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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I appologize to you old timers on the forum, you've probably seen this question a thousand times. But, I have kept freshwater fish tanks for about 10 years and, even though I've been in awe of them, never attempted live plants. That is hopfully about to change. From what I've read, I think I would like to go with a layered substrate. I like the idea of PFS as a top (cap) layer. What I am unsure of is the bottom (most important) layer. Eco-complete, ADA substrates, etc......., the list goes on and on. Any advice would be much appriciated.
By the way, I have a 75g bow front tank. Its 24" deep. Currently I have stock (came with the tank) lights but am planning on getting a T5 fixture and bulbs (48" L). For now I would like to get low to medium light plants, rooted, floating, and mosses. Nothing to crazy or hard.
Thanks
Bill
 

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If you are starting out in this hobby, and money isn't an issue (lol) I think you can't go wrong with Flourite (which comes in red/regular/black). Eco-Complete works too.

Keep in mind when layering substrates that whenever you pull out plants, you will have lower layer particles end up on top, and your pristine PFS will not be as pristine after a while of scaping.
 

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This doesnt answer your question, but I would spend the cash on lights first. As long as you fertilize, substrate is typically not critical.

I would not mix ADA substrates with anything non-ADA. Plus aquasoil would not fair well as a bottom layer under anything other than maybe sand, as it is easily crushed, and it looks nothing like normal gravel. I'd use aquasoil alone or with power sand if that's the path you choose.

Ecocomplete or flourite are good choices if you choose to mix. I've seen eco or flourite topped with inert gravel. Since those sort of look like normal gravel, it'd work. However, realize that as you rescape, it's going to all get mixed together eventually. An alternative is to put a thin dusting of laterite underneath your normal gravel, which will supply minerals to your plants. Its very dusty though if you do stir it up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If the wife did'nt see the account, money would'nt be an issue :icon_smil, but she does, so it is.
What I would like is a sand-like, natural color (or lighter) substrate. I just figured layering something healthy for the plants under a sand-like top layer would be the best of both worlds. But, if someone could recommend a single substrate that looks like that and is good for plant growth, I'm all ears.
I am also planning to get a T5 HO fixture and bulbs, once the wife is distracted :hihi: (in the next month).
 

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There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to substrates...

Cost
Looks (that's personal)
Ease of planting
Longevity
Nutrient exchange capability

That makes it hard to suggest one solution, without knowing more details. For example, will that be a low-tech tank without water column dosing? Will you have plants that prefer a nutritious mix around their roots? For example, mosses and ferns couldn't care less what you use for substrate. If you dose nutrients into the water column, many stem plants don't care much either.

In the case of PFS, it is great in all but the last point - it isn't very good for plants that rely (at least partially) on their roots to get nutrients.

I'd recommend to look through our Substrate forum (and perhaps the Low Tech forum as well) to read some discussions on the topic and get a bit more educated in the process.
 

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Gravity is going to make sure that, over time, the smallest granules in your substrate will end up at the bottom of the tank, and the larger granules on top of those. Therefore you will not be able to use sand as a capping layer, unless you are capping another layer of sand.

Based on what you said above, your best bet is to use a single layer of something, like aquasoil, or tahitian moonsand or something. Otherwise, you could just throw down a light dusting of peat or laterite, then use pool sand as your substrate.

I am a big fan of eco-complete, but I've also been using straight-up 3m color quartz with reasonable success.
 

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For the color/grain size you're talking about you might looke into turface, it's an athletic field supplement they put inder the topsoil. I have it in my 92G and it works well. Kind of a tan-ish natural look. Only downside is it's pretty light so sometimes getting plants without a lot of root structure to stay down can be challenging...
 

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I wouldn't get a T5HO fixture without getting a pressurized CO2 setup as well... unless you already have that?

With just T5(NO) you may be OK without CO2.

Schultz Aquatic Soil is another option, it's commonly used to pot pond plants so you might find some on clearance since pond season is almost over...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
No, I dont have a CO2 system. I thought about starting a DIY system. So, T5 HO would REQUIRE CO2, but T5 normal output would not. Do I have that right?
The more I think about it, I'm probably just going to go with a single substrate. I just have to find the color that I want. Some of the Eco-Complete's say they are "ciclid" substrates. Does that mean they are brakish in some way? They seem to have all of the other trace elements that the planted substrates have.
 

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If you save the money a multiple bulb T5HO light would cost, and buy a simple 2 bulb T8 fixture, from Catalina, for example, you would then have the money to get the single layer substrate of your choice. Then you could do a non-CO2 tank, using low light plants, perhaps Seachem Flourish Excel to give the plants more carbon, and have a very nice tank with the plants you described. If you decide later to get a pressurized CO2 system that would just speed up the plant growth a lot, but not require different lighting.

EDIT: I almost forgot mineralized topsoil. You can put a layer of that under pool filter sand, and the sand will remain on top, because mineralized topsoil has much smaller particles than the sand. That is by far the cheapest way to go, but you do have to do the work of mineralizing the topsoil, and that takes some room outdoors, without a constant rain threat - getting a bit late in the year for doing that back there.
 
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