Maybe I'm not the best person to be giving any sort of "reviews" of methodology, but I figured I would debunk a few of the myths surrounding this substrate. Maybe they're not myths, but things I was told would happen when I first looked into purchasing this stuff. (yes I BOUGHT it instead of making it. Torpedobarb has much lower prices than ADA. what can I say lol)
first off what is the tank like?
pressurized Co2 (a lot of it)
mineralized soil obviously
dual 350gph canisters
inline reactor followed by fractioning impeller to mist any co2 that escapes the reactor. (I will be removing the reactor entirely soon, but I've been lazy)
very small UVS
inline Hydor 300W heater
4 x 54w Catalina T5HO lighting. 2x10hours all 4x4hours
What was I told?
#1: Cloudy water: I've been told this about most every decent substrate I've tried. I think a lot of people don't understand the value of filling a tank slowly on first fill. (I also don't think most people understand the meaning of SLOWLY lol) I turn the python on and just let it literally trickle into the substrate for the first few inches of the tank, at which point I turn up the flow slightly. I've never had anything but crystal clear water from the get go with any substrate I've used this method on. On my mineralized tank, I even used 3M colorquartz UNRINSED and had zero issues with this.
#2 GREEN water: I was told a nice huge case of green water should be expected with this substrate as it settles in. (I've heard the same of most other nutrient rich substrates as well)
#3 Acclimation: I was warned that the tank would take a few months to start really perking up and looking nice, as the plants had to "get used to root feeding". I think I translate that as growing a large enough root system to pull all the nutrients from that location, vs. leaf surface. I'm not a botanist, so don't take that to heart.
#4 You won't have to dose anything: Yup. The major claim to fame with mineralized soil.
#5 and most important: Algae battles. Everyone I've talked to who has any experience with this substrate has told me it was NOT for beginners, as inevitable algae battles were sure to be on the horizon for at least a few months.
#1 I sort of already explained that. Just fill slow dummy. (and cap well)
#2 erm... I haven't had this issue, but I have a UVS (cheap $20 ebay one) installed that runs each night for a few hours.
#3 This bit is sort of true. SOME plants seem to take forever to get used to the idea, but all the plants I've tried have come back around and gone gangbusters. Rotala Mini "1" is the exception here, but it's started increasing growth a smidge in the past few days, so I'm still hopeful. I think the root system on these was very small (for a very small plant) when I got it and it's taking it forever to get through the very large cap of 3M colorquartz over the soil. But I digress, there may be a plant or two out there that just does not want to root feed. (macrandra grows fine for me, but hasn't colored up bright red quite yet. however, it is the last plant I put in and I keep forgetting that so the rest of them have a few weeks on this guy)
#4 this one is also slightly true. Aside from adding K (which I haven't had to do YET) once the supply in the soil runs out, you aren't supposed to have a need to dose anything. This is true. However, I do dose iron constantly in this tank. For me (and maybe I am way off here) you can never have enough Fe lol. I wanted to see what the colors of the L. Aromatica would do, so I dosed it as an experiment. It worked so I kept dosing. but no.... it's not needed.
#5 ALGAE BATTLES!!!!
okay... let me run down the list of all of the types of algae I've had in this very highly lit tank...
yup.... that's it. I had a dusting of GDA on the rocks, and glass and I simply wiped it off every week or so until I put the Oto's in the tank. Now I don't even have to do that part. I have seen not a SINGLE STRAND of any nuisance algae in this tank since day one. My water change "schedule" is shoddy at best. I forget to do them, I don't do them at all for a few weeks, but I do have a few theories as to why this tank has done well that I haven't shared until now, as I didn't want to throw ideas out there that had no merit.
#1 Good, constant, Co2. I cranked it ever so slowly until the fish showed stress signs, and backed off a smidge. Also, the flow pattern for this tank seems to get every inch of the tank covered, even through to the middle of the bushes of stems.
#2 UVS. I only have a very small one on the tank and I just stuck it on a timer to run a few hours at night. I don't know if it's actually helping, but oh well lol.
#3 light fishload. This tank is 75gallons and has 30 very small tetras swimming around in it.... that's it. no angels, or discus, or.... If I did have angels or something in the tank I'd remove a good portion of the schools to keep the fishload down. (also I have amanos, otos, MTS... all in all a decent cleaning crew in the tank that might be helping)
#4 maybe the most important? I make sure and dose copious amounts of Co2 to help the plants grow, then every day I add 5ml.... of excel. Yup. Office of Redundancy office, how may I help you? This is like a little miracle drug for planted tanks and I don't understand why people slam their heads into walls about which thing to dose, and run up calculators to figure out PPMs that might be causing algae, and never think to just buy a 2 liter bottle of this stuff and drop a cap full in every day ALONG WITH good Co2 injection. Cost is a factor of course, but if you buy Excel in big bottles online, it's not that bad. $30 every 6 months or so is not that shabby. Even if you don't do it for plant growth, it helps stave off algae, AND it's supposed to help iron become bioavailable quicker (or something) all around a good bang for your buck even if you already inject.
So... my thoughts? This substrate is (so far) the best I've tried FOR MY NEEDS. Not everyone likes the type and speed of growth you get in these tanks, but the results are great. (at least the best I've had for myself) I like being able to concentrate on plants and not PPMs. I don't think other people who used this substrate were doing things WRONG, as I've seen pictures of AaronT's tanks and they're simply gorgeous! However, he did have to go through a lot of algae headaches to get there, and I think maybe I did something that helped me get around that (probably on accident).
If you got this far without pictures, I commend you. You are a cut above the average American lol So I'll reward you with the latest two pictures of the tank I'm talking about. (you can see all the pics and whatnot in my journal in the link at the bottom)
there you are. questions, comments, flames are all good. Just putting my experiences out there.
all in all... this substrate gets the.....