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#1 JohnnyMolly

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 11:38 AM

Hi All -

I was wondering in anyone has any experience or thoughts on using any of the popular planted aquarium substrates in Molly tanks - especially on massive pH or kH swings. Fortunately, my tap water is extremely hard and alkaline (easy 8+ and 100+ any time of day), so I've been able to inject C02 into one of my tanks without tampering with water chemistry; but would love to try for that extra inch of plant growth. Any thoughts on whether a half pound (max) of Stratum, Controsoil or the likes would have a dramatic effect in a 50 gallon tank?

Thanks,
JohnnyMolly

#2 Whiskeysunday

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 09:28 PM

Hi JohnnyMolly,

I am no expert but I am in the middle of experiencing it. I too have very similar water chemistry. I have tried ADA's Amazonia substrate in two of my planted tanks: 55g and 3g. The 3 gallon tank is all Amazonia substrate which I believe is similar to Stratum. After adding about an inch and a half layer of Amazonia substrate my PH went down from 8 to about 6.5 and is holding there. Now on my 55 which is also a Molly tank I put roughly a half pound of the same substrate in a couple of spots. So far the water chemistry is holding about the same with the alkalinity going down slightly but nothing too dramatic as it did in the 3gallon. So in my ongoing experience the substrate your looking into like Stratum will lower PH and hardness but with a small amount in a 50 gallon not so much. What is your current substrate?

-WS

#3 JohnnyMolly

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 01:25 PM

Thanks for the reply, WS.

For substrate, I have a bottom layer of laterite and roughly 2 inches of karst sand, topped with a half inch of gravel. Along the lines of your 55g; I have 2 isolated 6"x6" planted regions in this tank with the remaining bottom area just gravel. Other than the visual cue that the sand is pretty rich in iron, I genuinely have no idea what the mineral content is; but it's from 1 of 2 ancient lakes nearby - both spring fed and sand bottom - so it's easy to come by.

I was guessing (...hoping) for results similar to yours...especially with the super hard water. At 50-ish gallons, that quantity of substrate shouldn't cause any wholesale deviations; and presumably you haven't experienced enough of a swing in the 55 where you've had to intervene, chemically. How often do you change water?

JohnnyMolly

#4 Whiskeysunday

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 06:25 PM

Correct I have not had to intervene chemically. I do a water change of 30-40% a week. I used to do every two weeks but the plants and fish have responded much better with once a week water changes. You should have a good response from your plants if you make the change. You may experience a little melt or wither in some of the plants depending on the type, because the plant is getting used to all the great new nutrients but will just as quickly spring new. Make sure not to mix the new dirt-like substrate with the gravel or sand for that matter, I know Stratum is very delicate and can crumble easily. Are you going to add with water in the tank?

-WS

#5 JohnnyMolly

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 05:09 PM

WS -

Excellent! 30-40% water weekly suits me perfectly. I'm a heavy feeder, so I'm already on a 5-day water change schedule.

I really appreciate your comments too on how Stratum crumbles. I'd heard Stratum was prone to do that. I live in the Balkans; and all the high-end substrates here are imported and painfully expensive. A 4.4 lb bag of Stratum that would cost $8 all day Petsmart or Petco, costs almost $20 here. Way too much for a substrate that's ready to fall apart a minute after it's wet - so (armed with your input), I went out this morning and bought a bag of Oliver Knott NatureSoil. It's the European version of Marfied / ControSoil; and it's kind of interesting to see how many times a single product can get rebranded from one market to the next. The NatureSoil cost almost 40% more than the Stratum - at only 3 lbs vs. 4.4 lbs - but worth it for a product that wasn't going to break up the first time on of my Velifera went grazing. For plant growth, durability, water stability, ammonia leakage, etc., my understanding is NatureSoil is probably the next best thing to Amazonia, but we'll see. It's really too bad that I can't get Amazonia here.

The claim is the NatureSoil will drop and hold the pH steady around 6.5 in a fully planted tank, but your experience pretty much confirms I can work with a limited qty and not worry too much. Worst case: if I have to give up ground for hardness, I can always cut back on the C02 and let the substrate (...and the water) find their own happy medium.

This is definitely a project I'll be draining about 80% of the tank for and moving the occupants temporarily to my grow-out tank. Hopefully I can get everyone (happily) back to where they're supposed to be in a couple days.

JohnnyMo

#6 Whiskeysunday

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 06:57 PM

JohnnyMo-

I wish you luck and and enjoyment on your new adventure into soil based substrate for your tank! Again you shouldn't have to worry about your PH levels and such with the limited amount that you are planning on using. Stratum is known to crumble but so is Amazonia and I believe and substrate like them. Just be gentle with it and take your time. I actually put mine in while I had 50% water in the tank and I filled a cup with substrate, covered the top of the cup with my hand and dipped it into the water and let the air escape via bubbles and when the air was gone I slowly poured it into the spot that I had dedicated that was separated with plastic barriers (flat cut milk jug pieces) to hold back other substrate to keep it from mixing. Then when in place and plants are planted I slowly removed the barriers. But you are doing it with most of the water out so you should be fine. Your mollies shouldn't be able to crush the substrate either. My Latipinna occasionally pick at it but it never crumbles. Good luck and have fun with it.

-WhiskeySunday

#7 Whiskeysunday

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Posted 21 September 2013 - 08:46 PM

Hey JohnnyMolly

I am curious what plants you have with your mollies and do you keep them in brackish water?

#8 JohnnyMolly

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 11:59 AM

WS -

Close to plastic barriers; my wife (...who calls me a pack rat) has hundreds of those flimsy little plastic planters that are perfect for putting my plants in and positioning in the gravel. I leave them in the planter, though; and blend gravel around the edges and on top to keep things looking even. Admittedly, the roots can only travel so far outward - I have had runners find their way through the drainage holes at the bottom of planters - but the trade-off is being able to pull the planters out and instantly re-scape without disturbing good root systems.

I don't use brackish water: except for de-chlorinator and occasional trace elements, I use water straight from the tap. I was conflicted at first about fresh vs. brackish, but ultimately concluded Dr. Norton was correct about not needing salt provided all the other water conditions were being met. Having water that you can almost taste the hardness certainly helps, but things have worked out perfectly. I have 3 adult / grow-out tanks and 5 breeder tanks and none have ever been salted; but I'm maniacal about water changes too...all the more because I feed heavily.

None of my tanks are heavily planted, but I do keep blyxa, potamogeton, dwarf and giant hairgrass, and plenty of hornwort available for fry. I've tried to find a balance between having plenty of space to swim (..or hide) with enough vegetation to make grazing more of an adventure. With the new substrate, I'm looking forward to getting results from the dwarf hairgrass and taking an honest crack at the one plant I've had awful luck with: Balanese crypts.

JohnnyMo




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