need advice on substrate for new tank

Discussion in 'Substrates' started by James Flexton, 5 Sep 2007.

  1. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    Hi People,

    i am very close to getting my rio400 or vision450 (still undecided well the misses is i know i want the 450 but she has a thing about bowed glass!)

    in short it will be packed full of cardinals with little else.

    i definatly want black, fine substrate and dont want to use laterite etc.. that will mix over time and mess up the clean black look. i also gather that cardinals will show their colour more with black substrate under them.

    i am currently leaning towards ADA aquasoil http://www.aquaessentials.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=220&products_id=574

    if you read the info it says it will lower PH which will be beneficial for the cardinals. i will not be using RO so the water will be relativly hard, not ideal but i will have to live with that.

    all this sounds great BUT apart from mentioning that the roots will benefit from a lower PH it doesn't mention nutrient content.

    tha question is will aquasoil alone be good enough for a proper carpet of HC, glosso, hairgrass etc... that is of major importance to the layout.

    any help would be appreciated. also how many bags to do a 400 or 450L? one bag does 60L is it just a case of multiplication? i know it will cost a lot but not to fussed about that. i want this to be the supertank i've always wanted.

    cheers

    James ;)
     
  2. zig

    zig Member

    Messages:
    686
    Location:
    Dublin Ireland
    Hi James just moved this topic into the substrate section, my 'ahem' first piece of moderating ever lol.

    Anyway personally I would not go for a bow front tank, they never photograph properly, but thats just a personal thing.

    The Aquasoil yeah thats a hard one to give advice on for a tank that size, I use it on 2 tanks atm but both of those are only small 24" tanks, 54l and a 65l, I wouldn't use anything else on tanks that size or larger, but on a very large tank I would have to think hard about it, it can be difficult to work with if you rescape a lot, it does break down to some extent in my experience, it is only a compacted soil (semi fired clay) after all and will crumble in your hand if you crush it between your fingers.

    It is great stuff though but you do have to treat it carefully IMHO, I would be interested in others thought on the matter, and yes it is basically a question of dividing your tank size by 60 and thats how many bags you will need, for a 400l you would need 7 bags.

    You also need to consider if you want to go the whole hog and add Powersand and the rest of the other ADA substrate additives as well, I just use the Aquasoil on its own.
     
  3. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    oops. thanks for the relocation zig i realised that just after i posted and was about to ask for it to be moved here.

    thanks for your thoughts. hmm, you know what i'm like, the plan i have for the layout will surely be overhauled in 6 months or so when i get bored with it and my current gravel/laterite has been moved all over the place in the last 3 years. from what you describe about it's fragility i probably would ruin it rather quickly. food for thought...

    i saw powersand on there but was concerned about mixing. i dont want to spend £175 on nice black dirt for it to be a speckly grey/black in a few weeks. surely the sand will end up on top as is the case with sand and fine gravel. please enlighten me if this is not the case.

    TBH i'm not considering aquasoil because it's ADA just the fact that it's the only plant substrate i know of that is black. if there is anything else anyone can think of that would do the job and is also black please shout about it as i would rather put those funds to better use in the tank. with wood,rock,plants and a ton of cardinals this is going to cost me a fair few quid as it is.
     
  4. JamesC

    JamesC Member

    Messages:
    1,276
    Location:
    Bexley, Kent
    Am I missing something here? I thought all ADA Aqua Soils were different shades of brown. Eco Complete is black and good for large tanks especially if you like rescaping as it doesn't crumble.

    James
     
  5. zig

    zig Member

    Messages:
    686
    Location:
    Dublin Ireland
    Sorry i thought the question was mainly about aquasoil.

    ADA amazonia is dark brown in colour, a more natural earthly colour than a black substrate IMO. Well I suppose if a black colour is the only criteria Eco complete would fit the bill but you would need to at least double the amount of bags you would need, the good thing about Aquasoil is that it goes a long way, it has volume, one bag would do for a 60l tank but with Eco complete you would probably need 2 bags at double the price as one bag of aquasoil for the same depth of substrate.

    Aquasoil will grow plants better IMO but Eco will probably suit you better in the long run, at what cost though? I just ran it through a substrate calculator and you would need 16 bags of Eco complete to cover a depth of 3 inches in a Rio 400 @ £24 a pop........ouch! I guess 12 bags would do a reasonable amount of coverage, still a good few quid though.

    Let us know James let us know
    :D
     
  6. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

    Messages:
    1,389
    Location:
    N. Wales
    My Aqua Soil Amazonia is a dark browny grey type of colour, but it does have a dark feel to it, if you know what I mean.

    I use the powder variety and find it excellent for scaping with, in terms of using steepish slopes that are stable.

    Dave

    EDIT: Just to agree with Zig about the bow front. Go for the Rio IMO.
     
  7. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,937
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi Jimbooo,
    It's amazing but Eco Complete is actually finer, slightly blacker and more crystalline than the the Amazonia. This is under my lights, however, which are PC 7000K . The Amazonia is really a dark gray suede, but is close enough to black I suppose.

    As far as it's ability to grow plants, have you seen the latest Barr Newsletter, Analysis of Sediments, which pits Aquasoil against some natural substrates? After 4 weeks It was a dead heat between lake silt and Aquasoil. The Aquasoil was smoked by both a potting soil+sand mixture as well as by Soilmaster, a soil conditioner used in football stadiums selling in the USA for about 1/10th the price. The test results came with a caveat though - the test was performed using a non aquarium fast growing lake weed, not an aquarium species. Still, it's revealing. Follow on tests are planned with the Powersand and some of the other ADA products.

    I've only had it in my tank for a few weeks yet so I can't comment on long term structural stability, but it has a nice feel to it certainly. I still feel that if you're running higher lighting and CO2 injection while dosing the water column it shouldn't matter that much which of the popular substrates you use. For low tech tanks, where the substrate is more important, based on the Barr testing, one would have to seriously consider other alternatives.

    On a subjective level though I definitely like poking my hand into the AS, no doubt, but this latest test result is a major reality check.

    Cheers,
     
  8. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    :lol: where else can you get advice on this stuff at midnight i love this place lol. Thanks james.

    if you follow the link in the first post you will see the AE page. clisk the "larger picture" and it shows the bag. it looks pretty black to me but it may look different under aquariom lights. that would give me the hump if i went to all that trouble and it was brown lol.

    ------

    just looked at it and it looks perfect. thanks james now to look for a good price, any suggestions? after a quick ebay and google search it's at least £23 a bag by the looks of it. if thats the case i may as well go to AE. you never know thay may give a discount on 7 bags, worth a try.
     
  9. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    sorry missed you two, it took me an hour to post the last reply while i searched eco complete lol.

    Dave - thanks for the clarification on colour. that definatly rules aquasoil out then. i definatly want black not dark brown.

    as to the bowfront i do have that one reservation as you do. the thing i have in my mind is lighting. i have not looked properly into it yet but by the looks of it at a glance in the LFS the vision has the same twin lighting rig as the rio plus another shorter twin lighting unit behind it. i will also be adding at least 2 T5's to sit infront of the original lights over the forground so to speak. with such a big tank i want as much light as possible.

    does anyone know the wattage of the tubes in the rio and the 2 in the vision? better still the standard WPG of both?

    ceg4048 - Thanks for that info, interesting to hear about the barr report newsletter i hadn't read that. Just goes to show it's not always about the price tag. we can get drawn in a bit with all the marketing etc at times, well i do anyway.
     
  10. Dave Spencer

    Dave Spencer Member

    Messages:
    1,389
    Location:
    N. Wales
    Juwel have just started to fit T5s to their tanks, so your timing could be spot on.

    The Rio 400 has 2 x 54W, so make sure you get a more recent tank.

    P.S. That Tom Barr report is very useful, with more to come.

    Dave.
     
  11. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    just looked at the juwel site and it seems both come with the same lights, it doesn't mention the second set on the vision. maybe i'm wrong there. i think i'd better get down the LFS and investigate. it's hard to know without actually looking at it in front of you.

    on the bow topic ignoring photography for now wouldn't it look better to the eye than the rio. to me the rio looks too plain at that size. my 180 looks okay but the 400 is twice the size.
     
  12. beeky

    beeky Member

    Messages:
    879
    Location:
    Chippenham, Wiltshire
    I've never owned a bow-front tank but from what I've heard (and seen in large public aquariums) they distort your view of the scene depending on the angle you're looking at it. They're also made of acrylic instead of glass and so are easier to scratch which is worth bearing in mind for your choice of substrate and ease of cleaning algae off the front.
     
  13. Harlequin

    Harlequin Member

    Messages:
    33
    James, just my 2 pence worth on the Aquasoil question...

    If you’re looking to carpet the tank with HC etc then is the colour (dark grey AS vs ecocomplete) really tthat much of a big deal? Once carpeted the Cardinals will be against a green background anyway and respond accordingly. I’m just growing a Lilaeopsis foreground with AS and it seems to be working a treat on it. I also agree with other folk here, that this stuff is excellent to work with and plant in. No floaters!

    If you use it with Powersand, then you get the additional organic matter component (PS is really just small chunks of porous volcanic rock/pumice, similar to aqua-medic’s Volcanit substrate, mixed with peat, which supplies N and P amongst other stuff). I’ve found it very durable too, and the AS Malaya I’ve had in a tank for over a year now looks identical to the day I put it in. I don’t think re-working it will result in it breaking down-yes you can squeeze it, but normal use in my experience won’t damage it. Again, if you’re uprooting stuff like big Crypts or Echinodorous you might bring some Powersand to the top, but if you’re planting densely then you’re not going to see it. I also keep some over to top dress the substrate in the event of a major re-scape.

    With respect to Mr Barr’s experiments I’m not sure what they add. Anyone who has used ADA AS (I’ve used Amazonia in the current tank, and Malaya in the last one) with Powersand knows it works very well. The stuff works, end of. I understand there are some folks with an inquisitive mind, which is a good thing, but I don’t think there is any mystery as to why the ‘ADA substrate system’ works or what it comprises compositionally.

    Nick
     
  14. Harlequin

    Harlequin Member

    Messages:
    33
    A picture speaks a thousand words....Lilaeopsis runners just about a week after planting in Aquasoil Amazonia.

    AS-closeup.jpg
     
  15. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,937
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi Nick
    I completely agree that the ADA substrate works. I use it myself but I had to think long and hard about what my goals and priorities were with my tank. For the size of my tank, 150 USG, it was difficult to justify the cost to get the substrate depth I wanted. As we all agreed the advantages of AS are undeniable, however, inquisitive minds want to know if there are cheaper and/or better substrate alternatives.

    A quick review of the AE site reveals that AS is selling for approximately £3 per liter and that the PS will set you back a shocking £10 per liter. By comparison potting soil is sold at Homebase for 14 pence per liter. Sand sells for a similar price, or you can get it for free.

    Now here's what the Barr analysis adds: With all other things being more or less equal, such as water column chemistry, depth, lighting etc., over a 4 week period the combination of potting soil and sand grows a specific plant 30% better than AS (no PS added). This experiment was performed in a large (>300 USG) flow through tank to minimize the effects of nutrient leeching.

    The term "better" has a strict definition in this context; They were only looking at the plant mass. To elliminate errors due to water absorption the plants were dried in an oven. Root mass, stem mass and leaf mass were each measured separately, and in each case the plants grown in the potting soil+sand mixture had higher individual component mass as well as higher total mass. Again there was no qualitative analysis to determine which was greener or "prettier". The main limitations of this analysis from what I could see were as follows;

    1. The growing period was limited to 4 weeks, therefore long term plant growth was not addressed.

    2. The species tested was a fast growing non-aquarium lake weed, therefore the effects on the 300+ species we use would be an extrapolation at this time.

    The tests are on-going. This report was the first of a series that will test the AS products against other substrates.

    Hobbyists and consumers have to sort through a bewildering array of claims from vendors who have million dollar advertising budgets. We see the same technique for every category of product. For the most part, products that have tangible assets can be evaluated easily and empirical data gained by usage either proves or disproves the vendors claims. Items such as filters sort themselves out so that it's relatively easy to determine whether brand "A" filter is reliable, noisy, easy to maintain etc. versus brand "B". If so, the user can then determine the cost/benefit of "A" versus "B". Other products however such as substrates, lights, fertilizers and many other plant products have much less tangible benefits and most hobbyists really have no way to determine cost/benefit. The Barr analysis therefore has tremendous value because he is not setting out to either support or to denigrate these products, but merely to find the simple truth. His analysis may show in the end that the ADA substrate system has a tangible and substantial plant growing advantage versus other products but it has to be proven. The data has to show it, not just because so and so uses it. Mr. Amano was growing brilliant plants and executing fabulous aquascapes long before he developed AS so it is no logical to assume that the reason for his success is his use of AS. In the same way, D. Beckham played brilliant footbal but I doubt that his excellence can be attributed to his socks and shoes.

    The photograph you provided is brilliant, but what if there is another photograph by someone using a different substrate, which, after a week shows a more fully developed root structure? Or what if his/her photo showed a similar root structure but the substrate cost a tenth of what you paid? Wouldn't you want to at least find out more about the product they were using? What happens if it turns out that AS grows plants about as well as kitty litter? You may still prefer AS but wouldn't you appreciate knowing the truth? That way you could always make an informed decision.

    I answered a post recently where someone, who could afford to buy AS, was contemplating using soil+sand but he wanted to simplify his life as much as possible because it was a high tech tank. My advice, even after reading the preliminary results of the Barr analysis was to use the AS, not the soil+sand which I felt was an unnecessary complication due to the known disadvanges of soil. If his goals and/or economic situation were much different it would have been a no brainer to suggest the soil instead.

    So you see there is no mystery at all regarding the AS and why it works. The mystery is determining where does Aquasoil's competence lie within the range of available substrates. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Cheers,
     
  16. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    thanks for the detailed input guys, I do appreciate the picture but i have to say i have similar growth in my current tank with gravel/laterite it's so hard to decide as i think all dedicated plant substrates will produce growth, how do you determine the quality of one over the other as all our tanks have slightly different parameters due to our chosen fert regime, lighting etc. the only way to tell is a controlled experiment. i do wish they had tested using a variety of plants to include aquatic grasses etc.. that would certainly have been interesting.

    As to colour i know it may sound pedantic but i want a clean cut look to the finished tank. you may not see a lot of substrate but you will see some especially the bottom of the front glass. i do prefer a black substrate especially to contrast against carpeting plants. i suppose it's the way AS seems to absorb light rather than reflect it. to me it dulls down the look. don't get me wrong it's not "bad" it's just not quite the picture i have in my head of the new layout.

    Looking on the web there's not a lot in it in price between AS and EcoComplete and i really cant find any other options that fit the bill so i am leaning towards EC at present. Thanks for clarifying those points from your experience with Aquasoil Nick, at the end of the day i don't want others to be deterred from trying it just because i decided not to. i have no doubt at all that for growing plants it's certainly beaten although i would imagine other products can deliver similar results in the right hands.

    I'm getting rather excited now. I've managed to get the misses out on her biannual LFS visit tomorrow to give the tank the OK before i tank the plunge. it's 90% the vision 450 still but we will look at the Rio 400 just to be sure. i personally like the curved glass as it gives you much more room for foreground imagination and more depth to the aquascape. as far as cleaning the glass is concerned i will use filter wool rather than a magnafloat or scraper so i don't scratch the glass. i get minimal algae on it anyway so not a major concern. it's just the photo thing I'm not sure of but i am afraid the decision will have to be based on what looks best in my living room rather than on paper.

    i hope that all came out right, for some reason i seem to be sleep posting again...
    James
     
  17. George Farmer

    George Farmer Founder Staff Member

    Messages:
    7,089
    Location:
    Cambridgeshire
    Hot topic! Here's my input...

    If you go Aqua Soil, James, then bear in mind that it tends to stain with hard water.

    Jeff Senske, who has hard water, gets over this by activated carbon filtration and Purigen. I think after some time the staining effect dies.

    ADA now have Amazonia II that apparently stops staining. I'm not sure if it's available UK yet.

    Other "downsides" to AS are the water chemistry issues in the early weeks i.e. ammonia, nitrite spike, pH crash etc. So stocking with fish is advisable after a month or so, unless you're filtering with zeolite etc. and doing big WCs.

    As for the Power Sand issue. It works very well and gives you more room for "error" with dosing macros as it's super-rich. As you run EI though, it's not necessary.

    I worked with EC (in Jeremy's 120cm Iwagumi) and AS (I'm setting up another nano with AS Powder as we speak). EC is "cleaner" and won't cloud the water when moving plants about etc. The grains in AS are softer though so allow for better root penetration. I have no doubt that AS contains more useful nutrients too for root growth and the acidic environment it creates is more suited for most situations.

    Or stick with laterite and black quartz.... :)

    With EI you're plants will grow fine in any substrate.

    Pick you poison.

    Still going for Juwel? Not fancy custom-built? A 400 litre+ tank with an internal filter seems a little odd to me. I'm not a fan of bowfront myself but I understand the attraction for some.
     
  18. Harlequin

    Harlequin Member

    Messages:
    33
    ceg4048, good points. I agree, it is important to have a view on priorities when thinking about what you're trying to achieve with your tank, and there is no doubt that the larger the tank (I prefer 3 footers or less these days from a personal 'manageability' perspective) the bigger budgetary issues loom in choosing which to use. And no doubt, choosing AS, Flourite, Florabase etc over a DIY alternative is going to be a heck of a lot more. For me at any rate, the main advantage of it is that it works with the kind of regime I like to use, which goes back to what you said on priorities. I'm never going to be a PPS man I can tell you that!

    I guess you hit the nail on the head with your summary of the comparisons results. The test wasn't looking at aesthetic issues/quality of growth in 'decorative' aquatics, things that for me are quite key, rather than the ability of a given plant to produce X amount of biomass for one substrate vs Y amount for another. I have to confess here that I don't measure any water parameters at all, I barely use my drop checker, and have no clue as to how much N, P, K etc goes into my tanks. In other words, I probably come at this from a rather different angle to Tom and much more from the approach Jeff Senske has used (although, in the past, I like a lot of other folk have used EI and a variety of other methods with varying degree's of success, and also been the proud owner of many a test kit).

    On the subject of discolouration etc, I have hard water and I've not seen any dis-colouration issues when I've used Malaya, and I didn't use Purigen or carbon with it. That said, I do use it with this tank, although that is primarily to deal with the bog wood staining, which was turning the tank water to tea.

    James-good luck at the LFS with the missus-last time i was there with my wife, she tried to get me to buy a load of 'flumps' as she called them for my new set-up. She'd spotted a big pile of cladophora algae balls in the plant tanks and thought these would make a nice addition to my carefully crafted aquascape!

    Cheers,
    Nick
     
  19. James Flexton

    James Flexton Member

    Messages:
    358
    Location:
    Stotfold, Herts/Beds
    sorry guys, running late so have to be brief.

    staining - not a major concern as i will have a massive lump of driftwood in there anyway so will have to deal with that some how. i doubt the AS will be relevant when compared to the wood leaching tannins.

    i love the look of jeremys new tank, thats the look i'm going for just with wood instead of rocks.

    Custom tank - i'm lazy and like the off the shelf ready to go thing. not that it will be complete as i have to add lights etc.. the misses has a thing about the look of juwels over anything else she has seen (unless the LFS has something special in stock that may sway us onto something else. i just want a massive tank.

    laterite came to the surface in my cube with black quartz and looked a mess after 6 months or so.

    nick - thanks for the input, most appreciated. cladophora algae balls are actually quite usefull for carpeting. pull apart and use as a covering for slate, rocks etc. i have a patch in my tank at present shrimp seem to love picking through it. (it is out of view though behind my ferns)

    gotta dash thanks again
    James
     
  20. SuperColey1

    SuperColey1 Member

    Messages:
    2,668
    Location:
    Lincoln UK

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