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Discussion Starter #1
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Conversation with Betsy, CaribSea's Representative
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Why does the product recommend against the addition of the packaged water to established tanks?

The substrate is packed in a buffered black water solution. If your tank is already established, we suggest not adding this simply because your tank may already have the perfect water parameters. If it is a new set up, what a great way to start! Either way, you get the benefits of the live bacteria and a remarkable and unusual volcanic basalt that supplies iron, potassium, calcium,and other essential trace elements.

What constitutes the 'black water' solution? How does it affect water chemistry?

Black water is a general term used for a humic/tannic acid solution. This is what gives tropical rivers such as the Rio *****, Orinoco, etc. their characteristic tea colored water. These very simple acid groups are the precursors of many essential bio-chemical reactions. A buffered blackwater solution caps the bottom end of the pH range. This is what is added to Eco-Complete is a concentrate, and meant to be diluted by at least 10 gallons per 20 pound bag. If this is put into an established tank, the hardness may exceed what is desired, or it may shift the pH, or DOC's. In other words, if you already have all your aquarium parameters where you want them, the additiona of the black water solution may cause these parameters to shift.

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Conversation with Richard M. Greenfield, CaribSea's Vice-President
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By what mechanism does Eco-Complete achieve the initial period of extraordinary clarity? Are there flocculants added to the liquid that the substrate comes packed in?

There are a few possible explanations the first being that the material, being very fresh (in geologic terms), has a low clay content so there are few particles in the colloidal size range (around 10 microns and smaller) that is typical of clays. Colloidal particles are particles that can be suspended indefinitely by Brownian motion alone and therefore require flocculants to remove. The solution does not contain a flocculant but a sticking agent is employed to immobilize bacteria and lignin particles in the pores and on the surfaces of the individual grains. There may be some residual effect that charged particles may be attracted to the surfaces of the grains and reduced by the engineered strains of bacteria that we employ for that purpose.

How does CaribSea guarantee the analysis of nutrients? Some have speculated that the substrate has been chemically modified "by saturating it with various nutrients (chemicals) in order to obtain the properties it proclaims.

This is very simple really. We have independent laboratory assay of this material by Argon plasma analysis. We do have control over the material as it is a very distinct deposit both chemically and physically (note the unusual natural sphericity) and we own exclusive rights to its use. Properties do not vary within this singular deposit.

We do not soak the material in the listed nutrients as a chemical bath. Our material is basaltic in composition. Unlike the granitic /continental volcanic material you are used to seeing, basaltic material is rich in all of the nutritive elements necessary for good plant growth. We achieve nutrient delivery directly from the grains via a combination of high reactivity of the material (being geologically recent), high surface area, which accelerates all mineral dissolution, and the bacteria and fungi that live in the pore microenvironments in association with plant roots and act as mineral / plant intermediaries. In this way the Eco-Complete delivers nutrient for the life of the aquarium, not just a pulse.

Can you please comment on the company's lack of participation with the planted tank hobbyists?

There is speculation as to why we are not more active in the aquatic plant community. I apologize and plead a lack of time but there is also another factor. Our product development is somewhat different from other companies in that we typically collect information from the hobby first then use our expertise to develop a product that matches the specifications and expectations desired by serious hobbyists and professionals. Therefore, during the development period, much information comes in but little out and this product was some years in development.

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I forgot to ask him if the company would consider selling Eco-Complete without the 'black water'. :oops:
 

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Eco-Complete and Participation

Well, this forum has exceeeded my expectations in terms of usefull information delivery and we've only been at it a couple of weeks now. Good job and let's keep up the good work.

I find it interesting that, like Flourite, Eco-Complete claims to be a naturally occuring material, i.e. some sort of geologic deposit. Come to think of it, so are many of the substrate products from ADA. Whereas Flourite is clay based, the Eco-Complete is of basaltic origin and the ADA products are typically volcanic (pumice, lavarock, etc.) if I'm not mistaken.

One has to wonder what the exact mechanics involved are in how these different companies came to find (or find out about ) sample, test and eventually aquire the rights to the individual deposits. For instance, did Seachem send out geologic explorers who reasearched and then just plain searched for the source of Flourite?

Yeah, I doubt it too...

Most likey, someone who was searching for something entirely different and totally un-related to aquatic gardening stumbled upon an interesting deposit, made note of it's characteristics, etc. in a report and then eventually somehow, someone who did know something about aquatic gardening read this material and put two and two together.

There are many other possibilities thoughbut I'm sure that whatever actually occured would make for a fabulously interesting tale.

bobo, moderator
 

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What a great post! CS thanks for going through the trouble and getting us this valuable information!

I think Eco-Complete is a very good product for aquarium plants. It meets many of the characteristics I suggest are necessary for a good substrate. I don't love the added blackwater and bacterias, but what the heck. I would also like to get other colors but that won't be possible as its color is natural.

As for how they did this, I think it is a simple matter of doing research on what the hobbyists are asking for and then going to find a product that meets that. You may be interested to know that there is a huge industry on the trade of sand and aggregates. I think the basalt would qualify as an aggregate.

All you do is search the brokers and ask around for something that meets your criteria. You then negotiate with the local supplier or purchase the rights to the site as CaribSea seems to have done. This is easy to do if the site is located in the third world.

Lastly, I submit to you that even though Eco-complete is a good substrate, it is not the only one. Aquatic plants do not grow in basalt in nature. We should therefore continue to push the envelope to find even better substrates.
 

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Great info! My doubts were finally cleared about how they add their nutrients, I thought they just added them chemically...I just thought it was "baked-clay" just like Flourite, but their answer seemed pretty logical!
 

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For those of you using Eco Complete - how do you feel about the "gravel" size? Have heard some comments that it is a little on the large size so may be dificult to start plants like glosso and hairgrass?

Regards,
Jay
 

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The gravel size is just perfect. It isn't very large at all. It is at least as small as Flourite. Many granules are even smaller.

Carlos
 

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Eco complete is a little too light weight for my taste.
It works for some plants but more delicate plants are not rooted down as securely as say onyx or flourite.

I like a heavy weight substrate.

Onyx sand is my favorite substrate still.
If they could make is white/tan or darker etc, then I'd be very happy.

I do like the color of Eco complete, it does well for the plants but it really does not have anything Flourite does not have it seems. I think one would be hard pressed to show one is better than the other.
I do like the grain shape better but onyx sand is good for that also.

I've used it for sometime along with Onyx sand, flourite profile/turface.

Flora base is one of the few I have not used but it appears to be similar to flourite red etc.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Excellent info, cS. That de-mystifies some things.

I've been totally pleased with Eco-Complete. I believe there is something to the water clarity claim. Even though I don't have issues with clarity in other tanks, the EC tank just "sparkles" in a different way-- Good description, huh? Even though that's not why I bought it, it's a nice perk.

Anyway, it is a little lightweight, but it's not so bad. It has kept everything down that I've tried including some tenellus with skimpy roots, so it's should hold down just about anything. The other concern is that lighter materials may not hold a "slope" as well....

At any rate, it beats Flourite in every respect as far as I'm concerned.-- Especially appearance. Still haven't tried Onyx, tho...
 

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I did not like onyx at first, but it has grown on me with both non CO2 and CO2 methods. It has that finer grain size yet is very heavy still.
I think the slopes stay put better with it than with flourite IME.

Erik and I have talked about it over the years, it's his favorite these days also.

But I would like to see some of these companies come up with some light colored substrates, tan, white, etc and a nice more even grain size(2-3mm spheres).
This would certainly cost more though..........

Still, I'm happy overall with Eco complete.

I really don't care for their assertion that you don't need CO2 due to their substrate, I can make this same statement about plain sand, but they are suggesting that their substrate is some type of replacement for CO2 enrichment which it is plainly NOT.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I really don't care for their assertion that you don't need CO2 due to their substrate, I can make this same statement about plain sand, but they are suggesting that their substrate is some type of replacement for CO2 enrichment which it is plainly NOT.
Where did they make this assertion? I heard this same statement from another hobbyist, who claims that folks from his local aquarium club told him about it, and that these folks got it from the AGA Convention 2003. Did CaribSea print this somewhere and/or told you this?

Curious.
 

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Yes, I took at a look at their bag at the LFS, it does not make any no CO2 needed claims.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 
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