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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I'm in the process of planning out a new AIO 30g cube and was hoping to get some guidance on substrate options. This will be a moderately planted and stocked no CO2/high light tank. I plan on doing a dry start for foreground plants and moss. For plants, they're all TBD, esp the foreground plants. For the mid and back ground, I'll likely go with some ludwigia, bacopa, bolbitis, crypts, hopefully a Red Tiger Lotus or two, and some epiphytes, likely buces and anubias. I'm guessing that substrate and hardscape will take up ~5-6gal worth of space. I plan on regular dosing and do have a pretty strong light but don't have PAR data on it, I'm still trying to find it. I'm guessing based on my other lights that I've got at least 40 around the bottom, possibly even as high as 50.

The first questions is regarding Controsoil size. Purely for aesthetic reasons, I'd like to use the smallest size in the front of the tank for foreground/ground cover plants. I've read on here that the normal size works for smaller plants but I was wondering if there is a downside to using the smallest size. Any thoughts or experience would be appreciated.

The next question is regarding fertilizer in the substrate. I plan on sloping the tank from ~5-6" in the back to ~2" in the front. I was going to use enough inert gravel in the back that would leave enough room for topping with 2" of Controsoil. Should I put fertilizer in the gravel as well as to Contro?

Any advice on the questions above or any things else related would be appreciated.

TIA
 

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Based on my experience although the finer Controsoil does help plants with smaller roots like HC Cuba, Eleocharis Parvulus, etc I haven't seen any adverse effects on larger plants. All my plants seem to grow fine regardless of grain size. The only downside really is you'll end up using more substrate due to smaller grain size, so I wouldn't recommend trying to fill your tank with the fine or extra fine (sounds like you were planning on just the foreground anyways). I personally have a base layer of ADA power sand or small lava rock > Normal Controsoil > then topcoat of either fine or extra fine in areas that I plan for carpeting plants.

As for as your second question I assume you referring to additives like Seachem Flourish Tab or other root tabs to which I would use, but not necessary based on your plant list. Ludwigia and bacopa are pretty fast growers so the extra fertilizer would be beneficial, but I've had them grow fine without. The rest of your plants minus the Red tiger lotus are epiphytes so no huge plus there. Keep in mind root tabs can be used later so you can plant without and see how your plants do. Depending on growth rate, color, etc you may choose to skip out on the extra ferts. With some plants like Vallesneria or certain crypts I always use some sort of substrate additive because I've had more success with them than without, but YMMV.

Hope my experience helps a little. Good luck with the new tank!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Based on my experience although the finer Controsoil does help plants with smaller roots like HC Cuba, Eleocharis Parvulus, etc I haven't seen any adverse effects on larger plants. All my plants seem to grow fine regardless of grain size. The only downside really is you'll end up using more substrate due to smaller grain size, so I wouldn't recommend trying to fill your tank with the fine or extra fine (sounds like you were planning on just the foreground anyways). I personally have a base layer of ADA power sand or small lava rock > Normal Controsoil > then topcoat of either fine or extra fine in areas that I plan for carpeting plants.

As for as your second question I assume you referring to additives like Seachem Flourish Tab or other root tabs to which I would use, but not necessary based on your plant list. Ludwigia and bacopa are pretty fast growers so the extra fertilizer would be beneficial, but I've had them grow fine without. The rest of your plants minus the Red tiger lotus are epiphytes so no huge plus there. Keep in mind root tabs can be used later so you can plant without and see how your plants do. Depending on growth rate, color, etc you may choose to skip out on the extra ferts. With some plants like Vallesneria or certain crypts I always use some sort of substrate additive because I've had more success with them than without, but YMMV.

Hope my experience helps a little. Good luck with the new tank!
Thanks for the response. When you mention the layered approach, what's the reason behind the two different sizes to Contro? I've seen that approach a time or two but I've never known the reason behind it. And, yes, Seachem tabs are what I was talking about. I use them now on a different low-tech tank that has plants with similar demands and what this tank will likely get. I add a few cut up roots tabs (not a lot of actual planted plants) and then dose with Seachem fert (the all in one, can't remember the name at the moment) and flourish excel. I generally add about 1/3 of the amounts on the labels and everything grows well. I imagine the new tank will get a similar treatment, but maybe a bit more rigorous based on the final plant selection.

And here's a picture of my first attempt at an arrangement. The general idea is the Contro fine in the front for a ground cover or two and maybe a small feature plant or two, covering part of the gravel with one or two sizes of Contro, the tiger lotus in the back a little left of center, epiphytes and moss (trying the blender method) on the hardscape. The tall piece of petrified is going to get a Peace Lily on the top that might or might not be attached to the little piece of driftwood on the table. The other plants will probably end up in there somewhere as I figure out what I'm trying to do.

Thanks again for the response. I'm still pretty new and all of the options still make my head swim.

1027602
 

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I layer the controsoil only in places when I plan on carpeting plants or smaller crypts. For me the finer grain controsoil had led to dense well rooted carpets, otherwise I usually only use the normal grain size. That being said, I haven't really noticed a difference between the fine and extra fine sizes. For a smaller tank I think even using just the fine/extra fine grain would be okay, but for larger tanks it can get pretty costly trying to get good coverage and depth with the finer grain sizes. This is just my MO based on my experience. I'm sure others will have vastly different methodologies on how they set up their tanks. The beauty of the hobby is that there is no one right answer, its all about experimenting and finding what works best for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Great response, thanks. I appreciate when opinions are presented as opinions. I went with a 6lb bag of extra fine and used about 90% of the bag. Next comes the dry start work. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thanks again
 
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