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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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Throw Your Ideas at Me...

I have a 20g. long that I'm toying with the idea of setting up again. But the main thing that's stopping me at this point is substrate. I've come to dislike gravel alone in a tank, and I'm not particularly fond of play sand, although I have it in two tanks.

I want a cheap substrate (don't we all). Unfortunately, I really can't afford something like EC right now. I was reading on the forum about using unscented, non-clumping kitty litter. There was mention on a couple threads I was reading about kitty litter in high-tech tanks being a bit messy with sediment being disturbed. I don't *think* my tank will be high-tech by any means .

Ideally, the tank will have 3wpg ~6500K fluorescent lighting; DIY CO2. I'm still debating whether I want this to be yet another shrimp only tank, or perhaps a community tank with shrimp and CPD or sparkling gourami.

Now to the gist of it...

Questions I have about kitty litter:
How do the benefits vary from say, regular gravel and sand for the plants?

Although I've done it in the past, I wouldn't want to change the substrate anytime soon. Will the kitty litter decompose to the point of needing replacement in ~1 year?

Ups and downs?

Thanks
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 07:29 PM
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Don't know about kitty litter... I am currently using peat moss and sand 1:1 under black gravel. It's been going for about 8 months so far, so good. My lighting is at 2.8 WPG on an 80 gal with EI and the plants are doing great. With CO2 on the tank my ph stays at a steady 6.4. When I pull up plants to relocate, the peat seems to stay underneath, although a bit of sand does come up, but no cloudiness (?spelling?) from the peat moss. The sand settles back down into the gravel with a little smoothing of the gravel.

80 gal planted thread:
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 07:54 PM
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Schultz Aquatic Soil is better and almost as cheap as Kitty Litter. Unlike Kitty Litter, it does not breakdown over time. Schultz Aquatic Soil also does not mess with water chemistry. I tested it side by side with Seachem Fluorite and ended up with equivalent growth using Schultz Aquatic Soil at the fraction of the price and water cloudiness issues were not as huge as with Seachem Fluorite(where I still got major cloudiness even after rinsing the cr*p out of it).
Schultz Aquatic Soil is Fire Kindled Fuller's Earth.

Costwise, a bag of Seachem Fluorite costs $38 locally and is about enough for about 15 gallons. The same size bag of Schultz Aquatic Soil is $7. After testing both and noticing no major difference in plant growth, I personally would not pay $38 over $7.

The only thing with Schultz Aquatic Soill that I found is that it did not seem to grow cryptocornes all that well and while fine rooting plants like ludwiga repens and rotala indica did root well, they did not remain anchored to the substrate and always floated to the top which was a PITA. However, I heard that mixing Schultz Aquatic soil with 25% Pool Filter sand can increase its weight and help better anchor fine rooting plants.

You may also want to look into Soil Master Select. Many members, like canaries, are singing its praises. It is on my list of substrates to test, so I cannot say how it compares to Schultz Aquatic Soil.
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Homer_Simpson View Post
Schultz Aquatic Soil is better and almost as cheap as Kitty Litter. ..... You may also want to look into Soil Master Select.

Ditto on both counts.

The advantage to the SMS it that the Select comes in just a little bit fine grain. Also, if you're lucky you can locate it in Charcoal. I have one tank with the Red Shultz; it's nice enough. However, visually the darker substrates do seem to bring all the attention away from the ground and highlight the plants and fish.

I have done the mixing with some Red Flourite 25% into my Shultz -46b; or Eco/onyx 10% on a 75g w/ the charcoal color SMS to help w/ holding plants down. It does help somewhat initially. Although as the substrate matures, and bio-film develops that becomes less of an issue. I also, insert all stems into the substrate at a 45 degree angle, not straight up-and-down vertically. This helps keep my stems down. Sometimes with stems that are notoriously buoyant, I start with shorter cuttings, 3" -4" only. This allows some roots to form before you have a big top.

Opposite of Homer's experience, I've grown my largest, healthiest crypts in both Shultz and SMS. However, one tank is CO2 injected the others have daily dosing of Excel. I do not use root tabs; but I dose the water column religiously!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 08:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquaticmaniac View Post
I have a 20g. long that I'm toying with the idea of setting up again.

I don't *think* my tank will be high-tech by any means .

Ideally, the tank will have 3wpg ~6500K fluorescent lighting; DIY CO2.
Ups and downs?

I really like 20 longs. Since you already have other shrimp tanks I would do something else with this one. I think a 20g long is perfect for some of the dwarf cichlids! Great fish who love being in planted tanks, w/ interesting behaviors and personalities.

A 20l is only 12" in height though, and 3wpg will give you very strong lighting. If you don't want a pressurized CO2 set-up I'd either re-think the lighting or dose Excel daily w/ your DIY CO2 to help keep that light level stable. You say it won't be high-tech but want 3wpg!?? Really???

Yes, don't use Kitty litter in a high light tank....maybe if you're only planting short crypts so you're not replanting very often. Othewise w/ 12" - and just 10" after a substrate you'll be prunning stems quite often.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-20-2008, 09:25 PM
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I think an aquarium's depth's effect on lighting is negligible when we are talking about differences between long tanks and normal tanks.

No experience with kitty litter, but I keep reading that Soilmaster Select is a great cost-effective substrate. Even for a low-tech tank, investment into a good substrate is worth it.

I also really like long tanks. I find that other than keeping angelfish, they are ideal for most fish. The longer tank gives more surface area for air/water exchange and most fish like horizontal swimming space over depth. Also gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to dividing territory, perfect for many cichlid species.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 12:40 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies .

Yeah, I really want to do something "special" with this tank. I'm addicted to shrimp...but we'll see. None of my lfs carries SMS or SAS, or anything for planted tanks for that matter as far as substrate goes. So, I'd have to order SMS or SAS online. Any good sources to consider?

I may go with 2wpg instead. It's a very low budget project.

Thanks for all the help.
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 01:08 AM
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For SAS, look at a home improvement store. I know they generally carry it at Lowes and Home Depot in the garden section. It's normally used for potting pond lillies and such, but works great for aquariums.

SMS is actually a soil additive used on golf courses, and it's distributed by a store called LESCO. Go to their store finder at http://www.lesco.com/ and you should be able to find one near you with any luck.

Hope that helps


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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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*puts SAS on the list* Thanks for that info . The nearest LESCO is a bit far for me, so I'll check out Lowes or something similar for SAS, like you suggested.

I've read that SAS is fairly light, so there may be a problem with plants uprooting. Does anyone suggest mixing or layering the substrate to prevent this and if so, with what? That could turn out looking ugly, but I thought I'd check. Or would making a deeper substrate bed suffice?
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 01:40 AM
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It is really light, but once you knock all the bubbles off it gets better. Just wait, your tank will look like champaign after you first fill it with water. When the roots get established and it settles in and packs down a little, it really isn't a problem. It might take a little while to get to that point, but not a big deal.


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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-21-2008, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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Oh, alright. Thanks, Jen . I'll probably end up picking it up sometime this week and go from there.

Thanks again for all the help
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-25-2008, 11:43 PM Thread Starter
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Hello again...

Just my luck. Sorry for bumping the thread, but I thought it was better than starting another. It seems that Lowes doesn't sell SAS until the spring, so that's a couple months. The nearest LESCO would cost way more than the SMS in gas alone to get to.

Any other alternatives? How does peat or potting soil as substrate compare to SAS/SMS? Would it be worth it to wait for the SAS or have something shipped than wasting it on something like peat? I also looked for kitty litter...the local Wal-Mart doesn't sell the particular typeI was looking for; unscented, unclumping.

Thanks again for the help.
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 12:49 AM
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I personally would wait untill summer so that it would be ore enjoyable for an indefanite period
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 03:23 AM
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Our own ideas of when it's spring vs., the retailers' idea is quite different. My local Lowes is already displaying their new patio furniture as well as new planters. They also have the SAS on their shelves.

I think you should ask. If they don't have it on the shelf they may be able to order it for you and in less than a weeks time.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-26-2008, 03:51 AM
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Most lowes and home depots I've seen keep their pond section on the shelves through the winters. That is both in SC and MD, two completely different winter types. At any rate here in SC they were putting patio furniture up a week after Christmas, of course thats the south for you. If you opt to go the soil route, either get some out of your yard (thats not polluted with oil or pesticides or anything) or buy the organic potting soil. It will release nutrients over a long period, and just top it with normal gravel.

Aside from that peat will alter your ph and slowly release tannins over time. As far as the shultz goes, I've had it in my tanks, it was a great planting medium, however I just would have rather had darker gravel so my guppies didn't look so washed out. Anyway, you could always do the shultz and then plain gravel, I've done that too.

Also I've these three things from lowes:

Pea Gravel (from the size of a pencil eraser up to a nickel)
Sand (playsand or the pavers sand, however the pavers sand is a PITN to get clean)
Shultz Aquatic Soil

I mixed all of those together (after much rinsing) with my aged gravel and had a great planting medium, the shultz coupled with the mulm and some trace nutrients in the sand and gravel made my swords explode and vals shoot runners faster than strawberry plants. At any rate, I had to change it b/c my banjo cats had a hard time hiding in it (became dense), that would be my only complaint long term is that it does have a tendency to settle without regular siphoning.

Now I have onxy sand and am planning to get flourite black (sand and gravel, b/c the sizes aren't that much different) for my other smaller tanks that just have inert gravel...

Hope this helps...

Kevin

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