Planted Tank Obsessed
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Central Michigan
HTH PFS is a beautiful sand. I haven’t capped anything with it but I do use it as a foreground sand and it does a fantastic job at it. Perfect size IMO and comes super clean compared to most substrates, especially other sands. I’ve never rinsed it before use and have never had a detrimental outcome because of not rinsing.
I’m just getting back into taking my tanks seriously and recently setup a Mr. Aqua 3 gallon bowfront with Fluval Stratum and HTH PFS. It’s going well so far (about 3 weeks now).
A majority of the plants we keep feed almost exclusively from the water column and our substrate acts more as an anchoring point rather than a nutrient delivery medium. Not saying that nutritious substrate isn’t beneficial, it’s just not as significant as most aquarists tout it to be. Does it help? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Not at all. When I say “nutritious substrate”, I’m referencing the “aqua-soil” type substrates (Ada, Tropica, Stratum, etc.).
Honestly, all those “aquasoil” substrates are is pelletized soil. The nutritional value of any soil is depleted over time regardless of brand or application. That’s why ADA sells all of those super expensive powder packets that almost everyone chooses to skip when buying their $80 bag of Amazonia. Those powder packets contain material to help sustain a healthy long-term living substrate. Essentially, a “high-tech” Walstad. Walstad wasn’t intended for high demand plants running high-tech equipment. Not saying it isn’t possible but it was meant to be an easily obtainable and sustainable system with a low level of involvement and experience from the aquarist. A system to grow plants that comes with its pros and cons.
The nutes that are in those aquasoils are only there to get you up and going. After a while, you’ll have to replenish those depleted nutrients that “jump started” your plants. That’s the case for anything we as humans grow in a contained space whether it be a flower pot, an 80 acre crop field, or an attempt at a gorgeous planted tank. We, as aquarists, need to replenish those nutrients either by column dosing or adding some sort of root tab to reintroduce nutrients back into the system.
What I’m getting at here is that substrate choice truly is a personal choice usually coming down to ease of planting, plant retention, and maintainability. If it keeps your plants anchored and looks good to the eye, go for it. It’s your tank. Just keep up on your column dosing. Having said that, I like using the “aquasoils”. Preferably Amazonia but Stratum has given me comparable results if I do my part.
Now, some plants are actually heavy root feeders but in those situations, again, root tabs will provide nutrients regardless of substrate. Think about it, the water within the substrate doesn’t stay within the substrate. Things leech from the substrate. So, even with the aquasoils, those nutrients will become diluted within the water column in turn dosing the water column.
Aquariums are closed systems. Very small closed systems. Anything we put in it, stays in it in every location of the tank. Substrate, filter, hardscape, etc. Find a substrate you like the look of that physically works well with your plants, start a dosing/maintenance schedule and enjoy your tank. Don’t worry so much about substrate because in time it won’t really matter to begin with.