Can reusing old substrate harm plants? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Can reusing old substrate harm plants?

I am experiencing plants melting and I'm trying to diagnose why. I have a suspicion it may be due to my substrate.

I set up my 75 gallon tank two months ago after it had been in storage for two years. Everything was going great, monte carlo carpet was filling in awesome. Then, after about a month and a half, it started to melt on one side of the tank. The melt has been spreading gradually across the monte carlo carpet, even wiping out a couple crypts and some s.repens caught in its path. The unaffected monte carlo is pearling like crazy and looks really healthy.

I have med-high light (Fluval 3.0 + Finnex 24/7 Planted+), CO2 injection and dosing full line of seachem ferts as per their chart. I experienced the melt and bounce back of plants in the first few weeks after planting, so I do not think this is what's happening. Also, plants in other areas of the substrate and ones attached to rocks and driftwood are doing great.

Where I believe to have gone wrong is using old substrate that had not been stored properly. The substrate is a mix of eco-complete and pool filter sand. It sat outside in open topped five gallon buckets for two years. Before being put in the tank, I thoroughly rinsed it then dried it out in the sun. It did not appear or smell off in any way so I deemed it safe, but am since concerned I could have made a big mistake.

Is it possible that there is bacterial or other growth within the substrate causing my plants to die, or is there such thing as diseases that can exist within the substrate affecting plants?

I am already leaning towards replacing all of the substrate as the existing mix is kind of ugly. However, this is expensive and would be a big pain to do. Any folks thoughts on the matter would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 10:41 PM
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Welcome to the forums! There's no "old" to an inert substrate. In theory there is also no wrong way to store them, within reason. If they sat outside for years, I would be inclined to toss it just to avoid the cleaning process, but if truly clean and sterile there's no reason why 100 year old Eco Complete and sand would fail. But why you are losing plants is beyond me. MC is known to die if it doesn't like conditions, and surely we've all experienced Crypts melt and come back later, but what you are describing almost sounds like disease. Of which I know none of that wipe through aquarium plants like a parasite might for fish. I wish I had at least an idea and look forward to other's experiences and thoughts.

Wouldn't hurt to list all of your tank's parameters, which I'm already wondering and folks are sure to ask. Every value you can test on the kits you own would be helpful.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-12-2019, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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It certainly would not have been sterile after I cleaned it. When I cleaned it I simply washed it like you would with any new gravel, just did a few more rinses than what was probably needed to compensate for it being outside for a couple years. Did not chlorinate or heat or anything. So if there is anything harmful that could have grown in it during it's time outside, it would likely have still been in it.

Water parameters have been kept consistent at:

Ammonia/nitrite/nitrate = 0/0/5-10
KH = 2*
GH = ~10* has fluctuated a little (saw it at 9 once and 12 once). I add equilibrium, tap is 4*
pH = 6.4 CO2 on, 7.2 CO2 off
 
post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 09:25 AM
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I agree, it's unlikely to a problem unless you dumped something nasty in it.

You'd have mixed everything together whilst cleaning, so it would be even more unlikely a specific patch of substrate would be bad and another part ok.

I would guess there is something else going on e.g. a difference in flow in that area or it started with a bit of unhealthy plant. I would cut back the effected area to remove any signs, up your water changes and make sure your ferts are dosed regularly. See if you get some recovery.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 10:11 AM
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Sounds like a circulation problem. As carpet fills in current has a harder time getting to substrate because growth has created a solid mat above it. You need a firm, breezy current across whole area that pushes current past it into substrate.

Also use turkey baster and go along and lightly blow into mat to fluff it up and keep it open between plants.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 01:04 PM Thread Starter
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Hmmm this could be it. The area where the melt began is on the opposite side from the filter output. Detritus has been settling on the carpet which I blow off every few days with a Turkey baster. So there is a lack of flow. It's strange though, how it had been filling in great before and the flow was the same. I will try changing my filter direction to get plenty of flow over the carpet and hope that turns things around.
post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 01:07 PM
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What kind of filter are you using? It may not be sufficient to give you the flow you need.

If it's not, the good news is small powerheads are super-affordable.


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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-13-2019, 01:27 PM Thread Starter
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I'm using an FX6. So I should be able to make it work
post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 06:24 AM
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Eco-complete can be used endlessly if stored and used properly. It will absorb any added liquid fertilizer and remain vital. Your number seem OK. Personally, I would use just the Fluval 3.0 for lighting. The 24/7 (even CC which I have) is a real algae maker.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-16-2019, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Where I believe to have gone wrong is using old substrate that had not been stored properly. The substrate is a mix of eco-complete and pool filter sand. It sat outside in open topped five gallon buckets for two years.
Eco complete is a nutrient supplying substrate that helps compensate for the fact that most fertilizer don't have all the nutrients plants need. So if your water doesn't have a particular nutrient and the fertilizer doesn't have enough the substrate can supply it.

however the substrate doesn't have an infinite supply of mineral in it. So eventually it will run out of nutrients. By storing it outside for 2 years rain water filled and overflowed the bucket many times washing some nutrients away. The cleaning you did before putting it back in the aquarium may have depleted it even more. Although it may still look like new it may be severely depleted.

Quote:
Eco-complete can be used endlessly if stored and used properly. It will absorb any added liquid fertilizer and remain vital.
If the fertilizer and tap water has the nutrient then yes it can store some. But if it doesn't the substrate will eventually run out. The places where the plants have died have probably run out of nutrients.The remaining healthy plants may be on good substrate and able to keep going. The pool filter sand you added is inert and probably has some limited ability to store some nutrients. But not enough to make a difference.

Quote:
I have med-high light (Fluval 3.0 + Finnex 24/7 Planted+), CO2 injection and dosing full line of seachem ferts as per their chart.
Flourish Comprehensive is one of the products on the chart. It alone has all but one of the nutrients plants need listed on the bottle. So why are another 7 Seachem products on the chart? Simple the other 7 products are needed to compensate for the poor nutrient balance in comphrehansive.

For Example calcium and magnesium are macro nutrients plants need. Comprehensive only supplies these to parts per billion levels. Plants need them at parts per million level. So Seachem added Equilibrium to the list. Comprehensive is also week on nitrogen and phosphate so those two produce were also added to the chart. The type of iron used in comprehensive doesn't last long so additional bottle of iron was added to the list. Copper and zinc are only available in comprehensive a parts per trillion levels so a Seach trace as added to thee list.

Most of the products on the list are patches to correct problems in Seachems most popular product, Flourish Comprehensive.

Overall the easiest thing you could do to help your tank is to replace the old eco complete with new material. But overall you probably should think about trying a different fertilizer. Nilocg Thrive is worth considering It still is missing some nutrients but Tap water typically has enough. Others on this forum buy N,P,K and CSM+B (for micros) Many have good success with that but even that isn't perfect. Now some people on this site now making there own micros and macro fertilzers.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 08-22-2019, 08:53 PM
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Have u tested for nitrites?
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old Today, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Surf View Post
Eco complete is a nutrient supplying substrate that helps compensate for the fact that most fertilizer don't have all the nutrients plants need. So if your water doesn't have a particular nutrient and the fertilizer doesn't have enough the substrate can supply it.

Which nutrients is EC supplying?
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old Today, 02:57 PM
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I know your question is rhetorical but I want to chime in for newcomers and the like who may not understand that Eco Complete is inert and contains no nutrients for plants. The only thing EC has is what's in the water (which is not much) contained in its packaging.

It can soak up some nutrients but not in a way that I've ever found super-useful. Its CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) isn't even as great as cheaper calcined clay.

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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
Which nutrients is EC supplying?


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