Fertilised substrate for RUGF setup

jac.polanski

New Member
Sep 13, 2021
5
1
3
Poland
Hello,​


As it's my first post I want to greet all community! I reed a lot of topics and appreciate your help on the below matter.

The Story:
I'm thinking about restarting my tank. It's set up for abt 1.5 year already, but due to lack of knowledge at the begining many mistakes were domnin process that brings me to reconsider the whole setup. Water parameters are stable, no fish were hurt but results were not even part what I expected especially regarding plants, that melted, get algae destroyed etc along the way. Only strongest survived :/

The Tank:
- 100x50x50cm
- medium/high stocked South American fish mainly
- light: fully controlled/adjustable 3x50W 220V WFS COB LED ~5000K, CRI=98 (in construction. Currently 2x36W LED bars 6500K, not plant type)
- see attached pic of tank
- pressurised CO2 controlled by pH comp.
current parameters pH 6.6, KH 4, GH 12, NH3/4 0, NO2 0, NO3 ~20(tap water pH 7.8, KH 9, GH 12, NO3 ~5)

The Plan:

- I want to make setup as on the attached plan
- Tank will undergo fishles cycling before adding crew
- Most of the equipment I have already available so that's the answer to some questions "why like that"
- Some lean type of fertilising. Thought about PPS pro with RO water mineralised(for GH 6, additionally rised KH to 2) as part of current problems is also tap water quality.
- to have variety of plants all shapes and colours

The Question:

- what fertilising substrate(if that should be called as I do) would be the best/wisest/cost friendly. Depends. I thought about Tropica Plant Growth Substrate as for my research.​

Please I await your opinions. I am aware of pros and cons of RUGF, but just want to try it after reading. If some additional info required I will be glad to answer questions. I know subject is complex, involving filtration, ferts etc. but set it up here in substrate as that if general question. My goal is to prep well this time and set up everything right at the begining.​

The best to all of U!
Jack​
IMG-20210912-WA0003.jpg
IMG-20210912-WA0000.jpg

Restart plan.png
 

Attachments

  • Restart plan.pdf
    135 KB · Views: 23

Allwissend

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Lifetime Member
Jun 20, 2016
576
293
63
www.intuitiveaqua.net
I won't go into a "how dare you do what you want to do with your aquarium" post, social media is full of such places. Just something to consider in your plans. Post pictures of the build and progress :) It will be an interesting tank.

In my opinion any nutrient rich substrate placed as shown in the diagram will 'pollute' the water until depleted. The 5-10 cm deep sand or gravel cover will not be enough to keep the nutrients from the water column. It will filter out the particulates well but the actual fertilizer will get trough. We know nutrients from the root tabs/nutritious substrate escape into the water column even in aquariums without water circulation. I can only imagine the effect being higher/faster when water is constantly passed through the substrate. At that point why not simply add liquid fertilizer directly in the water column in a controlled fashion instead of having a black box fertilizing substrate.

I would also suggest staying away from fine, non-backed clay based substrates as they are very dusty and tend to become very compact (like modelling clay)... both don't match well with the RUGF in my opinion. "Aquasoils" such as Tropica aquarium soil would avoid the compactness and fine particulate issue for a while but still have the aspect mentioned in the first paragraph. Ultimately the original load of the substrate will run out months/years and the CEC capability will help keep some nutrition, but the lavarock and the sand will be full or organics anyway by that point. I wonder if some wood-based non-fertilized compost would also be suitable here as it has a better structure overall and the wood will host a diversity of bacteria including nitrate removers... it will release "endless" tannins.
 

jac.polanski

New Member
Sep 13, 2021
5
1
3
Poland
Thanx Allwissend for reply :)

I won't go into a "how dare you do what you want to do with your aquarium" post, social media is full of such places. Just something to consider in your plans. Post pictures of the build and progress :) It will be an interesting tank.

Discussion about why I want it with RUGF is generally pointles :) Just I'm curious, interested in that and want to give a try ;) In process I will make photo documentation, so will try to share.

In my opinion any nutrient rich substrate placed as shown in the diagram will 'pollute' the water until depleted...

Ok, unfortunately you are proving my doubts. I did think about that, that's why as visible on diagram inlet to RUGF will not be tight. Water will have the possibility to exit also by RUGF inlet up. In my mind that will cause minimal pressure from bottom to tank and restrict flow and "pollution" with nutrients. Anyway, still some will remain.
I have really bad experience from digged out substrate causing algae. Well... As I saw some wery nice planted tanks(maybe not heavily, but way better than my current) with similar setup so there has to be a way around :)

At that point why not simply add liquid fertilizer directly in the water column in a controlled fashion instead of having a black box fertilizing substrate.

That's actually not a bad idea, for sure worth considering. But as mentioned that root tabs will cause bad effect in that setup question is how to mix and add ferts. Meaning in what regime? I think that might be a little overwhelming to me(but never was considering that so my knowledge how to do that is 0)


I would also suggest staying away from fine, non-backed clay based substrates as they are very dusty and tend to become very compact (like modelling clay)

That I did consider when suggesting that Tropica Plant Growth Substrate as option, but let's consider above solution as better for a moment. If I would go with gravel, lava or similar inert substrate and want to fertilise water column and by means of RUGF deliver nutrients to roots how to do that? Can you point me at least in good direction or lead the way? I ordered already liquid doser pump with 4 heads so it will be easier I suppose when I will get it and I go that way.

I wonder if some wood-based non-fertilized compost would also be suitable here as it has a better structure overall and the wood will host a diversity of bacteria including nitrate removers... it will release "endless" tannins.

Never heard about that kind used in tank. Will try to get some info. By realease tanins you mean creating blackwater effect? If so for me that's not a problem, unfo I'm not allone in hobby and the tank is only one, so for sake of good relations with my wife would like to avoid that :) Anyway, I will try to find something about wood based compost and at least gain some knowledge.

Thanks for reply! Hope to hear some more from you!

Regards,
Jack
 
Last edited:

Allwissend

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Lifetime Member
Jun 20, 2016
576
293
63
www.intuitiveaqua.net
Ok, unfortunately you are proving my doubts. I did think about that, that's why as visible on diagram inlet to RUGF will not be tight. Water will have the possibility to exit also by RUGF inlet up. In my mind that will cause minimal pressure from bottom to tank and restrict flow and "pollution" with nutrients.
lots of unknown variables playing a role there. Perhaps install a T split with valves so you can control how much water goes where if you don't want the entire output to go through the substrate.
If I would go with gravel, lava or similar inert substrate and want to fertilise water column and by means of RUGF deliver nutrients to roots how to do that? Can you point me at least in good direction or lead the way? I ordered already liquid doser pump with 4 heads so it will be easier I suppose when I will get it and I go that way.

Approach fertilization the same as you would do for any water column based fertilization scheme. A good starting point will be this article here : https://barrreport.com/threads/the-estimative-index-of-dosing-or-no-need-for-test-kits.52/
Given active water circulation through the substrate you can just dose normally, at the top of the tank, and the pump will distribute it. Most peristaltic pumps are not suitable for inline or deep dosing but will come in handy if you want to do daily dosing.
 

jac.polanski

New Member
Sep 13, 2021
5
1
3
Poland
Perhaps install a T split with valves so you can control how much water goes where if you don't want the entire output to go through the substrate.

That's good idea. Will think how to manage that nicely outside tank, that it's not visible. One end to RUGF, other to conventional outlet.

Approach fertilization the same as you would do for any water column based fertilization scheme

Ok, so we are in EI talk now. So as I read little till now about it for me most practicable would be EI daily dosing. As far as I understand I can just at start mix salts as calculated at https://rotalabutterfly.com/ for my tank size at EI Daily settings and then should be safe start? I know you said "any scheme" but will lean dosing setups like mentioned by me PPS Pro work without ferilised substrate? I know we are at native EI forum but just asking :)

I wonder if some wood-based non-fertilized compost would also be suitable here as it has a better structure overall and the wood will host a diversity of bacteria including nitrate removers...

Can you elaborate more about that subject? I find it interesting but cannot find any directly related posts or articles. Did you mean self made wood compost or are there any existing mixes? I assume tanins can be beaten by carbon or reisins?

Given active water circulation through the substrate you can just dose normally, at the top of the tank, and the pump will distribute it.

That's the plan then.

But going back to substrate topic. If considering only inert what would be best? Lava rock? Gravel? Maybe some that accumulates nutrients and then gives them back(but it would lead probably to some difficulties in dosing as not known how much is actually accumulated, am I right?)?

Thanx for reply!
Jacek
 

jac.polanski

New Member
Sep 13, 2021
5
1
3
Poland
So, about "wood-based non-fertilized compost" I finally found some info. Googling "wood chip bioreactor" gives few interesting scholar articles about use of wood chips in agricultural NO3 filtration. Interesting there is that they used either methanol or glycerin to speed up process.
There are also few posts about using method in substrate, but in a way Allwissend said in his first post here "how dare you do what you want to do with your aquarium".
Also found one about external use of such a bioreactor for aquarium. That one I found interesting because mentions proportions of porous substrate to wood chips as 4:1. At least it gives some idea where to start, as agricultural constructs were purely from scrap wood chips.
Gent there cycles bioreactor tank rather normally in fishles cycle few times, without any filter or so and then uses it to filter aquarium water claiming not detectable amounts of NO3. Gent seems to not have problem with tanins after wood prep.
As in my location obtaining high temperature dried, bio safe wood chips for food smoking is not a big deal I keep my level of interest in a subject.
Concerns me only what will happen when that wood chips will start decompose and if it will not start to be nutrient "poluttant" in time. From other hand I believe that by volume and mass currently I have more wood in tank that I would add to substrate... Of course in whole pice but... What do you think will be lifespan of that wood chips, defining for example that it will be oak or alder.
By my understanding wood prep would be like with any other root or branch used. Boiling and soaking in water(exchanged time to time), waiting to release as much as it can be tanins. Then mixing it with let's say with lava rock in above mentioned 4:1 proportions and "hops" to the tank.
As I have well stocked tank, daughter that's 7 and like to overfeed when nobody looks, time to time NO3 spike happens. You all can imagine whats then ;)
Only thing that holds me from "yeah, why not, let's try it" is above paragraph and imagination that I will have to restart because of that :) (as it seem unlikely I hope).

Regards,
Jacek

References:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Aquariums/comments/96yt4s
 

Allwissend

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Lifetime Member
Jun 20, 2016
576
293
63
www.intuitiveaqua.net
Ok, so we are in EI talk now. So as I read little till now about it for me most practicable would be EI daily dosing. As far as I understand I can just at start mix salts as calculated at https://rotalabutterfly.com/ for my tank size at EI Daily settings and then should be safe start? I know you said "any scheme" but will lean dosing setups like mentioned by me PPS Pro work without ferilised substrate? I know we are at native EI forum but just asking :)
right, either mix your own or get the ready mixed from places like nilocg.com . Nowadays there is quite a wide offer out there.
In normal UGF the substrate /sand will be 'enriched' with fish waste etc. In your scheme the water if filtered through a canister so by an large you can only rely on the the water values .
Lean dosing schemes will work but you have to be just in time with your fertilizer and on point. There is no safety net to cover the deficiencies of the fertilization regime (other than plant's ability to cope). Still the growth won't be the same as when nutrients are in abundance... it's just like underfeeding fish.

Can you elaborate more about that subject? I find it interesting but cannot find any directly related posts or articles. Did you mean self made wood compost or are there any existing mixes? I assume tanins can be beaten by carbon or reisins?
It's usually sold as bark mulch or similar if you want it pure. Last time i bought it as mix for rodent enclosure ( not the light evergreen chips!). Leftovers from the wood processing are a big part of cheap compost, you just don't want a high % of manure in there.

But going back to substrate topic. If considering only inert what would be best? Lava rock? Gravel? Maybe some that accumulates nutrients and then gives them back(but it would lead probably to some difficulties in dosing as not known how much is actually accumulated, am I right?)?
I would suggest lava rock as it is light and porous so you can build a good layer, allow water to go through and more surface for bacteria. Probably put most of the lava rock in mesh so you can add sand on top of it. Big grains of lava are hard to plant in, sand is better
 

jac.polanski

New Member
Sep 13, 2021
5
1
3
Poland
It's usually sold as bark mulch or similar if you want it pure. Last time i bought it as mix for rodent enclosure ( not the light evergreen chips!). Leftovers from the wood processing are a big part of cheap compost, you just don't want a high % of manure in there.

As for a bark mulch at my location, unfortunately available is mainly pine type, same goes about mixes for rodent. You cannot ever be sure what kind of wood is there and as pine is cheap and available here it is almost everywhere. Anyway, that one in that case if of the chart as contains possibly harmful natural resins.
What I can get are wood chips for smoking like that:
1631793161530.png


Available are chips from: apple, pear, plum, cherry, oak, alder, beech, birch, maple.
After some reading my gues maple would be perfect choice, as far as wood shugars seem to play big role on feeding bacteria and it's hard wood, dens and heavy. Will take some time longer to soak fully but also longer to deteriorate. Seems that it also does not have a lot of thanins in, so hopefully this will help also in prep.

I would suggest lava rock as it is light and porous so you can build a good layer, allow water to go through and more surface for bacteria. Probably put most of the lava rock in mesh so you can add sand on top of it.

Lava rock then. About mesh I thought about it already(it's on the diagram). So confirms that's a good idea.

...Still the growth won't be the same as when nutrients are in abundance... it's just like underfeeding fish.

Yeah, I got you. In general I do agree, but only I'm worried that with EI I will not manage to get it correct and will cause algae or other problems. Of course I read linked post from Mr. Barr but... Ok, will keep on reading and when will have some better idea will probably post something that advanced users could review and in case correct.

Thanks for reply!
Jacek
 
  • Like
Reactions: Allwissend

Allwissend

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Lifetime Member
Jun 20, 2016
576
293
63
www.intuitiveaqua.net
yep don't put christmas trees in your tank :D Maple sounds good. I've had cherry wood as well and it did well. EI is a leap of faith at first but it got me into growing a lot of plant species. Let me know how it works out.