What Substrate is best to put underneath gravel - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 05-31-2020, 06:52 PM Thread Starter
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Question What Substrate is best to put underneath gravel

Hello everyone, new to this forum and new to having an aquarium.

I am eager to have an aquarium with plants, as I would like to replicate the environment in the wild.

My question is, whats the best substrate to use underneath a gravel top layer for good plant growth and what depth should the top and bottom layers be? The various options I see out there are organic soil or ready made special substrates, not sure if theres any other?

The gravel I have is 2mm-5mm and fairly rounded, inert and just generic type, I thought this size would be good for allowing roots to grow and also for nutrients to fall into the gaps and break down into the media below...whats the best media to have below?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all.

p.s tank is 170 laters L55cmxW55cmxH65cm
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-02-2020, 05:32 PM
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go with soil. check this out.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-02-2020, 06:57 PM
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You can grow lush plants in gravel, sand, Eco Complete, Flourite, specially formulated aqua soils; just about anything. The majority of aquatic plants can pull nutrients out of the water column and in low tech, not much fertilization is typically needed. I have used a layer of dirt under tanks with decent results, but wouldn't recommend someone trying that for their first set up. A layer of soil does provide some nutrients but also adds organics and can cause algae problems that otherwise could be avoided. I just like to eliminate variables for a new aquarium keeper. And soils vary from bag to bag, let alone brand to brand. Also gravel vacuuming tends to occasionally go too deep and remove a pocket of your soil. The last tank I broke down had almost no soil left at all, presumably largely from years of weekly gravel cleaning.

If your heart is set on a soil layer, it can absolutely work. My biggest advice would be to strain it through a fine strainer and remove any larger particles. I've found plastic ties, a shard of glass, and chunks of wood in bags of soil. People here have posted bottle caps and other oddities as well. Once you have a fine particle size of soil sifted, put a thin 1/4" or so layer down and then cover that with around 3" of the substrate of your choice. I definitely feel less can be more with your soil layer, a little dab'll do ya. Once things settle, you can treat it like any other planted aquarium, you just may encounter some less than crystal clear water and more significant algae blooms the first few months of the tank -and you may not! These are living ecosystems and no two are exactly the same.
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Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 06-17-2020, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the advice and link! I am sure to decide very soon. Managed to grab all the driftwood and rocks I need. Just a matter of getting enough inspiration on how to put it all together. I like the idea of soil, but it is something that requires a little more perfection to get it right.
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