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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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Well...

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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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.

Steve Pituch
 

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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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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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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...:wink:
 

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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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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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i've had a successful planted tank using 1 inch of potting soil covered by 1 inch of gravel. but when i tore it down, it stunk so bad!!!
 

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People have talked about turface black, which sounds interesting. I thought about adding peat, but I am worried about it getting in the water column. For my next tank (10 gallon, high light) I might try turface black, if I can find it, and seachem root tabs. I like the root tabs because they don't break apart. I might try putting them 2" apart compared to the recommended 4".
 

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Why waste time and have to do extra work with the root tabs and all when one bag of eco complete will do a 10 gallon. It s a bit pricier but for 25 bucks:)
 

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Actually I did something today not characteristic of me.... I set up a 20 gal tank with Shultz Aquatic Soil. I'm impressed, its nice stuff. I only needed 15 pounds of the stuff (I expected to use 40 pounds (2 pounds/gal)). The plants went into the gravel easily. It wasn't too light, and it held the plants well, and the color is pretty nifty.

I may use some more of it. Its a lot easier to use than soil.
Steve Pituch
 

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IUnknown said:
People have talked about turface black, which sounds interesting. I thought about adding peat, but I am worried about it getting in the water column. For my next tank (10 gallon, high light) I might try turface black, if I can find it, and seachem root tabs. I like the root tabs because they don't break apart. I might try putting them 2" apart compared to the recommended 4".
IU, broham, let me know when you find that turface black, I wanna get in on the action, been searching with no luck, are you going to mix it with diamond black too?

if you add peat, don't add too much, and put it on the very bottom and you're good to go...
 

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IUnknown said:
I thought the seachem tabs contained much higher CEC than Eco-complete and other gravels,
http://www.aquabotanic.com/plantfer.htm
http://home.infinet.net/teban/jamie.htm
I like the idea of heavy fertilization in the soil to add to your water column fertilization.
it's continuous information like this that constantly affirms my belief that all you need is inert sand or gravel and supplement with root tabs and you can have a lush lush tank without the flourite or eco
 

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I don't know about the diamond black, I have to look into it. I need to ask Eric if it stays together like the root tabs do. I uproot to many plants to mess with soil additives that could mess up my clear water. :lol: I am looking, so I will let you know if I find anything.

http://www.profileproducts.com/turface/tfp_1.html
http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/Fertilizer/profile.html#6
<Hi. Does anyone know of a source of turface in the greater Seattle
area? I'd order it online but the shipping charges are nuts.
Thanks, Laurel>

Call the number below and they will be glad to tell you.

Profile Products LLC
750 Lake Cook Road, Suite 440
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089

800-207-6457
 

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another interesting diy substrate i've come across is the use of zeolite... I'm looking around to find more info on it...
 
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