Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Formerly Central Coast CA, Now in Bridgeport TX
I've collected my own substrate. I've collected them from two creek beds on some family property. One of them was very fine particle size, and this worked okay, after I capped it with Quikrete brand play sand. I've not had any real algae issues, and the tank is all native N.A. plants and collected substrate/wood (other than the play sand).
The other tank is no longer set up, but I mixed fluorite with small gravel and sand mix pulled from the creek bed. I had some minor hair algae growth in that tank, but it was not to crazy levels by any means.
In both cases, I washed the substrate with boiling water poured into a 5 gal bucket. I did several boiling water baths to kill potential bacteria/algae/critters.
I also did this to the wood I collected, after I stripped any rotted wood off it. I let it sit in the water for a few days to remove tannins and let the wood absorb water so it would be less buoyant. I skinned any remaining bark off of it as well. I've had some minor fungal growth on it, but nothing time didn't take care of. The wood (It's Oak) I put in the tank I adhered with silicone to a piece of slate tile, and then put the substrate in the tank to bury the tile. It hasn't caused any problems, and I use slate tiles as a background regularly. I just cut them to fit with a tile wet saw and diamond blade and silicone them to the back glass inside the tank.
I've tried to be careful to avoid limestone, which is common here. I have not seen any big pH fluctuations, and the plants are all doing fine. There are no fish in that tank. It's really a grow out tank for plants to be added to the 150 gal tank I'm setting up for native fish.
Planted tanks are all about shrimp.