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Carpe Diem
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Many people like pool sand. Otherwise, anything that you like will work fine for the cories.
 

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If you want easy, go with eco-complete. It's loaded with nutrients and is better than gravel or epoxy. It's easier than making mineralized soil, but it's gonna be expensive for a 120 :) You sound like you may want to really research what type of plants you want to get. Plan your tank setup around what plants will be in there. Corys are hardy little fish that can handle a wide range of conditions.
 

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If you want easy, go with eco-complete. It's loaded with nutrients and is better than gravel or epoxy. It's easier than making mineralized soil, but it's gonna be expensive for a 120 :) You sound like you may want to really research what type of plants you want to get. Plan your tank setup around what plants will be in there. Corys are hardy little fish that can handle a wide range of conditions.
Eco-complete is loaded with close to zero nutrients... It has the ability to absorb nutrients from the water column and retain them for plant roots.

MTS capped with Eco-complete is a good choice if you want a cheap solution to a nutrient rich substrate such as Aquasoil.
 

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I heard it was only lacking in macro nutrients. Could be wrong but it works really well in my tank. I use flourish root tabs also. Not trying to steer anyone in the wrong direction but eco comes pretty highly recommended by most.
 

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Planted Tank Nation
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Eco-complete is loaded with close to zero nutrients... It has the ability to absorb nutrients from the water column and retain them for plant roots.

MTS capped with Eco-complete is a good choice if you want a cheap solution to a nutrient rich substrate such as Aquasoil.
+1 on this

And to OP- water quality problems are the main cause of any kind of barbel erosion on cories, BUT they much prefer sand and would appreciate it very much.

You can do MTS capped with black diamond or PFS if you want to go a cheap, yet very effective route.
 

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Black Diamond over dirt is what I use. My guys travel in a pack, sifting through the sand lookin for tid bits of food. As others have pointed out, good water conditions is no. 1 though.

I also am of the opinion that stress and poor diet will lead to many issues including degredation of barbels. They need to be in groups and be given a good varied diet. They are not to be treated as garbage cleaners.
 

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I used the Black Diamond blasting sand in my 60 gallon planted that I have pics of in my profile. Never again. Too sharp like glass. The VERY VERY heavily planted 150 gallon I just set up has MGOPM, Walmart Kitty liter, Pool filter sand and capped with very small natural tan/white/brown gravel. Love this and my corys are in heaven.
 

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I used the Black Diamond blasting sand in my 60 gallon planted that I have pics of in my profile. Never again. Too sharp like glass. The VERY VERY heavily planted 150 gallon I just set up has MGOPM, Walmart Kitty liter, Pool filter sand and capped with very small natural tan/white/brown gravel. Love this and my corys are in heaven.
Im sorry, may they rest in peace
 
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