HOW TO CHOOSE SUBSTRATE
WHAT IS THE BEST SUBSTRATE FOR A PLANTED TANK?
Well, it depends. There are basically 3 key parameters to consider, and one must ultimately prioritise what matters more.
3 KEY CONSIDERATIONS: PICK 2 PRIORITIES
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
JUST STARTING OUT?
MAKING A PLANNED AQUASCAPE?
If you are building with an aquascape in mind:
EASY OR DIFFICULT PLANTS?
If your aquascape is composed to easy-to-grow plants, go for inert substrates which are easier to manage. Harder plants? If you want every edge possible, choose aquasoil.
DISCIPLINE TO DOSE REGULARLY?
Are you prepared to dose every other day? Is regular dosing a chore? If yes, use aquasoils/ garden soil /dirt. When combined with root tabs, this combination allows more leeway in water column dosing.
Farm tanks in shop in Japan. Inert coarse sand is used in holding tanks due to frequent uprooting of plants for sale.
A lush 120 gallon planted tank by Joe Harvey, using plain gravel (black diamond blasting sand). Read his very informative journal here. A great demonstration of management techniques.
Even expert growers such as Tom barr who dose their water column with nutrients very regularly still make use of aquasoil.
what about soil cleanliness in soil based planted tanks?
Dirt/soil based planted aquarium can be still kept very clean through these steps:
- Where possible, prune without uprooting the entire plant. By allowing bottoms to regrow instead of replanting, it reduces the need for constant replanting.
- Uproot plants slowly by first shaking side to side to loosen the root's grip on soil: avoid pulling vertically in an attempt to yank the plant out in a single move.
- Lightly vacuum the substrate's surface using a slow pump every time replanting is done.
- Use different cap thickness: in areas where plants have very deep roots, use a thicker substrate cap. In areas where plants have short/delicate roots, use a thinner substrate cap. What is a cap?
Many delicate carpets grow better in finer substrates. Hemianthus callitrichoides "Cuba" the a delicate foreground plant featured here. The red plant is Alternanthera reineckii mini, and it grows far better in soil-based substrates than inert ones.
THE 2HR AQUARIST'S GUIDE TO SUBSTRATE