None of you were there?
Quick review.... Bailin presented a few different substrates including black beauty blasting grit, Eco complete, flourite, charcoal soilmaster select, onyx, and an older one that I can't remember (maybe flora base???).
Black beauty - as cheap as dirt. Very, jet black, visually striking when wet. Uniform small grains with sharp jagged edges - maybe not good for corries. Useful to cap another substrate. Fairly dense. Completely inert.
Eco complete - A good all-round substrate. Expensive compared to other options. Contains some nutrients, but after a few months will likely make no difference. Moderately dense, holds plants well enough. Grain size is fairly small.
Onyx - Bailin's favorite. Contains some CaCO3, so it does buffer the water a bit. Quite dense compared to others and holds plants quite well. Contains lots of fines but doesn't cloud the water too much and doesn't become too compact over time. Graphite grey color when dry, but darker when wet.
Charcoal soilmaster select - Quite cheap, hard to find (Frenzy's has a couple of bags), very uniform grain size. Also grey color when dry, but much darker when wet. Somewhat less dense than other choices, but it seems to hold plants well enough. Supposedly provides a favorable environment for root zone biochemical processes. Needs a good rinse before using.
Flourite - (I can't remember if we actually had this on display, but we disused it). Moderately dense, moderately priced, larger particles than Eco complete and even onyx. Difficult for small foreground plants. Needs a very good rinse prior to use. Supposedly contains some iron, but basically functions very much like any other substrate after a short time. Presently only comes in red.
I can't remember exactly what the other one was, but I recall Bailin wasn't too fond of it. The grains fall apart after a few months and it seems to have been the least dense of all the ones we looked at.
Take home message for me - The 250 lbs of charcoal SMS in my garage should be just fine. If it were only a little more dense it would be perfect.
This was probably my last meeting
since we'll be moving around the time of the June one.