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Testing out a dirted tank for diggers


MrGibson
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Hey friends. I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to keep some South American cichlids prone to digging in a dirted tank and I’m now setting up a 10 gallon tank to test my idea of using the plastic craft grid from JoAnn as a permeable barrier between the cap layer and the soil layer. The idea is to accommodate some digging behavior and still keep at least the vast majority of the soil in place. For now I have the soil, barrier, and cap in place in a few inches of water and I’ll be sure to update when I plant later this week and then over time as I play the role of the fish and make a mess.   Stay tuned!

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That's a smart idea! I'm interested to see how this works, and if the egg crate is enough to deter them. I imagine the soil will still infiltrate the sand somewhat so they'll still have some chance of creating a mess.

I suppose you could take it a step further with a perforated geotextile. 

I bet carpeting plant roots would make a real mess of things if you ever tried to pull them up!

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On 2/5/2024 at 4:52 PM, Creedmoor Aquatics said:

That's a smart idea! I'm interested to see how this works, and if the egg crate is enough to deter them. I imagine the soil will still infiltrate the sand somewhat so they'll still have some chance of creating a mess.

I suppose you could take it a step further with a perforated geotextile. 

I bet carpeting plant roots would make a real mess of things if you ever tried to pull them up!

Geotextile was another idea that I had, as was egg crate like you mentioned. This is the stuff I’m using here

 

https://www.joann.com/13in-x-22in-mesh-5-plastic-mesh-embroidery-canvas-by-big-twist/16057135.html

 

 

It’s the same plastic grid you see people use for catching eggs from egg scattering fish just in a larger size than I’ve seen recommended for that. I’m testing this first since it seemed like it’d be a good balance between allowing plant roots through while also keeping the soil mostly in place. I may test the other two ideas as well but I’ve got fairly high hopes for this one so I’m hoping I don’t need to lol. 
 

I do think that even more so than a standard dirted tank this will make plants very difficult to move as they’ll basically be weav themselves through the mesh. If you’ve got cichlids trying to move plants around though maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We’ll see 🙂

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Got some plants in with more on the way. I decided to do a preliminary test just on the ability of the craft grid to keep the soil in place when the cap was disturbed and it performed well. I used a substrate spatula to very aggressively move the sand and to blow water around across the top of the soil. Some of the soil fines came up but really not much. Certainly much less that we’re I to do it in a standard dirted tank. I think that if the plants are able to root well this will be a viable solution. I may end up putting this to the test with a pair of Apistogramma borellii if I can find an unrelated pair. 
 

anyway here’s a picture of the water after my assault on the substrate! I’ll keep testing with different methods of disturbing the cap and report back!

 

 

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Everything is going well so far. Need to give more time for plants to root. I’ll say that having a barrier under just shy of an inch of soil makes planting a bit of a pain, but it’s doable and if needed a plant weight can come to the rescue. More to come 🙂

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Another update, I took some myriophyllum out of this tank yesterday and some of it had rooted through the mesh and into the soil. It was firmly held in place, but would come lose with some gentle encouragement. I plan to give the rest of the plants a chance to get rooted through and I may add some more species to test out a wider range, but if all continues to go well I’m satisfied I have a solution and I’ll likely be trying some apistos in this tank 🙂

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