how much is eco complete (enough for a 5 gallon tank)?
You wouldn't need a whole bag. They come in 9kg bags I'm pretty sure. 20 pounds I think?
I don't know about prices in the states, but I do know Aussies get ripped off at AU$45 a bag...
It's still one of the more expensive substrates. For a 5G tank I would recommend just sticking with gravel of a fine grade.
what do you reccomend if I don't go with EC?
One LFS I know sells ziplock bags of Fluorite, so it'd be easy to get just enough for a 5 gallon tank, since the 17-20 pound bags would be way too much for you. Your LFS might cut you a deal on a smaller amount if they keep planted tanks themselves? It can't hurt to ask.
I have heard of people using cat litter as substrate (at least part of the substrate) for planted tanks because the old fashioned kind that doesn't clump (and has no additives) is basically all clay. But plenty of people hate cat litter as well. On the plus side, it's really cheap and widely available.
I've also heard of people using regular potting soil, but I have no idea how that works. For the above, you'd have to separate research into each.
I will go ahead and disrecommend Red Sea Florabase though. It turns to mush within a year and you'll have to redo the whole plant. That would be less of a big deal if you had no fish you had to rehouse while you take down the tank though.
It's up to you of course; if you have more than one tank that you want to keep plants in, then it may be worth the cost of the EcoComplete. Keep in mind though that after about 6 months the nutrients in the substrate have been depleted, and manual fertilisation will need to become routine.
I just switched my gravel in my tanks to a 2mm black gravel with shell grit (I have low pH). It seems to be really good, and fine enough that the plants can work their roots into the substrate pretty easily. I will need to fertilise, but that isn't an issue for me. Have a look at my blog New plants & fish for the new pics (towards the end of the thread).
When it comes down to it, it's a personal choice of whether you want to get a nutrient-enriched substrate or gravel, and how much emphasis you want on your plants as opposed to the fish. I chose the fish as my emphasis, so my gravel choice was based around a combination of small gravel for my loaches (substrate diggers) and the plants being able to take root. Most plants will figure out a way to put their roots down in pretty much anything though...
Hope my experience has helped.
bubblynutter I think I will get some 2-3mm rounded gravel if possible and some fertilizer for the gravel. thanks midthought for the idea ill have to ask the owner of the LFS sometime this week. (or after my PS3 sells )
Anything quartz-based. You need to pick a gravel that won't leech anything into the water if your parameters are fine.
In my case, I needed some extra buffering capacity to raise my pH a bit, shell grit does this.
I don't know of brands etc. in the US, so someone else will have to assist here.
If your absolutely positive you won't ever be putting any fish in the tank, then a high quality potting mix would be my pick. It isn't something I would normally recommend but seeing as you don't want fish, it will be safe for you to use. You will have to make sure you don't get a potting mix that contains a wetting agent though as qetting agents are not good for aquatic plants.
IF THERE IS ANY CHANCE YOU WILL HAVE FISH IN THE TANK DO NOT USE POTTING MIX. If you think there may be fish in the tank one day, then go with Eco-Complete or ordinary aquarium gravel.