Substrate Part 2
The Most Overlooked Part of Your Aquarium!
I would like to really hammer home the importance of substrate in your planted aquarium, or any aquarium.
Just as in nature, whether you are in the forest, or you are at the bottom of the stream or lake, there is something going on that is important to the entire ecosystem underneath the surface.
In our aquarium that is a substrate.
As I mentioned in the first blog post of the series, The substrate is where your beneficial bacteria lives whether you were going to grow plants or not, it is important to your fish. But now I want to take this a step further and talk exclusively about the plants in your aquarium and then tie this into the fish at the end.
It should come as no surprise that I am a fan of an aquarium that uses soil in the substrate.
I want to be very clear, if you want large robust plant growth with a large amount of species of plants, you are going to need to figure out how to successfully feed your plants where they eat.
Plants absorb 4 to 400 times more nutrients through the roots than through their stems and leaves. I’m not saying that you can’t grow the heck out of certain plants without substrate I am simply stating that you will be extremely limited without good substrate in your aquarium.
And while he didn’t use a dirt aquarium, I feel it is important to point out that the master Takashi Amano used good substrate in all of his aquascapes. He also championed his own "ADA Aquasoil."
Yes there are other store-bought types of substrates that might be slightly better than plain gravel.
But in my experience in over a decade and trying almost all of them I can tell you- with videos to prove it- that the best way to get pure rapid plant growth with the most species is with dirt as the substrate.
But forget my opinion, what if you’re a plant?
What is the one thing that you cannot do easily? You can not move, can not go and fetch food like animals. You are stuck in one place, you have to take advantage of all of the resources that are available in that one location.
You do not have the option of mobility. Now with that said, in scientist smarter than me at SeaChem testing it, and me doing "Dustin test" The answer is clear. If you were going to be stuck in one place and can only eat out of one part of your body, wouldn’t you want all the food you could possibly have near the main place that you eat the food out of?
Plants absorb nutrients through the roots. It makes sense physiologically too, the environment is more stable on the ground, while it changes it doesn’t change as rapidly generally speaking. It’s more consistent and those would probably be more consistent place to consume nutrients from.
Let’s go back to our goal, what do we want? We want to ramp the plant growth, we want a large plant, we want many large plants, or maybe we want a carpet. All of these ones can be traced back to a simple rule that I have found to have great plant growth. It goes like this...
As a general rule I like to try to make the roots of my plants as large as everything above the dirt, the stems and leaves and what have you. The bigger the roots the bigger the plant.
Guess what happens when you have big plants, two things. One it looks cool, two it works for you.
Here is the simple break down.
Plants eat at their roots.
The more food available, the more the plant will grow.
The more the plant will grow, the more NITRATES the Plants will absorb.
The more Nitrates you plants will absorb, the larger the fishload you can have.