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Substrates for EI tanks

Discussion in 'General Plant Topics' started by Henry Hatch, May 11, 2007.

  1. Henry Hatch

    Henry Hatch Guru Class Expert

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    Over the past years I've read endless posts about substrates. In the case of EI tanks, or others, is there really a significant advantage to soil, flourite, eco complete or any of the other exotic and sometimes expensive substrates over plain sand ?

    EI uses a water column approach to dosing. It seems over time that even using plain sand the process of decomposition will in effect start to create soil. Perhaps in a new tank one might use fertilizer tabs and mulm during the run in period. I know there are plants that are heavy root feeders and maybe that answers my own question. However in an established tank won't even these plants get significant nutrition from a plain sand substrate ?


    Henry
     
  2. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    In general, yes.
    However less burden is placed on the water column when you use something like Flourite vs plain sand.

    Likewise, there is also an increase in the plants growth and health when you use ADA AS vs plain sand.

    It's a visible difference.

    It really depends on the trade offs, do you want to pay a bit more for the sediment and have an easier time, and/or enrich the sand sediment?

    I think this trade off is worthwhile.
    Aesthetics also matter to many folks.

    Some do not like to use EI, they prefer a leaner version of EI, or test + dose.
    However, it's not the method that gives poor results, it's the user.

    I've seen every method fail given a poor user.:eek:
    Likewise, I've seen every method succeed given a good user.
    The social variable is huge.

    But the methods are fairly robust, given you learn to use them correctly and apply them.

    Problem is, some folks are able to use only one and think all the rest are bad/worse because they had troubles with them.

    That's not true.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  3. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    I guess I am a "good user" when it comes to soil-based, low light, non-CO2 tanks. I get good results. But I am a "poor user" when it comes to tanks with inert substrates and water column dosing.

    I have tried three of these setups. None have been successful, in that the plant growth was slow or non-existent. The most recent one has been set up for 6 weeks, and except for java moss, nothing is doing anything. The plants are living but not reproducing. There are few new leaves. Beard algae is starting to grow on the older leaves.

    The tank was set up with water from a swamp stream, soft and acid. Equilibrium and macro nutrients were added, as well as traces. Current levels of hardness and macros are adequate. The plants just will not grow.

    The new tank shares the same light as does the soil-based one next to it, which does well. The water in both also is from the same source.

    Tom has suggested that even with water column dosing, an enriched substrate is helpful. That is essentially what I do with other tanks. But it is frustrating to do things that "should" work but don't.

    I would like to hear the experiences of people who have created successful tanks using the approach I've tried, i.e., low light, inert substrate, water column dosing only, and no CO2 (or Excel).

    Bill
     
  4. Henry Hatch

    Henry Hatch Guru Class Expert

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    I always thought soil substrates were not considered inert. Most I thought have significant amounts of nutrients. I don't think soil would be considered inert compared to sand.
     
  5. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    I must not have been clear.

    I was comparing my results of with a water column-dosed tank with an inert substrate to one that is soil-based which, of course, is not inert.

    Bill
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I have many years experiences doing both methods successfully.

    I know James' tank is nice example of classic sand only inert substrate.
    See on TFF forum's site.

    He's on here as well.

    It's been about 1998 or so since I went to flourite and ADA for the most part.
    Yes, I could push it and get away with things pretty good without them........
    But I can afford them and they do offer enough advantage to outweigh any of the trade offs, which are namely cost associated.

    BTW, the garden soil + sand, Delta soil, and the ADA test at the lab are dead equal after 3 weeks so far. No one out of 5 researchers could tell any significant difference visually.

    There is no water column ferts for N or P. Just K, Ca, Mg, CO2 light.
    The test plant is a good plant that uses both locations for nutrients, Eurasian Milfoil.

    I'd predicted this result prior.

    But I've used both methods prior also, this set up uses a flow through system so the soils cannot cause any water column effects from one another and the CO2 is stable due to the well water. Light was sun light + shade cloth at 400micromols at surface and 325 at the plant tip.

    Standard sediment type growth difference test and I'll do comparative dry weight for roots, and shoots later.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    know that you have. As I said, I have never been able to make it work in a low light, non-CO2 environment. I must be doing something wrong. Hence my post.

    I couldn't find it at the TFF site. I'm sure it's there. Would you point me to it?

    It would have been nice if you had added inert gravel to the test. Do you think its plant growth would have been the same as the others?

    In the wild around there in NE USA, Eurasian milfoil is adapted to get its nutrients from the water column during its mid-summer growth spurt. When it dies back after its two months in the sun it becomes a small, rooted plant that "hibernates" until the next growing season.

    It would have been nice to have included rooted plants to test the efficacy of the several substrates. I have no trouble growing floating plants in my inert substrate tests.

    Thanks for your response.

    Bill
     
  8. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Inert substrates would perform poorly obviously because they have no source of N or P.

    So ........why would I do that?

    I'm comparing sediments here, not sediments + water column.
    Cedergreen and Madsen, 2001, did a good paper on that topic that was pretty air tight from a science perspective. They used both to see which was significant.
    With several plant species, they showed as long as the nutrient demands, under non limiting conditions where met, it did not matter for 4 species.

    The location did not matter, although cutting the roots off cause no change in plant growth, thus one could conclude that roots provide little use to plants in nutrient rich water columns, something I've suggested for many years even though many claim that sediments are "preferred". Now that was 4 species, and for most aquatic plants, this is true, however, some species might have different preferences.

    I've never seen an obligate root feeder, but there are obligate water column feeders. In some cases a mix of both results in the best solution for some species.

    That is not surprising either.

    I've done enough water column only comparisons already.
    ADA vs regular chemicals like KNO3 are no mystery.

    So just the sediment intereactions alone are of concern for the test.

    Jamesc's Latest Tank Photo - Tropical Fish Forums

    George's Latest Aquascape - Tropical Fish Forums

    George's Nano Journal - Tropical Fish Forums

    See post 4-5 for the process he used.

    [​IMG]
    My very hard hard water tank

    here's one going back 15 years:
    [​IMG]

    older client tank

    [​IMG]

    There's some ideas both large and small, soft and hard.
    James and George both detailed out the process for them, you might find that useful.

    Most that have issues with EI tend to not keep up with things, dosing in particular more than water changes..........

    I know, I get lazy as much as the next person, ands I know what things should look like if you stay on top of things.

    We tend to do methods that are easiest for our habits often times.
    George has a lower light tank that shows EI does well there, but I also said he does not need that much nutrients either.

    A grain of salt, rather than "required" or rigid absolution is applied.

    EI was pretty popular and still is, but folks here have not used it to the same degree in scaping namely due to most of the scaping folks moving to ADA.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr




    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  9. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    Tom,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply and the links.

    Your tanks are outstanding. They would look more natural if you could grow a little algae here and there, but we know that you are limited in your ability to do that. :)

    I am concluding that water column dosing in an inert substrate, low light, non-CO2 tank, just doesn't work, at least as far as rooted plants is concerned. I think it could be made to work by seeding the substrate with bits of root tabs. Maybe that will be my next experiment.

    Bill
     
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Non CO2 tanks do work well in inert substrates:

    [​IMG]

    and

    [​IMG]

    These are both about 18 months old and neglected..........
    I dose once a week, about 1/10th what many might dose a CO2 tank.
    Not hard.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  11. aquabillpers

    aquabillpers Lifetime Charter Member
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    A nice looking tank.

    I have 2wpg, macro dosing to appropriate levels, micro dosing, no CO2 or Excel.

    What do you do differently? More light?

    Bill
     
  12. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    The light is about 80-100 micro moles at most.
    Not a lot really. I pack the tank with plants that are fairly easy to grow, there's a few shrimp.

    I do not do water changes.

    Post a pic/more details and then we can work from there.
    There is no reason why a water column non CO2 tank should be any different than the soil based ones etc. soils is somewhat easier to deal with nutrients as you do not need to dose anything really, but once a week dosing is not hard either.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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