STS vs. Dirt w/BDBS Cap ? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-14-2018, 10:24 PM Thread Starter
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STS vs. Dirt w/BDBS Cap ?


I am starting a new 90 (48Lx18Wx25H) gallon planted rainbow fish tank and cant decide which type of substrate to get.

Safe T Absorbent vs Dirt w/ Black Diamond Blasting Sand Cap

Light: 48" BeamsWork DA FSPEC LED Pent -
In the future if i decide to go high tech, I may get a second FSPEC.

I want to start low tech (no co2). I will be adding liquid ferts (niloc g) along with root tabs.

My tap water has a pH of 8.2, gH 4, kH 2, and TDS of 180.

I know dirt is amazing for plant growth but its messy and eventually it loses its capabilities. With my high pH I feel i will exhaust my dirt quicker.

STS is "inert" with high CEC. The issues i'm reading is it strips the water of kH and drops your pH for the first few months. Not sure if this is a good thing for me since my pH is 8.2 but my kH is only 2.

ADA Aquasoil is nice but expensive and with my high pH, it wont last very long.

What route should I take?

Some plants I had in mind.

Jungle Val
Dwarf Sag
Red Melon Sword
Water Wisteria
Rotala Indica
S Repens
Ludwigia Repens
Alternantera Reineckii
Barclaya Longifolia
Lobelia Cardinalis
Ludwigia Arcuata
Crinum Calamistratum
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 12-14-2018, 10:44 PM
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I don't believe your pH should have any effect on dirt as it would likely have little to no CEC. Aqua soil is a different story - however you are correct that dirt does eventually run out of nutrients. There are varying reports on how long that takes, but I'd suspect you'd get at least 2-3 years out of it depending on how thick it is and how many/what kind of plants you have.

The benefit to STS is that it takes a long, long time to go "bad", it has very high CEC so you can essentially "charge" it with nutrients that are available to your plants. I believe the high CEC will cause the hardness and pH of the water to both go down.
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