substrate for planted tanks

dw1305

Expert
Joined
7 Apr 2008
Messages
10,486
Location
nr Bath
Hi all,
I'm a sand user. I just mix a small amount of clay and semi-decomposed leaf litter (about 10% by volume) in initially, so ~90% sand.
and other baked soils
I have one tank with moler clay cat litter and the granules have remained intact for ~10 years.

After I set the tanks up I don't vacuum the sand, I pretty much just let it get on with it. I very rarely break the tanks down, so over time the substrate will be more soil like.

I have <"Asellus and MTS"> in the tanks and <"I don't tend to get much build up of mulm">.

cheers Darrel
 

Tim Harrison

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
7,780
Location
UK
I suppose everyone has their own experience and preferences and there are many roads to success.

Sand has pretty much zero CEC, but I've used it a couple of times and got pretty good growth with just water column dosing. Strangely enough though my stems didn't do very well. I guess over time sand will become infused with fish mulm and rotting plant material and will form a soil of sorts, but if I use sand it's usually for cometic reasons first, so any DOM in sand is not always desirable. Either way, if it eventually turns in to a substrate with similar properties to soil, why not use soil from the outset; no need to wait, and probably less mess.

I've also grown plants in AS powder and AS and haven't really noticed any difference in growth. The only advantages I can think of is that it's perhaps a little easier to plant small carpet plants with little or no roots in powder, and it provides a better sense of scale in nanos. But I tend to part bury my plants in the substrate anyway so they don't come loose. They soon grow new leaves and start to spread either way.

Like I've mentioned before, I prefer soil substrates, either Gucci or regular dirt. Plants can uptake nutrients through roots and leaves etc so it just makes good horticultural sense to feed both sites. There are other benefits as well...buffering against mistakes like missed fertz doses, and deficiencies, and perhaps greater microbial activity which may infer greater stability, and quicker.

I also like the pH and KH buffering capacity of AS as well since I've always lived in hard water high pH areas. Over all I think soil allows for more wriggle room, which is always helpful especially when you're just starting out.

Plain old sand capped dirt works just as well as AS and doesn't need to be messy either if a soil retainer is used. However, Gucci substrate is very convenient and easy to use, especially if you're a professional conducting a workshop. But don't forget professional aquascapers are also selling product, so of course they are going to use whichever Gucci product the sponsor or shop require them to.

But back to the original questions...
1) Can anyone advise on a good substrate for a small 25L Thailand style betta planted tank?
Personally, I'd use ADA AS or Tropica AS. Normal or powder will work well, but if you want to maintain a sense of scale use powder; smaller grain size.
2) For a bigger tank I would like to have with sand, does anyone know if there is a good substrate that is suitable for going underneath with sand on top that won't rise to the top?
Yes a 1:1 mix of aquatic compost and peat, or Tropica Plant Growth Substrate. Compost/peat is cheaper and pretty much the same thing.
3) Is there any substrate for plants that would be suitable to use in a BiOrb on top of their ceramic biological media? Something that won't scratch acrylic, will let plants take root, won't clog up the filter and biological media. Don't hate me :) Tall order I know.
Not that I'm aware of, it's likely to clog up the filter. I guess you could perhaps use small pots?

Check out Dennis Wong's video on substrates...
 

dw1305

Expert
Joined
7 Apr 2008
Messages
10,486
Location
nr Bath
Hi all,
Like I've mentioned before, I prefer soil substrates, either Gucci or regular dirt. Plants can uptake nutrients through roots and leaves etc so it just makes good horticultural sense to feed both sites. There are other benefits as well...buffering against mistakes like missed fertz doses, and deficiencies, and perhaps greater microbial activity which may infer greater stability, and quicker.
I think there are advantages to soil, and those are some of them.

Personally I haven't investigated soil partially because:
  • I live in an area where everything is limy, and I've always used rain-water and kept (and tried to breed) soft-water fish. I don't mind going 10 miles (to the nearest non-calcareous soil) to pick up a small amount of soil, but I wouldn't want to dig up any more.
  • I'm aiming for pretty slow growth, so I want fairly low nutrients.
  • I'm going to leave the tanks set-up for a long time period.
If I was starting keeping fish now I'd definitely go down the soil, capped with sand, route and use soil from the garden as the base. @Tim Harrison has tanks that are much <"lusher and more aesthetically pleasing"> than any I've ever managed.

cheers Darrel
 
Joined
26 Feb 2013
Messages
3,373
I am well aware of the benefits of soil personally. I did a lot of research some years back, and having tried that route, I prefer sand, especially in terms of fish keeping as well. Sand tanks are healthier tanks fish wise. I still do have 2 soil tanks and they're not as plant prolific as my old 7 year old sand tank to be honest. The benefits of soil are temporary, in the first year or two, then its the water column back again. Plants develop some massive roots systems in sand only tanks. The same exact crypt species I always keep is mental in my sand tank.I planted it in my soil set up a few years ago as well and its stayed as one mother crypt for several years! It is a tank with soil capped with sand. Go figure. It's the second soil tank I tried that crypt in and it didn't take off.

I'd have to agree though, if I am after aesthetic professional setups, I'd go the commercial soil route. But I'd probably not keep fish.
 

Tim Harrison

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
5 Nov 2011
Messages
7,780
Location
UK
Crikey SF, those statements are a bit sweeping...none echo my experience, quite the opposite really. Done right soil tanks can be very healthy, fish or otherwise. Also, I've never found the benefits of soil to be temporary. For instance, soil will absorb nutrients from the water column just like AS if the sand cap isn't too fine grained. And Crypts usually go absolutely berserk in soil, throwing out huge root systems and runners all over the place.

Four months growth, 1:1 moss peat and aquatic compost capped with sand...
11528332916_5d60a159ce_b-jpg.jpg
 
Joined
26 Feb 2013
Messages
3,373
Lovely tanks as usual Troi :)

I have two soil tanks still running, both setup around 2013 and a sand tank setup 2012. I am going based on that experience.
The two soil tanks are plant poor now. One has only anubias, doing rather well I must admit but the stem plants are no more. The other one is also now mostly anubias, hydrophila, the mother crypt I mentioned above and the plants that's doing best is the peace lily :)
The soil tanks did well in the first couple of years. They're all low tech, non-dosed tanks so we're not even talking water column dosing much. I am sure I could have maintained them better of course.
 

Similar threads

Top