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Is there a material I can use to keep substrate landscaped to different heights?

3108 Views 15 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  dawntwister
Is there some type of netting material I can use to keep substrate shaped the way I want it for a 29 g Biocube scape I'm working on? I've never used anything but stones to do this, but to keep sharper slopes and to shape the loose substrate (turface pro league gray) the way I want I need something to hold the substrate better that won't interfere with carpet plant growth and won't be visible once the growth is in.
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What about a stiff screen supported by rocks here or there underneath your substrate? There is landscaping screening with small and big holes, your choice. OR- You could use that stiff canvas plastic (for needlework) and cut it to the size you want. The problem might be that it would be too stiff to keep your shape. Depends on how heavy your substrate is to hold it in place.

I know that people use clear plastic (like the stuff that is used in retail packaging. It keeps the roots on the proper side but it you planted your ground cover on both sides I would think that would work well.
I'm afraid a net would just follow the substrate around, flatten out etc. I can't really think of anything that would help, I use the same sub in some of my tanks (SMS) and periodic 'terraforming' is the only thing that works for me. Seems like anything stiff enough, with holes small enough to keep the grains from falling through, would hinder planting, and the root-ball mess would be a nightmare.

Get yourself a small, metal hand held tea strainer, you'll thank yourself, every user of calcined clay substrate should have one.
What do you use the tea strainer for?

I've used SMS on the E Coast, and used TPL because it was available here on the W Coast, and there's no way this substrate will hold as sharp a slope as I might need in one or two places - can anyone recommend a specific screening material with holes large enough to allow root penetration but tight enough to hold general shape? I think it's ok if some substrate gets through, so long as the general shape is held.

Take a look at some of the ADA style tanks - there's no way they did many of those without netting to hold substrate shape, or vertical plastic walls inserted into the substrate at some points to support different heights of substrate. The best in my opinion would be netting of the right size and material.

Any link to a good source of the right netting much appreciated!
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How about making layers with canvas, like Tex Gal suggested, glued to the side of the tank with silicone. To hide it you could glue rocks on it with silicone. The canvas would be like wood that is used to created tiers in slopping yards.

I am going to have 1 tier. I will put cardboard, something I read, between the sand and dirt. When both are the same level I will take the cardboard out. Then going put lava rock in the substrate to make the terrace. If the rocks don't hold the fluorite I will use crosspoint mesh. Probably glue divider holders on the side and then place the mesh in them.
jaidexl, what do you use the tea strainer for?

The key problem I'm trying to solve is how to maintain the slope of a hill over time. I've seen slopes in some ADA setups that simply could not be maintained without some support right under the slope. I'm thinking they used some type of netting to form the slope, with large enough holes to allow root penetration, and then sprinkled some substrate over the netting and then either kept it a substrate slope or planted ground cover over that. Even though some grains of TPL or SMS will get through, overall shape will still be held.

I should email or call ADA to ask.

The tea strainer's for scooping up SMS/Turface etc and relocating it. Especially helpful if you have sand somewhere, SMS is bound to invade it and the small strainer is the quickest fix I've found.

I have an SMS slope now that's maybe 25 degrees, it compacts after a while and I scoop it back over with the strainer. But it sounds like you want to do more extreme levels like the contest tanks. Good luck with that, I already decided on old, sticky ADA AS or some kind of mud for when I decide to try that, I don't see how SMS would ever work in some situations.
Here is a picture of something I saw someone do. It was done with egg crates. I haven't been able to find them at the hardware store.
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Those egg crates are found in the lighting sections. They are used to diffuse light.
Hi Fishstein. Glad to see you back on the boards.

I have seen in some of my Planted Aquarium books where glass is used.

Cut the glass or for the height and width and length and use hot melt glue and glue them together.
This will form the base and then you cover the edges with a sloped layer. This is how Dutch tanks are typically done.

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Plexiglass is affected by the water. It bends which makes me wonder if it leaches when its shape changes.
Good point. I'll edit my response to just glass.

There are different types of plexiglass; i.e. lexan, polycarbonate, etc.
Plexiglass is affected by the water. It bends which makes me wonder if it leaches when its shape changes.
I'm just wondering, but what about the tanks made from plastic then? Could you use this type of plastic?

Tanks are made with Acrylic plastic.

I just changed my response because I felt it might/could be possible with certain types of plastic (plexiglas).
Just put some substrate in old nylon sock and make knot in the ned. Cut the excessive nylon away and you are all set. It holds its shape very well. You can make towers and all :rolleyes:. If you want somthing complicated, make some "sausage" shapes and put them together, on top, or what else do you want...
The nylon is small enought for substrate to stay in and big enough for roots to penetrate. Its event stretchable, so when the roots grow the nylon holes expands, not like plastic...
I found metal flash guards, 5'' x 7'' beneficial. If they rust they will provide some iron, thus I didn't do anything to the metal sheets. I placed lava rocks in front of the metal. I bought it for a few dollars in the barbecue section of Home Depot.

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