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Old 02-16-2013, 01:55 PM   #1
Elyssa
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Substrate Options


Hi,
I was wondering what substrate would be best for a 55g tank that is already up and running, that won't make a mess.

I would like black in color, but have read a lot of negatives on the different gravels and losing their color over time. I would like to avoid that.

Definitely keeping the tank low light and low tech. Is there any way to do sand or something a little coarser with the fish remaining in there? Or am I just limited to gravel?

Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2013, 04:01 PM   #2
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Eco Complete is a good one.
Real gravel from a landscape/Masonry/Rock yard- go see what is available locally and get some samples to test for GH, KH and TDS.

To add these:
Rinse well.
Put a large diameter pipe into the tank from above the water to where you want the new material. Drop the new material in through the pipe. Then move to a new area.
Stop if it gets cloudy. Continue in a few hours or the next day.
Clean the filter media often, the fine particles that are causing the cloudy water will get trapped by the filter media.

Next option gets it all done at once, but is more work:
Prepare enough water for a 100% water change.
Drain the tank, saving the livestock in buckets.
Alter the substrate as needed, adding hills and valleys, moving the driftwood, rocks and plants. Mist the plants as you go.

Refill, using a plate or plastic bag over the substrate. Allow the water to seep slowly over the edge of the bag. This will minimize clouding. This is such a large undertaking that you might disturb too much of the nitrifying bacteria that live in the substrate and on all the surfaces in the tank and filter.
You might want to add a bacterial supplement that includes Nitrospira.

Put in new water, then add the livestock. Do not add the water from the fish buckets. When fish are stressed they add excess ammonia and stress hormones to the water.
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:23 PM   #3
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Thanks, I appreciate the time you took to be so detailed in your answer.

Last edited by Elyssa; 02-19-2013 at 08:51 PM.. Reason: edit
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:42 PM   #4
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If you like an all black and fine grained substrate then I would definitely go with black flourite.

I have used eco-complete and it's much more course and it has hints of maroon red pieces (since it's lava rock). Flourite is just much more sandlike and is a uniform black that really makes your plants & fish/shrimp stand out with contrast. Fourite comes in black or red/brown just so you know incase you want options.

The only downside for flourite is that because it is so fine, it may cloud your water for a few days while it settles to the bottom. But after it settles it is BY FAR the best substrate out there!!!!
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Old 02-16-2013, 06:46 PM   #5
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Diana, the pipe idea is great - I can't tell you how many times I've added substrate in "lean" areas, only to have what I'm adding tumble through the water & never land where I want it to!
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Old 02-16-2013, 07:08 PM   #6
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Option,
I'll look into that, too. I like the contrast of all black against the plants and fish.

How much at minimum would I need for 55g.

I was just reading about the Seachem Flourite. I hear Seachem says to just put it in and it will cloud the water and clear. I'm sure this has been debated to death, but why would you want to rinse this stuff clean, if I'm sure a lot of the expense has to do with all the good stuff in it for plants. Am I missing something? Are there any alternatives to this particular brand, because looks pricey.

Thanks.

Last edited by Elyssa; 02-19-2013 at 08:52 PM.. Reason: Edit
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:35 PM   #7
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I like the Eco -complete
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:39 PM   #8
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I personally found Eco-complete to be a waste of money.

Nothing wrong with it, but it costs a lot more than the plain/cheap options and it doesn't provide all of the benefits of the more expensive nutrient rich soils.

You might consider some of the crushed black lava rock from somewhere like substratesource. http://www.substratesource.com/index...=item&c=s&i=71

It is pretty comparable to Eco-complete and might be a less expensive option.

I will post some volume calculations for you in my next post.
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Old 02-16-2013, 10:52 PM   #9
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The footprint of a 55 gallon tank is 48"x13" or 624 square inches.

Multiply the footprint by the depth of the desired substrate to get the volume (cubic inches).

1 inch thick substrate would require 624 cubic inches.

2 inch thick substrate would require 1248 cubic inches.

Lets use 1,000 cubic inches as an example. There are 70 cubic inches per 2lb bag of lava rock that I linked to.

1,000 (cubic inches) / 70 (cubic inches) = 14.285. Lets round up to 15 bags.

15 bags x $3 each = $45

-------------------

With Eco-complete you are probably looking at 4 or 5 bags (20lb bags, not sure on the volume in each bag) and the bags are $25 each.

-------------------

Lava rock is so porous that you have to just calculate volume rather than weight or it won't work out correctly.
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Old 02-16-2013, 11:54 PM   #10
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madness,
LOL, thanks for the math lesson.

I like the look of the lava rock. I will look into that. I assume you have used it...how is it working for you? I need something that isn't going to mess with the PH as in raise it. How is the break down in the long run?

This is the first I've heard of it and I want to thank you for taking the time to post it. I want to cover my bases and am not into wasting $$$. Thanks again!

Last edited by Elyssa; 02-19-2013 at 08:53 PM.. Reason: Edit
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madness View Post
I personally found Eco-complete to be a waste of money.

Nothing wrong with it, but it costs a lot more than the plain/cheap options and it doesn't provide all of the benefits of the more expensive nutrient rich soils.
I would have to agree. For me, aside from the looks (never really liked the mix of black/dark red/brown substrate) and the courseness (lava rock is sharp & jagged)....the biggest deal breaker for me was that being lava rock it raises your pH to levels astronomically.
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:46 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elyssa View Post
madness,
LOL, thanks for the math lesson. I'm looking at some of the prices and compositions and the back of my mind is saying...glorified kitty litter.....hmmm!!!

I like the look of the lava rock. I will look into that. I assume you have used it...how is it working for you? I need something that isn't going to mess with the PH as in raise it. How is the break down in the long run?

This is the first I've heard of it and I want to thank you for taking the time to post it. I want to cover my bases and am not into wasting $$$. Thanks again!
There is variance in lava rock. It sort of amounts to 'get the right type and you won't have problems.'

That is the one reason I would prefer to pay more for specifically chosen/tested/prepared lava rock like that from substrate source rather than getting some REALLY cheap lava rock from a landscaping place (which many people do) and then having to worry about testing it.

I actually have about 50lbs of the nice smaller black lava rock substrate from SubstrateSource sitting here but the tanks that I was going to use it in have not been started up yet. So I can't vouch for how it actually works in the tank but a lot of other people do and I was planning to use it for more sensitive/expensive shrimp tanks.

I didn't mean to be patronizing with the simple math but often times people end up asking for someone to do the calculations so I just went ahead and did them to start with. I didn't intend any offense.
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Old 02-17-2013, 01:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elyssa View Post
Option,

I was just reading about the Seachem Flourite. I hear Seachem says to just put it in and it will cloud the water and clear. I'm sure this has been debated to death, but why would you want to rinse this stuff clean, if I'm sure a lot of the expense has to do with all the good stuff in it for plants. Am I missing something? Are there any alternatives to this particular brand, because looks pricey.

Thanks.
Flourite is an inert substrate. It doesn't contain any of the "good stuff" that plants need. It does have a pretty good CEC, so it can hold cations, like iron, ammonium, calcium, magnesium, etc., so plant roots can use them easily. It is a nice looking, uniform texture substrate material, which I like very well. But, it is not a nutrient filled substrate.
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Old 02-17-2013, 01:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Option View Post
I would have to agree. For me, aside from the looks (never really liked the mix of black/dark red/brown substrate) and the courseness (lava rock is sharp & jagged)....the biggest deal breaker for me was that being lava rock it raises your pH to levels astronomically.
I don't think typical lava rock should affect pH... I'm pretty sure it's about the same chemical/mineral composition as basalt, it just has a lot of bubbles in it. Depending on where it was mined/gathered, Some carbonate rocks may have gotten mixed in, or possibly runoff deposited carbonate minerals on/in the lava rock.

If it is a contaminated source, I would imagine it would either wash out after a bit, or you could possibly try to DIY it with a muriatic acid bath. But that's a lot of work for lava rock.

Oh- and as to substrate calculation, I've found this somewhat helpful, although it doesn't have too many options:
http://www.plantedtank.net/substratecalculator.html

Last edited by lochaber; 02-17-2013 at 01:36 AM.. Reason: adding link
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:16 PM   #15
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Option, no offense taken what so ever. Answers like that are more helpful to me because my brain enjoys the details and facts!

I need to be careful with my PH. I don't want any chances of raising it.

Thanks Hoppy. I didn't look enough into the Flourite. But had read conflicting info and opinions of that. For the price I was assuming it wasn't inert!

Is there anyway to test the water coming out of your tap for the mineral composition? My well water is loaded with minerals and in layman speak is considered hard. I'm not running a water softener system.

Are there any *cheats*, as in okay, buy a bag of flourite for the actual areas you'll be putting the rooted plants in and then going with another material that's less pricey to fill the areas that won't be planted.

Last edited by Elyssa; 02-19-2013 at 09:06 PM.. Reason: Edit
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