Many Substrate Questions: - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-23-2019, 05:38 AM Thread Starter
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Many Substrate Questions:

I'm in the process of setting up a six foot, 125G freshwater tank that will be low-tech, at least initially. I will be fully planted and aquascaped. A mountain w/ carpeting plants on the left, a river in the middle and a jungle to the right. I have been studying suitable substrates extensively online and here are my questions:

Some use a thin layer of crushed lavarock directly on the glass before adding a regular substrate, like Amazonia for better water circulation. Is this a good idea? Will it affect PH? The water where I live is very hard, so I don't want to add something that increase PH, like crushed coral.

Amazonia, Tropica & Stratum seems to be the preferred active substrates for professionals as well as serious hobbyists. The price is off-putting though, especially for a large tank, like mine. Also, it is my understanding those substrates compact after a year or two and needs to be replaced. The nutrients will also be depleted by that time.

So it would appear to me, a beginner at planted aquariums, with only a 20G tank that is aquascaped at the moment, that inert media would be ideal for me since I don't want to tear it all down after a year or two and replace all the substrate. I use root tabs and liquid fertilizer in my 20G tank with great success.

Flourite is so filthy that I choose Eco-Complete for my current tank. I know many members here and on other forums don't like it and I would like some feedback on the cons.

Since I will be using carpeting plants on the left side in my 125G tank, I was considering using a thin layer of premium Tropica Soil Powder on top of the Eco-Complete, so the small roots of those plants have something to grab onto. Any objections on using an active substrate on top of an inert one?

I know this was a lengthy post. Thank you for reading and replying.
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10 G / 20 G long, low-tech planted / 125 G, working on the aquascape and collecting hardware
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 03:54 PM
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I believe the lava rock under the substrate is for the iron in them. I do not know if they change the ph.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 07:26 PM
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I don't think I have seen anyone put lava rock against the glass to increase circulation. Not saying it doesn't happen, just not something I have seen.

I have also heard of using lava rock for iron, though I don't know how needed that is if planning to use liquid fertilizers which most do at some point.

I personally won't use eco-complete again because I find it annoying to plant into and not visually appealing. My next tank will use a substrate that looks more natural.

I think you will have difficulty getting a carpet going without co2. You can certainly plant without co2, but you likely won't see your plants carpet till added to your tank.

My next tank is going to be a 120 gallon, my current plan is to use some type of crushed stone for my substrate. I will be buying it from a local landscape supplier and it will almost certainly be substantially cheaper then even eco-complete. Since eco-complete is also an inert substrate you don't receive any advantages in using it over any other inert substrate except it won't require much/any washing. You will however pay a lot more for it then say a few bags of paver base, black diamond blasting sand, pool filter sand, crushed stone, kitty litter, safe-t-sorb, chicken grit, various other coarse sands, and whatever else folks are using this week for substrate.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 07:41 PM
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I have a base layer of Eco-complete with a thicker layer of Caribsea Crystal River in my 180 gallon. Its a very natural looking sand and excellent to plant in. I can post a picture if would like to see how it looks.

With the larger tanks, like you said, its so hard to use active substrates because of the need to replenish them over a certain time period.
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180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 10:33 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
I have a base layer of Eco-complete with a thicker layer of Caribsea Crystal River in my 180 gallon. Its a very natural looking sand and excellent to plant in. I can post a picture if would like to see how it looks.

With the larger tanks, like you said, its so hard to use active substrates because of the need to replenish them over a certain time period.
Please post some pics. Would love to see them.

10 G / 20 G long, low-tech planted / 125 G, working on the aquascape and collecting hardware
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 10:40 PM
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Some of the Eco-complete has made its way up to the top of the substrate; but, to me, I think its gives it a very natural appearance. The larger pieces on substrate are leftover from catulpa bark pieces put in tank awhile back.

Some pics:



180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech w/ Wild Tucano tetras
30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 10:46 PM
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Dang! Should I cancel my large order of substrate I just made!
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Miller View Post
Dang! Should I cancel my large order of substrate I just made!
Do you like the substrate?

180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech w/ Wild Tucano tetras
30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 11:01 PM
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I'm surprised the sand hasn't made it's way to the bottom. The only couple of times I ever tried capping sand over something coarse, I wanted to cry after each vacuuming of the gravel. And you have geophagus to help! What's your secret?

Bump: Meant to respond to this and got sidetracked by @discusluv 's beautiful tank.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patric View Post
Flourite is so filthy that I choose Eco-Complete for my current tank. I know many members here and on other forums don't like it and I would like some feedback on the cons.
I have Flourite or Eco Complete in most of my tanks. I like both, though wish Eco Complete came in a natural color. Flourite is fine once you rinse it a hundred times. I know it's a pain upfront, but years down the road, you'll have forgotten all about that day you spent rinsing and the several more days it was cloudy!
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
I'm surprised the sand hasn't made it's way to the bottom. The only couple of times I ever tried capping sand over something coarse, I wanted to cry after each vacuuming of the gravel. And you have geophagus to help! What's your secret?

Bump: Meant to respond to this and got sidetracked by @discusluv 's beautiful tank.



I have Flourite or Eco Complete in most of my tanks. I like both, though wish Eco Complete came in a natural color. Flourite is fine once you rinse it a hundred times. I know it's a pain upfront, but years down the road, you'll have forgotten all about that day you spent rinsing and the several more days it was cloudy!
You basically intentionally let and actually help finer substrate settle into wider spacing/gaps in coarse substrate at setup. Then from that point on you go with pure sand/finer cap level on top and it stays there because there is no space left for it to sink into.
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-24-2019, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
I'm surprised the sand hasn't made it's way to the bottom. The only couple of times I ever tried capping sand over something coarse, I wanted to cry after each vacuuming of the gravel. And you have geophagus to help! What's your secret?

Bump: Meant to respond to this and got sidetracked by @discusluv 's beautiful tank.



I have Flourite or Eco Complete in most of my tanks. I like both, though wish Eco Complete came in a natural color. Flourite is fine once you rinse it a hundred times. I know it's a pain upfront, but years down the road, you'll have forgotten all about that day you spent rinsing and the several more days it was cloudy!
My husband reminded me that we capped the Eco-Complete with Caribsea Rhizomat, and then added the sand. I think you could probably find and use a more economical (but, organic) hull material.
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180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech w/ Wild Tucano tetras
30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
My husband reminded me that we capped the Eco-Complete with Caribsea Rhizomat, and then added the sand. I think you could probably find and use a more economical (but, organic) hull material.
Pretty sure its just coco fiber mats same as used for reptile tanks. Just marked up and packaged for aquarium use.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07PZ..._t2_B07LF3QYHG

It would probably make a nice slower breakdown alternative to real compost type soils.
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 02:15 AM
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Pretty sure its just coco fiber mats same as used for reptile tanks. Just marked up and packaged for aquarium use.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07PZ..._t2_B07LF3QYHG

It would probably make a nice slower breakdown alternative to real compost type soils.
There you go- definitely more economical.

180 g. low tech w/ wild South American cichlids, corydoras eques, and African Congo riverine tetras.
60 g. low tech w/ F1 Alenquer pair /Stendker "Tefe" discus and wild Altum Angels
30 g. low tech w/ Wild Tucano tetras
30 g. low-tech African Biotope
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 04:43 AM
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Tried eco complete and flourite clay stuff whatever it is, didnt like either one. Tried BDBS in my 10 and sekrete medium commercial sand (basically PFS and very similar to the stuff Discusluv has). I ended up tearing down the 10g and putting the same sand in it as well.

Now both my tanks have it and it works very well IMHO. The plants root in it just fine, easy to plant in, the corys really like it and so do the shrimps from what I can tell. Oh the nerites like burrowing thru it also.

A quick rinse before adding to the tank it your water is clear within a few hours tops. Very little dust comes out during washing but there is some. 100lb bag is $10 at home depot.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 06-25-2019, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
There you go- definitely more economical.
Damn this place. You actually peaked my interest in this material again. Got these, only 1cm (.4Ē) thick vs 1Ē on those other.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077SSZ3DG...il_aax_0?psc=1

Iíll set up a mini tray in my grow out tub to test. Iíll probably use some fine lava on bottom, coco mat, seed it with some mulm water and cover with some turface/blast sand mix and see how it goes. Bet it works great.
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