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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Does anyone have information or suggestions for me on which substrate to go with? I like the look of Onyx, but heard that it can increase the KH of the water, which may not be desireable. I also heard about Eco-Complete, which I understand is similar to fluorite and onyx in that it contains a lot of Iron and other traces(not sure if it affects the water), but the beneficial bacteria mixed in it helps with cycling and such. Does anyone have suggestions of which one to go with? I'm kind of leaning towards the Eco-Complete, unless someone convinces me otherwise. This will be for a 20g heavily planted tank.

Also, which one of these is likely to leech nutrients into the water? The only one I know will not is fluorite(except the cloudiness).
Which is likely to hold the nutrients for longer?

Ryan
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I had some cloudiness on the last tank I set up and it was just peat moss & beach/sandbox sand. I suppose the agitation from filling the tank up comes into play. There's a lot to be said for taking the time to do it right. I like the look of the onyx / Eco black substrate as I'm thinking it may help bring out plant/fish color better, but as for quality of substrate, are you saying that Fluorite is the way to go?
This tank is close to being setup. I just ordered pmdd stuff last night from greg watson and some other stuff from Big Al's.
Choosing which substrate may just come down to eeny-meeny-miney-mo.
 

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My vote goes to Eco-Complete. I've used both Eco and Flourite, and although cloudy water was never a problem with the Flourite when prepped correctly, I just like the Eco after the fact for ease of use and performance.
 

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Usually Eco Complete leaks Calcium and Onyx leaks Mg. I haven't tried Flourite, but i'm sure any of the above will give you great results. I use Eco and it's working out great. Plus I love the look of a dark substrate.
 

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My vote is also for Eco complete, I've had significantly less algae problems in my Eco complete tank, also looks much better... guess this might mean I'm a little short on Ca in my tap...

Jeff
 

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It funny to me how much scrutiny the ADA substrate system gets, yet I hear very little challenging the Eco-Complete claims about what all is in that stuff. I mean, do you really believe that there's actually viable bacteria in that water? I've seen the warehouses where it sits all summer- doubt it has much by the time it makes into your tank, but that's just my opinion. As for the nutrient content of it- I am truly skeptical. Where are these nutrients? It's just porous black rocks. There is no mention of WHERE the nutrients come from. I never had more trouble than when I used it. I mean, plants grew, yes, but that alone is no great feat. Where is Tom Barr's masters research study on this product? Certainly it's been thoroughly tested and/or raked over the coal fires to insure all the package claims are correct.
Flourite is tried and true, makes no suspicious claims, and is terribly ugly all at the same time. Prior to ADA availablity, I used it exclusively, tried the Eco-Complete (reading the package you would think it was some sort of miracle product), hated it, and went back to Flourite.
For a beginner my advice would be FLOURITE all the way (if you can't wait for ADA). Maybe I've been through 1000 bags of it and I have never once rinsed it and have never had the cloudy water scenario. The key is to dry-scape the tank, then fill it really slowly. If you want to go super clear- fill it, drain it and fill it again.
 

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I would say either Eco or Flourite...Depends on the color you want and the ease (rinsing versis no rinsing). Myself being a user of both, I can't tell that one gives better plant growth over the other. The Eco did raise my KH for the first few months.
 

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Go with inert substrate if you want to be in control. Otherwise substrate will control you via water changes.

Edward
 

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Edward said:
Go with inert substrate if you want to be in control. Otherwise substrate will control you via water changes.

Edward
But it won't control you for very long...But does anyone notice how roots try to penetrate the EC granules?
 

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There are both pros and cons to inert substrates.

For our high light systems (with power compact flourescent lighting in the 3.5wpg+ range), I think a semi-rich substrate rich in iron and traces is necessary.

The plants simply cannot strip enough nutrients from the water column while sitting in sand in a 4 wpg tank with PCs and good reflectors. They need the added boost from the substrate (observation).

Personally, I like Eco-complete but will switch to ADA from now on. Both condition the water in different ways. In fact, I think the way ADA Aquasoil conditions the water might even be desirable for various species.

Carlos
 

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Hi Tsunami,
tsunami said:
There are both pros and cons to inert substrates.
Each substrate requires different water column dosing. On the end they all work. There is no magic one.

For our high light systems (with power compact flourescent lighting in the 3.5wpg+ range), I think a semi-rich substrate rich in iron and traces is necessary.
One of my tanks have 5 Wpg PC with inert substrate and plants are growing nicely. So does Niko who posted pictures of great looking plants and huge roots. I think any substrate works with good water column fertilization.

Edward
 

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tsunami said:
The plants simply cannot strip enough nutrients from the water column while sitting in sand in a 4 wpg tank with PCs and good reflectors. They need the added boost from the substrate (observation).

Carlos
The only thing they need is Fe and traces in the substrate, but only in little amounts (basically Laterite is ideal). There's no need to invest in such expensive substrates, unless you forget to dose daily. If you rely solely on the water column I'm sure you'll come up with almost the same results as using a rich substrate/dosing.

But what's the use of having a substrate that lowers your Mg/Ca levels, when you may end up running into a defeciency? Unless you have extremely high levels. Even though, the buffering effect won't last for very long. RO is better solution.
 

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Raul-7 said:
But it won't control you for very long...But does anyone notice how roots try to penetrate the EC granules?
I see this with Fluorite, too. It's probably gonna happen with any porous substrate. Back when I was working with soil-based tanks, I stupidly used some potting soil that had wood chips in it. Whenever I'd pull up plants, there would always be a bunch of chips firmly attached to the roots.
 

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Edward.

You have high lighting with 5 wpg of normal flourescents or 5 wpg of power compact lighting with good aluminum reflectors?

Niko tells me that his plants may be healthy, but the plants I sent him look pale. This includes such trace sensitive plants as Micranthemum umbrosum and Mayaca fluviatilis --two excellent indicator plants.

If I remember, the tank Niko posted was the one with glossostigma correct? This tank was setup by Luis Navarro, who tends to use semi-rich substrates (heavy in iron and traces) such as eco-complete, florabase, etc. I am not sure what he used in this tank, but it would be unlike him to use something inert.

My point is not to supply all fertilization through the roots, however. And I am not referring to nitrate or phosphate, Raul. I refer to the iron and traces in your eco-complete, your onyx, your flourite, and perhaps even your aquasoil. Those are important if you truly want to push your tank really hard without stunting your plants. The rest comes from the water column. That is what I do -- everything through the water column, but a little extra trace/iron boost in the substrate. This is basically what most people are doing at this point. It works better for some species than for others.

And adding a bit about Ca/Mg... I have yet to see an a calcium or magnesium deficiency in a tank using this product. Some of the best Ammannia gracilis and Nesaea pedicellata, two plants I have observed that are sensitive to Ca/Mg ratio/levels, were grown in aquasoil.

Carlos
 
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