Best low maintenance substrate? Flourite or Flourite Sand + others? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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Best low maintenance substrate? Flourite or Flourite Sand + others?

I'm planning a large low maintenance planted tank. And I would like to have a good plant substrate which requires as little work as possible!?!

As the planting would very dense and the entire bottom would be densely planted, I would prefer something which grows plants very well, doesn't require additions of root tabs, doesn't need gravel vacuuming, doesn't require stirring up on occasion, isn't going to collect detritus unnecessarily, and isn't likely to turn anoxic. Such a thing exist?

I definitely prefer a black substrate as it doesn't show staining or accumulation of detritus, and serves as a great base colour to contrast the vivid colours of plants, and I was thinking that an average of 3" deep would be most appropriate, which would therefore probably slope from 2" to 4".

I was thinking black flourite sand as it's easy to plant in and doesn't let droppings and food collect between grains therefore making them more likely to be washed into the filter intake by the current. I was worried that it might be too light though in case I have medium size fish picking around the bottom which might pull out the groundcover planting too easily, (be it dwarf hairgrass or something else).

In regards to the danger of anoxia, I wasn't sure if it was potentially better to have a fine sand substrate such as flourite sand to try and keep any detritus out of the substrate, or have a more course substrate such as flourite which might have more stuff collect in it but would potentially still allow a bit more water current to flow through it? Anyone have any experience on this?

I don't want to layer any substrates as I'd inevitably disturb it, but I wouldn't mind mixing say flourite and something such as Eco Complete if the flourite is too inert and would require root tabs to be added regularly. And I might mix the substrate with small grained black gravel if 100% flourite substrate is unnecessary.

I'd probably be growing some heavy root feeders like Giant Vallisneria, swordplants, and Crypts so I'd prefer that the substrate and gradually decomposing fish waste be able to fertilize the plants naturally. I'd aim for medium lighting, moderate pressurized CO2, moderate current, and regular dosing with liquid fertilizers.

I've also heard that Malaysian Trumpet Snails are good for keeping substrate naturally mixed, but I kind of detest snails and it sounds as if many have had nasty infestations of the little buggers. And I'm not sure if they'd disturb any plants such as dwarf hairgrass lawns too much.

Thanks for any advice!
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 09:35 PM
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I just set up two tanks with flourite black sand over mineralized soul...throw some root tabs in too and I think it would be perfect for ya.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-12-2011, 11:04 PM
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I'd definitely do flourite over mineralized topsoil if your goal is to never have to add nutrients.





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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 01:21 AM Thread Starter
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I looked up mineralized top soil as I hadn't been familiar with it before. (And have been out of the hobby for a decade). Mud? You guys are putting mud in your tanks? Cripes! Okay, I'm sure it works but makes me a bit nervous nevertheless that I might end up getting it stirred up at some point if I'm not extremely careful. Is there another more fool-proof alternative approach perhaps which you might recommend instead?

By the way, if I never siphon out any detritus, will it eventually settle and form its own soil from which my plants would benefit?

I've done the weekly gravel vacuuming before, while trying to keep my tanks fastidiously clean. But in retrospect it seems like it was very much the wrong approach and is very difficult to do in a densely planted tank without wreaking havoc on the plants.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 01:35 AM
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If you mineralize it properly, the clay that you add during the mixing process actually works quite well as a flocculant, keeping the soil from getting stirred up in the water column. It did take a day for the water to clear after I first set up the tank, but I never had issues with cloudy water after that, even after moving plants around. Even well-rinsed Flourite can cause more cloudy water than that.





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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 08:10 PM
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Yep agree 100% I get more cloudiness from the flourite sand then from the mineralized soil. Its really the only way to go in my opinion if you want to stay low maintenance.


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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 09:25 PM Thread Starter
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Well that's certainly very good to know. I would have preferred a homogeneous substrate, so I can rescape when I like to my hearts content without having to worry about disturbing different layers. But I certainly do like the idea of not having to obsess over dosing and testing different nutrient levels constantly. Any drawbacks to it?

And I presume that with a black sand topping on mineralized soil and dense planting I could leave it completely alone and wouldn't have to worry about anoxic activity, other potential problems, or gravel vacuuming my substrate at all?
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 10:14 PM
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i made my mineralized top soil from my garden soil and everything is growing like crazy... i have ~1 inch of MTS capped by ~1.5 - 3 inches of 2mm screened black gravel. When i stir a bit of the soil up when im replanting its all settles back through the gravel very quickly... and once the water cleared initially i have never had a problem with cloudiness even with my 8" synodontis shuffling around in the gravel.

i havent had to vacuum my gravel because i have 4 corys 2 siamese algae eaters and a synodontis cleaning up for me and everything else just falls through the gravel, with just the occasional piece of large junk pulled out by me.

i would highly reccomend using a mineralized topsoil substrate


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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-13-2011, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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Unanimous consensus on mineralized topsoil under a layered topping then?
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-15-2011, 04:08 PM
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I'm kind of confused reading through here. So are you saying to only do the flourite sand on top of the MTS? Or is it ok to go with the regular black flourite? Trying to figure it out because my regular flourite will get here friday and need to know if I need to change my order lol.


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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-15-2011, 04:45 PM
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Regular Flourite works just fine. In most tank setups you will also need to supplement nutrient content.

MTS provides a much more nutrient-rich substrate that greatly reduces if not eliminates the need for supplemental fertilization.

So either will work, it just depends on your goals which one is "better."





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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-15-2011, 06:25 PM
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You wont want to do a typical vaccum on your flourite sand anyways because you will remove it all very quickly! Alls you need is a little airline tubing to gently suck up the detritus a bit. And you will need to be careful pulling up roots but the clay stays under the sand pretty well.


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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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Understood about the MTS.

But what is better to keep the substrate from going anoxic? Sand/Flourite Sand, or regular Flourite/gravel?

And does using either flourite and not doing any gravel vacuuming equate to being the same thing in effect as using MTS? I'd plan to have a fully planted and carpeted tank so effectively gravel vacuuming wouldn't really be possibly anyway, and I was hoping the mulm would break down and fully feed my plants. (With bio-filter sized to handle the resultant ammonia/etc in additiona to the plants of course).
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-16-2011, 11:30 PM
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Your plants roots will help keep the soil from going anoxic, and it shouldn't be a huge issue anyway unless you have a real deep substrate.

and no the mulm will not be as nutrient rich as a mts soil, and flourite itself has no nutrient qualities just a high cec.


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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-17-2011, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baadboy11 View Post
Your plants roots will help keep the soil from going anoxic, and it shouldn't be a huge issue anyway unless you have a real deep substrate.

and no the mulm will not be as nutrient rich as a mts soil, and flourite itself has no nutrient qualities just a high cec.
Plants help avoid anoxic activity? Well that's a relief then!

Am I safe with up to 4" deep substrate? I could limit it to a maximum of 3" if that would help, as typically the front carpet plants don't require so deep a substrate anyway.

CEC - Cation Exchange Capacity - ability to store minerals and nutrients. I had to look that one up.

By the way, does anyone happen to know if plants are harder to pull out of flourite than flourite sand? If I'm having slightly larger gentle species, such as discus, then I wouldn't want them to be yanking all my foreground carpeting plants out while picking at the bed, which is something I'm concerned about. And I'm having a bit of that occurring just with my small trial tank at the moment, which has small fish and dwarf hairgrass carpeting in flourite sand.

I guess all of this begs the question as well as to whether it's not necessary to use expensive flourite or flourite sand if we already have an MTS sub-base, and therefore could just use regular inert black sand?
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