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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 07:30 PM Thread Starter
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no clue what substrates to use. new to planted tanks

hi all. im working on setting up my tank.

i currently have a 55g tank. i just bought a rena xp3 filter for it. this will be a low maintenance no co2 tank.

i plan on putting in some large rocks and some basic low-light plants (moss, java fern, maybe a crypt or two).

what is the best, least maintenance substrates to use? if possible, i would like to put sand or something in some spots on where i do NOT want the moss to grow (i heard moss grows fast and I dont want it spreading all over everything).

i read a lot about eco-complete. is that something that would fit my needs? i'm not sure what layers are needed for my tank.. looking for a natural look. would prefer not to use 'dirt'.. looking for something more like gravel/rocks.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 08:18 PM
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You can use eco-complete as a "complete" substrate with no need to layer anything else into it. The demands on the substrate from those plants will be low, because the moss and java fern will have to be tied to something, and are not root feeders. the crypts are generally easy to grow and do great in my eco-complete. The moss wil grow pretty much anywhere it can grab onto something, s your best bet is to keep an eye on it and just pluck out loose strands when you see them.

I hope that helps
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 08:39 PM
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I'd not waste your money on eco complete. Youre much better off buying something like aqua soil (not actually soil), fluval plant stratum, mr aqua aquarium soil, etc. If youre already willing to pay the premium price, why not get the good stuff
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 08:51 PM Thread Starter
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I'd not waste your money on eco complete. Youre much better off buying something like aqua soil (not actually soil), fluval plant stratum, mr aqua aquarium soil, etc. If youre already willing to pay the premium price, why not get the good stuff
if i were to use one of the things you listed. would i just use one of them for my entire substrate or should i layer it? sorry i'm new to this and was trying to search, but i didn't really see questions that were a 'substrate 101 for idiots/beginners' lol.

just want to know what to buy when i go to the LFS this weekend. i dont think i want sand because it might get sucked up into my filter. preferably something that is black/white gravel-ish. don't know what layers to use
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 09:11 PM
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You can layer up but you don't need to, it's way more popular nd easy to NOT layer up.

Do you have an idea of what kind of livestock you want to keep?

Some substrates buffer your ph down to the lower 6s and others keep it a bit alkaline like 7+ or even 8.

There is "active" substrates that have nutrients and "inert" substrates that don't.

Are you going to use low light set up? (recommended for beginners)
You can get away without fertilizers nor co2 with LOW LIGHT.

Sorry I ask questions, but I like to help as best as I can.


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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ramen lover View Post
if i were to use one of the things you listed. would i just use one of them for my entire substrate or should i layer it? sorry i'm new to this and was trying to search, but i didn't really see questions that were a 'substrate 101 for idiots/beginners' lol.

just want to know what to buy when i go to the LFS this weekend. i dont think i want sand because it might get sucked up into my filter. preferably something that is black/white gravel-ish. don't know what layers to use
It's not necessary to layer your substrate unless its for a reason. For example, some use soil or peat underneath their top layer, but you need the gravel to keep the soil weighted down, or keep the peat from having full access to the water column. If you are using something like eco complete, or aqua soil, this isnt necessary.

If you are looking to purchase from a LFS only, your choices will be limited to either sand, gravel, fluorite or eco complete. I highly doubt you will find an LFS that will carry any great premium substrates. Of course, thats not to say eco complete sucks, its just far from complete.

Like mentioned earlier, you must take live stock into consideration. Some fish like more acidic water, while others more basic. Your choice on substrate will depend a lot on this. Though, most beginner fish will do fine in either, as long as its stable. However, fish like corys who dwell the bottom would appreciate a "softer" substrate as to not damage their barbells or bellies.

Then, think about your plants. Even in a low tech setup, if you use an inert substrate like gravel or sand, you will need to dose ferts and use root tabs to not kill your plants. You can get away with less fertilization with no CO2 and a better substrate, but you may have to play an active role in monitoring any deficiencies that may crop up.

Personally, I hate sand. Its hard to clean and gets disturbed very easy. If you are only going for LFS products, and they don't have aqua soil or fluval stratum, I'd go for fluorite.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-26-2012, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trickerie View Post
I'd not waste your money on eco complete. Youre much better off buying something like aqua soil (not actually soil), fluval plant stratum, mr aqua aquarium soil, etc. If youre already willing to pay the premium price, why not get the good stuff
"Good stuff" is a subjective call. I prefer Eco-Complete because it never breaks down and doesn't screw with my pH. I don't have to go through any ammonia issues either. Plus, it's not nearly as expensive as the "good stuff." Further, I prefer the black color.

So to me, Eco-Complete is the good stuff.

To answer the OP's question... You can use just about any substrate you want for the plants you've selected. So it becomes a matter of personal choice. One of the main considerations for me was color. I have a black background, black tubing for intakes and outflows, and find the black substrate goes well with the overall design. So my first consideration was the color.

Then when I looked at the options available, I found I really liked Eco-Complete for all the reasons I listed above. It absorbs the nutrients to feed back to my plants which I really like. I've had excellent success with it in my high tech and low tech tanks. Plus, I don't have to pre-rinse it when first putting it in the tank (minor issue, but when putting in 140 pounds or more, it adds up).

If you do go with Eco-Complete, the best price I've found has been the online Petco website. The price has bounced around from $16-$18 a bag which usually beats the LFS prices. If you order $49, then shipping is free. I usually don't care much for the big pet store places, but they can't mess up bagged substrate so it doesn't matter where you get it. http://www.petco.com/product/111998/...t=OnSiteSearch

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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interesting! you all are great!

so what's the difference between eco-complete and flourite? i think i saw flourite at the LFS. but i also saw eco-complete at petco for about $15-20 a bag. i want a substrate that is good for beginners and that i don't have to change/mess around with a lot.

also how many bags/pounds of substrate would I need? it's for a 55g. about 4 feet long and i believe 1 foot wide.

i plan on getting some neon tetras (maybe about 20-25?) or some sort of tetras that school together.. and then probably about 10 or so ghost shrimp to walk around on the moss/java fern.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 01:11 AM
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I put 8-10 bags of eco complete in my 75g and my 90g (same footprint) if that's of any help.

You can also use the substrate calculator: https://www.plantedtank.net/substratecalculator.html

I'm sorry, but it's been too long for me to remember why I chose Eco-Complete over Flourite at the time, and I've been so happy with Eco-Complete that I haven't really looked at Flourite since then.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 01:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ramen lover View Post
interesting! you all are great!

so what's the difference between eco-complete and flourite? i think i saw flourite at the LFS. but i also saw eco-complete at petco for about $15-20 a bag. i want a substrate that is good for beginners and that i don't have to change/mess around with a lot.

also how many bags/pounds of substrate would I need? it's for a 55g. about 4 feet long and i believe 1 foot wide.

i plan on getting some neon tetras (maybe about 20-25?) or some sort of tetras that school together.. and then probably about 10 or so ghost shrimp to walk around on the moss/java fern.
When planning a tank stocking, I always try to think of a sweet centerpiece fish, and then get a few schools to go with it. My favorite fish is the German Blue Ram

If you want a great schooling fish, go for rummy nose tetras. They school very tight and are awesome to look at. Again, though, you probably wont find them local. At my LFS theres always an abundance of black skirt, serpae, and bleeding heart tetras, all which school and are awesome to look at too Finally, cory cats are great in large numbers. They stop hiding and instead scour the tank as a big group, I love them as well.

You probably want to shoot for an overall depth of 3" of substrate, so use the calculator to see how much you would need.

Also, if you want ghost shrimp that will stay alive, make sure to get bigger ones or your fish would probably chow them down, depending on what you get.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 04:08 AM
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I had the same fluorite substrate for 8 yrs in my tank featured in the picture. It was heavy and good for planting. It's abrasive tho, I wouldn't use it with plexiglass.



The color is not as uniform. It's like various tones of dark grey.

I have no complaints. Buy if you ask me, I wouldn't use it again. I would go for ADA Aquasoil, fluval stratum or turface if I wanna go inert.

I currently use akadama drl, and I have a stash for years to come. I don't tell you to use that because its not longer available and if so would be very expensive.



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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-27-2012, 04:49 AM
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I prefer AS for low tech tanks, the only thing is most of the plants you mentioned will not be planted with the Crypts being the only root feeders that will be in the soil. Moss is not going to grow fast in a low tech tank so don't worry about that and keep in mind that sand can be a pain and only looks good for a short period of time.


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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-28-2012, 02:27 PM
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I know AS is a good substrate, many will argue its the best substrate, but I can't justify the price for moss, java ferns, and maybe some crypt(the only ones that will take full advantage of it). I have eco-complete with almost that exact plant list and it works like a charm. The other "premium" substrates are not even in the same price bracket as eco-complete with the exception of Flourite, which would also be a good choice. Eco and Flourite are good "entry level" substrates that won't break the bank, and as Complexity has said, she uses Eco to great success after the "entry level" is over.

IMHO, go with Eco/Flourite and you will be happy. Wait to pay out the nose for a substrate until you have plants that demand it.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-28-2012, 07:39 PM
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do i HAVE to use potting soil can i use organic compost
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-29-2012, 09:53 PM
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do i HAVE to use potting soil can i use organic compost
You can. As long as there isn't anything harmful in it. John Innes compost is actually the best to use IMO
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