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Old 02-04-2020, 12:26 PM
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Default False bottom vs Hydro

Hey guys! Notice that alot of you are using false bottoms over the Hydro balls. Is there a reason everyone seems to be going this route? I would think hydro would provide more beneficial bacteria and more controlled environment. This is a newbie talking so would like to hear everyone's thoughts.
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Old 02-04-2020, 12:47 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Either one will work and you are right about surface area. You don't really need more surface area for bacteria growth because there are plenty of other places for bacteria to grow. It also isn't aqueous so you don't have to worry about fouling the same material that the frogs breathe as you would under water. I used to use hydro balls and they worked fine, but I started using egg crate because of weight, ease, and I started to silicone the layer off completely so that substrate can't get down into my drainage layer. This makes my builds much more stable over the long run. You can silicone your fiberglass separating layer with hydroballs, but they are a lot more shifty so there is a lot more pressure on that silicone. That's just me, though. I am sure everybody has their own reasons for doing what they do.

Mark
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Old 02-04-2020, 04:42 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I second Mark's points above. Another thing to have in mind is how you plan on emptying the false bottom. If you don't have a drilled drain and you want a water reservoir below the substrate a false bottom will have a much larger volume to store water. Hydro balls only have about 30-40% porosity compared to 100% in a false bottom. So a false bottom is much more efficient that way and gives you more depth for substrate which will help with drainage overall.
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Old 02-04-2020, 05:05 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Yeah, hydroballs are heavy. It's not a big deal if you're just doing a 10 gallon or a 20 gallon vertical or something but it really starts to add up on larger tanks. My favorite method so far has been using some kind of rigid filter material so that you still get the simplicity of just putting something solid in the bottom of the tank but you also get all the weight savings.
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Old 02-04-2020, 05:16 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

This is what I use. Drainage layer for green roofs. Comes ready with geotextile on top. But I use a bottom drain so I don't need any storage of excess water. Only issue is sourcing it in smaller quantities but so far I have been able to get som for free from suppliers via my job.

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Old 02-04-2020, 07:21 PM
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Thanks! Makes sense sounds like false bottom material is favored even though both work. I don't really see any true benefit to the hydroballs
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Old 02-04-2020, 08:55 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I don't really agree with the conclusion here. If clay balls are only 30-40% porous, that means they will take up space that water would take, and water is MUCH heavier than clay balls. A tank with an empty false bottom full of water is so much heavier than a tank with clay balls and water, simply because there is less water.

Last edited by stevenacres; 02-04-2020 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 02-04-2020, 09:36 PM
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When I drain my false bottom, the tank is much much lighter than the tank with hydroballs.
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Old 02-04-2020, 09:59 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I'm probably a weirdo here, because I build a false bottom, then add a layer of hydro balls on top of a sheet of window screen, then another sheet of window screen topped with charcoal, then my ABG on top of that. I usually try to put another layer of window screen between the charcoal and ABG, but sometimes I forget due to being so excited to get planting. I like to give the springtails lots of surface area, and I feel like the hydro balls give me a little extra insurance in case my water level gets too high without my noticing. It allows for a bit of an air gap before the water can directly touch my substrate (though there will still be some wicking).
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Old 02-04-2020, 09:59 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

On my display tanks I use a false bottom, but it only reaches to about an inch away from the front pane of glass. I put pea gravel in that pocket because I think it looks better.

I donít put any soil on the pea gravel area- only leaf litter. That way thereís no muddy mess.

Itís also a (somewhat) convenient way to drain the entire false bottom if I want. Just finger the gravel aside for a siphon hose.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:25 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I understand the weight saving and volume taken up with solid material meaning less water holding capacity concerns but :

- I don't understand the logic behind the weight saving argument as it's hardly like you're moving tanks with any regularity and if you build a competent enough stand with cross bracing or get a heavy duty racking system the extra weight becomes negligible and a moot point

- Water holding capacity that's offset by physical media such as hydroballs - with a bulkhead drilled enusring automatic draining means the water is always at a minimal below the substrate anyway. Bulkheads are easy and simple to do and I view them as pre-requisite rather than a luxury on all my builds
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:26 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

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Originally Posted by Woodswalker View Post
I'm probably a weirdo here, because I build a false bottom, then add a layer of hydro balls on top of a sheet of window screen, then another sheet of window screen topped with charcoal, then my ABG on top of that..
That's exactly how I do it, although the charcoal (in my case bio char- same diff) is mixed in with the ABG. Or, recently, Ive been doing some vivs with Turface.
But basically: Eggcrate spacer to create drainage layer.- fiberglass screen Hydroballs on top with another screen and finally: "soil".
The water level floats somewhere in the hydro ball layer. The drainage layer allows for active diffusion of nutrients (and toxins, in some cases, I suppose)- and of course is the place to drain it all from if necessary. If the tank doesn't have an over-flow, you can stick a section of straight rigid airline tubing down to the bottom and with attached flexible airline tubing make a siphon and drain it. The bottom reservoir of water makes draining easier, IMO.
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Old 02-04-2020, 10:59 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

That's interesting. I might have to try the Weirdo Way(TM). If it's good enough for Woodswalker and Ravage, it might just be worth trying :-)

Mark
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:49 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Haha! Are you building a new tank anytime soon?

I built a tank with turface, and I'm not sure if I like it or not. Some of my plants loved it, and others crashed and burned- some of the pricier ones, too, unfortunately. That's why I was hoping to compile a list of plants (on an older thread) that do and do not work in turface, because it doesn't really work the same way as ABG.
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Old 02-04-2020, 11:52 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

While the clay will be mineral rich, it'll most likely be nutrient poor.

May explain your mixed success rate.
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Old 02-05-2020, 12:09 AM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I prefer Matala for its very light weight, and its lovely ease of cutting & shaping.

I've used LECA ("hydro balls") plenty in drainage layers, and am still working through a 40-L bag I got on sale from a local hydroponics shop. But mostly now I just use the LECA in DIY substrate mixes.

One good thing about the LECA, you can wash and re-use it "forever". Even bake it in the oven. You can bleach Matala, but I wouldn't bake it! Ha ha ha.

Anyway - good luck OP!
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Old 02-05-2020, 12:14 AM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I've always used the expanded clay balls, and in some tanks I've found the springtails prefer to build their colonies in that layer (but not all).

My original reason for using the clay balls was surface area for microbe growth, though i have no proof whatsoever of the benefits.

I now suspect that the clay balls have an added benefit for the way i design my tanks. Each tank i build has a small, shallow water area, and i have a very small pump that circulates the water in the drainage layer. The clay balls provide a filtration and diffusion effect that ensures the entire false bottom is circulated and cleaned. This results in my water areas being quite clear.

I realize this is not applicable to most folks, but if you want to provide low maintenance water access to you frogs, it may be worth considering.
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Old 02-05-2020, 10:00 AM
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One thing to keep in mind when adding multiple layers is that you lower the overall drainage capacity of the substrate if the multiple layers means a thinner top layer of the final substrate. Water will "hang" at the bottom of each transition. Best drainage is created with a homogenous and as thick layer of substrate as possible. It's the water pressure in the substrate that drains the pores, not the layer beneath the substrate whatever that is. Thicker layer means higher water pressure.
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Old 02-05-2020, 01:13 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodswalker View Post
Haha! Are you building a new tank anytime soon?

I built a tank with turface, and I'm not sure if I like it or not. Some of my plants loved it, and others crashed and burned- some of the pricier ones, too, unfortunately. That's why I was hoping to compile a list of plants (on an older thread) that do and do not work in turface, because it doesn't really work the same way as ABG.
I am in the middle of a couple of grow-out builds now, but they are nothing fancy :-) I think Turface works really well for me because I tend to focus on the hardscape epiphytic elements in my build and I don't care nearly as much about what grows on the ground. I tend to shade out the floor in my tanks and not much grows down there, anyway. I agree with you that Turface does great with some things and less great with others. Depending on how you build your tanks, that may or may not matter to you. I like it because it is nearly permanent, easy to work with, and that layer is just a platform for leaf litter in my tanks anyway. I have heard of people using it as an ingredient in their ABG. Maybe that's the sweet spot. I don't know.

Mark
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Old 02-06-2020, 10:56 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I fill the tank with hydroballs to the height of a tiny water pump, then a layer of freshwater aquarium gravel, then a layer of leaf litter. The pump is used to make a small waterfall, and it runs for years before clogging and slowing to a drip.
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Old 02-09-2020, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macg View Post
I've always used the expanded clay balls, and in some tanks I've found the springtails prefer to build their colonies in that layer (but not all).

My original reason for using the clay balls was surface area for microbe growth, though i have no proof whatsoever of the benefits.

I now suspect that the clay balls have an added benefit for the way i design my tanks. Each tank i build has a small, shallow water area, and i have a very small pump that circulates the water in the drainage layer. The clay balls provide a filtration and diffusion effect that ensures the entire false bottom is circulated and cleaned. This results in my water areas being quite clear.

I realize this is not applicable to most folks, but if you want to provide low maintenance water access to you frogs, it may be worth considering.
This is quite an interesting design. Do you have any examples or threads to refer to? I’d like to examine this a bit, to encourage in tank breeding. I use the clay ball separation as well, but how have you done the land-mass to water separation while keeping shared drainage? W/o wicking issues into the substrate.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:30 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I use both but I remember using Pearl light way back
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Old 02-09-2020, 11:37 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Quote:
Originally Posted by MSP View Post
This is quite an interesting design. Do you have any examples or threads to refer to? Iíd like to examine this a bit, to encourage in tank breeding. I use the clay ball separation as well, but how have you done the land-mass to water separation while keeping shared drainage? W/o wicking issues into the substrate.
Excellent question, and one that I'm not 100% confident I have satisfactorily alleviated, but I think I've got the solution.

I now create a barrier for the clay balls with the following:
- Use fishing line to sew some window screen into a tube. This tube should be long enough to act as a dam around your water area. The goal is for the tube diameter to be about the height of the leca drainage layer. Don't work too hard on sewing with the fishing line. It'll work.
- Sew one end of the tube shut with fishing line.
- Fill the tube with leca. Add/remove leca until you can curve your dam into position, holding back the leca drainage layer.
- If you prefer or need to, you can create as many of these dams in decreasing size (tube diameter) to create a softer slope to the pool.
- Lay the substrate barrier down as normal.
- add substrate, but use cork pieces to hold back the substrate from cascading down into your pool.
- add more cork and your choice of other hardy materials (leca, stones, maybe orchid bark) until you've totally covered the substrate barrier leading to your pool, and have created your pool area.

Key notes:
- The dams allow you to have a steeper slope to your pool area, so you don't take up so much ground space just trying to change elevation from the top of your substrate to the pool. I have found this to be the key to keeping your substrate out of the water table.
- Shallower substrate and drainage layers probably will not require the dams, but they may be too shallow for your pump design (careful!).
- If you are connecting your pump intake to a drainage bulkhead, you need to ensure that your water level can be above the top of the bulkhead without interacting with your substrate layer. You may need the water level higher than you expect to ensure you are sucking tons of air into the pump.
- Make sure the pump is pumping to and pulling from opposite corners of your tank.

I have not included images or descriptions of the pump system, so let me know if you would like those as well.

Below are pictures of the final result of the dam system (a single dam) below. It's a little tough to see, so ask questions if it isn't clear. I can annotate the images if necessary:





In this tank, the drainage and substrate layers are shallow enough that I didn't need a dam, though I think I'm being a bit risky here:


There is certainly a lot of art to this, but there is a lot of art in building vivs in general. As with all water features, I don't recommend this for your first build.
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Old 02-11-2020, 03:35 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I as well do something similar. i have hydro balls at the very bottom, then and eggcrate with a window screen zip tied to the egg crate. and then my lump charcoal and substrate mixed all together
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:35 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

At this link you will see some of a drainage system I set up. It is nice to look at because it gives you a chance to think about parameters of a drainage layer.

Split Face Poison Dart Frog Vivarium

This is sort of a no compromises drainage layer.

It tries to keep things light with the use of a false bottom.
However a false bottom and most synthetic materials are ugly, so it covers those up with a light stone around the outsides. Then you can often see different layers of substrate and possibly screen which is also ugly so it creates a wall to allow the drainage material to go all the way up to the same level as the substrate. Then you just fill the middle with substrate.

At the end of the day any system will work fine as I have used many, what you are really playing with is how good do you want it to look and how much work are you willing to put into making it look good. And balancing that all with weight.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:09 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Lots of ways to skin this cat :-) The good thing is that I think that almost any of the available options are functionally equivalent and work just fine. It's just a matter of what you think is easiest and fits in with how you want it to look. I will say, though, that I never pay attention to how the false bottom looks because I just paint over it on the outside of the glass with craft paint. I don't have to look at any false bottom I don't want to if I just paint over it so it can't be seen :-)

Mark
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:50 PM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

I keep experimenting with how I want it to present on the outside. I've used pebbles, expanded glass, and covering the glass with matte, black contact paper cut to irregular shapes along the soil line to add interest. I like the variety.
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Old 02-13-2020, 01:54 PM
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Ya, I decided to go with the hydroballs and plan on using contact paper to cover it. When I start my second tank (this hobby is highly addicting) I try the false bottom! 😂
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Old 02-18-2020, 10:31 PM
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From what I understand as long as there is a space and separation between the substrates, you’re fine. I’ve used hydro balls for a long time but now I’ve started going with egg crate to save on money and weight. I leave a one inch gap in the front to fill with gravel so you can’t see the egg crate from the front.
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Old 02-21-2020, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by macg View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by MSP View Post
This is quite an interesting design. Do you have any examples or threads to refer to? I’d like to examine this a bit, to encourage in tank breeding. I use the clay ball separation as well, but how have you done the land-mass to water separation while keeping shared drainage? W/o wicking issues into the substrate.
Excellent question, and one that I'm not 100% confident I have satisfactorily alleviated, but I think I've got the solution.

I now create a barrier for the clay balls with the following:
- Use fishing line to sew some window screen into a tube. This tube should be long enough to act as a dam around your water area. The goal is for the tube diameter to be about the height of the leca drainage layer. Don't work too hard on sewing with the fishing line. It'll work.
- Sew one end of the tube shut with fishing line.
- Fill the tube with leca. Add/remove leca until you can curve your dam into position, holding back the leca drainage layer.
- If you prefer or need to, you can create as many of these dams in decreasing size (tube diameter) to create a softer slope to the pool.
- Lay the substrate barrier down as normal.
- add substrate, but use cork pieces to hold back the substrate from cascading down into your pool.
- add more cork and your choice of other hardy materials (leca, stones, maybe orchid bark) until you've totally covered the substrate barrier leading to your pool, and have created your pool area.

Key notes:
- The dams allow you to have a steeper slope to your pool area, so you don't take up so much ground space just trying to change elevation from the top of your substrate to the pool. I have found this to be the key to keeping your substrate out of the water table.
- Shallower substrate and drainage layers probably will not require the dams, but they may be too shallow for your pump design (careful!).
- If you are connecting your pump intake to a drainage bulkhead, you need to ensure that your water level can be above the top of the bulkhead without interacting with your substrate layer. You may need the water level higher than you expect to ensure you are sucking tons of air into the pump.
- Make sure the pump is pumping to and pulling from opposite corners of your tank.

I have not included images or descriptions of the pump system, so let me know if you would like those as well.

Below are pictures of the final result of the dam system (a single dam) below. It's a little tough to see, so ask questions if it isn't clear. I can annotate the images if necessary:





In this tank, the drainage and substrate layers are shallow enough that I didn't need a dam, though I think I'm being a bit risky here:


There is certainly a lot of art to this, but there is a lot of art in building vivs in general. As with all water features, I don't recommend this for your first build.
That seems like the best way to keep the substrate and water separate, that I’ve seen so far. I have been very temptative with using other methods, due to wicking. How does hold up long term?

I’d love the pump explanation as well, I don’t think it’s possible to have the standing water body clean, without some circulation. I’ll have the filtration in the hydroball layer. Is there any reason to insert filters to increase volume:area-ratios of the filtration?
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Old 03-01-2020, 01:48 AM
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Default Re: False bottom vs Hydro

Quote:
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That seems like the best way to keep the substrate and water separate, that Iíve seen so far. I have been very temptative with using other methods, due to wicking. How does hold up long term?

Iíd love the pump explanation as well, I donít think itís possible to have the standing water body clean, without some circulation. Iíll have the filtration in the hydroball layer. Is there any reason to insert filters to increase volume:area-ratios of the filtration?

I typically use this as the input of water into the tank. The tube extends through the substrate layers within something like a cm of the tank bottom. On one tank I actually made it the drain as the pump was sucking in less air using this tube as the source of water for pump intake.



This is a standard drain on a tank, but your water level must be sufficiently high to prevent siphoning of air into the tube, starving the pump. This reduces pump life span, makes noise, and sometimes it just stops effectively pumping.


The pump is from the link below. Cheap, but effective. I have mine connected to a variable voltage output from best buy. I pushed 3/8 poly tube onto the intake and discharge of the pump (holds very well), and then reduced to 1/4" tube (connecting to the input and drain pictured above).
Pump: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Power supply: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/insigni...?skuId=5019131
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