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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
what about alternative substrates.

gravel for aquariums always seems to be decorative.
then there's sand for more surface area for beneficial bacteria
then there's MTS (mineralized top soil) for providing additional nutrients for plants

foam or rockwool would provide lots of place for beneficial bacteria.
if filling either with nutrients for plants may have it's own difficulties though
and rockwool has a tendency to raise PH.
i would think that they'd have a smaller aerobic layer, but also a high CEC

but ...
i'm curious if anyone has tried anything so drastically alternative and what results they have had.
 

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Gravel and sand do not have many lodging sites for bacteria, though some bacteria will grow on them. They have no CEC. Gravel set up with an undergravel filter is pretty good as a home for bacteria because the additional water circulation brings the ammonia and oxygen to the deeper layers to feed the bacteria.
For decorative purposes either can be used as a cap or to make a path or 'river' effect. For growing plants they are not the best. For a non-planted tank, or using plants that are grown on branches, either will be fine. I have also seen a pretty impressive set up of a partial UGF, about 1/4 of the tank, and plant substrate for the other 3/4.

Substrates with high CEC are better for plants that get their nutrients from the root zone. When these substrates have a good level of fertilizers and minerals the plants grow the best. Mostly it is clay based materials with high CEC. Many of Amano's products, and montmorillonite clays (Oil Dri, Safe-T-Sorb, Turface...) are quite good this way. Very fine organic matter also has good CEC, though it is usually lighter in weight and can make a mess in the tank. Used in small amounts, organic matter can help out.

Any of the materials above are basically individual particles, so planting, transplanting, re-scaping and so on is easily done.

When solid or sheet materials are used in an aquarium for any reason transplanting and re-scaping become much more difficult.

The simplest concept was used more in Great Britain than here, but a 'gravel tidy' is simply a sheet of screening used in a tank with digging fish so they could not dig so much. Trying to plant a tank with a gravel tidy is not impossible, but later moving those plants that grow roots through the mesh becomes a night mare.

To use rock wool or any other 'solid', I would suggest planting in pots, not using that material as the full substrate all over a tank. That way you will be able to move the plants, or introduce some fertilizer tablets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
got no interest in moving plants once planted.
the rockwool slab, if i can find powdered minerals i could filter it through the rockwool to provide nutrients for the plants that would then be embedded in the rockwool.

all i can find online so far is people worried about rescaping tanks and "remove all the rockwool you can from their roots before planting", it's a simple idea, but proving to be one of the most difficult to find info about.

would the whole thing go anerobic ? that's a lot of rockwool in a tank, i can't find any answers about anyone who has tried.and the only objection is about rescaping, ... i try not to tinker with the tank, let the plants grow as they will, let the fish call it home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
rockwool is out of the question, the PH is too high, (8-10) it's surface area would simply dissolve into the water at a high enough rate to keep it high

glasswool i'm looking at now, gotta be careful, stay away from formaldehyde coated glasswool for obvious reasons, somewhere between cheap and my mind - inhibits bacterial growth (something we actually want to encourage in the tank)
 

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why isn't this there's longer? This seems like a great topic of discussion. I've used Special Kitty clay kitty litter before- from Walmart. I have a 10 gallon blackwater tank that has nothing but collected oak leaves in it for substrate. No plants though, obviously. My 125gallon turtle tank has large river rocks for substrate. Again, no plants. My 125 gallon community has 30lbs of flourite, 50lbs of small pebbles, and 40lbs of play sand all mixed, heavily planted. Also, I have a 10 gallon shrimp tank and a 15 gallon tall that have some random white sand I found somewhere.lol

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
jack, because some are looking for a tank to play god with, others are looking for a tank watch the beauty of it growing and developing on it's own
 

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If you're interested in something like rock wool that you can soak nutrients in, what about quilt batting under a layer of organic or gravel/sand? Economical, slow to degrade - would not be easy to move plants once rooted, but you say that's not an issue for you. Just my 2¢ FWIW.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
i was also looking up fiberglass, plastics i'm questionable about except as a last resort.

gotta inquire with Owens Corning again about what they're using as a binding agent.

the binding agent in rockwool is lime that can be dissolved with RO filtered water. then it's safe for aquariums without throwing your PH off all the time.

fiberglass like quilt batting i am guessing, ... they seem very fluffy.
i'm on the fence about them expanding (or trying to) and filling up with more water than surface area for beneficial bacteria

looking in the local hardware store, fiberglass is dirt cheap, ... $35 for enough to do 100 tanks (if the binding agent is safe - prevents the fiberglass insulation from turning into a pile of glass strands)

it's the springyness of fiberglass, i'm iffy about, ... quilt batting i wouldn't expect to be near as springy, so that's an option if things head that way. definitely cheaper than the filterwool i saw at the LFS

so far rockwool is first on my list, i was about to ditch it, then i heard it's the lime it uses for a binding agent and that can be taken care of.
 

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If this is just for novelty or for your own interest then by all means try it out and tell us how it goes! But in terms of practicality and ease, miracle gro topsoil would be a MUCH better/easier/cheaper alternative. With topsoil you wouldn't have to deal with all the carcinogens associated with fiberglass because of all the fibers suspended in the air, also fiberglass has more chemicals then what you'd want in your tank. It takes too much time looking up all the details and specifics then just simply using some cheap topsoil which is guaranteed safe as well as great for plants! Topsoil is a lot easier to fertilize and comes with lots of organics already.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
using it for the anoxic layer
possibly anaerobic if i find it will provide that much efficiency in breaking down toxins in the tank, i'm looking at it specificaly for how much surface area it provides for beneficial bacteria to grow on

i have not considered what i would have to do to add nutrients for plants to it, i honestly don't know if it will allow me to do that or not. one step at a time.

first is finding out the feasability and truth behind a deep sand bed.
then finding out if rockwool will allow a shallower bed with the same benefits

i get to worry about what to do for plant nutrients afterwards,
 

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There is a blue and white bonded fiber that is sold for aquarium filters.
It will mat down when used in the filter. It is a lot stiffer than quilt batting.
I do not know if it will stand up to being used as a substrate, but perhaps without the force of the water always flowing through it this material may hold up better.
Sponges such as the Aquaclear sponges are fine for plant roots, and for bacteria, and they hold up really well. Get a sheet of sponge with a similar cell size to the Aquaclear sponges, and you might have something.

The reason that many people are not interested in a solid sheet for a substrate is that aquarium plants are short lived. Even given the best of care, pruning and so on, many of them need to be replaced. Some last only a few months, others a few years. A particulate substrate allows you to replace those shortest lived plants without destroying the whole 'scape.
Aquariums are a lot smaller than a lake or river where the plants could grow full size, die off in patches but still keep going in others and the overall look is not as important. If you plot the growth areas in a lake you can see that it is not all over plants. If you tried this in an aquarium half the tank might die off, and without the buffer of thousands of gallons of water (like a lake) that much die off can kill the rest of the plants and livestock. This is one reason that most people who keep aquatic plants retain the ability to move individual plants. They may use particulate substrate or plant in pots. Either way they can move individual plants in and out of the tank.
Is this 'playing God'?
Or is this simply taking good care of the aquarium?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
that's creating grey areas where there were none before :)

end plants have turned into a tree (mangrove), some short bamboo (dono what kind yet), and symbiotic plants (haven't even started looking).

i've never considered life-span of plants only size/height & other aesthetic considerations. going to have to give this more thought then i realized would be necessary.

i've considered the life of every critter in the tank (still on the search for microbial life, daphnia, rotifers, copepods, tubifex worms, blackworms, whatever i can find to fill that part of the food-chain.

the lifespan of plants, ... something i've just taken for granted obviously

going to hunt down the blue foamy stuff you mentioned and see how that fits.
so far default is going to be rockwool only for it's natural substance, followed by estimated surface area it provides.

but more surface area is always good
 

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That is a link to so many items. Which did you have in mind?

Ceramic bio-noodles of all sorts are simply more particulate media. From the point that you are looking into, not significantly different from lava rock.

Some of those are sheet products. Maybe one of those would be what you are looking for.

Also look into Poret (sponge) and Matala media. Matala are dense plastic of some sort, extruded into thin strands like spaghetti, then matted together. They are thin strands and thick, and they are matted together at different rates so you get denser or more open product. They are superb bacteria media. They are also stronger than any of the floss or even fiberglass or similar material.
The first link is to several pore sizes of sponge material. The next is to the 'spaghetti-like' mats.
http://www.swisstropicals.com/Poret Filter Foam.html
http://www.matalausa.com/subcat24.html

Here is a link to one form of the bonded blue and white media. It is softer than either of the above.
http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4136+4231&pcatid=4231
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
the Hamburg Mattenfilter is something i was going to get (different purpose)
then i clicked on your link for the spaghetti stuff, ... that will replace it.

section off a part of the round tank for the water input for powerheads

now i've gotta stop being stubborn and really pick something for what i consider more efficient for a beneficial bacteria home

i've had lots of ideas, and been provided many more, always going to be open to more ideas, but i've got lots now to start with and consider.

even if i don't use the spaghetti stuff in the substrate, plants could really get into that couldn't they :) then good for living walls :)
 

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I use it as filer media in my largest filters (sumps) as a coarse debris filter, and in some tanks as a mattenfilter. Right now I have 2 different Matala mats, a really coarse one and a finer one.
They are really easy to clean, and they trap coarse debris really well.

Another thought:
If your goal is to set up an area that is anaerobic...
Aquatic plants generally will not grow their roots into an area that is already anaerobic, but will grow into that zone before it becomes anaerobic.
Aquatic plants take oxygen out of the water or especially the air (when growing partially above the water) and add it to the substrate through their roots.
Net thought:
If you set this up, and it has oxygen to begin with then the plant roots might grow into it and then keep on adding oxygen so you will not get the anaerobic zone that you are looking for.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
i haven't done any serious looking at aquatic roots any what they do in the substrate yet. what i have come across so far is full of contradictions and unexplained confusions

some says this helps neutralize the H2S the anoxic layers are producing, others say it will defeat anaerobic layers.

even the one forum that talked about roots deep in her sand bed the blackworms were found around the roots, but as for what is going on and any explaination/understanding, ... all best guess.

sounds like the roots will go where-ever they can, but what they are doing there, in any educated sense, is all guesses, theories, and fears

as for substrate alternatives and rockwool, i suddenly don't know if it's going to be the benefit i was hoping for, another forum mentioned in the wild the layers form fine in a near clay type substrate and smell very healthy if there is sufficient sand to cover it. just the sand cap makes the difference between toxic bubbles or not.

leaves me with more questions, which is good as it points out the assumptions are just that.

like is there such a thing as too fine, does not sound like it and no H2S in the water column.

black layers are H2S, and even a dead fish buried in the substrate that turns the area around it black, will slowly resume normal sand color, without harming the water column. she used courser sand then what i'm considering.

i still don't know what the concerns are vs reality about water flow, O2 & CO2 diffusion through the substrate and water surface are. we know we can manipulate them, but do we have to or do we just think we have to. how much CO2 does such a system add to the tank??? we know what happens when the plants are starving for CO2, but hard numbers about CO2 i have yet to come across, so what is real ? or is it all concerns about fears we are more concerned with doing something about instead of finding what needs to be done, if anything.

a lot of the exper knowledge is "when i watch the plants they seem to grow better", but compaired to what ? how much is "i want to imagine they are growing better because of what i'm doing.

not saying any of this to dismiss everything people have found, it's just questions that the experts are going by personal opinion and experience. sure there's improvements, but how much ? some people change several things and point to one thing for their results.

the deep sand bed, reef vs. tropical tank. ... i've never come across a single freshwater deep sand bed that didn't have plants in it, they all speak possitivily of the deep sand bed in their planted tank, but how much is the sand bed, how much is it the plants, ... no one knows

for marine/reef deep sand beds, ... one comment to a post i had, ... estimated run time of 3-5 years before they need to be cleaned, ... else they had algae problems, ... from a planted tank perspective that makes absolute sense, all those nutrients in the sand bed and no plants to use them.

but again, that's guesses, ... there are plants for a marine/reef tank, they're just hard to come by. would that change the 3-5 year estimate ?

i could use that to say "well then by default a freshwater deep sand bed should easily last that same 3-5 years", but it's apples and oranges, ... like terrestrial plant roots take in O2, as do specialized nodes on trees. there's plants with "air roots" that getting these wet will kill your flowers. (i could guess they take in O2), what do aquatic plant roots actually honestly do???

too many questions.

don't get me wrong, forums with everyone in here is a great place to ask and learn from everyone's experience. but it's got a dangerous flip side, ... no one has any hard research to back themselves up, just experiences that mirror, we've done it this way, these are the results we are expecting, we won't change because we know what to expect if we do things the same way. ... and don't try that other stuff because we are scared things will go wrong.

we know what works to normal expected results with normal processes in aquariums, so a great place to get answers to get started is with other people who have all the experiences. now to find that some of these answers are myth and not the real answers. "how long does a sand bed last?" "hours of light?", we control hours of light for algae control as best i have come across.

i've come across a comment somewhere (gotta look into it) that some microscopic water critters deal with algae spores in the tank long before we ever see an outbreak.

i can't find any info about algae beyond "just get rid of it" to understand it any better.

floating bladderwort, got some :), will the rooty looking things turn into a full flower, ... zero idea, done some looking, but found nothing to help me out (have not done serious looking though)

back to substrates.

the first thing i came across was surface area is important for benefical bacteria, that bacteria needs to be fed (kinda counter to vacuuming the substrate)

if it wasn't for MTS i'd be considering 6" of solid rockwool for a substrate. while the rock threads i'm sure are far finer than any sand in the tank, and diffusion is greater than any sand could allow. ... actually that's an idea too. one of the areas that requires hand-on testing as everyone is terrified of useing rockwool in tanks, throws off the PH something fierce. no one talks about disolving the lime to stop it from changing the ph. (RO water is perfect)
 
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