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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,
Another quick question. Doing my first planted tank (low tech 10 gallon). I still have yet to pick or buy a substrate. I have been doing a lot of reading on substrates and it has been said that the aqua soil types will lower ph and hardness. My ph out of the tap is at 8.2 and my gh is at 15 and kh of 7. Would the buffering substrates make sense to use in my situation for the plants to thrive? Also, if I do get a buffering substrate, what happens when I do my water changes? I would think it would throw everything out of whack and cause unwanted stress. What are your thoughts? Thanks!
 

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Before you do anything else: Please read through the Substrate section a bit more. All of these basic questions are covered here a thousand times over. Then make posts like this if you don't understand something. The search function is also helpful. This isn't said to be dismissive but to help you get up to speed quicker than we can help by responding. You'll also learn a ton in a short period of time. Another helpful thing you should do is search the forum in general for particular substrates you like to see what happens when others use them. Most of us document this sort of thing in our tank journals to help newcomers better understand them.

Buffering substrates vary by brand and product line. You'd need to research each particular product to determine how it buffers water. Generally, you should only use a buffering substrate if you know it will work in your setup with the critters you want to keep.

Do you need or want a substrate that's nutrient-rich? If so, one could work for you. But the hardness of your water will eventually cause it to stop buffering. So if you're hoping to lower your kH/pH, that ability will dissipate over time.

People who use buffering substrates generally reconstitute their own RO/DI water and most don't use any kH in their water. In this case, they're just matching tank water parameters so there's no swing when you do water changes. When you do water changes with water with a higher kH/pH than existing parameters, you have to do it slowly so as to accommodate any parameter swing if you have sensitive species of critters.
 

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Thank you. Sorry, I'm still new to how these forums work. I will look for the tank journals to read about others experiences.
Pbbbt, don't be sorry! We were ALL new at some point. I make those recommendations to everyone. Even longtime members. In part because they're helpful. In part because they help me learn on a regular basis. Doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't post about these things. It'll just make everything a lot easier for you.

Most importantly, I think reading this kind of stuff makes the hobby more enjoyable and more fun overall. Especially when it comes to perusing tank journals. Because everything is just right there in front of us - gorgeous photos, tons of thoughts and experiences, suggestions, everything. Plus it's frequently entertaining. And learning from the mistakes of others? Waaay better when someone else makes the mistake so I don't have to.
 

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Is this for your Betta tank you've got in the works? If so, there are a lot of good recommendations in that thread.

The best tip I can provide on the substrate front is to start with what looks good to you. What do you like? What substrate size? Do you want something that looks natural? What color?

What's your substrate budget? $5? $50? You can create a stunner with both.

If you want lighter or natural sand-like substrate? Go with pool filter sand, Caribsea Peace River (it's larger grain than pool filter sand but way smaller than gravel), or the Quikrete/Sakrete kind of play sand that isn't uniform and has some little pebbles and rocks in it. It won't compact and look gross like regular play sand.

Want darker sand? Flourite sand comes in dark brown, reddish and black. Petco/PetSmart black sand is great and cheap.

Fine gravel? Caribsea Peace River. Dennerle Nano Garnelenkies comes in several colors from light brown to black. Sometimes Petco and PetSmart have fine/smaller basic gravel but it's hit-or-miss.

Anything larger than fine gravel may throw the scale off in a 10gal tank and look awkward. But it can still look nice.

If you decide you want to venture into dirt/clay-based stuff like Fluval Stratum or ADA Aquasoil, that's a different beast. I'd recommend against it for this tank but it's not difficult or expensive overall. Fluval Stratum can work really well in Betta tanks and looks good - it's also cheap. If you aren't growing demanding plants but want the look? It'd work well for your purpose. I just think other types of products would work better for you and be easier to maintain in the longterm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes, this is to rescue the wife's Betta. I really love the look of BDBS (and the price too!) although I haven't looked at prices on the aqua sands yet. I was looking through threads on sands and some use root tabs and some just fertilize the water column. I guess I will just have to watch the plants and they will tell me what to do! Do you have a go to brand of ferts or suggestions on which ones to stay away from? I really appreciate all the knowledge
 

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Black Diamond blasting grit is fine. But it's a coal by-product, is messy (just takes lots of rinsing), comes in a massive 40-50lb bag. If you think you'll use it for other stuff, then it's a good buy because it's so cheap. But because you're just setting up a 10gal, you'll be spending $10 at most on fancy black sand from Petco. Probably closer to $5.99. So it's really up to your budget and what you think looks best.

The best ferts you can buy will be dry ferts. Then use calculators online to help you figure out how much you need. I promise it's not scary or complicated. Every few months I need to come up with a new fert mix (because every tank I have is different) and I just once one of several calculators available. There are a bunch of recipes for basic all-in-one mixes, as well. Dry ferts + water in a bottle. Can even make a real watered down mix to make it easier just to dose by the capful if you want. (But for real - if I can figure out ferts? I swear you can.)

One of my favorite places to order dry ferts is Green Leaf. I avoid anyone selling all-in-one liquid ferts at a high markup because they're a for real rip-off. They'll sell you 10 cents worth of ferts mixed with water for $35 + shipping.

But in a simple Betta tank like that, you won't need much in terms of ferts. You could likely buy a $5-$10 bottle of Flourish (still stupid expensive) and have enough to last you for years. If you end up having root-feeding plants, root tabs are cheap and you can make your own for even cheaper. A $10 pack of Flourish root tabs (stupid expensive, honestly) might last you for years in that Betta tank. My guess is you'll use a root tab or two every few months at most or maybe dose some really diluted ferts once per week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Black Diamond blasting grit is fine. But it's a coal by-product, is messy (just takes lots of rinsing), comes in a massive 40-50lb bag. If you think you'll use it for other stuff, then it's a good buy because it's so cheap. But because you're just setting up a 10gal, you'll be spending $10 at most on fancy black sand from Petco. Probably closer to $5.99. So it's really up to your budget and what you think looks best.

The best ferts you can buy will be dry ferts. Then use calculators online to help you figure out how much you need. I promise it's not scary or complicated. Every few months I need to come up with a new fert mix (because every tank I have is different) and I just once one of several calculators available. There are a bunch of recipes for basic all-in-one mixes, as well. Dry ferts + water in a bottle. Can even make a real watered down mix to make it easier just to dose by the capful if you want. (But for real - if I can figure out ferts? I swear you can.)

One of my favorite places to order dry ferts is Green Leaf. I avoid anyone selling all-in-one liquid ferts at a high markup because they're a for real rip-off. They'll sell you 10 cents worth of ferts mixed with water for $35 + shipping.

But in a simple Betta tank like that, you won't need much in terms of ferts. You could likely buy a $5-$10 bottle of Flourish (still stupid expensive) and have enough to last you for years. If you end up having root-feeding plants, root tabs are cheap and you can make your own for even cheaper. A $10 pack of Flourish root tabs (stupid expensive, honestly) might last you for years in that Betta tank. My guess is you'll use a root tab or two every few months at most or maybe dose some really diluted ferts once per week.
Thanks for the info! I will definitely look into dry ferts. I had bought some API Leaf Zone the day I decided I wanted to try a planted tank. After reading up on it, apparently it doesn't supply everything the plants need. I have been debating on putting BDBS in my unplanted 75 for a while. Picked up a bag yesterday from TS and spent a good 3 hours rinsing it in buckets 😓. I have one more question and I promise I will leave you alone. In your experience, what is the best way to cycle my 10 gallon using media from my 75? I know tank water won't do it. I have a canister filter and a sponge filter. My original plan was to take the small HOB for the 10 and let it run in the 75 but it is too small and wont fit around the rim. Take a sponge out of the canister and cut it to fit the HOB or just temporarily move the sponge filter into the 10? My canister also has ceramic rings and bio balls. Do I still need an ammonia source if seed the new tank? This is my first 2nd tank so I'm looking for the most effective way to do it.
 

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I have one more question and I promise I will leave you alone.
This is a discussion forum - you're supposed to bother people. That's how it works. ha.

In your experience, what is the best way to cycle my 10 gallon using media from my 75? I know tank water won't do it. I have a canister filter and a sponge filter. My original plan was to take the small HOB for the 10 and let it run in the 75 but it is too small and wont fit around the rim. Take a sponge out of the canister and cut it to fit the HOB or just temporarily move the sponge filter into the 10? My canister also has ceramic rings and bio balls. Do I still need an ammonia source if seed the new tank? This is my first 2nd tank so I'm looking for the most effective way to do it.
You don't have to move media over. It just helps.

Since you have ceramic media in your filter on the 75, take a couple pieces of that and put it in your filter on the 10. If you only had sponges in the 75's filter, you could take a chunk of sponge from it to put in the 10's filter and just replace the piece you stole from the 75. Easiest is just to swipe a couple pieces of ceramic media for the new filter and replace what you've swiped.

You'll need an ammonia source. You could start with a pinch of fish food and let that start to break down, monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. Or you could use something like ammonia from Ace Hardware - you'd dose however much it takes (not much) to get to 3-4ppm ammonia in the tank. Way easier and more precise than the fish food method. Then keep it at that concentration in the tank until nitrites appear, disappear and nitrates appear. Once the tank can process 3ish ppm of ammonia in a day - when there's not left to detect in the tank - and there's no nitrite, only nitrate? Your tank is ready. If it's gonna be a few days til you have time to move the fish, then just dose the tank every day til you're ready. Then you'd do a 100% water change and move the Betta into its new home.

There are a couple good fishless cycle posts here on the forum, so be sure to search those out. Really helpful.

Note: You can also get ammonia on Amazon and from some aquatics retailers. Ace is just my personal favorite.
 

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Hello all,
Another quick question. Doing my first planted tank (low tech 10 gallon). I still have yet to pick or buy a substrate. I have been doing a lot of reading on substrates and it has been said that the aqua soil types will lower ph and hardness. My ph out of the tap is at 8.2 and my gh is at 15 and kh of 7. Would the buffering substrates make sense to use in my situation for the plants to thrive? Also, if I do get a buffering substrate, what happens when I do my water changes? I would think it would throw everything out of whack and cause unwanted stress. What are your thoughts? Thanks!
For a low tech low light 10g tank, read up a bit on the Walstad method. Chances are that you can just use some dirt from your back yard with a sand or gravel cap. Yeah.. it’s as simple as it sounds. About an inch of dirt will keep your root feeders feed for a LONG time. Unless you’re building up mounds and mounds of dirt substrate, ignore other posts with ppl panicked about anaerobic conditions.
 

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Walstad is fine and dandy but it's probably not a good suggestion for someone's first planted tank. Especially if they want to learn about substrates and try different things out.

Since this is for your better half's Betta, OP, it's probably going to be best to go with something they won't mess up or ruin if they're doing basic tank maintenance. And in that case, I'd steer you away from using soil with a sand cap (Walstad Method.)
 

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Walstad is fine and dandy but it's probably not a good suggestion for someone's first planted tank. Especially if they want to learn about substrates and try different things out.

Since this is for your better half's Betta, OP, it's probably going to be best to go with something they won't mess up or ruin if they're doing basic tank maintenance. And in that case, I'd steer you away from using soil with a sand cap (Walstad Method.)
Idk.. I’d probably have to disagree. With minimal research and upkeep, you can have a great tank with very low risk of algae, no gassing worries, minimal trimming, minimal water change, minimal cost, no dosing. Plus, it’s a small beta tank, and lends itself to some large leafy low light plants that bettas thrive in. Additionally since there will only be one fish in there, the nutrient level in the water column will be low, but plenty sufficient for some large leaf anubias and ferns/misses.. while the rich substrate will provide for eg. crypts, swords, hygro, Ludwiga etc. I really don’t think it’s difficult and i usually steer adult beginners in this direction. It also helps with the overall understanding of a mini ecosystem from an energy and mass balance, without necessarily getting into those terms.
 

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I've had a lot of success with dirted tanks, as have tons of others here on the forum. But that method just isn't as forgiving when it comes to aquascaping, rescaping, replanting, that sort of thing.

Walstad tanks really are fine for people putting in the effort. Especially if they know there are potential problems if you stir up substrate or rip something out. They're not fine for someone who likely won't be putting in the effort (OP's spouse) to understand planted tanking at the hobbyist level - i.e., someone who just wants a cute tank to look at. And they're not good ways to learn about the types of substrates OP has posted about elsewhere on the forum. (Important to consider other things someone has posted when giving advice or recommendations.)
 

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I, personally, started keeping planted tanks using walstad/ ntp methods with great successes and failures. I love these methods so much I won't let myself travel down that rabbit hole again. I then jumped head first into high tech plant only. Now I'm figuring out low tech methods.

IMO if you're okay with "setting and forgetting", aren't too interested in keeping more colorful stems, are okay with slow/ moderate plant growth and are looking for something that can somewhat sustain itself research into walstad/ ntp may be right up your alley. It's much cheaper (usually) and in the long run is very low maintenance.

If you are interested in changing up plants and scapes, like the look of colorful stems and carpeting plants, don't like waiting to see progress and aren't that interested in the ecosystem behind the tank then I'd think twice about attempting a walstad/ ntp.

Maybe look over a couple walstad tank journals here and see if it appeals to you, OP. Happy scaping!!
 
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