90 Gallon Tank New to Substrate Layering

Awaken_Riceball_

Greetings,

I am new to the substrate layering method for a planted aquarium. The limited amount of information is quite staggering; yet, the results speak for itself. Currently, I have 140lbs of Seachem Black Sand inside the aquarium, but plants with weak root system either struggle to flourish or slowly wither away due to sand substrate nature to densely compact which chokes the roots. In addition, on a microscopic level, it diminishes the natural ecosystem to properly transport nutrients to the plant system to support healthy growth. The solution came to mind when I watched a green aqua Youtube episode on substrate layering, but there are some lingering information that I would like to know before I invest in a new aquascape along with substrate layering. Any information will most certainly be appreciated!

  1. How deep should the nutrient layer be considering standard substrate recommendation is 3 inches? Do I add 1 inch of porous substrate at the bottom, 3 inches of nutrient layer followed by a 1 or 2 inch cap like sand?
  2. Once the new aquascape is in place, then I simply cannot redo it or the substrate layering will fail?
  3. Sand shifters or dwarf pleco using substrate layering a good idea or should I get rid of them?
  4. What is your recommendation for substrate layering?
Thank you so much!
 

MoshJosh

I've done layered substrate before, mainly for aesthetic reasons, i.e. I like the look of sand but wanted the benefits of other substrates. There are pros and cons to this approach, and I'm not convinced any positive results it produces couldn't be achieved by other means (but I'm kind of a cynic).

As said above the biggest pro for me was the aesthetic appeal. I could use a humate substrates to help plant growth and soften my water (did that substrate actually do those things. . . I don't know, maybe?), but still have the look of sand. . . however, if you mix your substrate up in anyway (trying to catch a fish, doing a water change, uprooting a plant, moving hardscape), you run the risk of destroying the aesthetic you worked to create.

I haven't necessarily heard that layering the substrate will negatively or positively effect the plants roots, I guess it would make sense. My question would be how much of an effect does it really have, and how would it compare to sand plus root tabs?

Frankly I just don't know enough/don't have enough evidence that layered substrate is really worth while. I am open to being proven wrong if anyone else wants to chime in, but these are just my thoughts/opinions at the moment.
 
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Awaken_Riceball_

I've done layered substrate before, mainly for aesthetic reasons, i.e. I like the look of sand but wanted the benefits of other substrates. There are pros and cons to this approach, and I'm not convinced any positive results it produces couldn't be achieved by other means (but I'm kind of a cynic).

As said above the biggest pro for me was the aesthetic appeal. I could use a humate substrates to help plant growth and soften my water (did that substrate actually do those things. . . I don't know, maybe?), but still have the look of sand. . . however, if you mix your substrate up in anyway (trying to catch a fish, doing a water change, uprooting a plant, moving hardscape), you run the risk of destroying the aesthetic you worked to create.

I haven't necessarily heard that layering the substrate will negatively or positively effect the plants roots, I guess it would make sense. My question would be how much of an effect does it really have, and how would it compare to sand plus root tabs?

Frankly I just don't know enough/don't have enough evidence that layered substrate is really worth while. I am open to being proven wrong if anyone else wants to chime in, but these are just my thoughts/opinions at the moment.

I have that same exact aesthetic and skeptical thoughts. You bring up an extremely good point of "Trying to catch a fish" could ruin the hardscape. I am going to have to choose fish compatibility very well and thanks for bringing that to my attention. I have noticed a considerable difference that plants with very strong root system like an Amazon Sword will thrive, but foreground plants with weak root turns brown and wither away. Many advanced aquarist on Youtube show substrate layering, but do not go into depths about how to properly create it, but the results speak for itself. I have came across a few articles why sand is a culprit to poor growth even with root tabs for various reasons, but most noticeably, the substrate cannot breath to transport nutrients efficiently.

I wish there were more information on this, but it would appear I may have to figure it out. Your response is most certainly appreciated
 
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Cherryshrimp420

I have that same exact aesthetic and skeptical thoughts. You bring up an extremely good point of "Trying to catch a fish" could ruin the hardscape. I am going to have to choose fish compatibility very well and thanks for bringing that to my attention. I have noticed a considerable difference that plants with very strong root system like an Amazon Sword will thrive, but foreground plants with weak root turns brown and wither away. Many advanced aquarist on Youtube show substrate layering, but do not go into depths about how to properly create it, but the results speak for itself. I have came across a few articles why sand is a culprit to poor growth even with root tabs for various reasons, but most noticeably, the substrate cannot breath to transport nutrients efficiently.

I wish there were more information on this, but it would appear I may have to figure it out. Your response is most certainly appreciated

In your case it seems like a it's a classic case of not having enough light penetrate to the substrate layer and not a root problem. lighting is a very common problem in 90gal tanks when it comes to growing foreground tanks.

A lot of it can be addressed by improving lighting. For example, reducing the green tint of the water, reducing surface biofilm, reducing calcium build up on the tank cover, moving the light closer to the water surface or just simply upgrading to a stronger light.
 
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MoshJosh

Ok so despite what I said earlier, one thing I have been thinking about is adding lava rock under my sand. . . This same setup seems to be working in my shrimp tank (Fluval fluorite, but same principal. . . I think). My new tanks will be all air filtration so I wonder if lava rock would add to the biological filtration.
 
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