I have a 29 gallon tank with some feeder guppies, CPDs, Zebra danios, and cherry shrimp. The plants I have are wisteria, anacharis, java moss, and java fern. The wisteria is looking a little weak, some of the anacharis is looking bad and some is looking great, the the java fern is the same way and the moss looks good but growing slow. I use ferts and I'm working on DIY CO2 and creating a stronger light.
BUT! I can't even keep the dang anacharis in in the gravel. Seems silly to try to balance the chemistry and lighting if I just have a bunch of floating anacharis. The bottoms of the plant look shredded and rootless
I originally bought the gravel for a piranha tank years ago. It is a mix of natural rough and smooth rock. I now know from some online research that the gravel is probably rough on the plants and cutting into them and is bigger than most recommendations for planted aquariums.
So, I started looking into the pricey planted tank substrates. A Seachem calculator said I needed about 45 pounds or three of their bags ($60) to cover 3 inches. So my question is, can you get away with maybe only 50% plant substrate and 50% inert substrate suitable for plants.