Looking for soil substrate for Low tech tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-03-2008, 06:18 AM Thread Starter
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Looking for soil substrate for Low tech tank

I'm thinking of trying a planted tank again with my 125 gallon tank. When I originally set it up, I added plants but used plant tabs and liquid ferts. The plants I bought were doing well, but I'm not sure if it was due to them still being new. As the weeks grew, so did my cash. I also got lazy constantly buying root tabs and also adding in ferts. My plants were also dying at the time and I also had issues with algae, so I stopped having a planted tank.

Fast forward almost 2 years later. All the excess plants from my 20 gallon long and 29 gallon tanks, I move over to my 125 gallon, just to give them a new look. The plants eventually died, but I didn't really care. I recently tried using root tabs again and those plants seem to do well. Therefore, I'm thinking of changing the substrate to a soil type substrate so that the plants can get their nourishments from the soil.

My question is, what is the best or most preferrable substrate for a low tech tank (aka cheap and lazy arse person like me)? I'm leaning towards SMS in charcoal, since I like the dark substrate. I thought I remembered reading an article/thread comparing soils like SMS, ADA Aquasoil, Ecco Complete, Flourite and such, but I can't seem to find it.

I will also have bottom dwellers (loaches, plecos, and cories) so there is a high probability the substrate will get disturbed.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-03-2008, 11:02 AM
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My tanks are generic peat & compost soil topped with fine black gravel & a white sand path. You can see them in my profile.There are these cool terra cotta things you could add to the substrate to give the fish a place to hide. This will keep them from disturbing it. You can put some of them under the substrate, so you wouldn't actually notice they were there to look at the tank. I have one in one of my tanks. Good luck with your new tank.

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Last edited by waterfaller1; 01-03-2008 at 02:28 PM.
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-03-2008, 12:00 PM
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If you want to use soil as a substrate, it can be done using cheap top soil. This would be known as a Natural Planted Tank. You can find more information on this type of setup and peoples' experiences with it here:

Both Eco-Complete and fluorite are said to grow plants well.

SMS is said to really lower KH levels. Some say that if you use it in a low tech setup then this is less likely to happen, but I don't see how that can be considering that water changes usually replenish KH, so in a low tech tank where you are not doing water changes that frequently, if anything the KH is more likely to get sucked up quicker.

The reality is that you can pretty much grow plants in anything, including but not limited to Laterite capped with chicken grit, pool filter sand over laterite and or root tabs, Schultz Aquatic Soil, kitty litter, etc.,

The difference is that some substrates tend to grow plants better than other, at least based on what most people are reporting. ADA Aquasoil I and II seem to be the talk of the town. However, Tom Barr was kind enough to point out to me that if you use ADA Aquasoil, you have to stay on top of your c02 levels and ensure that the c02 levels remain consistent. You are not likely to do this for a low tech tank, at least not at the rate needed to prevent problems with ADA Aquasoil, so I would not suggest it for a low tech tank, although if you are brave enough, you can always experiment to see what happens.

My suggestion is to go with a Natural Planted Tank and use Top Soil capped with gravel(you cannot get any cheaper than this), or if the thought of using top soil scares you use a tried and proven inert substrate like fluorite(you can use it over root tabs) for a low tech setup.

You might find this link interesting.

Good luck
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-04-2008, 08:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the info and real good info Homer. I may have given the wrong description. I'm not really sure if I meant soil substrate, what I really am looking for is a nutrient rich substrate.

I've read that Eco is lite. The tank where I'm adding the substrate on will have clown loaches and with their playful antics, may push away some of the substrate as they dart around when they play.

After some research, here are some links...
Laterite, Flourite or Eco-complete for aquariums. Which is best?
Substrates for Planted Tanks

So now after the replies and more research, I may go with Eco, due to it being a dark substrate, no rinsing required, more nutrient enriched. The only issue is that it may be too lite.

Please chime in if anyone has pro/cons with Eco in a low tech tank or have any better suggestions. I may still go with SMS (charcoal) and add root tabs.
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