Substrate for 55g low light
I am trying to decide what type of substrate to use for a 55 gallon planted with low light plants. I am not sure on all the plants yet, but most likely java fern, elodea, maybe some java moss and a grass plant.
I don't have the funds to put Eco-Complete/Fluorite over the entire tank. But what about just in the area the plants will be in - or, a small layer of Eco-Complete/Fluorite over small gravel/sand?
Is plain sand okay for low light plants? If so, could the cheap play sand from Home Depot be okay? The person at the LFS said that they don't recommend using sand for freshwater tanks. Thanks!
The play sand has a tendancy to compact more readily which is bad for the plants though many have had sucess with it. After eco-compelte, the best tried and tested substrate for plants is pea sized gravel, but as mentined many have had sucess with sand so don't rule it out unless you are especially worried about it compacting. To stop it compacting you'll have to disturb the sand regularly, probably on a weekly basis. Some MTS can be useful too as they tunnel through the sand and disturb it.
Thanks for your suggestions Falina. I think I am going to use pea gravel where the plants are going to be, and play sand in all the other areas. A layer of peat moss will be underneath everything too. I think I saw some MTS at the LFS, but I'm not sure. Will I need MTS if the plants are planted in the pea gravel instead?
I have actually switched to pea sized gravel for on of my planted tanks. I used to use regular epoxy coated and had great success so the smaller gravel should be even better.
I also went out and get a bag of contracting gravel. I sifted it through two different sized sieves and got a good range of grain sizes to choose from in one 60lb. bag. I think I am gonna go with the smallest stuff I can that still resembles gravel if that makes sense. I have a picture of it HERE . I am gonna use the smaller stuff, on the right, and if it isn't enough will use some the larger stuff on the left to give me the depth I need.
All of it will work for low light plants as well as any light levels. IMHO. The only thing you won't be able to grow in larger gravel is a true ground cover like HC or glasso. Their roots are too short and small to get a good hold in gravel. They need high light anyway so it doesn't matter in our case.
There was no laterite at Home Depot. I might check a garden/nursery, but more than likely go without it because I'm gonna get low maintenance plants.
When using a sustrate in a planted aquarium, I would recommend using on of three products. If using gravel, use a 50/50 mix of either flourite or laterite mixed with the gravel. Or use Eco-Complete for the planted aquarium. The Eco-Completed is my choice, but I do have tanks with both mixes.
The problem that I've found most enduring with larger planted aquariums like that is the high amount of substrate needed. In my 65, I barely have enough to keep the plants rooted, but it's difficult and expensive to buy three inches of eco-complete for 65 gallons. Instead, I used two bags of eco and 1 large bag of river rock.
In my 38, I had a very hard time keeping the plants down because I only had a bag and a half of fluorite in it. But now I added a 20 lb bag of coated natural looking gravel and it works great.
This is really what I would recommend: get a bag or two of either eco or fluorite and then a bag or pea-sized gravel to spread over it. I wouldn't go with sand because it's difficult to maintain. Plus it's better to layer your substrate. Technically you would have to have sand on the bottom and that would eventually make it more difficult to disturb because you get all of your layers mixing. The downside to sand is if you don't disturb it, your roots start to rot. And if you don't layer your substrate then your plants won't be healthy either.
Either way, make sure you get enough of whatever you're getting to avoid future frustration.
check this guy's link out
Look towards the bottom and you will see the difference in the growth of the plants over two months. I second err third the eco complete covered with larger rock as a great idea... This fellow used eco-complete in areas of the tank and sand...
Thanks for the advice. I've already filled my tank and its been running for over a week now. I used peat moss, small layer of pea gravel, placed the plants, mounds of pea gravel over the plants, and sand everywhere else. I disturbed the sand with a fork yesterday, and added fertilizer tabs last weekend. Since my plants are all low maintenance, I don't plan on going hard core about them. I would have liked Eco-Complete but I just couldn't afford it. All of the plants look well and are growing, except for one anachris which I will probably get rid of soon if it doesn't start looking better.
good luck Jasey!
The planted aquarium seems to be very challenging and rewarding! At least you are not doing what I have done - reverse engineering an established used tank that you bought for 50 bucks. Starting fresh probably will allow you great success without the stress of pre - existing problems!
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