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Homemade substrate system

1825 Views 12 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  alkatraz
I'm thinking of putting together my own substrate since the only system that seems 'complete' is the ADA one but I dont have piles of money that I need to burn so thats off the table.

I was thinking in order from the bottom:

Sprinking of Flourish Fertilizer tabs or some other powder fertilizer
3-6 cm vermicast (worm meal)
1-2 cm natural red clay
3-6 cm garden soil
6-12 cm Fluval stratum

This isn't exact as there would be some significant sloping. And I also need some kind of porous material in the mix to help with water flow and transport. I was thinking maybe some crushed lava rock mixed into everything.

Let me know what you all think.

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I know the store-bought substrates are a waste, but I do really like the aesthetic of them...

What is calcined clay sand?

Has anyone ever heard of osmocote or used it perhaps?
I think the best substrates are the simplest ones. So, I would use mineralized topsoil, about 1/2 inch thick, with a 2 inch cap of pool filter sand or Black Diamond blasting grit. You will have to dose some nutrients to the water, so you might as well dose a complete menu of them and rely primarily on that for feeding the plants. The MTS will help by also feeding the plants through the roots.
Look up Mineralized top soil. A lot of people around here do that or something similar. I'd mix everything together in a thick mud first (sans stratum) and then cap with silica sand which is much cheaper than stratum and probably much more effective at keeping the soil locked down there.

Because I'm lazy, I did an abbreviated form of MTS in a 10g, very similar to what you're doing. Clay rich topsoil, some peat moss, osmocote, caco3, ground iron tablets meant for terrestrial plants, 1 tbs of each of KNO3 KH2PO4 and MGSO4 mixed into a thick mud 1" thick and sprinkled with crushed cinder lava for cheap biological filtration. I capped that with 2 inches of silica sand. It's been holding up quite well for about 2 months now.
You may be overthinking this. Baked clay and crushed volcanic rock both have high CEC ratings (check for a technical explanation). Flourite and EcoComplete are examples of this. Turface is basically Flourite for a fraction of the cost, and is sold at agricultural centers, including John Deere. Check for the MSDS and distributors.

Just dose some water column ferts, and plant some capsules with Osmocote Plus in the substrate every few months.

I have a couple tanks that I used potting soil capped with Flourite in, and I won't ever do it again. Way too messy. To be clear, I like Flourite, both sand and regular. But no dirt will ever go in one of my tanks again.
You may be overthinking this.
Almost definitely. Watch enough videos of the professionals and you start thinking that you'll need layers upon layers of goodies as well haha.

Osmocote plus has to be encapsulated right? Why cant we just use this nifty stuff?\
Neither Osmo or Osmo Plus has to be encapsulated. But a $5 bag of gelcaps through Amazon significantly reduces the amount of time you'll spend inserting them into the substrate. That's the reason for capsules. I've also seen people use "Osmocicles" instead of capsules, using tiny ice cube trays. I've tried this, but I found that unless I was *really* quick to get them into the substrate, they tended to melt on me, sending Osmo nuggets throughout the aquarium. But you may be less clutzy than me.

The reason for Osmo Plus, rather than regular Osmo, is the "Plus" includes a bunch of the micronutrients, on top of the basic NPK that regular Osmo has.
Ah I see, thanks then. So the gelatin caps filled with the granules? And then insert those into the substrate...
I agree with Kevmo, your over thinking this. ADA's a business and their job is selling you nice little bags & jars of additives. ALL science to back up the value in their use. Do keep in mind we keep aquatic weeds that have grown in 3rd world drainage ditches fertilized with WBP (Water Buffalo Poo) from before human history with the help of human micro management.

The reason to add root ferts is to make up for not having dirt in a gravel/sand tank.

Using both is over kill. You're better off picking one method, dirt or chemicals. You can use both if you want however you are not going to see massive improvement. Concentrated chemicals time release or not, are going to give growth spikes.:eek:

There are forum members with simple dirtied tank having success after several years without going to extremes. We're trying to duplicate nature, not creature a science project :icon_mrgr

Of course it will always be your tank for you to run and enjoy as you see fit.
Concentrated chemicals time release or not, are NOT going to give growth spikes.:eek:
u forgot the not :)
Do keep in mind we keep aquatic weeds that have grown in 3rd world drainage ditches fertilized with WBP (Water Buffalo Poo) from before human history
LOL! :proud: Kinda puts things in perspective
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