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Re-setup substrate questions

Discussion in 'Advanced Strategies and Fertilization' started by vinz, May 6, 2005.

  1. vinz

    vinz Junior Poster

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    Hi Tom,

    I'm planning to re-setup my 175 gallon planted tank and I'm wondering if I should reuse the old substrate or chuck it out. By re-setup, I mean remove everything in the tank and rescape etc.

    This tank is using pond soil and has serve well for the last 2+ years. If I understand your non-CO2 method article correctly (I'll be using CO2 for this tank), I know that the soil probably ran out nutrients some 18 months ago. So should I keep this soil, or replace it?

    My reasoning for keep the soil is that it has served well, the plants are healthy and if I don't redo the tank, it'll still be there anyway.

    My reasoning for replacing it with new soil is to give the new setup a fresh start. It'll be a number of years before I re-do the tank again.

    I do understand that once a substrate has given up it's nutrients, the tank can still go on with no problems if the plants can get it's needs from dosing the water. So I guess I just want to get your thoughts/opinions on this.

    I haven't gotten NH4/Urea problems with this soil, and I've been using it for a few tanks. The packaging says it's specially prepared for pond usage and has little or zero amounts of NH4/Urea, NO3 etc.

    Next question... you suggest Flourite/Onyx sand for non-CO2 tanks for the Mg, Ca and other stuff. I guess I can use it for a CO2 tank too (right?), but it's expensive to top a 175G tank with that stuff. Will a bag suffice? I'll be potting a Nuphar japonica to stop it from roaming my tank over the next few years, and I can just top that pot with Onyx sand. The pot will be easily removable, so, I can refresh the Onyx anytime.

    Lastly, I'll be keeping the old gravel and going to re-use some of it (unwashed) as a layer (0.5 to 1 inch thick?) between the soil below and a fresh clean layer of gravel on top. There should be enough mulm in there to kick start the substrate, right?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Ian H

    Ian H Guru Class Expert

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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    I think you are correct to replace the substrate soil. As to re-using your gravel, this should be no problem as long as you reasonably separate it from the spent soil.

    I've recently replaced my substrate with new without any addition of mulmy gravel. I attached a mature filter to the system without a trace of ammonia and nitrites showing.

    I opted for black Tahitian moon sand as a top layer over a compound incorporating aquatic soil. I used 6 X 20 lb bags of black in my 350 Trigon. The moon sand was half the price of the expensive products. Apart from the black look that I wanted the sand is a nice grain size to hold stem plants securely without any weights.

    Ian
     
  3. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    I'm not clear about whether this is the rust colred Shultz's aquatic plant soil, looks like gravel for the most part, or if you added "dirt" from a pond.

    We can go from there.
    You'll save the mulm from the tank no matter what.
    I'd plan on a redo given your goals and level.

    Onyx sand is super, you'll never need to redo the tank. That might be worth it for you.

    Yes a 175 gal tank is $$$ no matter what you do, but.......the pay off will be great if done well.

    Just don't take short cuts, get a smaller tank if you do not have the $$.
    A nice 75 vs a so so 175 is no competition.

    You can call SeaChem and ask if a local supplier can give you a discount etc or suggest some promotion for them etc. They will save you $ no matter what.

    It'll still be 16-20bags of Onyx sand though, 200-240$.
    It's heavier than other substrates and algae does not attach to the grains since they are smaller and easily disturbed.

    We can suggest some aquascaping changes also to redo your tank for less work and better design and health. This will reduce the maintenance and improve the look of the tank.

    Large tanks have a different set of rules due to their large size, cost, more pruning and larger problem fixing issues.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr





    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  4. srozell

    srozell Guru Class Expert

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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    Am I to understand that Onyx sand is never expected to be depleted of nutrients, or rather that it never needs to be replaced as long as dosing the needed nutrients continues.
     
  5. vinz

    vinz Junior Poster

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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    It's J. Arthur Bower's Aquatic Compost. It's basically potting soil for use in ponds.

    I have a smaller 50G tank due for a re-vamp too... I'll consider all Onyx sand for that one. This is the tank for the arowana and so I can't go smaller.

    It's only US$12 a bag for you guys? They go for S$35 a bag here (Singapore). S$600 is way too much for me.

    I was still planning on using the soil (new, just decided) on the bottom, about an inch thick topped with half an inch of the old unwashed gravel and then either an inch of clean "normal gravel" or Onyx sand on top.

    Onyx and the old gravel sounds like trouble to me... once they start mixing from planting and uprooting.

    I'll probably go with just gravel and the pond soil. It's worked for me and I'll have to stick to that for now, but I'ld like to hear your thoughts on how that'll compare to an all Onyx sand substrate. And why you prefer an all Onyx sand substrate.

    The existing setup is already low maintenance and I've planned the new setup to be as well. I know 3WPG doesn't apply to tanks this size. I'm acutely aware of circulation and CO2 distribution problems.

    All the same, I'll love to hear some of those suggestions.
     
  6. travis

    travis Lifetime Members
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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    Just had to throw this in - Singapore is pretty much Ground Zero for the planted tank hobby :) Why is it that we, here in the U.S., have cheap substrate but can't get the crazy plants you have access to? *dreams of the plants available at Oriental Aquarium's 'local' facility*
     
  7. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    From what I've read here, the main value of the special (read "expensive") substrates is that they permit the free circulation of water and provide a lot of surface area, so that the bacteria can convert water column nutrients to a form that is better usable by the plant roots. While some also supply nutrients (mainly iron) and are "attractive", that is not their main purpose. Please correct me if I have misinterpreted.

    Assuming my understanding to be correct, why would any special substrate have to be replaced, unless it became clogged up with debris? What is there about Onyx that makes it permanent, and/or what is lacking in the other substrates?

    And for that matter, what is there about it that makes it worth the premium price over plain 2mm - 3mm silica gravel?

    Thanks.

    Bill
     
  8. vinz

    vinz Junior Poster

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    Re: Re-setup substrate questions

    Sorry for continuing this off topic post...

    A lot of the plants in Oriental Aquariums are not directly available to locals. They grow plants mainly for other companies, like Tropica and the are not allowed to sell the plants locally, but only to export them out to their clients. So some cultivars especially patented ones... have to make a trip to Europe, where they get branded adn then sent back to Singapore and get sold at exhorbitant prices.

    But no one buys Tropica here, for common plants. Only the newer, more difficult or rarer cultivars. Few do that too, since common plants cost only a few dollars a pot. Most plants are available thru LFS, or direct, from the farms here or the importers/exporters who get their supply from places like Thailand and Malaysia.
     
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