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NanoDave 01-13-2014 02:17 AM

Substrate Holy Grail?!?!
It seems every time I go into the substrate section I always see "Eco-Complete good for.....?" or "Should I go with Eco-Complete or .......". So here sparks the debate!

I don't know if it's just me and I have found the holy grail or if people don't know about this stuff but no one ever mentions ActivFlora. Why? Is it simply Eco-Complete is more available? Is Eco-Complete marketed more? Or is it simply Eco-Complete has been mentioned by a few people and caught on and is now the new trend? I would love to know your opinions on this.

Before I delve too deep I'll post a few pics to help you visualize what I'll be talking about next:

And here's the "about" on each bag directly from the company's sites:

Eco‑Complete’s™ secret lies in rich basaltic volcanic soil which contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur plus over 25 other elements to nourish your aquatic plants. Now contains Floraspore™ - These symbionts activate the root-substrate interface to facilitate the uptake of minerals which make for a healthier root and healthier plant. Iron rich Eco‑Complete™ eliminates the need for laterite. No artificial dyes, paints, or chemical coatings. Eco-Complete™ has highly porous spherical grains for optimum diffusion performance and contains live Heterotrophic bacteria to rapidly convert fish waste into natural food for your aquatic plants. It establishes a natural biological balance which makes cycling a new aquarium faster and safer.

*couldn't find a list on the web for quantity of each element or the other 25 elements it contains*

ActivFlora™ Planted Aquarium Substrate is a Bio-Activ NUTRIENT-ENRICHED™ gravel specially developed and suited for planted aquaria. ActivFlora™ gravels are naturally abundant in trace elements that instantly provide a nutrient-rich environment in which your aquatic plants will thrive and achieve optimum health and growth.

Elemental Analysis (Units=mg/kg)

Aluminum ..................10210
Magnesium .............. 2281
Barium ..........................124
Manganese .....................64
Copper ............................17
Potassium .................. 2195

Here's my experience:

I've currently have a dozen tanks with plants in them. I dose, root tab, co2 inject etc. so I consider myself an intermediate in plant keeping. Of my time keeping planted tanks I've used numerous substrates with all different results. In the past I had Eco-Complete in a couple bowls, 10g, and 29g. I've since only done new tanks with ActivFlora and replaced all my Eco-Complete tanks with it as well except my 29g.

Here's my personal findings:
-I've seen FAR better growth in ActivFlora tanks than I ever did with Eco-Complete tanks.
-I've had MUCH longer lusher roots in ActivFlora over Eco-Complete
-Plants have lacked many nutrients with Eco-Complete forcing me to root tab, and dose more often where as ActivFlora only on rare occasion.
-I've never had uprooting issues with ActivFlora and have always had uprooting problems with Eco-Complete
-ActivFlora is very easy to plant anything in and carpets much quicker and easier (gloss, DBT, DHG etc.) than Eco-Complete.
ActivFlora is VERY consistent heavy weight fine grade substrate that is all pure black where as Eco-Complete is very un uniform, and multi colored.

Overall every plant (except plants started from bulbs) I've owned grows more lush, with better roots, and quicker with ActivFlora than Eco-Complete. I suspect Eco-Complete allows for more space for the bulb to grow (highly porous spherical grains for optimum diffusion) where as Activ-Flora might be too dense possibly.

I will end with that I don't mind Eco-Complete for heavy rooters or large stemmed plants and plan to keep my 29g with Eco-Complete but I really enjoy ActivFlora and don't see myself purchasing much else in the future.

So whats your thoughts/take on all this?

The Trigger 01-13-2014 02:30 AM

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Wait why have I never heard of this? Who makes this and where did you get it?

shift 01-13-2014 03:17 AM

It looks like active flora is physically smaller which will be easier for carpeting plants to spread though.. eco complete works well (except carpets take alot longer.. in my experience)

Diana 01-13-2014 03:32 AM

I would like to make the point that the elements that are in the actual material itself, that are the sand/gravel bits are not nutrients for the plants.
The sand/gravel does not break down fast enough to become fertilizer.
Any claims that these elements are a benefit to the plant are exageration at best, and downright lying at worst. It is like saying the china you eat off of adds vitamins to the food you eat.

Minerals that are added as fertilizer are the things that are available to the plants. They are not actually the elements that make up the sand/gravel particles.

If you start with a product that has no fertilizer and add fertilizer, then it will grow plants better than that product right out of the bag. If a product has fertilizers incorporated into it, (you buy it that way), then the plants will do better than a product that has no fertilizers when you compare 'using it right out of the bag'. When you add ferts to the product that has none, the plants might grow just as well as the in the product that came with fertilizers.

NanoDave 01-13-2014 03:49 AM

The Trigger:
I actually first found this at a Petco in NJ that had been converted from a big LFS and was selling off all remaining products. Bought one 16lb bag for $7 on clearance! Needless to say went back and bought their last 6 bags the next day after I fell in love with it! I've used all 6 bags and now have 50lbs of eco sitting in a bucket in the basement :-P. Had my LFS order some more for me and my friends. Selling at $25 a bag where Eco-Complete is $33 0.0....YATZEE!

I completely understand you are literally purchasing "water" in a bag with substrate. I guess I should have stated that in my first post but in any event both are "water" in a bag with substrate so still even comparison. I personally find ActivFlora's "water" to be far superior and last longer before root tabs or excessive dosing is needed. Thats makes me wonder why more people don't talk about this stuff. Hence holy grail.

James M 01-13-2014 04:06 AM

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"Holy Grail" = dirt

NanoDave 01-13-2014 04:15 AM

James M:
"Holy Grail" might very well may be dirt but you still need to cap it and deal with nasty air pockets :-/. Not to mention it can be a mess/nightmare if it gets to the surface.

Maybe I'll try dirt w/ ActivFlora cap someday 0.0! I don't think I would have that much time everyday to trim though :-P

NanoDave 01-13-2014 05:29 AM

Just had a great idea. Lets put them to the test with the most constants phisically possible! Both substrates I took out of the bag (huray for left overs). Pulled a run of glosso from one of my tanks. Cut off 4 identical pieces and placed 2 in each jar and filled with water. I'll keep track every few days or so.

I'll make a "tank" journal to keep track of it here:

AHP 01-13-2014 04:03 PM

Humm I was looking at ActivFlora as well. Now I might stick around to see this test.

THE V 01-13-2014 04:14 PM

Ooooh scientific method at work!!

Didn't expect that. Did you weigh out the soil to make sure you had the same amount? No sneaking in roundup in a few weeks into the eco. ;-)

NanoDave 01-13-2014 04:28 PM

I wish I could be that scientific with it but if I weighed it the Eco-Compelete would probably be full and the ActivFlora would prob be half full as ActivFlora is much more dense and quite heavy. This is really as close as I can get the experiment with the same variables. Maybe when I get my rack system I've been dreaming of set up I'll do a few tanks of each and really see the long term results.

Subtletanks91 01-13-2014 05:15 PM

What about flora max then. Because flora max looks exactly like Eco complete. And it is volcanic rock. You can tell by the formation and surface of each piece of gravel. I have a tank with azoo plant grower bed. And in my 55 I have flora max. I have to use root tabs in my 55 especially for my swords and crypts. But my other tank there is no need for them or fert dosing, my hair grass has even started a carpet ands it's been almost three months since I introduced the dhg.

So my question is, is flora max as useless as Eco complete.

NanoDave 01-13-2014 06:37 PM

Subtletanks91: I've actually been looking into FloraMax very heavily lately as it's on sale at a Petsmart near me for $6 a bag! As far as I know FloraMax is very close to Eco-Complete but I hear you need to wash it a lot before use or it'll cloud up easily. I'm planning on doing a rack system for marmorkrebs and might end up picking up a couple bags. I wouldn't say any substrate is "useless" but some are definetly better than others. The reason I posted this thread was to get peoples opinion on why they choose a larger substrate to carpet or scape with when it seems to not work as well as finer grade. Also wanted to let people know about this amazing product (ActivFlora) in efforts to advance the hobby and share my success.

The Trigger 01-13-2014 07:58 PM

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I'm interested to see how this test turns out now. I swear by eco complete so this should be interesting

Coldwater King 01-13-2014 08:17 PM

These people were talking about it...

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