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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I am doing my initial research on a new tank setup and I'm looking for advice on substrate. I intend to purchase a 36G Bowfront tank kit (there's a pretty good deal on it at my LFS) as it fits my space well and I've wanted a larger tank for some time. I currently have a very basic 10G tank with gravel and fake stuff. It currently has a single occupant, a clown pleco.

I may or may not put in some live plants at the start (leaning towards a couple low-light, low-tech plants to start...java fern etc) but from my reading (and common sense) substrate will be the hardest thing to correct if I don't pick wisely up-front. I know the lighting will probably be bad at first, and probably the filtration too, but those pieces are easier to upgrade as I go. I also don't intend to move too much from the old tank into the new, except for maybe a single cave ornament the pleco likes to hide in.

My reading is pointing me to using Flourite as a substrate. Would this be a smart choice for basic plants (or if they don't work, none for a time then more later)? Or would a basic gravel be alright? If I don't have any plants in it for a time would it still be ok? Cost isn't a huge issue, I'm more concerned with making the correct choice. I also found a local place that sells Flourite Dark for a somewhat reasonable price.

I appreciate any advice, thank you!
 

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I think the best substrate to grow stuff is ada aquasoil. it may break down a bit after a year or two but it makes growing stuff easy. Flourite,eco complete are okay and you can add root tabs.

second choice i would use is bottom layer of worm castings, peat moss, and top layer of flourite.

you are right I think substrate is very important. some will depend on what you want to grow. java fern etc should be easy in most substrates but using aquasoil allows you to expand your choices more.
good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks very much for your reply and advice. I'll have a look around to see if I can find it locally.

Seeing as it does break down over time, how difficult is it to replenish when it does? I'm not too concerned about labour, but also being a novice I wonder if I'd be biting off a bit more than I could chew. Also I would think over that year or two time frame I'd be investing in lighting/filters etc so if I had to do substrate as well it seems like it'd be a bit much, and I could start with something like a flourite and upgrade to an aquasoil as I get more experience and confidence. Does that make sense?
 

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I know a few people on here who have sand only as a sub and no tabs and beautiful tanks/w only water column ferts. They never need to change their sub.
Any type of soil used under the sub will eventually run out of nutrients and need
to either be replaced or supplimented/w tabs.
No doubt getting ferts from both water and roots will speed things up for growth.
It's a choice that can be debated forever with no real great advantages to either side that doesn't also have a minus to go/w it.
I also have a link to a site which list plants by prefered sub type.
First I find it strange that dirt in NOT on there.
But mostly it tells me that no matter what kind I choose, some plants won't get along that well with it and I might be better off not trying to grow that kind in there.
Long story short...no perfect sub exist.
Each have plusses and minusses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the insight. From the sounds of it, and going back to my original question, is that there's no real obvious downside to going with something like Flourite Dark but there are varying degrees of better that may exist for planting specifically. Layering is something I've read about but I don't think I'm savvy enough yet to pull it off - I'd prefer something simpler, and something that would be alright if I gave up on planting as well (which I may do until I can put in better lighting for example). I think for me using a product to fertilize and grow plants would be easier to pull off than using something that may not get used initially like a layering strategy.

Also looking around for Aquasoil it seems that it'd be significantly more expensive than the Flourite Dark source I've found...so that's more funds available to replace those other parts sooner rather than later.

If my logic is off though I'm certainly willing to hear opposing ideas.

Thanks again for all the input.
 

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Carpe Diem
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+1 ^^
Raymond S gave the right, sensible advise, imho.

Just go with it - I bet you will have more tanks to experiment with in the near future :)

v3
 

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Make sure you rinse Flourite REALLY well before putting it in your tank.

My personal method is blasting a garden hose into a half-filled bucket outside in the yard until the water runs off clear.
 

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Eco Complete is the easiest IMO. I have that in my larger tanks. I really love Flourite Black Sand too. Not the prettiest substrate, but once it hardens after the initial mud, it is very easy to plant in and my plants seem to love it.

Tons of people on here use Black Diamond Blasting Sand in their tanks. I haven't tried it yet, but it is $8.99 for a 50 lb bag if you can find it at a local supply store. I just ran out of Flourite Black sand, so I may try to track down some Black Diamond.

I would stay away from ADA soil. The pros love the stuff, but it takes a long, long time to cycle a tank because it leaches ammonia for close to two months. I don't know about "better", but there are definitely many easier options out there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Eco Complete is the easiest IMO. I have that in my larger tanks. I really love Flourite Black Sand too. Not the prettiest substrate, but once it hardens after the initial mud, it is very easy to plant in and my plants seem to love it.

Tons of people on here use Black Diamond Blasting Sand in their tanks. I haven't tried it yet, but it is $8.99 for a 50 lb bag if you can find it at a local supply store. I just ran out of Flourite Black sand, so I may try to track down some Black Diamond.

I would stay away from ADA soil. The pros love the stuff, but it takes a long, long time to cycle a tank because it leaches ammonia for close to two months. I don't know about "better", but there are definitely many easier options out there.
Thanks for the reply and advice, especially regarding the ADA...I don't really want to have to cycle for that long.

I've seen tons of threads here mention Eco Complete, but I can't seem to find it in my area for even close to as cheap as the Flourite which is mostly why I'm leaning that way. Also, Flourite Dark seems to look more like a gravel than the sand which kind of appeals to me, but I've only seen pictures. I'm eager to physically look at each type when I head to the store hopefully tomorrow.
 

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I've had pretty good luck setting up tanks without excessive (or sometimes any) rinsing.

I'll get the substrate(moist, but not sopping wet) in place, and do my planting/arranging, periodically spraying it with a spray bottle full of treated water.

When I'm ready to fill, I'll heavily spray the substrate, using a good portion of the bottle, if not the entire thing.

Then I slowly pour the water onto a sponge or something similar. I've done a couple tanks this way, and get crystal-clear results. I'm not certain, but I think the heavy spraying/misting helps wash the fines down into the lower levels of the substrate.

It's certainly a lot easier then washing stuff in a bucket. :)

There are also some youtube vids where people stick a bunch of substrate in a water bottle, fill it with treated water, invert it in the tank and let the substrate tumble out (this works great for adding additional substrate to an established tank), and then right the bottle and remove it - all the dust/clouded water remains in the bottle.
 

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Thanks for the reply and advice, especially regarding the ADA...I don't really want to have to cycle for that long.

I've seen tons of threads here mention Eco Complete, but I can't seem to find it in my area for even close to as cheap as the Flourite which is mostly why I'm leaning that way. Also, Flourite Dark seems to look more like a gravel than the sand which kind of appeals to me, but I've only seen pictures. I'm eager to physically look at each type when I head to the store hopefully tomorrow.
I rarely see EC in the local stores. Sometimes Petsmart has something called "CaribSea Flora Max", which looks to me like EC minus the liquid that contains the bacteria and stuff. I just order my EC off of Amazon. FBS too, actually.
 

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I have running mostly dirt tanks, i started a tank with kitty litter substrate a couple of months ago. I am starting to like this kitty litter substrate just more and more. It grows plants well, and it dont make a mess when replanting or redoing of aquascape.

Jnad
 

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I've used Eco Complete, Floramax and Flourite. I think I like Floramax the best, the black version is Eco Complete without the bacteria and costs a lot less. The Original version is very similar to original Flourite, looks like flower pot rubble, but has a light flake in it that looks better than Flourite IMO.

I quit using Eco Complete for Floramax when 3 bags of it arrived via UPS frozen solid revealing how much of it is water, then as it melted all the dead special bacteria gave off a huge sulfur smell which took forever to rinse out. Can't be too special if I got it frozen! :)

Flourite is really dusty, I've been filling a big wire colander with it and rinsing under a strong stream in a laundry tub, then pouring RO with some Prime through as a final rinse. It can be cleaned very well that way, the same thing is done with Floramax but it goes faster. Doesn't seem to cause the abrasion and even more dust that rinsing in a bucket does.

They all work well, I have 4 Floramax Tanks, One Flourite tank and 11 tanks with both mixed and some of the old gravel substrate still remaining. I think Flormax grows plants better just because it has a lot of small particles and it's rough so it holds stem plants better; but Flourite holds rooted plants better, the granules interlock more and are heavier. Tank appearance drove some of the choices, black fish kind of disappear over a black substrate.

Some of these were recently started, some have been running for a year or two. The new ones weren't really cycled, they were started with canisters with mature media and a small amount of substrate from mature tanks evenly mixed in. About a cup or two for a 40B. After a day or so to let the cloud dissipate, lots of plants were put in and a few days later a few fish. Toxins were never detected and subjectively Floramax tanks started plants better, though the initial algae flush was about the same as for Flourite. Daily moderate pwc's were done for a week or so, then spaced out. AquaFertz root tabs are used in all tanks. I still haven't come close to mastering liquids, seems one drop brings algae.

Next one to be renovated will be MTS. I doubt I'll ever use plain gravel again, maintenance in a substrate tank that has stabilized is very low. :icon_smil
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for such helpful advice, this has turned into a great thread imo.

I landed on Flourite Black and agree with the dust issue. I rinsed 3 bags and have it in the tank now without any clouding issues, but man did it take some work. I used the bucket/hose method which worked fairly well in 1/2 bag amounts. I'm sure there will be more tanks in my future and I will certainly see if I can find some Floramax, though my LFS doesn't seem to carry it they have many other CaribSea products so I figure they'd be able to order it.

I've had my tank running empty for a full day now and will be starting my cycle today - it begins! :D
 

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That should work out well, the substrate grows bugs and matures quickly. Try the spaghetti strainer method next time, it works really well, just don't tell anyone! :icon_eek:

Actually the fine particles washed away are desirable, they provide even more surface area to ab(d)sorb nutrients, grow bacteria and give better root contact, just make a huge mess, not a problem if time isn't an issue. The fines will reappear over time from substrate movement and some breakdown, though. Good luck! :smile:
 
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