Substrate, how important is it? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 01:53 AM Thread Starter
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Substrate, how important is it?

I've been looking at tons of tank journals. I see beautiful aquariums with eco-complete and flourite, and beautiful aquariums with sand or plain gravel.

When members post problems of poor plant growth, almost all the time the information needed is wpg and nutrient levels. I've never seen the question asked of how good the substrate is.

I've seen posted several times that plants take nutrients from the water and not so much the substrate.

So is the substrate a key criteria to success with plants? I'm debating if it is worth to spend hundreds $ on eco-complete or fluorite when I can use cheap gravel.

Does anyone notice greater benefits in plant health or growth from switching to a premium substrate over gravel/sand? Or like wise no real difference?

A side Q: what is the benefit to a bottom layer of peat?

Thanks
Bill
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 02:03 PM
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If you're going high light, CO2 injection, then I think a plant substrate is a good idea. In low light tanks there's no need to use eco or flourite. in medium light tanks, you could argue either way.

As for whether plants take nutrients from the water vs. substrate...the jury is still very much out on this one.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 03:59 PM
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1. Ugly
2. Messy
3. Expensive

Seems like planted substrate usually falls into 2 of these categories and most of the time all 3.

Sand can have issues with compacting and stiring up getting in impellers/motors.

Those jobe sticks can cause problems if you disturb them.

I'm with you BHiest, I cant decide either.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 04:25 PM
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I have personally used several different substrates for growing plants with varying results... I can say hands down though, that a plant specific substrate like Eco Complete, Flourite, Soil mixes etc.. work infinately better at growing plants than plain gravel, sands etc.

I do need to qualify however... Not all plants take the bulk of their nutrients from their roots. Stem plants typically only use the substrate to root into.. But Rosette plants like Crypts and Swords really, REALLY benefit from having a nutrient rich (or at least a high ranking CEC) Substrate.

Peat has a few perks of use, however needs to be considered carefully;

1.) Peat will lower your Ph through acid buffering and will throw your CO2 calculations out of whack
2.) If too much Peat is used, the decomposition process can lead to horrific algae blooms and ammonia spikes.
3.) As peat Decomposes it will release CO2, although extremely minimal
4.) Peat has a reasonably high CEC rating and will benefit root feeding plants

Peat is not something I would recomend for beginers, but is definately worth reading about.


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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 09:19 PM
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It seems that people with high light, CO2 injected tanks have to add macro and trace nutrients to the water column to keep up with the needs of their rapidly growing plants.

It that case, what purpose does the substrate serve other than to hold down the plants? If one is planning to have such a tank, why spend all that money of a special substrate like Flourite? I know that some substrates bind some nutrients, like iron, but if one is dosing anyway, why not just use an attractive, inexpensive, inert gravel?

Bill
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-28-2004, 11:47 PM
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Well if you look at it that way then you could have a tank full of riccia, moss and ferns and never need to put ANY substrate.

When I set up a new tank I set it up with everything I need to give myself every advantage I can muster to get the highest "quality" growth from my plants. If I cant afford that substrate right now, maybe I shouldnt be setting up a new tank right now. (thats what the wife told me...)
Sure you can grow nice plants in gravel, straight sand or even kitty litter () for that matter but why would I want to start out at even the slightest disadvantage if I do not need to ?

I guess it all boils down to the expectations you have for your tank...

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I've been looking at tons of tank journals. I see beautiful aquariums with eco-complete and flourite, and beautiful aquariums with sand or plain gravel.
In many "show tanks", you are seeing only a top decorative layer for the effect, they are packin some power in the depths of those substrates.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-29-2004, 12:58 AM
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Sure, Buck, I agree about the expectations thing. Every little bit helps.

I was just commenting on the apparent inconsistency between arguing that plants get their nutrients from the water column on the one hand, and advocating very expensive substrate on the other, presumably mainly to hold down the plants, on the other.

Bill
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-29-2004, 01:59 AM
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I was just commenting on the apparent inconsistency between arguing that plants get their nutrients from the water column on the one hand
Tell that to a crypt , sword , Lotus etc. , they may be very upset with you.
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and advocating very expensive substrate on the other
Riccia could care less if it were grown in a tank full of marbles...

Thats why most of us cover all the bases and suggest Eco-Complete or Flourite...its giving one aquarium the ability to do it all and do it all to the best of its ability.

And BTW... even with stem plants that rely mostly on good water nutrients, a good substrate also helps them, those roots are not just pieces of string you know...the irons in eco/flourite do wonders for them as well.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-29-2004, 03:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquabillpers
It seems that people with high light, CO2 injected tanks have to add macro and trace nutrients to the water column to keep up with the needs of their rapidly growing plants.

It that case, what purpose does the substrate serve other than to hold down the plants? If one is planning to have such a tank, why spend all that money of a special substrate like Flourite? I know that some substrates bind some nutrients, like iron, but if one is dosing anyway, why not just use an attractive, inexpensive, inert gravel?

Bill
A good substrate has a high CEC. This is what allows a substrate to hold nutrients. You can dose your water column all day and night but if your substrate can't hold any of them you aren't providing the plants with as many of the available ferts as you could be. The plants will still take them from the water column, but root feeding plants won't do nearly as well.

This is totally independent of your CO2 or light levels.


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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-30-2004, 01:19 AM Thread Starter
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Thank guys for the responses. Aquabillpers was thinking exactly what I was -
"I was just commenting on the apparent inconsistency between arguing that plants get their nutrients from the water column on the one hand, and advocating very expensive substrate on the other, presumably mainly to hold down the plants, on the other."

but cost isn't an issue anymore. I took advantage of petsmarts price matching and bought flourite dirt cheap.

I want to add peat under the flourite. How much? I have about 2.5" - 1.5" of flourite sloped back to front. Do I need more fluorite? Will peat always change the water parameters even with a deep substrate?

I've read the CEC of fluorite is on the low side, so is eco-complete better for plants? You say peat has high CEC, but does that matter when it is so deep in the substrate that it doesn't affect water parameters? Hence nutrients cant get to peat.

Sorry for all the questions.
Bill
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-30-2004, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by BHiest
I want to add peat under the flourite.
Why ? and if there is a good reason to do so you better put a thicker layer over it then you have.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-30-2004, 06:22 PM
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Bill:

There are a number of different substrate additives (lacerite, peat, soil, plant sticks...) and a whole universe of layering combinations <big stuff ends up on top> but the first question for you is what would you like to grow?

Moved to Tucson.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 12-31-2004, 12:35 AM
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I know for certain that there are a lot of threads where we ask people what they have for a substrate, mostly because I was the one asking.

I'm in the 'the substrate makes the plant' catagory, I find a good substrate can make up for imperfect water conditions when dealing with many so called 'fussy' plants, stem or rossette.

If you do use peat, don't use alot, Gareth hit the nail on the head in his post up there, (did I just say that?) Peat has the potential to be really messy, I avoid it but others have had good success using it.

Sean

Aquascape? I'm a crypt farmer.

It's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.

That IS an aquascape, it's titled "The Vacant Lot".
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2005, 02:52 AM
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Hi
Just like to add my experience.
I had plain gravel and my plants grew no problem's,But after reading on this forum everyone suggesting ECO/FLUOR, I had to get some and try for myself.
After looking around the whole country the only thing that was here was flourite no Eco-Complete and not cheap either,I didn't like the colour of flourite.
So what do i do, I go and buy a pallet of Eco-Complete and import the stuff myself.

It get's here after a long wait,First i changed my 4 footer first couple of days it wasn't looking like it was worth it nearly crying, but what did i expect in a couple of days plants popping out of the top of the tank(well maybe i did).

Anyway 7 to 10 days later my plants especailly my crypts started to bounce back extremely well and my twisted val's started putting runner's in that short of time.

Then i did my 6 footer some again this time i had a nice big crypt in there the best plant in the tank for such a low light tank,Mind you the plant was out for at least 24 hour's floating in a bucket of water before i put it back.

With the plain gravel when i had planted or did the bleach or re did the tank all plants took about 4 weeks to show any sign's of anything and my crypts took even longer.
Tanks were all 12+ month's old.

So the short story is even though i had to buy a pallet of Eco It was the best thing i have done and i don't regret doing what i did, now my limiting factor is CO2.

Don't know much about peat but i didn't use it.

That's my experience
Thanks
Ivano
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2005, 03:20 AM
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If I use flourite for my substrate, is it really necessary to use Florite tabs and liquid fertilizers in the aquarium?
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