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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well turns out I should have read more before setting up my planted tank, but hey you live and learn, :smile:. So it's all gravel substrate, Aquaclear HOB, 1 maxijet powerhead, and 2x24w t5 HO, 29gal tank.
Just added today some anacharis, sagittaria, pennywort, crypts so now i'm worried what the next step is on keeping them growing. Do I need to dose fertilizers now w/o CO2, or not needed if going the low tech route? I'm not sure what route I want to take, but i'm pretty sure I do NOT want to do pressurized CO2, although I can see myself doing DIY down the road.
1. Is my light about right to do a low tech 'NPT' type tank?
2. Since I have only gravel, is there any way to add soil without tearing down the tank? or any other methods here?
3. Would liquid ferts alone be enough to grow plants in gravel substrate?
4. What about CO2 and ferts and still just gravel for growing plants?

a little confused, sorry so many questions.... :icon_sad:
 

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a fertile substrate is one of the most essential, important parts of having a planted tank. It would be very well worth your time to buy some eco-complete or ADA Aquasoil and then re-set up your tank completely. I have tried many times to grow plants in an inert substrate like you have, and it never works. I would HIGHLY recommend getting a fertile substrate, because there is definitely no way to add soil underneath your substrate without tearing down the whole tank.

also, you may want to look into mineralized topsoil for underneath your gravel. you COULD use soil underneath instead of getting nutrient-rich substrates, many people do. I just think its a LOT easier to use a fertile substrate instead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
guess I'll have to bite the bullet. thanks for the tip, it's what I figured. anotehr question, doesn't the substrate ever run out of nutrients, I've done gardening and that is certainly the case on land.
 

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Of course it does (well, assuming your substrate had nutrients in it in the first place, because most of them do not). That's why you need to fertilize your planted tanks. You can use liquid fertilizers, or you can stick root tabs down in the substrate, or you could theoretically rely on nothing but fish poop (or snail poop, or shrimp poop, or) if other conditions are compatible.

And yes, I highly recommend that you tear the tank down and start all over again. It will definitely make this a more satisfying hobby for you in the long run. At least you had this revelation in the very beginning before you got too far in that setup!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
yeah it sucks to tear it down, but compared to tearing down a reef tank, which I've done, much more doable, lol. So if I can just fertilize in the water itself, what does the difference in substrate type matter? My guess would be that I need a porous substrate that can absorb the fertilizers, rather than gravel which is inert? If not, what am I missing? Any suggestions on cost efficient substrates for a 29gal? Should I still put gravel over the layer of better substrate? Thanks again Church and demosthenes, very helpful!
 

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Of course it does (well, assuming your substrate had nutrients in it in the first place, because most of them do not). That's why you need to fertilize your planted tanks. You can use liquid fertilizers, or you can stick root tabs down in the substrate, or you could theoretically rely on nothing but fish poop (or snail poop, or shrimp poop, or) if other conditions are compatible.
I am curious as i also have a inert substrate similar to that in the picture of the OP, you both mentioned that it will be beneficial to start over with the fertile substrate which is more costly. but then you mention most substrate's do not have any nutrients in the first place??.... are these expensive substrates a gimmick??..haha... if it does not have any nutrients couldn't we just get away with the liquid fertilizer in our case's. Just curious, because i have considered changing my substrate to the "plant" specific ones.. myself but for a 55 gal it would cost quite a bit
 

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^ Those are good questions, guys. :)

The answer is 2-fold (that I know of, but there are probably other reasons that I don't know of as well). First, because the granule size of regular gravel is too large, and you will soon find out that it is troublesome keeping plants from floating to the surface. And second, because the more expensive substrates that are designed for planted tanks have the ability to actually store nutrients and release them to the water column, which somehow affects the overall health of the tank.

I don't know the exact science of it all, but the name of this property is CEC (cation exchange capacity). Maybe someone else can chime in, or maybe you could google planted tank substrate CEC and see what comes up.

And for the record, apparently many people have successfully grown plants in regular gravel, so it can be done. But IMO, if you want to do it right, and in a way that facilitates the success of your tanks, you should do it the tried and true way, rather than reinventing the wheel.

There are inexpensive options for good substrates, too. Mineralized soil comes to mind. Many people successfully use pool filter sand, which is as cheap as it gets.
 

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I haven't tried it but I have heard of freezing wet MTS or regular soil in ice cube trays, then shoving the frozen cubes down into the sand next to individual plants.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Church, I think you're right, I've looked around a little and found the paragraph "The Captation Exchange Capacity (CEC) is also an important thing to consider when choosing your substrate. CEC is the ability to adsorb positively charged nutrient ions (so high CEC is good). This means the substrate will hold nutrients and make them available for the plant roots. It doesn’t indicate the amount of nutrients the substrate contains." http://www.aquariumslife.com/aquasc...bstrate/substrate-materials-planted-aquarium/

I think that is the key difference as far as my limited knowledge/research can take me as far as gravel vs. "premium" substrates. I think I will be getting eco complete when another paycheck happens because I would rather make it easier on myself in the long run, though I'm planning to put a layer of this gravel in pic on top of the EC. I think the real value in premium substrates is that they are inert(not changing pH), have good ability to absorb nutrients and release into roots, and last long. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any difference I think. I think with gravel I could use fertilizer tabs and liquid ferts but it would be more maintenance intense rather than just draining tank and swapping out substrate. Does all this sound right, or is this a newbie inventing stuff? Thanks again Church
 

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I think it depends on what all plants you want to grow. You have a lot of light, so you can grow some of the higher light plants but will need a carbon source. If you want low light plants and not as much work, I have gotten by with the regular gravel and seachum root tabs. I haven't done much with my tank since I rescaped it in May except top it off with water. Mostly because I haven't been able too. There are lots of different options depending on where you are wanting to go with the tank and how much time you want to devote to it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
laura and tim, thanks for the feedback. I actually started doing DIY Co2 7 days ago and it seems to help quite a bit. I'm diffusing it through a powerhead ghetto style, lol. I will move to pressurized eventually though.
So with DIY CO2 should I dose flourish or what other supplement? I have about a medium fish load and feed liberally.
 

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It's easy to add soil to an established tank.

2. Since I have only gravel, is there any way to add soil without tearing down the tank? or any other methods here?
Easy. Mix a little water into the soil to make stiff mud. Freeze the mud. Insert one or more at a time under the gravel. Not so much that you cool the tank.

3. Would liquid ferts alone be enough to grow plants in gravel substrate?

Yes.

4. What about CO2 and ferts and still just gravel for growing plants?

Fine. Lots of people do it that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
wow, awesome idea, I'm going to try that. would doing that method with eco complete work, or only actual organic soil? Thanks for the advice, yea once I added co2, getting good growth and root penetration, about to start flourish tomorrow. love the freezing idea though
 

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Any soil you can make into mud will freeze.
I do, by the way, agree with earlier posts that suggested stripping the tank and starting from scratch, but 'injecting' soil will work reasonably well and I'm a reasonable sort of person.
 
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