Should I go with Eco Complete substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-23-2019, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Red face Should I go with Eco Complete substrate?

I'd like some feedback, input, thoughts, nasty comments, etc! on sub-stratum in a custom 30 gal. paludarium. The aquatic portion is approx. 10 gal. I would like to spread the 1st layer with .75 gal. just under an inch of Viastone (leca-like stuff). Top with a layer of approx. 1 gal. just under 1 1/2 inch od Eco complete (which will be mixed with approx 1/4 to 1/3 gal. of organic garden top-soil from my herb garden) & finally topped with approx. 1 inch of washed river gravel.
Of course, I'd like to moderately plant this with certain aquatics, semi-aquatics! Probably a few fish. Maybe a few snails.
The land area & wall will be nicely planted with various plants. Miniature orchids, a bromeliad or 3. etc.

Last edited by ChefAsa; 08-23-2019 at 08:52 PM. Reason: change title
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-23-2019, 06:08 PM
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I grow lots of plants in Eco Complete. My only complaint is that there aren't color selections. It's inert and heavy enough to keep plants rooted and large enough particle size to not compact easily.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-23-2019, 09:27 PM
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Soil should be topped with finer 1-3mm sand/gravel not coarse river stone, you’ll get to much organics leaching into water. Use to fine a sand and soil will suffocate.

HTH pool on left here is perfect, other sand on right to fine.


Peace river is good choice if you want more natural brownish color. You can scatter some pea/river gravel on top for decoration purposes.

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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-23-2019, 11:21 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks DaveKS; Great advice! Peerfict input!
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 01:27 AM
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I would definitely dump the eco-complete it doesn't add anything to the tank except cost. I am unsure if the viastone adds anything. Looking it up it's expanded clay used in hydroponics. I don't know if it's inert or if you would get any pH buffering from it. Have you heard other people recieving a benefit from it or is the addition of it here an experiment?

Be aware your layers will get mixed up in time. It's simply the nature of these tanks. That said the only layers I would do would be well sifted organic soil and an inert cap. Keep the soil to 1 inch or less and the cap to under 2 inches but at least 1 inch deep.


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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 02:37 AM Thread Starter
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Minorhero;Yes! This whole project is somewhat an experiment! It's all in my background! Lol! Can a sifted organic soil sit directly on floor of aquarium with no 'drainage layer'? The eventual mixing of the layers is understood & not an issue for me. But I was under the impression that soil would need a LECA-like layer underneath.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 02:43 AM
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Personally I hated Eco Complete. One of my least favorite substrates I have tried. I didn't like the look or texture and felt like it didn't really do a good job of holding newly planted plants in place.


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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 02:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Triport; but ya got any substitute suggestions? The more information the better the decision.

Bump: Tomorrow I'll do more research on LECA-like stone's. Maybe (probably) they're unnecessary altogether. Also looking more into the Walstad 'method'
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 05:06 AM
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Yep, use lava which is much cheap to build up higher areas, top with couple layers of cheap $5 a roll fiberglass window screen. Put 1-1.5” soil on top of that then cap it with 1-1.5” proper sand.

Don’t see much point in putting a layer of more expensive viastone at bottom where plant roots will probably never go. Know it has pretty high CEC value but no point if a root never gets to it. The soil has a even higher CEC value and it’s only 1-1.5” below surface.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 10:25 AM
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The soil will filter down into any layer below it because its particle size will be significantly smaller then anything else. Some people will add inert gravel or sand around the edges of a tank and put the soil in the middle this is 'mostly' an aesthetic issue though there is some science behind not wanting direct sunlight to come in contact with soil (not a problem for most aquariums). My understanding is that putting rocks down under soil does not improve circulation. The whole point of an inert cap on top of the soil is to stop it from getting into the water column after all. Diana Walstad in her book talks about the importance of planting heavily when using soil because the plants roots will be providing the oxygen to the soil which is how you keep the bacteria in it from dying. I will not swear to the possibility of rocks under soil not adding something to the equation however, I just have not heard of it. If you have a source that is contrary please share as I will be building a Walstad tank in the near future and I am interested in any information I can get.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 04:35 PM
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Not sure about Viastone specifically but some LECA type materials tend to float as well, since they are very porous and lightweight. Something to bear in mind.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefAsa View Post
Minorhero;Yes! This whole project is somewhat an experiment! It's all in my background! Lol! Can a sifted organic soil sit directly on floor of aquarium with no 'drainage layer'? The eventual mixing of the layers is understood & not an issue for me. But I was under the impression that soil would need a LECA-like layer underneath.
Look up Walstad type aquariums, their basically a soil layer trapped under the coarse sand cap and completely submerged.

But you know from what you’ve described vast majority of plants sound like they’ll be air plants.


You might find this interesting. Note most of it is just a hollow frame.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 10:18 PM
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Are aquasoils an option? I've had fun experimenting with organic potting soil, but there are definitely some drawbacks. It's a bit unpredictable - some people have nice tanks with it, while some have algae soup. And it's also more messy. I like aquasoil (any brand really) because it's more predictable, more clean, and more forgiving than an inert substrate if your fertilization regimen isn't dialed in. Only downside is it's more expensive.

Regarding eco-complete - I could grow some plants in it. I can grow more plants in aquasoil. I think if you wanted to build up your substrate eco-complete is a fine choice, but there are less expensive options as already mentioned.

Everything flows.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
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Actually I've think decided not to use Viastone (which I have on-hand for other uses)(won't need weed barrier cloth either, which I have on-hand, for other uses), & I hate very much. Evil stuff! Maybe I'm wrong, but don't really see the need of it, especially the more I read of the Walstad method.(wish she'd do a 2020 edition).

Another concern of mine is the current way I've designed the tank is having the aquarium portion of the tank at approx. 30% (>1.25 cu. ft.,<10 gal. or 6> inch depth. The upper portion around 70% (2.5 cu.ft., +-20 gal. atmosphere.)

The Walstad way is heavily planted. Which I don't want. And for obvious reasons can't have. Plant selection will be critical. And as noted by DaveKS, I'll have a selection of air plants, but %wise a little more terrestrial plants (if you can count semi-epiphytes as somewhat terrestrial.)

What I'm getting at is: 1) will there be a leaching/run-off into the aquarium side & to what effect? 2) if so, how to alleviate any - issues and will a Viastone/leca bottom or buffer (of course separated by a physical barrier) provide any benefit?
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 08-24-2019, 11:15 PM Thread Starter
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Seems Fluval Shrimp and Plant Stratum, Eco-Complete are aquarium substrates. While ADA Amazonia II, Mr. Aqua are aquasoils. What's the difference?
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