Help! What substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-10-2019, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Question Help! What substrate?

Hey, I am going to be setting up a 75 gallon low light low tech low maintenance planted community tank soon, and I was wondering about what substrate I should use. I will have 10 panda corys, so the substrate needs to be soft and not sharp. I will have anubias, water wisteria, nana val. Maybe cryptocorene wendtii, java fern amazon swords, pygmy chain swords. What substrate would be good for this? Eco-complete? Pool filter sand? Dirt?

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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 12:58 AM
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Start with base layer of safeTsorb, 1-1.5" deep, dirt cheap and has high CEC value, use it if you want to build up slightly higher areas. Bevel it away from edges of tank a bit so you won't see layers after top gravel is put in, sprinkle top of that with about 1/16" of coco peat.

Then top it all with 1-1.5" of Peace River gravel, its a nice gravel, nice 1-3mm sand, not to dark, not to light. Super easy to plant and to me one of best looking. It will be a viable substrate bed for decades with just some mild water column dosing. Even if some of safeTsorb does get unearthed during re-planting you won't notice because their of similar color.

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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-11-2019, 01:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Start with base layer of safeTsorb, 1-1.5" deep, dirt cheap and has high CEC value, use it if you want to build up slightly higher areas. Bevel it away from edges of tank a bit so you won't see layers after top gravel is put in, sprinkle top of that with about 1/16" of coco peat.

Then top it all with 1-1.5" of Peace River gravel, its a nice gravel, nice 1-3mm sand, not to dark, not to light. Super easy to plant and to me one of best looking. It will be a viable substrate bed for decades with just some mild water column dosing. Even if some of safeTsorb does get unearthed during re-planting you won't notice because their of similar color.

I love Caribsea substrates--
I haven't tried that one- its really attractive.

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 #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Start with base layer of safeTsorb, 1-1.5" deep, dirt cheap and has high CEC value, use it if you want to build up slightly higher areas. Bevel it away from edges of tank a bit so you won't see layers after top gravel is put in, sprinkle top of that with about 1/16" of coco peat.

Then top it all with 1-1.5" of Peace River gravel, its a nice gravel, nice 1-3mm sand, not to dark, not to light. Super easy to plant and to me one of best looking. It will be a viable substrate bed for decades with just some mild water column dosing. Even if some of safeTsorb does get unearthed during re-planting you won't notice because their of similar color.

This looks super nice, I was going to do PFS but I may do this instead.

.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 08:27 PM
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This looks super nice, I was going to do PFS but I may do this instead.
Only down side to peace river is cost, so doing a big tank it can be a considerable investment. Up side is they do properly size and grade it so it works well in aquarium. Pool sand can work too, but your not going to get properly graded stuff for $6 a bag. The $12 50lb bag of properly graded stuff on left vs cheap crap on right. I would never use stuff on right anymore than 1Ē thick in a aquarium, itís to small and will compact to tight, it will be nothing but a problem in long run. The stuff on left it will have proper grading/pore size in between, it will breath and let oxygen/currents flow into substrate, roots have a easier time also making way through substrate.



If doing a big tank using 1/3 peace river and 2/3 good pool sand will give you a nice medium light substrate and save you a bunch of cash. Save a few handfuls of PR and get some bigger pea gravel and small stones to strew around top and scratch it in and it will look wonderful.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Start with base layer of safeTsorb, 1-1.5" deep, dirt cheap and has high CEC value, use it if you want to build up slightly higher areas. Bevel it away from edges of tank a bit so you won't see layers after top gravel is put in, sprinkle top of that with about 1/16" of coco peat.

Then top it all with 1-1.5" of Peace River gravel, its a nice gravel, nice 1-3mm sand, not to dark, not to light. Super easy to plant and to me one of best looking. It will be a viable substrate bed for decades with just some mild water column dosing. Even if some of safeTsorb does get unearthed during re-planting you won't notice because their of similar color.
You cap your STS? Shoot, I've been doing it wrong for 3 years. Don't tell my plants! It's good stuff regardless whether you like it on the top or bottom.

To the OP:
The plants you listed will do just fine with whatever substrate you choose. Honestly, an inert gravel (like what was previously mentioned) by itself that's brown will be the least maintenance over time. (diatoms, mulm, fish poop, decayed plant material, etc. are all brown) All the nutrients for the plants would come from water dosing and root tabs. Dark brown -> Black would be my next color preference, and I would personally never choose white or tan for a low-tech, low maintenance planted tank.

I have 10 tanks, all planted with 5 different substrates and they all grow the plants you want to use. EcoComplete/FloraMax are sharper and it's a mixed bag with reviews about having cory cats with that substrate.
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 09:27 PM
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A lot of ways to go right here. I have tanks (all planted) with Eco Complete, Flourite, Estes gravel, and Aqua Soil. All do great. I've given up on sand and will never use it again, but people have beautiful tanks here and elsewhere using it. I could say the same for dirtied tanks.

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 09:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
Only down side to peace river is cost, so doing a big tank it can be a considerable investment. Up side is they do properly size and grade it so it works well in aquarium. Pool sand can work too, but your not going to get properly graded stuff for $6 a bag. The $12 50lb bag of properly graded stuff on left vs cheap crap on right. I would never use stuff on right anymore than 1Ē thick in a aquarium, itís to small and will compact to tight, it will be nothing but a problem in long run. The stuff on left it will have proper grading/pore size in between, it will breath and let oxygen/currents flow into substrate, roots have a easier time also making way through substrate.



If doing a big tank using 1/3 peace river and 2/3 good pool sand will give you a nice medium light substrate and save you a bunch of cash. Save a few handfuls of PR and get some bigger pea gravel and small stones to strew around top and scratch it in and it will look wonderful.

What do you look for to get the "properly graded" pool filter sand? Is there a specific brand you look for or a keyword?
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by grizzly_a View Post
You cap your STS? Shoot, I've been doing it wrong for 3 years. Don't tell my plants! It's good stuff regardless whether you like it on the top or bottom.

To the OP:
The plants you listed will do just fine with whatever substrate you choose. Honestly, an inert gravel (like what was previously mentioned) by itself that's brown will be the least maintenance over time. (diatoms, mulm, fish poop, decayed plant material, etc. are all brown) All the nutrients for the plants would come from water dosing and root tabs. Dark brown -> Black would be my next color preference, and I would personally never choose white or tan for a low-tech, low maintenance planted tank.

I have 10 tanks, all planted with 5 different substrates and they all grow the plants you want to use. EcoComplete/FloraMax are sharper and it's a mixed bag with reviews about having cory cats with that substrate.
I have no problem with safetsorb as top or only layers, itís actually very attractive I think, but with Cory or other bottom rooters that OP stated they want, the softer, less abrasive texture of a silica based top layer is always preferable IMHO.

Bump:
Quote:
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What do you look for to get the "properly graded" pool filter sand? Is there a specific brand you look for or a keyword?
HTH brand $12 left, Quickcrete brand $6 right.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-12-2019, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Ridge Reef View Post
A lot of ways to go right here. I have tanks (all planted) with Eco Complete, Flourite, Estes gravel, and Aqua Soil. All do great. I've given up on sand and will never use it again, but people have beautiful tanks here and elsewhere using it. I could say the same for dirtied tanks.
I do believe I'm also going away from sand substrate.
I've always had good luck with sand in the past, but since I've come back and really pushed "High tech" I believe it is hurting some of my plants by killing them at the base of the stems, where tests with straight gravel the plants don't exhibit any of these issues.

I'm very interested in changing out my substrate to safeTsorb.
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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Would the peace river be safe for panda corys?

Bump: where would I find coco peat?

Bump: I found this.
https://www.amazon.com/Triumph-Plant...-1-spons&psc=1

How much coco peat would I need?

Bump: A added the prices up and it is WAY outside of my budget. Sorry, but I can't spend any more than about $80 on substrate. I think eco complete might work. I need CHEAP substrate ideas.

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'Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving' -Albert Einstein


'When in doubt, water change it out' -Nikolaus(Fishlore)


'Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.' -(unknown)


'The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish' -(unknown)

Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-16-2019 at 12:11 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 07:00 PM
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For such a tight budget, maybe try dirt capped with sand. Almost all the low-tech "I just throw plants in and they grow" tanks I've seen have some sort of soil substrate. Other inert substrates can work of course, but then you have to pay more attention to fertilization and water quality.

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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
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I would use dirt but I am having a hard time finding any that doesn't have added miracle grow or whatever. I am assuming the ferts in the dirt would kill my fish?

Bump: I suppose flourite might be an option if capped with sand. Not sure though. The plants will be anubias(Many varieties), java fern, cryptocorene wendtii, java moss. Do I need a nutrient rich soil? Why not sand? Could I top eco-complete with sand?

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'Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving' -Albert Einstein


'When in doubt, water change it out' -Nikolaus(Fishlore)


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'The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish' -(unknown)
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 12:28 AM
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get safetsorb as base and top with the HTH pool sand posted above. $12 for 50lb bag.
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 04:43 AM Thread Starter
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Would the safe T sorb end up at the top and the sand at the bottom?

'Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light' -Albus Dumbledore


'Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving' -Albert Einstein


'When in doubt, water change it out' -Nikolaus(Fishlore)


'Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.' -(unknown)


'The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish' -(unknown)
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