Prepping Safe-t-sorb/Turface for substrate replacement? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 05:26 AM Thread Starter
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Prepping Safe-t-sorb/Turface for substrate replacement?

I have a 40g breeder that has had Eco-Complete in it for 3 years and I think is has ran it's course and a am getting a lot of BBA growth in the open areas where there are no many plants growing and my routine for the tank has not change any.

I though about going with AquaSoil, but 3 bags would put me at over $100 w/shipping and over 2x the max amount I would be able to spend and about 4x what I would really like to spend.

I am now thinking about maybe doing Safe-t-sorb or Turface, but need to know how to prep and load it for use. I want to be able to take out the old substrate, replace it and replant the same day without having to worry about parameters jumping up and down and causing issues. I can re-home the fish in one of my other tanks if need while things settle, but the plants need to go back in the same tank right away as I do not have the room in other tanks to home them. I have plent of buckets I can use to prep it if needed as well.

Anyways.. I am hoping someone would be will to tell me how to prep them for use and give some advice on which one should be the better choice to use.

I will gladly listen to any other substrate recomendations as well.


P.S. My local club's (C.A.F.E.) Holiday party was the other night and I walked away with the 2012 HAP Award, 2012 BAP Rookie Award (First Year turning in BAP) and also received my Master Gardener and Novice Breeder certificates!
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 07:39 AM
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I just made the change from reg gravel to Saf-T Sorb about...8 or 9 weeks ago. I live in apartment and the bathrooms are upstairs so it was kinda hard to rinse out in one bucket in the kitchen sink...but I rinsed it a few times...never ran clear and was VERY cloudy when I put it in but I assure you it settled very nicely. Someone on a different forum said she heard she could put SafT sorb down without rinsing so she did. It worked out fine for her. Biggest change for me was the PH Ph is very low now...I lost a few fish between the cylce and the Ph change but as you said if you have somewhere you can keep the fish til the tank cycles that would be the best and then acclimate them back slowly. I didn't "charge" the SafT sorb before putting in my tank...I don't do CO2 either but just dose with Flourish and my plans have sprung to life....the new growth is beautiful. Anyway...Hope this helps.

here are some pics

Last edited by rmtsaucedo; 12-10-2012 at 08:25 AM. Reason: add pictures
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 10:53 AM
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Cory, both ecocomplete and safetsorb, and tufaace are inert. Your plants that aren't doing ao great are likely attributed to a deficiency than a direct problem with the substrate.

I have both ecocomplete for over a year and see some lush and amazing growth sans co2 and root tabs. Most will tell you the same in that you have to strike a balance between light, plant density and nutrients while keeping algae at bay.

Safetsorb can be preloaded wit ferts prior to application. Soak it in npk or micros as let the substrate absorb for several days. After preparation, you'll need to allow time for it to cycle as one would for any new substrate devout of active bacteria. Beyond the nutrient charging step, treat it like any other substrate. Rinsing prior to charging is optional and up to you.

Your Bba problem may stem from lack of circulation or insufficient plant density. The substrat will neither attribute nor prohibit the growth of bba. Your problems are not directly caused by the substrate.

"I am Groot", the faithful protector
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 03:38 PM
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Safe-T-Sorb or Turface will remove the carbonate from the water. You can add some source of carbonates (coral sand, oyster shell grit) to the substrate, or to the filter.
If you must have soft water, then add the coral sand to the filter. You can then regulate how much effect the substrate is having on the KH.

Preload with ferts is fine.

I rinsed the STS in the tank:
Dump STS in the tank dry. DO NOT BREATH THE DUST.
Add water, deliberately making a mess, stirring it up. About 6" or so deep.
Water change, including digging into the substrate and putting the siphon as close to the bottom of the tank as I could.
Add water, again making a mess (And the water was a lot cleaner this time. Still muddy, but less than the first time).
Repeat the water change.
On the third filling I placed the bag from the STS in the tank and filled slowly, allowing the water to trickle in over the bag.
Minimal clouding.
I did not add coral sand to the substrate, I just kept adding baking soda to keep the KH up while it cycled (Fishless cycle).

*If you wanted to do that much (2-3 good rinsings in the tank) I think at that point is where you would add fertilizers. Can't age it that way, though. Maybe add slow release root tablets?

Alternate method to rinse, if you have a place to do this:
Poke LOTS of small holes all over the bag and put the hose in through the top, turn it on. Stir as much as you can. If you have a couple of bags, then divide the material into 2 lots. You will be able to stir it a lot easier.

Then let it drain.

Then add the fertilizer as in the posts above.

Let it sit as long as it takes until the ferts are absorbed. (Is absorbed the right word? We are taking advantage of the cationic exchange capacity)
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 03:59 PM
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I would not change out the eco-complete for turface. Both are inert and with high CEC. Eco-complete doesn't "run it's course."

This thread may be of interest:

Can high CEC substrates be "recharged"?

You'll likely be unhappy with a change to turface. The great benefit of turface over eco-complete is that it is cheap...but if you already own the eco-complete the benefit of tuface over eco goes away. There is a downside with turface as well. It is very light, blows around easily, and is often hard to scape in because roots become unburied easily.

Your BBA is certainly a result of some other issue, and I'd put my money on too much light/not enough co2.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-10-2012, 09:16 PM
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IF you do decide to change the substrate .. it can be done in 1 day. Since your tank is already cycled just try to keep your filter running in a 5 gal bucket or somewhere. Or at least keep the filters, sponges, etc wet and maybe use an airstone.

I did my change from gravel to STS on my 75 gal in 1 day -- probably 12 hr day. Put fish in a 30 gal tote filled with the used tank water with 1 one of my filters running on it and some of the plants. Used 5 gal buckets for other plants, rocks, decorations & sponge filters. I had sort of pre-rinsed my STS but not very good. I then basically did what Diana mentioned .. rinsed in the tank then refilled very SLOWLY. Added plants which I rearranged a couple time so made a bit of a mess .. ended up draining again and refilled final time. Then added fish. I thought at first I had a mini cycle but it's just the way the test kit reads when using Prime. NOTE: this tank has hardy fish (bluegills) and are very adaptable to changing conditions.

I also just recently changed tanks that has Black Skirt tetra's & Oto's. New tank went in same spot as old tank so moved fish/plants to buckets filled with tank water. Removed enough water to make it light enough to move. Used same HOB filter & sponge filter (kept them running in the buckets) so already had enough good bacteria. Did that in one day .. only took 4-5 hrs for that one. Previous experience helped that one go quicker. I did sort of try to acclimate them to new tank water by removing some water from the bucket and then adding new tank water back. Did this a couple times while I arranged plants, decorations and got new tank all setup. Didn't have any problems other than them being a bit stressed by capturing & moving them .. twice. Oto's are quick little buggers .. had a hard time catching that last one .. he didn't want out of the tank and then didn't want out of the bucket. LOL My biggest concern with this move was having enough food for the Oto's since it was a new tank. Made sure I had some zucchini to feed them. Poor things .. took them a while to find the zucchini so they were all over the tank trying to find something to eat. Suck here .. nothing, move ... suck here .. nothing, move.

The big thing is as Diana mentioned .. the STS will remove the carbonates. Something you'll have to watch out for. Check your water parameters before you drain and then try to match it back up after refilling. My water params are usually close to my tap water so I didn't have to adjust much. Keeping it stable was the hard part.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 01:06 AM
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i've found seachem alkaline buffer to be really stable when raising the ph in a STS tank.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 02:53 AM Thread Starter
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This tank has been running for years with the Eco-Complete and is normally covered about 90% in plants. After hearing out what everyone has said, I am wondering if the substrate has just become overloaded and clogged with organic materials. Thinking I may just tear down the tank, rinse the hell out of the substrate and add some red clay back in on the bottom. Any recommended way to kill of the algae in the substrate if I go this route? Thinking I may just add some bleach when rinsing and then Hit it with a heavy dose of declorinator. Everything is pretty much up in the air as to what I am going to do and chances are that it will be the week after Xmas when I get a chance to hit the project head on.

Thanks again and all the info is much appritated!
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 05:19 AM
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Algae grows where there is light, so it is not likely deep in the substrate.

Here is one way that might work, and I am sure you can work out variations.

Before you start prepare enough new water to do at least a 100% water change, perhaps more. Keep this water warm (tank temperature).
1) Drain the best water from the tank into as many buckets as needed for the fish. Cover the buckets. Fish jump. Fish are less stressed in the dark.
2) Plants, decor and equipment in other buckets.
...2a) Plants: Treat the plants in the buckets for algae. You can dose Excel OR hydrogen peroxide OR bleach OR algaecide in the buckets. Do not mix. Research the dose and timing. Have the neutralizer ready. Excel or H2O2: A bucket of fresh water. Bleach: A bucket with double dose of declor. Other materials may use other neutralizers.
...2b) Equipment, rocks, ceramic merpeople can usually be treated with bleach, then rinsed in a bucket with double dose of dechlor.
...2c) Things like driftwood that might absorb the bleach are probably better treated with hydrogen peroxide or excel. Traces of these that get back into the tank are not toxic. Salt is a good abrasive to scrub many things, driftwood, rocks and other decor. Salt is water soluble, and should rinse clean easily, but a trace of salt that remains is not a problem.
3) Substrate. I would siphon out the water all the way down, stirring the substrate all you can, and adding more water as needed. If you want to bleach it then add the bleach early, and do LOTS of stirring and then rinsing, with a double dose of dechlor in the water each time.
Another option: Before you disturb the substrate, but when the water is gone, use a mist bottle and spray Bleach, Excel or Hydrogen peroxide on the surface where the algae might be. DO NOT BREATHE THESE MATERIALS. Let it sit for a while, then rinse by doing all the deep vacuuming you need to to clean the substrate. Traces of Excel or H2O2 are not a problem if they remain in the tank. Bleach needs to be rinsed with dechlor in the rinse water.
Even more aggressive is to remove the substrate from the tank and treat and rinse in a separate container, perhaps outdoors.

4) Final rinse of everything as you add it to the tank.

5) Put some slow release fertilizer deep in the tank, add some laterite or other material if you want. Do not disturb the substrate deep down after you have these materials in place. Arrange the hills and valleys, driftwood, rocks and so on.

6) Plant, misting often.

7) Refill by placing a plate or plastic bag over the substrate and allowing the water to run in slowly, seeping over the edge of the plate or bag. This will minimize clouding. Add a source of Nitrospira species of bacteria. These are the nitrogen cycle bacteria and hopefully will replace the bacteria you are killing by these extreme methods of algae control.

8) While the tank is filling arrange the equipment, and start it when the water level is high enough. It will cloud because of the Nitrospira additive. This is OK.

9) Net the fish out of their bucket. Do not use the water the fish were in.

Monitor the tank for several days, being ready to do water changes as needed. This has been a pretty complete treatment and will kill off a lot of the nitrifying bacteria on all the surfaces in the tank. It may take a few days for the Nitrospira to attach to things. Do not do a water change in the first few days if you added such a product. Follow the label recommendations. Minimal feeding of the livestock.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 12:35 PM
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I "charged" my STS for a week prior to use. The tanks I use it in are 10g's so a little easier to work with.

- Rinsed a couple times using a collender. Very easy to rinse. Little dusty but much better than SMS.
- Added to empty 10g tank for loading (2-3 inches)
- Fill with water to 2 inches above surface
- Dose with ferts as you would normally. I gave it a triple shot (3x) of my normal dosing.
- Next day, 100% water change, stir substrate well to mix and repeat dosing.
- At the end of the week, swap out substrates and plant.

Growth has been outrageous since.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 02:28 PM
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I just bought a bag of STS. I originally was going to use MG soil and capped with sand. Can I use sts to cap the soil, or should I even bother to use MG soil but plain sts if I charged it first like james0816 did? I will be doing regular ei dosing in this tank. One thing I am concerned is the debris from the soil if I replant and uprooting plants.
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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 02:34 PM
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If you're going to be dosing EI anyway and are concerned about replanting, then go with just STS. It's easy to replant in and holds onto ferts really well.

And if you don't want to go through with the charging process? You can just add some root tabs.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 03:05 PM
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I just gradually replaced my Flourite with STS over time. During my weekly water change, I would suck out an area of Flourite and use a plastic cup to slowly fill in the open area with rinsed out STS. Over several weeks a good portion the aquarium had new STS. This way I didn't have to transfer fish, suffer through cycling or green water. I find it better to not change more than 1/3 of the aquarium at one time. That goes for major trimming as well. I suffer less algae infestations this way. Any change in KH with STS is temporary until it soaks up whatever minerals you have in your tap water. Changing only 1/3 STS at a time makes any change less dramatic as well..
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Most plants don't really get any algae on them other than a little diatom type that get on some slow growers and it doesn't ever get bad, the ones the. The glass on the sides and back have diatom algae on them which does not bother me and does not seem to cause issues, I just want the BBA gone as it gets on the low growing forground plants (Microsword/staurogyne) and does the damage there. Thinking I may wash the Eco out really good,maybe soak it in hydrogen as I can buy big bottles for $1 each and then rinse it well before replacing. I have plenty of bacteria in the 20ish other tanks to quickly restore the tank with. Thinking I should add peat or something to the bottom to make the substrate more acidic as well. Does anyone know I good source for Peat Moss? I have about every big store nearby.. Lowes, Walmart, Meijers, Home Depot, etc and maybe the 2 hydropnic stores will be an even better bet?

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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 07:40 PM
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The HD near me used to carry the right material. Pure Canadian sphagnum peat moss. No fertilizers, no surfactants.
Have not seen it there in a while. Now they have the Miracle Gro Peat Moss, which has fertilizers.
The right material seems to show up on line, though. I cannot read the label on line. Worth a trip or at least a phone call.

Lowes web site also shows peat moss that looks right according to the description, but without reading the bag in person I cannot tell.

Check the garden department of pretty much all the stores near you, you might find it in small amounts packaged for house plants, or in the larger bales for outdoor use. As long as it does not have any additives it is good.
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