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[APD] Re: Dirt vs porous clay
Most things work, even plain old sand.
What works best depends on the method and how much you wish to reply on the substrate for nutient supply.
Replanting etc is also a concern.
Small amounts of peat or dirt etc work well with ANY method of substrate.
Most tend to add more with lower light/ no CO2 methods with less additions to the water column/less frequent prunings/replantings.
I suppose you could argue cables work and no cables/plain old diffusion work, or RFUG's work also.
Most CO2 users seem to have good luck and an easy time with Flourite.
I think it does improve the coloration and health of a number of plants vs plain sand/soil with a fully loaded water column. This is primarly due to the porosity and cycling vs what's actually in the substrate.
But those not willing to pluck the $, there's good old sand/dirt/mulm(strangely absent from most discussions in the past, yet fishless cycling is wildly popular, go figure) and lateritic/iron additions. There is also MPV Turface which ain't much more costly than plain old sand. So there are choices even if you are poor. But if you live where you cannot get that, kitty litter etc will also work. You make do with what you got to work with.
I will say this about dirt, soak 2 weeks first then add it if you plan on more than a 1/4-1/2" layer.
This will leech out and convert the NH4 to NO3.
Mess and NH4 are your enemies with dirt.
Mud pie.......mummmmmm tasty.
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