New Substrate Over Existing Substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2003, 04:06 PM Thread Starter
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Location: St Charles, MO
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I've got a 30-gallon tank with about 5 cm (~ 2 inches) of natural gravel. It's a mix of two parts fine and one part coarse, where the fine is about 2mm and the coarse is up to 1cm. I'm working on the water condition and light to allow better growth of my surviving plants (crypts, micro sword, banana plant and dwarf sag) and some new ones (maybe parrot feather, water sprite, alternanthera reineckii, pennywort, java fern and another sword).

Additional substrate may be needed and gravel doesn't seem to be the solution that will work best for my plants. If the plants aren't doing well, my fish will suffer. I want to add another 2 or 3 cm on top of my existing substrate. I'm hoping that it will mix as it settles on its own into the gravel and is vacuumed lightly every two weeks. If I only had to worry about the plants, I don't think this would be a big issue. However, I have 2 corys, 4 otos, 5 lemon tetras, 6 pristella tetras and 4 neon tetras. Has anyone had experience adding substrate to a tank that has fish in it? Any suggestions?
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2003, 04:39 PM
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Welcome to the Tank!

What kind of substrate were you thinking of to add to your tank? Gravel as such isn't a bad substrate, given the right lighting, water column nutrients, and CO2, and the occacional root tab feeding, you can grow most plants very well in it.

IMO 5 cm / 2 inches depth isn't bad...

One problem with mixing fine and coarse gravel is that after a while, the coarse stuff ends up on the top, and the finer grade collects on the bottom.

So... before starting to change gravel, you should look at the other factors, as they will have a greater impact on the plant growth.

As far as I can see there are several options of adding substrate...

- complete teardown and re-do
- take out all fish and remove as much water as possible, then add substrate, replant as necessary, let it settle down, add water really slowly, filter a few hours, and hope things clear up before adding the fish back in
- wash the new substrate really well, remove some water from the tank, and add a part of the substrate (say 25%) to keep the disturbance limited, and repeat that after a week... until you are done
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2003, 05:03 PM
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I added Schultz's Aquatic soil last night. My tank is doing great so far. I had this tank for over 5 years. Like W said, do it abrupt change can create havoc.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-24-2003, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
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I will have a 55W compact fluorescent light very soon that will put my watts per gallon close to 2. The bulb glows at 5300K and has a 90 CRI. I am currently trying to grow plants with a 20W fluorescent bulb so my new setup will be a major improvement. I also use DIY CO2 that I bubble into a cup. That way my doing level remains constant, independent of how cooperative the little yeasties want to be.

Until signs of ich started to show up I had a pH or 6.8 and a kH of 3-4 points at 77 F (25 C). I've been using Rid Ich and I think the last of the spots are gone. If all goes well I can get the tank get back to normal over the next few weeks. I will not miss the gravel vaccuming and water changes every other day. Nevertheless, I'll still have to keep up with the water changes to some degree if I want to get the salt levels down before I start replanting.

Maybe adding a little extra fine gravel to the tank background isn't such a bad idea. As long as I put it in slowly I don't believe it will create any problems with the existing plants.

The substrates that have caught my attention are Eco Complete and Seachem Flourite. The former has nothing but rave reviews amongst posters but it seems to be something that works better as a base. If I add a little at a time, it may work out well. The latter may be better suited with my existing set-up and I wouldn't need to be so patient about getting through that task.

So, I'm left with four choices: Do nothing; add some more fine gravel, add the Eco Complete slowly, add Seachem Flourite. If anybody has any comments regarding how much better they think the plant would do with the fancy substrates, I am always open to hearing or sharing opinions.
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