Recommendations for substrate for a new planted tank on a budget?

kacourt

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Jan 16, 2009
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Well, I have been reading and reading and have changed my mind 3 times. I initially settled on Aquasoil, but it didn't seem great for all my pandas stirring it up and such. Then I decided on Ecocomplete - also maybe not great for pandas plus the recent QC issues, and then I settled on Flourite Black sand. All are costly though. Some info I have come across recommends Estes marine sand or 3M colorquartz. I am not sure of the cost of the colorquartz or even where to get it and don't have solid data on how bottom rummagers like either one.

What is your favorite substrate, why, and more importantly which substrate for a tight budget?

Thanks much, and cheeryo!
 

shane

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I have used Flourite Red and ADA Aquasoil.

I like Aquasoil. I have cory cats and there are no problems with them and Aquasoil. There is no problems with the corys stirring it up.
 

kacourt

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Jan 16, 2009
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That is good to know. I had been informed that they would stir it up and leave my tank perpetually cloudy. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
 

shane

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My tank is super clear. I use Amazonia I. I run lots of filteration and flow as well.
 

defdac

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A tiny amount of Calcium based Bentonite beneath plain gravel/sand.

Kitty Litter is most often calcium based bentonite. If you smash some kitty litter crumbles with a hammer into a hole it should turn to a small perfectly formed plug. It should also turn to complete mush/silt if you crumble it in water.
 

coolnick

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I am doing Oil Dri from walmart under 3M colorquartz in my 20L to save a few bucks. For the 3M stuff just google it and go to 3Ms website, they have a link to help you find distributors. Call your nearest distributor.
 

Henry Hatch

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Aug 31, 2006
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You might actually try plain gravel. Use Flourish tabs during start up until the substrate becomes richer through decomposition. Enriched substrates are best, but in a low/medium light tank I think this would work. Not ideal, but cheap.
 

Tom Barr

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I used plain sand for decades.

2-3$ for 50lbs of 2-3mm Lapis lustar.
Hard to beat the price.

If you can find some nice wetland clay, mineralized it for a few weeks etc, mix at 3:1 ratio sand/clay, then add about 1-1.5 and cap with about the same amount of plain sand above. The labor involved is more.... but if you are concerned about budget, you likely have/willing to put in the labor.

As mentioned, Kitty litter also works and can be amended and goes way back, search Dan Quackenbush and kitty litter.

Osmocoat also works well as a base layer, as well as a some peat and mulm.
Soil such as wetland clays are the best suited.

So there are few cheap options.
Each has a trade off.

Regards,
Tom Barr
 

deep blue

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Feb 7, 2008
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I have dealer who oferrs me Fluorite for 22euro for a bag.Does he have some adventage over plain send with some nutrition bottom layer (JBL aqua basis,Florapol,Tropica substrat and similar products?)I dont understand how Fluorite work,how plants roots take microelements from it?Does low PH of lower layers make microelements available to roots?Does Fluorite have lifespan?Is it worth 200-250euro for 120gal?ADA AS is in Italy almost the same price for pound but shipping would kill me.I live in Srbija.In the past I was not successful with Tonina,Eriocaluon and Utricularia.All other plants did grow excellent.Water was soft,EI was fert sistem.
 

VaughnH

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CO2 is much more important than the choice of substrate. I'm now using nothing but swimming pool filter sand, which is a quartz sand with about 2 to 3 mm size particles. My plants are growing well. Before that I used Soilmaster Select, which is a fired clay product made to be spread on sports fields, with some river silt mixed into the lowest level. That worked better than any other substrate I have used. I'm also using Flourite Black Sand in a 10 gallon tank with some mineralized topsoil as a lower level, and it works also. Years ago I used black blasting grit over a layer of clay soil mixed with vermiculite, and that too worked well for growing plants.

When I used the blasting grit I had big problems with corydorus catfish, which died after damaging their barbels on the sharp grit. But, that is the only negative thing I found with any substrate I used.
 

kacourt

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Jan 16, 2009
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Thanks! This is great information! I spent a lot of time yesterday looking for Turface, and since it was going to require me to go on an 8 hour round trip to get it, and a 5 hour round trip for colorquartz, I decided I try to make this work with sand. So, I have the sand and now will follow up on this info to make this happen. I really appreciate all your advice!