Originally Posted by Barley
I would like to have a moderately planted tank, but unsure of which substrate to go for. I am on a budget, however I don't want to sacrifice plant life so don't mind spending more if it's worth it.
I have a 10G that's currently cycling that I'll use as a QT tank eventually, and just bought the substrate the employee at the LFS
gave me - Fluval stratum. I HATE it! Makes the tank look dusty and clouds the water badly if I even look at it the wrong way.
I have been reading about the walstad method - seems like it works for some, but not for others. I would like to keep some bottom dwellers that like sand/fine gravel. I am in Canada, and my LFS
has a decent selection of substrates, and a large Big Al's is about 40 mins away.
Keep in mind I am a TOTAL newbie, so you may have to explain like I'm 5! The tank is not set up yet. I want to get myself a little more educated and confident before I start getting it set up.
Soil is a very good substrate for aquatic plants as it provides ample amounts of the nutrients that plants only require on small amounts. These are called micro nutrients and are things like iron, zinc, boron, manganese etc.
If you would like some more info and why soil is a good substrate theoretically you can search for my thread 'the soil substrate explained'
In reality using soil does have some negatives but they are easily over come if you understand what's going on.
Submerged soils take a couple months to really stabilise. In the meantime they can leech ammonia that can cause algae in bright lighting. And it's not really suitable to add fish immediately unless your tank is already cycled or you perform daily water changes.
You could cycle the tank without fish or by adding ammonia. You could just set the hard scape up with plants and do what is known as a silent cycle. If you are unsure what I mean by 'cycling the tank' you should look up the nitrogen cycle as this is probably the most important aspect of fish keeping to consider for the beginner.
Soil can be messy and cloud the water when moving plants etc. But once it's stable this stops happening.
You also need to choose the right soil. Miracle grow organic topsoil is a popular brand. Make sure you don't get soil with added fertilisers if you do go down the soil route.
Other commercial planted substrate brands would be Eco complete, ADA aquasoil or flourite. I have no experience with any of those.
Another alternative would be adding a layer of sand and pushing some capsules into the sand next to the plant that release nutrients. These are Called root tablets or root tabs. A more popular choice in the hobby now are osmocote root tabs as they are more efficient and more economic.
A 10 gallon is a nice size to familiarise yourself with planted tanks. If we assume your light fixture is low light. You should start out with some of the more basic plants. They are basic because they do not demand as much carbon or light to grow healthily and can often do well in the same tank.
Anubias, Java fern, some crypts, vals,
Would be examples of what we call 'low light plants' if your lighting is more intense then there is more demand for carbon and nutrients. Carbon is difficult to obtain for submerged plants and so plants with too much light and no carbon supplement will likely rot away and cause algae to grow.
For more information on light you should read up on photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)
Having a healthy low light tank is about finding the right balance.
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