The Planted Tank Forum

The Planted Tank Forum (
-   Substrate (
-   -   Best substrate that doesn't cause a chemistry flux? (

etgregoire 01-03-2013 02:36 PM

Best substrate that doesn't cause a chemistry flux?
I'm going to be moving in about 6 months, and I was thinking that might be a good time to do a substrate change that I have wanted. I know that moving a tank can be stressful for fish as it is, so what would be a good substrate that would not create massive swings in ph/kh/ammonia spikes, etc...

I won't be able to leave the tank set up to "re-cycle" without the fish in it. So something that leaches ammonia won't work for me.

I'm not very concerned about money because I have plenty of time to save up for it.

I currently have gravel, and am hoping for something finer that will allow for growing a carpet and perhaps darker in color as well.

Thinking Flourite Sand perhaps?

What do you think?

etgregoire 01-03-2013 03:12 PM

Or even soil with a sand cap??

UDGags 01-03-2013 05:28 PM

You could always buy Aquasoil, put it in rubber maid container than next time you do a water change put the old water in it along with some new water and cycle the AS that way (repeat water changes). If you have an extra filters, plants, etc. all the better. Since you have a few months it should be ready by the time you move.

etgregoire 01-03-2013 06:05 PM

Interesting idea, I never thought of that. But the threads I'm finding on this topic have mixed reviews of it working.

I also found a lot of people mentioning that it crumbles very easily if disturbed while wet. Another critical fact that isn't included on the substrate sticky... Was trying to lobby to see if anyone was interested in updating/beefing up the sticky but that didn't really go anywhere. Having the substrate break down easily, seems to me like a big con!

Diana 01-04-2013 03:20 AM

Substrates that cause a minimum of water chemistry issues:
Eco Complete. Occasionally I still hear of a bag that raises the pH of the water. This is rare. I would trust it to be inert in the senses that you are asking about. It will hold nutrients for the plants. (Cationic Exchange Capacity) You do need to add those nutrients, of course.
Pool filter sand. This has no CEC, and is almost always light in color. A bit better than gravel, but not by much.
Pebble Tek and similar materials. Inert, and you can get all sorts of colors. It is very dense, so it will hold plants down, but really is just a glorified sand.
Flourite has a large product line, and it is worth looking into. Several products are highly thought of for planted tanks, high CEC and dense enough to hold the plants down well until they root.

Acceptable water chemistry changes:
If you are keeping soft water fish and do not mind that the substrate can remove the KH, then Safe-T-Sorb and its relatives would be a great choice. You can add fish pretty much right away. Turface (Landscape/ Greenskeeper product) is similar, but I do not like the color choices now available. High CEC, and I like the soft, natural color of Safe-T-Sorb. These materials tend to be a bit light weight, though.

If you are keeping hard water fish and want the benefits of a substrate that raises KH, GH and pH then coral sand is OK, but is light in color.


You know ahead of time that you are moving.
Not all the nitrifying bacteria is going to survive the move, especially when you are going to swap out the substrate at the same time.
Start now:
Get a 5 gallon bucket or similar tub and do a fishless cycle with any sort of media that will grow bacteria. This will give you a big reserve of nitrifying bacteria that you can add to the tank when you move and set it up. Cheaper than buying bacteria in a bottle, and you know it is working!

etgregoire 01-04-2013 04:30 PM

Thanks Diana! Once again you are a wealth of knowledge!! I will do some more reading about Eco Complete. I do EI dosing and root tabs now, so I am comfortable continuing with that process.

I know sometimes people do some nutrient additives when they are setting up. Would you recommend anything like that, or is root tabs and EI still a good option?

As far as moving the tank... I did last time have a very successful move (although I was not swapping out the substrate.) I do not recall if I did water testing, I'm sure I did. I didn't loose any of the fish in the process.

I will probably hold off on starting any sort of fishless cycle for a while (anticipating a move in June - July). As far as this process do you think that I could just take a roll of canister filter sponge material and put it in a bucket with water from the aquarium on a water change prior to the move? Do I need to keep "feeding" the bacteria with anything? How long before the move should this be done?


wkndracer 01-04-2013 08:03 PM;)

etgregoire 01-04-2013 09:28 PM

Thanks wkndracer... I've read this but I just think there is a lot of info lacking here. I brought up in another thread, which didn't grow legs at all - that maybe the sticky needs updating. I feel like there could be more input could be added to each of the categories - the short statements leave a lot to the imagination. The more I read and research, the more questions I have and more info I find that seems important but isn't included... Oh well I guess you can't complain because we have such a great resource as it is here already!

Beer 01-05-2013 02:25 PM

Black Diamond is a media blasting material. As the name indicates, it is black. It is almost a glass like material. There are different grades, which correlate to different grain sizes from really fine to a fairly coarse sand. It's inert and works well for me. And it is pretty cheap; I think around $10 for a 40lb bag. If you don't mind the root tabs, it's a pretty good way to go. I've had it for the past year or so with no issues. Just rinse it first and you should be good to go.

You could start it in a bucket with a fish-less cycle a few weeks to a month before moving. If you seed it by squeezing a filter sponge into the bucket, you may be able to cycle it in a week or so. You could then transport the fish and plants in the bucket(s) and help minimize the stress to the fish if it is a long move. Just lay a base layer in the tank and then transfer the substrate from the bucket as the top layer in the tank. The cycle, if there is one, should be really quick.

etgregoire 01-05-2013 02:26 PM

Cool. That is one I've been considering. I think it looks cool. Do you have any photos posted online of your setup?

Beer 01-05-2013 02:55 PM

Unfortunately I don't. I am not home right now, so I can't take any pictures. Best I could do is an iPhone picture on Wednesday. I'm sure there are some pictures in the tank journal section or in this section of the forum.

Hilde 01-05-2013 02:59 PM

When I was thinking of moving to Florida I was researching the same thing. Seemed to me using substrates from the pet store would have been easier to set up but would cause problems. Had decided sticking with dirt and topping with sand would be less stressful for fish.

In my tanks I put reptile coconut bark on the bottom. For it prevents smelly air pocket from developing. Then mix some potting soil and top soil. Next tank using Hydroponics potting soil and Scott's top soil. For sand I found river sand from landscaper needs very little rinsing. Mostly just sift the larger pieces out. Found after a year the ferts peat out thus added DIY root tabs to established tank.

On 1 thread read 1 saved the mulm from the bottom of the tank when emptying for seeding the substrate. Many I have read just seed the filter with old media.

wkndracer 01-05-2013 03:37 PM


Originally Posted by etgregoire (Post 2154481)
Thanks wkndracer... I've read this but I just think there is a lot of info lacking here.

While the thread wanders a bit with opinion a couple times reading the follow up posts the details are there in the sticky thread.

Originally Posted by Beer (Post 2158961)
Black Diamond is a media blasting material.


Originally Posted by etgregoire (Post 2158977)
Cool. That is one I've been considering. I think it looks cool. Do you have any photos posted online of your setup?

A few others had posted about using it so I dug the net finding details and have loaded 8 tanks using coal slag (Black Diamond, Black Beauty blasting media).
Photos and details about using it in my journal threads although most have a soil base layer.

etgregoire 01-05-2013 03:57 PM

Thanks guys.

Beer don't worry about pictures - was just curious to see your tank if you had any already up. Thanks though!

plantedtankfan 01-06-2013 01:59 AM

+1 on the Eco complete. Love that substrate.

All times are GMT. The time now is 04:30 PM.

Powered by vBulletin®
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.