I'm sorry but what is STS ? I really can't keep track of all these abbreviations.
So STS is a geo specific product ? I mean it is more of a brand's name for a product but specific to that brand that may not be available in other geolocation. You describe its behavior but if i were to go to the store it would be next to impossible for me to determine if an alternative product had the right properties ?STS, because of its porosity and clay component and high surface area, has plenty of binding sites for nutrients (CEC or 'cation exchange capacity'). It also has plenty of attachment sites for bacteria. If the STS is anaerobic, say at bottom of a deep substrate filled with organic matter, it will support denitrification, an anaerobic process. On the other hand, if the same STS is in an aerobic environment with enough oxygen, it will support aerobic bacteria like nitrifying bacteria. It simply provides attachment sites for bacteria, and since it also binds nutrients (NH4+, K+, etc), it encourages bacterial activity.
Apparently, the thin layer of STS scattered on the bottom of my potted plant tanks stays aerobic, and thus, does not support denitrification. I wasn't sure about this until I did my experiment showing that 10 ppm added nitrates did not decrease over a 13 day period. If tanks were actively denitrifying, I should have measured some decrease in nitrates.
I bought a 40 lb bag of STS for $7 at Tractor Supply Co.
Calcined clay is similar to porcelain and people have been keeping fish in porcelain bowls for a thousand years. I can't speak for the chemical properties of Matrix and Denitrate except to say that Seachem advertises them both as being "inert".