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Old 02-26-2019, 07:51 PM   #1
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Help me out with substrate for a large tank?

Iíve been on a bit of a rollercoaster and would like to get it right this time.
TLDR: help picking easyish inexpensiveish substrate for 90 gal planted tank for somewhat low-med tech plants.

I have a 90 gallon aquarium and I tried to use dirt for the first time! And it is a complete disaster!! I think that it keeps coming up through the pool filter sand and my bs plecos are also digging it up at times. I canít see anything through the tank basically and my swords are dying. Anyways this tank was not exactly ideal with the built in overflow box and black painted back (got as an emergency when the 60 started leaking) so my family convinced me to buy a new 90 to replace it.
I have great success in my 39 using fluval stratum, co2 injections and finned planted+ light and pps liquid ferts but Iím looking for something different in the 90.
Currently I have a finnex 24/7 plant light on it, no co2 (would prefer not to add but can), and no liquid ferts but can do pps if needed. I was hoping for a cheaper set up with lower maintenance large broad leaf plants (a carpet would be a dream as well).
So my question is what kind of substrate should I use? Iíve been thinking about peat moss, balls of Mexican potting clay, and maybe some fluorite topped off with pool filter sand? Not sure how much of each but currently itís a complete mess and I have a new tank to start over with. I donít wanna use stratum as I have very hard tap water (ph of about 7.8-8.2) and have no interest in using RO water for a 90 gallon as I do in the 29. I liked dirt because it didnít need co2 or liquid ferts but I can get over it.
Stock:
2 angelfish
12 bosemani rainbowfish
10 Odessa barbs
1 black red tail shark
2 bs plecos
3 dojo loaches
Some snails
Pics of current 90:
Before it got messed up-
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After it had time to brew-
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New 90:
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The 29 (to show Iím not a complete idiot):
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Old 02-27-2019, 12:39 AM   #2
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Black diamond coal slag blasting media is a cheap substrate alternative if you can get it where you live.
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:38 AM   #3
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Black diamond blaring sand, medium - large grain.
Quartz sand.
Pool filter sand.

These are all super cheap, easy to plant into, inert (so you'll need ferts, but those are easy )

They are easy to clean as well.
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Old 02-27-2019, 11:36 AM   #4
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I currently have pool filter sand
I love the way black blasting sand looks but all my other tanks have black substrate already and I already have all the pool filter sand I need for this tank haha.

Donít I need a nutritious substrate for plants? Isnít that one of the most important part of it all? I hear people always advise to do a lot of research on substrate first.
Would the peat moss and Mexican potting clay be a bad idea to add?
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Old 02-27-2019, 11:39 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vladka View Post
I currently have pool filter sand
I love the way black blasting sand looks but all my other tanks have black substrate already and I already have all the pool filter sand I need for this tank haha.

Donít I need a nutritious substrate for plants? Isnít that one of the most important part of it all? I hear people always advise to do a lot of research on substrate first.
Would the peat moss and Mexican potting clay be a bad idea to add?
The only nutrient rich substrate I would recommend would be ADA aqua soil or similar products.

Water column dosing is all you need for a successful planted tank. Nutrient rich substrates are completely un-necessary, (unless you are striving for an ADA aquasoil based tank in which there is a completely different formula to go by).
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Old 02-28-2019, 10:56 PM   #6
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Look into water filteration media. Lots of inert cool sand like garnet and rock too. 50 lb bags are like $20. And clean!
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Old 02-28-2019, 11:17 PM   #7
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I really like Ecocomplete and Flourite (In all its various forms). It's more expensive than regular sand, but you do get some benefits to plants without having it be too hideously expensive.

I've used dirt (sand cap), Eco/Flourite, Fluval stratum, plain sand. Grown plants fine in everything. Every single system is different and there are MANY factors that contribute to success. I don't think you can isolate any single one as the only one to worry about.

Sand + water dosing + good light = Just fine for plants

If/when you wanna scale up, use the liquid carbon options (Excel, Metricide, etc.), and root tabs for root-feeding plants.
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Old 03-01-2019, 08:43 AM   #8
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I really like Ecocomplete and Flourite (In all its various forms). It's more expensive than regular sand, but you do get some benefits to plants without having it be too hideously expensive.

I've used dirt (sand cap), Eco/Flourite, Fluval stratum, plain sand. Grown plants fine in everything. Every single system is different and there are MANY factors that contribute to success. I don't think you can isolate any single one as the only one to worry about.

Sand + water dosing + good light = Just fine for plants

If/when you wanna scale up, use the liquid carbon options (Excel, Metricide, etc.), and root tabs for root-feeding plants.
Could you explain the benefits of inert Eco-Complete and inert Flourite?
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Old 03-01-2019, 12:35 PM   #9
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Could you explain the benefits of inert Eco-Complete and inert Flourite?
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. This allows those nutrients to be available to the plant roots more readily, simply from a "distance" standpoint, but also due to the symbiotic microbial/fungal colony in the substrate.

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. There is an overly broad scope to each of those types in terms of actual chemical composition. It has been too long since my chem courses for me to really dig into the underlying mechanisms here. Perhaps you could offer a refresher on this from a practical perspective?

The reason CEC was of interest was that it could serve as a reservoir for nutrients when the water column was deficient in the same. I would guess that most all planted tank people can attest to stability being one of the most important factors for success.

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

Depending on which product, it may have bacteria or fungi added to the bag to help set up a good microbial environment in the substrate. How much does this help? I don't really know. The tank in which I tested substrate additives grew Hemianthus callitrichoides "Cuba" exceedingly well, but I used a range of products from the substrate manufacturer and ADA.

From a physical standpoint, the texture makes it easier to mound/scape than sand, and is more stable once scaped.

I'll grant that we have to take a leap of faith with any company's product. Your mileage -will- vary, as there are too many variables to overcome with just substrate, just light, just CO2, just fertilizers, and so on.

If you've found any of my statements that don't hold up against solid experience or, preferably, data, I'm all ears. The one thing that hasn't ever changed in my time as an aquatic gardener is that everything changes and I can always learn.
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Old 03-01-2019, 12:51 PM   #10
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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?
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