Initial Setup to about 2 months:
Activated Carbon (“NA Carbon)
Cubes of Poret foam (“Bio Cube”)
How much carbon?
Watch this video starting about 3:10. You will see the amounts of media added to the filter. Note the amount of Activated Carbon. It is a ton. That is not fine particle carbon but still – note it’s volume and the size of the tank later in the video: https://youtu.be/gb0cNAHFgeY?t=195
Poret is a special design foam made in Germany specifically for fisheries. It has specific properties that allow the microorganisms to adhere very well but also to release the dead ones so the foam does not clog.
ADA claims that Poret cubes are used in the beginning because they develop the biofilter very fast. That is not true. Poret takes about 1 month to colonize. Once it colonizes it is the bomb. Single distributor of Poret in the US is SwissTropicals. You are buying the real thing, one and only.
The activated carbon is a must in an ADA tank with Amazonia type 1. It has too much Ammonia that allows the plants to grow like crazy. But in the initial unstable stages of the tank setup ADA actively removes it from the water using the carbon.
2-nd to 3-rd month:
Pumice (“Bio Rio”)
The pumice is more or less 1/4″ sizes. It can be found on ebay for about $10 for 1 gallon dry volume (shipping included).
The idea is to slowly transition the filter from a pure chemical filter (the carbon + too small of an amount of Poret) to a biological one.
3-rd to 4-th month and on
Meaning that after the 4-th month ADA uses only biofiltration in the canister filters.
That is possible because the water is not loaded with fertilizers, the CO2 and light are not an overkill. Meaning that the plants grow at a stable pace, stay healthy and do not release too much organics in the water.
* The filter media does not have fine pads or sponges. That allows the filter to not clog and slow down the flow rate. Variations in the flow rate cause the microorganisms that convert Ammonia to Nitrate to actually reverse and the filter now makes Ammonia.
* The ADA pumps mounted on the filters are “pressure rated”. Meaning that if the media actually clogs the pump will ramp up and maintain the same flow rate. Up to a certain level of clogging of course.
* In Russian: This website with hundreds of pages explaining it all in extreme details. There are answers for literally every single thing about planted tanks there. References included. Google translation – it does not work well on that website – at times it translates the opposite of what is actually said.