Peat... How thick? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-03-2004, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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Peat... How thick?

I've done a lot of poking around, and I've seen where some people recommend using a thin layer of Peat under eco-complete to help keep the PH down.
This fits right into the scheme of things in my blackwater tank with various valisnera, cardinals, and rams.

I am changeing the substrate soon (next week) from Shults Aquatic Soil to eco-complete. I consider it an "upgrade"... albiet an expensive one.

Back to topic.. every post I have ever seen reguarding this subject exclaims "Use only a thin layer!!!"

My question is... how thin? 1/4 inch? 1 inch? 1/8 inch?

My setup will be:

46 gallon bowfront

4 - 6 inches of eco-complete cover "thin" layer of peat. (exactly how thin???) (eco-complete 4 inches up front sloping to 6 inches in back)

90 watts pro life sunlight spectrum bulbs (Had 120 watts, but the plants were growing so fast they were using up all the nutrients and CO2 and I was getting PH increases... much better balance with 90 watts and PH is back to normal ranges, along with nutrients... plants growing pretty fast but not 12 inches a week...)

Airstone timed to come one when the lights go out, and go off when the lights (also timed) come on.

Fluval 304 with sponges and peat bags... nothing else...

10 watt UV sterilizer inline with exit hose of fluval 304.

@12 Jungle Val at back of tank and sides.. pruning 6 inches / week
@15 smaller, spiral Vals .. no pruning , removing 1 new runner from each plant every 2 weeks..
Some sort of low lying unidentified carpet plant for the open center area... pruning slightly, weekly.
@30 cardinal tetras
4 german blue high fin long fin rams
2 clown pleco's
2 clown loaches .. to be removed soon now that only trumpet snails remain.
2 ottocinclus .. all that survived
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-05-2004, 10:11 PM
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I am just starting to use peat myself ( literally bought a bag of peat 8 minutes ago and was about to start setting up a new tank). I don't have any first hand experience, but I have heard that you should sprinkle just enough peat on the bottom of the tank so you don't see the bottom glass much. It should be very thin. Good Luck!
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-06-2004, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Tres

Airstone timed to come one when the lights go out, and go off when the lights (also timed) come on.
why would u need the airstone? is it for the dark process that plants go through at night when they use oxygen? and is it that important?

also, how does peat help?
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-06-2004, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
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I use the airstone because I have a fairly heavy load of fish. The heavy load of plants does reduce the need for additional oxygen for the fish, but if the airstone is turned off for a couple of days they are left gasping.

I leave the airstone on at night because I dont want it removing the CO2 during the day, when the plants are using it.

From my limited knowledge of how peat works, it decomposes , creating "blackwater" conditions if placed in a filter, and lowering the PH.
I can only gues that the reason to put it under your substrate is to both help keep rising PH levels in check (Eco-Complete supposedly will raise your PH) and to jumpstart the process of "maturing" your substrate.
It is of course organic in nature and so therefore beneficial for its nutrient value to plants as well.

I am an Ameture at this, so if any pros feel inclined to correct me or elaborate, please do so
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-09-2004, 08:04 PM
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In my opinion peat is more trouble than its worth. It suppresses the pH which makes impossible to determine your CO2 concentration. It may have been a coincidence but I had all kinds of algae problems after I introduced it to my tank.

My peat "experiment" consisted of using 2 peat pillows (the kind gardeners use to start seeds early) in a terrace I built in the corner of my tank. The pillows worked themselves to the surface. Every time I would try to rebury them I would create a bigger mess with peat billowing out all over the rest of my tank. I eventually used a python to suck all the peat out of the tank. My tank parameters are back to normal and the algae has largely receded.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-09-2004, 08:11 PM Thread Starter
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In my case, most of my fish prefer to have the ph "suppressed".
The plants grow so fast that I'm certain they get more than enough CO2, Light, and nutrients.
My tap water tends to increase the ph, and from what I have heard so does Eco-Complete... so anything that keeps the PH below 7.0, preferably right around 6.4, is a good thing.
But thats just my tank... keeping african cichlids in a tank with peat would of course yeild undesirable results.... I'm sure many setups do well without peat, or are harmed by it.
When trying to duplicate blackwater conditions, however, its almost a must have.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-10-2004, 12:15 AM
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The thing about 'blackwater', there aren't any submerged vascular plants in blackwater areas. If you have to use peat in the substrate, something I honestly don't recommend, just use a handful per 10 gallons. It isn't supposed to be for the water conditions, it's for the plant roots. It is supposed to supply the needed nutrients and some CO2 to the plants as the establish themselves in the new tanks.

Peat messes with the water hardness, absorbing some of the general hardness and supplying acids which tend to reduce the temporary hardness. Are you going to be using CO2 on this tank? This is the prefered way to reduce the pH of a planted tank.


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It's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

That IS an aquascape, it's titled "The Vacant Lot".
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-10-2004, 09:36 PM
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Yah ... I used peat on my 20 gallon and got a lot of algae the next day... coincedence, ???? Maybe. I would stay away from it... just use a good plant substrate (there are other cheaper varieties to try out I am sure)..

If you want.. dose a tiny bit of blackwater extract to the water every so often ( you can make this by pouring or filtering boiling water through a conatiner of peat.. takes a lot of time to do this I did that and took me about an hour to get a gallon of the brown juice that was properly filtered{no floaties}), once your plants are WELL established. This may add some micro/macro nutrients to the water column.. or not.. or just save it and make an in home herb garden and water the herbs with used tank water...

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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-11-2004, 05:11 PM
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I found that when I put a 1/2 inch layer of playsand overtop of the peat, and then put the gravel on top, none of the peat came to the surface and it was never stirred up. The roots of the plants in this tank grew great in this tank once they reached this layer, and as long as it was not stirred up, it didn't have any problems, and there wasn't any algae. On the other hand, the other tank I put it in didn't have sand over it, just the Shults Aquatic Soil, and a lot of the peat floated up. Once it floated up, I had all kinds of algae problems. If you are planning on having 4-6 inches of eco complete, I don't think peat would really help, its probally more effective if its used with regular gravel or sand, things that don't have any nutrients in them to start with. Also, it would be very hard to add to a pre-existing tank that already has water in it.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-11-2004, 05:18 PM
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I agree with Fosty! I have peat one of my tanks and am VERY satisfied! I had Peat, sand, and a sand Liter mix, then sand! It worked WONDERS! Well even though people said to use a THIN layer I did more than I should have with no side affects! Well Best of luck to ya!


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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-26-2004, 05:15 AM Thread Starter
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Its been a while since I changed the substrate, so I'm back for a progress report...

Firstly, the main reason I changed from shultz aquatic soil to eco-complete is that after many months of hand wringing and hair pulling, I decided that the aquatic soil was leaking phosphates into the water.

When I changed the soil, I kept ALL of the water and filter medium, so there wasnt a noticable "cycling period".. and the best part is the posphates fell from "off the chart" (more than 5 mg/L), to "0.25 mg/L" within a few days.
So, in that sense, it was a complete success!
(Note to self, never use shultz aquatic soil again)

I decided to use 1/2 inch of spaghnum peat underneath the eco-complete, and I continued to use about 2 handfulls of it in a nylon stocking in the fluval 304.
I havent had any problems with algae that my few vegetarian fish couldnt handle quickly.

I havent noticed any difference in the ph levels... steady at 6.4 like my Rams like it.
I am drawn to one of 2 conclusions:
1) Eco-Complete does raise ph, and the peat is countering that effect..
2) Eco-complete does not raise ph, and the peat isnt having any effect on the ph either....

The more I think about it, the more I am leaning towards scenario 1, because past experience tells me peat will quickly lower ph values.
But then, I am an ameture, not a chemist.. for all I know, peat lowers ph to 6.4 and stops having any effect after that, making all of my ideas on the subject false, lol
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-26-2004, 12:41 PM
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I have never seen the Eco-Complete mess with water chemistry. Since peat is a natural product it's very possible that you have some weak peat.

BTW, you are not the first person to have phosphate problems with the Schultz/Profile.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-26-2004, 05:57 PM
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I don't know how messy it will be in the long term, especially with plants that have deep root systems (about to find out, since I'm gonna move some crypts).

As for how deep, I didn't really stuck with convention. My current substrate depth is around 5" deep all around. The peat sits on the very bottom and is 1" deep. On top of that is 3" of fluorite, which is topped off with 1" of playsand.

BTW, if you're trying to duplicate blackwater conditions, the peat isn't as effective as other means (using RO to lower pH/hardness and then adding BW extract if you want the color). The selection of fish that you currently have do not require such conditions (other than the cardinals if they're wild caught, and only if you're considering breeding them in their own tank), especially those German rams...


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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-27-2004, 04:58 AM Thread Starter
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All the fish are happy... to the point where the rams are laying eggs every few weeks. I think the MTS are getting the eggs, or perhaps the water is a bit too hard for them.
The fish are all brilliantly colored... In the case of the rams I have never ever seen rams with so many blue streaks, bright red fins and such... the cardinals are huge... more than an inch long, with nice fat white bellies.

I would love to use R/O water, or even distilled water, but at $1.00 - $1.50 a gallon, I'll stick to conditioning my tap water, especialy since the fish and plants are doing so well.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 08-27-2004, 05:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tres
I decided that the aquatic soil was leaking phosphates into the water.

When I changed the soil...the best part is the posphates fell from "off the chart" (more than 5 mg/L), to "0.25 mg/L" within a few days.
So, in that sense, it was a complete success!
(Note to self, never use shultz aquatic soil again)
Ha! I'm right there with you! If you need invincible phosphate problems, go out and buy Schultz Profile. Out of the tap I had 0.2ppm. In the tank with profile, 2.4ppm that never went down.
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