how important is plant specific substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 05:31 PM Thread Starter
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how important is plant specific substrate

I'm trying to get 2 10 gallons started and its turning out to cost a lot more than I thought it would. I have about 25 lbs of natural colored quartz gravel some of it is bb sized and some is slightly smaller. I really don't feel like paying 25 dollars for another bag of gravel and then i'll still have a bunch of regular gravel lying around, can't plants get along fine with mulm? from my understanding plant substrates rely on a high cec to hold onto and slowly release available nutrients, but I know I've read somewhere that mulm itself has a high cec. I've considered using a small layer of sterilized topsoil to simulate mulm buildup but I'm kind of nervous about it, never having used dirt in an aquarium before. I'm also pretty sure that I've seen beautiful tanks done with entirely inert substrate and the plant substrate thing almost seems like a trend to me. am I wrong? how much of a difference will it make?
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:11 PM
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I bought black diamond blasting grit for 8 dollars per 50lb bag. You can use that with root tabs and or liquid ferts. At some point your fish will fertilize the tanks on their own
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:19 PM
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Agreed root tabs will feed the plants. And then all the poop will. You will likely always have to put root tabs in every few months. The benefit with a good substrate is a boost in growth over normal substrate and eventually it will absorb enough nutrients to have it self sustained itself.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:50 PM
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There are also a number of other non plant specific products (Turface, Safe T Sorb, kitty litter, etc) that can be used and will be a lot more affordable. These all have high CEC and will absorb / hold on to nutrients better than regular gravel. I am going to use Safe T Sorb in mt next tank. Three bags cost me $15. The same amount of Eco Complete would've cost me about $200.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:57 PM
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I buy into the high CEC thing but those expensive nutritious type substrates don't last long, need replacing every few years and are messy to work with so I am not going to go there although I am sure I would love the results. Don't bother with the expensive Flourite and Eco Complete type unless you love the color, use something like Turface or Oil Dri instead. People use the blasting sand because they want a black substrate, it isn't any better than the gravel you already own.

Particular kitty litters have high CEC and are cheap, you might look into that for under the gravel if you want to jump start the CEC. Tom Barr has suggested a thin sprinkle of worm castings in the past. Worm poop is basically good quality compost so if you have some you could scatter a little of that under the gravel.

You will need to fertilize the gravel with root tabs or even cheaper Jobe's Fern and Palm sticks or a very thin scattering of Osmocote Plus unless you invest in one of the soil based substrates like ADA's Amazonia Aqua Soil.


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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 11:55 PM
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Never had a problem with playsand. My plants grow great in it and my Cory's loved it.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 02:15 AM Thread Starter
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to everyone suggesting root tabs/plant spikes, heavy mulm wouldnt cut? I plan to overstock both tanks
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 04:08 AM Thread Starter
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another question, if i do use a thin layer of compost im going to mix it with sand so its more like dirt, when i move or uproot plants in the aquarium will it all fly into the water column and then settle on the plants? i never understood how people trimmed/maintained dirt tanks without taking all the water out when moving/trimming plants
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 04:31 AM
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In my tanks I use 2"of Dirt with a 1" sand cap.

Th plant removal trick is to turn off all water moving devices. Then very SLOWLY wiggle the plant up & out.

Some people only put out 2-3" of root them cut the plant free leaving old roots in the substrate.

You will get a little dirt out but if you SLOW & careful it is not a mess. You can syphon out ant dirt that comes out.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 06:56 AM
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Ive got tanks that use nothing more then Pool filter sand. Its cheap, its easy to clean and very inert. I use root tabs plus i also do Estimative index fert dosing with full macro and Micro ferts plus some Excel in the lower to medium light tanks. Higher light tanks use pressurized C02.

For those saying fish and mulm will provide, thats not 100% true. Really there is no way to tell if it will. To many variables to consider. Like..

Lighting? How strong is your PAR and light cycle?
Distance of the light to the top of the substrate?
How heavily planted are we talking? What kinds and types of plants? Some plants are heavy feeders. Plant needs vary throughout the light period.
Whats your water like your using. Soft? Hard? High or low TDS?

Alot that goes into it beforehand. You want to maintain balance.

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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 06:58 AM
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Also High CEC substrates like Eco complete and flourite all need fertilizers added. They suck them up and over time release them.

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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 10:39 AM
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Plant specific substrate ??? BAH HUMBUG !!
miracle grow organic choice potting mix 50/50 with miracle grow shagnum peat moss ...for the "dirt layer" underneath.. I add some laterite,leanardite,crushed coral mix in a single thin layer...
Capped with any of the following :
Oil dri
saf t sorb
black diamond blasting grit
kitty litter
turface mvp
red flint gravel

as you can see- NO PLANT SPECIFIC stuff on this list...
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 12:19 PM
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While plant-specific substrates are expensive and typically only last a couple years? They're definitely not all messy to work with.

Most people have no mess issues with ADA Aquasoil, Azoo, Fluval, Brightwell, UP Aqua, Mr. Aqua.


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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by somewhatshocked View Post
While plant-specific substrates are expensive and typically only last a couple years? They're definitely not all messy to work with.

Most people have no mess issues with ADA Aquasoil, Azoo, Fluval, Brightwell, UP Aqua, Mr. Aqua.
If you use them correctly, they aren't messy at all.

FWIW, I'll never have another tank without ADA amazonia substrate. It's definitely worth the initial investment.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-10-2012, 03:38 PM
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I've got pool filter sand in two tanks, one of them planted. I've got Turface in the tank I had planned on being high light. My low light planted tank has regular old black sand from Petsmart and the plants are thriving. I didn't want to spend a ton of money on substrate or do anything crazy complicated like MTS. And my plants grow great.

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