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Hi there

I'm looking for substrate recommendations based on people's experiences..I'm setting up a 25 gallon low tech tank, heavily planted (likely plants include giant hygro, wisteria, anubias, java fern, etc), and I'm hoping to possibly soften my water (which sits at about 7.6 in my current 5 gallon betta tank). I really want a school of tetras (glowlight or black neon) and hear they do better with a lower Ph/softer water. By the way, my understanding of Ph and hard/soft water may not be the clearest (my API kit only provides a ph test so that's what I've used) so also feel free to enlighten me on that point...:)

In my current tank I have black ecocomplete (and a bunch left over that I want to incorporate into the new tank). But I find it a bit hard to plant in and would like to mix it with something more soil-like, and then possibly cap it off with black sand (in case I also get some corydoras). So I guess my main question is how does that plan sound, and which soil would you recommend? Regular plant soil, aka dirted tank? Aqua soil? All the options can be a bit overwhelming :)

Thanks in advance for your experiences/advice!

HD
 

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Your pH is fine for tetras. Don't mess with it. I use black diamond blasting sand and really like it. You can add plant tabs to it if you want but have found its not necessary if you follow low tech EI.

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I just did a 15 with a little less than an inch of miracle grow potting mix topped with Caribsea Tahitian moon black sand. Once it cycles I plan to add a few otos, a couple albino corys and a betta. The miracle grow is great beneath whatever you put on top. The plants really do well in it. Not difficult to plant in and the debris ain't so bad. Mind you, I'm not anal so a tad here and there don't bother me much. My pH seems to stick around 7.6 in all of my dirted tanks. I ordered some almond leaves for the 15 and haven't added drift yet. Even with drift though the pH stays up there in the dirted. I figure so long as it's stable the fish are fine. I'm not replicating the natural environment. They can adapt.
 

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I used a mix of gravel and a calcined clay like SafeTSorb for 15 years and just moved to ADA Amazonia. The ADA is much easier to plant in but your plants are tough and easy to plant, I wouldn't use Amazonia unless you are putting a carpet down. I cannot plant a thing unless I use tweezers/forceps. If you don't have such tools then get something, anything. Eyebrow tweezers or chopsticks are better than fingers. STS is easy to plant in IF you have enough depth, 3-4" and it is a pain in less. One just pulls the plants deeper and they do fine. Corydoras are just fine in gravel, sand would be because they looks so cute sifting through it. Mine adore groundcovers and will nap in and on top of them.
 
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