How long can a substrate last? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 03:48 AM Thread Starter
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How long can a substrate last?

I am new to planted tanks and wanted to know just how long a substrate can last. I read an article by "Edward" (of pps systems). He states that plants can go into just gravel and that good fertilizer put into the water will be all that is needed. Others seem to think that plants need soil of some form for the roots.
Don't soil mixes break down and turn to "mud" after a few years and then have to be replaced?
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 09:30 AM
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You can plant into plain gravel, a fine gravel makes it easier - it's more a case if ease of holding them down long enough to room. The downside with that is you need to keep up with your water column fertilising as the gravel has no nutrients. You can use root tabs too though.

Other soil, it depends, some will break down, others last years - breaking down is often not an issue unless you disturb it. Soil will have nutrients to start with but it can also often pull and store them from the water column. Again you can add root tabs to maintain nutrients over time too.

Which is best really just depends what you want to grow, how long you want it to last, whether you will remember to dose regularly and how you want it to look.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tamsin View Post
You can plant into plain gravel, a fine gravel makes it easier - it's more a case if ease of holding them down long enough to room. The downside with that is you need to keep up with your water column fertilising as the gravel has no nutrients. You can use root tabs too though.

Other soil, it depends, some will break down, others last years - breaking down is often not an issue unless you disturb it. Soil will have nutrients to start with but it can also often pull and store them from the water column. Again you can add root tabs to maintain nutrients over time too.

Which is best really just depends what you want to grow, how long you want it to last, whether you will remember to dose regularly and how you want it to look.
Thank you for your reply. I have learned so much from you folks on this site since joining a week ago. It's very much appreciated.

I will be setting up a 250 gallon and don't really want to have to change the bottom out once its all set up. I don't understand why anyone would want to put something on the bottom of an aquarium that would have to be eventually taken out or left in to create other problems down the line.
Are there any drawbacks to any type of plants if just gravel is used if the fertilizer is maintained?
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Liquidgarden View Post
I will be setting up a 250 gallon and don't really want to have to change the bottom out once its all set up. I don't understand why anyone would want to put something on the bottom of an aquarium that would have to be eventually taken out or left in to create other problems down the line.
Are there any drawbacks to any type of plants if just gravel is used if the fertilizer is maintained?
I agree with you, active substrates scare me.

Quite a few here are using BDBS. Inert, great color, easy to plant in.......and cheap.

I have seen no limitations as to plant selection with it.


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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Liquidgarden View Post
I will be setting up a 250 gallon and don't really want to have to change the bottom out once its all set up. I don't understand why anyone would want to put something on the bottom of an aquarium that would have to be eventually taken out or left in to create other problems down the line. Are there any drawbacks to any type of plants if just gravel is used if the fertilizer is maintained?

It's not necessarily that you'd need to take it out or that left it would create problems, it's that some breaks down into fine powder that can make a mess if you go back and start pulling out and rearranging plants later and you can't reuse it in a new tank.



Heavy root feeders like swords and crypts benefit most from enriched substrates, but again, you can just stick root tabs under them.



I would guess you're going to aim for the easy to care for low tech plants and they'll be just fine in gravel.
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 04:14 PM Thread Starter
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I agree with you, active substrates scare me.

Quite a few here are using BDBS. Inert, great color, easy to plant in.......and cheap.

I have seen no limitations as to plant selection with it.
That is great news!
I'm assuming you are talking about the high tech plants as well? Eventually, I would want to change out and put more challenging and diverse plants as I learn and develop the skills needed to keep them. I will use the fast growing ones in the beginning to stave off algae growth but look forward to keeping more challenging plants eventually.

Coming from the reef world I like consistency and the ability to control and know what is happening with the nutrient/fertilizer, kH, pH (and CO2) levels in the system. From what I have read/heard so far is that soil is finite, with each brand having their own unique cycle that affects the nutrients and KH, softens, hardens, etc. It has a limited time where it works great then wanes, changing these values in the process.
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Liquidgarden View Post
That is great news!
I'm assuming you are talking about the high tech plants as well?
Yes, high tech plants as well.

BDBS is inert, so you don't have any of the issues you mentioned.

If you want to see some tanks with it, you can look in my journal, or find the journals below, just to mention a few (and sorry if I left anybody out, these were the latest ones to update their threads).

@burr740, @slipfinger, @OreoP, @Grobbins48


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Last edited by Greggz; 10-27-2018 at 06:27 PM. Reason: typo
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Liquidgarden View Post
I will be setting up a 250 gallon and don't really want to have to change the bottom out once its all set up.
Be strong, the first three months are going to be painful. It’s not like having to clean 10 gallon box. This is huge and every little change will require lots of attention.

Set everything right from the beginning, threat it as fully planted and running at the maximum speed, except for light photoperiod. Setting the light is critical, light energy to planted aquarium is what gas pedal is to a car.

For 250 gallon aquarium where height is 24” plus, I would use 2 x 250W metal halide. You mentioned you had reef before so you probably have some spare MH fixtures. I use 10K 250W MH HQI over 125 gallon 24” high. The reason for using these is to get the light all the way to the bottom. And because of the very high intensities the photoperiod needs to be shorter, about 5 to 7 hours a day. At the beginning 5 hours a day.

As I mentioned above, the first two three months you will need lots of snails, I prefer red Ramshorn snails because they are nice looking, do spectacular job and self-regulate population. Also, I would not use any organic decorations like wood, roots and so on and no large fish load until all algae go away.

For CO2 you will need a flow meter RMA-150-SSV, more here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greggz View Post
I agree with you, active substrates scare me.
+1
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 09:18 PM
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I am using Black Diamond blasting grit (medium grain) with Controsoil. I was using the Black Diamond and root tabs originally, along with water column dosing. I switched over to Controsoil to eliminate the need for root tabs and continued water column dosing and I love it. The Controsoil is active, but I don't use RO water with it so the KH is buffered by only about 1 degree (4 dKH tap, 3 dKH tank), which is probably why it hasn't effected pH in my tank. However I can tell you that it does provide nutrients very well, even with it being "mixed" (it was capped, but pulling and planting has mixed it up a bit, no big deal). All of my plants with roots in the substrate, stems and rosettes alike, have all done better with it, and it does have decent CEC properties to it, in that it absorbs nutrients and some GH from the water column, and provides it to plant roots.

I have seen people grow plants very well, even carpets, in straight up Black Diamond without any sort of soil. In a tank that size, it would be a very economical option for you. The medium grit doesn't compact and water flows through it well, which means good nutrients to the roots. Add in some MTS and it's golden, imo.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-28-2018, 04:55 AM
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BDBS is a very good option.

Use a lot of plants to start this tank.
Make sure they are also all submerged growth, don't want emersed stems rotting as they transition to submerged.
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Growing is not that difficult.
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-28-2018, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Use a lot of plants to start this tank.
Absolutely, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Start with fast growing stems as they can spread to more plants by replanting tops in no time. Remember, there is not enough plants if you can see the substrate.


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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 10-31-2018, 09:54 PM Thread Starter
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Hello Edward,

Thank you so much for your reply. It is filled with great information.

I was thinking of using grafted plants to avoid any nuisance snails getting into the tank. I would like to put the red trumpet snails you recommended. How many would I need at the start? I know they multiply although, I think I need quite a few during the first few months. What other clean up crew would you recommend?

The tank is a 250 gal deep dimension with overflows.
I haven't cycled a tank in a long time.
I will be using a sump with 100um filter socks going to 10 liters of Sera siporax.
I bought a Mazzei venturi to inject CO2. I will be using a Pinpoint pH controller. I was planning on injecting the CO2 into the sump before the return pump.
Would it be beneficial to I install a bubble trap in the sump (after the venturi, before the return pump)? I don't know if there will be a lot of microbubbles.

I wanted to use LED lighting this time around. I was looking at Aqua ray products. They seem to be the most energy efficient and deliver the best power to lumen ratio although I haven't done a lot of research as of yet. I want to make sure that I get enough light to the bottom as I want to grow carpeting plants and more high tech plants in the future.

I was going to use the PPS system as far as organics. On the inorganic side I measured my well water and got the following info:

GH = 4-5
KH = 2 I was going to raise this to 5 KH with sodium bicarbonate.
pH = 7.5 (after aeration) 5.7 out of the ground.
Are there any other levels I should be concerned about?

What kind of gravel do you use? I was thinking of using flourite gravel from Seachem. It looks like many are using BDBS. The flourite sounds like it soaks up nutrients for the roots.
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-01-2018, 12:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Liquidgarden View Post
What kind of gravel do you use? I was thinking of using flourite gravel from Seachem. It looks like many are using BDBS. The flourite sounds like it soaks up nutrients for the roots.
Flourite's CEC rating is so low it is almost inert.


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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-01-2018, 01:24 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Flourite's CEC rating is so low it is almost inert.
How does this equate as to being good or bad for plants and nutrients? It sounds like it doesn't break down although, does it retain nutrients that are put into the water so it can be taken up by the roots. I'm trying to stay away from using soil as a substrate.

Bump:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Flourite's CEC rating is so low it is almost inert.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
Be strong, the first three months are going to be painful. It’s not like having to clean 10 gallon box. This is huge and every little change will require lots of attention.

Set everything right from the beginning, threat it as fully planted and running at the maximum speed, except for light photoperiod. Setting the light is critical, light energy to planted aquarium is what gas pedal is to a car.

For 250 gallon aquarium where height is 24” plus, I would use 2 x 250W metal halide. You mentioned you had reef before so you probably have some spare MH fixtures. I use 10K 250W MH HQI over 125 gallon 24” high. The reason for using these is to get the light all the way to the bottom. And because of the very high intensities the photoperiod needs to be shorter, about 5 to 7 hours a day. At the beginning 5 hours a day.

As I mentioned above, the first two three months you will need lots of snails, I prefer red Ramshorn snails because they are nice looking, do spectacular job and self-regulate population. Also, I would not use any organic decorations like wood, roots and so on and no large fish load until all algae go away.

For CO2 you will need a flow meter RMA-150-SSV, more here.


+1
Hello Edward,

Thank you so much for your reply. It is filled with great information.

I was thinking of using grafted plants to avoid any nuisance snails getting into the tank. I would like to put the red trumpet snails you recommended. How many would I need at the start? I know they multiply although, I think I need quite a few during the first few months. What other clean up crew would you recommend?

The tank is a 250 gal deep dimension with overflows.
I haven't cycled a tank in a long time.
I will be using a sump with 100um filter socks going to 10 liters of Sera siporax.
I bought a Mazzei venturi to inject CO2. I will be using a Pinpoint pH controller. I was planning on injecting the CO2 into the sump before the return pump.
Would it be beneficial to I install a bubble trap in the sump (after the venturi, before the return pump)? I don't know if there will be a lot of microbubbles.

I wanted to use LED lighting this time around. I was looking at Aqua ray products. They seem to be the most energy efficient and deliver the best power to lumen ratio although I haven't done a lot of research as of yet. I want to make sure that I get enough light to the bottom as I want to grow carpeting plants and more high tech plants in the future.

I was going to use the PPS system as far as organics. On the inorganic side I measured my well water and got the following info:

GH = 4-5
KH = 2 I was going to raise this to 5 KH with sodium bicarbonate.
pH = 7.5 (after aeration) 5.7 out of the ground.
Iron = 0.66 ppm is this too high?
Silicates = 20 ppm is this too high can this cause diatoms?
Are there any other levels I should be concerned about?

What kind of gravel do you use? I was thinking of using flourite gravel from Seachem. It looks like many are using BDBS. The flourite sounds like it soaks up nutrients for the roots.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-01-2018, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maryland Guppy View Post
Flourite's CEC rating is so low it is almost inert.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward View Post
Be strong, the first three months are going to be painful. It’s not like having to clean 10 gallon box. This is huge and every little change will require lots of attention.

Set everything right from the beginning, threat it as fully planted and running at the maximum speed, except for light photoperiod. Setting the light is critical, light energy to planted aquarium is what gas pedal is to a car.

For 250 gallon aquarium where height is 24” plus, I would use 2 x 250W metal halide. You mentioned you had reef before so you probably have some spare MH fixtures. I use 10K 250W MH HQI over 125 gallon 24” high. The reason for using these is to get the light all the way to the bottom. And because of the very high intensities the photoperiod needs to be shorter, about 5 to 7 hours a day. At the beginning 5 hours a day.

As I mentioned above, the first two three months you will need lots of snails, I prefer red Ramshorn snails because they are nice looking, do spectacular job and self-regulate population. Also, I would not use any organic decorations like wood, roots and so on and no large fish load until all algae go away.

For CO2 you will need a flow meter RMA-150-SSV, more here.


+1
Hello Edward,

Thank you so much for your reply. It is filled with great information.

I was thinking of using grafted plants to avoid any nuisance snails getting into the tank. I would like to put the red trumpet snails you recommended. How many would I need at the start? I know they multiply although, I think I need quite a few during the first few months. What other clean up crew would you recommend?

The tank is a 250 gal deep dimension with overflows.
I haven't cycled a tank in a long time.
I will be using a sump with 100um filter socks going to 10 liters of Sera siporax.
I bought a Mazzei venturi to inject CO2. I will be using a Pinpoint pH controller. I was planning on injecting the CO2 into the sump before the return pump.
Would it be beneficial to I install a bubble trap in the sump (after the venturi, before the return pump)? I don't know if there will be a lot of microbubbles.

I wanted to use LED lighting this time around. I was looking at Aqua ray products. They seem to be the most energy efficient and deliver the best power to lumen ratio although I haven't done a lot of research as of yet. I want to make sure that I get enough light to the bottom as I want to grow carpeting plants and more high tech plants in the future.

I was going to use the PPS system as far as organics. On the inorganic side I measured my well water and got the following info:

GH = 4-5
KH = 2 I was going to raise this to 5 KH with sodium bicarbonate.
pH = 7.5 (after aeration) 5.7 out of the ground.
Iron = 0.66 ppm is this too high?
Silicates = 6 ppm is this too high can this cause diatoms? **I made a mess of trying to correct this value on previous replies, sorry! I'm getting used to editing on this site
Are there any other levels I should be concerned about?

What kind of gravel do you use? I was thinking of using flourite gravel from Seachem. It looks like many are using BDBS. The flourite sounds like it soaks up nutrients for the roots.
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