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Hi All:

I've searched as best I can for a recent answer to this, but just wanted to confirm that if you use Mantala (I'm thinking Grey) as a false bottom, you can just use a barrier screen and then straight to ABG substrate, correct? And is a single layer (1.5 inches) enough, or do you double up?

I'm starting a 24 x 18 x 24 tank and since the lightweight white false bottom (ie from Josh's, or other vendors) seems to no longer be available, I was looking for a low weight alternative. I hand mist and haven't used a drain in previous builds, even in "rainy season" I don't tend to have a large amount of water in the bottom, though I do leave an option for siphoning if needed.

Thanks!
 

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I just did an 18 x 18 x 24 using black Matala. I used two layers of Matala since I put a depression in the front for water to collect for ease of draining, and didn't want to be emptying water often (I hand mist, and siphon my vivs every month or so). One layer would be fine, I think, as long as you have control of your misting habits as you do. I used substrate barrier under the ABG.
 

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Awesome thanks. I think I will have enough in the sheet to double up if I decide to go that way--or you know, make another tank! ;)
 

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Ooh just saw the pics added. Nice Viv! I am tempted to add a corner pond like that, my tincs have always loved their little water dish. Just not sure about added complications--so far I've gone fairly low tech which seems to work for me. (This tank is an upgrade on my first viv, I learned so much building my second that I decided to make another and transition their smaller tank to a growout/plant tank).
 

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Yes, this is my eighth (or so) viv, and I'm not at all pro-pond; standing water is a complication that doesn't give much benefit to the frogs. That said, I wanted to try it as a drainage-layer-maintenance-tool that happens to be attractive.
 
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if you use (Matala) (I'm thinking Grey) as a false bottom, you can just use a barrier screen and then straight to ABG substrate, correct? And is a single layer (1.5 inches) enough, or do you double up?
Confirmed - exactly this is a fine way to go. Single layer is fine - the cheapest option, and Matala is not cheap - as long as you don't let your water level get too close to the barrier screen. But you face exactly the same need with 2 layers, 3, etc.: let it wick, and you're on the road to hell. Soggy, stinky, blech.

In my bigger vivs I go 2 layers, smaller I go one. It's just a function of the diameter of the side or rear drain hole I (feel the need to) install, how far from the glass margin I can put the hole, how much room I need to leave for the bulkhead, etc. Bigger holes, bigger bulkheads, more residual margin needed, deeper Matala or other drainage layer needed.

Lovely little viv BTW, SM.

cheers
 

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I do not understand the appeal of matala. That crap is crazy expensive. I can make an equally functionally false bottom out of egg crate and pvc for 1/10 the price and a little labor. Can someone please explain to me what you all see in this product?
 

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I do not understand the appeal of matala. That crap is crazy expensive. I can make an equally functionally false bottom out of egg crate and pvc for 1/10 the price and a little labor. Can someone please explain to me what you all see in this product?
I view it as a "premium" version of the egg crate/PVC combo. If done correctly both provide the same functionality, but I found Matala to be both easier and quicker to install. Just depends on your personal preference.
 

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I view it as a "premium" version of the egg crate/PVC combo. If done correctly both provide the same functionality, but I found Matala to be both easier and quicker to install. Just depends on your personal preference.
Yes, this.

Also, Matala cuts with a utility blade, whereas working with eggcrate I use a wire snipper (for the eggcrate) and a vise and saw (for PVC risers); the tools are simpler. Matala ships to your door, whereas the other stuff is typically a trip to Home Depot or equivalent.

I agree, though, that if cost is a consideration, Matala loses.
 

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Yes, this.

Also, Matala cuts with a utility blade, whereas working with eggcrate I use a wire snipper (for the eggcrate) and a vise and saw (for PVC risers); the tools are simpler. Matala ships to your door, whereas the other stuff is typically a trip to Home Depot or equivalent.

I agree, though, that if cost is a consideration, Matala loses.


Those are all one time purchases though, and a good chunk of folks already have those lying around anyways. I can make a false bottom in an hour? Maybe? For a large tank. To me, that's worth saving 50-100$. But, full disclosure, I'm a cheapskate and like DIY projects :).
 

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Another thing to consider is with a pvc eggcrate you have a floor suspended above water. Anything that falls below is not coming back up. With the matala, microfauna can travel down and up utilizing the water table below just as they would with a turface or hydroton base layer. Denitrifying bacteria can also buildup on this porous layer in the matala and help prevent the drainage layer from becoming putrid. Most drainage layers are one way trips but that doesn’t mean gases (smells) don’t travel back up. Minor advantage but could be worth the money in some situations.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for all the good advice! FWIW, I went through Aqua Mart (I found the recommendation on DB somewhere) and it was under 50 with shipping for enough for one or two tanks. Black was even cheaper but they were out of stock. Will report back once it arrives.

My first tanks used false bottom material because that's all I knew to use and I guess I just like the natural look/feel of that better that eggcrate--and as Captain Awesome says it seems like it moves microfauna a bit better. I'm not going to build a lot of tanks (heh, I'm on #3) so I guess I feel like my initial build budget is not my biggest concern--once it's up and growing I'm going to enjoy it for years so it's worth it to me to invest at the beginning stage. But if I was building out a bunch for breeding etc. I totally get it. Lots of good ways to do things!
 

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Another thing to consider is with a pvc eggcrate you have a floor suspended above water. Anything that falls below is not coming back up. With the matala, microfauna can travel down and up utilizing the water table below just as they would with a turface or hydroton base layer. Denitrifying bacteria can also buildup on this porous layer in the matala and help prevent the drainage layer from becoming putrid. Most drainage layers are one way trips but that doesn’t mean gases (smells) don’t travel back up. Minor advantage but could be worth the money in some situations.
In my false bottoms, there are always "ladders" in the form of roots from plants. In fact, in my older tanks, the roots are so dense that it's almost its own version of matala :) Roots would work for springtails to go up and down, if not as well for smaller isopods. I would also say that if things start stinking a bit in there, I can always tilt my tanks toward the bulkhead to basically purge all of the water and most of the scum build-up (that isn't caught by the roots). With matala, it seems that the scum is trapped for good since water doesn't flow as freely through it. I don't notice any odor from my false bottoms, anyway, though. Finally, I always drop a bead of silicone all the way around the screen that I put on top of the egg crate to form the false bottom. This means the only thing that can get down there is small enough to fit through the screen openings. That doesn't usually amount to much. That's my experience, anyway. I am still not seeing huge advantages to matala, especially for a much higher price (the ease is certainly appealing). I can do a lot of egg crate false bottoms for $50. That's just my $0.02.

Mark
 

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The main appeal (for me) is how light it is.

You might understand this further as you get older. :)

s
I do not understand the appeal of matala. That crap is crazy expensive. I can make an equally functionally false bottom out of egg crate and pvc for 1/10 the price and a little labor. Can someone please explain to me what you all see in this product?
 

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Those are all one time purchases though, and a good chunk of folks already have those lying around anyways. I can make a false bottom in an hour? Maybe? For a large tank. To me, that's worth saving 50-100$. But, full disclosure, I'm a cheapskate and like DIY projects :).
All good points.

I wonder about the bolded part, though, mainly from reading Amazon reviews from people who holler because something they bought requires a screwdriver to assemble. We have a pretty complete workshop at home (table saw, radial arm saw, planer, recip saw, angle grinder...) so I try to be careful assuming that anyone has any tools more sophisticated than a bottle opener.

I did like how easy it was to make a rounded water area with Matala, but I've seen people here do some pretty awesome things with eggcrate. I guess I'm lazy. ;)
 

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I do not understand the appeal of matala. That crap is crazy expensive. I can make an equally functionally false bottom out of egg crate and pvc for 1/10 the price and a little labor. Can someone please explain to me what you all see in this product?
If you buy in bulk (full sheets, several at once) and you watch for deals, the price comes down some. But even the "gimme now, dammit!" price isn't exactly heinous. For example, I see I can - right now at this instant - get a single full sheet (48" x 39") for $54, with free shipping to my house. That size is almost the same as two 24" x 48" sheets of egg crate, which together would cost you somewhere between 20 and 30 bucks off the shelf. So the Matala would cost about twice the egg crate. With the egg crate approach, you also need a little PVC pipe for the risers, and some zip ties, and some hot glue or whatever, and of course some time (sure, call it an hour) to cut it all up and assemble it. Matala requires none of that other stuff, and very little time to measure and cut.

So I don't really agree on "crazy expensive". 10:1 difference? Sorry, no. A differential of 20-30 bucks out of pocket (calling the zip ties, PVC, adhesive, etc "free") for several builds one way, or an hour of my time per build the other - honestly it's no contest to me. I can always make a little more money, but I can't get my time back.

As for what I like about it, besides its light weight:
  • The absolute ease of cutting and shaping it. Box cutter, hacksaw blade, or steak knife, all work fine. Serrated blade, going slow, is best for fine control. Want a little cut-out in the corner or whatever? No prob. Want that cut-out curvy-edged, or sloped back, or hey, why not both? No prob.
  • Its sturdiness under load. No flexing, no need to stuff another riser under there.
  • Its uniformity of height under my build.
  • The fact that it's designed & intended to be used in water, as a physical filter medium and also a substrate for denitrifying etc bacteria.
  • The way it doesn't want to slice or stab or pinch me when I pick it up and move it around, or shoot pieces at my eyes when I cut it, unlike that damned egg crate shit. That stuff is just hostile, unless used in its full dimension, as intended (as a light diffuser for a 2x4 overhead light fixture). Start cutting it up and it turns mean.
If all that doesn't open your mind to the possibility that Matala isn't a goofy, clueless, spendthrift choice - hey man, different strokes, I guess. You do it your way, I'll do it mine, we'll both be just fine.
 

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Those are all one time purchases though, and a good chunk of folks already have those lying around anyways. I can make a false bottom in an hour? Maybe? For a large tank. To me, that's worth saving 50-100$. But, full disclosure, I'm a cheapskate and like DIY projects :).
I'm an old reefer and I've made my share of egg crate filter plates.
For my money nothing beats the black Matala for false bottom.

Quick and easy to work with, effective, light, and not unsightly when visible through the front glass.
I used 2 layers for my 36" build.
 

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I'm an old reefer and I've made my share of egg crate filter plates.
For my money nothing beats the black Matala for false bottom.

Quick and easy to work with, effective, light, and not unsightly when visible through the front glass.
I used 2 layers for my 36" build.

TLDR: Matala is expensive but easy to work with and fast. Egg crate requires slightly more labor, but allows you to be more flexible with false bottom height and is vastly cheaper.

I mean, just to keep on advocating for egg crate: there are multiple ways to 'hide' it. I use black contact paper on the front of my tank, and would even with matala. I don't think matala is particularly attractive either, tbh. You can also just stop the egg crate an inch or so from the front of the glass and then fill in the gap with gravel.

I'll grant you matala is a faster and easier way to set up a false bottom, but I still think it's totally unnecessary. Microfauna seems to travel up and down pvc tubes and roots just as easily as matala, the 'filtration' effect of matala is a waste since your substrate should NEVER be in contact with the water in the reservoir. And it's still expensive.

As far as price goes, IDK where ya all are buying eggcrate but it's usually in the 13-16$ range for me off the shelf at a home depot. That's like...3-4 sheets of 4x2' for the price of one sheet of matala. That's significant in my book.
 

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As far as price goes, IDK where ya all are buying eggcrate but it's usually in the 13-16$ range for me off the shelf at a home depot.
I must be seeing it the same place as you:
two 24" x 48" sheets of egg crate, which together would cost you somewhere between 20 and 30 bucks off the shelf.
That's like...3-4 sheets of 4x2' for the price of one sheet of matala.
Um, yeah, but...more context:
I can - right now at this instant - get a single full sheet (48" x 39") for $54, with free shipping to my house. That size is almost the same as two 24" x 48" sheets of egg crate...So the Matala would cost about twice the egg crate.
And the last bit of comparative context:
A differential of (saving) 20-30 bucks out of pocket (calling the zip ties, PVC, adhesive, etc "free") for several builds one way, or (saving) an hour of my time per build the other
(I added the word "saving" to clarify the quote)

Obviously there are several ways to skin this cat. Perhaps the main determinant in what someone thinks works best, is their "life situation". For example, I'm a middle-aged guy with a big-enough house (~2200 ft sq) that I own, and plenty of storage in the basement, 2-car garage, and 10x12 garden shed. I've got lots of tools and a decent workshop, and lots of "handy skills" developed over the course of my life.

Having worked, saved, invested, and lived fairly modestly for decades, I also have enough money. Enough money to e.g., buy in bulk to save some dough, and then as noted above, space to store my leftovers until I need them later. I've got a whole herp room in the basement, with a lot of vivs in there. I also have several other hobbies, the standard exercise needs, and a yard to take care of. Plus I work quite a lot. And like everyone, I have family joys and obligations, some friendships to maintain, etc. People, like other "pets and companion animals" (ha ha), require time.

So...ultimately, time is my limiting factor. (I would argue this is true for everyone, but some folks also don't have enough money, which is more in their face.) Anyway, as a consequence, I like things to go fairly smoothly and quickly on the first shot, and I really don't like to create new "perpetual time sucks" in my life. I have learned that, when possible, having things take care of themselves, last a long time, and not demand a lot of maintenance, repairs, replacement, and general dicking-around-with is a true path to satisfaction and reduced aggravation. This should explain my appreciation for "materials + methods solutions" such as Matala, as well as e.g. my preference for drilling vivs for passive drainage, versus needing to actively suck them out once in a while.

Other folks in different "life situations" will have other limiting factors, preferences, experiences etc. But I would counsel anyone, even if you think money is your main limiting factor, if you have some storage & working space go ahead and accumulate some stuff. Then you can bulk-buy and also forage/scrounge for materials & supplies, accumulate some tools, invest some of your time in yourself developing skills, and in the long haul - be more efficient with both time and money. If you let space be your limiting factor, you will spend more time and money. (If you think about it, this is the wisdom shown by farmers, who "hoard" all kinds of stuff, thinking "I might have a use for that in future".) Unsolicited advice, but free for the taking...

cheers
 

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Hi All:

I've searched as best I can for a recent answer to this, but just wanted to confirm that if you use Mantala (I'm thinking Grey) as a false bottom, you can just use a barrier screen and then straight to ABG substrate, correct? And is a single layer (1.5 inches) enough, or do you double up?

I'm starting a 24 x 18 x 24 tank and since the lightweight white false bottom (ie from Josh's, or other vendors) seems to no longer be available, I was looking for a low weight alternative. I hand mist and haven't used a drain in previous builds, even in "rainy season" I don't tend to have a large amount of water in the bottom, though I do leave an option for siphoning if needed.

Thanks!
What is mantala?
 
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