Your substrate opinions?

Andy83

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Hi Guys

Im very new to the planted aquarium scene.

Ive been doing my basic research in substrates and im not totally sure on what to go for as ive seen people doing different setups and all achieving great results.

My question is what's best, below are a few options

1. Just using an aqua soil on its own
2. Using a power sand like ADA then top it off with a good aqua soil
3. Using a tropica plant growth substrate then topped off with a 4cm 1-2mm gravel

Because im new to the scene i plan on keeping easy to look after plants until i get my head around the chemistry. I haven't decided if i should go with co2 as im not sure if i need to or not.

Be great to hear what are the pros and cons of each options and hopefully it will steer me to the right direction of choosing my substrate

Cheers
Andy
 

chrisfraser05

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I'd suggest tropica soil or powder, either on its own or capped with an inert substrate.

I went with florite black sand over tropica powder.

20201008_102024.jpg
 

Tom Michael

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Personally I would go either ADA aqua soil or tropica. If you are considering a particularly deep substrate you could use something like crushed lava stone if you need a cheaper option.

after a year add root tabs replenish :)
 

Zeus.

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I'd suggest tropica soil or powder, either on its own or capped with an inert substrate.

Tried that myself, only over time the AS tends to come through the inert substrate with it being less dense.

Be great to hear what are the pros and cons of each options and hopefully it will steer me to the right direction of choosing my substrate

In breif-

Choosing a good Aquasoil (AS) isn't cheap but it packs nutrients and the CEC properties of the AS can be a great help also as they buffer the nutrients/toxins between WCs and dosing ferts, but the CEC properties can get moped up pretty quick if you have very hard water. If its your first tank I would say use AS - ADA it isn't cheap but packed with nutrients.

Inert substrates provide nothing but anchorage for the plants so your fertilizing regime will need to be good and root tabs may also be needed. Also without any CEC properties they dont buffer the nutrients/toxins. They can be reused by simple washing. If you use small particles the detritus stays on top of the substrate so easy to remove. Larger inert substrates also add texture and colour to the substrate Buying inert substrates from Local Fish Shops (LFS) isn't cheap either.
 

Andy83

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Have you looked at tutorial The Soil Substate and Dirt Planted Tank . Tim has had success with various types.
No i haven't yet as i didn't know it existed until you mentioned it. Im new to the forum and there is a lot of stuff to get through. Thanks, ill have a read
 

Zeus.

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Be great to hear what are the pros and cons of each options and hopefully it will steer me to the right direction of choosing my substrate
No i haven't yet as i didn't know it existed until you mentioned it. Im new to the forum and there is a lot of stuff to get through. Thanks, ill have a read

Its a great write up @Tim Harrison did and well worth a read IMO, substrates take some time to get your head round but well worth the effort :thumbup:
 

Andy83

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Tried that myself, only over time the AS tends to come through the inert substrate with it being less dense.



In breif-

Choosing a good Aquasoil (AS) isn't cheap but it packs nutrients and the CEC properties of the AS can be a great help also as they buffer the nutrients/toxins between WCs and dosing ferts, but the CEC properties can get moped up pretty quick if you have very hard water. If its your first tank I would say use AS - ADA it isn't cheap but packed with nutrients.

Inert substrates provide nothing but anchorage for the plants so your fertilizing regime will need to be good and root tabs may also be needed. Also without any CEC properties they dont buffer the nutrients/toxins. They can be reused by simple washing. If you use small particles the detritus stays on top of the substrate so easy to remove. Larger inert substrates also add texture and colour to the substrate Buying inert substrates from Local Fish Shops (LFS) isn't cheap either.

Yea i noticed aqua soil isn't cheap, the good thing about my tank is that its small, 45cm cube so im thinking a 9 litre bag will go far.

My water is neutral around 7.5 PH, so hopefully this is ideal and it wont mop up all the nutrients in the soil to quickly

Im thinking from reading your comments that a good soil like ADA or Tropica is the way to go. Would you sugest using a power sand as a base layer for extra nutrients?

Thanks
Andy
 

Tim Harrison

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Im thinking from reading your comments that a good soil like ADA or Tropica is the way to go. Would you sugest using a power sand as a base layer for extra nutrients?
That entirely depends on how deep your pockets are. It's a system that works but it's not essential if you water column dose fertz.
If you want to bank the AS toward the back you can use crushed pumice underneath which will make your soil go further.

I think basically ADA Power Sand is crushed pumice soaked in NPK.
If you want to add extra nutrients just scatter a small handful of slow release Osmocote on top of the pumice before capping with AS.
 

Nick potts

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As above, all 3 options will work.

AS has the benefit of having everything needed for plants (growth media and ferts) all in one.

Not used ada powersand and wouldn't pay for it either, as mentioned it is mostly just crused lava/pumice stone with some added nutrients. If you want something to bulk up a slope etc try this
 

Zeus.

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a good soil like ADA or Tropica is the way to go. Would you sugest using a power sand as a base layer for extra nutrients?

I weigh up the cost nutrients of ADA-AS v Tropica-AS and for the price difference the ADA was the better buy IMO. Power Sand in not needed and IMO is overkill, just ADA after more profits for little to no gain for the end user.

I'm currently doing a little experiment in my 50l pot scape using builders sand and grit as substrate for the plants, so far everything looks fine-great, plus fairly lean dosing too (but my tap water does add about 20ppm NO3 on Water Change (WC) day
 

Siege

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you are new to aquascaping so yes I’d go with Tropica soil or Prodibio soil over ADA Amazonia.

im gonna go against the others here as I’m a great fan of ADA power sand Advance. The tanks we have used it in are far easier at start up and long term maintenance. Whatever it is, it works!

Power Sand Advance and one of the soils above is a great combination.

Try to DIY it if you like but how can you control what you are adding? Tonnes of hair algae, give up and tear the tank down.
I’m now really pleased I saved that money....!

Yes you can go without power sand. No problem. Just add root tabs after about 4 months. No probs. 👍😃
 

Siege

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If your referring to the "diy" power sand AKA lava rock. Adding non branded inert lava rock os not going to cause hair algae.

I think you’ve misunderstood me. lava rock is not diy power sand.

yes lava rock wont cause algae. just chucking in random terrestrial plant foods To try to recreate power sand advance might.

lava rock is good at building massive height but there is no real food there for the plants as soon as they hit it. It will provide a nice aerated place for bacteria to live though so a fine layer is beneficial.

power sand is not a bulking thing. It is for feeding the plants.

I suggest to everyone look at the results of tanks that use power sand advance and judge it. 👍😃
 

Nick potts

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I think you’ve misunderstood me. lava rock is not diy power sand.

yes lava rock wont cause algae. just chucking in random terrestrial plant foods To try to recreate power sand advance might.

lava rock is good at building massive height but there is no real food there for the plants as soon as they hit it. It will provide a nice aerated place for bacteria to live though so a fine layer is beneficial.

power sand is not a bulking thing. It is for feeding the plants.

I suggest to everyone look at the results of tanks that use power sand advance and judge it. 👍😃

Sorry yes, I certainly don't advocate adding random plants food to lava rock, not a good idea. I was just saying to use it on it's own.

One of the main reasons I see/hear of aquascapers using power sand is to build height and add aeration, for which lava rock is a lot cheaper and works just as well
 

Tim Harrison

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It’s an interesting discussion. I could well be wrong, but from my own observations and experience a lot of root tabs appear to be Osmocote granules packaged in an enteric or gastro resistant coating as a delivery system. If that is the case then a small handful of Osmocote is just the same as adding root tabs but a lot cheaper.

Either way, I take Steve's @Siege point, it could well be a false economy to go DIY, especially if you're just starting out or not sure what you're doing.
The ADA substrate system is very well thought out and consistently gives excellent results.
 

Andy83

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Thanks for all your comments guys, sounds like you've all had great results from different substrate setups. From what ive gathered/read about, using ADA power sand allows a place under the soil for the growth of good bacteria to thrive and allows water circulation. Plus its packed with nutrients from their Bacter 100 and Clear Super supplements which i shouldn't have to use root tabs for a while

Because my tank is nano size i can get a way with using 1 small bag of power sand which wont break the bank that much. If i had a larger aquarium that may be a different story lol
 

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