Maintaining Substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-11-2010, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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Maintaining Substrate

Hey guys...what all do you do to keep your substrate as fresh as it was the day you got it? Obviously after awhile you start adding root tabs, but when? My tank has been running now for a year with "eco-complete"...and I have been giving the sword plant root tabs, but other than that not using the tabs. Should I be?

The other day I had to take out some dying plants, and I figured as long as I was in there I might as well trim the wisteria that was going crazy, and the whole tank turned brown from sediment/detritus. Now about once a week a go and mix up as much of the substrate as I can with my fingers and siphon out the crap...but how do you keep a substrate clean (there are also a lot of roots left behind when you trim plants...what do you do about that?!) and not anaerobic as it seems it would become with all this decomposing matter in it. Thanks, Fleshy

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-11-2010, 04:20 PM
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The best way to keep the substrate clean is to make sure lots of crap doesn't get in in the first place You will notice most planted tanks are under stocked and for good reason. Also everyone loves a good cleaning crew of shrimp! The substrate in my tank is 100% covered in pants. Its does get dirty over the years, but I generally do a rescape every 3 years. If I do move plants around, I always have the siphon next to it to suck up the cloud of stuff that comes up.

Removing roots can be difficult, I use tweezers and try to remove as much as I can. some roots will die, but others will regrow into a plant.

I do use root tabs, but only under a few of my heavy root feeding plants. Occasionally I will Root tab the whole tank 2 inches appart.

Also, Remember you can uproot a section of your tank, scoop out the out gravel, and replace it with new gravel and re plant. I only recommend doing this on spots you are concerned about though, as it is tedious and stirs up junk into the tank.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-11-2010, 05:31 PM
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I don't see a need for it. When pulling large amounts of plants as you did, just do a WC at the same time to avoid cloudiness, but don't worry about the O2 level in your soil in a healthy planted tank. The plants oxygenate your soil for you through their roots.


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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-11-2010, 05:56 PM
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Why do you want to keep your substrate "clean"? Why do you want to keep the "crap" away from it? What do you think are the advantages of an "oxygenated substrate"?

Oxygen makes nutrients unavailable. Clean substrates are really hard on plants that like to take up nutrients through their roots. "Crap" (I prefer the term "organic matter") is extremely beneficial for plants. It increases the CEC value of substrate, and over time is broken down into plant available nutrients.

Removing and washing the substrate of your tank is something that folks with Goldfish and Betta bowls do once in a while. However, for planted tanks that doesn't make any bit of sense.

If you think your substrate is "exhausted", do some vacuuming, add some fert sticks, and sit back and look for other reasons. Clean your filter to increase water flow, make sure the CO2 injection is still injecting, do a nice large water change and dose some nutrients. Don't go wash the substrate.


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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-12-2010, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
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In briefly checking my post...I dont think I said anything about "oxygenating" the substrate. In my (granted limited) understanding of plants and whatnot compaction, and decomposition in the substrate seem to be a cause of rotting roots and stems, and in no circumstance is good for growth. Yes..."crap" is fertilizer. For both plants and algae.

If you would like to explain to my scientifically why letting my substrate compact and become anaerobic is advantageous, please do so. Im on here to learn, and thats why I posted this question in the first place.

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-17-2010, 02:58 PM
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About eco complete i'm unhappy. I think there a lot silicates what raise brown algea - diatom.
In my first tank just gravel, same water and all other things and never been brown algea.
In second 100 gal tank gravel with eco complete and i fight 2 months with algea.
+ eco raise ph up some months
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2010, 03:01 AM Thread Starter
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Hmm...did you rinse your substate?

I dont remember if I did or not, but I want to say I did. Im just used to having to do so for reef aquaria.

Side note- I have never had that problem with my eco-complete. No algae of any sort really to speak of ever.

Anyone have any maintenance that they perform on their substrate? Please chime in on this. Thanks.

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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2010, 04:19 PM
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My substrate is Schultz Aquatic Soil, same thing as Turface, and the tank has been set up for nearly 10 years as a heavily planted, CO2 injected high light tank. Maybe 5 years ago the substrate got so full of detritus I couldn't poke my finger through it so I pulled up the plants [wasn't easy], deep vacuumed the whole tank over about 3 days time piling the vacuumed substrate up and doing a couple inches in the python tube at a time until it was mostly clean. After all the substrate was gone through I replanted the tank and did daily water changes vacuuming the surface to get the surface gunk off. There was plenty of organic matter left underneath of course. There were no foul odors of any kind in the tank during my massive clean up, it smelled like good soil throughout. Since then I just do this where I want to do plantings. This is a huge disruption of the biological filtration of the tank and who know what other process and not a good idea.

I get lots of non smelly bubbles coming up from the substrate when lights are on but not when lights are off. All substrate bubbles are not from anaerobic bacteria and to be feared. Light seems to penetrate about an inch into my substrate. All detritus isn't nasty bacteria filled stuff you need to get rid of. It may be bacteria laden but bacteria aren't 'germs' and are an extremely important part of the aquatic ecosystem.

Never have set up a soil substrate but suspect you might get the smelly SO2 going on a recently set up tank as it might develop from too much rotting organic matter before the substrate develops the bio load it needs and new healthy roots.

As a child I had been taught to break down the tank and rinse substrate until it was completely clean. Even back then the year old never vacuumed gravel from an unplanted fish tank didn't smell nasty. Switching to this tank I just moved the dirty substrate, handful by handful, filled the tank, vacuumed the surface and planted. This preserved some of the mulm but not all of it. The sky did not fall down doing this, er - I didn't lose all my fish/get massive algae/dead plants. I was quite amazed.

A fish tank isn't going to consist only of the stuff you put in. It would be a failure if it did. You need a diversity of organisms of all sorts for a successful tank. We know and accept the nitrification bacteria for the biological filter they provide but there are many more involved.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-07-2010, 07:30 PM Thread Starter
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I aggree to all that, and basically what you are saying is the same thing that I do. I dont ever siphon my gravel, but when planted I will loosen it up a bit with my fingers and suck the detritus that comes out.

It does come to a point where there is stuff sitting on the substrate that I dont like the look of. Guess I need to get a carpet plant to cover it up.

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-08-2010, 11:27 PM
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I also have eco-complete. When I do my water changes, about once every 10 times I do a light siphoning of substrate. This has worked for me thus far.

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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-08-2010, 11:36 PM
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Mine is 8 years old and all I dont is blow it around with a powerhead and let the filter suck it up about once a week (or month if im busy/lazy)

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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-09-2010, 03:30 AM
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I am not content with the tank's appearance if I let the filter do that. The tank is too densely planted for the water movement I have. I lightly pump the vacuum up and down over the well established HG and Marsilea especially at the front edge of the tank and lightly go over most of the rest especially the areas in front of wood that blocks the water currents. Those platies can poop.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-09-2010, 04:02 AM
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Im also running 500 gph on a 65 so that makes a difference

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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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I want to upgrade my 20g HOT filter to an eheim...but money is a little tight right now especially because I am in the process of a 125g mixed reef build/upgrade.

But its on the list. Better filtration will probably help with the mulm/detritus buildup underneath the plants and on the lower leaves. I hate that.

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