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ella777

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Hi, I have just got a 200l tank and I'm not sure what substrate to use. Some people say hydroton clay balls are best but others say the Seachem Fluorite is best. The tank I got comes with a ton of gravel which I would love to use but I'm not sure if it's good? I dont know the name of it as it came in a paint bucket. Can anyone recommend me good substrates for a heavily planted tropical tank?
 

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I would use regular sand and then get root tabs/liquid fertilizers later on, depending on what plants you get. (Either root feeders or water column feeders)

If you get substrate with “nutrients” already in it, the plants will use that up quickly; then you’re just left with expensive, regular substrate.

@Byron can probably explain it better, he’s the one I learned it from. When I had my planted tank setup, it worked great.
 
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ella777

ella777

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I would use regular sand and then get root tabs/liquid fertilizers later on, depending on what plants you get. (Either root feeders or water column feeders)

If you get substrate with “nutrients” already in it, the plants will use that up quickly; then you’re just left with expensive, regular substrate.

@Byron can probably explain it better, he’s the one I learned it from. When I had my planted tank setup, it worked great.
Thanks! Apparently plants dont like compacted sand because it's hard for the roots to get through? I can send a picture of what the gravel looks like tomorrow
 

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Thanks! Apparently plants dont like compacted sand because it's hard for the roots to get through? I can send a picture of what the gravel looks like tomorrow
Plants usually don’t like gravel, that’s why I suggested sand. They don’t have a problem getting through the fine particles of most sand. Gravel on the other hand, has very large chunks of rock.
 

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Thanks! Apparently plants dont like compacted sand because it's hard for the roots to get through? I can send a picture of what the gravel looks like tomorrow
You generally have more flexibility for plants with sand.
There are a couple of other advantages to sand. Stuff like uneaten food or fish poop doesn't fall between the sand. So either the bottom feeders can get to it or you can clean it up.
There are some kinds of livestock that need sand, like corydoras or loaches. And when you use sand, there is more surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow on.
And sand is cheap. You don't have to buy aquarium sand. You can just go to a hardware store and get play sand or pool filter sand for a few dollars.
 

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To start from the beginning, concerning plants...they are not demanding when it comes to the substrate, and most will grow well in any substrate. The prime issue is grain size. These plants grow in mud, sand, or a combination, in their habitats. There is no reason to think they will not grow well--and usually very well--in sand. Compacting is not even an issue here, assuming the plants are healthy. Oxygen is a waste product of plant photosynthesis, and plants release it primarily through the roots. The substrate can be kept sufficiently oxygenated depending upon the plants (number and species), depth of the substrate, and other related factors. But the bottom line is, sand is without question the best aquarium substrate when it comes to plants. Gravel is OK, for many but not all plants, provided it is not larger grain size than pea gravel. The problem for substrate fish with anything larger than sand is primarily a bacterial one, and this affects corydoras catfish, loaches, and some other fish.

That brings us to nutrition. There are two primary types of planted aquarium, high tech (involving diffused CO2, higher light intensity, and regular often daily fertilizing). On the opposite end of the scale are low-tech or natural planted tanks, which cater to the fish, not the plants, by having less intense light (this impacts fish), no added CO2, and minimal (if any) fertilizers. If fish are the prime focus, then the "planted" tank should be such that the fish are not detrimentally affected. The high-tech planted tank places plants first, as in an aquatic garden, but unfortunately this usually causes problems for fish.

The substrate may depend upon the intent--fish tank with plants, or aquatic garden. For the latter, there are enriched substrates which may or often may not have much benefit for plants, but they sell well. They are detrimental, sometimes terribly so, to substrate fish. In a natural method planted tank, you will not gain benefits from "plant" substrates. But you may have serious issues for fish, like corydoras, loaches, cichlids that spend a lot of time over and eat from the substrate. Inert sand or gravel is all you should ever use with substrate fish, and when it comes to corydoras, they must have sand. As must some loaches. It is easy enough to use substrate tabs for plants needing this, like the larger swords, aponogeton, some crypts, and the lotus lily plants. I had all of these thrive with Flourish Tabs in fine gravel or sand, depending.

I was persuaded some years ago to buy Flourite as an "enriched" substrate. Within a week I had to remove the cories who developed terrible bleeding from the roughness, and after that the tank ran for two years (no substrate fish) but the plants were no better; I still had to use liquid and substrate fertilizers, so what is the point? The Flourite was dumped in a hole in the back garden, complete waste of money. I've used Quikrete Play Sand ever since and never had plant or fish problems that could in any way be due to the sand.
 
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ella777

ella777

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Thanks so much. The man already gave me a massive bucket of used sand/gravel, it looks more like chunky sand. He also gave me an eel and two Kuhli loaches. They have lived in a 200l with the sand I described for five years. Should I use that or sand? It seems like a huge waste to throw it away
 

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Ide first like to ask what type of fish you are keeping, and the natural ph,kh and gh of your tap water? As you may need a buffer substrate for those fish
 
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ella777

ella777

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Ide first like to ask what type of fish you are keeping, and the natural ph,kh and gh of your tap water? As you may need a buffer substrate for those fish
Sure, I know I have too many fish.
I have:
rosy barbs
guppies
neon tetras
red phantom tetras
peacock eel
kulhi loaches
snails
shrimp
I'm not too sure what the ph, hk and gh is. I have done a test but I cant quite remember. I think all of them are quite high though, I cant work out how to bring them down
 
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ella777

ella777

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To start from the beginning, concerning plants...they are not demanding when it comes to the substrate, and most will grow well in any substrate. The prime issue is grain size. These plants grow in mud, sand, or a combination, in their habitats. There is no reason to think they will not grow well--and usually very well--in sand. Compacting is not even an issue here, assuming the plants are healthy. Oxygen is a waste product of plant photosynthesis, and plants release it primarily through the roots. The substrate can be kept sufficiently oxygenated depending upon the plants (number and species), depth of the substrate, and other related factors. But the bottom line is, sand is without question the best aquarium substrate when it comes to plants. Gravel is OK, for many but not all plants, provided it is not larger grain size than pea gravel. The problem for substrate fish with anything larger than sand is primarily a bacterial one, and this affects corydoras catfish, loaches, and some other fish.

That brings us to nutrition. There are two primary types of planted aquarium, high tech (involving diffused CO2, higher light intensity, and regular often daily fertilizing). On the opposite end of the scale are low-tech or natural planted tanks, which cater to the fish, not the plants, by having less intense light (this impacts fish), no added CO2, and minimal (if any) fertilizers. If fish are the prime focus, then the "planted" tank should be such that the fish are not detrimentally affected. The high-tech planted tank places plants first, as in an aquatic garden, but unfortunately this usually causes problems for fish.

The substrate may depend upon the intent--fish tank with plants, or aquatic garden. For the latter, there are enriched substrates which may or often may not have much benefit for plants, but they sell well. They are detrimental, sometimes terribly so, to substrate fish. In a natural method planted tank, you will not gain benefits from "plant" substrates. But you may have serious issues for fish, like corydoras, loaches, cichlids that spend a lot of time over and eat from the substrate. Inert sand or gravel is all you should ever use with substrate fish, and when it comes to corydoras, they must have sand. As must some loaches. It is easy enough to use substrate tabs for plants needing this, like the larger swords, aponogeton, some crypts, and the lotus lily plants. I had all of these thrive with Flourish Tabs in fine gravel or sand, depending.

I was persuaded some years ago to buy Flourite as an "enriched" substrate. Within a week I had to remove the cories who developed terrible bleeding from the roughness, and after that the tank ran for two years (no substrate fish) but the plants were no better; I still had to use liquid and substrate fertilizers, so what is the point? The Flourite was dumped in a hole in the back garden, complete waste of money. I've used Quikrete Play Sand ever since and never had plant or fish problems that could in any way be due to the sand.
I have got some pictures of what the gravel/sand looks like. The grains are about 1mm - 2mm
 

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Byron

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Substrate is OK. As for the GH, KH and pH, you need to post the actual numbers. But do not try to adjust these parameters, at least not until we know the numbers. They are connected, and if what naturally occurs in your water is suitable to the fish, fine; but adjusting parameters is not at all easy because of the chemistry. Knowing the numbers will tell us what to expect.
 
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ella777

ella777

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Substrate is OK. As for the GH, KH and pH, you need to post the actual numbers. But do not try to adjust these parameters, at least not until we know the numbers. They are connected, and if what naturally occurs in your water is suitable to the fish, fine; but adjusting parameters is not at all easy because of the chemistry. Knowing the numbers will tell us what to expect.
I can do a test now, but it never matches up with any colours. The fish have lived in the water like this for 3 years. Also I'm upgrading the tank very soon so they will change I'm assuming. The water where I live is very hard
 
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ella777

ella777

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Substrate is OK. As for the GH, KH and pH, you need to post the actual numbers. But do not try to adjust these parameters, at least not until we know the numbers. They are connected, and if what naturally occurs in your water is suitable to the fish, fine; but adjusting parameters is not at all easy because of the chemistry. Knowing the numbers will tell us what to expect.
The strips are terrible. They dont say the correct colours
 

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Byron

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Those photos tell us enough about the GH and KH to deal with adjusting parameters. The water is moderately hard (around 180 ppm which equates to 10 dH) and the KH is 240 ppm (= 13 dKH). The pH, whatever it is, will remain and not be subject to fluctuation because of especially the KH which buffers it. GH is fine for may "middle of the road" fish, by which I mean species that do not require very soft water or hard water. Avoid mollies, they need a higher GH, but most other livebearers should be OK, though personally I would want it a tad higher (harder). Rift lake cichlids I would not try at this GH, they need more hardness. Other at home fish are the rainbowfishes that require moderately hard water (some are very soft). Many if not most of the danios and barbs should be OK. Many of the tetras. The basic species of Corydoras, and many loaches, should be fine. Quite a variety.

I would let the pH do what it wants, it will stabilize in relation to the GH and KH and not fluctuate around. A stable pH is much less of a problem than one fluctuating for fish. There are two pH scales, and whichever seems to be in the high 7 range. I agree, difficult to tell.

The only way to adjust the pH lower would be to dilute the water to reduce the GH and KH. This means preparing all water changes outside the aquarium, with a mix of "pure" water and tap water. Possible, certainly, but not easy, and I would myself not go down this road. The options with the GH are quite extensive.
 
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ella777

ella777

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Those photos tell us enough about the GH and KH to deal with adjusting parameters. The water is moderately hard (around 180 ppm which equates to 10 dH) and the KH is 240 ppm (= 13 dKH). The pH, whatever it is, will remain and not be subject to fluctuation because of especially the KH which buffers it. GH is fine for may "middle of the road" fish, by which I mean species that do not require very soft water or hard water. Avoid mollies, they need a higher GH, but most other livebearers should be OK, though personally I would want it a tad higher (harder). Rift lake cichlids I would not try at this GH, they need more hardness. Other at home fish are the rainbowfishes that require moderately hard water (some are very soft). Many if not most of the danios and barbs should be OK. Many of the tetras. The basic species of Corydoras, and many loaches, should be fine. Quite a variety.

I would let the pH do what it wants, it will stabilize in relation to the GH and KH and not fluctuate around. A stable pH is much less of a problem than one fluctuating for fish. There are two pH scales, and whichever seems to be in the high 7 range. I agree, difficult to tell.

The only way to adjust the pH lower would be to dilute the water to reduce the GH and KH. This means preparing all water changes outside the aquarium, with a mix of "pure" water and tap water. Possible, certainly, but not easy, and I would myself not go down this road. The options with the GH are quite extensive.
I'm very sorry I have no idea what the first thing you said was, is the water okay? How do I get pure water? How do I make it higher?
 

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