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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello TPTers!

Sadly I recently lost my Red Devil Cichlid, so I will be converting his 180 gallon aquarium into my dream planted aquarium. This is going to be an over time project because of the amount of funding I believe it will need to fully convert it. In an effort to save some cash I have been looking into dirt substrate tanks, and possibly capping that with a few bags of Eco-complete. So any advice would be welcome on what would be the best product I could use but is also cost effective. I would prefer to not spend more than $200 if possible on substrate. I want to save as much as I can for my LED lights.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Miracle Gro Organic Potting Soil is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to go.

If you're willing to put a little more time and effort into making a substrate that should provide a balanced and steady supply of nutrients for many, many years- look into making Mineralized Topsoil (lots of how to threads here).
 

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Going dirt in a big tank is very economical. You should be able to do it for under $100 which is a lot less than it would take if you did all made-for-purpose planting medium like eco complete, flourite or the ADA stuff.

Miracle grow organic choice is by far the most suggested product to use due to its availability across the states. You can find local products that are just as good (or better) than MGOCPM. Some even come with additional ingredients that MGOCPM doesn't have which will enhance your plant growth.

In my 80 I used a combination of local organic potting mix and kitty litter which should do just what the ecocomplete will do. Eco complete will provide some nutrients that help plant growth, but for less money out of pocket, you could add those elements yourself in dry form. That way you know what you're getting and how much. The kitty litter will help soak up nutrients and slowly release them back to the dirt so the roots are fed more evenly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hell, if you go with MGOCPM and Safe-T-sorb, I would think your substrate would cost less then $50.00
Is there black safe-t-sorb? I was only going with the Eco-complete because I wanted it to be black, my 75 gallon and 10 gallon have a more natural substrate and I am looking for a change. $50 sounds like an awesome deal! I've been doing some reading on the MGOPM and seems like it will be a nice product.

Once everything is up and running this will be a high tech setup, with EI dosing and co2 injection.
 

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Black Diamond blasting media 20/40 grit at Tractor supply.
+one for miracle grow and cat litter (unscented) mix under the black diamond.
No fish planned that like to dig I hope.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I would suggest the ada amazonia...its pretty awesome for plants
Hmm, that would really expensive for the size of this tank lol! Probably around $1,000 just for substrate.

I really like the MGOPM idea capped with blasting sand, I think this is the route I am going to go with it. I have a bunch of play sand too that I was going to use in the front and maybe in the valley, might make a dry river bed kind of looking thing out of the white sand.

I am going to practice making some hills soon. After doing some research it seems that panty hose filled with gravel makes the best base for hills. I have also seen people use bits of plastic to help hold the substrate as well.
 

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I tried big river rocks to create hills and it just washed away after time. I think the pantyhose filled with gravel would work better due to its texture and might not let the hill wash away as much. Plastic edging really helps keep things in place too especially in areas like you want to do with a river bed or path.
 

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Hmm, that would really expensive for the size of this tank lol! Probably around $1,000 just for substrate.

I really like the MGOPM idea capped with blasting sand, I think this is the route I am going to go with it. I have a bunch of play sand too that I was going to use in the front and maybe in the valley, might make a dry river bed kind of looking thing out of the white sand.

I am going to practice making some hills soon. After doing some research it seems that panty hose filled with gravel makes the best base for hills. I have also seen people use bits of plastic to help hold the substrate as well.
watch some of james findleys videos from The Green Machine. he's one of my favorite aquascapers. he uses hills a lot and shows how he uses substrate supports to keep the substrate from rolling down.

here's a great example with his scape, "Nature's Chaos", started at 11 minutes and 50 seconds where he starts placing his supports. this scape is a very tall hill right in the middle.

http://youtu.be/wZDexLMZFrU?t=11m50s

EDIT: i don't have any hills in my tank but i used translucent film to divide substrates when i created a 'river' effect.
 

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Are you going to plant the whole thing? I only bring this up because you should think about where the plants are going to be. I ended up putting some driftwood in the center of my 125g and only planting the sides because I have a large brace in the middle of my tank that blocks alot of light there. If I redid my tank, I would just use eco-complete on the sides and sand in the middle.

Another thing to consider is lights. Its hard (expensive) to light a big deep tank. You probably won't be growing any super demanding plants in there. Big plants do great in just eco-complete and its way way easier to deal with than dirt.
 
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