Need personal experiences with substrate to help me make my decision - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 08:47 PM Thread Starter
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Question Need personal experiences with substrate to help me make my decision

OK, I have read the pros and cons ad nauseum for each type of substrate.

I was leaning toward Safe-T-Sorb because of the great color and the fact it is kiln dried and of course has the high CEC.

I don't want to do MTS simply because of the mess I know I would make.

The problem with safe-t-sorb is that the nearest tractor supply is almost an hour away, so with the cost of gas defeats the price savings. The same applies to turface.

There are plenty of Pool stores and Home Depots around to buy PFS if I went that route.

My question is for those with personal experience: How much has a high CEC substrate benefited you over something like PFS? With PFS, will it affect the quality of my plants that much? I will have CO2 and high light. (40 breeder with 4xT5HO).

If something with a high CEC would be a really noticeable difference in plant quality, I will go that route. Otherwise, I may just go with simple PFS and root tabs, etc. (I had also heard that plant fert spikes are good too.)

Thanks

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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:31 PM
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Haven't ever used anything with much of a cec capability, currently using white PFS sand and have not had trouble growing anything. when using an inert substrate just get some root caps, end of troubles!

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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:36 PM
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Soil Master Select and Turface (Similar materials to Oil Dri, Safe T Sorb):
High CEC retains fertilizers. I was doing EI, then backed way off and the plants are still doing well.
It is too light to hold down the plants when they are first planted.
These materials remove the KH from the water, dropping it to 0 degrees, and allowing the pH to drop to the bottom of the test. (6.0).
When I mixed Turface and Coral sand this did not happen. The coral sand gave the Turface all the carbonates it wanted, so the water stayed at the KH and pH that I set it at.
I like the dark, not pure black look of the SMS charcoal. The Turface is too light IMO. (I have one of the browns, a sort of golden tan)

PFS (I do not know what brand, just a 30 mesh graded sand) is heavier, so the plants stay down, but no CEC. Gotta stay on top of the fertilizer. Easy to vacuum, as long as the intake of the siphon is not buried in the sand. Heavy enough to fall right back out.

Combining the 2:
I made a rock wall with SMS in back and PFS in front. The sand sifted through and under the rocks, along the bottom of the tank. The SMS got blown around and over the rocks, and drifted between them. I now have a tank with PFS on the bottom, SMS on top, and a nice line of rocks.
I did a similar thing with Turface and PFS, but used expanding foam like mortar between the rocks. Sand stayed in the sand place and Turface stayed in the Turface area, except for a few grains now and then that get kicked up by the fish.

I never used play sand in a tank, but I did set up a demonstration for the local aquarium club with lots of different substrates. The play sand container settled in layers with the fines staying suspended in the water for several hours, finally settling on top of the real sand like a scum of mud.

3M Colorquartz (no longer available) is a really nice way to go if you are thinking of sand-like particles. Look into the swimming pool construction trade and get the colored quartz material that is added to the inner layer of the pool to give it some color. (Maybe Pebble Tech?) I have a tank with the finest black Colorquartz. It is very dense, so it stays down and holds the plants really well. No CEC, of course. No clouding, either. These materials are available in many colors, too. You might think about blending 2-3 colors for a more natural mix. Maybe black, grey and deeper brown for a dark bottom, or tan, light grey and cream for a lighter colored bottom.
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NWA-Planted View Post
Haven't ever used anything with much of a cec capability, currently using white PFS sand and have not had trouble growing anything. when using an inert substrate just get some root caps, end of troubles!

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I think you have me feeling safe enough to be convinced. Just one last question: When you say root caps, can you expound on that? Excuse my ignorance, but I am not sure if that is just root tablets or something different.

Thanks

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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 10:44 PM
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'Caps' often refers to using 00 gelatin capsules to hold Osmocote slow release fertilizer. I think almost any tablet fertilizer would be helpful in a sand substrate.
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 01:27 AM
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I favor Eco Complete for several reasons.
  • No pre-rinsing.
  • I like the black color, makes the color of the plants pop out.
  • Absorbs and releases nutrients great for plants.
  • Does not mess with the pH or other water parameters.
  • Not overly expensive.
  • Does not break down over time.
  • Works great with my high tech and low tech tanks.
  • Fish detritus does not show.

Everyone has their favorites, and Eco Complete is mine. I have used it for years in all my tanks. I figure if I'm going to go to the expense and trouble of buying all the equipment, plants, lights, and all for a planted tank, I'm not going to stick the plants in an inert substrate. That's just not where I want to skimp on the money. But for those who actually prefer a different substrate, then that's different.

I think you should get what you truly want. It's not as if you can change it very easily later.

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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 02:38 AM
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Like the OP said, just some kind of root fertilizer will work for it

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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 02:59 AM
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Like the OP said, just some kind of root fertilizer will work for it

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I know better, you used Special Secret Proto-type 100% Organic CapS. to grows those awesome swords

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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 03:54 AM
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I know better, you used Special Secret Proto-type 100% Organic CapS. to grows those awesome swords

haha indeed, franks organic root fertilizers work quite well!

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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 08:38 AM
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It's hard for me to say as I have always used something with a high CEC in a high tech. In low tech, I have used anything from epoxy gravel, sand, to Flourite and Floramax.

In my low techs, honestly, it didn't make a super big difference except with picky plants. I should say plants that were not "supposed to work" without higher light and especially CO2 injection. I grew a very dense HC carpet without any CO2 and used Flourite where Glosso struggled in gravel. Same with some stems, I tended to get more color on tanks with high CEC as well.

In high tech, I can't say. I know that it didn't prevent me from having to dose ferts. I didn't often use heavy root feeders so adding root tabs didn't make any difference, or using MTS/potting soil, I still needed to dose. I haven't used something without high CEC, so I can't say it would be the same with something else either. Most say that it's best to have nutrients in the substrate as well as dosing though.

-Matt

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