Substrate/Ph advice? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate/Ph advice?

I'm looking for a new substrate that will help keep my ph closer to my tap water. I currently have a Biocube 14 set up with Turface MVP for substrate and am finding out that it may be dropping my ph. I live in the Charleston, SC area and we have soft water. Out of the tap the ph is around 6.8 with a KH of 1 and GH of 6 based on an API test kit. My tank ph is usually around 5.2 but jumps up to around 6.5 with a 50% water change then drops down again. Currently I have a Betta, 4 snails, and some some plants. I've seen some mixed reviews on store bought and alternative (Turface, blasting sand) substrates. Any recommendations? Thanks.
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 09:32 PM
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I don't think you can go wrong with BDBS. So many have used it with great success, its cheap and readily available.

Also it will not mess with your tap water parameters.
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-05-2017, 09:51 PM
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Yup bdbs will not mess with your tap parameters at all. Is what I use in both my tanks. If you are looking for a buffering substrate that will keep it around your tap parameters Controsoil will keep your ph around the 6.5-6.8 range. It will make your kh 0 though which is what it's suppose to do to buffer. So cannot go wrong with either.


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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 12:13 AM
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Hi Warpiper,

Welcome to TPT!

Yes, Turface MVP, or any of the calcined clay substrates as well as some of the ADA Soils will mess with the PH for a while, typically a couple of months or so if I am conciencious about adding bicarbonate of soda (baking soda / NaHCO3) weekly to increase my PH to my target level. It is hard to beat the benefit of high CEC substrates however.

10 gallon; low light; no CO2; EI ferts and Excel for carbon

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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 03:01 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by slipfinger View Post
I don't think you can go wrong with BDBS. So many have used it with great success, its cheap and readily available.

Also it will not mess with your tap water parameters.
Hi slipfinger,

Thanks, that's good to know. Read a lot and watched a bunch of videos about ph and a lot of folks are saying to try to keep the ph around what your tap water is. Easier on maintenance and you don't have to keep fiddling with it.

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Originally Posted by clownplanted View Post
Yup bdbs will not mess with your tap parameters at all. Is what I use in both my tanks. If you are looking for a buffering substrate that will keep it around your tap parameters Controsoil will keep your ph around the 6.5-6.8 range. It will make your kh 0 though which is what it's suppose to do to buffer. So cannot go wrong with either.


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Hi clownplanted,

Thanks for the info on BDBS and Contosoil. What grain size would you recommend for a planted tank?
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Seattle_Aquarist View Post
Hi Warpiper,

Welcome to TPT!

Yes, Turface MVP, or any of the calcined clay substrates as well as some of the ADA Soils will mess with the PH for a while, typically a couple of months or so if I am conciencious about adding bicarbonate of soda (baking soda / NaHCO3) weekly to increase my PH to my target level. It is hard to beat the benefit of high CEC substrates however.

10 gallon; low light; no CO2; EI ferts and Excel for carbon
Hi Roy,

Thank you, and thank you for letting me know that. It was a toss up between Turface and BDBS when I was starting the tank and I with with Turface because of the the CEC attributes but also because I already had it on hand. Nice tank by the way. I hope mine will fill out like that.
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 11:43 AM
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Almost all the aqua soils buffer to 6.8 closest to your tap
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Almost all the aqua soils buffer to 6.8 closest to your tap
Hi StrungOut,

Thanks, I'll check them out.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 01:54 PM
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Hi StrungOut,

Thanks, I'll check them out.
I did not mean strictly ada, sorry if got that interpretation

ada amazonia, mr. aquasoil, contro soil, stinternational soil,

possibly i do not know fluval's i think 6.4 can't remember, up aqua soil
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 02:12 PM
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Substrate/Ph advice?

I would avoid Fluval. Many report it doesn't last long and turns to mud sooner than later. The buffering lasts usually less then 6 months with that one where most others will give you a year or more. So many regret getting the Fluval. I recommend for bdbs the medium and for the Controsoil the fine.

One thing to keep in mind the Amazonia soils most require to cycle them for a good month or two as they leach ammonia. The Controsoil does not leach amonia but requires a charging period where the first couple week it will bring your gh down during this time. After a couple weeks it stops and will keep from lowering your gh. It does this to store the nutrients for plants.

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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 05:17 PM
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Another option to controlling PH is to add a decorative sea shell to your tank. It will keep your PH close to 7. The shell is mainly calcium carbonate. It will dissolve in acidic water only and not at all in basic water. If your ph drops it will start to dissolve and push the PH up. At a PH of 7 it will stop dissolving and the PH will stabilize at 7. Since we are only talking about a 1 point PH change it will not have a significant effect on PH. Now if your water had a larger PH change it would have a larger effect on Gh.

The nice thing about sea shells is you can easily add one for a test and if it doesn't work you can easily remove it. You don't have to change the substrate. Also if you are near a beach you can probably find something there. IF not you could go to a fish store and look at the available tank decorations. At my Local fish store I found a small page for a couple of dollars. A simple 1 inch shell can last last several years before it resolves away.

Last edited by Surf; 08-06-2017 at 05:19 PM. Reason: typo
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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Warpiper View Post
I'm looking for a new substrate that will help keep my ph closer to my tap water. I currently have a Biocube 14 set up with Turface MVP for substrate and am finding out that it may be dropping my ph. I live in the Charleston, SC area and we have soft water. Out of the tap the ph is around 6.8 with a KH of 1 and GH of 6 based on an API test kit. My tank ph is usually around 5.2 but jumps up to around 6.5 with a 50% water change then drops down again. Currently I have a Betta, 4 snails, and some some plants. I've seen some mixed reviews on store bought and alternative (Turface, blasting sand) substrates. Any recommendations? Thanks.
I got a book called "ecology of the planted aquarium" and followed its directions. I used dirt from the backyard, mixed in a random sized handful of crushed coral as buffer and covered it with lava rock gravel the size of a b.b.

I use tap water that comes out at 8.2. I have 3 2 gallon tanks and one 5 gal. It took a couple months to stabilize and the filter on the 5 gallon has crushed coral in it to add minerals. The tanks sit at about 7.4. The ph rises in the 5 gallon during the day and drops at night. I had cardinal tetras in it and they were happy. I recently pulled them out so that my shrimp population could build up.

I use lights from an old reef tank and it is a little too much. I use water lettuce to shade it and suck up nutrients if I start to see algae getting ahead of me. I have co2 and all the high tech stuff, but I don't use it anymore. Dirt is working really well for me.

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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 07:06 PM
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Substrate/Ph advice?

Charging the soil is easy and a one time deal. Takes all of 2-3 weeks. Corals or shells require a continuous effort.

And the soil will buffer to a defined parameter and the shells may not. Just throwing that out there. The buffering capability will last a long time depending on useage. And you do not need to change out all when the time comes. Can do a small part to get the buffering back.

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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 08:15 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by StrungOut View Post
I did not mean strictly ada, sorry if got that interpretation

ada amazonia, mr. aquasoil, contro soil, stinternational soil,

possibly i do not know fluval's i think 6.4 can't remember, up aqua soil
lOL!! No worries, I knew what you meant. Did some interesting reading of the different brands. They all sound pretty good.

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Originally Posted by clownplanted View Post
I would avoid Fluval. Many report it doesn't last long and turns to mud sooner than later. The buffering lasts usually less then 6 months with that one where most others will give you a year or more. So many regret getting the Fluval. I recommend for bdbs the medium and for the Controsoil the fine.

One thing to keep in mind the Amazonia soils most require to cycle them for a good month or two as they leach ammonia. The Controsoil does not leach amonia but requires a charging period where the first couple week it will bring your gh down during this time. After a couple weeks it stops and will keep from lowering your gh. It does this to store the nutrients for plants.

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Thanks clownplanted,

I've seen a few reviews on Fluval that say the same thing. I'll pass on Amazonia, I don't want to have to wait on another cycle.
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 08-06-2017, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Surf View Post
Another option to controlling PH is to add a decorative sea shell to your tank. It will keep your PH close to 7. The shell is mainly calcium carbonate. It will dissolve in acidic water only and not at all in basic water. If your ph drops it will start to dissolve and push the PH up. At a PH of 7 it will stop dissolving and the PH will stabilize at 7. Since we are only talking about a 1 point PH change it will not have a significant effect on PH. Now if your water had a larger PH change it would have a larger effect on Gh.

The nice thing about sea shells is you can easily add one for a test and if it doesn't work you can easily remove it. You don't have to change the substrate. Also if you are near a beach you can probably find something there. IF not you could go to a fish store and look at the available tank decorations. At my Local fish store I found a small page for a couple of dollars. A simple 1 inch shell can last last several years before it resolves away.
Hi Surf,

Thanks for the information on shells. I live in the Charleston, SC area, lots of beaches and shells. My biggest concern is not the ph out of the tap (6.8) but what the Turface does to the ph once the water is added. This morning it was down to 4.9 so I did a water change and its back to 6.1. It will slowly drop throughout the rest of the day.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by wendellperkins View Post
I got a book called "ecology of the planted aquarium" and followed its directions. I used dirt from the backyard, mixed in a random sized handful of crushed coral as buffer and covered it with lava rock gravel the size of a b.b.

I use tap water that comes out at 8.2. I have 3 2 gallon tanks and one 5 gal. It took a couple months to stabilize and the filter on the 5 gallon has crushed coral in it to add minerals. The tanks sit at about 7.4. The ph rises in the 5 gallon during the day and drops at night. I had cardinal tetras in it and they were happy. I recently pulled them out so that my shrimp population could build up.

I use lights from an old reef tank and it is a little too much. I use water lettuce to shade it and suck up nutrients if I start to see algae getting ahead of me. I have co2 and all the high tech stuff, but I don't use it anymore. Dirt is working really well for me.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-N920A using Tapatalk

Hi Wendell,

Thanks. I'll probably do a dirtied tank at some point but for now I want to keep it simple. I had my Biocube set up as a reef tank for several years before we moved. I wound up finding some 4 pin 6500K compact florescent bulbs and replaced the 10 K and the actinic. Seems to be working well. I like your tank, I'm looking at getting some tetras for it once the ph settles down.
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