02-13-2011, 02:24 PM
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The answer somewhat depends upon other factors, such as light, plant species, and what you want from the plants (thinking of fast vs slower growth). Plants will grow and grow well and be healthy in any substrate.
I use a natural approach with plain gravel (sometimes sand) and you can see how well the plants do in the photos under "Aquariums" below my name on the left. I add fertilizer tabs next to the largest swords, but this is not necessary.
Soil under a layer of gravel is another method, it will work but it is not in my opinion easy and problems can occur. But if you are willing to persevere, it is another option.
Then there are the enriched plant substrates that can be used on their own or under a layer of gravel. Except for the expense in larger tanks, this is a good option, and I would use the plant substrate on its own. Seachem's Flourite and another called Eco-complete come in black which looks very nice.
If your system is more high-tech with more light and CO2 diffusion, the enriched substrates will certainly benefit.