Substrates

Discussion in 'Planted Tank Equipment' started by wearsbunnyslippers, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. wearsbunnyslippers
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    wearsbunnyslippers Administrator Staff Member

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    seems like there are always questions on what substrate people should use.

    i have compiled a list of some of the most commonly mentioned substrates in the hobby, in no particular order.

    please feel free to add any i am missing.

    i will list them by manufacturer, and try to give a list of pros and cons, as i have not tried most of these personally, they will be other peoples opinions.

    if i have seen them for sale in south africa i will put a flag [​IMG] next to it... prices are direct currency conversions, they do not take into account shipping, import duties etc. and are meant for reference comparisons only.

    for most decent sized tanks you should have a 4-8cm layer in the from sloping upwards in the back to about 10cm in the back. this allows the entire substrate to be viewed, and creates a sense of perpective and greater depth.

    DIY:[​IMG]

    the writeup in the above link provides an awesome howto with detailed steps, ingredients, pictures and results as well as comments by others that have tried it. i have not seen any negative comments or drawbacks from using this method. all the ingredients should be easy to source and relativley cheap. you also dont need to column dose any ferts, and it should last for years with the addition of a little potassium now and then. it needs to be capped with gravel or sand etc. plants should be trimmed of at the base to avoid stirring up the substrate into your tank.


    popularized by Diane Walstad. the above link provides steps, ingredients etc. has a tendency to go anaerobic in my experience. this can be resolved by using a potting soil with a higher sand or soil content and less organics. its cheap, lasts for years and do not need to column dose ferts. it needs to be capped with gravel or sand etc. plants should be trimmed of at the base to avoid stirring up the substrate into your tank.

    • silica sand

    this is normal pool filter sand, and comes in a few grain sizes. it is attractive, cheap and chemically inert os you will need to column dose ferts. it has a tendency to compact and develop anaerobic pockets over time, so it needs to be agitated, either manually when vacuuming or with snails or the like. it provides large surface area for bacteria, and will enrich itself over time with excess food, fish waste etc. ideal for burrowing fish and cory's. might cause diatoms initially due to silica content, so wash it thoroughly beforehand. can be used to cap any other substrate if this is the look you want.

    • laterite

    iron rich red earth. it is heavier than normal red soil due to its high iron content. it should be used as an additive rather than a substrate on its own. needs to be capped. great for heavy root feeders like swords and crypts. you will need to dose less iron in your column to avoid rhizoclonium. should last the lifetime of your setup. this can be baked or frozen into balls and added to existing setups to enrich the substrate.

    • peat

    peat has been used for years as a fliter additive to acidify and soften water. great for discus, tetras and most black water fish etc. that prefer soft water, do not use with malawis, rift lake or tanganyikan cichlids. it is also used as a substrate additive, normally and not a complete substrate. depending on how much you add it has a tendancy to go anaerobic. it is available from most nurseries. it will color your water a pleasent tea color due to the tannins leaching out.

    ADA:

    ADA stands for Aqua Design Amano, it is Takashi Amano's product line. if you havent heard of him, do yourself a favor and do some homework...

    • Aqua Soil- Amazonia R224/9l

    made from natural black soil, almost like little balls of baked clay. this granular nature makes it easy for plants to root in, and for carpet plants like HC to grow in. the porous nature also acts like a colloidal filter, and should hold there shape for long periods of time under water. this is a complete substrate, it does not need to be capped, it contains nutrients and humic compounds. has been known to alter the waters chemistry and stain the water yellow similar to peat in this regard especially in alkaline water. read tom barrs thread on why he hates aquasoil.

    • Aqua Soil- Amazonia II R224/9l

    all the same properties of amazonia except for it is designed for alkaline water, so it will not leach or stain the water like amazonia does in alkaline water.

    • Aqua Soil- Malaya R224/9l

    same properties as amazonia just in a yellowish color for malaysian biotope aesthetics

    • Aqua Soil- Africana R224/9l

    it is a harder baked redish brown soil for african biotope aesthetics. plants are said to grow slower as there are less organic compounds. this seems very similar to akadama bonsai soil.

    notes:

    there are a few other substrate additive products worth mentioning

    Bacter 100 - more than 100 different kinds of bacteria are inside bacter 100 in a dormant state, also claims to kill cyano if sprinkled directly on it. i personally dont subscribe to these dormant bacteria kickstart products, but each to their own.

    tourmaline BC - tourmaline bc is a mineral compound of iron, aluminium, sodium, boron, lithium and magnesium mixed with bamboo charcoal, it is said to absorb organic compounds and provide traces.

    Power Sand - power sand is said to contain rich organic nutrients for plantand is great for bacteria. its porous volcanic stones secure water circulation. probably similar to volcanic rock dust.

    ADA products seem to be the holy grail in aquascaping, with most users raving about the amazing growth they get with aqua soil. there are a few ADA soil knockoffs but most break down over time. which leads me to...

    Red Sea:
    • Flora Base R351/5.4kg [​IMG]

    volcanic ash based soil, baked into porous granules, looks very similar to aqua soil africana. gives great plant growth initially, but breaks down over time to become red mud, you need to add substrate additives after 6 months. it says this on the packaging too.

    notes:

    not many people i know like to breakdown their setups and totally redo them on a yearly basis. so i would only recommend this as a substrate additive, not a complete substrate.

    CaribSea:
    • Eco-Complete R351/9kg

    a nice dark aesthetically pleasing complete substrate. comes packed in liquid amazon black water which is supposed to contain live bacteria to aid in cycling your tank faster. havent found many bad reviews regarding this.

    • Floramax

    larger grain size than eco-complete, very similar in color to flourite.

    Tropica:
    • Aquacare R247/5l

    made from clay and sphagnum moss, this is tropica's own plant substrate. it needs to be capped, and they also recommend trimming plants level with the substrate so as not to disturb it. they say plants grow an average of 26% better with their product.

    notes:

    check out this awesome setup using this substrate.

    Seachem:
    • Flourite R325/7kg [​IMG]

    this is a fracted porous clay substrate, very high in iron, so laterite or iron column dosing is not necessary. it does not need to be capped, but is not high in nutrients and contains no organics so column ferts are a must. it does not compact and is easy to plant in. this is what i am currently using in my 400l tank. it needs to be thoroughyl washed or it will cloud your water.

    • Flourite Dark R351/7kg [​IMG]

    3 times less iron but 25 times more calcium due to different chemical composition. same other properties as original flourite but the dark is more aesthetically pleasing for some people.

    • Flourite Black R351/7kg [​IMG]

    5 times less iron and 200 times more calcium due to different chemical composition, same other properties as original flourite, but for those looking for a black substrate.

    • Flourite Red R325/7kg [​IMG]

    very similar to original flourite, except for more reddish in color.

    notes:

    old faithful... i have never seen a bad review of flourite. will not alter your water chemistry.

    Prodac:
    • Fondo Vivo [​IMG]

    fracted clay substrate with added nutrients - similar to eco complete. looks like sintered ash, seems pretty rough, i wouldnt keep cory's or clown loaches with this. seems to et reat reviews in italy.

    notes:

    humus - mostly peat and earth, high in humic compounds, a substrate additive

    humusplus - a substrate additive for heavy root feeders like crypts, aponogetons, swords etc. also high in humic compounds

    fertiplant - soft porous granules, my guess is that it needs to be capped it the granules are soft.

    Oliver Knott:
    • NatureSoil R520/10l

    complete substrate in black or brown. very similar to ADA aqua soil. lowers hardness, will not crumble and also has colloidal filter properties.

    notes:

    seems pretty expensive...

    Tetra:
    • Complete Substrate R247/5.8kg [​IMG]

    iron rich sand, peat and micro nutrients. seemed just like black mud underneath my gravel. it went anaerobic in places. it needs to be capped.

    Lesco
    • soil master select

    tom barr did some tests on different substrates. using myriophyllum sms got the best results. lesco has since aquired john deer and now the product is called turface. it is illite calcite clay that has been baked into granules, very high in iron content. is has a very high cation exchange capacity.

    notes:

    this is the same red clay they use on baseball fields and pitching mounds.
     
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  2. Silikube
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    Silikube Moderator Staff Member

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    :eek: A most excellent write up. I vote for an immediate sticky!
     
  3. Ryan
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    Ryan Green fingers

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    Yes. Done.
     
  4. Andre
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    Andre Green fingers

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    Merci Beaucoup mon ami
     
  5. Fanie Jordaan
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    Fanie Jordaan Noob

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    Thank you for an excellent writeup - nothing as valuable as experience when choosing aquarium products.
     
  6. tyronegenade
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    tyronegenade Specialist

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    You forgot "river sand" which can be bought at most nurseries. Also, "beach sand" works well too though you can forget about soft water.
     
  7. boebie
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    boebie Green fingers

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    Hey Raymond you forgot the black substrate I have in my Iwagumi (crushed lava rock?)
     
  8. wearsbunnyslippers
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    wearsbunnyslippers Administrator Staff Member

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    @tyron - isnt river sand just normal silica sand?

    i wouldn't recommend beach sand to anyone...

    @boebie - thanks, this thread needs an update - just need to find some spare time :(
     
  9. Algae wizard
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    Algae wizard Valued Contributor

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    Well done Raymond,most definitely sticky that
     
  10. wearsbunnyslippers
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    wearsbunnyslippers Administrator Staff Member

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    hehe - its like 5 months old
     
  11. tyronegenade
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    tyronegenade Specialist

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    Yes and no. It is mostly silica but has other rock erosion products as well. I have used it to great effect.

    I have used beach sand on several occasions. Hygrophila polysperma Sunset loves it as does Vallis. Strangely, the finer the sand the better. It will kill Tonia though. :'( In retrospect I would mix it into River Sand or Pool Filter Sand and not use it straight.

    My normal strategy is to lay down silica sand and then wait for the fish to fill it with poo and other yummy things for plants ;D

    tt
     
  12. Laure
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    Laure Algae harvester

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    Hi

    So you think Tonia and other such plants normally recommended to be grown in an acidic substrate like ADA AS will do fine in silica sand provided yuo have very soft water and keep the pH down?
     
  13. tyronegenade
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    tyronegenade Specialist

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    @Laure

    Yes. The substrate is essentially silica sand and organics---all the other goodies having been flushed out by the acid water. Everything it needs it has to get from the water column.

    tt
     
  14. QualityAquariums
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    QualityAquariums Noob

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    hello

    can anyone please share their experience with using the TetraPlant CompleteSubstrate...

    Thanks!
     
  15. shihr
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    shihr Administrator Staff Member

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    no..but i used the sera floradepot b4 though and it was brilliant. plants bloomed as soon as i used it because it comes with these pills (ferts) and it gives the new planted plants that initial boost:)
     
  16. QualityAquariums
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    QualityAquariums Noob

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    thanks, have not looked at that product... really just doing some research into locally available plant substrates that could be compared to ADA or Tropica...
     
  17. R.C.
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    Back in the day when FloraDepot was the only ready made plant substrate available to us, I would have suggested it, but I certainly won't recommend or compare it with current alternatives available.
     
  18. wearsbunnyslippers
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    wearsbunnyslippers Administrator Staff Member

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    i have used the tetra complete substrate and it just seemed like mineralized topsoil...

    i have nothing good or bad to say about it, coz i only used it in a lowtech setup...
     
  19. darryn
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    darryn Algae harvester

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    @WBS: Thanks for a great thread. This really helps us noobs!!
    I am very interested in trying the mineralized soil approach. I have been to a few places (Stodels, Supa Plants, etc.) and they don't stock topsoil. When I asked them for plain topsoil, they show me products that are labelled "Lawn Dressing". They assure me that this is the same as topsoil. I am not to sure ....
    Is it in fact the same thing? Can I mineralize this and have the same results?
    I am just scared of putting something in my tank that will negatively affect fish and plants.
    TIA
     
  20. wearsbunnyslippers
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    wearsbunnyslippers Administrator Staff Member

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    @darryn - yeah it the same thing, just follow the same steps, sieve it to get the fines, wash those to get the organics out and then wet and dry it a few times to mineralize...
     

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