In need to an inexpensive substrate solution - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I was wondering if there're any solutions for an inexpensive substrate for my 100. I'm looking to create a substrate about 2.5" in depth.

Now, I've read the posts about Onyx, Fluorite, and Eco-Complete. I really, really would like use Eco-Complete, but I just can't afford the twent-some dollars that it costs per bag. My budget is around $40 for the substrate, does anyone have a suggestion about how to create a viable substrate with only $40 in the pocket? Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 09:41 PM
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For my 100 gal tank, I used a covering layer of pea gravel (100 lb ~ $5) and profile underneath (25 lb ~ $15). If I had known that "special kitty" litter looks exactly like profile and doesn't get mushy at all when rinsing I would have thrown some in there (25 lb ~ $2). That would have been the cheapest solution, with a whopping $8 incl tax. Pea gravel is a little on the coarse side, more difficult to plant stem plants.

I added some local reddish loam to the bottom layer (~10 lbs, free). You could also add laterite, peat, soil or whatever which still keeps it cheap.

The substrate goes gradually up from the front to the back.


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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 09:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice Wasser. I'd like to avoid gravel due to the detritus that gets caught between the pieces, sand would be the route that I'd like to take. But for the lower portion, why would you have used kitty litter instad of profile? I thought kitty litter was an inert material whereas profile is a fertilizer.
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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 09:57 PM
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For inexpensive, I like either a kitty litter/brown sand/gravel mix or black silica sand/potting soil. It's harder to find black silica sand, but I shopped around at a few Local Fish Stores before finding a store selling it for $9.99 for a 20lb bag.
Some landscaping yards also sell black sand to mix in for paving bricks.

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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
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OK, I'll have to find some landscaping places around here. Surprisingly, my local Home Depot doesn't sell the run-of-the-mill playsand. They sell a crushed marble sand that's blinding white and, surprisingly, quite sharp looting.
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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 10:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aeternum23
Thanks for the advice Wasser. I'd like to avoid gravel due to the detritus that gets caught between the pieces, sand would be the route that I'd like to take. But for the lower portion, why would you have used kitty litter instad of profile? I thought kitty litter was an inert material whereas profile is a fertilizer.
Detritus = Plant food???

I read a scientific comparison of different substrates, I don't recall the link anymore, maybe someone has it somewhere. It was showing a chemical analysis and surprisingly Kitty Litter had some amazing amounts of nutrients, if I recall correctly it contained more iron than flourite :lol: but of course the problem is that there are many different kitty piss absorbents out there and you don't know exactly what you get. But the one they tested is very similar to laterite, and has a good CEC which to me is even more important than a certain level of a certain micro nutrient which is exhausted after whoknows how long.

In some sense profile is more inert than kitty litter, definitely not a fertilizer.

For my brand new 10 gal mountain-scape I bought some pitch-black substrate at my LFS, very sharp, almost like broken glass. I hope it is inert... of course, it was cheap too... 60 cents per pound. Underneath of course, kitty litter


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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 10:59 PM
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Heh.. I'm still a "dirt" advocate.. I'm watching my 90 gallon develop more and more every day and I am thrilled. Now, I'm a lazy SOB and havent done any pruning in FOREVER in that tank so the old leaves are looking ratty....

Regardless.. Many "alternative" substrates like KL and Soil are very effective...
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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:03 PM
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Chelated Iron is what is needed, not all Iron is useful. Just because the package on Kitty Poop Destinker says it has Iron dont make it useful to the plants...

If that were the case then why not just drop a couple pieces of rebar in the substrate or even common 16D nails... :roll:

There is a reason that the "quality" substrates comes with a price tag fella's... my suggestion would be to wait till you have the money stuck away to do it the way you will want it done. Especially on a large tank like a 100 gallon. :shock:

When the plants are not doing what you expect you will be posting again very soon saying " I dont understand what is happening, why dont my plants look like that" ?

The 2 things that you do not cut corners on in a planted tank are Lighting and Substrate... unless you want to grow java moss and J. Ferns then its no big deal...

Just my 2 cents.
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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:04 PM Thread Starter
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Wasser - Detritus as in uneaten food, solid fish waste, etc. Sometimes the stuff gets stuck under the gravel pieces and it becomes a nitrate factory. Not to mention that larger pieces usually can and do become laden w/ mold...yeach.

GDominy - I would love to use dirt, i.e. very fine sand from a river. The only thing is, here in Southern California, pretty much ever river, creek, pool, is contaminated
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:06 PM
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I felt the same way about soil till I broke down my nano 2 months ago and saw what was happening "behind the scenes".... :shock:
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post #11 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:15 PM
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Buck I tore down my nano last week after running it for as long as my 90 gallon (I wanted a comparison) and I had no problems like you had described. I suspect a lot of it comes down to the actual composition of the soil being used (organic compounds, particle density, etc).

Don't forget that I make a mix of Vermiculite and Soil to prevent anearobic pockets from forming... My soils stay light and uncompressed. With the vermiculite mix I can actually compress the substrate, and it will puff back up into place like a sponge.
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post #12 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:18 PM
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If I remember correctly I read on another forum that places like Home Depot and Lowes carry something called Aquatic Soil by Scott's (not all of there stores carry it and it's not in thier online database) but it's $7 dollars/bag (I believe 25lb)...worth a look
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post #13 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aeternum23
Wasser - Detritus as in uneaten food, solid fish waste, etc. Sometimes the stuff gets stuck under the gravel pieces and it becomes a nitrate factory. Not to mention that larger pieces usually can and do become laden w/ mold...yeach.
There is no uneaten food in my tank... sounds weird, but no. Solid fish waste... great. Nitrate factory... I love it! I have to throw a bunch of chemicals into my tank each week because my NO3 keeps slipping down to zero! Larger pieces... that fit in between the gravel? Dead fish? Sword leaves? Nope. I do some vacuuming every week, but not really religiously and not too close to larger plants. To me, fish poop is good. Maybe with a more heavily stocked tank it is different.

Hawk, in HD there is an Aquatic Soil by Schultz which is really the same as Profile, for $7 per 10 lbs.


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post #14 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:45 PM
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The next time I try the soil Gareth it will be a thin layer at the bottom covered by another substrate...but that is the particular soil I used straight from a pond bottom. I have never tried any of the commercial soils as of yet...
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post #15 of 28 (permalink) Old 10-14-2003, 11:49 PM
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The way I see it the plants thrive in an "iron" enriched substrate and the "nutrients" in the substrate... the iron I have no control over with soil nor can I really test for it... but I can always add the nutrients easily...

At least with Flourite and Eco-Comp, you know you are Iron enriched and have a steady base to work with.

I would only suggest trying soil to a very experienced aqua-gardener, not anyone like myself... :lol: I couldnt believe what I was seeing in that soil and the smell ! :roll:

But the plants loved it !
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