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Best Plant Soil?


Leo2o915
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I can't say which is "best", but if I had to choose from these 4 options, I would choose Eco Complete every time. Having dealt with some of the others, they are too messy for me. Eco Complete checks enough of the boxes for me, and is the easiest to deal with...especially down the road when moving plants or dealing with fish foraging in the substrate, kicking up debris. 

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On 1/12/2022 at 7:52 PM, Zenzo said:

I can't say which is "best", but if I had to choose from these 4 options, I would choose Eco Complete every time. Having dealt with some of the others, they are too messy for me. Eco Complete checks enough of the boxes for me, and is the easiest to deal with...especially down the road when moving plants or dealing with fish foraging in the substrate, kicking up debris. 

Was leanings towards eco complete also would doing a sand cap be beneficial or would it be more for looks? 

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On 1/12/2022 at 8:26 PM, Leo2o915 said:

Was leanings towards eco complete also would doing a sand cap be beneficial or would it be more for looks? 

I think that the sand cap will end up mixing with the Eco Complete, and eventually will not be a "cap". Unless you need the sand for a specific fish, if it were me, I would just go with Eco Complete. 

In one of my planted tanks, I have Fluval Stratum as the bottom layer, with Eco Complete on top. I wish that I had a time machine so that I could go back in time and just put in the EC. I'm stuck with it now!

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On 1/12/2022 at 8:30 PM, Zenzo said:

I think that the sand cap will end up mixing with the Eco Complete, and eventually will not be a "cap". Unless you need the sand for a specific fish, if it were me, I would just go with Eco Complete. 

In one of my planted tanks, I have Fluval Stratum as the bottom layer, with Eco Complete on top. I wish that I had a time machine so that I could go back in time and just put in the EC. I'm stuck with it now!

Gotcha thanks 🙏 

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I thought Eco Complete was going to be great. Boy was I wrong. It was hands down the worst substrate I've ever used and I would never recommend it to anyone.

Check out Landen Soil if you want an active soil. It has a shorter ammonia spike, easy to plant in and heavy enough to be gravel vacuumed. I really like it so far. It also lasts longer than ADA as well. If I was going back to an inert substrate, I would be looking at that peace river gravel stuff.

Will Eco Complete grow plants, sure. But it has broken more stems than is acceptable. It won't hold plants well either. I can't stand it.

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@Mmiller2001 I could not agree more about the eco complete. I tried it in 2 tanks and pulled it out of both in 3-4 months. It also sticks to mag floats and scratches glass. I can’t offer advice because I only use less than 1 inch of inert gravel or bare bottom in all my tank but my plants still thrive. I’ve also tried stratum in one tank which got booted in 2 months. Unless I needed to alter water parameters for a specific fish I would not use any substrate that affects water ph gh etc. too much hassle. My recommendation is find out all the affects each substrate has and all the negatives about each they all have them. Decide which one the negatives and hassles are ones you can live with easiest rather than looking at the positives through rose colored glasses. I say this because plants don’t care. They will grow in just about anything even being so deprived of any substrate such as I do. Best of luck. 
edit to correct tagged person. 

Edited by Guppysnail
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@Bentley Pascoedid a test on the Brightwell substrate and there was no ammonia leak which is pretty great never played with it myself but plan to with my next medium to high tech setup. Everything else will leak ammonia except the eco-complete which can be a mess even with rinsing in terms of cloudy water initially but that passes. 

I have done eco-complete and had success. I have had aquasoils (Stratum) as well and had success. I have done dirted and had success - this is where a sand or gravel cap comes in as most of us do not cap an aquasoil (you may trap some of the nutrients causing compactions and gas pockets). I also have failed with them as well. What it comes down to is - what's your water out of the tap? pH, gh and kh? What do you want to grow? Are you going to supplement CO2? What type of light will you be using? Are you buying plants from a big box, a local shop or online? Are they potted or tissue culture?  How bigs the tank?

It you are planning to use crown plants, bulbs (like aponogetons), crinum, val, dwarf sag and swords eco-complete works well. @Mmiller2001is a high tech plant guy and does a lot of beautiful aquascaping so he moves plants around a lot and these are stem plants delicate to some degree and this is why an active substrate consisting of small clay balls works for him and others who will be changing up their scape. @Guppysnailis one of our resident low tech plant folks and she trims and moves plants around a lot so eco complete is not a good choice for her. It will end up being a style thing for you. What kind of planted tank person are you?

A dirted tank is not suited to someone who is planning on making a lot of changes. It is more of a plant it, trim it and leave it alone situation because every time you pull something some soil and detritus will get into the water column and can cause chemistry changes. I would say if you see yourself getting serious about plants then an aquasoil system would make sense. If you don't have time for that (because a moderate to high tech setup takes a  fair amount of work in the begining) then eco-complete and some low light easy care plants totally makes sense. If you want to jump in the deep end on a low tech setup a dirted tank will be most economical for a large tank but comes with headaches you may not want to take on early in your hobby. 

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Best Soil?  A tough question!  Let me slide in here with my own feedback and experience:

 

Eco-complete is a great overall substrate, but it's not as naturally nutrient rich as something like Amazonia/Contro-Soil/Stratum/Rio Escuro/Tropica/etcetcetc.  Eco-complete also does not contain any buffering capacity, so if you're looking for any buffering from your substrate, eco-complete won't help you here.  Eco-complete comes in a bacterial starter liquid, I can't say how long this in theory should be "live," but it's part of what makes fishless cycling easier.  Eco-complete also is relatively cost efficient compared to the volume of substrate you're receiving, which is nice.

 

Fluval Stratum is a clay based substrate I lump more into the "true aqua soil" category.  I made this up, it's nothing official, but more where I lump all the clay or ash based small-ball style substrates.  It's nutrient rich, leeches some ammonia at first, but not as much as ADA Amazonia.  Of the many aqua soils out there, Stratum seems to be the most widely available and if you get luck, you can get it on sale from time to time SUPER cheap.  I personally really like Stratum when starting a tank - I don't need to water change every 20 minutes like you do with Amazonia, but you get just enough ammonia leeching to help start your beneficial bacteria colony in your filtration.  Being an aqua soil, it's really great for several years at growing plants and has a very high Cation Exchange Capacity (Aka CEC).

 

Brightwell Rio Escuro comes from the ash based side of the "true aqua soil" category.  The cool part here as mentioned by @Beardedbillygoat1975 is that this particular soil does NOT leech ammonia.  Meaning you can add it to an active tank with fish without worry of ammonia spikes.  Now granted, it's a little dusty like many aqua soils, so you would have to rinse it some before adding it randomly, but when using it to start a tank its still a very nutrient rich substrate and can jump start plants really quick.  Where I like Escuro the most comes in it's optional sizes.  A lot like ADA Amazonia you have the F (about the same size as Stratum) and VF (smaller granule similar to Amazonia powder type).

 

ADA Amazonia/UNS Contro-Soil/Tropica/Aquasolum are another clay based.  The big thing with these two is they leech a LOT of ammonia and typically require big water changes daily over the course of a week to handle this spike.  This does help out your filtration and they're loaded with nutrients to help your plants, but you wouldn't want to add a bag to an existing tank without being well prepared for potential ammonia spikes.  Like stratum and Brightwell, lots of benefits - but more expensive.

 

So... what's the best?  None of them, all of them.  Each has a benefit and I personally like mixing things: eco-complete and an aquasoil does a good combo.  You can either layer it or full out mix it, yo'll get similar results - if you layer do Aquasoil > Eco-Complete > Aqua soil and you'll be gold.

 

 

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On 1/14/2022 at 12:50 PM, Bentley Pascoe said:

Best Soil?  A tough question!  Let me slide in here with my own feedback and experience:

 

Eco-complete is a great overall substrate, but it's not as naturally nutrient rich as something like Amazonia/Contro-Soil/Stratum/Rio Escuro/Tropica/etcetcetc.  Eco-complete also does not contain any buffering capacity, so if you're looking for any buffering from your substrate, eco-complete won't help you here.  Eco-complete comes in a bacterial starter liquid, I can't say how long this in theory should be "live," but it's part of what makes fishless cycling easier.  Eco-complete also is relatively cost efficient compared to the volume of substrate you're receiving, which is nice.

 

Fluval Stratum is a clay based substrate I lump more into the "true aqua soil" category.  I made this up, it's nothing official, but more where I lump all the clay or ash based small-ball style substrates.  It's nutrient rich, leeches some ammonia at first, but not as much as ADA Amazonia.  Of the many aqua soils out there, Stratum seems to be the most widely available and if you get luck, you can get it on sale from time to time SUPER cheap.  I personally really like Stratum when starting a tank - I don't need to water change every 20 minutes like you do with Amazonia, but you get just enough ammonia leeching to help start your beneficial bacteria colony in your filtration.  Being an aqua soil, it's really great for several years at growing plants and has a very high Cation Exchange Capacity (Aka CEC).

 

Brightwell Rio Escuro comes from the ash based side of the "true aqua soil" category.  The cool part here as mentioned by @Beardedbillygoat1975 is that this particular soil does NOT leech ammonia.  Meaning you can add it to an active tank with fish without worry of ammonia spikes.  Now granted, it's a little dusty like many aqua soils, so you would have to rinse it some before adding it randomly, but when using it to start a tank its still a very nutrient rich substrate and can jump start plants really quick.  Where I like Escuro the most comes in it's optional sizes.  A lot like ADA Amazonia you have the F (about the same size as Stratum) and VF (smaller granule similar to Amazonia powder type).

 

ADA Amazonia/UNS Contro-Soil/Tropica/Aquasolum are another clay based.  The big thing with these two is they leech a LOT of ammonia and typically require big water changes daily over the course of a week to handle this spike.  This does help out your filtration and they're loaded with nutrients to help your plants, but you wouldn't want to add a bag to an existing tank without being well prepared for potential ammonia spikes.  Like stratum and Brightwell, lots of benefits - but more expensive.

 

So... what's the best?  None of them, all of them.  Each has a benefit and I personally like mixing things: eco-complete and an aquasoil does a good combo.  You can either layer it or full out mix it, yo'll get similar results - if you layer do Aquasoil > Eco-Complete > Aqua soil and you'll be gold.

 

 

Is y aquavitrosolium like ADA and or Stratum ? 

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@Leo2o915that is a coal based product, essentially leonardite is immature coal, it has a high cation exchange capacity which is good for a planted substrate - it holds the nutrients like fertilizer in the soil. Rhyolite is a source of acid to buffer along with the humic acid. They are doing something different then ash or clay based substrates but similar in a way as well. In old articles and posts on The Barr Report they used to talk alot about these substances as everyone was essentially making their own aquasoil. Then ADA and Stratum came along and the DIY approach stopped. 

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@Leo2o915 you’ve got some great info to work with, but I have a question. What type of aquascape are you planning? If it’s mostly epiphytes and slow growing rooted plants then you might not need an enriched aquasoil. If you’re going to use lots of stem plants and low carpeting plants then one of the aquasoils would probably be a good choice. 
 

 

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On 1/14/2022 at 3:36 PM, Patrick_G said:

@Leo2o915 you’ve got some great info to work with, but I have a question. What type of aquascape are you planning? If it’s mostly epiphytes and slow growing rooted plants then you might not need an enriched aquasoil. If you’re going to use lots of stem plants and low carpeting plants then one of the aquasoils would probably be a good choice. 
 

 

Going to be doing dwarf hair grass some cripts and still debating on what other plant will be a betta tank so want something that will keep the ph stable 

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On 1/14/2022 at 3:54 PM, Leo2o915 said:

Going to be doing dwarf hair grass some cripts and still debating on what other plant will be a betta tank so want something that will keep the ph stable 

I feel like Eco Complete wouldn’t be the best for dwarf hairgrass because it can be difficult to plant in. 

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On 1/14/2022 at 5:02 PM, Leo2o915 said:

Leaning towards aquasolium 

I'm not sure why this stuff isn't more popular. Great price point. I will only use this going forward.

Landen Aqua Soil Substrate for Natural Planted Aquarium, Plant or Shrimp Stratum, Clay Gravel and Stable Porous Substrate for Freshwater Aquarium, Black Color https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TQRSS61/ref=cm_sw_r_apan_glt_i_19WKC0Z95QCX8M4X24WM?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

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