What are some good substrates for aquascaping?

Discussion in 'Aquarium Aquascaping' started by cwb141, Nov 24, 2009.

  1. cwb141

    cwb141Valued MemberMember

    I want to redo the plants/gravel in my tank by carpeting most of the open areas. What would be a good combination of substrates to use? What type are necessary for plants to flourish?
  2. harpua2002

    harpua2002Fishlore VIPMember

    You can't go wrong with Eco Complete, but that's sort of an expensive option. My plants have also done well with pool filter sand, which is very cheap.
  3. DarkFinValued MemberMember

    Pea sized gravel is a nice one to put on the bottom of your tank, it can hold plant fertilizer better than sand, and allows the carpeting plant to grab onto something. But, you can keep the plant in a clay fertilizer container, in the sand or on driftwood,; id go with the natural brown pea sized gravel, should be at your LFS.

    Lighting is also essential, get a very good light or it wont matter what substrate you use.

  4. Beth1965

    Beth1965Well Known MemberMember

    Pea size gravel is nice but you can get it at a much less cost if you go to a Home Depot or the like.
    I respectfully disagree with DarkFin about the lighting. You can plant low light plants with low light and have a fantastic looking tank.
  5. eiginh

    eiginhWell Known MemberMember

    It depends on what kind of plants do you like or have. i.e. (glosso, riccia, marsilea minuta, hc, dwarf sags, dwarf hairgrass) Usually you'd want a substrate with good/high CEC (carbon exchange capacity) rating to hold fertilizer/nutrients (that's if you're going med-high tech planted). If your tank has 2.0 wpg or higher you may need co2 as well. If it's less you can dose with flourish excel. The type of bottom dwellers should also help on picking out what type of substrate you should have. Corys have really sensitive barbels and therefore you shouldn't pick out substrate that has jagged edges such as flourite. Do not purchase Flora base substrate b/c they do not last long and will need to be replaced every year (I think...). There is also flourite black sand, Aquasoil (top favorite of most planted hobbyists), eco-complete, 3MM quartz, pool filter sand, and many more. It's good to have a bottom layer of thicker/bigger granules of substrate on the bottom and have smaller/thinner granules on top. The bigger/thicker granules help the roots attach to it and the smaller granules help carpets attach to it. How big is your tank and how much are you willing to spend?
  6. DeeDeeKNew MemberMember

    I suggest grog, which is ground firebrick, which is available in grain sizes of like .5 mm to pea grog, which is like pea gravel. It's sold in large ceramic supply places by the 25 or 50lb bag, cheap. It's slightly porous, very textured and rough.
  7. Nutter

    NutterFishlore VIPMember

    Personally I like Eco-Complete & there has been some great advice given by Beth & Eiginh above. I also respectfully disagree with DarkFin. You can grow some great carpeting plants with low light levels. Is this for your 29gal or 75gal? You should be able to easily grow a java Moss carpet using a mesh net to anchor it or you could be patient & use small Crypts or Anubius Nana 'Petite'. The Anubius does best as an attached plant & can be grown on mesh that is anchored in the substrate. Pea gravel is ok but most carpeting plants only have shallow roots & have trouble getting a good anchoring themselves in pea gravel. If your willing to add a little bit more light to your set up you will have a wider choice of carpeting plants that you can grow.
    You can mix Eco-Complete with pool filter sand if you want to achieve a different effect & cut the costs a little bit.
  8. OP

    cwb141Valued MemberMember

    It's for the 75 gallon. I'm planning on going with eco-complete because it is cheaper than aquasoil and still has a nice look to it, plus great reviews. The plants I plan on using are high-light so I'm going to have 2 2x55W 7,800K compact fixtures and a 1x96W 6,700K fixture. Also going to have a co2 system. The reason I want a substrate like eco-complete is to provide the most I can for the plants to flourish. I'm going to have to heavily plant from the beginning to keep algae down so using anything that's not nourishing to plants could potentially be bad.
  9. Nutter

    NutterFishlore VIPMember

    Definitley pick a fine grained substrate then. Eco is a very good choice as the fine grains are good for the shallow roots of most carpeting plants. Remember to still use fertiliser tabs with the Eco to keep it topped up with minerals & extend it's working life. Tablets every couple of months should be enough to double the life of the eco.
  10. Nate McFin

    Nate McFinWell Known MemberMember

    Eco complete (as well as Seachems Flourite products) is a mostly inert substrate meaning it doesnt have any nutrients other than iron as it is made of clay. What it does have is a high CEC or Cation exchange capacity. This means it has the ability to absorb and hold nutrients from the water column. By doing this it makes the nutrients more easily available to the plants roots.Eco is given a nutrient bath before packaging which is why it seems moist in the bag. These nutrients will be used up and the substrate will then only have iron. By dosing the water column and using root tabs (or both!) as Nutter suggested the substrate will absorb more nutrients as the plants use it.
    Pool sand has a very low CEC and is really not a great choice (depending on plant choice) unless root tabs and ferts are used.
    ADA subtrates and DIY mineralized substrates are the only substrates that actually have any nutrients in them naturally. They do not have the ability to absorb nutrients from the water and would eventually need to be replaced or the nutrients would need to come from dosing or tabs. Takashi Amano recommends replacement of ADA substrates once a year! $$$
    Mineralized can last much longer.
    I only bring this up as I am not fond of Eco's claims that it is a nutrient rich substrate...it isnt really it just has the ability to be.
    Having said that both Eco and Flourite are great choices.

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