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[APD] Flourite vs. Soil

Scott H. wrote, in response to a post by Steve Pushak:
"If you think dirt and Flourite are the same thing, either
you ain't seen Flourite or you ain't seen dirt."

Scott, is it my imagination, or do you use every available opportunity to
take a shot at Steve's postings on the APD? Since I've been back on the
list, it feels to me that you have an axe to grind that might be addressed
better in private.

I doubt that Steve was directly comparing a soil based substrate with an all
Flourite one. I don't know how much experience he has with using Flourite,
but I am aware of his experience with soil as an additive to an aquarium
substrate. I am also very experienced with the use of soils as an aquarium
substrate additive, with a great deal of initial help obtained from Steve.

I agree that visually are not equivalent - Flourite is one of the most
attractive "all-in-one" substrate materials ever introduced (I've not had
the opportunity to try Amano's substrates) and a soil based substrate can
get messy when used with a lot of fast growing plants that need frequent
thinning. The same sentiments apply in spades to Onyx (Onyx is NOT messy),
if you don't mind the finer grain and the charcoal grey color of the

Both Flourite and Onyx make excellent substrates for aquariums, either alone
or mixed with up to 50% plain gravel (but please use a plain gravel which
matches in grain size and color). 

But both Seachem substrates are usually beyond the financial reach of a lot
of hobbyists (I live in the city where Big Al's started, and it is NEVER
sold as cheaply here in Canada as it is to the American customers on their
website), something I've taken Al to task over several times (there really
is a "Big Al", and he is a really nice guy). Keep in mind that he is also a
very savvy businessman and the American market is MUCH larger that the
Canadian market. As far as mail order is concerned, he's the "new guy" on
the block for aquarium supply mail order business in the US and if he has to
lower his profit margin on certain categories of goods to build up a
customer base, he'll do it. Like I said, he's savvy.

Steve has extensive information on the selection and use of soil for
aquarium use on his website. He also authored an article in The Aquatic
Gardener (Vol 10 No. 2 Mar. - Aug. 1997) "Substrates for Aquarium Plants"
(beginning on page 55).

In late 1998 or early 1999, I was contacted by Jamie S. Johnson, who was at
the time an APD contributor. Jamie is a trace metals chemist and has/had
access to the equipment needed to determine the chemical composition of all
sorts of rock/soil. He was curious to help sort out the differences in as
many of the available gravels and additives that were on the market and
widely available. I thought his idea was excellent and offered to supply him
with samples of a number of commercial produces (Duplarit G, Terralit, Aqua
Terra, Cedar Heights Red Art Clay and 2 types of local soil - Ontario
pre-glacial subsoil and Ontario post-glacial topsoil). He obtained samples
of other materials from other APD'ers. In all, 25 different
substrates/additives were subjected to a wide range of tests, all carefully
conduced under lab conditions by a qualified technician. (this would have
cost a fortune is he didn't work where he did).

The results of Jamie's tests were published in Dave Gomberg's fine journal,
Planted Aquaria, Summer 2000, page 17. The text of his article contains much
information about the selection and use of the various materials. All in
all, as valuable a contribution to the literature on aquariums as the
original work done by Sears-Conlin, who first described the use of PMDD back
in March, 1996.

I have personal knowledge of the use of both Ontario sub-soil and topsoil,
exactly the same material as analyzed in the article. Over the years, I have
also used Duplarit G, Terralit, Hartz Mountain pH5 Kitty Litter, Profile and
AquaTerra. All have their good points and bad points - there are many roads
on the way to Rome and which is best for a particular tourist depends on
many factors. But they all share the same goal - in our case, growing rich,
lush aquatic plants. Some are better than others, some are simpler, others
are cheaper, and some aquarists get so caught up that they try to use a
combination approach, containing everything but the kitchen sink. From
personal experience, I can attest that the latter is usually a mistake and a
disaster waiting to happen unless you are really careful. The KISS Principle
is usually the best way to success.

When used in accordance with the maker's directions, each of the commercial
products can grow plants. The "home grown" materials can also work, when
used correctly.

My personal favorite is currently Seachem Onyx - my only gripe is the color
and grain size. But as it is a natural material, the color is inherent in
the material and you eventually discover that the grain size allows for
excellent root development.

We all have our own approach to this hobby, and many different approaches
can work. There is no need to bring a personal grudge into the conversation.

James Purchase

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