Substrate question - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-01-2012, 05:27 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate question

So if I were to use a a substrate like miracle-gro organic it would double as a fertilizer and substrate?

Also if I do use a substrate would I have to like replace it take down my tank clean it out and redo the same set up on my tank every few months?
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-01-2012, 05:43 PM
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I was taught to take the tank down and rinse the gravel clean every so often when I was a kid. Wrong! The brown stuff that builds up in the gravel is bacteria rich mulm and part of the biological filter and a source of nutrients for the plants.

My substrate hasn't been rinsed for 11 years. I have moved tanks twice in that time and gone through it a couple times with a siphon vacuum when it caked up. Each time lots of mulm was removed but lots was left in the substrate.

I just rescaped this past weekend and am hoping to have a repeat of the experience in December when I took everything but the substrate out and had no issues with a mini cycle or algal bloom.

No experience with dirt yet. It sounds fascinating and hope to try it some day.


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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 03-01-2012, 05:51 PM
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Substrate:
A material for holding the roots stable so the plant does not fall over or drift around the tank.
It also holds fertilizer in a way that plants can get it when they want.

Fertilizer:
Various elements and simple molecules that plants use to grow.

These are not the same things, so no, substrate is not fertilizer.

Use any substrate you want. Use fertilizer.

Some substrates come pre-loaded with fertilizer. Before that fertilizer is used up you need to add more. It is overkill to keep replacing the substrate just because the original fertilizer it came with is gone. All you need to do is add more fertilizer.

Some substrates break down over time, especially high organic material products. These probably should not be used. Look for a mineral based substrate like one of the special clay based products that have a high cationic exchange capacity. These materials will hold the fertilizers in the best way so they are available to the plants.

One way to make a substrate more fertile is to use slow release fertilizer deep in the substrate. You need to add more periodically, but nothing like daily or weekly. Every few months, depending on the fertilizer you choose. You can replenish the substrate via water column dosing if you want, but this needs to be done more frequently.
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