There is nothing better then dirt. If there was then mother-nature would of used it. But like the other members said it is a lot cleaner also it's full of iron. Which in dirt you might have to add, depending on which brand you get, in a form of clay, iron tablets, or other form. If you are looking in to a cheap natural tank and have the time and passiates for it to clear then go with dirt but if you don't the. Go with Eco-complete. Good luck with your tank and you should post some pics when it's all said and done.
yep dirts better. always. but ecos not bad. iv used it as a cap for my dirt tanks but never by itself. i like it cuz no need to wash or rinse before hand, which trust me is never easy. i think it would be considered a rough gravel though, not good for cories or scaleless fish. also all tanks are differnt iv set up tanks the same way before and one sucks and the other is perfectly clear etc.
unless your moving plants around alot i really dont see how dirt is messy. as long as you have a cap and you leave the plants alone you should be fine. i have eco as cap in my ten gallon and my plants were not doing that great but i just reallized that I have soft (nyc) water. so I added some crushed coral to my filter to raise my hardness and hopefully get some much needed micros to my plants. my fish are fine but plants were melting a little(except for dwarf sag and moss for some reason) if it wasn't for the dirt I think all my plants would be dead by now and my tank has been running for almost 2 months. the plants are fulling relying on the exta nutrients in there roots to stay alive. Im hoping now with the added hardness my plants will finally start to take off. fingers crossed.
I love eco-complete (a lot)! I researched a bunch of options and tried a few of them before settling on eco-complete. It will last a long time, its just that the nutrients will get depleted after a while. Its no big deal though if you use liquid ferts. It's very easy and clean to plant in, just make sure you get enough bags so its deep enough. It really grabs onto the plants and keeps them there. I also love the colour and that the little rocks and stuff are different sizes, I think it looks way more natural than the ADA substrate. Also, after you do the switch and use a new bag of it, it makes your water crystal clear. It's awesome stuff and I definitely recommend it. P.S. I know a lot of what you read online says you need to replace it annually or something like that, but I don't think that's true. I moved recently and had to tear down my tank, so I just took that opportunity to take out 30% of the old stuff and replace it with a new bag.