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Eco-Complete gone anaerobic

Discussion in 'Sediment / Substrate' started by Squidly, Sep 19, 2017.

  1. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    My 100g setup is about 7 years old. 2 years ago I gave up fighting BBA and killed the lights/co2 after the BGA took hold and the tank began to smell like Sulphur. Despite water changes and meds, could not kill off the BGA and neglected tank afterwards and pretty much called it quits.

    Finally I decided this week to rethink the way to add Co2 and try again. In preparation, after removing everything including fish, I removed all the existing EC soil of which I had too much (6-7" pushed against the rear to make a slope) and swished it very well under a hose and then returned it to the tank. 5-6 near 100% water changes including gravel siphoning, the smell is still there though diminished. I suppose I could add activated carbon to help mask the smell but my concern is that this situation might not improve and perhaps ought to be thinking about replacing the soil entirely rather than fight it.

    I guess my question is several fold;

    Is EC with its different grain sizes more likely to suffer from anaerobic issues which helped to promote the severe BBA/BGA issues I had (or did I just use too much)? I see many do not vacuum their gravel at all which makes me wonder whether you should or shouldn't. I noticed over time a lot of silt built up that sank to the bottom despite infrequent gravel siphoning cleans (silt floating on top of surface water during WC's).

    Whether the smell dissipates or not, I am wondering whether it's time to bite the bullet and replace it with fresh soil. Beyond ADA which is both too expensive and takes too long to stabilize, what would be a better option if one exists keeping in mind I have a few fish that have to live through it?

    I can't figure anything other than to buy more EC and start over (using less).

    Thanks!
     
  2. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Soil capped with BDBS?
     
  3. slipfinger

    slipfinger Article Editor
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    Or straight blasting sand? Its been proven to grow most plants well.
     
  4. tiger15

    tiger15 Member

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    Isn't EC substrate is for Walstad system only where no CO2 and dosing are used. Since you are dosing both, why not just use inert sand or gravel and add root tabs for root feeding plants. Isn't all nutrient rich substrate will eventually be exhausted reverting it to inert status, so you have to either replace or dose.
     
  5. rajkm

    rajkm Article Editor
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    Walstad is soil capped with sand.
    EC and Flourite are chemically inert. Technically they never exhaust.
     
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  6. tiger15

    tiger15 Member

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    Thanks for clarifying my ignorant of the many types of commercial substrate. Are they inert because the micro nutrients present as advertised are largely bio unavailable? So what's the benefit of having these substrates over silicate sand and gravel? Since it is still necessary to add root tab and dose the water column to make them "complete", is it better off to use silicate substrate that is heavier, less dusty, easier to clean, more porous and aerobic, and easier to root plants.

    I am presently using dolomite 1 mm gravel for my planted tank, which is similar to silicate gravel in physical properties but has the additional benefit of replenishing Ca and Mg.
     
  7. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Lifetime Member
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    Your algae problems probably stem from the combination of a build up of organics, low dissolved oxygen, and unstable CO2.

    That smell (rotten eggs) is hydrogen sulphide which is indeed a sign of anaerobic substrate.
    Aquatic sediments are anaerobic by nature and macrophytes (aquatic plants) have evolved to grow in them but if the sediment is too devoid of oxygen plants have to work harder to uptake nutrients from them.

    Further, hydrogen sulphide may build up to levels that inhibit root development and therefore plant growth.
    However, hydrogen sulphide is unlikely to harm aquarium critters since it is quickly oxidised to harmless sulphates in the presence of oxygen.

    Good flow and distribution coupled with adequate surface agitation will help oxygenate the surface layer of the substrate which will get to the root cause (pun intended).
    Good flow will also oxygenate the water column helping to eradicate the smell and disperse it.
    The 10x rule works well...that is you should aim for flow that is the equivalent filter turnover of 10 x the tanks capacity per hour.

    Planting heavily will also help since plants will oxygenate the root zone, or rhizosphere, themselves.
    This is self-reinforcing since it helps create an environment more conducive to healthy growth, and so on.

    Good tank husbandry will also help to keep a tank healthy, for instance a water change of 50% once per week is also an opportunity to remove solid and dissolved organic material (mulm) which will also help to combat algae.

    As for the choice of substrate I'd stick with what you have for now and try the above, if that doesn't work then try fresh substrate, so long as you're water column dosing you can pretty much grow plants in marbles. However, a nutrient rich substrate has its obvious advantages. Either way, a regular water column dosing regime, using EI or a ready mixed all in one solution, is essential to keep plants healthy, a key factor in the fight against algae and rotten egg smells.

    Substrates like Flourite are composed of baked clay minerals.
    Clay particles have a naturally high CEC or Cation Exchange Capacity since they contain particles that readily attract and bind nutrients to them.
    Plants are then free to uptake these nutrients through their roots.

    These substrates will, over time, become nutrient depleted, that is if they are the only source of nutrients.
    However, if you have a good water column fertz dosing regime, coupled with good flow and distribution, substrates with a high CEC will bind some of those nutrients to them allowing plants to draw nutrients through the roots as well as their leaves almost indefinitely.
     
    #7 Tim Harrison, Sep 22, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
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  8. Dale Hazey

    Dale Hazey Junior Poster

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    Besides high CEC, I thought clay provides a good source of iron to the plants. I wonder if the iron depletes over time?
     
  9. snarkingturtle

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    I think that's the unbaked clay that can provide iron (the soft clay that can be mixed into soil) rather than baked clay chips used in substrates like Eco complete.
     
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  10. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Keep in mind EC & Flourite are so low on the CEC rating it doesn't even count.
    As @rajkm stated they are basically inert, meaning no CEC.
     
  11. Tim Harrison

    Tim Harrison Lifetime Member
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    So they are, apparently Flourite has a CEC of around 1.7 me./100g compared to say ADA AS which has a CEC ranging from 24.5 - 27.5
    me./100g.
     
    #11 Tim Harrison, Sep 23, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2017
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  12. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    Thanks all. Admittedly I let the tank "go" sans occasional wc's. Prior I had attempted to run all types of Co2 reactors and additional canisters (along with a built in wet/dry). It took FOREVER to bring the Co2 up to snuff and ended up with tons of BBA. Then the BGA started in which I was able to treat for awhile until it became rampant and I just turned the lights off and stopped feeding nutrients (for a year though I had added ozmocote caps prior). I've since removed the additional plumbing/canisters and swapped out the return pump for a needle wheel. Finally I can get my Co2 up to where it needs to be within an hour (instead of 5) and things are looking very positive for the first time.

    Though I attempted multiple large wc's after removing the gravel entirely and washing it out (limiting depth to 3"), I continued to have ammonia spikes and the smell persisted. I broke down and decided to sterilize the soil entirely. I added a couple of koralia pumps at the bottom, removed some water and then added potassium permanganate and stirred the $#$# out of it while draining the water finishing with some H202 to neutralize. Pretty much removed all the detritus so that when I stir it now, all I see is soil. The smell is almost entirely gone since, but grabbed some charcoal for that and lowered the temp to 72 to keep the fish happier during the ammonia spikes until things balance out.

    Not sure, but I think will want to continue to deep vacuum 1/2 each time I do wc's going forward to limit the build up instead of just the upper crust. The top water is clear of mulm when I do a wc so I *think* this was a sign I should've paid more attention to. Per the ozmocote caps, that stuff never seems to break down. I still have yellow time capsules under and now over the soil. There must be a better way to fertilize the soil than this.
     
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  13. Mooner

    Mooner Lifetime Charter Member
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    Yes, the casings(balls) never go away, that is what makes them "time" release. The casings have to be removed manually after they are spent. Bit of a pain :( You can use EI water column dosing instead.
     
  14. tiger15

    tiger15 Member

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    So eco complete and flourite are essentially the same as terra cotta chips. It's all marketing talk that they contain a rich assortment of minerals but if the minerals are not releaseable, they are no better in providing micros than having a few clay pots. Other than nice color for a planted tank, these baked clay substrates offer no benifit but trouble having to clean dust off the broken chips.

    How about kitty litter, which is unbaked clay. Is it better off?
     
    #14 tiger15, Sep 25, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2017
  15. snarkingturtle

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    I use Safe-T-Sorb which is a baked clay product and I like it. It has high CEC (much higher than fluorite or Eco complete which means it can retain some nutrients from the water column and release it back to plants. So it is highly active but AFAIK it doesn't come with any nutrients (but you can "charge" it if desired). Kitty litter is similar but less kilned so it will break down into, eventually, clay mud. Safe-T-Sorb Is also more attractive.
     
  16. tiger15

    tiger15 Member

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    Look like repackaged fluorite or EC product at fraction of the price. Are they non lumping and do Home centers carry them.
     
  17. Phishless

    Phishless Lifetime Member
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    Tractor Supply is your best source for STS. About $6.99 for 40 lb. bag.
    There is no lumping issues, don't rinse to much you'll just grind it all to dust.

    My thoughts are Seachem buys a product like STS and pre-charges it to keep it stable(inert/low CEC).
     
  18. snarkingturtle

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    I'm in Canada so can't say what stores carry it in the States. Many places that sell parts or machinery will probably carry it (it's used to absorb oil and other chemical spills).
     
  19. snarkingturtle

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    Also, the one downside to it is that it is very light so it's difficult to vacuum and it can be hard to keep small plants rooted at first.
     
  20. Squidly

    Squidly Lifetime Members
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    I added gravel to the EC soil initially and have never had any big issue rooting plants. While I'm now down to 3" of soil, I have no issues keeping the plants rooted. Thanks
     
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