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ADA vs Oliver Knott vs Colombo?


12 May 2010
West London
Setting up new tank - 450L. Would like good substrate. Will be heavily planted, with fish. Appearance not too important, as like the black look of the final three.

Have read all the posts and still uncertain. Cost is not the main issue. Have narrowed it down to ADA Amazonia 1 aquasoil, Oliver Nott Nature Soil, and Colombo Florabase. Plenty of recommendations for all three on the forum...

Tending towards Nature Soil. Not worried about the ammonia spike from aquasoil, as will be new setup and can sit it out (have 120L established). My question is - which (in your opinion) is the highest quality, or "best" of these. Perhaps there isn't one?

The tank will have fish (mostly rainbows) and could be either high tech or low tech. More interested in which substrate you recommend. Dont believe that having high quality substrate will be barrier to either.

Hello Matthew and welcome to UKAPS!

You will find that the three you have chosen will all get good reviews and people loyal to each of the brands and will point you to what they have had good experiences with.

Personally, i am a big fan of the ADA Amazonia and have used it many of my tanks always with good results, albeit i understand that the Colombo is also very good, number of guys on her use it.

Good look and make sure you do a journal!
How's your tap water? Have you done a GH/KH test? Can you share the results?
I've used them all and they are all much of a muchness. There are good and bad batches of all of them. You'll get the odd bag that will cloud the water where as another bag won't, it's just down to the nature of the product.

Recently I added Columbo's Flora Base to an existing tank and simply poured it in to a full tank, without a bit of clouding. I also did the same with TMC's NutraSoil and that was just the same.

If it were me, i'd go for ADA, simply because they've been making it for years. Everyone else has just seen it's potential as a saleable product and "jumped on the band wagon" so to speak. ADA have additives for Aqua Soil too which work really well.

They all create an ammonia spike and won't last forever so it's a matter of cost or branding i suppose.

I once worked out the cost per litre and it went from most to least expensive:
Nature Soil (Oliver Knott)
Aqua Soil (ADA)
Flora Base (Columbo)
Nutrasoil (TMC - AquaGro)
This may have changed now and it was based on the RRP, not sale prices.
Thanks all, that's actually very helpful - I am less worried now about the choice.

My tap water is very hard (typical London), although my rainbows and neons have seemed happy enough for the past few years. It has minimal nitrates. However it is a fish only unplanted tank, and for various reasons (not least potential future discus) I will be investing in an HMA filter for the new tank. Therefore I dont believe my current water specs are that relevant.
Then go for Amazonia 2 if you choose ADA. ;) That's why I asked.
Clonitza, out of interest why would No.2 be better over 1? London dragon used this and found it turned to mud very early on, and as you guessed from the name he is from london also so will have the same gh kh roughly.

Alsooooo. Dan where can you get TMC Nutrasoil??

Good luck MJ, I'd say ada but I'm only using it on a nano, wouldn't like to think how much it would cost to do a tank as large as yours. Especially if you get power sand.

Why not get a breeding pair of SA or CA cichlids :) haha
As far as my folks told me: hard water with Amazonia 1 gets yellowish and cloudy. Amazonia 2 supposed to address this issue but I don't know if it's true, if it's the same then I think it's better to use RO water with your tap to get it a little bit softer ..

Afraid i disagree..... Amazonia 1 is far better product used it loads and the yellowing if any only lasts first 2 weeks and is only slight.
Thanks andyth for input. I'll go then start my pico with Amazonia 1 very soon.
Don't use columbo I have it in my tank RIO125 its awful I am going to strip my tank down and replace it i'll be glad to get rid of it!

Its that light that my ehiem 2026 is full of sludge every 2-3weeks and the stuff floats if is more then quarter of its speed! my plants have sludge dumped on the top of the leafs that are like diatoms along the front edge and constant algae blooms! I never had a problem with eco-complete I had before it you only have to have a tetra swim past this columbo stuff and its up!

I'm thinking now just using the tropica stuff and some nice dark sand/gravel as i've spent so much on this rubbish!
Thanks again.

I've heard the Oliver Knott substrate is also "light" and prone to movement. Any comments?
Olivers and colombo are identical to all intents and purposes. ADA is much the same, the grain size is more varied. Clay substrates will always move more than gravel because they're lighter, clever planning and forethought in retaining walls will stop most movement as will the plants once grown in.
I love ADA, and have started a tank with the amazonia, but what ever you do don't use ada amazonia 2, it is awful, it clouds really badly, and is a night mare, I have heard very very few good comments about it!
I personally found columbo better than ADA's aquasoil. Aquasoil I've known to yellow the water whereas Columbo's didn't, it also leaked less ammonia but that's no bad thing long run.

Pay your money and take your choice but for me columbo is the one to beat at the moment.
@ mjbarnard - Yeah, i just filled a 20gal with 14l of Oliver Knott and it is does move about a bit, my staurogyne tends to get quite a lot of dirt all over it if i`m busy around them, not sure about sludge, i did a 2 month dry start and i do have algae at the moment, i`m hoping it`s short term and will clear up after a few weeks.If i could do it all again i would certainly compliment it with a gravel layer on top or just go inert gravel with no posh stuff underneath, ensure that i have good EI regimen and save myself £50.

I`m sure all these top end substrates help with `just in case i go away for a week` scenarios and for the more demanding plants but then i have not played with that many, this is just my opinion so far. It`s my fault about my layout, but then it`s all about trying and learning...

As Garuf says Columbo is highly rated and my LFS has a very high opinion of it, that and Oliver Knott are exactly the same just a different bag (apparently)

I know everyone knows this already, but yes... Oliver Knott and Colombo substrate are EXACTLY the same product repackaged. The reason Colombo only makes one size of substrate (small and large mixed) is due to the fact that the smaller grade tends to float.

I am personaly a fan of Colombo's old Florabase, which has now been discontinued but you can still find it in some stores ;) , with fine gravel/sand on top.

I've used most substrates, apart from ADA's (why waste money on theirs when you can get better/more for less ££) and i've not found anything yet thats better then old florabase.

I know everyone knows this already, but yes... Oliver Knott and Colombo substrate are EXACTLY the same product repackaged.

If you've read the same article as me then I think you've misread it!

The said articles states that Nature Soil and Columbo Florabase are the same product repackaged but it also says that it is NOT the Oliver Knott NatureSoil!!

this would go along with the fact that Nature Soil doesn't leach ammonia where Florabase 'supposedly' does. I would however assume most of these soils are made by the same company or companies in the same area.

Article is linked to below and clearly states before saying Nature Soil is the same as Columbo This is the latest addition of aquasoils and has nothing to do with Oliver Knott :
http://amania.110mb.com/Chapters/Tech/s ... soilstable

So unless it is the Oliver Knott stuff and the translation has gone awry then the post above is wrong
I have seen the said article mentioned above and it does indeed state 'nothing to do with Oliver Knott' however I think the producers in Japan must've had a word with the article writer because if you look at the Oliver Knott blurb he/whoever is in charge of NatureSoil has made a big big error.

They have used the ControSoil blurb and just replaced the word Contro with Nature. The error? They have missed out replacing it on the bottom half of the blurb....twice.

So the top half talks about NatureSoil where at the bottom it talks about ControSoil.

Does anyone have a bag so they can check if the error is on the bag too and not just the literature on the net (which may be out of date)?

Either way someone in marketing was/is in trouble there!!!

I do wonder whether we are all being taken for a bit of a ride sometimes with the aquatic industry re packaging some things, perhaps making them more conveniant and then whacking a big margin on... well thats my cynical side lol.

I guess that is why we have forums like this, there are alternatives like Akadama, Kitty litter or maybe Sanj's own "special" aquarium compost with secret ingrediant. :D