SMS/Turface vs expensive plant substrate + other questions - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-24-2009, 01:28 AM Thread Starter
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SMS/Turface vs expensive plant substrate + other questions

I'm turning my 75 into a high-tech planted tank, and am thinking about getting turface to use as the substrate, and then capping it with black sand. I read in another thread that turface is basically inert...so I'm wondering what the point of using it is? If there are no nutrients that will aid plant growth, why don't I just buy some pool filter sand?

Are eco-complete and flourite basically the same? Expensive, but not any better? based on what I've read on seachem's website, flourite is basically just mineral-rich gravel.

I've used the store locator thing on the lesco website to figure out where I can get turface. There are several different kinds though; allsport, allsport pro, pro league, etc. The type that comes up most in searches of this forum seems to be the pro league. The red seems to be much more available; should I try and get the grey? Its going to be covered in sand but it would probably be annoying if little bits of red migrated to the surface.

I'm planning to use root tabs, pressurized CO2, and dry ferts.

Laterite is used as an iron source, correct? Can I add it to a tank that is already full of water? My tank is already establish and it would be a massive PITA to empty it and move all the fish just to add a 1/4 inch layer of laterite.

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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 04:32 PM
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Smaller particles tend to migrate to the bottom of the substrate over time. So whatever you put on the bottom (Turface, Flourite, Eco) will eventually be on top and the black sand on the bottom. I've used Turface in a high tech tank with no problems, any root feeders will certainly need root tabs. Laterite is IMO better to mix in the substrate or place it on the bottom before adding substrate.
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 05:25 PM
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Turface is a great substrate on a budget. It plants well, the diameter of the grain is nice and it is not bad looking, either. Just like all substrates, there are benefits and tradeoffs.

I have the all sport pro league in two tanks. It is a smaller size granule version of the regular turface according to the vendor I called. I have the one that is the tan color, which is very nice in my opinion. I wouldn't buy the sand, it will eventually end up on the bottom like mine did. Turface does mess with your water parameters at first, so it is important to know the Kh can drop which can lead to pH crashes. I remedied this by adding baking soda temporarily.

I added flourite to an already established tank and had no problems doing this. I added a baggie full at a time. However, if you disturb too much of your gravel at a time you could end up with untraceable ammonia spikes, so add the laterite slowly. Take a few days/weeks if necessary.

Yes, laterite is basically an iron source.

If you didn't know this already, I will forewarn you. Turface is very lightweight and will be easily disturbed, so I recommend capping with a generous layer of gravel slightly bigger in diameter than the turface.

As far as eco-complete and flourite go, they are the same as far as being an excellent substrate for plants. The eco-complete comes packaged in a liquid with nutrients and flourite does not. Flourite looks more like gravel to me, and eco is more rounded. This may be an overstatement on my part, but I believe the purchase of one over another is price, availability and preference. Both will grow plants well.

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Do you mean you added laterite to an established tank? I'm using eco-complete in my planted 29, it's just too expensive to use in a large tank.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 08:10 PM
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No, I added flourite. But you could do the same with the laterite. Just do it slowly. I created a small hole, put in the flourite and then mixed it together with a gravel vacuum. The same should apply for laterite.

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 09:12 PM Thread Starter
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Is laterite more like dust, or sand/gravel? I am tempted to just move all the fish out temporarily and use soil substrate.

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Originally Posted by sewingalot View Post
Turface is a great substrate on a budget. It plants well, the diameter of the grain is nice and it is not bad looking, either. Just like all substrates, there are benefits and tradeoffs.

I have the all sport pro league in two tanks. It is a smaller size granule version of the regular turface according to the vendor I called. I have the one that is the tan color, which is very nice in my opinion. I wouldn't buy the sand, it will eventually end up on the bottom like mine did. Turface does mess with your water parameters at first, so it is important to know the Kh can drop which can lead to pH crashes. I remedied this by adding baking soda temporarily.

I added flourite to an already established tank and had no problems doing this. I added a baggie full at a time. However, if you disturb too much of your gravel at a time you could end up with untraceable ammonia spikes, so add the laterite slowly. Take a few days/weeks if necessary.

Yes, laterite is basically an iron source.

If you didn't know this already, I will forewarn you. Turface is very lightweight and will be easily disturbed, so I recommend capping with a generous layer of gravel slightly bigger in diameter than the turface.

As far as eco-complete and flourite go, they are the same as far as being an excellent substrate for plants. The eco-complete comes packaged in a liquid with nutrients and flourite does not. Flourite looks more like gravel to me, and eco is more rounded. This may be an overstatement on my part, but I believe the purchase of one over another is price, availability and preference. Both will grow plants well.
Is there much of a difference between the various types of turface? You mentioned size, but do you think it matters which one I go with?

I've also looked at a product sold by a local water garden/pond store which is basically aquatic planting soil. It was reccomended by a fellow hobbyist. If I do decide to empty the tank out to add substrate, I will probably try this stuff, and maybe mix in a bag of turface. That might make capping it with sand work better too, because the dirt/soil would fill all the gaps between the turface granules.
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 09:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FSM View Post
Is laterite more like dust, or sand/gravel? I am tempted to just move all the fish out temporarily and use soil substrate.



Is there much of a difference between the various types of turface? You mentioned size, but do you think it matters which one I go with?

I've also looked at a product sold by a local water garden/pond store which is basically aquatic planting soil. It was reccomended by a fellow hobbyist. If I do decide to empty the tank out to add substrate, I will probably try this stuff, and maybe mix in a bag of turface. That might make capping it with sand work better too, because the dirt/soil would fill all the gaps between the turface granules.
Different sources of laterite means different textures. It is usually similar to smaller pieces of gravel. Here is a link that will tell you more than you need to ever know. http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Fertilizer/laterama.html

There is not much difference in Turface except size and color.

The planting soil is probably called Schultz Aquasoil. I have heard of it, but never used it. Here is a link on it. http://www.petfish.net/forum/index.php?topic=65126.0

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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 10:17 PM Thread Starter
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It isn't SAS. It actually is soil; it looks like dirt.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-25-2009, 11:52 PM
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Turface, SMS, and Flourite are baked clay products, with high cation exchange capacity (CEC), so they can capture and hold cations like potassium and iron in a way that makes them easier for plant roots to grab. That is why they offer an advantage over pool filter sand (unless you buy zeolite pool filter sand). I don't know how big an advantage the high CEC actually gives us, but theoretically it is a big advantage.

I think I recall that Tom Barr did some testing that indicated the high CEC advantage is real, using SMS. As I recall, it was responsible for greater plant mass increase per unit time than he got with substrates without high CEC.

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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 12:26 AM
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what makes a substrate good for plants is its ability to bind with nutrients (cation). The plants can use these nutrients when they need it. The baked clay (sas, sms, flourite, turface) soils has great cation. They are basically inert but over time will bind with nutrients. The clay they're made out of do have trace minerals in it. You can help this process by putting micro & macro nutrients in the soil (root tabs, soil etc).

Eco- I think has all the nutrients in it already. Laterite is a iron rich baked clay and it's used as a supplement in any substrate. I don't think it's all that necessary.


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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 01:47 AM
 
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Understanding Eco-complete is pretty easy really. It's crushed lava rock that they (Carib-Sea) let sit in the moist and humid central Florida plant and age. Aging it and keeping it damp/moist help kickstart the cation a bit. Other than that it's not really any better than a fired clay.
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 03:33 AM
 
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If SMS is anything like Schultz Aquatic Soil or one in the same as many claim, I would not use it on its own. IME it is way too light to anchor plant roots permanently and plant roots will dislodge and the stems will uproot as the roots grow longer, no matter how deep the layer. At least that is my experience. I suggest using a 1-1/2 " layer of pool filter sand or mineralized toposoil and then capping with 11/2-2" SMS or SAS. I have seen similar results obtained using Schultz Aquatic Soil as ADA Aquasoil, with one big difference. With ADA Aquasoil, results are quick. With Schultz Aquatic Soil, I had comparable results almost 2 years after the tank was setup. With my ADA Aqusoil tanks, 4-6 weeks was the max before I saw impressive algae free growth. If you are patient, SAS and SMS is great. If you want quick results, nothing compares to ADA AS in my experience.
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 11:44 AM Thread Starter
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I'm mildly impatient but mostly cheap.

I think I may buy a bag of the aquatic soil stuff (dirt) and mix it with some turface and sand. Then I'll use that as the bottom layer, and cap it with more sand. I'll be adding root tabs as well.
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 05-26-2009, 03:08 PM Thread Starter
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Is having a deep layer of soil substrate a bad idea?
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