Best Budget Substrate For Planted Tank?

TagTeam
  • #1
I have a 20 gallon & 29 gallon (both tall).
I'd like to grow low/medium plants.
I currently have typical gravel but would like to have something better for planting that won't break the bank. I'm currently debating on Aqua Soil , Fluval Statum or Eco Complete
Price-wise I'd like to go with Eco Complete but some of the reviews warn of major pH rises.

Thoughts?
 
Demeter
  • #2
Pool filter sand works wonders. I'd take a look into dirted tanks and use pool filter sand as a cap. Dirt is free and a bag of filter sand is far cheaper than any sand you will find in a pet shop.

I've got 4 dirted tanks and they do wonderfully, the heavy root feeders love the dirt and grow like weeds. No need for root tabs in my tanks. On the other hand, I've a tank with just the sand and the plants still do well but root tabs are needed for the crypts.
 
B1GD4DDY
  • #3
I have used Eco-Complete and love it.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I have used Eco-Complete and love it.
Thank you!
A few questions:
1. Have you had any problems with pH spikes killing fish or plants?
2. How many bags would I need to buy for a 20 gallon and a 29g?
3. Would it be better to completely replace my gravel with it or would it work to add it to my gravel?
 
puriance
  • #5
I also agree with Demeter. as I have 4 tanks that are dirted with pool sand caps. The dirt holds and replenishes the nurtients and helps with dirt growth. The biggest thing you need to worry about is just breaking the cap if you pour water too exuberantly as I discovered the hard way.


yuIUhTd.jpg
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
I also agree with Demeter. as I have 4 tanks that are dirted with pool sand caps. The dirt holds and replenishes the nurtients and helps with dirt growth. The biggest thing you need to worry about is just breaking the cap if you pour water too exuberantly as I discovered the hard way.

View attachment 409600
Thank you!
So I literally just dig up dirt out of my backyard, put it into the tank, let it settle, and then put pool filter sand on top of it?
 
Demeter
  • #7
No you will want to pick out all the twigs, leafs, pebbles and any critters you find. Then mix the dirt with a bit of water to make it a thick mud, you don't want it too wet to where a pool of water forms when left to stand for a bit. After you spread the mud in the empty tank you spared at least an inch of sand on top. Make sure you rinse the sand and add it wet. Slowly add the water using a plate to pour the water on, you don't want to disturb the dirt or you will have a cloudy mess.

You can find youtube videos for a better idea, it's super easy though once you get the gist of it.

Just a heads up, you should let the tank settle for a few weeks as a dirted tank usually has a big ammonia spike. I'd hold off on adding fish but definitely add plants right away to soak up the high amounts of dissolved nutrients.
 
puriance
  • #8
I bought black earth from my local hardware store which is essentially more broken down than your backyard dirt. I twas like $4 for a huge bag, and I have 2/3's of it left.

I didn't hear about the ammonia spike until AFTER I had set up my tanks so as I was monitoring, I carried out water changes every day, to every other day for about 3 weeks. Which, let me tell you, is annoying. BUT in the end, I have minimal upkeep and maintenance for the substrate, no fert tabs, and minimal dosing.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
My tanks are fully stocked. Do you think doing a Dirted Tank (or black earth tank) would be too risky?
I'm trying to figure out how I could pull it off and every thought ends badly for the fish!
 
Rok55
  • #10
My tanks are fully stocked. Do you think doing a Dirted Tank (or black earth tank) would be too risky?
I'm trying to figure out how I could pull it off and every thought ends badly for the fish!
No way to redo your tank to Dirted / Capped unless you can move the stock for a time to allow the dirt/cap/ pH to settle in. Also to be considered is that if you have to pull or replant anything there is a real potential for breaking the cap and ending up with a real mess, especially as a newbie to Dirted / planted tanks.

If you use Pool Filter sand or Black Diamond Blasting sand (BDBS), while moving the stock is still required, conversion could be done in a matter of days and none of the problems associated with Dirted tanks. My preference is Eco Complete / Flourite augmented with a BDBS cap. The BDBS will over long term eventually mix with the fluorite but that is the look and consistency I want. Easy to plant in and easy to maintain.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
No way to redo your tank to Dirted / Capped unless you can move the stock for a time to allow the dirt/cap/ pH to settle in. Also to be considered is that if you have to pull or replant anything there is a real potential for breaking the cap and ending up with a real mess, especially as a newbie to Dirted / planted tanks.

If you use Pool Filter sand or Black Diamond Blasting sand (BDBS), while moving the stock is still required, conversion could be done in a matter of days and none of the problems associated with Dirted tanks. My preference is Eco Complete / Flourite augmented with a BDBS cap. The BDBS will over long term eventually mix with the fluorite but that is the look and consistency I want. Easy to plant in and easy to maintain.
If I'm hearing you correctly you're suggesting I put in:
1) Eco Complete
2) Flourite
3) Black Diamond Blasting Sand

Four questions:
1. Is this correct?
2. If yes, how long would my fish need to be out of the tank?
3. Would I need to completely empty the tank of water?
4. Do I do all parts equal? Or is there a ratio you think is best?
 
Rok55
  • #12
If I'm hearing you correctly you're suggesting I put in:
1) Eco Complete
2) Flourite
3) Black Diamond Blasting Sand

Four questions:
1. Is this correct?
2. If yes, how long would my fish need to be out of the tank?
3. Would I need to completely empty the tank of water?
4. Do I do all parts equal? Or is there a ratio you think is best?

1 + 4. Yes, but, Eco Complete is essentially fluorite (which is basically inert with high cation value) with minerals and ferts added to promote plant growth over time. You can choose one or the other or both depending on your situation. My current project is a 75 gallon "Angel" tank that will be heavily planted. The substrate is 3 bags of Eco Complete then approx. 6Oz of Osmocote spread evenly about then 30Lbs of fluorite, then 50Lbs of BDBS. This gives me a deep substrate bed that will function extremely well as a planting bed but also as a highly effective filter base.

3.Completely emptying the tank will help keep the water from getting to cloudy. you could leave a couple nches in and then scoop out all your existing gravel before proceeding with the new substrate.

2. The sand will need to settle and your tank will need to develop BB cycling before you put your stock back in.

So ...... depending on how well you clean / rinse the Flourite and sand (DO NOT RINSE THE ECO COMPLETE) and whether or not you have a well cycled filter to put on the new tank ............

After putting in the substrate I put a few inches of water in, (some people will also put in their plants at this point) ( as this a fresh setup I am gonna wait till I have a partial cycle before I plant) place my driftwood and rocks in and then fill the tank slowly and carefully using a plate or other object to keep from stirring up the substrate.

If done carefully your cloudiness should be minimized. I let the tank sit quietly for a couple of hours to allow sand to settle then use and old Emperor 350 HOB (filled only with filter floss) the clear the water. I use an old HOB to ensure that I don't get any sand particles in my Fluval 406 canister. In this case it cleared well within approx. 6 hours. If you have a cycled filter you could install it and start your cycle and add some TSS, Stability or other BB additive to kick things into gear. Depending on whether you prefer a Fish In or Fishless cycle will determine how soon you can return your stock to the tank.

I hope this helps .......... let us know what you decide and how things work out for you ... and remember pictures are always appreciated. Here is mine today after settled and 1 hour on the HOB.
.
New 75 settled.JPG
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
1 + 4. Yes, but, Eco Complete is essentially fluorite (which is basically inert with high cation value) with minerals and ferts added to promote plant growth over time. You can choose one or the other or both depending on your situation. My current project is a 75 gallon "Angel" tank that will be heavily planted. The substrate is 3 bags of Eco Complete then approx. 6Oz of Osmocote spread evenly about then 30Lbs of fluorite, then 50Lbs of BDBS. This gives me a deep substrate bed that will function extremely well as a planting bed but also as a highly effective filter base.

3.Completely emptying the tank will help keep the water from getting to cloudy. you could leave a couple nches in and then scoop out all your existing gravel before proceeding with the new substrate.

2. The sand will need to settle and your tank will need to develop BB cycling before you put your stock back in.

So ...... depending on how well you clean / rinse the Flourite and sand (DO NOT RINSE THE ECO COMPLETE) and whether or not you have a well cycled filter to put on the new tank ............

After putting in the substrate I put a few inches of water in, (some people will also put in their plants at this point) ( as this a fresh setup I am gonna wait till I have a partial cycle before I plant) place my driftwood and rocks in and then fill the tank slowly and carefully using a plate or other object to keep from stirring up the substrate.

If done carefully your cloudiness should be minimized. I let the tank sit quietly for a couple of hours to allow sand to settle then use and old Emperor 350 HOB (filled only with filter floss) the clear the water. I use an old HOB to ensure that I don't get any sand particles in my Fluval 406 canister. In this case it cleared well within approx. 6 hours. If you have a cycled filter you could install it and start your cycle and add some TSS, Stability or other BB additive to kick things into gear. Depending on whether you prefer a Fish In or Fishless cycle will determine how soon you can return your stock to the tank.

I hope this helps .......... let us know what you decide and how things work out for you ... and remember pictures are always appreciated. Here is mine today after settled and 1 hour on the HOB.
.View attachment 409723
Thank you so much!
I certainly have a lot to learn and this thread has been very helpful.
I'll be making a decision as soon as I have a little more money...
 
AllieSten
  • #14
I use black diamond blasting sand medium grit (20/40). $8 for 50lbs. Just add root tabs to it wherever you add stem plants and you will be good to go.
 
Rok55
  • #15
I use black diamond blasting sand medium grit (20/40). $8 for 50lbs. Just add root tabs to it wherever you add stem plants and you will be good to go.

Yep, this method works well also, if you can get to the base of all your stem plants when things are fully grown out.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
Thank you so much!
I certainly have a lot to learn and this thread has been very helpful.
I'll be making a decision as soon as I have a little more money...[
Yep, this method works well also, if you can get to the base of all your stem plants when things are fully grown out.
Here's a step-by-step plan (for my 20 gallon tank) I formed based on your advice.
Please let me know if I have this correct:
  • Unplug filter, light and heater

  • Remove fish & plants and put bucket (add or change water every couple hours)

  • Empty all water, but leave a couple inches, then scoop out all gravel

  • Add 1 bag of Eco Complete (do not rinse)

  • Add 2 oz of Osmocote tabs

  • Thoroughly clean Flourite and BDBS (not sure how to do this)

  • Add 10lbs of Fluorite

  • Add 15-20 lbs of Black Diamond Blasting Sand

  • Carefully add a few inches of water

  • Add plants, driftwood and rocks

  • Fill tank slowly using a plate

  • Allow the sand to settle

  • Turn on filter, light & heater

  • Add Tetra Safe Start + and Prime

  • Test water

  • Add fish

I use black diamond blasting sand medium grit (20/40). $8 for 50lbs. Just add root tabs to it wherever you add stem plants and you will be good to go.
Do you use BDBS on top of Eco Complete, or just BDBS?
 
AllieSten
  • #17
Do you use BDBS on top of Eco Complete, or just BDBS?

Actually, I just changed things 2 days ago. I had strictly BDBS, about 75lbs in my 55g. It was about 2” or so deep. I had a huge black beard algae problem, so I ditched all my plants, and decided while I was at it, to add 40lbs of Eco-complete. So I have 2” of sand, capped with 1.5” of Eco-complete. I just planted the tank last night. I haven’t added the root tabs yet, that will happen today, along with getting the CO2 turned back on.

This was my tank with the BDBS, liquid ferts, root tabs, and CO2. (Before the BBA)


8e75b14dffa56b1ad2bb2566c95234c4.jpg
 
bgclarke
  • #18
Please let me know if I have this correct:
  • Add Tetra Safe Start + and Prime
You need to wait at least 24 hours between dosing Prime and adding TSS+, otherwise the TSS+ won't work.

Keep your filter media wet so you don't lose your cycle.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
You need to wait at least 24 hours between dosing Prime and adding TSS+, otherwise the TSS+ won't work.

Keep your filter media wet so you don't lose your cycle.
Thank you, I'll make those adjustments to my plan
Does it matter which I add first?
Prime, wait 24 hours, TSS+
or
TSS+, wait 24 hours, Prime
 
bgclarke
  • #20
Another minor adjustment: don't turn on your filter until you've dechlorinated your water, otherwise you risk damaging the bacteria in your filter media.

Prime will need to go in first, then turn on your filter.

24 hours or so later add TSS+.
 
xloe
  • #21
I have eco complete in my 29 gal. I mixed one 20 lb bag with one 25 lb bag of black gravel ($10 cheaper). I think that is enough for me, but you could probably use one more bag, depending on how much substrate you want in the tank. My ph is 8.2, but I also have rocks and shells in there that could be affecting the ph. Plants and fish are doing well so far. I really like the look of it!
I am thinking I might put sand in my next tank just because it would be better for the bottom dwellers.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #22
Actually, I just changed things 2 days ago. I had strictly BDBS, about 75lbs in my 55g. It was about 2” or so deep. I had a huge black beard algae problem, so I ditched all my plants, and decided while I was at it, to add 40lbs of Eco-complete. So I have 2” of sand, capped with 1.5” of Eco-complete. I just planted the tank last night. I haven’t added the root tabs yet, that will happen today, along with getting the CO2 turned back on.

This was my tank with the BDBS, liquid ferts, root tabs, and CO2. (Before the BBA)

View attachment 409734
If I just do Eco Complete with BDBS on top of it I won't have to worry about "breaking the cap" right?
I would only have to worry about that if I use Flourite or dirt correct?
 
Rok55
  • #23
If I just do Eco Complete with BDBS on top of it I won't have to worry about "breaking the cap" right?
I would only have to worry about that if I use Flourite or dirt correct?

Correct. Depending on your tank maintenance / husbandry routine and methods the BDBS will eventually infiltrate the Eco Complete / Flourite anyway. Notice that AllieSten put Eco Complete over an existing bed of BDBS. Works great either way ............... with dirted tank, not so much. LOL
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
Best way to rinse Flourite & BDBS?
 
bgclarke
  • #25
Best way to rinse Flourite & BDBS?
I have some of the red flourite and it needs to be rinsed outside, preferably with a hose.
I won't use it again.
 
Rok55
  • #26
I put about 10lbs at a time in a 5gal bucket, using a hose I cover it by several inches. I then agitate with a clean garden scoop to release any foreign material and pour off the top. Do this until the water runs off clear and your good to go. Usually takes me about five minutes per load.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
I put about 10lbs at a time in a 5gal bucket, using a hose I cover it by several inches. I then agitate with a clean garden scoop to release any foreign material and pour off the top. Do this until the water runs off clear and your good to go. Usually takes me about five minutes per load.
Is that for the Flourite or the BDBS?

Thank you for all the help you guys, this has been really, really educational.
My plan is to go the Eco Complete + BDBS route
 
Rok55
  • #28
Is that for the Flourite or the BDBS?

Both

Thank you for all the help you guys, this has been really, really educational.
My plan is to go the Eco Complete + BDBS route

Good choice, let us know how it go. Cheers
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #29
2 questions:
1. Due to my budget I'm debating on doing a strictly BDBS substrate. Is this recommended? Anything I need to know/do if I went that route?
2. Is this the correct product?
 
Rok55
  • #30
Yes. Just rinse well and use Fert tabs at the base of stem / rooted plants
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #31
Yes. Just rinse well and use Fert tabs at the base of stem / rooted plants

If I added Eco Complete later would it be best to just cap the BDBS with the Eco Complete on top, or should I stir it in so it’s blended?
 
Rok55
  • #32
If you are truly contemplating Eco complete and BDBS, I would just save up till I could afford to put in both at the same time as it will ultimately be easier and less stressful on the fishes.. In your case I think one bag of Eco per tank and One bag of BDBS split between the two would do the trick. Total cost less than $50.00.
 
TerryCat
  • #33
I would just save up and get tropica or eco complete. I did the whole plant with one and then switch it out and it is stressful for all parties involved and disturbs the plant roots which is frustrating as well.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #34
Thanks guys. To clarify, if I waited to get the money and put in echo complete & BDBS at the same time I would not have to do root tabs correct?
 
Rok55
  • #35
Correct, but you would still need supplements for your non-stemmed plants
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #36
GirlFriday
  • #37
Another minor adjustment: don't turn on your filter until you've dechlorinated your water, otherwise you risk damaging the bacteria in your filter media.

And this is why I am reading every thread. It's a miracle I have any swimming fish.
/edit to fix quote part
 
Hunter1
  • #38
I have 3 tanks with BDBS; one (expensive) is a 20 tall with eco-complete (entire 20ld bag), covered with black flourite, covered with BDBS. Very good for plants but not cheap.

On a budget, try this. I have 2 like it. ORGANIC potting mix covered with BDBS. Probably $15 tops.

Issues I had. Both types of potting mix I had contained white moisture retention material in it. But it floats so it’s easy to remove. I added the potting mix about 1.5” deep and filled with water. I put 2 seasoned sponge filters in. HUGE ammonia spike but my filters held and created nitrites and nitrates. Within 2-3 days, ammonia and nitrites were 0. I then capped with BDBS.

I put one bowl of BDBS in a big serving bowl and agitated it while filling. Afte 3 times of emptying the water, it was clear and I added it to a bucket.

Once I had enough cleaned, I slowly added on top of the potting mix. Do a 90% water change, clean filter in tank water and it’s done. You will see tannins in your water for 4-6 water changes but will totally clear then.

My root feeder plants grow well in both setups. The eco-complete is easier, but way more expensive. Not sure which will last the longest.
 
TagTeam
  • Thread Starter
  • #39
I have 3 tanks with BDBS; one (expensive) is a 20 tall with eco-complete (entire 20ld bag), covered with black flourite, covered with BDBS. Very good for plants but not cheap.

On a budget, try this. I have 2 like it. ORGANIC potting mix covered with BDBS. Probably $15 tops.

Issues I had. Both types of potting mix I had contained white moisture retention material in it. But it floats so it’s easy to remove. I added the potting mix about 1.5” deep and filled with water. I put 2 seasoned sponge filters in. HUGE ammonia spike but my filters held and created nitrites and nitrates. Within 2-3 days, ammonia and nitrites were 0. I then capped with BDBS.

I put one bowl of BDBS in a big serving bowl and agitated it while filling. Afte 3 times of emptying the water, it was clear and I added it to a bucket.

Once I had enough cleaned, I slowly added on top of the potting mix. Do a 90% water change, clean filter in tank water and it’s done. You will see tannins in your water for 4-6 water changes but will totally clear then.

My root feeder plants grow well in both setups. The eco-complete is easier, but way more expensive. Not sure which will last the longest.

Thank you!!
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

Replies
14
Views
752
lojack
Replies
36
Views
4K
AquaLady
Top Bottom