At this point I think I want try different substrates just see what my results are. So if anyone can tell me where I can find the potting mix I would appreciate it. I live near plenty of chain stores and there are several nursuries I could go to.
I found MGOPM at Home Depot in February, and at Walmart in May. It's is an orange and white bag.
All of my tanks are NPT so I don't have any experience with just the substrates themselves, but if you're looking to just have a "regular planted tank", you could look into sand and root tabs, or "premium subtrates" like Eco Complete, Floramax, Flourite, etc. I personally only have experience with CaribSea's Super Naturals Sand & Floramax, but would highly recommend either of them. I bought these at Petsmart.
Quick question because I'm always paranoid about starting an NPT: What about the poop? I have a mystery snail, nearly full grown if not already, and 9 fish. Two weeks and there is poop EVERYWHERE. The tank is in desperate need of a cleaning but we're supposed to be moving and that's a story all in it's own. So I'll shorten the post by not including it. But yeah. What happens to all the poop? What should be done with it? o_o Left or what? o_O
I leave it. My 5 gallon has a fully grown mystery snail, one nerite, around 50 (adult) trumpet snails and 10ish ramshorns plus an adult betta. There's absolutely no way that I would be able to keep the substrate clean, so I don't. The waste will eventually breakdown and become nutrients for the plants anyway, so I really wouldn't worry about it too much! (: That is, unless your water params are off. THEN you should definitely be siphoning out waste on a regular basis.
It also helps to have a dark substrate so that it's not as obvious.