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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all

I have already bought some small grain black moler clay from a bonsai supplier and intend to use it in my new setup which is a 220L high tech with FE C02, 4x 39W T5, EI dosing using dry ferts.

As this is a fairly high light, high tech setup, do you think it is important to have a nutrient rich substrate? I had considered just using the water column to provide the ferts and using an inert substrate with route tabs, but have since started reading about the pro's and con's of adding ferts such as potting soil, top soil, osmocote slow release ferts, comercial plant bases such as JBL aquabasis, Tropica plant substrate, Tetra complete etc etc.

I want to avoid using anything that makes too much of a mess when rescaping or moving plants, which made me look towards slow release ferts such as osmocote, but the stuff commonly available here contains ammonia as its source of Nitrogen (see pic). Is there a way to make my moler clay better using EI salts ?



So what to use that will:
A) Provide route nutrients
B) that wont be messy when rescaping/maintaining,
C) that wont cause me headaches later because I "risked it"
D) that wont break the bank....

Or should I just use an inert substrate and rely on EI dosing and rout tabs?

Maybe the whole substrate nutrient thing is overplayed and overrated, as I read somewhere that after the medium term, the nutrients will deplete anyway?

Any advice welcomed and appreciated :wink2:
Paul
 

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There is a difference in materials, and your list sort of mixes them up.

Substrate, soil, top soil, planting mix, sand, gravel....
are like your dinner dishes. They support the plants so they won't fall over. Some of these materials can be active in exchanging fertilizers and holding fertilizers so the plants can get them, the same way your dishes hold food.

Fertilizers are the elements that plants need. Usually they are charged particles (positive and negative ions), and with this charge they can be captured by some substrates, generally the finest ones, like clay based materials.

You can pre-load the substrate with fertilizers when you are setting up the tank.
Laterite is one material that has been used for many years. It is high in iron. Dust a little bit on the floor of the tank, so you can still see the glass.
I have also used some other fertilizers, such as slow release pellets (Osmocote Plus and others). Good to read the label- ammonia is not good!

If you are going to do some preparation to the substrate (such as making mineralized top soil) then you can add some fertilizers to that.

I use a product similar to 'molar clay'. I use Safe-T-Sorb. It is a baked clay sort of material. It has very high cationic exchange capacity. It also removes the carbonates from the water all too well, allowing the pH to drop. In one tank I tried blending coral sand with it. Worked pretty well. In another I dusted some dolomite sand on the bottom of the tank (almost hiding the glass). This also worked pretty well, though the water got a bit harder at first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your reply.

So I have the molar clay product which I believe is of a similar nature to the Safe-T-Sorb product and has high CEC. The link to the product page is here except I have the fine version which is 1-3mm grain size :
Bonsai Soil

What option would you choose in my situation that would satisfy A)B)C)D) above ?

such as slow release pellets (Osmocote Plus and others)
Any idea which others? trying to find an alternative to Osmocote plus which I cant get here in UK

Thanks

Paul
 

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I do not know what products are available in UK. Go to the local garden stores and read some labels.

A) Provide route nutrients
Planted tank specific root tablets such as the Seachem products, and other aquarium specific products may be a bit more expensive, but are probably a good way to go. They will work with any substrates, but in general, the coarser substrate will allow more water movement, so these root tablets will dissolve faster. Perhaps too fast, and you will get more nutrients into the water. Sand or finer materials are better. Read some labels on what is available to you to see what nutrients are included.

B) that wont be messy when rescaping/maintaining,
Coarser materials are easier to rescape because in between scaping you can vacuum away the debris. Finer substrates are harder to keep clean down deep, so when you disturb them the debris will rise up into the water. If you know you will be changing the tank around quite a bit, then you may want a coarser media with no fines so you can keep it cleaner. If replanting is not so often, then a substrate that is finer may be better at holding the nutrients, so the minor mess when you do replant something is more than made up for by the better growth because of better nutrient availability.

C) that wont cause me headaches later because I "risked it"
Well, anything that does not work is a lesson that that type of material does not work with your style of tank keeping.
Each person will find certain materials that will work and others that won't. It is an individual thing.

D) that wont break the bank....
Well, I can run down pricing ranges here in the USA, but I am not sure if that is going to help you in UK.
Look into oil absorbing products. I do not know if Oil Dri, Safe-T-Sorb or similar materials are available to you, but here, they are among the cheapest. They are montmorillonite clays that have been baked. A similar product line is Turface. Here, this is used in certain sports fields to keep it drier. I have no idea if similar materials are used in UK. Kitty litter is the same material, but is usually not baked for so long, so it tends to fall apart in the tank. Some may be firmer than others, but you will have to look into that.
Sand is another relatively cheap material. It has very low CEC, and some sand has a calcium carbonate base, such as limestone sand, or coral sand which would affect the water in the tank. If the sand has been sifted or graded so the particles are all pretty much the same size, then the sand won't pack down.
 
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