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This is an honest question.

I'm planning my first planted aquarium. This is what I currently have, although I'm TRYING to be patient and properly prepare before I set things up..

1. 75 gallon tank (48L x 21H x 18W)

2. Finnex Ray 2 (Per Hoppy's Thread, http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/10-lighting/184368-lighting-aquarium-par-instead-watts.html, PAR values greater than 60 at depths under 20 inches and I'm shooting for 3 inches of substrate)

3. Semi Automatic Pressurized Co2 (20lb and 60 lb tanks with UL dual stage regulator of some sort, and Berkert solenoids)...it's setup for 4 lines but I plan on using only 2.

I've been researching and trying to make the seemingly impossible decision of what substrate to use for about 6 days now....the more I learn the less I can decide on what to use.

I want a full carpet, at least in the front 1/3 of the tank. I understand that both the physical act of planting stems, and the growth of the carpet itself, is much easier in a fine grained substrate like sand.

Initially I wanted a thick base of Eco-complete, topped with black sand. I was told the sand will eventually sink, but I would think for the purpose of planting and carpeting it wouldn't be a bad idea as the mixing will take awhile. HOWEVER, I'm trying to save a few bucks.

I then considered a dirt tank (MGO) topped with sand, but because I'm new to the hobby and will likely be doing a considerable amount of rearranging, I was told that dirt would be too messy.

Everywhere I read people spend money on expensive products like eco complete, or flourite, etc.

With root tabs, from what I have seen, being as inexpensive as they are....why do people spend so much on a substrate?

This noob is thinking its more economical, and efficient for my scaping plans, to just have a 1 inch base layer of medium grade CHEAP AND INERT gravel, top it with 2 inches of black sand, and dose the heck out of it (more or less) with root tabs and water column dry dosing.

Can someone please tell me if this is a bad idea???
 

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You are posting similar questions in your other threads. Give the forum a little time and you can probably get your questions answered. You will difinitely need (2) Ray 2 to have the tank your describing though. One Ray 2 over a 75g will give you poor results I am sure.

Eco yields poor results with carpeting from what I have read. MG in your case is not a good idea if you plan to rearrange a lot. If your on a budget, it think your best choice is probably Safe-t-sorb. If you will be dosing the heck out of it, the charging of it will be high. It's fairly small in size and very uniform. It is light though but I can see HC growing in it. I use it for my growout and I will probably choose it for my Living Rm display tank when I set it up.

Unless your topping dirt, I wouldn't bother capping with sand on anything else. Capping flourite/eco really does nothing for they are substrates that can be used alone as is. Eco and flourite are not too expensive imo. That title belongs to Aquasoil. Safe-t-sorb can be bought at Tractor Supply for about 10-13 bucks for a large bag. It should take no more than 1-2 bags of it. I think I used 1.75 worth to give me 3" in my 125g tank.
 

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For a tank that size, I would go with 2.5" of dirt and a 1" cap of sand. If you plan on doing a lot of rearranging then go with a darker colored sand. I can't see you poking holes in your carpet to add more root tabs, sounds painful.
 

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Tank Costs

Hello getz...

That's quite a tank you have in the works. You'll need some deep pockets. it would be simpler and less expensive if you light the tank with a four fixture shop light from the hardware store. A 48 inch fixture with 4 6500K GE, T8 aquarium plant bulbs is $50.00. This setup will give you plenty of light for most aquarium plants.

There are many other less expensive options that will produce a nicely planted tank. Use these and you won't need to take out a second mortgage on your home to supply your tank habit. More expensive isn't always better, just more money.

Your call, however.

B
 

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Practical is what I would recommend for anyone not experienced in planted tanks.
None are perfect in that they all have at least one thing "wrong" with them.
Color might be, but I'm not counting that in a "wrong" category.
CEC you might want to consider. Sorry can't say what the letters stand for but a scale of
how much that material can/will absorb nutrients when they are heavy(just after you added some)in the water and then when those nutrients get used up, release what they
absorbed back into the water. IMO useless if you are using EI ferts, but may be useful
for any other type of ferts.
Black Diamond(also called Black Beauty)blasting sand has no CEC value, but would be your practical inert dark sub. No CEC being it's wrong thing.
Safe-T-Sorb, Kitty Litter(without any perfume)or "Floor Dry" all the same, different
makers names, drains something from the water. GH/KH/PH I don't know which one.
Perhaps someone will tell you what that is. But does have a high CEC level.
That would be the lighter color practical sub.
Pool filter sand often used for consistent grain size also is in the lighter color but very
easy to get trash on top of and needs constant cleaning the surface of for those who
want it spotless. If you check at your local home improvement center they might have
"Quick Crete" sand in clear plastic bags. This is often a tan color instead of WHITE.
Anything mentioned above will work with root tabs or capsules.
Those tabs or capsules are IMO no way necessary but are helpful/w certain plants.
 

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Anytime you top something with something else you will get a mess when you rearrange things. Get a fine gravel that has a grain size of 1-2mm dia. That will allow the amount of water circulation the roots need. If you plan to have bottom feeders it would be best if the grains were rounded rather than sharp.

Caribsea Peace River fits this criteria, but is expensive at over $1 per lb.
 

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I'd go with the SafeTSorb. The color is a medium tan, very natural looking and the price is so right. I paid $7 shipped for a 40 pound bag which goes a long way as the stuff is very light weight. Sand can be cheap but you would need 3-4x the weight, don't think it is that cheap plus you lose the CEC of the STS. CEC holds nutrients for a later day, sand and gravel have zero CEC. STS has better CEC than a lot of the special planted tank substrates too.

You do need to invest in fertilizer too. Get a set of dry fertilizer powders and probably dry dosing a 75 gallon tank would be easier. Fill up little containers with daily doses once a week or calculate and dissolve measured amounts of the powders in a given volume of water every couple weeks and you still have to measure it out daily.

Commercial root tabs are just iron and potassium, a high tech tank like yours needs all of the essentials, NPK+M. You don't really need them, aquatic plants get nutrients mostly from leaves as the roots mostly are for anchoring. There are a couple of ways to make up better root tabs. Those with access to the pelleted stuff than includes micros fill gel caps with it and push to the bottom of the tank. The empty pellets are a nuisance. I mixed my NPK+M into natural clay and dried little button shaped tabs, makes a mess if you happen to dig down to a tab. Or real old school, get Jobe's fertilizer sticks, I believe palm and fern are the best kind but I could only find house plant, the leftover from that is a really icky paper if you happen to dig one up. Those must degrade completely after a while though, I used them for a while and don't remember seeing them when I broke down the tank.

And full disclosure, I have dumped the gravel/STS/Pond Soil substrate for ADA AS after 15 years. My old substrate couldn't hold a slope and the gravel mixed in made the tiny leaves of the Belem hairgrass look awful until it could carpet. Not noticing any better rooting but I can push errant hairgrass plants back into the substrate which never worked before and the slope held up nicely.
 

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I'd go with the SafeTSorb. The color is a medium tan, very natural looking and the price is so right. I paid $7 shipped for a 40 pound bag which goes a long way as the stuff is very light weight. Sand can be cheap but you would need 3-4x the weight, don't think it is that cheap plus you lose the CEC of the STS. CEC holds nutrients for a later day, sand and gravel have zero CEC. STS has better CEC than a lot of the special planted tank substrates too.
Turface, available at John Deere stores, is the same basic thing. So you've got options. Cheap ones.

*edit* it's all the same as Flourite. Baked clay. Eco is crushed lava rock, and has about the same CEC as Flourite.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
For a tank that size, I would go with 2.5" of dirt and a 1" cap of sand. If you plan on doing a lot of rearranging then go with a darker colored sand. I can't see you poking holes in your carpet to add more root tabs, sounds painful.
Great point with adding root tabs to a carpeted floor. You're right. Not gonna happen....DUH. Somehow I failed to see the challenge in that. LOL!!!! Thanks for pointing that out.

So when hobbyists talk about clouding up their tanks while moving plants around with a dirt substrate, how much disturbance are we talking about? I can imagine that the thicker and more deeply planted roots will obviously do the most "mucking up", but with good filtration how long before the water clears back up? Hours or days??

Also, since I'm thinking about it, will this disturbance actually harm anything like ph values, etc.?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Unfortunately Too Late

Hello getz...

That's quite a tank you have in the works. You'll need some deep pockets. it would be simpler and less expensive if you light the tank with a four fixture shop light from the hardware store. A 48 inch fixture with 4 6500K GE, T8 aquarium plant bulbs is $50.00. This setup will give you plenty of light for most aquarium plants.

There are many other less expensive options that will produce a nicely planted tank. Use these and you won't need to take out a second mortgage on your home to supply your tank habit. More expensive isn't always better, just more money.

Your call, however.

B
Yeah this may end up being more costly than I had budgeted. :frown2: It's just the way the cookie crumbled on this journey. A friend of mine is getting out of the hobby and I wanted something more than my current 29 gallon, so I bought his 75 gallon tank w/ stock 40w light, a nice sized powerhead, and marineland emperor 400 for dirt cheap. Got a nice algae scrubber and some other things thrown into the deal as well.

I decided to take a plunge and get a half descent light because I didn't think I'd be investing much more in it....and then I discovered planted tanks while looking for ideas and fell in love.

Hopefully the ray 2 will be enough light at 17 to 18 inches. Several sources claim the par values would be considered high light, yet others say it isn't. Down the road I'll add to it if necessary I guess.

I got lucky for once and found an ad on craigslist from a local guy moving out of state who needed to sell his setup. The co2 system was an absolute steal. Only paid 150.00 for both his tanks (80lbs worth), regulator w/ 4 brass bubble counters, solenoids, and needle valves. Came with 4 diffusers, check valves, and of course his co2 tubing. He even threw in his millwakee c122 (or something like that) ph reader and a timer. I'm not using the ph reader though....and still need to buy a drop checker.

Hopefully I get this substrate thing figured out shortly so I can get on with it and start scaping!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You are posting similar questions in your other threads. Give the forum a little time and you can probably get your questions answered. You will difinitely need (2) Ray 2 to have the tank your describing though. One Ray 2 over a 75g will give you poor results I am sure.

Eco yields poor results with carpeting from what I have read. MG in your case is not a good idea if you plan to rearrange a lot. If your on a budget, it think your best choice is probably Safe-t-sorb. If you will be dosing the heck out of it, the charging of it will be high. It's fairly small in size and very uniform. It is light though but I can see HC growing in it. I use it for my growout and I will probably choose it for my Living Rm display tank when I set it up.

Unless your topping dirt, I wouldn't bother capping with sand on anything else. Capping flourite/eco really does nothing for they are substrates that can be used alone as is. Eco and flourite are not too expensive imo. That title belongs to Aquasoil. Safe-t-sorb can be bought at Tractor Supply for about 10-13 bucks for a large bag. It should take no more than 1-2 bags of it. I think I used 1.75 worth to give me 3" in my 125g tank.
Sorry for getting a little repetitive in my thread openings. I only have a few now, but every time I think of a new question and can't find a direct answer my first thought is a new thread because I'm varying from the other threads in topic. I will try and watch where I post my questions.

I read the same thing about Eco not being the best choice for carpeting. In my head I thought that the sand topper would really help the carpet spread, but I guess not. Safe-t-sorb sounds like a great buy based on what you said, and others are agreeing with you so it's definitely something I'm considering....I just wish it was darker.

I really appreciate your input...
 

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Left to myself - I would go with a inch of laterite for the bottom layer and a 2 inch pool sand cap. Before applying the substrate, I would sprinkle some gypsum and calcium phosphate over the bottom of the tank. In my experience this does all that you need for any type of planting in your tank.
 

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One more thing: you mentioned sand. Rather than using actual sand, Flourite has black sand. It's the same stuff as regular Flourite, but really small particles. It's black, and it's sand, and it's got high CEC. For a 75g, the Seachem Flourite website says it'll take 8 bags to do 3 inches, and 11 bags to do 4 inches. Assuming you can get it for about $21 shipped from foster&smith, that's $168 to $231.
 

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My tanks clears up in about 30 minutes to an hour whenever I replant something.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
My tanks clears up in about 30 minutes to an hour whenever I replant something.
Hmmm.

I loved the idea of a dirted tank from day 1, but I kept hearing about "problems" if you like to move your plants, and that it's not a substrate for beginners....but an hour to settle is nothing to me.....unless the consequences are more than just cloudy water.

I'm curious about the down side here, because so many hobbyists stay clear of the dirted tank.

Does the disruption change the water chemistry or have any negative consequences to the fish?

If you have any advice or tips on a setup I would love to hear them...
 

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the first time I started my planted tank , I used the dirt technique.. all the plants grew out fine but as time went by (close to a month) I started seeing buildup with anaerobic spots (you can see mounds on the substrate) . and since this tank was in my room , everytime a bubble erupted it smelled like rotten eggs..

long story short. just make sure you do it right the first time for dirted tanks , dont hop through the procedures or youll tear down the tank like I did.

I prefer using ada soil (although its expensive) to plant, its just way easier to mess with. gives a good yr or so before nutrients are gone then you can use root tabs after :)
 

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No reason dirt should not produce food for plant's throughout it's life assuming fishes are being fed and fishes are producing waste.
That food and waste which is not caught in filter's, fall's to the bottom and mixes with substrate ,and is then used by plant's each day that the tank is running.
In addition to the fish food and fish waste,one can add fertilizer's to the substrate and or water column.
With regard's to depth of soil and anaerobic condition's,the plant's transport oxygen to their root's which negates oxygen poor environment that is needed before anaerobic condition's are realized and even then,,the hydrogen sulfide is almost instantly rendered harmless once it makes contact with oxygen in the water.
Must be this way or those running deep sand bed's in marine tank's would report issues with the depth of the sand ,and they don't.
I do agree that if you are one who constantly or regularly uproot's plant's, that soil based tank's can make a right mess with regard's to water clarity, but with a little forethought,planning, with regard's to plant placement it is largely a non issue or can/should be.
Research the plant's you intend to use and info can be found as to where in the tank they should be placed, and you won't have to move em as much.
Been running soil based tank's for a few year's now and at depth's of nearly five inches to accommodate large sword plant's or crypt's without issues with fishes/shrimp's.
I mix cat litter ,peat,with the soil and cap it with sand or product such as Black Diamond blasting media.
The cat litter(plain unscented) has good cation exchange capabilitiy (CEC), and the peat does also, while softening my water a bit to suit the tetra's I keep which seem to do better with softer water.
Plenty of folk's run soil based tanks that use plain old top soil or Miracle grow organic choice .
As mentioned,,just need to do a bit of planning so you ain't uprooting plant's weekly which does nothing to help them growth wise and can make unnecessary mess.IMHO
 

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Are you trying to create an aquascape or are you just putting plants in and want to enjoy the ecology of it all?

If the former is true, and I think it is because you mentioned ‘scaping’ I would stay away from dirt. As you suspected it doesn’t like being disturbed or played with.

If you’re new to this I would not use ADA Aquasoil (AS) either, although it’s great at what it does and I actually think it’s the “Substrate for Dummies” because it houses pretty much everything the plants need for probably a year or so (In other words, if you don’t dose enough of something the AS should cover your mistakes) but it takes an experienced hand to play around in AS, (Doable but again I think a newbie might get into trouble.) because it contains a lot of ammonia which will cause serious problems if not removed.

You can carpet pretty much with any substrate as long as you’re dosing the water column. If you want a dark substrate I would definitely recommend Eco-Complete. Although it’s far from ‘complete’ it’s very easy to plant in and much for forgiving when it’s disturbed. If you go into a typical pet store they’ll tell you Flourish Comprehensive is a complete fertilizer. That might be true in a low-tech setup where fish and waste provide NPK, but not in a high tech setup that has good light, co2, etc. You could look at Eco the same way. Not complete for high tech.

If you want a lighter substrate and want to save money use power-filter sand. About $7 for 50lbs. Good grain-size, tan in color and easy to plant in. Works fine as long as you’re dosing and providing good co2.
 

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Every substrate becomes inert after awhile. I would go with black diamond blasting sand and root tabs. Even if you have to poke a hole in your carpet to replace root tabs every few months, they are not large holes. You only need one every several inches too (in a grid). Doesn't seem like a big deal to me in the long run. You could even poke the O+ tabs themselves through the carpet in a finer pattern. The capsules are only there so the O+ doesn't break down as you place it into the substrate. With a 75g tank, I don't think the minor deterioration of the O+ will be a big deal. I have had no issues with O+ bits resurfacing in my 75g and throwing off parameters. I'm not one for expensive substrates. My swords, crypts and sag have all grown fine in inert substrate with root tabs. I haven't replaced my tabs in 6 months and the growth seems fine.

As for the light, I think people tend to exaggerate the light needed. With medium light, which the Ray2 should give you no problem, and CO2, which you have, you won't have any issues. You should be able to grow just about anything. The 18" front to back may be a little too much for a single light. If you want a secondary fixture, I suggest a planted+ 24/7. The automatic sunrise/sunset would be nice and it would definitely push you into medium-high lighting. It would help with a more even lighting and give you some more colors than the Ray2.

Just another opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
long story short. just make sure you do it right the first time for dirted tanks , dont hop through the procedures or youll tear down the tank like I did.
Can you please elaborate on what you mean by "do it right?"

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Every substrate becomes inert after awhile. I would go with black diamond blasting sand and root tabs. Even if you have to poke a hole in your carpet to replace root tabs every few months, they are not large holes. You only need one every several inches too (in a grid). Doesn't seem like a big deal to me in the long run. You could even poke the O+ tabs themselves through the carpet in a finer pattern. The capsules are only there so the O+ doesn't break down as you place it into the substrate. With a 75g tank, I don't think the minor deterioration of the O+ will be a big deal. I have had no issues with O+ bits resurfacing in my 75g and throwing off parameters. I'm not one for expensive substrates. My swords, crypts and sag have all grown fine in inert substrate with root tabs. I haven't replaced my tabs in 6 months and the growth seems fine.

As for the light, I think people tend to exaggerate the light needed. With medium light, which the Ray2 should give you no problem, and CO2, which you have, you won't have any issues. You should be able to grow just about anything. The 18" front to back may be a little too much for a single light. If you want a secondary fixture, I suggest a planted+ 24/7. The automatic sunrise/sunset would be nice and it would definitely push you into medium-high lighting. It would help with a more even lighting and give you some more colors than the Ray2.

Just another opinion.
It's funny that you mentioned just pushing tabs through the carpet. Maybe you're right and it's not a big deal.

I'm really grateful to be getting so much feedback. It definitely makes me more comfortable in making a good decision because everyone seems to use different methods and they all work fairly well for them...I presume...or they wouldn't be recommending it.

Now, I am going for a nature aquascape. I want hills, and therefore a substrate that is going to work with me on that. I was planning on filling tupperware with gravel as a base to help with that, but I'd like a substrate that will hold it's position as well as possible.

Honestly I've dropped a descent amount of money into this already, so saving some money on substrate that I can spend on more plants and, if necessary, fertilizer would be a huge plus for me.

How does black diamond blasting sand hold up for scaping?

If I were to use MGO, what cap would be best for holding hills?
 
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