Substrate reccomendations - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 03:56 AM Thread Starter
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Substrate reccomendations

I recently bought a 55 gal and I want to get it set up properly, inititally I thought about using eco-complete because it did a decent job in my 20gal but I'm wondering what the planted tank community thinks a good option is? Keep in mind that I'm a college student so money is a bit of an issue. I was interested in ADA aquasoil since it keeps a constant pH but it seems rather pricey for my budget.
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post #2 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 05:10 AM
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I bought UP aqua soil on greenleafaquariums.com Its a little cheaper. Or u can get fluval stratum on kensfish.com for a good price. Both are much better then eco I'm sure you will be impressed.

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8g Fluval 1M CT Betta
125g 5 Blood parrots, 1 Green Severum, 8 Dension Barbs, 10 Yoyo Loaches, 1 RTS
75g Angelfish, 3 EBGR, 4 Siames Alage Eaters, 12 Harlequin Rasboars, 1 BN Pleco, 1 Swordtail
33g long cherry shrimp, 8 pygmy corys, 5 ottos
15g 2 GBR
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post #3 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 05:54 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bankruptjojo View Post
I bought UP aqua soil on greenleafaquariums.com Its a little cheaper. Or u can get fluval stratum on kensfish.com for a good price. Both are much better then eco I'm sure you will be impressed.

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I think I'll research the UP Aquasoil a bit, it's currently out of stock but for it seems promising. How much would I need to fill up a 55g suitably? I don't remember how much I needed to fill up my 20g a few years back ha ha
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post #4 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by stefus_prime View Post
I think I'll research the UP Aquasoil a bit, it's currently out of stock but for it seems promising. How much would I need to fill up a 55g suitably? I don't remember how much I needed to fill up my 20g a few years back ha ha
It took 3 to fill my 75g but its very deep with a huge slope. I think 2 bags should be plenty.

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8g Fluval 1M CT Betta
125g 5 Blood parrots, 1 Green Severum, 8 Dension Barbs, 10 Yoyo Loaches, 1 RTS
75g Angelfish, 3 EBGR, 4 Siames Alage Eaters, 12 Harlequin Rasboars, 1 BN Pleco, 1 Swordtail
33g long cherry shrimp, 8 pygmy corys, 5 ottos
15g 2 GBR
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post #5 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 06:24 AM
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If you want something like Ada. Why not use azoo plant grower bed. It's the same thing. But doesn't leech any ammonia in the water. And from what I have heard is made in the same factory or wherever Ada is made.

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post #6 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Subtletanks91 View Post
If you want something like Ada. Why not use azoo plant grower bed. It's the same thing. But doesn't leech any ammonia in the water. And from what I have heard is made in the same factory or wherever Ada is made.
i dont think that is right... i think the ammonia leaching has something to do with added nutrients. my UP aqua soil had ammonia but the fluval did not.... i can say the UP is deff better and would guess more comparable to ADA. sounds like the azoo is more like the fluval. we know the fluval is missing some key nutrients. well i should say i read here under substrate that it is.

8g Fluval 1M CT Betta
125g 5 Blood parrots, 1 Green Severum, 8 Dension Barbs, 10 Yoyo Loaches, 1 RTS
75g Angelfish, 3 EBGR, 4 Siames Alage Eaters, 12 Harlequin Rasboars, 1 BN Pleco, 1 Swordtail
33g long cherry shrimp, 8 pygmy corys, 5 ottos
15g 2 GBR
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post #7 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 01:29 PM
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Azoo Plant Grower Bed is not the same thing as ADA Aquasoil Amazonia. The only similarity: they're both little balls of dirt.

APGB is okay for undemanding plants but it doesn't provide all the nutrients you'll need. Its buffering capacity is also quite limited when compared to ADA.

If you want something like Aquasoil, just bite the bullet and get Aquasoil. It's cheaper than the other products being mentioned here by a long shot when you factor in the volume of product you get, what it does and how long it lasts. (Feel free to search the forum for some size and cost comparisons I've done).

Note: Fluval Stratum contains next to nothing for plants and breaks down quickly compared to similar substrates.


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post #8 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 03:57 PM
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Just use Turface, it is cheap and will reduce your kH and pH a little.
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post #9 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 04:07 PM
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Buffering ability of Turface, Safe T Sorb and the like is quite limited and varies from batch to batch.

pH truly isn't something to worry about with most freshwater species as long as you maintain the water hardness necessary for a given type of critter.


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post #10 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 06:10 PM
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Why don't you use MTS (mineralized topsoil), with a sand/graval cap. I think that is the most economical, if slightly tedious method. Depending on what you add into the MTS, it can be quite fertile; in fact I think its more fertile than many commercially available substrates. With a proper fertilization regime, your plants will grow just as well. To really save costs, buy dry ferts and mix your own.
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post #11 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 06:36 PM
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Why don't you use MTS (mineralized topsoil), with a sand/graval cap. I think that is the most economical, if slightly tedious method. Depending on what you add into the MTS, it can be quite fertile; in fact I think its more fertile than many commercially available substrates. With a proper fertilization regime, your plants will grow just as well. To really save costs, buy dry ferts and mix your own.
If you do the dirt and sand cap thing, just make sure you like your scape and don't move stuff too often. It does work well for plants and it's cheap, but this is what happened when I pulled up all of my jungle vals, and it took a full 24 hours to clear:



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post #12 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 07:20 PM
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Azoo Plant Grower Bed is not the same thing as ADA Aquasoil Amazonia. The only similarity: they're both little balls of dirt.

APGB is okay for undemanding plants but it doesn't provide all the nutrients you'll need. Its buffering capacity is also quite limited when compared to ADA.

If you want something like Aquasoil, just bite the bullet and get Aquasoil. It's cheaper than the other products being mentioned here by a long shot when you factor in the volume of product you get, what it does and how long it lasts. (Feel free to search the forum for some size and cost comparisons I've done).

Note: Fluval Stratum contains next to nothing for plants and breaks down quickly compared to similar substrates.
you didnt say anything about the UP aqua soil... it seems to be pretty close to the ADA... iv had it in my tank for around 8 months and still brings my ph for 7.8 down to 6.6. just wondering if you have heard anything positive or negative about it. so far i have nothing but good things to say. the balls are very "strong" and heavy compared to the fluval iv been using.

still havnt bite the bullet and tried ADA so i cant honestly compare them.

8g Fluval 1M CT Betta
125g 5 Blood parrots, 1 Green Severum, 8 Dension Barbs, 10 Yoyo Loaches, 1 RTS
75g Angelfish, 3 EBGR, 4 Siames Alage Eaters, 12 Harlequin Rasboars, 1 BN Pleco, 1 Swordtail
33g long cherry shrimp, 8 pygmy corys, 5 ottos
15g 2 GBR

Last edited by bankruptjojo; 07-05-2013 at 08:14 PM. Reason: auto correct
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post #13 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 08:31 PM
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UP Aqua is about the same as Mr. Aqua and Azoo and similar to Fluval Stratum.

There's unfortunately nothing special about to justify the price.

Decent substrates if you don't have plants that need lots of nutrients, just need moderate buffering and have a small tank. Otherwise, ADA wins out because of the volume of product you get for the price, available nutrients, buffering capacity, etc.


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post #14 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 09:34 PM
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The extremely expensive ADA stuff is just dirt rolled up into little balls. Save yourself loads of money and make some MTS. I works just as well, if not better than Aquasoil for much much less. You can add a dusting of peat moss on the bottom layer of the tank before putting in the MTS to lower your PH a bit. If you don't want the hassle that MTS brings along, then you can use the Diana Walstad method and just use MGOCPM with red clay.
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post #15 of 46 (permalink) Old 07-05-2013, 09:42 PM
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Both can grow plants but they're definitely not similar.

Most people use active substrates because they hold up for years, can be moved around with relative ease when rescaping, are loaded with nutrients, buffer pH for years, buffer hardness a bit and provide an ammonia source for an initial cycle.

Top soil, while cheap and useful, is messy, can't be easily rescaped, can't always be used with sensitive shrimp, doesn't buffer, and doesn't even compare on an aesthetic front.

Each serve different purposes when it comes to aquascaping.


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