Adding new substrate: is it ok to add it over old one?
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:01 PM   #1
fablau
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Adding new substrate: is it ok to add it over old one?


Hello folks,
I have a question for you, which I'd need your advice for. I setup my 75gl high tech planted tank about 5 years ago, and when I set it up I laid down a first layer of Eco Complete (about 2-3 inches deep) and I added about 1 inch of pure natural grave over it, because at that time I didn't know much about substrates for plants and I used to like the look of the natural gravel (3-6mm size.)

Now, some substrate areas of my tank looks like are making some of my plants suffer, so I am thinking to replace substrate in those areas, but I have a dilemma... Would you suggest to "remove" completely the substrate before replacing it with new substrate (which would be a very hard task to accomplish without tearing apart the complete tank), or do you think I could just add 2-3 inches of new substrate on the old one after have vacuumed it as much as I can? The old substrate on those areas has become a little bit compact, and the old Eco complete seems to have been mixed with the top gravel I laid over it 5 years ago after so many years of planting and re-planting in those areas.

I am still in deciding if trying ADA Amazonia (that could become messy after a while) or Active-Flora for which I have read very good reviews (and looks like it will be much more cleaner in the long term.)

I am awaiting anxiously for your valuable advice...

Thank you in advance!

Fab.
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Old 02-17-2014, 11:21 PM   #2
Diana
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If you decide to add new on top of old:
Most of the ADA products produce a lot of ammonia, so you would not be able to keep livestock in the tank for several weeks to a month.
The compacted current substrate might be bad to have under such a deep layer of something else. Poor water flow leads to poor oxygen levels in the deep substrate.

If you decide to do a whole re-do it will give you a chance to re-scape the whole tank. You might still decide you like the look of the EC or the gravel, but only in parts. Perhaps a path or 'stream bed' effect. Or you could sieve the mixed materials and separate them for re-use.
This would also give you a chance to thoroughly trim or treat plants for algae, remove livestock and perhaps treat for internal parasites and in other ways get a 'whole new tank' set up. Given the poor condition of the existing material, I think this is the way I would go.
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Old 02-18-2014, 12:06 AM   #3
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Thank you Diana for your reply. The fact is that my tank is doing very well, with the only exception of a specific area where plants look are suffering a little due to a probably "bad" substrate (it is just my supposition of course.) I have no algae whatsoever, and I would really like to not tear my tank apart. Here is a picture of my tank now:



The area where I suspect having substrate issues, is where the Ambulias are located in the back-middle-right of the tank. They are suffering stunted growth and the bottom part of the stems melts very often.

About ADA releasing Ammonia, I read that that could happen, but with the fact I would add it just to an area of about 4 by 10 inches of my tank, and with the fact my tank has a well established wet/dry filter with plenty of bacteria ready to break down Ammonia, I doubt I would have an ammonia spike that could wreak havoc my livestock. I could always increase water changes for a while to avoid any possible issues, but I really doubt it.

I am more concerned with the fact of adding a new substrate over the old one from the plants stand point, and I'd like to know if someone else have tried that and if had any issues or if it worked successfully.

Thank you!
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Old 02-18-2014, 03:19 PM   #4
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Then here is what I would do:
Poke a lot of holes in the trouble area with something like a knitting needle or chopstick. Very gently work is back and forth a bit and see if you can loosen the substrate in that area.
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Old 02-19-2014, 02:53 AM   #5
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Thank you Diana, that's exactly what I have been doing for the past 3 months but not much is changed... That's why I was thinking trying to add new substrate. Thanks!
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:09 AM   #6
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You can look into buying root tabs. This will allow you to add nutrients directly to the roots of the plants, and you can place right into the troubled areas of the tank.

I know in the swap shop section of the site you can search for "Osmocote+ Root Tabs". I used them in my old planted tank with no issues and all I had was eco complete substrate.
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:56 AM   #7
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Thank you for your advice, but I have added so many tabs that I am afraid to have added "too many" to that area! I have really tried everything... At this point my plan would be the following, please let me know your thoughts about it:

1. Vacuum deeply that area, very carefully, and possibly remove with a spoon or something, most of the old substrate (without mess too much around!)

2. Add new substrate (still deciding if using ADA aquasoil or Activflora, but I am more inclined to try Activflora.)

3. Add ADA Bacter Balls to re-establish bacteria in the substrate.

How does this sound to you? I really appreciate your help!
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Old 02-19-2014, 09:10 AM   #8
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Haha u may have added to many tabs hahahahaha wow

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Old 02-20-2014, 03:21 AM   #9
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Yes, I have that doubt too! That's why I'd like to try to clean the old substrate and start from scratch.
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