Well now, not even your beloved and learned moderator has never heard of this product.
Can we give a brief description of this Eco complete and tell us how long you've been using it and what you're growing?
Do some or any plants which have proven difficult for you in the past seem to grow better in this substrate?
Shortly I will have the library up that contains some articles on substrates. I think the take away from these articles is that substrates should do certain things really well and not do other things.
Some of the characteristics of a good substrate include, but are not limited to,
->be appealing to the beholder
->adequately hold the plants in place
->provide for adequate exchange between the soil solution and water column
->bind nutrients for release to roots (cation exchange capacity or CEC)
Some characteristics a good substrate should NOT have include, but are not limited to,
->compact over time
->damage plant roots
->disintegrate over time
->adversely impact water quality
->or otherwise **** you off.
Eco-complete is a goos substrate based on the above, IMHO. I personally do not care for the black color, the blackwater extract that is added or the "beneficial bacteria" additions. However, if you can live with that, it should work well.
I've heard that you do not need to rinse it and it keeps the water crystal clear. I'm not sure how it does this, but... It is also supposed to contain a guaranteed analysis of nutrients. That is a very dangerous claim for a company IMO as the company does not have control over the actual material (essentially, volcanic rock).
I know nothing of this Eco-complete, but I wonder if they are chemically modifying this volcanic rock by saturating it with various nutrients (chemicals) in order to obtain the properties it proclaims. This seems the likely course, as similar ideas have occured to me and others and the question of whether or not this works or more importantly -- works long term would be the issue formost in my mind. Presumably they have tested it.
A substrate which is *ideal* for the plants (which plants?) and in which the water remains crystal clear could be two mutually exclusive goals, FI. There are always trade offs in dealing with issues such as these.
I did a side by side comparison with Eco-complete and Onyx Sand in new twin 20 gallon tanks. I can't say that I found any diff as far as the plants go after about 9 months or so.
The main values of Eco-complete compared to Onyx or Flourite is that it really is pretty much dustless. Otoh, I think Flourite has more iron, but plants don't need all that much anyway -- especially if you're adding a trace mix with irron in it.
Eco is very light and larger grained than Onyx Sand, so it's a bit harder to plant in -- but no worse than Flourite.
I can't think of any reason why it would be any better, overall, than Flourite. Ime, I haven't seen any except maybe the issue of dust, but I don't bother to rinse Onyx or Flourite all that much anyway. I certainly wouldn't let that override my prefence for appearance, which is the only thing I'd use to decide between which fo the 3 I'd use, Flourite, Onyx, or Eco. A slightly longer summary of the comparison can be found her: http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.200304/msg00247.html
I really like Eco complete. I don't think it should be packed in water, but that's another issue. It's come a bit in price and is a little more than Flourite these days.
Over all for the new person, I think this is better since you do not have to rinse it.
Having set up tanks with 600lbs of flourite, I'll tell you this is a good thing
I like the color, I like shape.
I thought is might be too light, but it's pretty good.
I think it's recommendable certainly as much if not more than flourite.
But does it grow plants better?
No. Not that I can tell.
I do not like mixed layer of substrates. I may enrich the substrate with soil, peat, mulm, fert's, but I do not mix two different products.
I can always rinse away the soil, the peat, the mulm/ferts etc, BUT, I cannot rinse or separate the two colors etc of two different substrates.
Turface is good and cheap but light so adding sand there is an exception.
But I think that, Flora base, Eco complete and Flourite onyx sand are all very good and we are much more fortunate today than in the bad old days with laterite/sand mixes.
I swapped a 20 over from Profile to Eco as an experiement and also to get a medium that was a little heavier. Planting in it is much preferable to Profile but somewhat less than my old stand-by, red flint gravel. (Yes, I go back many years in the hobby). I left the fish in the 20 and siphoned out the Profile and then added the pretty much drained Eco to the tank.
Now, three weeks later, I've got plants growing like crazy and BROWN ALGAE growing like crazy as well! I've not had brown algae in 40 years in the hobby. Anybody got any advice? I run low-pH RO for discus. Testing of the water didn't indicate any specs for ferts and iron too far out in left field. I have 55w and DIY CO2 on the tank.
I have an idea that will solve the issue of 'black water', but I'm not sure if you will agree. CaribSea should make Eco-Complete without this "magic liquid", rather they should bottle it and sell it for those who want it. This way more customers are satisfied with cheaper shipping, and no risk of leakage; and for people setting up a new tank they can just add it to the water like BIO Spira. I'm pretty sure this would probably attract more customers? Can someone suggest this to CaribSea?
I have just re-done a 10 gal with eco-complete, finished it yesterday. It had been set up with plain gravel and Excel in December. I was having a tough time with the plants and battling brown algae from the beginning.
I have added pressurized co2 for this now with the eco, and loaded it with a bunch of plants from my other 2 tanks. I must say I like the black color of the eco and the no hassle of using it, ie, no washing!
I'll post some updates in 2-3 weeks to let people know if they're interested.
My LFS was telling me about a Carib-Sea product call Flora-Max. I have checked the web site and cannot find anything on that, only Eco-Complete. Has anyone here run across Flora-Max (not Flora-Base, I asked explicity).
I cannot find the article I read a few days ago but it was an interview with a VP or something from Carbsea about Eco Complete. If I remember correctly he stated it was not soaked in any sort of fertilizers. I'll have to see if I can find it again. Was interesting to read.