I don't want to keep them from growing in.

    Any Ideas on what I could do? Is there a thing such as unusable soil for a tank? I'm still thinking about changing the substrate again; what do you guys think?
    Or will this probably better over a month or a few?

    I hope I'm not too intrusive with my beginner's problems. If so just ignore me politely :rolleyes:

    Cheers
    Papst
     
    #6 PapstBenediktXVI, May 17, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2012
  7. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Everyone Starts Somewhere

    Hi Pabst,

    I think the best thing now is to follow Rodney’s advice, keep up the water changes.
    :)

    Remove the cyanobacteria, as much as you can, trim back or remove the infected Hygrophillia Difformis, a fast grower and good indicator plant.

    Can you post a picture of the fungus?
    :confused:

    Pick up a piece of it and remove it from the water.

    • Is dirt attached?
      • If so, is it firmly attached or does it fall off by itself or when brushed?
    • Does the fungus crumble?
    • How does the fungus feel?
    • How does it smell?
    Do not disturb the dirt for now. The haze is probably a combination of algae (green water) and a bacterial bloom, it is probably not a big problem.

    If you happen to

    • have:cool: or
    • can purchase:D or
    • rent :)or
    • borrow;) or
    • steal:eek::shame:
      • a UV-Sterilizer it might help.

    My sense is that it is just as well to let the haze go, I think it is trying to help. Everyone here was a beginner as well; everyone went through the “learning curve.”
    :02.47-tranquillity: Patients are not just a virtue it is your greatest ally.:cool:

    Biollante
     
    #7 Biollante, May 17, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2012
  8. PapstBenediktXVI

    PapstBenediktXVI Subscriber

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    Hello there

    I was away over the weekend which gave me a really good opportunity to evaluate the changes in my tank over the day

    Cloudiness has gotten a tad worse
    Bubbles rise from the ground every few secounds though the bad smell has gone; they now smell like wet dirt, which probably is because I put lots of wet dirt in there
    Still some BGA
    Growth everywhere :eek:

    so i think this is not too bad

    As for the fungus:

    • I took some out and there was dirt attached to it. Didn't go off easily either.
    • Well I guess If I saw the fungus crumble I would have noticed :confused: so I guess it didn't
    • I asked the fungus how it felt and it said "fine" :rolleyes:
    • I would've expected it to smell bad or something but it smelled just like the rest of the tank

    Could it impose a problem?

    [attachment=1091:name]

    heres a pic of the fungus which I did with my phone and in kind of a hurry; can you see anything:confused:
    I could always try with my CSI-Grade-other camera
    or with my totally not cheap microscope.


    Frankly I don't own a UV-sterilizer they simply are not as cool here as they seem to be in america. but if this turns out to be a recurring or chronic problem I'm gonna buy one.
    Also I have a quick question: what does Hygrophillia Difformis indicate?

    Thanks for the replys so far you helped me a lot :D

    Cheers
    Papst

    aqschimmel.jpg
     
  9. Biollante

    Biollante Lifetime Charter Member
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    Just an Alternate Means of Mineralizing Soil

    Hi Papst,

    I think your dirt is just mineralizing. Without critters, there really is no problem.

    In trying to answer questions at a distance some descriptions help, I also think it is an advantage to the beginner to learn how to look at things.

    What may be obvious to you at the tank, I do not know unless you tell me. There are differences between things that crumble versus things that crumble, versus things that are solid and homogenous.

    My best guess is that the white stuff is a slime mold that is helping reduce organic material, if it is powdery it is more likely to be fungus, if it were fuzzy it would likely be the product of bacterial activity. It is unlikely it is anything causing any problems.

    Just as texture, rough, smooth, slick, slimy and so forth. You asked for help, I offered help, but need to know things to be accurate.

    Hygrophillia Difformis is a wonderful phytometer, since it is fast growing it gives us information about conditions quickly. The rate of growth, the quality of growth, the morphology and so forth are strong indicators of conditions.

    The haze is likely not a big deal if it is a milky green then the bacteria is probably consuming algae.

    I suspect I have given all the help I can, good luck.:cool:

    Biollante
     
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