So Many Substrate Choices! Feedback Please? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-23-2010, 04:38 AM Thread Starter
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Smile So Many Substrate Choices! Feedback Please?

Hello there! I'm new to the idea of keeping planted tanks, and I want my first attempt to go as well as possible, so I've been doing my homework. I would like to "dry start" this tank to avoid algae blooms and get a good carpet of spreading plants on the bottom.

I've found a lot of different opinions about substrates on this forum and on other websites, and I think I've settled on the mix I want to try. The bottom layer would be a top soil made of 90% peat moss and 10% sand mixed with some vermiculite to keep it from compacting, then a layer of Eco Complete and more vermiculite, and I'd like to swirl in a little mix of gravel and tiny shell bits for contrast and sparkle.

Does this sound like a good starting point? Please let me know what you think or if you have ideas that might work better!

Thank you!

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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-23-2010, 06:22 AM
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Hi DJ80's!

Personally I think you should stick to an all eco or all flourite type of substrate. In my opinion making your own mix can be somewhat complicated to do properly and even then several complications could arise (anaerobic gasses in the substrate, layer seperation during planting/replanting, excess nutrients or too little nutrients, alteration of water chemistry) and maybe even more. In my opinion for your first time it might be easier to use just one type of substrate the whole way through. Some of the more popular ones are ADA Aquasoil, Eco Complete, Seachem Flourite. There are some other out there that are not so popular. Make sure you read some reviews on the substrate before going out and buying a ton!

Hope this helps!
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-23-2010, 12:04 PM
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That much peat sounds great if you're setting up a blackwater breeding tank for Apistos or something, but probably would be too much for a planted tank- if you use too much peat you'll end up with tons of tannins in the water as well as a really low pH and hardness.





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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-23-2010, 01:18 PM
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If you want to use peat in your tank, a sprinkle is all you need. Even if you wanted to do a blackwater tank you wouldn't need THAT much.

I really like sand as a substrate, but it requires some additional precautions to keep it form causing problems.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-25-2010, 03:43 AM
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Forget the bottom layer. All 3 of your materials are not so great.
Dust a little peat on the bottom, so you can still see the glass, then use Eco Complete with nothing else. You will need to fertilize the plants in this tank.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-26-2010, 12:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for your help!

Thanks for the input! I will plan on buying some Eco Complete to get this tank started. What do you think about the vermiculite? I've read a lot of things that talk about the importance of keeping the substrate from compacting, and that's one of the substances I found that will do that. Some of the reviews I read about the Eco Complete said that it tends to settle kind of solidly on the bottom, so I want to prevent that.

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-26-2010, 01:11 AM
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Just don't exceed 2-3 inches total substrate depth and you should be fine. I personally wouldn't fool with vermiculite.





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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-26-2010, 04:15 AM
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Vermiculite capped with playsand is the only plant substrate I've used so far. It works much better than plain sand, but I'm not sure how it compares to other substrates or even plain sand with root tabs. My Water Sprite exploded and even my Java Ferns perked up after their little grabber-roots got ahold of it. However, growth slowed down a few months later, so I'm not sure how good it is for the long-term. I'm soon going to be switching to MTS, so I probably won't be using vermiculite any more.

If you do want to use it, I suggest soaking it in a bucket of water until most of it sinks. Drain off any floaters before you put it in the tank. Don't make it more than an inch thick, otherwise it'll go anaerobic. Then, if you can, put the sand on dry- wet sand just plops down and mixes with the vermiculite. You can also use gravel, but be careful when you vacuum it.

Vermiculite can clog up your filter and cloud your water at first and whenever you break the cap, so I recommend using a sponge or polyester batting prefilter when you first fill the tank and whenever you add or remove plants. If you soak it well, you won't have to worry about floaters, but sooner or later some of the vermiculite will settle on top of the cap. If the look doesn't bother you and it's not clogging your filter, you can leave it alone and it won't cause any trouble. If you do want to get rid of it, just take some airline and siphon it out like fish poo.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 05-02-2010, 05:17 AM Thread Starter
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I've got my substrate now!

Thank you for all your advise! I got an idea for my substrate, and I'm running with it...

I've put a thin layer of clay Hydroballs (normally used in terrariums) on the bottom held down by a piece of cheesecloth so they wouldn't move when I poured the 40 lbs. of Eco Complete over top of them. The cheesecloth will decompose once I get some organic action going in there, and the Hydroballs should keep the bottom from becoming anaerobic and will also add more iron to the environment.

I've started a tank profile for this project, so if anyone wants to take a look, you can - it's just really boring to look at right now.

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