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Old 02-07-2004, 08:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default D.I.Y. Substrates

O.k., I have to admit I have been more of an out of the bag hobbyist when it comes to substrates. I usually used congarock and my current tank is the first one I have actually used an enriched substrate in. I usually just went with a root tab or two and only kept a sword or a bit of hygro.
Boy have I learned a lot since then! I currently use eco complete mixed with flourite and topped with some gravel I collected from a local river. The gravel is just because I like the look of it.
So my question for you felow hobbyist is what do you use to make your substrate the perfect one for growing the best plants around.
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Old 02-25-2004, 08:47 PM   #2 (permalink)
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*bump*
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Old 02-26-2004, 04:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
 
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I am first and foremost..cheap! So paying $20 for a bag of substrate is not something I will do if there's any way around it. When I set up the 75 I really wanted a black substrate till I added up how much it was going to cost me. The only local place here that had it was $26 a bag. So I went with pool filter sand instead with a layer of kitty litter underneath. I know the horror stories of it. But until the last month I have not even had to add anything to my substrate at all. I had 3 BIG swords in there and to get 2 of them out I had to cut roots like you would not believe. Everything root in this stuff. The tank has been up and running for a year with no problems. Irecently added some river gravel I collected just for the heck of it and I love it! I have a 10g set up with peat underneath the sand and so far it is doing well. Not as fast an amount of growth as the kitty litter tank but not bad either.
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Old 02-26-2004, 05:14 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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For my 125 and 75 gallon tanks I purchased 4 bags of topsoil for about $10, three bags of Sackcrete sand for about $9 and three 100# bags of texgrit gravel for about $5/bag. I mixed the sand soil 50/50 because the soil alone seems to be too soft (mushy) when wet.

Even though this substrate is more for a low tech tank, I am using 3 Watts per gallon, CO2 injection, and heavy water column fertilization. I figure the soil will give micronutrients to the roots as an added benefit.

So it came to about $34 for the substrate for 200 gallons of tanks.

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Old 02-26-2004, 05:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
 
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Yeah, it's really not necessary to spend all kinds of money on substrate. IMO, the perfect substrate needs 3 things: appropriate depth, source of nutrients, some kind of organic matter/activator.

I listed them in order of importance. Organic matter will eventually accumulate in the substrate via mulm and other bacteria sludge (scientific, huh?) and the nutrient store will occur without help via absorption/adsorbtion into the mulm, etc through your water column additions. It's not the end of the world if you don't add those things initially, but...

I still prefer to add those things to a new set-up-- at least I do now. Getting a tank through the first 6-8 weeks is critical, IME.

I've got enough stuff laying around to make hundreds of pounds of potent substrate. All I need is the filler/cap which is REALLY cheap. If I didn't have what I do, I could easily create 400lbs of potent substrate for much less than $100-- Maybe as little as $50. 400lbs of Eco-Complete would cost me $400. Yuck.

Anyway-- HTH...
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Old 02-26-2004, 05:46 AM   #6 (permalink)
 
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Used to use sand or gravel and no ferts. Also no success. Now use 80% Eco-Complete with 20% Onyx Sand and a few Flourish Tabs by the Crypts. Plan to try other materials, like Turface with substrate additives like maybe Leonardite or Barley Straw Pellets or Peat. The jury's still out. Previously wanted to do Duplarit with plain gravel, but never got around to it.
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Old 02-26-2004, 06:35 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Use laterite, some Terralit(trace elements), and top soil/peat...then top with 2" of sand. Sand will also help reduce the fertility of the soil. And to reduce the risk of compaction, add lots of MTS. Read Tom's posts and Art's article, both are excellent sources for info...
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Old 02-26-2004, 10:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
 
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MTS won't prevent compaction. They don't burrow deep enough. If you have plants in your tank and use a reasonable gravel/sand grain size, compaction will never be an issue.

Terralit is just zeolite soaked in an iron/trace broth-- a waste of money. You could brew your own for pennies on the dollar.

If you use a top soil, than there is no need for peat, laterite or terralit, etc. All the organic matter and traces will be there already. It would be redundant and wasteful.
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Old 02-26-2004, 03:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Wouldn't they be needed if castings are used?
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Old 02-26-2004, 03:42 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Not neccesarily. Worm castings are soil or compost that have passed through the worm. They have all the properties of top-soil except more potent-- *slightly* more macros, but still not alot by any modern standard. They're little micro nutrient pellets with high CEC and a small amount of N and P. Laterite, or other iron heavy soil, would help by producing a long term source of micros. After the castings nutrient yield has begun to fade, their CEC characteristics will keep the iron soil going strong.

Natural top-soils are mostly particulate minerals and organic matter anyhow. Worm castings are magnified soil. I have a link to some excellent info on them, but I'm short on time. More later...
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