Help choosing my new substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Help choosing my new substrate?

I'm currently using gravel, with root tabs, EI dosing and pressurized CO2. In several months, I will be moving and I would like to take the opportunity to change my substrate at that time. I have a 75 gallon tank with t5 HO lighting and it is pretty heavily planted.

When I move I will have to tear down the tank, load all the fish and components up, drive 2 hours, move things back in and set up. So something like a MTS process isn't the best for me in this case.

I'm having a hard time narrowing down what I want and here are a few things that I am trying to balance when making my decision:

1. There is a chance that I will set up the tank in the empty house a day or 2 before I actually move. It is a 2 hour drive, so I will be unable to do daily water changes to handle ammonia leaching by substrates that do this.

2. I have cories, so I need something that is safe for them.

3. I'm not opposed to continued use of root tabs, etc if I use something inert, I just know that gravel hasn't been the best thing for all of my various plants to root in.

4. I don't rescape often but I am certainly someone that has a hard time leaving EVERYTHING in the same place for months. I have been known to move a plant or drift wood here and there.

5. I want something that seems a little more natural feeling than the gravel. Although it is all natural tones, I feel like something with a more consistent color will look nicer.

Based on all of this I guess that kicks out...

Aquasoil - because it leeches ammonia - unless there is a way to soak this prior to moving and somehow get it ready for me ahead of the move/rescape?

Soil - Although I could probably get around my annoying desire to rescape sometimes. It may not be the best for my moving situation.


I don't know - does anyone have any thoughts jumping out at them? I have been trying to read as much as I can about substrates for a while now and it's just not totally clicking for me. There are a lot of variables! Thanks!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 07:11 PM
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Im starting to become a flourite/fps fan mix. Both very dark/black and offers the bemefits of the enriched clay with the CEC of flourite. Root tabs still optional as always

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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What's FPS?
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 08:12 PM
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I like Safe T Sorb.
Light weight so it is easy to handle. :-)
But light weight in the tank, too, so it may take a little work to hold the plants down until they root.

High CEC, so a really good benefit here. You can still use root tablets or EI, or both. High CEC gives you more of a cushion in the fertilizer availability.

Removes carbonates from the water. This can allow the pH to drop.
You can counter act this by adding carbonates or bicarbonates, but it needs to be done frequently, so I would add it into the EI dosing, for a while. You can also counter act this with coral sand or similar material in the filter.

Color is not too bad. Soft greys and tans, so it looks natural IMO. It could be a bit darker, but is not bad at all. There are several pictures in one of the threads here. Those pictures are a good representation of the color, if your monitor shows them correctly.

Price cannot be beat!

Can be set up and filled the same day.
If you could set it up a few days ahead that would help some, but not enough for me to want to drive 2 hours just to do that. If you are making the trip for other reasons, then set up this, too.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Diana. Can you be more specific about adding carbonates and bicarbonates? How much? What kind? You use a kh test kit? Thanks for your input!
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 08:54 PM
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My tap water KH is around 4-5 degrees most of the time, rarely drops to 3 degrees.
I have used several similar products. Soil Master Select and Turface also remove the carbonates.

Basic method, done this summer cycling a 88 gallon tank with one bag (40 lbs) STS:

Test KH. This is when I saw the tap water had dropped to 3 degrees. Odd. It has been 4-5 degrees for years.
Test the next day: KH is 2.
Add 1 teaspoon baking soda per 30 gallons, to raise the KH by 2 degrees so I added 3 teaspoons. (Easy math: pretend the tank is 90 gallons. It pretty much is, because I have 2 canisters running on it)
Let it circulate a couple of hours and test. KH is now 4 degrees.
And so on...
I added more, then less, a lot more, waited longer... One of the things I am checking is to see that the recipe is the same for different amounts of change in KH. It is.

Here is the basic recipe:
1 teaspoon of baking soda added to a 29 gallon tank will raise the KH by 2 German degrees of hardness. Again, the shortcut of calling it 30 gallons is just fine. This is not rocket science. It is a lot closer than hitting the side of a barn, though.
You can use this formula for any tank size, any dose, any change of KH.

40 pounds of STS can remove at least 1 degree of hardness per day from about 90 gallons of water, though I was not really keeping that close track of it.

Once the tank was cycled I quit adding baking soda.

In my other tanks, SMS for example, it kept removing the carbonate for a couple of years. I was only dosing small amounts of baking soda, but I was keeping up with weekly water changes between 25% -50%.

In another tank I mixed coral sand + turface, about 50/50.
In this tank the KH never dropped.
I was running it for Lake Tangayikan Shell Dwellers, so water prep meant adding baking soda and GH booster so it would start off hard, not cause a drop in the water parameters for the fish. I never had to add baking soda mid week. The coral sand satisfied the Turface ability to remove carbonate.
It is still that way today. I moved the tank, then set it up with the same blended substrate. Even without adding baking soda the KH is higher than other tanks. I think the Turface is saturated and the coral sand is now giving its minerals to the water.

Here is how I would do this:
A) Soft water fish. Do nothing. Let the substrate remove the KH. The pH will drop. This can be a problem when you are cycling, and need the bacteria to grow as fast as possible. So add enough carbonates or bicarbonates to get it cycled.

B) Hard water fish. Add things to the tank like limestone sand under the substrate, holey rock, or other coral/limestone/oyster shell sort of material to the filter to help make the water hard. Monitor it and do not allow it to drop. Since this might mean adding a lot of sodium from the baking soda, you might look into potassium bicarbonate or other source of carbonate.

C) In between sorts of fish. If they do not mind that soft water, then let it go. If they really need it harder, then do some of the options in B), but it might be more of a tightrope to maintain the water just right, not too hard, not too soft. Definitely need a KH test. Once you get it figured out, though, it might be as easy as adding a little potassium bicarbonate with every dose of fertilizer. Not much, but some.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 08:56 PM
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I like flourite it holds the plants well and they have no problem growing. I get the flourite dark it looks and works well in a planted tank. I also use caribean sand plant have no problem growing in it.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 11:10 PM Thread Starter
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Wow Diana. Thanks for your reply but I guess this is way over my head! I have never really paid attention to the hardness of the water. I have a gh and kh test kit but I don't even really know what they mean!

I add a little bit of gh booster when I change the water each week but that's as much as I really do to control these factors.

I guess I have time to figure it out...
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 01:55 AM
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I'm quite satisfied with flourite sand with root tabs.

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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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Cool thanks!
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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One other question for anyone... maybe this needs a new thread.

If I was to soak the new substrate in a tub with aquarium water, and then add a handful of gravel in panty hose, or use filter pad and let it sit with the new substrate - would that make the new substrate become more acclimated and help avoid a new cycle when the substrate is changed?
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2012, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by etgregoire View Post
One other question for anyone... maybe this needs a new thread.

If I was to soak the new substrate in a tub with aquarium water, and then add a handful of gravel in panty hose, or use filter pad and let it sit with the new substrate - would that make the new substrate become more acclimated and help avoid a new cycle when the substrate is changed?
Hi etgregoire,

+1 for Safe-t-sorb; here is a picture of my low tech 10 gallon with STS.


As for cycling, typically I just remove some mulm or filter material from a filter on an established tank and add it to my new filter when I start up the new tank (that way the bacteria get oxygen). It doesn't necessary prevent a nitrogen cycle but it does seem to shorten it.

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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-13-2012, 12:40 AM
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You might consider quartz-based silica pool filter sand, obtained from a pool supply store.
It's inexpensive, extremely clean, natural, looks good, inert & safe - excellent for Cories, and will grow plants well using root tab ferts.

Here's my 75 gal tank using PFS in white color:
http://s1105.photobucket.com/albums/...spaul/Sept2011
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