New low tech substrate
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Old 08-13-2014, 10:17 AM   #1
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New low tech substrate


I am going to start a new 10g low tech tank, of course the choise of substrate always comes up.

This is the substrates i have tried beafore, they all have worked, but they also all have pros and cons: dirt/sand cap - dirt/gravel cap - straight pool filter sand - cat litter.

But yesterday i did a google search for planted tanks with plain gravel substrate and i found a lot of fantastic looking tanks out there. I also read that some aquarists claim that plain gravel with the right size will let the water circulate around the roots giving a very positive effect on plants.

My question is:
Maybe plain gravel is the easiest way for a low tech way to go? And from pictures on the internet it looks like gravel grows plants very good, i suppose the gravel will in time accumulating some mulm for the plants.

Is there any gravel users out there that grow plants please chime in, comment or show some pictures.

Is it possible to grow nice colored plants in green and red in gravel?

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Old 08-13-2014, 10:31 AM   #2
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Used gravel years ago before I knew anything at all about enhancing the substrate.
CO2 or lack thereof has more to do with coloring of plants than substrate I thinks.
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Old 08-13-2014, 01:09 PM   #3
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I've been growing run of the mill Argentine Swords and Hygro Compacta (not so compact...a) in a 1/2 Pool Filter Sand 1/2 plain river gravel setup, no ferts or co2, medium lighting. They grow great. I've had to trim all of it back several times as they make babies.

Conversely, I've had a bad time growing Bacopa and Ambulia in it, which normally grow like weeds elsewhere. I don't know what is exactly playing a factor here, but I think it's doable. It's not ideal, but it is workable.
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Old 08-14-2014, 10:47 AM   #4
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I used to have a tank in the 80s that was gravel only. It was very successful in the later stages after the initial experiment stages. As a kid pretty much I knew hardly anything about planted tanks apart from what I heard from word of mouth.

But then I got the hang of it and had amazon swords and some cabomba growing extremely well for me. No CO2/glut/etc was injected, no ferts of any kind, only what fish provided. I faintly remember scraping algae off the glass periodically. Water changes were once a week.

In 2013 I rebooted the hobby and I have a tank with golden river sand. By itself it didnt do me too good so I added contro soil to it and the mixture serves me extremely well. I also use Sera root tabs for the rooting plants and liq ferts for stems. I am really very satisfied with the lush results - I have a jungle now. No CO2/Excel injected. Anyone who wants a planted tank and not have to deal with co2 injection or even dosing excel, just copy mine, it works! Some stems grow fast enough that I have to do trimmings regularly.

I initially did green plants only (amazon, jungle val, and cabomba). 2 weeks ago I tried a green-pink stem plant (dont know name) and its doing great I think. Dwarf sag which I planted recently is also giving good signs.

I think I see many hobbyists do high tech tanks but then return to low tech. no?

Last edited by adive; 08-14-2014 at 10:58 AM.. Reason: info
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Old 08-17-2014, 12:15 AM   #5
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Good thread! From reading through once I would look at D. Walstad's quote. But I'm finding my head can only hold so many bits of information at once, so by the time I got here I wasn't sure of the first bit.

Having gone through 2 years 4 months with a 10 gal., too-big gravel at first and converted to MGOCPM and sand several months ago, I find that using fertz with inert substrates (gravel, sand only) is a must. Probably macros as well as micros. Even a tank as small as a 10. Has to be in the correct proportions and dose, though.

I have also found that getting the right light intensity over the tank is very difficult and very important. I have 2 10W CFLs in polished aluminum dome clamp-ons suspended over the tank so I can change the height. Sounds like LEDs are dimmable too, but check that one out.

My second-generation Sword is growing very well and is emerging from the top of the tank. I have some stem plants which have done great from day 1 and really grown.

Tank 1 v.2.0 10g; 10W x2 CFL; Fluval U2; MGOCPM
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Old 08-17-2014, 12:37 AM   #6
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I have a black water tank with play sand substrate. I had a sword "surviving" in sand alone, but then I had the idea to put a dirt ice cube under the roots. Huge improvement in growth. Don't see why you couldn't to that with gravel, as long as it is deep enough to be capped.
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Old 08-17-2014, 10:36 AM   #7
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Thanks for inputs, keep posting

I currently have one tank with dirt/sand cap and one with cat litter only.

I will start a new tank this week and i will go back in time and just use plain gravel like i did in my younger days and see how it goes

This is what i hope plain gravel will do:

1. Grow some plants (easy plants)
2. Compared to sand give good circulation around the plant roots. I hope this will give the roots the possibility to get some ferts from the water. (I will use ferts if i have to).
3. Compared to sand the gravel will let food and fish phoo travel through the substrate and down to the roots.
4. Compared to my dirt tank give me the possibility to replant without cloudyness in the tank.
5. With inert gravel i hope i dont have to be worried about the substrate changing the water parameters like my tanks with dirt or cat litter.

This was a lot of positive talk about gravel but i also have other tanks with other substrates that run fine I just want to test it out

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