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What Substrate are you using?


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Hello everyone,

I have recently started acquiring more tanks for my fish rack that I am building. When looking for substrate for previous tanks I have used only ADA Amazonia (version 1) and CaribSea Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate. I can't seem to find either anymore, I'm not sure if Eco-complete is not being produced anymore; I know that ADA has their version two of Amazonia, just wanted to know what people are using these days and what they have found to be successful/cost effective.

I plan on getting some fancy goldfish, caridina shrimp (I've heard UNS controsoil is decent), neocaridina's, and mostly nano fish. So I believe I will probably need a plethora of different types of soil.

What do you guys like and what to avoid? :)

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I buy my Eco Complete from my local Petco but I have found it on Amazon. I am in the process of trying to get all my tanks to Eco Complete.

I used to buy gravel from my LFS. I also tried some gravel from Lowe’s but found it too large and sharp, so I capped it with some Pool Filter Sand I found at Ace Hardware. They have all worked decently for me, but I just prefer the look and feel of Eco Complete. 

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Eco complete is available at my local lfs and i have it in my 120 but hate the stuff as it is too coarse. I'm currently using (and am happy with):

crystal river (caribsea)

torpedo beach (caribsea); i prefer crystal river as it is a bit finer

estes stoney river (black); i like this stuff - fairly fine but porous. 

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I had severe issues with moonlight (caribsea) and will not use it again - frequently get anaerobic pockets that cause some serious issues

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These are two of my tanks (top crystal river) bottom torpedo beach:

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On 7/20/2021 at 7:25 AM, H.K.Luterman said:

All of my tanks have Black Diamond blasting sand as substrate. Usually I use the medium grain, but my new 20 gal has coarse since it was the only one in stock. 

I have a lava rock substrate from Bonsai Jack, but for my second tank I am considering Black Diamond. Why do you prefer the medium grain?

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On 7/20/2021 at 9:15 AM, HH Morant said:

I have a lava rock substrate from Bonsai Jack, but for my second tank I am considering Black Diamond. Why do you prefer the medium grain?

The finer grits are super fine. If a corydora farted the sand would be all over the water column. Very frustrating material to work with. The 20/40 medium grit is considered the sweet spot for not being too fine nor too big and chunky. If you were going to stray from the medium size you would want to go coarser rather than finer.

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With fancy goldfish (or any goldfish), sand is usually recommended because they will probably try to eat gravel and can sift/forage through sand safely. I have eco-complete in my first tank, smooth gravel in my 10 gallon, and I'll be using CaribSea Crystal River for my 55. Pool Filter Sand or Black Diamond Blasting Sand are both economical, awesome choices for sand.

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On 7/20/2021 at 1:30 PM, Patrick_G said:

I have a tank with Eco Complete, and several tanks that use Fluval Stratum aquasoil mixed with gravel as a first layer and then pool filter sand as a cap. 

I feel like this is optimal for planted tanks, though I have my two fluval stratum tanks with just the aquasoil. I might mix the aquasoils with some gravel and cap with sand when i refresh those tanks down the line.

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I have two tanks with fluval stratum, one with eco-complete, and two ponds that have safe-t-sorb in planter baskets. The safe-t-sorb has the best texture for planting into, the stratum seems to produce the best plant growth, and I dislike the eco-complete since it is too course and hard to plant into. Down the line i'll probably re-do those tanks, mix their substrates together and use as a nutrient layer under a sand cap. 

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High clay content soil (very red, hopefully high in iron) collected from a farmyard (with permission), then baked to eliminate weed seeds and insects/eggs, about 1-1.5” deep, sprinkled with Osmocote granules (Smart-Release Plant Food Plus Outdoor & Indoor), then capped with Black Diamond Blasting Sand - medium grit or pool filter sand, about 1.5” of either.

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On 7/20/2021 at 11:29 AM, sudofish said:

The finer grits are super fine. If a corydora farted the sand would be all over the water column. Very frustrating material to work with. The 20/40 medium grit is considered the sweet spot for not being too fine nor too big and chunky. If you were going to stray from the medium size you would want to go coarser rather than finer.

my pea puffer tank is set up with the fine and is doing very well, the  plants are doing great and I have had no issues with fine dust at all, even my one otto in that tank likes it

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I’ve done gravel, eco-complete, gravel topping eco-complete, fluval stratum, and really large pond stones. The crypts do seem to do better in eco-complete than gravel. I found it no problem at Petco as recently as three weeks ago. It was hidden in another area of the fish section away from regular gravel.

Fluval stratum for shrimp, it really changes water chemistry, so if you want to slightly drop pH and give some nutrients, maybe mix it. It is messy once it gets wet, didn’t care much for it when it came to planting.

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