Adding plant substrate to tank ADVICE - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 09:28 AM Thread Starter
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Adding plant substrate to tank ADVICE

Need some advice here. I recently made some changes to my 60 Gallon cube. (Added HO lighting and lots of great plants) and will be adding more. But I was thinking of adding some planted substrate to it to help the roots.

What is your advice on this? Would it be to much of a hassle and not enough success?
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 12:37 PM
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I can only speak for the enriched substrate I have personally used, which is Seachem's Flourite. I was very disappointed and would not waste the money again. Having said that, I accept that some other brands might be better, but depending upon what you now have for the substrate, and how long the tank has been running [this affects the effectiveness of any substrate], tearing it down to replace the substrate might gain you nothing.

All aquarium plants assimilate nutrients via both the roots and leaves. Substrate additives obviously only benefit plants rooted in the substrate, and then only for the nutrients normally taken up via the roots. Where I am leading with this, is that the first nutrient additives to use are liquid, or dry dissolved in water. These benefit all plants regardless, and are essential with respect to the nutrients taken up via leaves only. In many cases, these liquid fertilizers will be sufficient.

Some plants are heavy feeders, thinking here of Echinodorus species, tiger lotus, aponogeton. If these are present, substrate fertilizer tabs will normally provide the additional nutrients required in addition to the liquid fertilizer added to the water column.

You mentioned higher light, but not CO2. Carbon, as CO2, is the nutrient that can often be the first to give out unless CO2 diffusion is used. Be careful on the light, as higher light without added CO2 will not benefit plants all that much, and algae can easily take advantage as another member has found out [there are a couple of threads on this issue you might like to check out]. I would need to know the specific light and the tank dimensions before I can comment further on this balance, but I can assure you that achieving the balance is essential.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 12:48 PM
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The plant substrates are temporary and you would end up having to fertilize anyway. Some say that on the package, others just list that they provide trace minerals only, some flourish comprehensive or similar does the same and is more predictable. A few have other "properties" but all in all I doubt they are worth the effort and in some cases, mess.


Total years fish keeping experience: 7 months, can't start counting in years for a while yet.

The shotgun approach to a planted tank with an LED fixture

Small scale nitrogen cycle with a jar, water and fish food; no substrate, filter etc
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 12:51 PM
Originally Posted by DjBootleg View Post
Need some advice here. I recently made some changes to my 60 Gallon cube. (Added HO lighting and lots of great plants) and will be adding more. But I was thinking of adding some planted substrate to it to help the roots.

What is your advice on this? Would it be to much of a hassle and not enough success?
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I would take the time to basically "redo" the tank and remove the water and fish.

then start from scratch by adding the substrate and plants then returning the water and fish to the tank.

I use 1" sphagum peat moss (3'x1'x1' plastic cube $11), 1" play sand (50 pound bag $2-3, 1" pro choice select (a red baked clay 40 poung bag $8). Each layer added, water added to just the top of that layer, leveled, and the tank cleaned. then plant the plants. and finally return the water and fish pouring the water over a saucer.

If you do that the tank will be almost immediately clear.

I also would turn off any filter or air stones for a few days to let things soak and settle down.

Still that just my .02

maintain Fw and marine system with a strong emphasis on balanced, stabilized system that as much as possible are self substaning.

have maintained FW systems for up to 9 years with descendants from original fish and marine aquariums for up to 8 years.

With no water changes, untreated tap water, inexpensive lighting by first starting the tank with live plants (FW) or macro algae( marine)

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post #5 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 03:19 PM
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goodluck with ur t5 light and no co2, check my journal for why
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-09-2013, 03:25 PM
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I do flourite or eco complete because I prefer the color ^_^ and I see better results with them than sand. But ofcourse, it is not neccessary. I grow a lot of plants without any substrate at all. depending on your stocking, fertilization may or may not be neccessary~ I dose macro, micro and excel. Excel daily with macro and micros on alternating days. Ofcourse some would advise againt excel dosing, and for good reason :P.

when you fill a tank, lay a large piece of saran wrap over the substrate to divert the flow~
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