Beginner Plants Questions

colbywebre47

I am looking into starting a 125 gallon freshwater aquarium. I am currently planning on using CaribSea Eco-complete as my substrate, is that a good substrate or is something else better. (In my 30 gallon I have gravel and its a pain). Also, what kind of plants are the easiest to care for? I have never kept live plants so this is completely new for me.
 

AcornTheBetta

I am looking into starting a 125 gallon freshwater aquarium. I am currently planning on using CaribSea Eco-complete as my substrate, is that a good substrate or is something else better. (In my 30 gallon I have gravel and its a pain). Also, what kind of plants are the easiest to care for? I have never kept live plants so this is completely new for me.
Hi and welcome to the forum! Eco complete should work well but it might be expensive to fill a tank of that size with it. A cheaper option would be a dirted tank since they grow plants super well and dirt is well dirt cheap. With eco complete you probably want ferts but with a dirted tank you don't need them. As for live plants, there are a ton of easy plants, but just some that come to mind are Amazon Sword, Hornwort, Java Fern and Moss, Pearlweed, Crypts, Marimo Moss Balls (though they may still be having a zebra mussel issue), and Vals.
 

colbywebre47

Hi and welcome to the forum! Eco complete should work well but it might be expensive to fill a tank of that size with it. A cheaper option would be a dirted tank since they grow plants super well and dirt is well dirt cheap. With eco complete you probably want ferts but with a dirted tank you don't need them. As for live plants, there are a ton of easy plants, but just some that come to mind are Amazon Sword, Hornwort, Java Fern and Moss, Pearlweed, Crypts, Marimo Moss Balls (though they may still be having a zebra mussel issue), and Vals.
Could you suggest a brand of dirt? Or is it just dirt in general.
 

PAcanis

I used Eco Complete over organic container soil and most of my plants are doing great. Although I did have a hard time planting spindly stemmed plants. Not as easy as sand or a finer substrate.

And then I have another tank where I used a bag of Eco Complete as a base layer and capped with sand. It is too new to give an opinion.
 

gray_matter16

Could you suggest a brand of dirt? Or is it just dirt in general.
Really any brand will do fine just make sure that it's organic. You don't want regular potting soil because it will have harmful fertilizers in it. You'll also need something to cap the dirt with, like sand. If you put in just dirt and water the tank will be unusable.

I definitely agree with AcornTheBetta. I've never had my plants grow better than when in a dirted tank. That being said, I don't use dirt anymore. It was always too messy to clean and stained my water a tea color faster than eco-complete. Both things you can mitigate in various ways, I just don't want to deal with that anymore. I use black diamond blasting sand and bags of lava rock to build height so I don't have to buy as much eco-complete.
 

AcornTheBetta

Could you suggest a brand of dirt? Or is it just dirt in general.
I and others have used this with great success. One 16qt bad is good for a 29g, so I think you need something like 5 bags to cover the footprint of a 125.
You'll also need something to cap the dirt with, like sand. If you put in just dirt and water the tank will be unusable.

It was always too messy to clean and stained my water a tea color faster than eco-complete.
Yeah you need something to cap the dirt and IMO sand is the best. Make sure to cap it well because if you don't, the dirt will discolor the water. If you choose to not use the dirt I linked, just know that you run the risk of having a water color problem if you use dirt with bark or wood.

Really? I find that it's just as easy to clean as other substrates, you just have to be careful and go under the cap and disturb the dirt. Maybe you used dirt with wood? I messed up kinda badly in my 29g like a month ago and unrooted a plant that was really deep and my water wasn't tea colored.
 

gray_matter16

Really? I find that it's just as easy to clean as other substrates, you just have to be careful and go under the cap and disturb the dirt. Maybe you used dirt with wood? I messed up kinda badly in my 29g like a month ago and unrooted a plant that was really deep and my water wasn't tea colored.
Yeah there were twigs and stuff in there but it would have taken me days to hand pick out all the little twigs and bark. But also I mean messy in terms of if you break down the tank. The smell of a dirted tank while you're scooping out the dirt in unlike anything I've ever smelled. Horrendous. And I'm in an apartment so I can't easily just go outside and hose out the tank into the woods or something. So I have to scoop the disgusting smelling, muddy, sloppy dirt into the trash scoop by scoop and it always gets on the carpet at some point.

with regular substrate I can scoop it out with a drain, drain it within the tank, and re-use it fairly easily. Not so with dirt (or at least I haven't had the desire to store and re-use the nasty smelling dirt)
 

AcornTheBetta

Yeah there were twigs and stuff in there but it would have taken me days to hand pick out all the little twigs and bark. But also I mean messy in terms of if you break down the tank. The smell of a dirted tank while you're scooping out the dirt in unlike anything I've ever smelled. Horrendous. And I'm in an apartment so I can't easily just go outside and hose out the tank into the woods or something. So I have to scoop the disgusting smelling, muddy, sloppy dirt into the trash scoop by scoop and it always gets on the carpet at some point.

with regular substrate I can scoop it out with a drain, drain it within the tank, and re-use it fairly easily. Not so with dirt (or at least I haven't had the desire to store and re-use the nasty smelling dirt)
Oh yeah I sift my dirt so that it's a powder. Foo The Flowerhorn does it too. Never taken one down but might soon so I'll prepare for the smell.
 

colbywebre47

So it seems to be the easiest to have the EcoComplete as the bottom layer and then put sand on top of it so that you don't have to buy as much EcoComplete? Some people say that dirt makes you water color strange, so I'm not so keen on using it.
 

gray_matter16

So it seems to be the easiest to have the EcoComplete as the bottom layer and then put sand on top of it so that you don't have to buy as much EcoComplete? Some people say that dirt makes you water color strange, so I'm not so keen on using it.
if you put sand on top of eco-complete the sand will just fall to the bottom. The physics/gravity of it will cause the small grains to fall to the bottom, and the larger grain eco-complete will sit on top
 

colbywebre47

if you put sand on top of eco-complete the sand will just fall to the bottom. The physics/gravity of it will cause the small grains to fall to the bottom, and the larger grain eco-complete will sit on top
Well people say that they cap the EcoComplete what does that mean?
 

gray_matter16

I have no idea haha. The only way to cap eco-complete would be to cap it with something even bigger grain. Maybe they cap with sand and then never gravel vac or disturb the substrate whatsoever?
 

colbywebre47

I have no idea haha. The only way to cap eco-complete would be to cap it with something even bigger grain. Maybe they cap with sand and then never gravel vac or disturb the substrate whatsoever?
So what would you recommend I do gray_matter16?
 

PAcanis

That's me. I'm people :D
Capping means to top. Top layer over a bottom layer.

I saw a Tuber doing it so figured why not? I've got the benefits of Eco Complete and the supposed good bacteria in the water it comes with, and the ease of planting and looks of sand on top. And no, I don't plan on disturbing the substrate. That's what my bottom feeders will be for.
I had a reef and SW aquarium like that for years without disturbing the sand and they ran fine, but Planted FW tanks are new to me. So we'll see. If I have to remove a little food I should be able to do so with suction and not poking the siphon inlet into the sand. Truth be told, with the amount of plants and hardscape in my other two tanks the substrate is pretty much untouchable anyway.

The layer of Eco Complete is much thinner than the sand layer. Even if the sand worked it's way down more than it did when I first added it, it will still be higher/thicker than the layer below it.

Still in the building phase

Aug 31.jpg
 

colbywebre47

That's me. I'm people :D
Capping means to top. Top layer over a bottom layer.

I saw a Tuber doing it so figured why not? I've got the benefits of Eco Complete and the supposed good bacteria in the water it comes with, and the ease of planting and looks of sand on top. And no, I don't plan on disturbing the substrate. That's what my bottom feeders will be for.
I had a reef and SW aquarium like that for years without disturbing the sand and they ran fine, but Planted FW tanks are new to me. So we'll see. If I have to remove a little food I should be able to do so with suction and not poking the siphon inlet into the sand. Truth be told, with the amount of plants and hardscape in my other two tanks the substrate is pretty much untouchable anyway.

The layer of Eco Complete is much thinner than the sand layer. Even if the sand worked it's way down more than it did when I first added it, it will still be higher/thicker than the layer below it.

Still in the building phase

Aug 31.jpg
That's a great looking tank, and thanks for the advice.
 

PAcanis

That's a great looking tank, and thanks for the advice.

Thanks.
Fingers still crossed it works out.
 

gray_matter16

The layer of Eco Complete is much thinner than the sand layer. Even if the sand worked it's way down more than it did when I first added it, it will still be higher/thicker than the layer below it.
colbywebre47, this is why this works for PAcanis. I haven't heard of doing it that way much though. Generally, like with a dirted tank for example, there is a thick (3-5in) of dirt layer capped by a thinner (1-2in) layer of sand. If your eco-complete was thicker than your sand layer, you'd run into the problem I was talking about. If you go the route PAcanis did, you'd be golden
 

colbywebre47

colbywebre47, this is why this works for PAcanis. I haven't heard of doing it that way much though. Generally, like with a dirted tank for example, there is a thick (3-5in) of dirt layer capped by a thinner (1-2in) layer of sand. If your eco-complete was thicker than your sand layer, you'd run into the problem I was talking about. If you go the route PAcanis did, you'd be golden
So if I put a thin layer of Eco Complete at the bottom and then a thick layer of sand over it, that would work? If so thank you for your advice.
 

gray_matter16

So if I put a thin layer of Eco Complete at the bottom and then a thick layer of sand over it, that would work? If so thank you for your advice.
Yes. But at that point though, why even bother using eco-complete? It's expensive. Why not save money and just use all sand? Or if you need to build height use bags of lava rock and sand?
 

colbywebre47

Yes. But at that point though, why even bother using eco-complete? It's expensive. Why not save money and just use all sand? Or if you need to build height use bags of lava rock and sand?
I thought sand didnt have any nutrients so plants couldnt root into it and grow.
 

gray_matter16

I thought sand didnt have any nutrients so plants couldnt root into it and grow.
Correct, sand doesn't have nutrients. But that doesn't mean plants can't grow in it. Eco-complete doesn't have any plant nutrients/fertilizer in it either. You'll still have to add fertilizer, whether root tabs or liquid. Just think about nature: Plenty of aquatic plants grow and thrive in sand all the time, and there's not much eco-complete out in the wild

We're getting technical here but oh well haha. Eco-complete has much better CEC- which means it holds onto nutrients better. So if you dose liquid ferts, eco-complete can grab onto and hold that nutrients from the water column and supply it to your plant's roots. Sand doesn't do this. When using sand, you'd have to use root tabs in order to supply nutrients to your plant's roots. But Eco-complete doesn't have anything inherent/built-in nutrients to supply your plants.
 

86 ssinit

Ok didn’t read everything yet. But. Since your a beginner at planted tanks I would not suggest either eco- complete or dirt. Go with fine gravel. The smaller the better. This will grow the easy plants you want. Eco is a waste of money. Just crushed lave rock. Dirt only hold nutrients for a year or so and is just filthy to use. Either of these substrates if you want to try them. Go with a smaller tank first. Learn what you can do with them. I grow all my plants in gravel. Also when ready I can send you plants. I’m always throwing away.
 

colbywebre47

Ok didn’t read everything yet. But. Since your a beginner at planted tanks I would not suggest either eco- complete or dirt. Go with fine gravel. The smaller the better. This will grow the easy plants you want. Eco is a waste of money. Just crushed lave rock. Dirt only hold nutrients for a year or so and is just filthy to use. Either of these substrates if you want to try them. Go with a smaller tank first. Learn what you can do with them. I grow all my plants in gravel. Also when ready I can send you plants. I’m always throwing away.
Thank you for your advice, I think I can handle the tank because I currently have a 125 saltwater with corals and fish. I think Ill go with fine gravel or sand because that seems the easiest for the level of plants I want.
 

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