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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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Substrate advice

I have been reading this forum for about 4 hours now, and I feel like I'm going blind from all the choices (and great advice!).

I have a 54 gallon corner tank. It's a very (very) long story, but I had the tank up and running with a layer of Eco-Complete and then just Peace River gravel on top. I liked the pebble look. Had to tear down the tank (same long story) and remove everything. There was no way to keep the 2 substrates separated, so right now they are a mishmash in a 5 gallon bucket waiting for the tank to be ready - which should be this weekend.

Well, I do not like the way it looks all mingled together. I realized that would happen over time anyway, but it's really bothering me. I am almost willing to just go buy new substrate and save this mixture for a future tank that I'm not going to be so picky about - or divide it among smaller tanks. Before I do that, can anyone suggest a cap I could put on top to just smooth out the overall look and color? I don't want to do sand, but I would if it would work the best. I was looking at something like a red clay montmorillonite? The rock wall is a red/beige/terracotta look, so I would want the substrate to either be reddish or even black. I do have a bag of Floramax in my new 10G tank that I like the look of.

I do not have CO2 in this tank. I will be doing Excel and ferts - I have the PPS-Pro pack. I also have homemade root tabs with osmocote +. About the most demanding plant I will have in this tank is probably amazon sword - I'm going for easy, easy, easy.
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 04:43 PM
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One thing to keep in mind with "capping" substrate is if you cap with something smaller grade it will eventually settle on the bottom leaving the big stuff. If you liked your previous substrate and their was a decent size difference you can use a mesh type material to sift and seperate the two. If they are too close in size it might be easier to scrap it and start over. I've been setting up a lot of tanks lately and have been a fan of pool filter sand (make sure you get one with no chemicals in it) which is a tan sand that is very natural and decent size and is $12 a 50lb bag. I've also been using Black Diamond Blasting Sand you can get at Tractor Supply Co for $10 and 50lb bag. Just make sure you get the larger grade stuff and it's a nice heavy sand size and weight. A friend of mine has a few tanks set up with stuff called SafeTSorb or something and is larged than the previous two I mentoned and is a larged mixed natural granular. That can also be bought at Tractor Supply Co for prob $10 a 50lb bag as well.

All the substrates I mentioned above will need to be washed but are 5X cheaper than buying stuff a the box stores. All these will have to be root tabed just like your Eco-Complete.

If you can find it and like fine black type sand I personally love ActivFlora. It's becoming harder to find since I posted about it a few months back as it apears everyones been buying it now. It's about $25 a 16lb bag but I feel well worth it. You don't need to wash it and it has "added ferts". Provided ALL inert substrate will eventually need to be root tabbed but I feel this stuff holds out the longest before you need to add any. I've had almost a dozen tanks running with the stuff for 8+ months and only a few are starting to need root tabs as of last month or so.

If you have any specific questions on any of them feel free to PM me and I might be able to help more.

75G, 29G, 20L, 12L, 10G, 5 Nano's, 3 Betta bowls


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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 05:29 PM
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You could just use the mish mash for a base and add more Peace River gravel for a cap.
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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 03-18-2014, 07:51 PM Thread Starter
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I do like the look of that black diamond sand. Very sharp. I'm going to think on this. I wasn't planning on doing sand, but I really like the look.

I was thinking of perhaps getting a bag of Floramax (which is the same color as the eco-complete I have) and mixing that in which might dilute the weird vomit-looking effect I have right now. I was in love with the peace river in the picture online, but it washes out up against the light/red rock wall. It would be cheaper overall to go with the sand. Hmm...
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