How to choose a nutrient substrate for the aquarium?
The choice of substrate in the aquarium is very important, because it depends on which aquarium plants will be selected and which they will have suitable conditions for development. The nutrient substrate also affects the aesthetics of the entire aquarium, and its most important functions are to support the plants and allow them to be properly grow and provide enough nutrients for optimal development. So which substrate to choose for the aquarium without harming the fish?
Simply put, we can distinguish three main types of substrates, namely: one soil, substrate plus soil and finished nutrient substrates from the store.
It is recommended that the soil for the aquarium be in the range of 2-6 mm, because then this contributes to the development of the root system. However, if you do not plan to plant plants with extensive roots, the substrate may consist of larger pebbles. Too fine sand, in turn, tends to form a very hard layer that blocks root growth, and some say that anaerobic zones form in it, resulting in decay processes. In the case of gravel, not only granulation is important, but also which substrate we choose. For example, basalt can harden like marble, while quartz is neutral to reaction.
For obvious reasons, gravel land is not the best choice for creating a densely planted aquarium. At the very least, it is recommended to enrich it with fertilizer balls or another form of fertilizer for the earth, such as chopsticks or tablets. This is useful to do before starting the aquarium, place fertilizers at equal distances, and then cover with gravel on top or, when we have a small number of plants rooted at the bottom, apply them immediately after planting, adapting the distribution to the needs of individual species.
Gravel substrates, also known as bases, provide excellent conditions for root growth because they contain properly balanced micro and macro elements. By the way, they make it possible to leave free to use the upper layer of the substrate, because they can be covered with a layer of any gravel to prevent too fast dissolution of nutrients in water. The substrate layer should be about 2-3 centimeters, then apply gravel another 3-5 cm. Thanks to this, all the minerals will go exactly where they should be, that is, to the roots.
A gravel substrate is more expensive than using just one soil, but the effect we can achieve with it is much better. If you want a cheaper option, you can try to prepare the substrate yourself from garden soil.
Many online sources say the garden soil base is suitable for so-called low-flow aquariums, that is, with the least possible intervention of an aquarist and a little light, but I tend to believe (supported by my own experience) that you can successfully use the soil as a substrate, however, certain rules must be followed in every aquarium.
Along with the growing interest in natural aquariums, there was a great demand for finished substrates for the simple reason that a huge number of aquarists were delighted with the effects that can be achieved with their help. Indeed, this solution has almost the same advantages, with the possible exception of the price, since this option is undoubtedly the most expensive of those presented. However, I do not recommend them to beginner aquarists, since they require special care for the aquarium, at least in the first period after launch.
Finished substrates, except that they have appropriate granulation and secrete nutrients, stabilize the pH of the water in the aquarium and reduce its hardness. This is an advantage that cannot be overestimated when we have hard water in the aquarium and we do not have a reverse osmosis filter. Their effectiveness depends on many factors, but on average they last several months, while there are aquarists who have successfully used the same medium for 2-3 years and observed a decrease in efficiency only at the end. Of course, a lot depends on the manufacturer, so before buying an expensive substrate, I recommend reading labels and descriptions in order to avoid disappointment and choose the one that meets our expectations.