Eco-Complete "black" vs. Activ-Flora "black" - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:00 PM Thread Starter
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Eco-Complete "black" vs. Activ-Flora "black"

So I've narrowed down two different substrates I want to use in my new 75 gallon. I can't decide between Eco-Complete "Black" & Activ-Flora "Black". I've heard the EC black is more of a fine grain compared to the regular. Which is what I want, something closer to sand. But not sure how true this is... and can't find anything about it on the internet. Plus I kinda like the look of EC as it has more of a natural look. Does any one have any pics or know what the grain size is between the Eco-Complete "black" and the Activ-Flora "black"??

Note: I don't want regular Eco-Complete, I want the Black kind.


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post #2 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:31 PM
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I've used eco-complete and the growth with them sucks, they don't provide much nutrients it seems. I would do a dirt substrate which in my opinion looks even more natural.


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post #3 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:32 PM
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If you want something closer to sand, why not get some Black diamond blasting sand? get the medium grit. By far the most economical substrate. I believe all the "Eco-Complete Black" are roughly the same size. Eco-Complete.

I have used Eco complete and it is somewhat of a pain to plant with.
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post #4 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:43 PM
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+1 to eco complete sucks

i have never heard of eco complete black... regular eco complete is already black so...? IMO it is a total farce that eco complete claims to contain an abundance of nutrients. this is its only selling point and it is arguably fiction. you will get comparable if not better results with regular inert substrate.

here is basically how this pans out...

- user posts on forum about eco complete because they do not want to spend the $$$ on aquasoil and do not trust inert substrates / want the best for their plants. seems to fit the bill
- everyone recommends black diamond
- user buys eco complete anyways convincing themselves that it is superior because it is marketed for this type of thing
- over time user gets frustrated because their plants will not stay down very easily. it is difficult to impossible to plant anything with less than 1" of stem to push into the ground. planting smaller foreground plants like HC / monte carlo or plants with smaller stems (blyxa) is hell / nearly impossible. surface of substrate layer looks like aquarium gravel because the large grains have risen to the top. realizes that they have to dose lots of ferts anyways / eco complete is not really providing root feeders with nutrients like dirt or something like aquasoil do.
- user eventually re-does tank
- everyone recommends black diamond again
- user tries black diamond this time and results are no better or worse than eco complete. plants actually stay down when you plant them, no larger grains in the way, user has saved decent amount of $$$
- user starts to recommend black diamond to everyone on forum


Generally you should use something good like ADA aquasoil for best results. this is expensive though. if you are not willing to do that and want a black substrate just get black diamond. if you really want nutrients and benefits somewhat similar to aquasoil just use dirt capped with black diamond

when people say eco complete is a pain to plant in... THEY ARE NOT KIDDING. plants like blyxa are IMPOSSIBLE to get to stay down in eco complete. larger stem plants that are very buoyant simply are not held down unless you can shove a few inches of the stem under substrate. if you are planning on trimming a lot, rescaping, moving plants around, etc you WILL get annoyed. black diamond is heavy af and consistent so things stay down very easily. huge difference

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post #5 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by BROMLaar View Post
I've used eco-complete and the growth with them sucks, they don't provide much nutrients it seems.
That's interesting. I use eco-complete and my e. tennellus has grown like a little weed. Maybe it's better with root feeders?

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post #6 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 07:58 PM
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That's interesting. I use eco-complete and my e. tennellus has grown like a little weed. Maybe it's better with root feeders?


Does tennellus get a lot of its nutrients form the substrate or the water? If it's water then that explains it.

I use ADA aqua soil and I love it, people have used the same aqua soil for years to grow plants because of how much nutrients is in that stuff and also having a nutrient rich substrate is kind of like a fail safe if you forget to dose or something then your plants still have a source of nutrients.


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post #7 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by klibs View Post
+1 to eco complete sucks

i have never heard of eco complete black... regular eco complete is already black so...? IMO it is a total farce that eco complete claims to contain an abundance of nutrients. this is its only selling point and it is arguably fiction. you will get comparable if not better results with regular inert substrate.

here is basically how this pans out...

- user posts on forum about eco complete because they do not want to spend the $$$ on aquasoil and do not trust inert substrates / want the best for their plants. seems to fit the bill
- everyone recommends black diamond
- user buys eco complete anyways convincing themselves that it is superior because it is marketed for this type of thing
- over time user gets frustrated because their plants will not stay down very easily. it is difficult to impossible to plant anything with less than 1" of stem to push into the ground. planting smaller foreground plants like HC / monte carlo or plants with smaller stems (blyxa) is hell / nearly impossible. surface of substrate layer looks like aquarium gravel because the large grains have risen to the top. realizes that they have to dose lots of ferts anyways / eco complete is not really providing root feeders with nutrients like dirt or something like aquasoil do.
- user eventually re-does tank
- everyone recommends black diamond again
- user tries black diamond this time and results are no better or worse than eco complete. plants actually stay down when you plant them, no larger grains in the way, user has saved decent amount of $$$
- user starts to recommend black diamond to everyone on forum


Generally you should use something good like ADA aquasoil for best results. this is expensive though. if you are not willing to do that and want a black substrate just get black diamond. if you really want nutrients and benefits somewhat similar to aquasoil just use dirt capped with black diamond

when people say eco complete is a pain to plant in... THEY ARE NOT KIDDING. plants like blyxa are IMPOSSIBLE to get to stay down in eco complete. larger stem plants that are very buoyant simply are not held down unless you can shove a few inches of the stem under substrate. if you are planning on trimming a lot, rescaping, moving plants around, etc you WILL get annoyed. black diamond is heavy af and consistent so things stay down very easily. huge difference


Thanks for the response... you make valid point. I would do the ADA but I just can't afford it for a 75. Plus I'm not too sure about it do to it lowing the PH. Do you know anything about the Activ-Flora? I was considering that route.


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post #8 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 10:27 PM
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I had eco complete in both of my 75s and ended up hating it.I switched to black diamond blasting sand and love it. It looks great and makes planting so much easier. I use root tabs and PPS pro fertz in the high light/high tech 75 and everything grows like a weed. The other 75 is medium light and low tech. The vals,crypts and java ferns grow slow but steady.
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post #9 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-15-2017, 11:11 PM
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I have activ-flora black in 1 tank and black petco sand in another. I honestly feel like they are about the same. The active-flora is kinda like big sand. It is smaller than ada type soils and maybe 3 to 5 times bigger than sand (pretty small grain size). What I personally like about activ-flora is that it glitters to some degree when the light hits it's edge and it is black as 3 black things. I think it has a reasonable CEC but I use root tabs so that isn't a big concern for me. Both the sand and activ-flora are easy to work with and plant in. I have never used any ada type soils, so I can't make any comparisons. If you decide to go the inert route, I would be surprised to hear you hated either activ-flor or sand. Here's a pic of the active-flora tank. Sorry it is not a very good one, but I hope it helps.
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post #10 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-16-2017, 01:53 AM
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i do not have experience with activ flora but cannot see how it is special in any way... seems similar to eco complete in the sense that it simply makes claims to 'help plants' in some unknown way when really these benefits are marginal at best. bottom line is that unless you can definitively say that the substrate provides nutrients inherently and will provide superior results over time it is not going to be any better than something else inert (like black diamond or other cheap options) and just cost you more.

eco for sure has DISADVANTAGES that are well known by many who have used it which makes it a no-brainer to avoid imo. it's not like your plants will suffer in it.. it just sucks to work in when planting new plants and managing your tank in general. the stuff practically floats. enough to be a dealbreaker imo
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post #11 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-16-2017, 08:54 PM
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I have to agree with klibs on the activ-flora. I didn't put much stock in what the company was saying about nutrients and all. I treat it as an inert substrate. I chose it purely on aesthetics. There are also many many cheaper options that can accomplish the goal, especially considering tank size. If you feel like looking into it further here's a link to a super long thread about it with some good pics that show the eco complete and activ-flora side by side. Substrate Holy Grail?!?!
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post #12 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-17-2017, 11:02 PM
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The OP was about comparing Ecocomplete and Activflora, but the companies that package these products lie to and deceive their customers to get them to buy the products. Fortunately, I don't like working with either so that makes it easier to boycott them! Here's the 3 being discussed here as I see them.

EcoComplete-inert, low CEC, no nutrients provided to plants, difficult to plant in, relatively expensive.

ActivFlora-inert, low CEC, no nutrients provided to plants, difficult to plant in, relatively expensive.

Black Diamond Blasting sand, inert, no CEC no nutrients provided to plants, easy to plant in, cheap.


The decision should come down to appearance and that's completely subjective, the rest is a no brainer.
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post #13 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-17-2017, 11:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
The OP was about comparing Ecocomplete and Activflora, but the companies that package these products lie to and deceive their customers to get them to buy the products. Fortunately, I don't like working with either so that makes it easier to boycott them! Here's the 3 being discussed here as I see them.



EcoComplete-inert, low CEC, no nutrients provided to plants, difficult to plant in, relatively expensive.



ActivFlora-inert, low CEC, no nutrients provided to plants, difficult to plant in, relatively expensive.



Black Diamond Blasting sand, inert, no CEC no nutrients provided to plants, easy to plant in, cheap.





The decision should come down to appearance and that's completely subjective, the rest is a no brainer.


What's your take on Seachem Flourite Black Sand?


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post #14 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-17-2017, 11:12 PM
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What's your take on Seachem Flourite Black Sand?


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IMO you'd be better off rolling with Blasting sand. All these products you've mentioned have no nutrients available to plants in them. If they do they're so tightly bonded to the material they aren't even useful. The only benefit to these are their ability to soak up and store frets, which if you're dosing every day doesn't matter. Unless you're going for a soil based substrate, do yourself a favor and save some money. If you want black then get blasting grit and for natural color get pool filter sand.
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post #15 of 31 (permalink) Old 02-17-2017, 11:47 PM Thread Starter
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IMO you'd be better off rolling with Blasting sand. All these products you've mentioned have no nutrients available to plants in them. If they do they're so tightly bonded to the material they aren't even useful. The only benefit to these are their ability to soak up and store frets, which if you're dosing every day doesn't matter. Unless you're going for a soil based substrate, do yourself a favor and save some money. If you want black then get blasting grit and for natural color get pool filter sand.


Thanks. I am leaning toward using this. My only thing is I'm going for more of a natural look. I'll show a picture down below. The only thing I found was Flourite Sand.. which is like a dark brown or dirt color. unfortunately is hard to find and is expensive. But if I go the route of Diamond Sand is there anything I have to do before I add it? Can I just throw it in? And do they have different grain sizes?

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