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Eco Complete as a base layer?

Plant Heathen

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Hello, everyone. I'm in the process of setting up a 36" x 18" x 16" tank. I was just wondering if anyone has tried using eco complete as a base layer. Then adding something like ADA aqua soil or Fluval Stratum on tope. Or would I be better off just adding sand or something like that instead? Any help and direction would be great thank you.
 

JoshP12

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You totally can. I’ve never used eco complete but I have used leftover fluorite as a base layer spiked with miracle gro just because.

If it is anything like fluorite it has terrible CEC and is for all intense purposes inert - but what I do like is since there is iron in the fluorite, once the roots hit there and the rhizosphere matures (in particular the iron oxidizing bacteria) then you have an iron source in your substrate for when the roots get there.

Ultimately, a rich layer is going to serve you longer as the substrate will get depleted - what does the root eat when it’s get to the “inert” eco complete?

Can rely on water column.

In short, yep is no issues. Make grain size slightly larger or same size though.

Josh
 

Plant Heathen

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You totally can. I’ve never used eco complete but I have used leftover fluorite as a base layer spiked with miracle gro just because.

If it is anything like fluorite it has terrible CEC and is for all intense purposes inert - but what I do like is since there is iron in the fluorite, once the roots hit there and the rhizosphere matures (in particular the iron oxidizing bacteria) then you have an iron source in your substrate for when the roots get there.

Ultimately, a rich layer is going to serve you longer as the substrate will get depleted - what does the root eat when it’s get to the “inert” eco complete?

Can rely on water column.

In short, yep is no issues. Make grain size slightly larger or same size though.
Thanks for the reply. If I remember correctly Eco actually has a pretty good CEC. As far as making the grain size bigger I'm not sure how I would do that. Fluval only comes in one size (that I know of) and I've never seen ADA or and thing else up close and personal.
 

JoshP12

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Thanks for the reply. If I remember correctly Eco actually has a pretty good CEC. As far as making the grain size bigger I'm not sure how I would do that. Fluval only comes in one size (that I know of) and I've never seen ADA or and thing else up close and personal.
I’ve seen stratum and I Google eco complete.

Should be fine - even if it’s a bit smaller.

I attached a photo of my side - the only reason I used it was because I didn’t like the idea of having it laying around in the back when I could use it up here ... so I have it a go.

Roots will oxygenate it, so just make sure you plant it and feed the roots with some kind of root tab.

In the photo you can see my sloppiness as well as beneath it all is a small layer of the old substrate prior to the rescape — it’s all good.

Josh
 

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JoshP12

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I should clarify something: you want the lower piece to have a larger grain to allow water movement and ultimately better oxygenation.

The problem with large grains is that it allows detritus to get down in there. So to prevent this, we cap with something slightly smaller.

But if you do good maintenance, have healthy plants, and feed the substrate, you won’t have any issues.

Josh
 

Plant Heathen

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I’ve seen stratum and I Google eco complete.

Should be fine - even if it’s a bit smaller.

I attached a photo of my side - the only reason I used it was because I didn’t like the idea of having it laying around in the back when I could use it up here ... so I have it a go.

Roots will oxygenate it, so just make sure you plant it and feed the roots with some kind of root tab.

In the photo you can see my sloppiness as well as beneath it all is a small layer of the old substrate prior to the rescape — it’s all good.

Josh
The place I got my fertilizers from sent me some of their root tabs I was going to spread out. The plan was to spread them out on the ECO then put the Fluval on top. I know making my own fertilizer mix is cheaper but I went that route last time I tried a planted tank. It just turned into a pane. Now that was at least ten years back and I'm sure the measurements are much less of a guess. I just want to simple and to the point this time.
 
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If you spike the substrate with fertilizer (root tabs/osmocote etc.) then you really don’t even need the top layer. As you said, stay simple. You can just use the eco complete as your substrate, an aquasoil is not completely necessary. Eco complete also doesn’t breakdown like aquasoil, so you can use it over and over again.
 

JoshP12

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If you spike the substrate with fertilizer (root tabs/osmocote etc.) then you really don’t even need the top layer. As you said, stay simple. You can just use the eco complete as your substrate, an aquasoil is not completely necessary. Eco complete also doesn’t breakdown like aquasoil, so you can use it over and over again.
I ran fluorite with miracle gro spiked before knowing anything about ferts and before using EI. Crypts exploded.
 

Plant Heathen

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If you spike the substrate with fertilizer (root tabs/osmocote etc.) then you really don’t even need the top layer. As you said, stay simple. You can just use the eco complete as your substrate, an aquasoil is not completely necessary. Eco complete also doesn’t breakdown like aquasoil, so you can use it over and over again.
Ok good to know. I see people using Osmocote but I'm not sure which one. Is it the green one or the pink one?
 

Plant Heathen

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So I'm about to order my substrate and was wondering if anyone has any experience with either of these two. Tropica and UNH are ether better than the other or should I stay away from either of them? The same place also has the ADA as well. I've never used this type of substrate so any impute is welcome.
 

alto

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UNH?
Do you mean UNS Controsoil

Glass Aqua site is worth a thorough read, as they’ve been scaping with various soils for awhile now (I love their photography and Shop the Look scape designs, FB page is great for following their scapes)

I’d also look to Aquarium Design Group (I believe they’ve been using Tropica and UNS (and maybe Aquario) products as they too have experienced the ADA North America distribution game)

I think that all of these engineered aquarium soils offer great ease and stability ... I’m a fan of Tropica Aquarium Soil as it holds up well over time but look at the pricing
I’ve not used the UNS or Aquario soils (more expensive at my lfs, and I still have loads of Tropica)

ADA Amazonia is much more prone to mudding than Tropica so if you’re looking to clean and reuse soil I’d avoid ADA
(also if you’re likely to move plants etc about, especially with livestock in tank)

Fluval stratum is absurdly expensive locally, but more importantly it has had quality control issues (killing shrimp, stopping shrimp breeding)

If you want to use EC as a base layer, I’d place it in fish media bags (or those mesh laundry bags for “delicates”) so that it remains separate from your aquarium soil (unless you’re OK with it mixing)
For building height, look for a local material that’s similar in size/structure to ADA Power Sand (that seems like it was some translation error as it’s completely un-sand-like) as it provides excellent “flow”

If you’re planning to have this single scape and keep it for several years, I’d likely invest in some nutrient rich base layer such as Tropica Growth Substrate etc (or some combination of Tropica GS, ADA Power Sand (especially if you want some deep substrate areas), and also plan on using root tabs (Filipe Oliveira is the master of root tabs in his set up/rescape videos)

I’d only use sand for decorative purposes or if you’re wanting to keep certain fish species (many dwarf cichlids seem to benefit from sand for long term health)
 

Plant Heathen

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Thank you for all the great info and the reply.
Do you mean UNS Controsoil
I did mean UNS thank you.
Glass Aqua site is worth a thorough read, as they’ve been scaping with various soils for awhile now (I love their photography and Shop the Look scape designs, FB page is great for following their scapes)
Great site thank you. I wish I know about it before ordering my light but still happy with what I got just would have been a little less money.
ADA Amazonia is much more prone to mudding than Tropica so if you’re looking to clean and reuse soil I’d avoid ADA
(also if you’re likely to move plants etc about, especially with livestock in tank)

Fluval stratum is absurdly expensive locally, but more importantly it has had quality control issues (killing shrimp, stopping shrimp breeding)
Thank you for the heads up about these two products. I haven't heard this about these two products but again I've been out of the loop for a while.
I’d only use sand for decorative purposes or if you’re wanting to keep certain fish species (many dwarf cichlids seem to benefit from sand for long term health)
I was going to use sand in the foreground and some towards the side of the tank. I was thinking about some bottom dwellers. Like some Corys and some little gobies so I figured they would areas hate the sand. I was thinking about a 2" layer give or take. I know if you go too deep you can get some bad gasses building up in it but I don't think a layer that deep would be that bad (or would it?).
 

alto

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Some FAAO videos worth watching (demonstrating sand + soil, also how to layer sand for perspective, note ADA method often places sand over aquasoil)
I’m assuming your tank is rimless so a thin layer of sand in the foreground is all that’s needed for viewing


(Water changes at Aquaflora can be done without water conditioner as water contains no chlorine, chloramine etc, several partial water changes are likely done through the maintenance including water flowing in while vacuuming etc occur)



This time larger pebbles are used as they will help limit soil movement by livestock, also difference in perspective
 

alto

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Dave Chow scape at Aquaflora

This hardscape is just amazing

Expected algae issues, plant coverage is relatively low, lots of “small” or slower growth plants, limited stems

Note the soil accumulation at front of tank (in the few days after video) - likely predominantly “loose” soil after the rescape that’s deposited by filter/water movement, some shrimp effects (Amano shrimp are obviously much more efficient at soil transport, in part due to larger size, but also behaviour differences)
There is also an algae bloom on the sand (likely mostly diatoms or easily controlled green algae)

When using sand in planted tanks, it’s recommended to have extra soil for regular maintenance/replacement to keep that bright clean look - if you choose darker coloured sand, this is easier to hide but the aesthetics are also very different than having that bright sand
If you do daily maintenance (even just 10min) including removal of “drifting” soil, major maintenance sessions shown in the FAAO videos likely won’t be necessary

I was trying to find his video where there are Corydoras in an Aquaflora display tank, and he removes them as they are causing too much displacement of soil onto sand - this is the downside of keeping sand sifting fish in a planted tank
Using larger pebbles to create a larger border area between sand and soil, establishing carpet plants and epiphytes before adding fish significantly improves soil transport issues
You can also establish the tank before placing sand in the tank (leaving bare glass - much easier to remove soil cleanly)
Depending on fish size/species, you may not want to have any areas where soil is layered beneath sand
 

alto

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. I was thinking about a 2" layer give or take. I know if you go too deep you can get some bad gasses building up in it but I don't think a layer that deep would be that bad (or would it?).
This is definitely enough sand to have anaerobic areas establish (and this may occur over a few months rather than years)
Some sands pack much more tightly than others, light “loose” sand is what you want to use (ADA La Plata sand has very nice characteristics but is very light coloured (though it is a cream color rather than white) and more expensive than many other sands) - unfortunately I don’t think it’s easy to determine this without actually doing a sand behaviour demo in your tank
(sand that is less uniform in texture/particle size will usually pack less tightly allowing more movement, unless the sand itself is very dense)

If you have actual sand sifters in your tank - think Tanganyikan style - sand will be moved much more thoroughly than with corydoras or dwarf cichlids (but that high pH and stable water parameters requirement isn’t exactly conducive to a wide variety of plant species and excellent plant growth)
You can add lovely freshwater gobies such as “Steve” ... but then he does rather have his own aquascaping ideas



I’ve experienced sudden and catastrophic fish death from a substrate that I certainly did not expect to have anaerobic areas, and I didn’t smell any sulfur release, nor observe any “bubbles” ... I immediately began removing fish to the change water I’d prepared (in a large bin near the tank and with a power head providing flow) - a couple Corydoras survived, wild caught Cardinal tetras were the first to show symptoms
 
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