Colombo Florabase substrate review

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Dan Crawford checks out Aquadistri's new planting substrate.

It’s good…

Nutritious soil substrates are slowly making headway in the UK, with at least three prominent brands available and more expected soon. 

While these are aimed at planted aquaria, it doesn’t mean you can’t use them in a non-planted tank. 

There are several advantages in using nutritious substrates for planted aquaria. They feed roots with valuable nutrients and the nature of the 'soil' reduces the pH level, typically to around 6, which helps promote plant growth and is good for softwater fish and inverts.

Many planted aquariums are also seen as art; fine grain size and colour adding a very natural appearance. Wet or moist, small grain size and soft composition make this product a joy to use.

Some similar substrates cloud the water, often heavily when uprooting old or planting new plants. Not so with Florabase! 

But…

It’s been suggested that the pH-reducing properties of this product will last just 12 months.

Experts also believe that its nutritional properties will only last a year too, so maybe this product is not for the long term.

When first added, Florabase causes an ammonia spike for some two weeks. This is easily overcome by regular water changes, but may cause problems when adding to an already stocked tank. 

If you are setting up a tank from scratch the spike can prove advantageous in aiding fishless cycling and remove the need for cycling products.

The verdict

This product looks good, feeds plants and can lower pH. Soil substrates are the way forward and now the only choice for many serious aquascapers. 

Growing plants in soil makes perfect sense too instead of trying to enrich an inert gravel substrate with fertilisers. 

With the potential to release ammonia this isn’t a product for beginners and it cannot be vacuum cleaned as you would be able to with conventional gravels. It can be messy too.

The more soils that appear in the marketplace the better, meaning more choice and, hopefully, lower prices for all.

Product:

Florabase

Price:

£19.99, £32.50

Rating:

4/5

Reviewer:

 Dan Crawford

Good

  • Looks great
  • Can be shaped
  • Lowers pH
  • Matures new aquariums

Bad

  • Quite expensive
  • Ammonia leaching and pH changes make it unsuitable for beginners
  • May need eventual replacement

This item first appeared in the June 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.