After tinkering on and off for years I am finally starting a high tech tank from scratch for the first time ever.
Trying to sort out my substrate.
I initially just planned to bite the cost and go all Aquasoil. But I've read a couple big negatives on it.... Mostly harder to rearrange plants, and that it really is only designed to last one to two years. If history is any indicator(current tank substrate is 10+ years) this might not be a great idea. So now I'm thinking about BDBS with some kind of root fertilizer.
My two main questions are this. I was leaning dry start, but not committed, am I correct in thinking you can't dry start with BDBS because of no nutrients in the soil? Or is the root fertilizer strong enough to make this happen.
Second.. my real goal is some kind of carpet. To stay simple I am thinking Monte Carlo. I will have high light and pressurized CO2. Is BDBS enough to support this.. and maybe some day one of the more challenging carpet plants or is Aquasoil really in order here?
You can dry start with anything, but you must fill your tank (just below substrate level) with water that contains fertilizer (and by fertilizer I mean a complete fertilizer not just micros) and your misting water should also contain fertilizer. How well it does from that point tends to be based on how often you mist and whether your tank has elevations. I've done dry start once and watched videos from more then a dozen people doing it and every time they get creative with high elevations the plants up high start to suffer and die.
But all this is probably not needed. If you are planning to do co2 then the need for a dry start is frankly pretty small. Just go ahead with a flooded tank. Dry starts are most helpful for low tech tanks or people who are really trying to go cheap on plants.
Anyway I just ditched my last totally inert substrate. I went to aquasoil capped with sand. Before that I was running just pool filter sand. In my other two tanks I have dirt capped with sand. Frankly I like aquasoil for elevations but the stuff has a tendancy to get mixed in with stuff on the surface. In your case if you put down say an inch of aqusoil and capped it with bdbs you wouldn't have to worry much about that since the aquasoil will look pretty similar to the bdbs. This would be the route I recommend. You will still need to run fertilizers but you will get the benefit of having aquasoil which will "replenish" somewhat from the regular use of fertilizers.