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Old 03-01-2019, 01:47 PM   #11
ZxC
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Originally Posted by DTWGulo View Post
I think I see where you're going with this. "Inert" meaning that it lacks organic components that the active substrates (like ADA Amazonia), I assume?

It was my understanding that the porosity of the volcanic substrates allowed for some sequestration/storage of nutrients that are in the water column.

When I was first starting out in the hobby, there was a lot of discussion about cation exchange capacity and other substrates that would 'store' beneficial substances for the plants. If I recall correctly, organics and clay have the highest CEC; sand the lowest. Perhaps you could offer a refresher on this from a practical perspective?


Straight from the company webpage: "Eco‑Complete’s™ secret lies in rich basaltic volcanic soil which contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur plus over 25 other elements to nourish your aquatic plants."

From a physical standpoint, the texture makes it easier to mound/scape than sand, and is more stable once scaped.
Great points, all of which are fairly wide spread. I'll offer my take on the matter.

Both Flourite and Eco-Complete are completely inert substrates that do not provide plant with nutrients in sufficient quantities. I've read Caribsea's statement on Eco-Complete and it confuses the daylights out of me. Volcanic rock is inert, it will not break down and supply plants with the minerals it is made out of. Yes, it contains these minerals, but they are not being released for plants to actually use. They also claim 25 elements to nourish plants which is odd because there are only 17 essential plant elements, 3 of which are sourced from water and air (not really "nutrients") -- Being Oxygen, Hydrogen and Carbon.

Now, you are correct that the CEC is a network of bonding sites along a substrates surface that will exchange and store nutrients. Organic matter (ADA style soils) will have the highest CEC and sands / gravels will have the lowest CEC. Now when it comes to Eco-Complete or Flourite, physically they are larger grained gravel with a network or pores. The actual rated CEC of both of these products are extremely low:

Flourite is number 19 - rated at 1/7 meq/100g.
Eco-Complete won't be much better as there is simply 0 organic matter and 0 clay content which are the largest CEC contributes to a soil / substrate.



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I had a couple of additional thoughts that make these substrates beneficial options for beginner/inexperienced planted tank hobbyists:

Better safety compared to the soils like ADA (Early ammonia spike)
Easier maintenance if you use the versions with larger particle size.

So, ultimately, if they won't hurt, and may help, and fit the budget: why wouldn't you choose them?
Which substrates are you thinking specifically?
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Old 03-01-2019, 11:10 PM   #12
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Which substrates are you thinking specifically?
That's a great chart! (Sadly published about 4 years before I started working on planted tanks.)

...a great chart that clearly states how little CEC non-organic and non-clay containing substrates actually have.

Let's look at 19. Flourite as an example of something I've used. Flourite's CEC is 1.7

Compared to play sand -- a popular low cost option, which is CEC <0.1, there is a large numerical difference between the two.

But how much does that matter? How good is it when other non-organic substrates (such as 13. Hartz cat litter!) are so much higher? Does that 1.7 make a measurable difference in plant growth/health? I have no idea.

The only way to know for sure would be to set up a side-by-side experiment with all other factors equally controlled and see what happens. Not something I've had the time or desire to do, to be blunt. Someone probably has (Tom Barr?); I just haven't seen the results/data.

One does have to consider the action of bacteria and plants on substrates of any type. In some cases, bacteria and plants liberate nutrients from otherwise precipitated states. (Walstad, Ecology of the Planted Aquarium). Perhaps that's why the claim to provide nutrients from an inert substrate arises? I doubt that is enough on its own to overcome the deficit in CEC, though.
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Old 03-04-2019, 10:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Let's look at 19. Flourite as an example of something I've used. Flourite's CEC is 1.7

Compared to play sand -- a popular low cost option, which is CEC <0.1, there is a large numerical difference between the two.

But how much does that matter? How good is it when other non-organic substrates (such as 13. Hartz cat litter!) are so much higher? Does that 1.7 make a measurable difference in plant growth/health? I have no idea.
There would be absolutely 0 difference between sand and Flourite. 1.7meq/100g is still extremely low.

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The only way to know for sure would be to set up a side-by-side experiment with all other factors equally controlled and see what happens. Not something I've had the time or desire to do, to be blunt.
There has been tests done (at the hobbyist level) a quick google search can produce a bunch actually (last time I checked anyway) and there is really no difference.

Supply the plants with what they need - whether that be from the substrate, or the water column -- and they will grow and thrive.

I've had tanks with Eco-Complete -- It worked well.
I have had, and currently still have, tank(s) with Flourite - It works well.

I have a tank with inert sand - It looks better, is easier to maintain and much easier to plant in to, it's way cheaper and the plants flourish the exact same if not better than in the other tanks.
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Old 03-04-2019, 12:52 PM   #14
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The side-by-sides come down to how strictly you want to adhere to experimental best practices. But, ultimately, we're not trying to grow sweet potatoes on the moon, here.

For practical applications, I doubt that the chemical composition of inert substrates makes a big difference in low-tech systems. I think it could be argued that there might be some benefits to various mixes in high-tech systems, but isolating the substrate as the only variable is not a trivial task, and is not likely to ever see any real-world benefits.

I don't personally find sand easier to plant in across the board. It depends on what I'm planting and what tools I have available to use. I also prefer non-sand substrates for aquascaping.

This was a good discussion and I appreciate the input, ZxC. Should help a lot of people answer questions about substrates. That chart in and of itself was excellent. I dug up the original magazine and cruised through it. Sorry to see that it's not being published anymore.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:08 PM   #15
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Help me out with substrate for a large tank?

Okay guys so I still think itís worth adding something Iíll just do fluorite and peat moss under the PFS and some Mexican potting clay in there. BUT doesnít a good substrate matter if I want a carpet? Iíve never been able to get one going with s repens or baby tears. Iíd like to try Monte Carlo, any advise where to get it and if I need special substrate to do a carpet?
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:40 PM   #16
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Fertilizer, light, and CO2 are the best way to get good growth of whatever you want to grow.

I’ve had good luck with Monte Carlo and dwarf hairgrass.

Less luck with baby tears but the light in that tank wasn’t great.
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Old 03-05-2019, 02:19 PM   #17
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Sand would allow the delicate carpeting plants to grab hold and spread with ease.
Water column dosing is all that is needed.
Strong light and high CO2 concentrations are the 2 biggest factors in getting a carpet.

Mixing or layering substrates is of no benefit in my opinion, especially if it's inert Flourite and inert sand.
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Old 03-06-2019, 04:51 PM   #18
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Just for kicks I emailed Caribsea to ask how Ecocomplete actually benefits plants if it's an intert substrate and has a very low CEC. This is what the company rep answered:

CEC quantifies the how many cations (positively charged ions which includes the metals) are on the surfaces of a substrate of set volume and therefore are readily available for uptake by plants. The highest values are for soils that are rich in clays or organics (or both) and the pH is also a factor in this value. The CEC is hard to predict (probably because of living microorganisms in the soil) so direct measurement is the standard practice. Eco Complete is rich in neither organic matter or clays so how does a plant get access to the rich elemental composition? Thatís where the Eco part of the name comes in. We include microorganisms as the intermediary between the grain and the roots. Mycorrhizal fungi and root associated bacteria secrete small amounts of acid or bases to release elements from the grains and trade them to the roots in exchange for starch and a place to live. Remember that the vast majority of aquatic plants are really emergent not truly aquatic and are therefore mycorrhizal dependent. Also, all substrates accumulate organics over the life of the aquarium and if they are not disturbed and in the case of Eco Complete, this works in your favor. If this were a quartz based material you would derive no benefit at all over the life of the system. Eco Complete is also compatible with just about anything. If you are planning a soil based system heavy in clays and organics you can include Eco and boost the transition metals that way too. Please feel free to contact us anytime with questions. We love talking about aquariums!
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Old 03-07-2019, 12:42 PM   #19
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Just for kicks I emailed Caribsea to ask how Ecocomplete actually benefits plants if it's an intert substrate and has a very low CEC. This is what the company rep answered:[/I]

So itís lava rock with some added biologicals lol
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Old 03-08-2019, 03:30 AM   #20
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I got mine before they were adding mycorrhizal fungi for excellent root growth.

I have had excellent low tech growth with DHG. This was in year old Amazonia
This is just a old school style turtle bowl


11/2017


When it was started 6/2017


Also had it growing in Garnet sand about as thick in a big vase.
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