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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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I need Substrate Help

Hi all,

I am in the process of converting an african cichlid tank with sand substrate to a planted discus tank. I have been keeping plants for a while, but nothing fancy and not looking to go high tech. I like the looks of white sand and mixed gravel so I was planning on removing some sand and mixing in some gravel in the tank. Would that work to maintain plants? Also, has anyone here used Flora Root Substrate enricher by Red Sea? Seems like it's something I can mix in to the sand as well. If not, what do you recommend I should do? It's 7' by 2' tank. Thanks for the help.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 04:18 PM
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Im pretty new to this. IMO I would put at least a layer of good Substrate down under the sand/gravel mix if you can. Just depends on how many plants, what kind you want to get, etc.
sand/gravel sub would probably be ok for most plants but you will have trouble if you want to get any crypts or sword plants.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 04:37 PM
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I would NOT mix substrates unless your 1000% sure you will like the look when it get mixed up.

Since your already keeping relatively expensive fish, if I were you I would just bite the bullit and but ADA AS II Ammazonia. It will lower your ph (discus like that) and you will be able to grow a good amount of plants.


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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 05:49 PM
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African cichlids and discus are from two opposite parts of the globe and with pretty much opposite needs in regards to water parameters. African cichlids need hard water and high pH, often in excess of 8.0. Discus typically need neutral to soft pH and hardness. ADA Aquasoil would therefore not be a good idea to mix with African cichlid substrate.

As far as mixing other substrates goes, it really is a matter of personal preference. Some things to consider are:
1- whether you want the plants to be able to draw nutrients from the substrate or would rather use an inert substrate and supply all the plants needs with fertilizers
2- texture; the substrate needs to be fine enough to support root growth yet heavy enough to not constantly cloud the water with big fish swimming over it or digging through it
3- color- personal preference
4- depth- the substrate again needs to be deep enought to support root growth, but not so deep that dangerous anaerobic spots are able to develop



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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I am not going to do CO2. If I can grow plants with dosing fertilizer, that's fine with me. As I said, I like the look of white sand mixed with coarse gravel (very little gravel: 90% sand and 10% gravel). The average depth would be 2". If I can grow and maintain decent amount of plants in this set up, I will be more than happy. I heard that you can't grow plants in sand, so I was concerned about that.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-01-2008, 08:07 PM
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You absolutely can grow plants in sand, many people actually prefer it (I personally don't just b/c I prefer something with nutrients, sand gets dirty quickly, and it NEVER stays where I want it! But that's just personal preference...)

Check out EI, Seachem, Tropica and PPS fert dosing- you should be able to find out all kinds of information about those different plans on this forum to make an educated decision about what will work best for you.



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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-02-2008, 12:15 AM
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I use play sand to grow some super low-light plants in my Oscar's tank. It works alright with MTS in with it and some root tabs under the plants. It is also nice because sand is heavy and will weigh plants down better than a lot of substrates. It is also an extra bonus because it is harder for him to 're-decorate' his tank when my layout isn't working for him...
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 03:54 PM Thread Starter
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Any thoughts on mixing in few bags of flourite with the sand? Like to 10 to 15 bags?

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 05:32 PM
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Some people have done that successfully. I know the commercial substrate manufacturers typically recommend no less than a 50/50 ratio if mixing with inert substances. Again it's about aesthetics- they will mix together.

Have you considered colorquartz instead of sand? Wide variety of colors available and it's still very cheap. Less than $25 for a 50lb bag. Just go to www.3M.com and find a local pool supply company that carries it. Just another option. (I'm personally mixing black colorquartz with Eco and really like the look.) Another advantage is the size and shape I believe will promote a little more water circulation and help discourage anaerobic spots.





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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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So, instead of mixing the gravel with the sand, I suppose I can mix either the flourite or eco in with the sand. I already have about 200lbs of white play sand in the tank so I don't really want to take them all out. This tank has a 84 by 24 foot print. So I think I can get about 100lbs of either the flourite or eco and mix them in. By the way, which is better between the two? I am leaning towards eco. Thanks, again.

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 07:53 PM
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They are both excellent substrates as far as plant growth. I personally prefer Eco b/c fluorite is clay-based and so IME can cloud a tank really badly during planting/replanting. However, I hear that the new dark and black Fluorite forms are not as cloudy.

Have you considered just using substrate in the areas where you wish to plant? You can use stones or even flexible plastic landscape border cut to size to keep the substrate and sand separate...





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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Wow, Laura. You are such a great help! Is this your fulltime job? Yes, I have thought about just getting like 5 bags of eco or flourite and use it for the areas for the plants. I will need some help trying to get the substrate stay where they are supposed to, but that shouldn't be a big deal. I am thinking two sides and middle back for the plants and use sand and gravel mix for the rest. I think this will work out. Also, how long are these substrate good for? They can't provide nutrients forever. By the way, how much eco would I need? Thanks again.

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 09:17 PM
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LOL Honestly I'm totally blowing off work ATM- my last day is Friday WOOHOO!!

There's alot of debate about "how long" substrates last- IMO it's really a moot point b/c no matter what substrate you use you will also need to supplement with ferts, and you just up the dosages anytime you notice deficiencies in your plants... so IMO substrates last indefinitely. I know some people who've had the same substrate in their tanks 10yrs + and swear they still get the same growth. (My 10gal fluorite is going on 4 yrs and I can't tell any difference.)

Hard to say how much Eco you will need- depends on how large an area you want planted? You will want about 2-3" deep, maybe up to 4" if you want to grow large swords. In general, I estimated 1.5 lb per gallon to give me an average 3" depth in my 90gal... that worked pretty well?





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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 10:04 PM Thread Starter
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So you got seven 20lb bags for your 90? Hmm... I think I will want about 30% coverage, so I think I will go with six bags and see how that would work out. Again, thanks for the help. By the way, you don't have to vacuum these substate, right?

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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-03-2008, 10:23 PM
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LOL someone who does math like me! No that was 5 bags, plus 50lb of colorquartz plus 35lbs black gravel for a nonplanted area... but I'm going for 4" in several areas b/c I want some big swords. My footprint is 48x16

Most people don't vacuum the substrate at all, I do try and get any mulm buildups I see, though. If you use sand, I'm sure you know how that goes...





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