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I am interested in putting together an indoor fill and drain system in my apartment and am trying to figure out what the best lightweight media choice would be.  I have read of people using expanded clay, lava rock, and coir chips.  I am new to all these different media and am wondering what the pros and cons are.  Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Woops! *flood and drain
The majority of people would likely recommend the rock and clay options above coir for use.  The lava rock is sharp, which could be nasty on your hands.  The nicest of the lot to work with is expanded clay, but I think it is also by far the most expensive.  The expanded shale being discussed here is new to me.  About twice the weight of expanded clay if I remember correctly, but also potentially a good option. If you can get hold of volcanic rock, then perhaps you can fill the bottom sections of your beds with them, and then go for clay or shale on top ( afew inches) to have an easy working substrate for yourself.
Kobus, thanks!  I might have found some hydroton for $20/bag - sounds like that's the way to go!

I agree with kobus, hydroton can be expensive, but only if you need a lot of it.  I wanted to try expanded shale, but no where to buy it the PNW that I have found, and shipping it here is twice as much as the bag costs.

I have an indoor system that has been using lava rock - which is WONDERFUL and my tank has been maturing with it in the filters, not one issue.  The lava rock is sharp however.  The way my tank is set up I rarely have to get in the filters, they are all permanent plantings.  I'm starting a grow tower to drain into my tank soon, however, and am picking up a bag of hydroton for ease of digging the crops I want to plant.

Thanks Ricky - yeah, I think hydroton is gonna be my big ticket item for the system. I've got about 130 gal in growbeds... I figure that's 10 bags of the stuff, which I can't seem to get cheaper than $35/50l locally.  But I think good media is worth the investment.  If I ever get to set up a bigger system, lava rock sounds great.  I can't imagine there's anything more mineral rich...
With that much grow space, lava rock on the bottom ($4 for 50 pounds here) with a couple inches of hydroton (like kobus said) might be the way to go to get a good media, save your hands, and keep it a lower cost. None of my critters (snails/worms) have ever had any issues with the sharpness, just me :)
I will definitely check it out - that's just a touch cheaper, lol!  It hadn't occurred to me to layer the media... not sure why??? oh well.  I had been shying away from lava rock initially because I've read that a lot of the stuff for sale has been used industrially and may leach toxins.
If you have one near you, check home depot.  Then you don't have to worry about it being previously used.
Called and they don't carry it, but there's a landscape place not too far away that's got "red" and "russet" lava rock.  Having used the stuff, can you clue me into the qualities I should be looking for when I'm standing at of the stockpile?
not actually sure, since my came in a bag for me.  But it should be light and really porous, and make sure its not to big to work with.  Also, a lot of people recommend buying a small quantity (if buying form a pile of rock as opposed to prebagged) then letting it sit in water for a few days, then testing the pH of the water to make sure other things (like limestone dust that may have been piled near it) don't throw your system off whack.. Lava rock itself, however, is inert.

You can use "Turface" It's about 13 bucks for a 50lb bag. Gotta rinse it thoroughly. Most irrigation supply stores have it.

Wow, that's a nice price, Chi. I'm having a hard time imagining what the stuff is like -- can you tell me what's it made of and how big are the particles?  They look quite fine.  And they don't break down in water??? Have you had any problems with overcompaction?

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