Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
Cat litter is not so great. Tends to break down and cloud the water. If you are looking for an economical substrate for a planted tank with shrimp, most average fish and so on here are a few ideas:
Soil from the garden.
Mineralize that soil.
Soil Master Select, Turface and similar products. (50 lb bag was under $20, and this is enough for a 6' long tank, or a lot of smaller tanks)
Pool filter sand (not as good as any of the above, no CEC) Check local pool supply stores for pricing.
Other sand. Go to a masonry, or rock yard. Sometimes they have bagged sand in different grades. Like pool filter sand, no CEC, so not the best. Blasting sand is OK. Play sand is not. Too many fines.
Swimming pool decorative quartz: Used to be 3M Colorquartz, but they are no longer making it. This is like sand, but heavier. Good to top off a soil, but no CEC.
Peat Moss is fine for breeding Kilies, but I have tried it as a substrate and it is very messy. The water does not cloud, but when the substrate is disturbed bits of peat moss drift around in the tank. I am using for my carnivorous plant riparium, but the water is only a few inches deep, and there are no fish.