Taking my planted tank to the next level - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 01:34 PM Thread Starter
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Taking my planted tank to the next level

Hi everyone,

I just joined this group, and I hope some of the people here can help me take my planted tank from being what I'd call very good to something really exceptional.

Currently I have a 90 gal tank that has been set up for about 7 years, in it's current form. I have massive amounts of giant vallisneria, Cryptocoryne walkeri, and java moss. I also have a few other miscellaneous plants.

The lighting is two 150w 6500K HQIs. The filtration is an Eheim Pro II model 2028, and an additional powerhead in the tank for some additional circulation. The heater is a Jager 250w.

The substrate is 3 inches of standard #3 aquariun gravel with the bottom half laced with laterite.

For years, I got excellent plant growth, but after all this time I'm not getting what I have come to expect. I believe the substrata has been more or less depleted and it's time to change that out and upgrade it. Obviously, this is going to mean a complete tear down of the system. This is also going to be a great time to upgrade the system with cable heating and any other items I may wish to add.

I'm interested in replacing the substrata but I'm not sure which way I want to go here. I could just go with what I have been using, but I feel that has some limitations by today's standards. I also want something that looks a lot better than #3 aquarium gravel, at least on the surface layer. I have considered several alternatives, but have mixed feelings about all of them.

The two typical substrata media that I see talked about are Seachem's Flourite and Carib Sea's Eco-Complete. Either of these would be ok, but by the time I buy a couple of hundred pounds and add on the shipping it gets very expensive.

I have also looked at the ADA Substrata System. To me this system looks great, but is even more expensive than Flourite or Eco-Complete.

I am also considering using a soil based substrata, such as described by Diana Walstand in her book Ecology of the Planted Aquarium. I find this to me an intriguing way of doing things, and it's been done by a few people almost forever. It is also very low cost. However, it's not that commonly used and I have no experience with soil based substrata. I hope that some people with experience here could tell me more abut it, especially in the area of they type of soil used and anything added to it.

I don't mind spending the money on the expensive substrata, if it's going to be a lot better than what I do currently, or using a soil based substrata, but this is the sort of thing I only want to do once, and get it right.

Thanks
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 02:12 PM
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Hi Davek,
I guess the experts here need more input on you r current setup like equipment list, water conditions, fauna, etc also pictures of your tank.
welcome and good luck.
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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 03:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveK View Post
Hi everyone,
The two typical substrata media that I see talked about are Seachem's Flourite and Carib Sea's Eco-Complete. Either of these would be ok, but by the time I buy a couple of hundred pounds and add on the shipping it gets very expensive.
Welcome to the group!

Earlier this year I upgraded from a 55g with old aquarium gravel (which had worked fine for me):



to a 90g with Eco Complete black substrate. I had the typical issues with a tank that hasn't been cycled, but it lasted MUCH longer than I expected (about 8 months of "why the heck do I have that problem?!") . I don't believe any of my issues were related to the substrate with the exception of one: I had it TOO DEEP (up to 6" in some places). I was going for that sloping Iwagumi aquascape look but I kept getting bacterial blooms and planeria so I took out about a 3g bucket's worth of Eco Complete to reduce the depth. After a month or so after that, the tank settled down.

I like my Eco Complete, but one annoying thing about it is the VAST difference in grain size! Some are huge chunks the size of a sharp, bumpy marble and some are nearly microscopic (smaller than sand grains). This is marketed as a "feature" of the substrate (smaller clay settles to the bottom to promote roots and larger grains raise to the top for easy planting and water flow), but I've always found it annoying. However, it is easy to plant in (holds plants well) and it is fairly heavy so even smaller particles settle out of the water column after a day or two, so I can't complain too much.

As for cost, I bought mine online from a retailer who offered FREE SHIPPING for orders over $100. Ha!! That saved alot of $$$. There are also retailers who have specials like, "free shipping for the month of X." You definitely do not want to pay shipping on substrate orders so shop around for shipping deals.

Good luck! Here's a close up pic showing my Eco Complete (plants are dwarf lilly, HC and dwarf hairgrass).



Regards,

Will
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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Let's give them a chance. My original post is only a couple of hours old.

I've listed the equipment. Water parameters are not really applicable to this discussion because we are not talking about a problem to be resolved, but making a good tank better. I'm a lousy photographer, but I'll see what I can do about picts.

I'm down to only about 8 fish. I knew this was going to be a big upgrade, so I haven't been adding much. Keep in mind that smaller fish like tetras only live a few years.

The other area I'm interested in is adding CO2 injection. Previously, this is something I have not felt I needed, but I can see that it comes highly recommended, especially for some species of plants. That can be added at a later time. No need to talk about that at the moment.
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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by willbldrco View Post
Welcome to the group!

Earlier this year I upgraded from a 55g with old aquarium gravel (which had worked fine for me):
...
to a 90g with Eco Complete black substrate. ...

I like my Eco Complete, but one annoying thing about it is the VAST difference in grain size! Some are huge chunks the size of a sharp, bumpy marble and some are nearly microscopic (smaller than sand grains). This is marketed as a "feature" of the substrate (smaller clay settles to the bottom to promote roots and larger grains raise to the top for easy planting and water flow), but I've always found it annoying. However, it is easy to plant in (holds plants well) and it is fairly heavy so even smaller particles settle out of the water column after a day or two, so I can't complain too much.

As for cost, I bought mine online from a retailer who offered FREE SHIPPING for orders over $100. Ha!! That saved alot of $$$. There are also retailers who have specials like, "free shipping for the month of X." You definitely do not want to pay shipping on substrate orders so shop around for shipping deals.

Good luck! Here's a close up pic showing my Eco Complete (plants are dwarf lilly, HC and dwarf hairgrass)
...
Regards,

Will
I like your tank picts. That is more or less the visual effect I want to end up with. Right now my giant val kind of overpowers everything. I like the plant, especially in the background, but unless kept cut back, it gets all over the tank.

Yea, if you can find a place that offers free shipping, even for a limited of period of time, your in. Unfortunately, for us, most places have gotten wise to how much shipping costs area, and exempt substrata, salt and other heavy items from the free shipping promotions.

I figure I'd need about 180 lbs of Eco Complete to do the tank. Maybe a bit less. Trouble is that most LFS might only have a couple of bags of the material. That's great if your doing a small tank, but not going to help me too much.
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 04:28 PM
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I use 100% flourite in my tank. It doesn't have any organic component, so maybe it isn't the best choice for plants that require acidic substrate, but I like the looks of it, and it has alot of minerals (iron, etc). In fact I've noticed some of the granules are magnetic. I'm not an expert, but I don't believe this aspect will become deleted over time. Not for very many years anyway. If you feel you need organic material for a particular plant, you can always jamb some osmocote under the substrate around it.

Some people like the looks of substrates that are black, but I've always liked the brown/multihued effect. It all comes down to personal preferrence I suppose.
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 04:30 PM
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FYI - You can buy as many bags of Eco from http://www.drsfostersmith.com/ with a total flat rate shipping of $5.99 if you decide to go w/that substrate. I just got 2 bags and it only took 4 days from order to my door.

Ric


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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 05:18 PM
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Welcome to TPT!

Sounds to me like DIYing some Mineralized Topsoil (MTS) may be right up your alley- check out the sticky at the top of the Substrate forum.

Flourite black and MTS personally are my favorite substrates.





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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 05:22 PM
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Although 3" is pretty much minimum standard for root system formation, you have scope of adding plants that can have quite elaborate and deep root systems. For a 90g I would go with 3" in the front (or whereever ground cover plants will be added) to 5-6" for background stem or bigger rosette plants.

I have used Eco, FLourite and Aquasoil and I personally like Aquasoil because of its properties, and ease to aquascape with. However after that Eco Complete black is my next favourite.

As somebody mentioned before there is a wide variation in grain size but that has not caused any problem for me (other than aesthetics). I also sieve it to isolate the dust and smaller particles that I keep separately to hold down peat dust in some of my tanks where I want lower PH.

Patience is the name of the game.

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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by malaybiswas View Post
Although 3" is pretty much minimum standard for root system formation, you have scope of adding plants that can have quite elaborate and deep root systems. For a 90g I would go with 3" in the front (or whereever ground cover plants will be added) to 5-6" for background stem or bigger rosette plants.
I set up my 90gal with this substrate depth and I actually would NOT recommend doing it (I'm even considering breaking down my 90gal after 2 years to remove some)- substrate that deep WILL become anaerobic over time, especially in a tank that big. I wouldn't recommend exceeding 2-3" deep, as there's just no need. Yes, some big swords COULD put roots down that deep, but the vast majority of other plant's won't, and Malaysian trumpet snails also don't go much deeper than the first inch or so, so that leaves a whole lot of tank area that can and probably will go anaerobic over time. I have a problem spot in the back corner of my 90gal where I just can't seem to get healthy growth, and I've decided after trying all sorts of plants there and watching their roots through the side of the tank that it's gone anaerobic, and that's why.

I also had a massive fish die-off last year after pushing my tank from one room into another, and I believe that I stirred up some anaerobic gas when I moved it.

So IMO there's some good reasons not to pile your substrate that deep.





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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 06:00 PM
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i'm pretty sure co2 will make a much bigger impact than any changes in substrate. fertilizing is only secondary to good lighting and co2.
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post #12 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 06:18 PM
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1, don't waste money on substrate heating cables--they do NOTHING for plants. NOTHING. 2) have you considered just adding quality substrate nutrients to your tank? Much cheaper than replacing it all and wayyyy easier 3) if not, I would go with AquaSoil. If you are spending the money, spend it on something that actually has nutrients in it.
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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 06:38 PM
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heating cables serve a very functioning part of the planted aquarium, they give the the roots something to wrap themselves up on and give you something to cuss about.

i think the op is taking them out of his current tank though
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post #14 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 07:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveK View Post
I like your tank picts. That is more or less the visual effect I want to end up with. Right now my giant val kind of overpowers everything. I like the plant, especially in the background, but unless kept cut back, it gets all over the tank.

Yea, if you can find a place that offers free shipping, even for a limited of period of time, your in. Unfortunately, for us, most places have gotten wise to how much shipping costs area, and exempt substrata, salt and other heavy items from the free shipping promotions.

I figure I'd need about 180 lbs of Eco Complete to do the tank. Maybe a bit less. Trouble is that most LFS might only have a couple of bags of the material. That's great if your doing a small tank, but not going to help me too much.
if you have a petco in your area, they carry a substrate called "activ-flora" which is identical to eco. The price is the same as well unfortunately, but they usually carry much more in stock than smaller LF's do, and they can order it for you as well to help reduce shipping costs.
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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 07-10-2010, 07:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Sharkfood View Post
I use 100% flourite in my tank. It doesn't have any organic component, so maybe it isn't the best choice for plants that require acidic substrate, but I like the looks of it, and it has alot of minerals (iron, etc). In fact I've noticed some of the granules are magnetic. I'm not an expert, but I don't believe this aspect will become deleted over time. Not for very many years anyway. If you feel you need organic material for a particular plant, you can always jamb some osmocote under the substrate around it.

Some people like the looks of substrates that are black, but I've always liked the brown/multihued effect. It all comes down to personal preferrence I suppose.
Thanks, I have used flourite in small tanks, and it does have a fantastic look. Like you I not that big a fan of black substrata, but I could live with it. Of course, that can always be covered with a thin layer of something else.
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