Ideas for Substrate?
I'm going to be putting together a 55 gallon South American Biotope in the next few weeks and I'm looking for ideas on substrate for a heavily planted tank. Any ideas or suggestions are much appreciated!
First, dark. Second, you can select sand, fine gravel or an enriched substrate. I have all three in various Amazon tanks. But dark in colour is a must; Amazonian substrates are a mix of sand, clay, with a litter of leaves in most cases, or mud (don't want that, obviously).
The playsand you can get at Home Depot or I think Lowe's, they call it tan, I think it looks dark gray--but whatever it is, it is almost identical in appearance to the sand in the Rkio Negro and many other streams. You can see this in my 33g Stream Lagoon tank in the photos.
A fine black/grey mix gravel will also work, I have this in my present 90g Stream Habitat.
Flourite Black I have in my present 70g Flooded Amazon Forest tank, can't see much of it for the plants. But it does give a hint of "mud" the way the grains are rounded.
Does Eco-Complete offer any advantages to the Flourite product that you can determine? I've heard many advocates of both. The only advantage that is immediately apparent is that the EC doesn't need the large rinsing job that the Seachem products do. I've used Flourite (the original coloration) for years now, but I was open to trying something new as well.
I chose Flourite over Co-complete for two reasons. First, EC is sharp (I felt it at the store), Flourite is smooth; with bottom fish this is a concern. I have had catfish aquarists tell me to avoid EC as corys have trouble. Second, I don't like "bacteria" in the substrates. Not suggesting this is a problem, just I don't like anything in my tank that messes around with ammonia, nitrite, nitrate or bacteria. I prefer to have nature handle these.
I know what you mean about the rinsing, Flourite was almost like sand in that respect. Flourite also comes in more colour options, dark brown (nice "med" look), black, black sand, red [EC is in black or red only].
I hope you don't mind if I hijack your thread for a moment; Since we are talking about preference for substrates, do you ever mix different substrates? For example, say an inch of flourite or eco-complete on the bottom (approx 1 inch) and a layer of gravel or sand above (approx 1-2 in) it? Comments, thoughts, criticisms?
Taking the last point first, plants grow best in a fine gravel (1-2 mm grain size) or coarse sand. Enriched substrates are mainly either of these because they work. Too large a gravel can be problematic for anchoring plants, root and runner development, and perhaps more importantly as a healthy bed for organics and bacteria. This latter involves water circulation through the substrate, plus the holding and breaking down of organics by snails and bacteria working with plant roots, and both need time to do this.
To the former point, substrates will mix if they are layered with different types. The water flow throughout the substrate achieves this, some fish may help out, and plant roots and snails contribute too. Finer grains will settled to the bottom, larger on top. If the substrates are different in colour, this may or may not end up looking nice. "Natural" is not likely, if that is an aim.
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