Doesn't like Kool-Aid
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Hawthorne, New Jersey
Big improvement with Aqua Soil?
I would say the plants will get off to a great start with Aqua Soil. It is nutrient rich and plants really seem to love it. I think plants will "catch up" in other substrates eventually, but no substrate gives plants the jump like Aqua Soil.
I think Power Sand is great as well. It is like a big, biological media mass for your substrate. Kind of like the ceramic noodles or bio-balls in a canister filter.
Now, that endorsement being said, there is an instance where I would not use Power Sand. I would not use Power Sand if I did not have a distinct aquascape in mind. Why? Well, the ADA substrate system is a layered substrate. Bigger grained Power Sand on the bottom and finer grained Aqua Soil on the top. Some folks will even use the super fine Aqua Soil Powder on top of that. Now, the natural occurance would be for the finer particals of substrate to work their way to the bottom of the aquarium, and the larger particles of the substrate to work their way to the top. If you have a planned aquascape in mind, and don't imagine yourself pulling up and moving plants very often, if at all, you won't be shifting the substrate around and mixing up the layers. You would be utilizing the ADA substrate system as it was designed. You would also be maintaining the asthetic of the substrate. The larger grains of Power Sand remain on the bottom of the aquarium where they belong. That is important as Power Sand is large grained pieces of vermiculite, coated with peat, Bacter 100 and some other nutrients and minerals. Vermiculite is white, the dark color on the Power sand is a result of the coating. So, if you pull up the Power Sand and the coating wears off, you'll have.........bits of white substrate all about.
As far as price is concerned, Aqua Soil is very comparable to the other substrates available (with exception to Soilmaster or 3M Color Quartz). It matches up in price and quantity to Flourite and Eco-Complete, thanks to the efforts of Jeff Senske and ADG, so it is super affordable.
If you haven't really decided on an aquascape design and have heard all about ADA substrates and want to give them a try, by all means go for it! ADA is the best substrate I have ever used! Just skip the Power Sand. You will still have a magnificently nutrient rich, biologically active substrate. You will still experience great plant growth.
If you have decided the ADA substrates/substrate system is for you, then I would recommend doing as much reading on the products as you can. The substrate is unique, so there are some things you will/may experience with ADA substrates you will not experience with other products.