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I have been growing plants like various swords, c. wendtii, java fern, hygrophila polysperma, and jungle val using inert gravel with root tabs and a good dosage of fertilizer. I am setting up a new 75 gallon, and wondering if I should consider putting a base layer of nutrient rich substrate? Reading George Farmers book, he is very adamant on nutrient rich substrate. I don't plan to inject CO2 for the time being. Considering it will be a "low tech" tank, will I regret not putting in a plant substrate down the line? Is it something that can be done reasonably down the line once the tank is established? Thanks for any advice.
 

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i personally haven't used anything other than inert gravel or sand. If you start using a nutrient rich substrate, you'll have to start using less fertilizer. And i have no idea how to calculate that. Also, in my research into nutrient rich substrate, i learned that it'll only last you about a year. After that, it just turns to mud and you'll have to redo the scape.
 

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If you're using nutrient rich substrates, be on the look out that your light is good, and that the nutrients will slowly leech into the water column. If the light isn't good, you'll experience massive algae outbreaks, but of course this depends on how heavily planted you are (but even then an imbalance causes algae).
 

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I have taken to putting down a layer of aquasoil and capping it with sand. I find my growth to be better and more consistent this way. You can go with inert gravel alone, I have in the past. But I find that since I dose ferts only once a week, the aquasoil in the tank seems to buffer the nutrient release over time and I get better results. Using only a thin layer (1/2 inch or less) prevents too much nutrient release. It also dramatically cuts down on substrate costs.

Just my 2 cents.
 
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