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FAQs on Substrates for Planted Tanks

Related Articles: Substrates for Freshwater Planted Aquariums, Getting to the Bottom of Things:  Substrates for Planted Aquaria By Alesia Benedict

Related FAQs: Use of Soil in Aquarium Gardening


Aquarium substrates; for planted tank; UG filters for same     3/5/16
<Hey Sarah>
I'm looking to set up a 30gal freshwater planted aquarium. I have some basic brown gravel but was wondering if that was the best option for planting live plants. I'm considering using EcoComplete or even mixing the two.
<A good product...>
What are your thoughts/suggestions?
<Am a huge fan of SeaChem's Flourish...>
I am using an undergravel filter <Mmm; then do blind pot your planted plants... almost all do poorly with UG
filters along with an overhanging tetra filtration system. Would it be unavoidable to use the EcoComplete with an UGF?
My goals for this project is to create an environment focused more on the aquascape than fish, but still plan on including fish in the system.
I'm still very new to all of this, so I'm looking for a solid, basic setup that won't limit me to only growing certain kinds of plants or fish.
<Either remove the UG filter or don't hook it up>
Also, I would like to assemble some pieces of driftwood to create a centerpiece. Any pros/cons or directions I should be aware of in attempting that?
<See; as in read on WWM re... the search tool; on every page>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Aquarium substrates /Neale     3/5/16

I'm looking to set up a 30gal freshwater planted aquarium. I have some basic brown gravel but was wondering if that was the best option for planting live plants.
<Depends on the plants. Anything attached to bogwood (Anubias, Java fern, ava moss) couldn't care less. Anything floating won't care either. Some plants are so adaptable they'll happily grow in gravel, such as
Vallisneria. The hardy Amazon Swords are fine too, provided you stick the odd fertiliser pellet into their roots every few weeks or so. But for sure there are some delicate or greedy plants that prefer something richer than
gravel. The downside is that if you have slow-growing plants and/or too much light, the nutrients in the substrate have to go somewhere... and they end up encouraging algae!>
I'm considering using EcoComplete or even mixing the two. What are your thoughts/suggestions? I am using an undergravel filter along with an overhanging tetra filtration system. Would it be unavoidable to use the
EcoComplete with an UGF?
<By definition you can't use anything other than gravel with an undergravel filter. Even if you could, it'd be pointless. Flowing oxygenated water (necessary for the filter bacteria) will oxidise mineral nutrients too,
making them unavailable to the plants. So if you're going to have a fancy pants substrate, it needs to be relatively oxygen-poor, and that means no flowing water going through it. Make sense?>
My goals for this project is to create an environment focused more on the aquascape than fish, but still plan on including fish in the system. I'm still very new to all of this, so I'm looking for a solid, basic setup that won't limit me to only growing certain kinds of plants or fish.
<Here's the thing: ecosystems are very difficult to create in small aquaria. In most aquatic habitats algae, not plants, dominate -- and few aquarists want to grow algae! So you instead have to think of the tank as more like a garden, and your job is to balance substrate, lighting, and plant choice in such a way that the plants grow well but without so much light or nutrients that algae use up the excess.>
Also, I would like to assemble some pieces of driftwood to create a centerpiece. Any pros/cons or directions I should be aware of in attempting that?
<Actually, using bogwood to support epiphytic plants is the idea way to plant a tank with an undergravel filter. Anubias, Java fern, Java moss and if you can get it Bolbitis provide some really contrasting shapes and
colours. Alongside these floating plants can be used to moderate lighting and inhibit algae. Both floating plants and epiphytes absorb nutrients from the water, not the substrate, and as such do just fine with undergravel
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium substrates; reading; and how     3/5/16

So would it be a better idea just to start with the gravel and see if the plants will take? It sounds better to utilize fertilizer pellets than to battle too many nutrients.
<.... these are complex issues.. Let's have you start reading here:
From the top down>
I've always been advised to use an undergravel, but it's sounding like it's not the best option for a planted aquarium.
If I opted to remove it, how would that play out with cleanings and longterm care? Is it more efficient to use both as I originally intended?
<Keep reading... BobF>

FW Plant Substrate/Lighting  11/30/10
Hey WWM crew,
I read your article on aquarium substrates,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/nicebottoms.htm, and I am a little confused...
I have a 10 US gallon tank (50x30x28cm) and it is the only piece of equipment I have so far. Here is the proposed stock:
1 Betta (Betta Splendens)
6 Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma Heteromorpha)
8 Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina Heteropoda)
And I was thinking of doing a moderately planted aquarium with a 'Silver (silica) Sand' substrate. The article states that silica sand can be used with an appropriate supplement of Laterite to provide an 'outstanding medium for aquatic plants', and this may sound like a dumb question, but is this simply using the silica sand as a layer over the Laterite? Sorry if that is an obvious answer.
Now to the lighting. My planned plant stock is:
Crypts (Cryptocoryne wendtii)
Java Fern (Microsorium Pteropus)
Water Lettuce (Pistia sp.)
Due to being a 50cm long tank, I couldn't find any lights that were the right length. The LFS told me to buy a desk lamp for my tank. I emailed in to WWM to see if this could be done, the result was that it can be done, but a 'real' hood etc would be best. The only way I can do this is if I order in a custom made light, but I don't have the budget to do that, so my choice is the lamp. With the plants listed above, what would the right wattage be for my plants? 15watt? Or because it is a desk lamp should I go up to 20-25 watt?
Thank you in advance. James.
<Hello James. Laterite is sold either in its powder form or as Laterite-enriched gravel. The Laterite-enriched gravel is simply added to the bottom of the aquarium as-is, to a depth of an inch or so. Laterite powder is mixed with fine gravel to form a rich red sludge. You don't need a huge amount, but enough so the gravel looks as though its covered in emulsion paint. Again, lay down about an inch of this mixture. Place a
gravel tidy on top of this layer if you can. I buy cheap plastic mesh from a garden centre and cut it to size as required. So long as the mesh is fairly fine, it works just as well as commercial gravel tidies. Next, place
2-3 inches of gravel or sand on top of the Laterite-enriched gravel or the Laterite/gravel mix. As for the lighting, the problems with desk lamps are two fold. Firstly, they tend to light only bits of the tank, not the whole length of the tank. Secondly, because you need a glass or Perspex pane on top of the tank to stop fish jumping out, and to minimise heat loss and evaporation, only a part of the light from the desk lamp actually gets into the aquarium. Some of the light is absorbed or reflected by the top pane of glass or Perspex. Over time limescale and dust covers the top pane, so this problem gets worse and worse. Bettas are notorious jumpers, as are Cherry Shrimps, so neither of these are good choices for open-topped tanks. Hope this helps, Cheers, Neale.>
Re: FW Plant Substrate/Lighting  11/30/10
Thanks Neale for your speedy reply! I have a MUCH BETTER understanding on Laterite gravel now. Thank you. I am going to save up more money to invest in a proper hood with lights. Thanks again, James.
<Glad to help. If you don't already own it, the "Aquarium Plants (Mini Encyclopedia Series for Aquarium Hobbyists)" by Peter Hiscock is excellent, and at $10, a steal. Covers lots of different aspects of successful plant growing, including substrates and lighting, as well as in-depth reviews of plants and suggestions for different biotopes. For the price, can't really be beat. Cheers, Neale.>

Plant substrate, Fluorite or Eco-complete? Any advantages between them? -- 10/28/10
Also I've seen numerous planted fish tanks with what looks like a really fine rounded planting gravel, any insight on that gravel or any other good recommendations would be great!
<Couldn't matter less. The people selling them will trumpet their advantages, but eventually all substrates become depleted of nutrients, in which case adding pellets or liquid fertiliser becomes important. So choose the substrate you like on other considerations. Fluorite sand for example is generally too abrasive to use with fish that sit on the bottom, like Corydoras catfish and loaches, so you'd use it only in tanks with midwater fish like barbs. Do look for example on the CaribSea site at what they call the "Soft Belly Safe" characteristic, which Eco Complete is, but Tahitian Moon Sand isn't.
I happen to favour using ordinary pond soil mixed with silica sand and fine gravel at the bottom, and then a top layer of silica sand or fine gravel as required by my particular set-up; this is a cheap and easy combination that works just as well as using expensive aquarium soil. Others use fine to moderate grade plain gravel of whatever type they like, and rely from the outset on fertiliser pellets. All such systems can work well, and the substrate type is almost never the reason planted tanks fail. Aquatic plants are very adaptable and most seem to get at least some nutrients from the water column and the organic detritus that forms in aquaria over time, so provided some sort of supplemental fertilisation is offered, overall results seem to be similar. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plant substrate - 10/29/10

Well Neale, all I can say is thank you.
<You're welcome.>
For all this time I always thought the gravel had to be a specific grain and type to successfully keep aquatic plants.
<It is important, but only in the sense that plain gravel with no fertiliser at all won't work for long, and very coarse gravel isn't a good idea either. Beyond those limitations, any fine to moderate grade gravel can be used. Aquarium plants are almost all "weeds" in the botanical sense -- they are adaptable if given good light and at least some mineral nutrients. Problems with aquarium plants really come down to completely ignoring their minimals, in much the same way that even terrestrial weeds won't grow in plain gravel or complete shade.>
Now looking back I kind of feel like an idiot to be oblivious to obvious reasoning! Anyways, knowing that any gravel set can work (I do notice not all are fantastic or are great in the sense that they are best or more preferred over another substrate), would a usual fine grain gravel be fine?
<Can be fine.>
PS: I'm going to keep Corydoras catfish. Or would it be even better to mix it with some sand substrate? I really don't want anything expensive, hence why I'm taking your tip and going to fertilize with gravel inserted fertilizer. Any brands of Cory safe fine gravel substrate you can recommend? (hopefully comes in black as I'm going to top it over already existing black gravel (normal size/ medium grain)
<Most commercially available black sands are actually glass production byproducts, e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand, and these aren't suitable for use with catfish or other "soft bellied fish" as CaribSea describe them. I prefer smooth silica sand (sometimes called smooth silver sand) that I buy from garden centres for very little money. Americans sometimes find this difficult to obtain for some reason, perhaps they use a different name for the stuff? In any case, some pool filter sands work just as well.>
And also had one last question. I was talking to one of the people at my LFS and heard an interesting tid bit about growing plants. He said that the brighter lighting you have, the more fertilization, and CO2 you will need as just lighting alone wont make the plants grow. Is this true in a sense?
<Yes it is true. At low light levels, up to about 2 watts/gallon, the addition of CO2 won't make a huge difference. But at higher light levels you'll find plants grow dramatically better once CO2 is added, which is why CO2 is almost a perquisite to Dutch-style planted tanks. It's questionable whether you can't have high light conditions without adding CO2 because at least some CO2 comes from the fish, the atmosphere, and from organic processes in deep, sandy sediments. But most people growing plants under high lighting conditions do find the use of CO2 very helpful.>
For this tank I'm talking about I was planning on a new lighting fixture with T5 lighting which puts out a lot more wattage (also depends on how many bulbs are in the hood) so I'd be able to try some plants that demand higher light requirements. Does this mean that I will have to introduce more CO2? (I wont have CO2 injection which is why I'm basically asking) or would keeping up with Fertilization keep almost all plants happy?
<As stated in that article I linked to, there is a good starting level of CO2 to begin with, and you can use a CO2 test kit to check this. If needs be, after a few months you can slightly increase CO2 levels to see if plant growth improves.>
So Fine gravel with fertilization, and high lighting. Is this a generally good set up for more high light plants?
<Under high light conditions, CO2 is important, perhaps essential, depending on the plants being grown. Some plants will perform biogenic decalcification under high light conditions, and if there isn't sufficient CO2 and you don't monitor carbonate hardness levels properly, you can find pH varies between day and night. So be careful. Cheers, Neale.>

Adding plant fertiliser to an existing substrate  8/18/09
Hi I need to know if there is a substrate that I can add to my pea gravel.
I have Discus in the tank and don't know what if anything could be added on top of gravel to help my plants grow.
<You really can't add anything on top of your substrate that would help.
Most plant-friendly substrates are used *under* the top layer of gravel or sand. For example, in my planted tanks, I use a mixture of pond soil and gravel from a garden centre, with some silica sand on top of the catfish to root about in. A plastic mesh keeps the two layers apart, while allowing plant roots to penetrate from the top to the bottom. About the only thing you can do to help your plants is to add plant fertiliser tablets. There are various brands. Simply push a single tablet into the gravel close to the roots of the major clumps of plants. Typically, you need to do this once a month, sometimes more often, depending on how "hungry" your plants are. It's a somewhat expensive approach, but can work very well.>
Thanks for all you do. you guys are a huge help.
<Glad to be of use! Good luck, Neale.>

Carpet plant on sand???... much reading re planted tanks, part. substrates, soil
Hi, as always I want to thank you first of all. I'm starting a 55 gallon tank and I'm thinking of using garden soil covered with pool filter sand.
<Mmmm, I'd be very careful here... such fine silicate doesn't allow sufficient diffusion/movement of water through it... the soil is too likely to "rot", gasify, bubble out from underneath>
I've read that both of these are safe and cheap. first in your opinion is this true?
<My experience differs... I strongly encourage you to posit this and other planted tank queries on "The Krib" (AGA's site)... and go with more roundish, larger diameter substrate... I'm a fan of SeaChem's Fluorite, CaribSea's planted tank gravels...>
thing is I've always wanted to have a carpet
<... Of?>
grow and I've tried in my 20 gallon which also has sand but i haven't seen the moss grow, neither onto the sand nor on anything actually, maybe i just don't notice it. so i want to know if this is even possible. can i grow a carpet plant over sand?
<Mmm, If I understand your question, yes... there are plants... Glossostigma, Echinodorus tenellus, Eleocharis and more that can be cultured thus... You need to read, understand the soil, substrate, water
quality, lighting needs... and provide them...>
if not what do you suggest is the best substrate for it to grow?
<... posted...>
can i just use the garden soil?
<Not all, no... some is too high in nutrient levels, some has other (unsuitable) components...>
i don't think i can leave the garden soil uncovered because i believe it starts floating around from what I've read but i may be wrong, please let me know. and again thanks for everything you're all great. SHA BOIN BOING!
<Uhhh... read here:
Esp. the parts mentioned as subjects above... Bob Fenner>

Amazon tank compatibility check and substrate question 05/21/09
Hey crew,
first of all, I'd just like to compliment you on your well-designed, innovative, and extremely useful website.
Now to get down to business: I've got some moderate experience in fresh and saltwater tanks, including my current 20 gallon S.E. Asian tank and 29 gallon nano-reef. I recently purchased and refurbished an older 55 gallon (200-odd liters?) tank with a brand new AquaClear 300 filter, rated at 270 gallons per hour or so realistically. I originally had this tank planned as a Mbuna community environment, but have become love struck with a beautiful gold/ light brown angel my local fish store has agreed to reserve for me until I get my tank cycled. I plan on using some established sponge media and water from my 20 gallon, as the water parameters for it and the Amazon biotope tank I am interested in are obviously similar. I'll most likely add some blackwater extract to lower the ph. I've had some small experience with live plants in the past and am planning the 55 as a heavily planted tank (swords, Javan fern, Javan moss, possibly Anubias and various crypt species).I will most likely use the DIY yeast method for co2, along with some sort of diffuser (recommendation?)
<Swords are the only ones here that really need CO2; none of the other plants grow quickly, and hence get by fine on ambient CO2 levels, though Crypts certainly will prosper uncommonly well given CO2.>
My first question is one of substrate: I happened upon some high-quality, but relatively large, pebbles from a southern tributary of the Brazilian Amazon (gotta love those adventurous friends). I'd love to use these in my tank, probably under some sort of plastic webbing. What, however, should I put on top of this?
<If burrowing fish such as Corydoras and dwarf cichlids, then you can't go wrong with plain smooth silica sand; this also happens to be exactly what you find along the bottom of the Amazon.>
I'm looking at laterite, which would be especially nice for the plants, mixed with peat and possibly a small amount of silica sand. Now for the all-important stock list: besides the plants, I'd like to run this by you all:
The angel and a mate for her/him (Scooby, as I've named it, is about 3 inches in diameter).
<Fine, provided they actually are a pair; you can't sex them, and males will be aggressive.>
6 cories, most likely aeneus variety.
6 (?) marbled hatchets as dither fish/ surface dwellers
<Delicate; approach with caution, and certainly keep more than 6.>
8 or so cardinal tetras, or black Neons if I can get my hands on them. I'm guessing that if they are semi-adults when the angels are juveniles and they grow up together, there will not be an issue of aggression.
5 or so black widow tetras.
Possibly a discus once the tank is established and cost-permitting.
<Don't mix Discus and Angels for various behavioural and healthcare issues.>
Possibly a dwarf Pleco.
Possibly transparent shrimp (not sure of the species).
<Angelfish food, if too small... also, do bear in mind shrimps tend to prefer neutral to alkaline conditions.>
Possibly the clown loach from my 20 gallon. He is very peaceful.
<Not really authentic, but Clown Loaches (plural!) work well with Discus or Angels.>
A breedable pair of natural-looking (not neon-orange!) but mildly colorful livebearers. Suggestions?
<Wouldn't; for a start, Poeciliids need different water chemistry, but mixing stupidly colourful fish with a subdued planted tank will really create a mash that doesn't look like one thing or the other. Have a plan, and stick with it.>
The aquascape will be of the "Shore Slice" genre, consisting of a drastic slope on the right-hand third of the tank, habitated by the Echinodorus.
The center third will consist of tank-safe rocks as hiding places and the Anubias and Cryptocorynes. The left-hand third will be draped over with bog roots and be planted with the Javan ferns and mosses.
<Done this, can look very good.>
Overall, this is a very loose plan, and I'd appreciate any advice or criticism. Also, 3 T12 tubes of 40 watts each should be fine for lighting, as well as some indirect sunlight, correct?
<Not sure about "T12"; only used T5 and T8 tubes, in which case 2.5-3 watts per gallon will be need for Echinodorus, which like most amphibious plants, are fussy about light quality. Does vary with species though; certainly aim for "high" light intensity.>
Will N.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Amazon tank compatibility check and substrate question 05/21/09
Thanks for the advice! But to clear up a few misunderstandings, I meant "dye-ing" fish, not ones close to death.
<Ah, the importance of spelling! Dyed fish I don't like. As well as being cruel and stressful (whatever the retailer might suggest about anaesthesia, which isn't used, and fish not feeling pain, which isn't true) dyeing reduces the health of the fish. Glassfish, for example, have been demonstrated to be much more vulnerable to lymphocystis when dyed compared to in their undyed condition.>
And I wasn't planning on keeping rams with the Apistos, it's an either/ or scenario. And would a larger shoal of black widows reduce their fin nipping, as it does with tiger barbs?
<Wouldn't bank on either species being reduced to 0% chance of nipping, though I do understand that this is often the case with Tiger Barbs. As for Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, it isn't a species I'd personally combine with Angels, Gouramis, etc. Perhaps not so nippy as Serpae tetras, but still a species that does misbehave with some regularity.>
And on a happier note, my tigers spawned for the first time yesterday.
<Cool! Have fun rearing the babies!>
Will N.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Substrate additives for the planted tank 3/10/09 Hello again Crew. <Hello,> I would like to thank you (Mike) for your quick response to my last question regarding my tank leveling woes. I have found a much better location for this tank on an exterior wall and have gotten it leveled to within 1/16". My next step is going to be to figure out the substrate I would like to use. I have been doing a bit of research on the matter and really like the look of the black sand to set off the colors of the plants and fish. <Do note that black sand is generally incompatible with burrowing or bottom dwelling fish. So while lovely with tetras and barbs, if you want to keep dwarf cichlids, catfish loaches, etc., black sand shouldn't be used. The problem is that most of the commercial black sands (such as Tahitian Moon Sand) are a by-product of glass production, and consequently very sharp. The manufacturers Carib Sea explicitly state that this sand isn't compatible with bottom dwelling fish.> I should note that my light and plant plan are going to be low tech and hopefully simple, yet beautiful. I would like to stick with around 1.5 WPG of compact fluorescent lighting. Plants for the system will probably be Java fern, wendtii crypt, Christmas moss, Anubis Nana mini, and perhaps dwarf sword. Again this is a 72gal bow front. I have no plans at the moment for additional CO2. <You *will* have an algae problem here; your plants are mostly slow-growing species, and it's the fast-growing species that handle algae suppression. Anubias and to a lesser degree Java fern are prone to become smothered with algae, particularly hair algae. Would recommend at the very least you add some fast-growing floating plants to your list, and perhaps some "junk" Hygrophila or Cabomba somewhere in the mix that you can crop weekly.> Now for the question(s). I have been reading for hours about the use of different additives to substrates for successful plant growth. I do not want my plants to knock the top off the tank but I would like them to be healthy, green and alive. Would you recommend mixing a laterite product with the bottom 1" of sand and capping the rest with just sand only? <Have used something like this, and it can work extremely well. Would actually recommend mixing fine gravel with laterite rather than sand, pack down with a gravel tidy, and then put a thin layer of sand on top for decorative purposes. Do note that Jana ferns and Anubias are epiphytes and don't get their nutrients from the substrate as such. If your substrate is very rich, but you don't have many fast-growing plants, algae will pick up the slack.> Do you have an opinion on the different commercial brands of this type of product? <They're all good. I use plain aquatic soil designed for ponds. It's cheap and works very well, if a bit messy to use. Other folks with deeper pockets than me go for other products. But they all work well; lighting certainly, and CO2 possibly, are the things that make a difference.> Do you condone the use of less expensive products like organic humus or earthworm castings in place of these products? <Sure. Aquarium plants are nothing more than weeds, and once you understand that, you become a lot less neurotic about them! Compared with plain gravel, most any plant-friendly substrate will work brilliantly.> I know with using a sand substrate the concern is there for the mix to become compressed and anaerobic. <Not really a concern. More imagined than real.> Stirring at least the top of the sand with a bamboo skewer or chopstick can help reduce this if I am not mistaken. <Good practise with any substrate, though more for kicking solid wastes into the water column where the filter can get them.> I have also heard of trumpet snails (Malaysian?) being used to help with aeration could you comment on that? <This is what I do. In clean tanks, these snails don't breed nearly so fast as some believe, and if you add some Clea helena "assassin snails" to control them, you end up with a very stable balance.> Could you also suggest a fish species that would also be beneficial to this process? (species in tank will include a school (7-10) tiger barbs (hopefully they will pick on each other), zebra Danios, Siamese algae eaters, kuhlii loaches, cherry barbs, and perhaps a pair of moonlight gouramis. suggestions also welcome here but not necessary). <Kuhli loaches are good substrate cleaners, but Corydoras are perhaps the best in the smaller size scale. They plough through sand, head down, spewing clean sand out of their gills.> Thank you again for your site and your time commitment to us, the constantly in need of help and advice. Jeff <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Substrate additives for the planted tank  3/10/09
Thank you Neale, for your quick response.
<My pleasure.>
I have contacted the EBay seller and have found this product is 3M color quartz. Apparently round in shape. The seller has assured me that this product is safe for bottom dwelling fish, however, he is trying to sell me the sand. Are you familiar with this specific product?
<Not familiar with the product. But the 3M site describes this sand as being quartz coated with a coloured ceramic. As such, it should be safe with fish.>
Also thank you for the plant recommendations. I was considering water sprite in this setup but was a bit wary due to the recommendation that I should uproot the base and replant the cutting each time. Seemed like a lot of substrate agitation to me but will study these plants further. A question about floating plants if you don't mind. I have read reports on duckweed being undesirable in most instances due to the fact that it reproduces and grows so quickly. I am curious if it wouldn't produce the desired effect in this situation, or would I be asking for trouble?
<Certainly avoid getting Duckweed (Lemna spp.) in your aquarium where possible. It's easy enough to scoop out with a net, and it certainly does consume a lot of nitrate, but if it annoys you, it's best to keep it out.
Other floating plants are much easier to control. Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon Frogbit) is my personal favourite, though Bob recommends Indian fern (Ceratopteris) very highly.>
Also, how are floating plants affected by a hang-on-back style filter?
With the outlet being on the surface of the water, would they be constantly tossed around the tank?
<Floating plants do tend to get pushed to the end furthest from the filter outflow.>
I should note that I have obtained 2 Aquaclear model 50 filters for this setup. Aquaclear seems to have a very good reputation and the price tag was right, but I am a novice and this is largely a trial and error process for me.
<Aquaclear is a good, mid-range brand.>
I was advised (after the fact) I may require more filtration than this.
<Go by turnover; at minimum 4 x the volume of the tank per hour for small fish like Neons, and 6 x the volume of the tank for bigger fish like Angels and Gouramis.>
I will be keeping my eyes out for reviews on all canister type filters.
<Would highly recommend any of the "Classic" Eheim models like the 2215 and 2217 as being great value for money. Compared with Aquaclear, Eheim is the top end of the market: extremely reliable and spares are easy to obtain.
Pretty much what you'd expect from a German manufacturer!>
Canisters also carry the added benefit of creating a stronger, or directional current.
<The direction is less important than the fact the inlet and outlet are at different ends of the tank. This ensures a much better circulation (of heat, oxygen, clean water) than a hang-on-the-back filter which has the inlet and outlet just a few inches apart.>
In my studies thus far I have not run across very many articles addressing current and its effects on the denizens of the tank. I have discerned that some people employ the use of internal power heads to create a current for their particular fish. I hope some further study of the fish I want to keep will let me know if more(or directed) current is required.
<Have suggested values above. Unless you're expressly keeping fish that need still water conditions, such as Siamese fighting fish, virtually all community fish enjoy more current rather than less. My community tank operates at over 8 x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour: 180 litres capacity, with two canisters, one at 450 litres per hour, and the other at 1000 litres per hour. The fish are thriving and the plants (including floating plants) growing just fine.>
Thank you again for your insight into these matters.
<Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Substrate additives for the planted tank  3/10/09
Thank you Neale, for your quick response.
<My pleasure.>
I have contacted the EBay seller and have found this product is 3M color quartz. Apparently round in shape. The seller has assured me that this product is safe for bottom dwelling fish, however, he is trying to sell me the sand. Are you familiar with this specific product?
<Not familiar with the product. But the 3M site describes this sand as being quartz coated with a coloured ceramic. As such, it should be safe with fish.>
Also thank you for the plant recommendations. I was considering water sprite in this setup but was a bit wary due to the recommendation that I should uproot the base and replant the cutting each time. Seemed like a lot of substrate agitation to me but will study these plants further. A question about floating plants if you don't mind. I have read reports on duckweed being undesirable in most instances due to the fact that it reproduces and grows so quickly. I am curious if it wouldn't produce the desired effect in this situation, or would I be asking for trouble?
<Certainly avoid getting Duckweed (Lemna spp.) in your aquarium where possible. It's easy enough to scoop out with a net, and it certainly does consume a lot of nitrate, but if it annoys you, it's best to keep it out.
Other floating plants are much easier to control. Limnobium laevigatum (Amazon Frogbit) is my personal favourite, though Bob recommends Indian fern (Ceratopteris) very highly.>
Also, how are floating plants affected by a hang-on-back style filter?
With the outlet being on the surface of the water, would they be constantly tossed around the tank?
<Floating plants do tend to get pushed to the end furthest from the filter outflow.>
I should note that I have obtained 2 Aquaclear model 50 filters for this setup. Aquaclear seems to have a very good reputation and the price tag was right, but I am a novice and this is largely a trial and error process for me.
<Aquaclear is a good, mid-range brand.>
I was advised (after the fact) I may require more filtration than this.
<Go by turnover; at minimum 4 x the volume of the tank per hour for small fish like Neons, and 6 x the volume of the tank for bigger fish like Angels and Gouramis.>
I will be keeping my eyes out for reviews on all canister type filters.
<Would highly recommend any of the "Classic" Eheim models like the 2215 and 2217 as being great value for money. Compared with Aquaclear, Eheim is the top end of the market: extremely reliable and spares are easy to obtain.
Pretty much what you'd expect from a German manufacturer!>
Canisters also carry the added benefit of creating a stronger, or directional current.
<The direction is less important than the fact the inlet and outlet are at different ends of the tank. This ensures a much better circulation (of heat, oxygen, clean water) than a hang-on-the-back filter which has the inlet and outlet just a few inches apart.>
In my studies thus far I have not run across very many articles addressing current and its effects on the denizens of the tank. I have discerned that some people employ the use of internal power heads to create a current for their particular fish. I hope some further study of the fish I want to keep will let me know if more(or directed) current is required.
<Have suggested values above. Unless you're expressly keeping fish that need still water conditions, such as Siamese fighting fish, virtually all community fish enjoy more current rather than less. My community tank operates at over 8 x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour: 180 litres capacity, with two canisters, one at 450 litres per hour, and the other at 1000 litres per hour. The fish are thriving and the plants (including floating plants) growing just fine.>
Thank you again for your insight into these matters.
<Happy to help, Neale.>

Plant bed mixture 1/25/09 Hello WWM Crew, I have a 37 tall tank that has been up for several years and has seen several changes. Throughout these changes I've had a couple plants in glass tumblers, two plants attached to a large piece of wood, and a fern attached to a small piece of wood. I use a Rena 2, no carbon, no additives, weekly water changes with water from my outside hose and my lighting is a 23W 65K spiral compact fluorescent hanging from a pendent shop light. I'm not having any problems with anything except that the plants in the tumblers are getting really cramped and need to be set free. I want to take out the half inch gravel bed and add a real plant bed of Eco Complete, divide up the plants from the glass tumblers and maybe add a few more plants to the bed. I've read so many of the articles and of all the different ways to go about this, it seems people have had success and failure with just about every method. I was interested in the articles where they used a mixture of gravel or clay and peat. I have had much success in my garden and potting plants using coir instead of peat. Coir is biodegradable, renewable, with a pH 5.8 - 6.4. Any thoughts on using this in a gravel mixture? My other thought was just to use the Eco Complete just by itself. I did forget the fish, I have six chain loaches and seven platys, all swimming and happy. Any help is appreciated, Jerry <Hi Jerry. The reality with aquarium plants is that most will do well in a wide variety of substrates, provided lighting and mineral fertilisation are adequate. In other words, you are generally free to use whichever substrate best suits your budget and tastes, and simply need to provide the right amount of light and remember to top up with an iron-rich fertiliser at regular intervals. It really is that easy. Yes, there are variations, and some plants will do better in some types of substrate, but the differences are slight, and unless you're focusing on creating an Amano-style aquarium, the differences aren't worth bothering about. Indeed, for certain plants the substrate isn't relevant: i.e., epiphytic plants such as Java ferns, and floating plants such as Amazon Frogbit. Many plants will also do extremely well in the rock wool-filled open pots they are often supplied in, particularly if you add a fertiliser tablet once a month to the rock wool. This category of plants includes the many hardy Cryptocoryne hybrids and species such as Cryptocoryne wendtii. But returning to substrates: choose which one you like. I have an inexpensive approach that works well with popular plants like Crypts, Vallisneria, Hygrophila and so on. On the bottom I lay a bed an inch or so deep containing a mix of 50% pond soil with 50% fine gravel to stabilise it. I then put a gravel tidy on top. This is simply plastic mesh, and while you can buy them off the shelf, I use plastic mesh sold in garden centres of use around ponds. Works fine. The idea is to have a non-toxic plastic sheet that keeps the soil/gravel layer stable. I can then put rocks on top of the mesh, keeping everything in place, and then top off with a couple inches of gravel or sand, whichever I'm using in that particular tank. As for coir, I have used this in aquaria, but do need to make a few comments. Firstly, it contains no nutrients at all. Just like peat, it is, by definition, nutrient poor. There's no real point to using it in terms of promoting plant growth. Secondly, coir is very "loose", and floats about all over the place. Any fish that move on the substrate push the stuff into the water. Frankly, unless you're (for example) breeding killifish there isn't a huge point to using it. Thirdly, anything that lowers pH should be used extremely carefully. Do remember most plants abhor acidic conditions below about 6.0, so you must take care to ensure the water is buffered properly. One last thing, coir is said to contain a lot of salt if its been air dried near to the sea, as is often the case with coconut farms. The amount of salt is likely not going to dramatically change things in anything other than the smallest aquarium, but it might be a factor. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility, now plant sys.   8/5/08 Thank you for the help... <You're welcome.> I have gotten several mixed advice/comments about the amount of gravel in my tank, some say not more than 1/4 inch and you say more for the plants, so I'm going to add some sand in and make it about 3cm and see how the plants get by <Hmm... mixed advice from anyone who knows what they're talking about? Plants fall into three groups: floating plants, epiphytes, and rooted plants. Well, there's actually a fourth group ion the aquarium trade, plants that die under water. Widely sold to less experienced hobbyists, so do make sure can positively identify any plant you buy. The list of non-aquatics sold to inexperienced hobbyists is long and drives me absolutely bananas. Anyway, floating plants obviously don't care about the substrate. Epiphytes (Java fern, Java moss and Anubias for example) don't care either because you mustn't plant them (they'll rot) and have to be attached to bogwood or porous rocks (another common mistake here). Rooted plants should be able to dig into the substrate, and while you might get lucky, don't bank on it. They like a deep substrate because they need poorly-oxidised water to extract minerals. To cut a long story short, plants use minerals in their reduced state (mostly) and that means the minerals have to be in the relatively anoxic part of the substrate. Since oxygen easily diffuses a few cm into gravel (less into sand) the top 2-3 cm at least contains only oxidised mineral ions the plants can't use. Net result, the plants starve and you see the leaves turning yellow.> ...as for the lighting, I'll leave it on so they'll get the benefit of sunlight and the tank light and hopefully won't encourage more algae than my snails can take care of. <Do remember that LENGTH of light doesn't compensate for LOW light intensity. Plants MUST have precisely 10-12 hours lighting. Too little, and they won't grow; too much and you get algae and no benefits to the plant. A timer is recommended. Growing live plants is extremely challenging, and the number of aquarists who try and fail is huge. Likely the majority. Gets expensive (and tedious) very quickly if you don't get the lighting/substrate right FROM THE START. I am trying to save you time/money here, so please read around the topic in a good aquarium plant book! Thanks! Lyssa <Cheers, Neale.>

Plants... substrate...    7/26/08 hello there I had a question about planted tank substrate. I just set up a 46 bow tank. I used 3 15 pound bags of Fluorite red. I was wondering what maintenance is required with this substrate do I treat it the same as regular gravel when cleaning? Also I was wondering I used two double three foot t-5 fixtures by CoralLife at a total of 50 watts each with a grand total of 100 watts is that enough to sustain good plant life. <For good plant growth you want at least 2 watts per gallon lighting when standard tubes are used, going up to 3 watts per gallon where light-hungry plant species are used (such as Rotala and Hygrophila). T5 tubes are slightly more efficient to the standard T8 tubes, but I'm not aware of any reliable "rule" that says how much you need. So you will have to experiment and see how things go. Certainly use a reflector behind each tube to maximise efficiency. Generally plants keep the substrate clean themselves; their roots carry oxygen into the substrate allowing bacteria to break down any organic material very efficiently. The tunneling action of the roots also keeps the substrate from becoming compacted. I like to add some Melanoides livebearing snails to the system as well; these act like earthworms, digging through the substrate removing organic material and providing aeration. Some aquarists maintaining planted aquaria like to periodically break down the tank and replace the substrate every few years, usually because the plants need replacing or are showing poor growth related to the lack of nutrients in the substrate. But that's about it as far as maintenance goes. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Beginner Chiller/Refugium Questions 5/17/08 Scott, <John, sorry for the delayed response.> These materials you speak of, are they the thin sheets of woven material that I swear I found in the marine refugium FAQs but for the life of me can't find again? <Heee, likely. I have no idea where you were reading, but I was referring to Dacron felt or even plastic window screen material. A search on plenums may give you other ideas re these materials.> The only plants I have are currently Anacharis, and they sit in my in-tank refugium with no substrate. Will they be ok in the sand or do I need to use the bigger substrate? <Hmmm, both can work, each with pros and cons. Do read the following link regarding substrate choices here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm .> I read in the FAQs that using larger substrate on top of the sand can lead to detritus entrapment and actually do the reverse than intended with an increase in nitrates. <This is a concern, less so with a planted FW tank. All the more reason to choose your substrate carefully!> Thank you, John <Welcome, Scott V.> Re: Beginner Chiller/Refugium Questions 5/24/08 Scott, <John!> One last question. <OK> I had originally stated, " I do kind of like the black Seachem Fluorite material, or even the miracle mud for the plants, but wasn't sure if that was a good choice." You then stated, "You will want a smaller grain than the fluorite for NNR. Possibly even consider a bottom layer of sand with an upper layer of fluorite with the two separated by some screen/thin Dacron felt material." And I then stated in the last e-mail that I wanted to go with the Black Tahiti Island Sand, and you stated that the Fluorite was a better choice and was your preferred choice. I'm a little confused on what to do now. Thank you, John <John, I must start out by apologizing. My mind instantly went to the more common Fluorites that are much more porous. The particular Fluorite you did refer to (I went back too and read it, oops!) is a good choice for what you are looking to do. Good for the plants, yet should yield some NNR at deeper depths. Again, I am sorry for the confusion, have fun, Scott V.>

Re: Beginner Chiller/Refugium Questions 5/27/08 Scott, Thanks for the clarification. <Welcome.> Ok, now I see there are multiple versions of the stuff. I also see they have black sand fluorite from SeaChem. Wanted your opinion, but seems like the best of both worlds. What do you think? <I agree, it fits the bill here.> Also, why don't I want the Tahiti island sand? Is it because it's not porous? <It is a silica sand; sharp, tends to pack down and offers nothing for the plants.> Thanks, John <Welcome, have fun, Scott V.>

South/Central American cichlids set up   2/17/08 I want to set up a 55g tank with some Jack Dempsey, Black convict, Rams, Firemouth and other south/central American cichlids. <All fine fish, but few of these can be kept together. Rams need warm, soft, acidic water with minimal nitrate; Central American cichlids want cooler water that is hard and alkaline. Jack Dempsey cichlids are incredibly territorial, and will beat the heck out of most South American cichlids. And so on. Please choose ONE cichlid that appeals, and build the aquarium around that species.> I would like to use eco complete as substrate but was wondering which other type can I use in order to provide a sandy bottom as well. <Eco Complete is a total waste of money. Most cichlids will destroy plants.> I want to arrange the eco complete to the back and sides and sand/other substrate in the middle, so I can plant on the sides and create like a corridor. <Some hope! Really, there's a reason why people only keep Angelfish and Dwarf Cichlids in planted tanks.> I know some of these fish like to dig, so could you suggest some hardy natural plants that I could use as well as which other substrate will be a good mix? <Plastic plants glued to rocks are really the only options for a mixed cichlid community. Firemouths, for example, are "earth eater" cichlids, and even though they don't uproot plants outside of spawning, they produce so much silt and mess that only very robust plants will survive. Convicts, Severums, and various other cichlids will either dig the plants directly or view them as food.> I have an Emperor 400 for the tank, do I need other type of filtration or another Emperor? Any other comments for the set up or fish species selection? <Please go back to the drawing board. Choose either [a] a planted aquarium or [b] a robust cichlid community, e.g. a mix of Firemouth and Convict cichlids. Nothing else is likely to work.> Thanks. Mauricio <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: South/Central American cichlids set up 2/17/08 Oh ok, so yeah I was way off! Then if I want to keep a planted aquarium with angels and dwarf cichlids what would be a good substrate? <Yes, Eco Complete is widely appreciated as being one of the better substrates for aquatic plants. Obviously doesn't make any difference what substrate you use if you opt for floating plants of epiphytes.> And if I decide on the cichlid community tank, which substrate will be a good choice? <Entirely depends on the cichlids. If you went Central American, a mix of coral sand and smooth silica sand is good because this raises the carbonate hardness. But South American cichlids don't want hard water, so plain smooth silica sand is better. If your budget runs to it, black volcanic sand brings out the best colours with dwarf cichlids such as Apistogramma.> I was doing some reading and it seems a fine sand substrate will be good, but if so where can I get that? My LFS has just sand for SW tanks. Thanks for the help and advice <Apart from shopping online, gardening centres are usually good places. Smooth silica sand is used to make potting composts, and is very inexpensive; here in England, a 25 kilo bag costs less than £5. Cheers, Neale.>

Problems rinsing substrate -- 08/08/07 I bought some Flora-max substrate (similar to Fluorite I think) and proceeded to rinse it off in the backyard along with some Shultz aquatic soil that I planned to mix in the bottom layer. After rinsing through a sieve from one bucket to another a few times I added the substrate to the tank and added water. It was dark brown and obviously full of dust. So I emptied the tank of water and substrate and rinsed again, from bucket to bucket. Again I put it in the tank and added water, but it was nearly as brown as before. I went ahead and started the filter (Penguin 350) and tossed in a sponge filter as well and waited.( This is a 40G tank). Three hours later the water was still deep brown with dust currents swirling about. So again I removed the water and substrate and spent another hour or two rinsing and rinsing. Still the bucket water is deep brown with every rinse. Am I being impatient? Maybe am spoiled by using Eco- Complete in the past but surely rinsing substrate is not this tough? Thanks for any advice <Greetings. What you describing is entirely normal, and yes, it means you didn't clean the substrate adequately. On the plus side, this is harmless to fish, and I've even had this problem when re-jigging established aquaria, changing one substrate for another. Most freshwater fish are used to turbid environments, and some probably prefer them to the clear water conditions we life. On the downside, the silt clogs biological filter media and makes plants look very dirty. So, what you need to do is change some of the filter media with brand new (but rinsed) filter floss. Then, add some flocculant to the water (this is the stuff called "Filter Aid" and the like, and advertised as something for removing cloudiness). Within 24 hours you will find the tank much cleaner. Do a big water change, replace the soiled filter wool, and add more flocculant if required. Repeat as required. It's worth mentioning that "hang on the back" filters like the Penguin have appallingly poor mechanical filtration capabilities because they operate at ambient water pressure. Nothing cleans silty water like a pressurised filter that is creating lots of water current, for example a decent canister filter. There's really no comparison. Cheers, Neale.>

Putting in new substrate   4/15/07 Hello Crew! <Hello!> I've emailed you before and Jorie really hooked me up with my questions, so I though I'd try you again. <Cool. But your e-mail was filled with weird "<DIV class=RTE> </DIV>" nonsense that I had to strip out before I could read the words. Please send plain (ASCII) text, not something that looks cool on your computer but annoys everyone else!> <<Mmm, and a note to all at WWM... easy to simply copy the original "text view" and paste over the tray/response one with the HTML coding. RMF>> We've decided to put a new substrate into our tank. <OK.> We are newbies to the hobby (started in Dec.) and set up our tank before doing much research.  Since then, I've been researching a ton and am not happy with our current set up.  We love plants and want to make them our focal points. <This is the right approach. While you can mix plants in a regular tank fine, if you want to take "aquatic gardening" seriously, you should start with what the plants need, then add a few, suitable fish as and when you can.> I've researched and found that I want to use Eco Complete, which sounds like the best option.  I plan on getting about 5 bags which is a little under 2 in. of substrate for our 55 gallon tank. <Not sure there's a *best* option but that's certainly a good one.> Right now, we have 2 small angelfish, 2 tiger barbs (they get along fine, no fin nipping)... <So far...> ...an Opaline Gourami... <Males of these are notorious troublemakers!> ...and a 6 in Pleco. <Who is utterly incompatible with a planted aquarium.> We have a 55 gallon tank with bio-wheel filter, and a Coralife freshwater light with 2*65 watt 6700K lights, which gives us about 2.3 watts per gallon. <An acceptable amount of light for a nice variety of species.> From what I've read, that should be sufficient for some pretty cool plants (especially with the new substrate), without having to add a CO2 system. <Depends on the plants. Some plants extract the carbon they need from dissolved carbonate in the water (for example Vallisneria and Egeria spp.) and couldn't care less about CO2. Others are much more fussy.> We're thinking of getting more angels eventually and hope to add some discus as well. <Mixing angels and discus sounds good on paper but there are risks. Angels are more aggressive and far more boisterous at feeding time. Cheap angels are also maintained in relatively poor, crowded angels on farms, and may (probably will) contain various diseases that the discus will be sensitive too. So quarantine any angels *thoroughly* before mixing with discus, or else obtain angels from a local, trustworthy breeder, perhaps at your local fish club.> I'd like to tell you about how I plan on doing it and see what you think.  I am going to fill 2 thirteen gallon trash bins (new) with our current water and put the filter onto one of them.  Do you think I should just buy a larger bin and put it all in that? <That's fine. I do this with 5 gallon buckets and the filter is fine. What matters is the oxygen in the water more than anything else.> I also plan to put the fish into it while I'm working. <A good plan.> Is 26 gallons enough water to keep? <More than enough. There's next to no bacteria in the water. So provided the pH, hardness, and temperature of the "new" water in the aquarium compared with what was there before, save as much or as little of the "old" water as you want.> I also plan on stirring up the gravel and keeping 5-10 gallons of the dirty water in hopes of keeping a high bacteria count. I heard this somewhere, does it make sense? <Don't bother. Except with undergravel filters, there's little bacteria in the substrate because of the lack of water flow (too little oxygen). So you can throw out the old gravel if you want, it'll make no difference. Undergravel filters are different, and you do indeed need to treat the gravel like regular filter media, and take good care of it.> I plan on conditioning the other half of the water as well as adding some stress coat. <Not sure stress coat matters here. Certainly dechlorinate the water, and also check pH, hardness, and temperature are close to the original values. The rest is fussing for no real purpose.> I don't mind waiting for the tank to cycle, but I hope that keeping the filter in the old water and also adding the dirty water will help keep our bacteria count up. What do you think? (My girlfriend is anxious for new fish, but I try to tell her that these things take time:) <Yes, the bacteria will be fine kept that way. Done this myself many, many times.>  Oh yeah, we've had an algae problem since adding our new light (about a month and a half ago).  It's on the walls now, so I want to get it off so that it doesn't invade the new set up.  Do you know of any good non-harsh ways of getting it off the walls? <Walls of what? The glass? Algae develops for all sorts of reasons, some of which are easy to fix. Algae grows readily where sunlight strikes the glass, so check that. Algae is most trouble in "unbalanced" tanks with little/no plant growth. Once you have rapid plant growth, for a variety of reasons not completely understood, algae doesn't grow much. There's some evidence higher plants actively produce chemicals that suppress algal growth. The traditional story is that plants extract nutrients more quickly than the algae, so assuming the plants are healthy, they monopolize the nutrients making it difficult for the algae to grow. Fast growing plants also lower nitrate and phosphate levels, making the water less fertile. The jury is still out on which story is correct. Like many things in life, it may be a little of each. Anyway, the best way to remove algae until your plants are established is to use a bit of elbow grease. Use a sponge or scraper, and then do a water change to siphon off some of algae you've scraped off.> Should I decrease the timing on the light, which I currently have in 12 hour intervals, to keep from new algae problems?  (My next plan is to read up on keeping algae out of planted tanks.) <Done this, and yes, splitting the illumination period into 2 lots of 6 hours with a 1 or 2 hour "siesta" does seem to work. Experiment, and if it doesn't help, skip it.> As I'm still a novice, I'd like to know what types of plants are appropriate for our setup (55 gallon; 130 watts; 2 in. eco complete substrate; no CO2)?  Low light, non deep root, etc? I would also appreciate any good links or suggestions on plant selection and aquascaping.  <In terms of algae-busters, you want at least a few fast growing species like Cabomba and Hygrophila. Floating plants also do a great job of this too, and my particular favourites are hornwort and Ceratopteris. All of these are unfussy plants that will do fine without CO2. Vallisneria spp. and Crinum spp. are also very reliable and tolerant, though Vallisneria does prefer water a bit on the hard side. Among my favourite specimen plants is Cryptocoryne wendtii -- a robust, attractive species that will spread about the bottom of the tank quite happily. Aponogeton crispus is another very attractive species that does well in most aquaria. It does need a "rest" once a year, but in return it is one of the few species that produces flowers in aquaria, and sometimes viable seeds as well! Java fern and Java moss on bogwood are incredibly useful and reliable, but don't forget Anubias spp. which are also epiphytes and grow on bogwood despite being sold (wrongly) as potted plants. There are really so many plants to choose from. Browse the web site a bit more and see what tickles your fancy.> I appreciate any questions you can answer, as I'm long-winded and know I go overboard.  I try to learn as much as I can online and reading, but I work better when communicating directly and enjoy some guidance and suggestions along the way. <No problems.> Thanks for your time and consideration. <Cheers, Neale> Cheers, Andy

Planted tank substrate  - 12/18/06 Hey there, <Hi> I have a 55 gallon tank that I plan on planting. What kind of substrate do you recommend? <The easiest, most-complete solution (though not necessarily the most economical) is to use something like Fluorite or Eco-Complete; these have been scientifically researched to provide the majority of aquatic plants with the proper size substrate, as well as the proper nutrients necessary for life growth.  You can accomplish the same thing by layering soil, sand, peat, etc., but more work is entailed in this option. There's tons of information on this subject - all you need to do is look for it!  I'd recommend an internet search using keywords like "freshwater aquarium planted tank substrate" or the like. Some starters - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubstrates.htm http://www.aquariumplants.com//Articles.asp?ID=111 http://www.brainyday.com/jared/aquarium/info.htm Also, Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants is very useful, and has an entire chapter devoted to substrates. All you need to do now is take the time to find the info. that's out there! Best of luck, Jorie>

Substrate for the FW Planted Aquarium - 10/18/06 Hi - I'm new to the site and  I was wondering if anyone has used or suggested a product called First Layer Pure Laterite for planted aquariums...it's made by API. <Hi Steve, I'm not familiar with this product myself, but in just Googling it, it appears to be similar to Fluorite and CaribSea's Eco-Complete.  The only info. I wasn't able to see was the size of the granules...the reading I've been doing seems to suggest you want a substrate between 3-8mm diameter.  For what it's worth, I have used Fluorite before with success in growing Anubias, crypts, Aponogetons in freshwater, but don't really like it's reddish color.  I am about to re-plant my brackish tank with tiger lotus, micro-swords, etc., and plan to use Eco-Complete this time.  I believe all three products, including the one you reference, are similar, just made by different manufacturers.  Check out Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Planted Aquariums for detailed info. on choosing an appropriate substrate for whatever plants you choose.  Best of luck, Jorie> Thanks <You're welcome.>

Aquarium lighting... planted tank learning    4/16/06 Hello, I have three questions regarding my tank. I have a well-established - over 9 months old - 10 gallon tank with brown Estes' small sized gravel, some hornwort, sword plants, banana plants, 3 albino dwarf cories, and 3 dwarf neon tetras. <So good, so far> My first question is about lighting. Little did I realize when I bought those sweet little, inexpensive plants at the pet store that I would be entering a nightmare of aquarium lighting. <Or Nirvana... depending on your point of view> The incandescent bulbs <Whoa! Time warp!> that came with the tank burned the chlorophyll right off the sword plants. I then purchased a new hood with a fluorescent fixture which spiked in the 4700 Kelvin range. <This CRI is too low...> About two weeks later I saw the end leaves on the hornwort turning an almost pure green and coagulating together. I would like the purchase the proper lighting and am slightly dazed by the info to consider. Even the internet research I have performed on full spectrum lighting turns up prices from $10.00 to $90.00 on an 18" plant. Can you recommend a brand for a 18" fluorescent fixture? <... there are quite a few. The parameters (color temp., CRI... for discerning are gone over here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/lightingags.htm and the linked files above) I have read that the plants that I have are very accepting of different wattage. <To a degree> Secondly, my pH was staying above 7.2, even though I only use distilled water for my water changes and have no rocks in the aquarium. <Need more than distilled...> Have you heard that Estes gravel can raise pH? <Much of this brand can/does> And what can I do to lower it? I would put some cured driftwood in, but am concerned as the tank is only 10 gallons. <... also covered on WWM...> And finally, I read on your site that an aerator can harm plants by reducing CO2. So I got rid of it (I read that hornwort is somewhat oxygenating anyway).  I used to see minute bubbles drifting off the hornwort all the time, are they oxygen damaging the plant, or CO2? <... they produce oxygen during the light/photosynthetic part of the day, carbon dioxide, using O2 during the dark phase...> Thanks for your time and attention. Otherwise, my fish are very happy, happy fish. Lisa <Keep studying Lisa... keep an open mind and you will learn, benefit. Bob Fenner> Planted tank - 10/2/05 I will be setting up a 75 gallon goldfish tank in a few weeks I would like to put a mix of artificial and live plants in it. I was browsing through an aquatic supply catalog and found Fluorite and laterite substrates. I would like to know your opinion about either substrate and if they are beneficial to use in setting up a tank with live plants and if they won't harm the fish. Thanks for all your great help. <Either will be beneficial to a properly "balanced" tank. By "balanced", I mean that the nutrient provision form the substrate is balanced by sufficient lighting and perhaps carbon dioxide addition. Even for low-light planted tanks, a little bit of Fluorite or laterite mixed in with the substrate will have some benefit. I like Fluorite myself, but it does tend to be somewhat messier at first than laterite. Best regards, John.> Sharon

Sand Bed Questions marine vs. planted freshwater  12/10/05 Good afternoon (I hope), <Yes I'm doing quite good, hope you are as well, Adam J with you.> Last night I helped a friend setup a planted tank. We laid heated cables (root therm) under the substrate to cause a gentle circulation through the substrate so there are no dead spots. From my understanding this is a pretty common practice in high end planted tanks. <Yes.> My question, is there a practical application for this in the marine aquarium?  <Usually not necessary in marine tanks nor is it very beneficial, in fact it would be a bad idea for those who plan to utilize a Deep Sand Bed, would disrupt various microfauna and bacteria populations.>  The concept should work the same shouldn't it. <Not exactly.> We were basically following a book when we were doing this "Aquarium Plants: The Practical Guide" by Pablo Tepoot. When we did the substrate we laid a fine layer of gravel (a bit bigger than sand), and then a coarse layer, with a layer of laterite in the fine layer. The book explains that the fine layer is the anaerobic layer, and the coarse layer is the aerobic layer. Is this also applicable in a marine aquarium? <Research these two phrases via WWM (Plenum) and (Deep Sand Bed), I think this is what you are looking for.> Thanks, Daniel <Welcome, Adam J.>

Planted Aquarium Remodel 7/30/05 Hello, I have a 46 gallon tank that's been established for a couple of years.  I've been successful with my livestock (2 schools of tetra's, 3 loaches, 2 SAE's.  I've tried on several occasions to add plants to my aquarium, never with much success. <Mmmm, I do so like such mysteries> I've done much research, and I've decided to take the plunge and truly update my system so I can grow plants.  I now have a Aqualight 2X96 watt CF (6700K bulbs), timers, Milwaukee regulator, 10lb CO2 tank, and a Milwaukee pH controller to work with the regulator.  I'm now to the point of getting my hands wet.  I have normal LFS bought aquarium gravel.  I'd like to put a layer of Fluorite under my current gravel, but 1) I'm worried about the dust cloud that seems to accompany Fluorite, <Yes... I would rinse it... BTW, this is the material I have in my tanks> and 2) I don't want to ruin my the biological filtration I have in my substrate.  Might the dust from the Fluorite hurt the livestock? <Yes, definitely> As long as I leave filtration running (Emperor 400), will the biological filtration be OK?   <Yes... likely so... I would vacuum the existing substrate... and mix in the pre-washed Fluorite> I don't want to worry about cycling my tank again.  Also, on to plants.  I'm considering the following package from Aquabotanic.com. 6 assorted bunched stem plants, 3 Cryptocoryne pots, 10 dwarf sag, 2 small swords, 1 Red Rubin sword, 3 Anubias coffefolia, 2 Crinum onion, 4 Java fern, 10 corkscrew vals,2 Java moss.  Does this sound like too much? <Mmm, no... but a real "mix" to be sure... plants of differing water chemistry and light preferences... the Crinum will grow quite large... and quickly... the Crypts and Java Fern... very, very slowly...> I want to make sure to out compete the algae, but I don't want to be throwing away plants because I can't fit anymore.  Thank you for your help.  You're my last line of defense before I break out my checkbook again.  Thanks. Jeremy <I say "go for it" or whatever the current equivalent is... with some degree of near neutral pH, some bit of alkaline reserve, this mix should do well for you. Bob Fenner>

Kitty liter substrate for a planted tank? 7/20/05 Hello, Crew, and thank you in advance for your help. I have a 29 gallon freshwater tank (unplanted, for the most part) and want to start a smaller, planted tank. While researching planted/nature tanks, I read something that sounds "iffy." One website advocated the use of clay kitty litter as a substrate/soil for planted tanks. Is this a good idea? <In general, no> Or should I just pay the extra cash for some 'real' aquarium substrate? Also, any other advice would be greatly appreciated. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm and the linked files above, where you'll lead yourself. Bob Fenner> Floral mayhem Hey crew, <David> I am having some serious problems with a number of my plants.  The pattern of symptoms does not seem to correspond to anything I have read on macro/micro element deficiencies. <Okay> Holes in leaves.  This has affected a couple of the broader-leaved plants (e.g. one of the larger Echinodorus [rubin? red flame?]). Stems rotting.  I had a Myriophyllum aquaticum completely fall apart in about 3 weeks.  Now this is starting to affect even my hardy Hydrocotyle leucocephala and Alternanthera reineckii -- both of which have been growing like weeds. <Mmm...> Whitening of leaves: The leaves of the Hydrocotyle also started whitening starting at the edges of the leaves after a couple of months. Some of the leaves which have NOT shown this whitening now have small bright green spots??? <Algal likely here> Browning/curling of leaves: This has affected only my Hygrophila difformis, and only on a few leaves. <Nitrogen, ready solubility issue> Vallisneria fare particularly poorly-- blades start melting within days after I introduce it to the tank.  The smaller spiral variety-of-many-names dies almost immediately.  One of the larger varieties is hanging in there, the root system is actually very well developed and even sending out runners, but most of the blades just melt and/or come off. So-- seemingly different symptoms on different plants, with stems rotting being the most common symptom. <Of the general possibilities... pathogenic, nutrient limitation, environmental... which is it?> The tank is 12 gal, about 3 months old.  Lighting is a 24W "6500 daylight" compact fluorescent.  Generally most of the flora seem to do fine for somewhere between 2 weeks and 2 months before these symptoms begin to show... Overall, given lack of CO2 injection, growth seems very good and consistent.  Even the worst-hit plants (Myriophyllum and Vallisneria) show relatively vigorous growth even as they die! I am using a manufactured substrate called Florabase.   Don't know much about it, other than that it contains volcanic ash (according to mfg), is supposedly high in chelated iron, and is apparently poorly named. <Red Sea product... I like others better> It is acidic -- rapidly and significantly reduces/buffers pH and KH -- but I don't think it contains peat, at least the water doesn't look it. Grains are 1-2mm with a moderate amount of silt (package specifically said to not rinse prior to adding to tank). I am fairly certain that these problems relate to the substrate in some way, just not sure how.  My main reason for thinking so is the extremely fast decline of any type of Vallisneria.  I had a couple of different varieties in another tank with plain old gravel and poor lighting, and they did just fine... and are supposedly very hardy. To give you some idea of the acidic properties of the substrate... Tap water:  pH 8.2, KH ~2.5d, GH ~4d Tank water: pH 7.0, KH ~1d, GH ~4.5d Other stats: NH3/NH4, NO2, NO3 all undetectable.  Free/chelated FE undetectable.  Water temp 79F.  Fauna consists of 1 Betta, 2 Colisa lalia, 1 siamensis, 3 platies, relatively tame snail population. Apologies for the long email, and thanks in advance for any help you can offer... -Dave <Mmm, am given to suggest (due to small size of the system), tearing down, replacing the substrate with SeaChem's (Fluorite) line... and their fertilizer. I do think the substrate is principally at fault here... not supplying carbonate, in fact being too-reductive (acidic), mal-affecting nutrient assimilation.

Re: Floral mayhem Sigh... I was afraid you would say that.  I would very much like to stick with the Florabase because it pegs the pH right where I want it. Before I started using it, I found it impossible to keep my pH below 7.5 without adding phosphates, and although it's been said that most f/w fish can adapt to 7.5, this was not my experience at all-- ended up with a bunch of sick fish and a few dead ones to boot. <Mmmm, well, there is a possibility of adding some of another calcareous substrate to the existing... the Fluorite I think would look best here as well> Obviously I have some choices here (CO2 injection as a method of pH control being the most tempting one) but do you think there is anything that could be done to ameliorate the nutrient-depriving of this substrate? <Hard, even dangerous to attempt in such a small volume... Put another way, I am hesitant to suggest such changes for fear of helping you kill off your livestock> Which nutrients are we likely talking about here-- macro, micro, both? <Both... are you familiar with "PMDD", Poor Man's Dupla Drops? You might try mixing up a batch (formulation a few places... the krib likely most readily) and see if their assiduous addition can override the negative effect of the substrate> Would increasing the concentration of these nutrients be likely to help, or is it simply that the plants cannot absorb them b/c something is awry with the CEC of the substrate? <Ah, well put... they might well help... if "something" were to go awry with the PMDD use the bioassay of algal proliferation would likely supercede livestock loss from toxicity. Bob Fenner>

TerraMineral, plant tank substrate My Local Fish Store carries a product called TerraMineral made by BioPlast--not laterite. Is TerraMineral a worthy substitute for laterite?  <Yes> What are TerraMineral's Ingredients? Does it contain high levels of Nitrogen or Phosphorous? Thank you for any help that you can give. Travis. <Is a very worthwhile product... Please read here: www.apms.org/japm/vol39/v39p83.pdf  Bob Fenner>

Planted tank, substrate, CO2 Qs hmmm. I was afraid the Fluorite would be too rocky and damage the roots of any root bearing plants I have.... < Fluorite is like a fired clay and is softer than typical sands and gravels.> hm.... about the current over the plants. I was going to blow a powerhead over them. but stop using aeration from the venturi as it would remove to much co2. in fact I got to thinking and the easiest thing to me is to have two tanks and run one at night and one at day that way there would always be abundant oxygen. < That would be a perfect balance as long as all things were close to each other.-Chuck> Ian

Planty Questions - 05/31/2004 I have read your very informative article "Growing Aquatic Plants" <Well, Bob's article, but Sabrina the Plant Geek here to help you out, today> and I have done a good deal of research about growing live plants in aquariums. <Ah, wonderful!  Research is truly the best tool you can have.> I am new to the hobby and want to make sure I do the right things and don't go into the hobby with improper information or equipment.   <You have the right attitude, my friend!> There seems to be quite a vast amount of conflicting information on the internet about the different substrates you can use. I have found that the majority of them did in fact recommend natural gravel. <Mm, there really are a lot of other options available now that would do a great deal better for your tank-to-be, in my opinion....  Any of the fluorite-based substrates available (pick one that suits your aesthetics), or go with a laterite mix - I'm going back to just plain ol' laterite and a whole lot of sand, next time I break down the tank....> The only problem with this is I can not seem to find where to get natural gravel. I have went to the local home improvement stores, pet stores, and searched for hours on the internet and could not find the right stuff. I either found gravel too large, or epoxy coated. If I had a stream in my back yard I would happily go and collect some, but I live in a city. <I'm afraid you'll be pretty hard-pressed to find 'natural' gravel outside of nature.  And to be honest, this would not be my first choice/recommendation for use, at all.> Do you know of where I could get the right stuff? <You might try browsing about the local fish stores, inspect the brands of fluorite substrates, read their spiels, see which texture pleases your eye....  Also, I'd like to recommend Peter Hiscock's "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants", as this is a really great, fun, easy read, full of good information - and goes in-depth on substrates, as well.  I think you will find this book to be a great help.> Thank you <Thank you for writing in; hope your tank comes out great!  -Sabrina>

Planty Questions - II - 05/31/2004 Thanks for your answers to my questions. I have taken your suggestions and I am going to run with them. <Phew!  I'm glad they were suggestions and not scissors!> Hopefully with all the correct stuff <And research, and work> I will have a lush aquarium that my friends will be envious about. <You are certainly on the right track, Mike.  May your tank be uber-planty.> Thanks again.  Please remember those who have fallen defending our freedom. <Indeed.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Mike

REQUEST FOR OPINION -- SUBSTRATE I found you material while surfing for substrate information on planted aquaria.  I found the information helpful in confirming what I though I knew. However, I would like your opinion about this soil substrate composition.  Basically it will have three layers.   The bottom layer will consist of: 60%Terra Cotta Clay (unfired), 30% Sand and 10% Vermiculite. The Middle Layer will consist of: 10% Peat, 85% Sand and 5% Powdered Activated Charcoal. The Top Layer will be 10% Sand and 90% Gravel (= to or < 2mm). This will be a 55G tank with about 3 - 4 inches of substrate, It will house a variety of plants (about 10 species) it will also at a later date (about 2 months) house fish (about 20). I plan on giving a DIY CO2 outfit a try too. The lighting source will be the common tank cover with 1 - 40 Watt tube and an additional shop light with 2 - 40 watt tubes. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated. < I would try some fluorite first. It would be easier and less messy than all those different layers that will get mixed up anyway and cloud the water. Unless you are planning on using stem plants then the CO2 would not do much good. You did not mention the filtration. I would recommend a canister filter that did not disturb the surface too much of you are going to add CO2. Try some crypts first. They are easy and look good.-Chuck>

Plants and "greensand" - III - 04/26/2004  Excellent answers, things I knew but didn't think of, like particle size and the looseness of the substrate.  <Yeah, there really is a whole lot more to it than just salt or lack thereof.>  As far as the green sand, like I said, the first month I set it up, almost every plant I put in the tank melted. I did aggressive 50% water changes that first month, and since...plants have been flourishing! I love the fact that it has potassium and iron in it.  <Yes, that does have some great appeal. I think I'll be sticking with laterite, myself; but this is a neat thing to look into, thanks for pointing it out.>  The downside is its under all the gravel, even where there are no plants (reason for not vacuuming. basically an inch layer of sugar fine soil/sand under 3" of gravel...I guess I need to vacuum the top 2" of gravel at least,  <I certainly would, yes.>  I don't do water changes all that often to it and use tap water. No algae issues though, other then some red diatom. I guess if I clean the tank up some the red diatom will go away, need to look into its main causes etc...thanks for all the help and the links!  <You betcha, and thanks for the greensand info! Wishing you well, -Sabrina>  Mark

Plant tank - substrate redo I tried to post this question on he forum, but so far, no one has responded, <Please accept my apologies, I usually try to poke my head into the plant forum from time to time, I must've missed seeing this one.> and I'm kinda anxious to get started on  my new project. <Understandable!> Here's my issue: Okay, my 30 gal planted aquarium goes into phase II. I have a single 55w PC pink/white combo. <Okay> I have two potted plants in there right now (I don't know what kind they are), <Please do try to find out - I'll be glad to help you with this if you want to post pics to your name in the forums, but the best route is to get yourself a good plant book.  What they are will determine what lighting they need, etc.  And do be sure to remove the little plastic pots and rockwool when you replant.> but I wanted to make sure they survived, and I had enough lighting before going to the next step: replacing the substrate. I have just regular gravel in there right now along with the following: 2 swordtail neons (1.5 in) <umm, neon swordtails, perhaps?> 1 orange platy (1 in) 1 zebra danio (mean little girl, but has learned to be nice, 1.5 in) <She'll play better if she's in a school - and will hopefully be more interested in other zebra Danios to chase than other fish> 1 pleco (4 in) 2 algae shrimp (1 in) 1 bamboo shrimp (2 in) I have an aquaclear 200 filter with regular foam and carbon. <Power filters aren't the greatest for hard core plant tanks - a canister would do you better, but if you don't plan on getting insanely planty, you'll probably be okay.> They've all been thriving in there for about 3 months now (the shrimp have been my last additions 3 months ago). All amm/nit/trate has been monitored and there have been no fluctuations. Nitrate is about 30 ppm when I do a water change. <Zowie.  This should be lower.  Well, hopefully addition of plants will help you.> Before I replace the substrate for clay gravel, I was wondering how I should do it as to not disrupt my biological filtration. My plan is as follows: 1. Push /all/ the gravel to the front half, and start by putting half the clay in the back 2. Then after a couple weeks, remove half of the old gravel. and put the rest of the clay in the back. 3. Then wait a couple more weeks, remove the rest of the old gravel and push the clay forward. Voila! New substrate better for plants!. Does this plan seem reliable? Or am I 'over doing it' and don't need to do such small steps? Should I make  smaller steps? Thanks guys! <Sounds like this should work out fine.  Don't change filter cartridges during this shift in substrates; you'll have nice gobs of beneficial bacteria in there to help you out.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> ~Eric

Planted Tank Substrate <Ananda the insomniac here this morning... Apologies for the delay; we've been digging out from under the pile of incoming emails with the Sobig.f worm...> Well, we took the leap and dumped all the plastic stuff a few months ago in favor of live plants from Walmart. I KNOW I KNOW! Were poor type folk with little to NO money, so we were on a budget. <Hey, I understand how that works.> Well, at first every thing seemed fine for a while. Then the plants didn't look so hot. <Hmmm. What's your lighting like, and which plants did you get?> I read somewhere, I think it may have been this site even, that big air stones are a no-no. <Sort of -- the idea is that you want the plants to oxygenate the tank, and for that they need some of the CO2 that's hanging around in the tank.> Removing it helped, a little. We have a little "Wal-Mart" special power pump/filter in the back that sits on lip of the tank. <If it's the Aquatech filters, those are actually not bad at all...made by a well-known company, and re-branded for Wal-Mart. I don't understand re-branding, but hey...) It doesn't flow very much and doesn't seem to disturb the plants. Heck, it barely makes a ripple on the surface! After another month or so of not much happening (growth or other wise) I dumped the course gravel and broken rocks that the wife used, and re-did the tank with some sand that I dug up from her mothers pond. (large pond with bluegill and small bass!) <Yum! Ooops, sorry, I grew up in northern Minnesota, where those are often considered lunch!> Well, I should have read a little more because that's all I put in it, was sand. About 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. Filled half way with water......what a mess! then tried planting our small and meager collection into it and filling up the rest of the way. I guess I should have just filled it first then planted, because most of the plants got washed around! It's been several days now and everything has settled down and lookin' ok. (just barely) Then I went I read that I SHOULD have put some clay in the bottom first? Oops. Tell me I didn't just waste 3 days, and that it doesn't make THAT big a difference.....please? Pretty please? <It won't make that huge a difference... you'll just need to fertilize your plants. I like the ones called "Plant-tabs with Iron" -- you push the tablet in next to the plant roots and leave it there.> Oh, for ref. we have a ten gal. tank from Wal-Mart. A lid from an aquarium store down the road...the "wally worlds" one used reg. bulbs. <No good at all for plants...> This one uses fluorescent. We did know enough to get a "full spectrum" grow bulb for it. ( 15 watts) That seems to be our only saving grace, so far. <Hmmm. Hopefully you have plants that will do okay in moderate lighting.> The filter, as mentioned before is the "small" power one from wally world too. I WAS going to put the fish back in today (they are in a 5gal. "hospital" tank down stairs) <Yay!> But then got around to read around in here some more. The more I read, the more I get that sinking feeling that I'm going to have to do it over again. ANY and all advice is welcomed. Um, just don't let the first sentence contain the words " DO OVER!". Thanks! :-)      Charles.... from somewhere out in the sticks of central Wisconsin. <Heh. I've been through central Wisconsin many times.... Anyhow, no, you don't need to redo it again right now if you don't want to. Meanwhile, check out our freshwater and planted tank forums on the WetWebMedia chat boards: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ ...Sabrina and I check the boards there at least a couple of times a day, and you might get answers faster than an email can get back to you. BTW, Drs. Foster & Smith (one of the WWM sponsors) has a tent sale coming up soon -- in central Wisconsin! Hit their ad button on the Daily FAQ page and you should be able to get info about it from their site. --Ananda>

How much Fluorite? (07/28/03) Hi Bob, <Hi! You get Ananda tonight...> I am about to finally set up my tank. I am going to use only Fluorite for my substrate. My tank is 57 gallon (36x18x 21 high). I was thinking of using 3" depth. Is this ok or too deep? <Perhaps a bit on the deep end... I use 2" in my planted tank.> Do you know how many bags I will need if I go with this depth? <Nope, but here's what the Seachem web site says: "Recommended use is 1 kg for about each 200 cm^2 (31 in^2) of tank bottom." Each bag is 7kg.> For reference I am also using Dupla heating cables, Co2 with reactor and PH controller, Eheim 2217 canister filter, 192 watt power compact light. <Sounds like a very nice setup.> Thanks and regards, Ken <Fluorite is notoriously dusty. From my own experience, I would suggest you wash *one* bag fairly thoroughly -- preferably outside, near the garden, where the iron-rich runoff will nourish your plants! You might also lightly sift the Fluorite before you wash it, to get some of the finer dust out of the bag first. (I'm told roses appreciate the stuff.) To set up the substrate, after you put the heating cable in, put the dusty Fluorite on the bottom. The very top layer of will be the washed Fluorite. That will help keep the dust storm to a minimum when you fill the tank. Have fun! --Ananda>

More on Fluorite (07/29/03) Hi Ananda, <Hi again!> Thanks for your reply. <You're welcome.> I will go with 2" depth then. I got what you said about putting the more thoroughly washed fluorite on top. How thick of a layer? <Maybe half an inch...I have about 1/4" and it does occasionally get stirred up and make a dust storm when I'm "weeding" the extra Vallisneria out of the corners.> For the bottom level, do I wash that lightly or just try to shake out the dust? Any suggestions for something to use to shake out the dust? <I used an ordinary kitchen strainer. I poured a bit of the Fluorite into the strainer and shook it a bit over a bowl. The remaining bits went into a bucket, waiting to be added to the tank. If I did it now, I would take all the fine dusty particles and put those on the absolute bottom, then cover it with the "screened" larger-grained stuff, and then the washed stuff on top of that. Then put a layer of plastic wrap over the substrate before you add water to the tank. The plastic wrap should prevent the worst of the "dust storm", and you'll remove it after you fill the tank.> I also was wondering then once I start planting, won't disturbing the fluorite on the bottom level kick up the dust into the water? Do you know what I mean? <Yup. And you're right, that's exactly what happens. You can avoid some of it by just pushing the roots down into a small hole. A thicker (1/2") layer of washed stuff should help keep the dust down, I'm thinking. Alternately, you could try filling the tank only part of the way before planting, or plant it before you cycle it. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method! Do check out the WetWebMedia chat forums -- we have a friendly planted tank forum.> Lastly, someone had told me to use some of the following product from Dupla. It is to be spread down in the bottom layer when setting up the tank. It may be a laterite based, but I'm not sure. This is what it says on the website of www.floridadriftwood.com. "Duplarite G is a granulate, and is added to the gravel material when the aquarium is initially set up. A root activation tablet is enclosed in the Duplarit G pack for the purpose of rapid root formation." <I looked at Google's cache of Dupla's website: "[Duplarit G is] A substrate additive - the original root nutrition Duplarit, consists of selected tropical laterite with a high iron content." Thus it's totally unnecessary if you are using Fluorite -- save your money for more plants! :-) > Thanks for you help Regards, Ken <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

Welcome to the wonderful world of fish... (07/30/03) Hi Ananda, <Hi!> Thanks for the reply. I hope I wasn't too trying for you. I might have obsessed a bit here. <Welcome to the club! --Ananda> Regards, Ken

WWM reader input - SeaChem's "flourish" product 7/15/03 Anthony, for the question posted on 7-13-'03 "Planted discus tank: questions 7/13/03",  I have found that SeaChem's "flourish" product line for planted aquariums are wonderful products for maintaining Amazon style set ups, complete with Discus & Tetras.  I've had great success with my set up, with very little effort! Is this shot of one of my Discus, to large to post? I wish the best of luck to the crew at   WWM  & to those with planted tanks, (and, of coarse the reefers too!)! Thanks for putting up with my emails!! Stormbringer <much appreciation for the input/shared opinion my friend. Will leave for the editor to post of possible. Thanks kindly, Anthony>

FW set-up, cichlids I'm setting up a 65 gal fresh water tank with overflows and a oceanic 75 trickle filter, I have a 30 gal tank that I would like to transfer over without killing anybody and still have some sort of biological filter setup from the old tank if possible.    also what type of gravel or sand do I need to put live plants in the tank.       also I need to find a white decorative rock for the tank that wont screw up the ph. <Not to worry re re-establishing biological cycling if you're moving the water, gravel, filter media from the old system to new. Re live plant substrates please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm and the linked FAQs (at top, in blue) beyond> I have 6 tiger barbs,6 rasboros,2 German rams,2 yellow cichlids,2 albino cichlids,1 blue zebra cichlid,1 pleco,1 albino catfish, <The Blue Zebra and albino cichlids and possibly whatever yellow cichlids are may have to go in a separate system... they're far more aggressive than your other fishes> also i didn't know that cichlids are a brackish water fish i added aquarium salt to tank is this going to give the other fish a hard tank surviving in that type of water? <Not many cichlids tolerate salt in their water. I hope you didn't add much. Depending on the make-up of your source (tap) water, you may not want to add much of anything. Definitely the Rams and albino catfish do not appreciate it. Bob Fenner>

Silica Sand and Live Plants Reading your article on the website was informative but I can not find any references on the Internet about the compatibility of Silica Sand and live plants. I can not stand the "burping clam and plastic plant look" and wish to go with the live plants. What species would be good for this type of "soil." Thanks, Gary & Lorrie MacDonald <Hey Gary & Lorrie.  The biggest problem with sand would be that it compresses very.  Sand beds can become anaerobic and are not always good for roots.  Most stem plants should do well in sand.  Everyone has their own opinions on substrate.  The best idea would be to do some research and decide what will work best for you.  The links below should help. http://www.aquabotanic.com/ http://www.thekrib.com/ http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm Best Regards, Gage>

sand and water (for planted aquarium use) Dear WetWebMedia Crew, As a change of pace from saltwater, I plan on setting up a freshwater tank with angelfish, Corydoras type catfish, and maybe some hardy tetras. I would like to use sand as a substrate for the tank, in particular the Tahitian Moon Sand (black) by Carib-sea. An ad in a cataloged states the sand will not affect the pH of the water. I don't plan on keeping live plants in the tank so was wondering if a substrate depth of 1/2" to 1" would be enough to anchor artificial plants while not creating dead zones at the same time? <Should be okay> The tank will be at my place of work which is connected to city water. I have obtained a water quality report from the town. Polyphosphate is added to the water supply by the town due to excess calcium (50 mg/l of the total hardness). Is this something I should be concerned about? <Mmm, not too much... there is sufficient uptake and use in a planted, going system... you may run into initial algae problems... I would use some fast-growing floating plants (Ceratopteris, Elodea...) in the system early on> The total hardness is 156 mg/l, and pH is 7.2. I suspect these values are rather high for South American fishes, but figure the majority of fish coming from fish farms can tolerate a wider range of conditions. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Jason <Our water in San Diego is appreciably worse for the values you cite... and I use it directly in my planted systems... including ones with organisms that favor soft, acidic water of tropical temperature. Bob Fenner>

Fluorite Hello Everyone, <Hello> I am setting up my new 25 gallon Eclipse FW tank. I mixed a bag of fluorite with another bag of regular aquarium rocks. The fluorite bag says to rinse off the rocks which I did. However, when I rinsed the rock, I got the impression that I was washing away the nutrients of the rock because the rinse off was very dark brown. Much more so than other rocks I have washed. So I didn't keep washing until the water was clear. <Mmm, I have this product in a couple of systems here... and do/did rinse it till clear. No worries... there is plenty of useful material "inside" and that "is" the fluorite itself> I added the rocks to my tank and was as careful as I could be when adding the water. The water became very dirty. The bag said that this could happen and would take 2 to 12 hours to settle. <Yes... gravel vacuum during water changes> Well, this morning the tank didn't look much different. There was a light coating of "dust" on the top of the rocks which would just stir up if you touched it. I did not run the filter last night. Should I have? Should I run it now?  <I do and would run your filter... and maybe a powerhead or two to stir up, remove the dust via your filtration... Again, I suggest gravel vacuuming to remove the vast majority of the material> Should I just let it settle some more? Or should I just throw it all out and start over again? What did I miss? <No need to toss and start anew... you could have rinsed the gravel in small (a few pound) batches ahead of using... no worries. "This too shall clear". Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/substraags.htm and the links listed. Bob Fenner> Any help would be greatly appreciated. Mark.

New Tank Cycle Thanks for the response about the Fluorite. I switched the filter on at lunch and it looks much better already. I will also suction the dust off the bottom. <Sounds good> I'm setting this tank up for my children's two goldfish, a Red & White Oranda and a Fantail. They are currently in a two gallon tank with an under gravel filter system and are growing fast. <They'll really appreciate the change... like heaven> I posted this question in the chat area but didn't receive much of a response. I have also read your sites cycling areas but I'm still a little scared about moving the fish as they are doing quite well. <Move the bulk of the water from their two gallon system with them... and wait another week or more to do so> Should/can I use the rocks, a rock, a plant or little plastic decorations from the 2 gallon tank, and put them in the new tank to speed up cycling? I've read it takes about 4 weeks to cycle and that's OK with me. <Ah, yes... exactly> Boy, ignorance is bliss (for me at least, but not the fish).  <Seems like it used to be...> I think back to when my daughter came home with her fish from pre school and we bought a tank and another fish for my son at the fish store. I just added the fish and some rocks and thought feeding was all we would need to do. After buying a book about gold fish a few weeks later I found out how much more there was. I bought water test kits, started doing weekly water changes and now have bought a new tank after Steve Pro confirmed by suspicions that I need to upgrade. <Yes, good move> Now I'm just scared to move them for fear I'll do them more harm than good. <A giant step in the right direction. Skip the trepidation> My family's life has sure changed just by my daughter bring home that $2 Goldfish. <A "part of growing up"... for all.> Any help would be greatly appreciated here. Mark. <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

substrate heating  Hello Robert, The argument for substrate heating in FW planted tanks is that the slow H2O column exchange within (as the bottom is typically 1-2degrees warmer than the column itself) will help the gravel "sweet" for a longer time than without it. There are other arguments for it as well (though they focus on the needs of the plants themselves). <Yes> I know that some people will try to heat the whole tank with the cables, though I have had good luck using them for warming the substrate only. I am convinced that my 5 inch "deep sand bed" is providing denitrifying benefits in my planted discus tank, though I have no #'s to substantiate this (what do you think?). <I think you are probably correct... I would do the same.> Since the the substrate depths between a typical planted tank/reef tank are roughly similiar, in your opinion why don't we see cables used?  <Mostly the expense involved... along with basic ignorance... folks don't know... it took me decades of "campaigning" to help raise skimmer, cyanide... issues. The "founder effect" in the hobby is greatly slowed by its huge "turnover" rate... most folks don't last a year as aquarists> Maybe we could use DSB's in our display tanks this way, not having to worry about anaerobic conditions so much? Have cables been used in the past? <Yes and yes. Not that uncommon in Western Europe for instance> Thank You, Erik Nelson P.S. BTW, for the occasional hydrogen sulfide pockets that do appear (mostly around a dead rhizome), I think my pair of Golden Dojo Loaches actually like the smell! They remind me of a couple of naughty dogs in the garbage can! <Again, agreed! You should memorialize your keen observations, have them published at least as feature articles in the hobby magazines. Do consider this. Bob Fenner>

substrate cables again (note: add link) Hi Bob, Sorry---I forgot one thing in my last E-mail to you. In the substrate section of the plants section of your site, under "Further Reading" could you please list a ref. to "www.thekrib.com"? This is THE website for planted aquaria!!! <Ahh, will do so on the moving about of your message here. Do have this site listed on our "Links Pages"... a real winner. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Planted Tank Questions Hi Bob, it's me Dave again. I have found Fluorite gravel at my LFS, it's about $26 per bag, no biggie. I am curious if that is all I need for my substrate? Do I need to mix it with Laterite or Vermiculite, or any other material? How deep of a layer would you lay for a 58g tank, measuring 36x18 inches? <I would just use the fluorite product... and mix it in with gravel on the bottom likely... an inch or so, with another inch or two of gravel on top of this... We'll talk about other additives at a later date.> I am going to use the 2x96 CSL hood from FFE and just place it on top of my glass, does that sound ok? <Yes, unless you want to leave the glass out... I would> If I try the CO2 addition, which I am leary of d/t inexperience, would it be best to try the soda bottle/yeast setup or go for the gusto?  <Gusto if it's in your budget... otherwise CO2 from yeast, sugar...> I am going to be using the Eheim filter 2026 with the surface extractor (I hope that is quiet like the Eheim pump).  <Yes> If I were to go with a CO2 tank setup, would I be able to bleed the CO2 into the Eheim pump or would I have to find a different way? <Better to use a dedicated infusor here... with a bubble counter... keep investigating...> Looking forward to getting the 58 planted tank going, as are about 19 fish. They are tired of the 29 and would like something bigger. Hopefully they will all do ok in the planted tank. How many plants would you plant to start the 58g off with?  <A bunch... make a planting plan and place most all at the same time...> Any particular plants that would be recommended?  <My notes on this... posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site... under the "Planted Tank" index> I know with the Reef Tank, everything must be very slowly added. Thanks for your thoughts Bob, I appreciate them mucho. Dave <Chat with you soon. Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater Planted Tank Questions Howdy Bob, If I use the Fluorite, which I definitely will, I should first mix it with gravel? I thought the Fluorite was my gravel bed. What kind of gravel should I purchase to mix in with the Fluorite and cover over with? <Answered on the WWM site...> I will do some more research on the CO2 setups, it seems that there are innumerable ways to go about this. I figured that a bubble counter would probably be needed, will this just go over the rim of my tank, or would it attach to the intake of the Eheim filter? <On the side> The Custom Sealife Fixtures are pretty water resistant from what I've heard, do you think they would be ok directly over the water with no glass shield. <Yes> I don't want to purchase or build a hood for this tank. I am having a hood built for my 120g reef tank, it is expensive when you are not handy in the least. The soda bottle setup does sound like it would be more work and money in the long run.  <Yes... only feasible/reasonable for small systems... like 29 gallons on down> I have a calcium reactor and CO2 kit for the 120g when I get it going. Is there a certain amount of time that I should wait, to install the Ca++ reactor on my reef tank?  <No...> Full of questions. Well off to do some homework in the field of nursing and then I'll get to the Krib and your website. Thanks for clearing up the muddle. Dave Bayne <Go to these sites ASAPractical. Bob Fenner>


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