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My first planted tank used the pea gravel substrate the tank originally had, though it had a decent buildup of mulm from years of fish inhabitation. Cryptocoryne wendtii did decently well, but jungle Vallisneria by and far dominated the tank (though my hard water may have been a factor in this). As for stems, Rotala rotundifolia did pretty well.
 

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In general the larger or coarser plants will do fine in large/coarse substrate. The finer plants, the ones often used as ground cover, do not do so well.

You could use a finer, plant oriented substrate, perhaps an inch or so deep, and cap it with gravel. That way you have the look of gravel, but the benefits of a soil sort of substrate. Better fertilizer holding capacity.

In a gravel only substrate be very cautious about substrate tablets. The water movement through the gravel can dissolve the tablets pretty fast. Use fewer than the package suggests (perhaps half as many) and monitor the tank, testing especially for nitrogen (usually nitrate, but also ammonia).

Water column dosing works just fine in a gravel tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
My first planted tank used the pea gravel substrate the tank originally had, though it had a decent buildup of mulm from years of fish inhabitation. Cryptocoryne wendtii did decently well, but jungle Vallisneria by and far dominated the tank (though my hard water may have been a factor in this). As for stems, Rotala rotundifolia did pretty well.
All I read said that Crypts need a rich substrate. Must have been the build up of mulm. Very interesting! People whom have hard water though seem to have no problems with plants.

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You could use a finer, plant oriented substrate, perhaps an inch or so deep, and cap it with gravel. That way you have the look of gravel, but the benefits of a soil sort of substrate.

In a gravel only substrate be very cautious about substrate tablets. The water movement through the gravel can dissolve the tablets pretty fast.
This is going to be my breeding tank for threadfin rainbows, thus I don't plan to put a lot of plants in it.

I had thought of adding root tabs. Seems safer to not now.
 

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All I read said that Crypts need a rich substrate. Must have been the build up of mulm. Very interesting! People whom have hard water though seem to have no problems with plants.
I know of other local keepers who've had success with other crypt species like C. balansae in similar setups, while I didn't. However their tanks had been set up for substantially longer than mine (decades).

Hard water is good for some plants and not so good for others. Vallisneria can directly utilize carbonates from water as a carbon source (in addition to CO2). Certain crypt species, like C. balansae and usteriana, also seem to enjoy hard water, though I'm not sure as to the exact reasons for this. Meanwhile, many other plants like Tonina, Eriocaulon, and Ludwigia inclinata actually prefer soft water and will be weakened by hard water.
 
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