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Deep Substrate Vs Ei

Discussion in 'Advanced Strategies and Fertilization' started by easternlethal, May 10, 2020.

  1. easternlethal

    easternlethal Lifetime Members
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    Lately, youtube has been recommending all kinds of videos on the benefits of a deep deep substrate like this one:



    The main idea as far as I can tell is to cap it with enough fine sand to allow the deeper layers to become anaerobic and ensure that replanting does not disturb it. In this way, decomposition can still occur without affecting the water column (which would not be possible with a shallow and coarse substrate like aquasoil). I understand that anaerobic conditions also clean water in a way that sumps and biomedia don't (although I'm still not sure how).

    This will allow the substrate to provide the nutrients necessary for plants so we don't have to dose as much into the water column.

    Over time, uneaten fish food will work its way into the substrate and really get a chance to break down.

    According to the video, such a tank could provide nutrients for years and the youtuber even recommends putting in things like fe2o3 which will take years to break down.

    I think that some members have also experienced the benefits of soil vs water fertilisation.

    Therefore I am thinking of putting in a rich deep substrate with practically everything: mgso4, clay, soil, lime, iron etc.

    However most youtubers advocating this solution aren't exactly running high tech dutch or nature aquariums so I'm not sure whether such an approach would provide sufficient nutrients consistently enough.

    Does anyone have any ideas about utilising this approach instead of EI in a high tech tank? I must say I'm quite intrigued by this approach and it would be awesome to not have to mix and also do less water changes.
     
    #1 easternlethal, May 10, 2020
    Last edited: May 10, 2020
  2. Allwissend

    Allwissend Article Editor
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    >FatherFish...the name says it all...
    The idea of plenums and deep sand beds and soil tanks works for some tanks, for some people , for some goals. For me I wonder why live with such limitations when plants and water changes are great, cheap, more predicatable and shown to support better looking tanks. If you want to get a better explanation at what happens in such anaerobic conditions think the video below will provide a way better explanation


    In my opinon, in a high tech planted tank, a deep sand bed is fighting against your plants for nitrate. And many plants are fighting against the anaerobic conditions by pumping in oxygen near their roots.

    Generally we consider that sand provides no nutrients, sometimes some calcium and magnesium is dissolved. The nutrition then comes from the other stuff we add to the substrate so you get some micronutrients from clay , iron etc and some macronutrients if you add soil. Plus some macronutrients from fish /fish food. In high tech tanks these sources either can't keep up with plant demand or are quickly depleeted. But there is another issue , what's in the substrate doesn't really always stay in the substrate. Even if you leave the plants alone, the nutrients from the substrate will slowly leach in the water column... ammonia from soil does this quite fast. Same with the added Mg. And in the end you have a fertilized water column anyway. Just from a source you really have no control over.

    So it really depends on your goals with the tank. If you watch the plant selection, density and plant health in Father Fishe's tanks is pretty much what you expect. Similar plants as Walstad's tanks and it's no mistake that most tanks end up having these plants and look like that. A part of it is the method, a part of it is the hands-off mindset and goals. So if your goal is similar, follow their approach. Look at Tom's tank or IAPLC winning tanks , if your goal is that then frequent water change, (some) water column fertilization and very hands on approach are part of the game.

    I think this would be the right place to upload a photo of a 2 year old Echinodorus grown in medium light in 5cm of pure sand ( no root tabs), just water column fertilization. The yellow bits were in contact with my lamp.
    echinodorus-6.jpg
     
    sarpijk likes this.
  3. easternlethal

    easternlethal Lifetime Members
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    Thanks for the video although this youtuber also explains the same thing - that a deep substrate helps, because it sucks excess nitrates and other organics from the water column.

    I have no doubt that EI works and have a journal to show it, and yes it produces the best results with water changes and lots of cleaning. But the cutting edge scapers on this forum (especially on the rotala kill tank thread) have been experimenting with other methods especially involving soil and rarer plants with interesting results.

    I don't think I will ever give up on water changes or custom mixing ferts and my tank seems to need lots of K and Ph to keep bba away. But there's a tendency to compartmentalise approaches into tanks e.g. high tech vs low tech whereas I like to have fun taking elements from both.

    Sent from my SM-T820 using Tapatalk
     
  4. Allwissend

    Allwissend Article Editor
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    I agree with you there, nothing wrong with using rich substrates for your plant growth. You don't need much of it to get good plant growth, but it does have some downsides.It's a more traditional approach to plant growth so we know it works. A deep sand substrate, however, in my view is detrimental to plant growth as it uses up nitrates.
     
  5. easternlethal

    easternlethal Lifetime Members
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    As I understand it, sand is only used as a top layer to keep the stuff from the anaerobic layer lower down from escaping especially when removing plants for replanting (especially strong root system plants crypts or the nice echinodorus you posted). So proper soil is still needed. But I plan to use black sand to cap my soil mix for aesthetic reasons.

    Anyway I will start another journal to track how things go.

    I'm sure this type of system will be much harder to master than EI.
     
    #5 easternlethal, May 17, 2020
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  6. Allwissend

    Allwissend Article Editor
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    If you want a nutrient underlayer, yes you would need some version of soil . But the same anaerobic conditions can be had with sand. The hard part in my view is the unknown black box of what is in the soil at each point in time?, how much leaches in the water column?, when is it consumed?. A question that an average aquarium keeper cannot in truth answer with actual certainty.

    With EI things don't go as you want with plant X, do a water change adjust parameters, adjust CO2 ... with soil you are unlikely to change the soil so eagerly. And you end up with a great unknown which can always be blamed for everything, both success and failure. With standardized 'aquasoils' you get a bit more predictable because the solid are quite standardized and controlled. Plus somewhat easier to change a part of the aquasoil of a tank.

    That being said I don't see why you can't do a soil substrate and dose Ei, you would lose some nitrate but not the end of the world. Water column covers your basis, soil fill in the gaps. Just keep away from lilies and swords... i still recoil when I remember having those with a laterite bottom.
     
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