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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter #6
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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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.
 

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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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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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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 don’t put any soil on the pea gravel area- only leaf litter. That way there’s no muddy mess.

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

May explain your mixed success rate.
 

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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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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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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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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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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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