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Old 07-15-2003, 03:13 AM   #1
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What are the benefits of sand as a substrate?

Hello everyone! Currently, I have gravel in a 20 gallon plasti-planted tank. Lately, I have been thinking about moving from gravel to sand as a substrate partially because I am planning to plant my tank. My brain tells me that it would be harder for a plant to establish good "footing" in gravel ... is this true or do most plants do well anyway?

Next, are there any other advantages to having sand as a substrate? Also, what is the method (if any) for cleaning the sand (like gravel vacuuming for gravel).

Lastly, does having sand as a substrate have a negative effect on plecos seeing as how sand is a tougher thing for them to grab onto?

Actually, and I should have asked this first, but is it uncommon for freshwater tanks to have sand as a substrate or is it mostly for saltwater tanks?

Hopefully these questions are ones that other people have besides me. Maybe someone else will get some answers, too.

I appreciate any answers or advice that anyone has to offer.

Thanks,
Concerned_Citizen
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20 gallon freshwater, plasti-planted, 2 balas, 2 glassfish, pleco, 2 blackfin "sharks"
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Old 07-15-2003, 05:11 AM   #2
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I'll be watching this post closely CC; I am just cycling a tank with a sand/laterite base as it will be a planted tank.

One of my concerns is sand compaction. Although I guess the plant roots will help keep some of the tank water circulating down there, I'm worried about hydrogen sulphide build-up...
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Old 07-15-2003, 08:11 AM   #3
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Sand is common for tanks that have digging fish like a lot of cichlids (convicts) and for catfish as well. Sand gives more surface area for bacteria. Sand is harder to clean.

In the long run sand or gravel aren't the best options for plants compared to things like flourite. But it depends on the plants. Some plants like water sprite don't really root or at least their roots aren't the sole source of nutrients, leaves and stems are. And things like Swords and Java Fern do fine in gravel or sand. You should find out what type of plants you really want to use and then decide how you will need to set the tank up to achieve it.

A great thing for planted tanks with sand is Malaysian Trumpet Snails or MTS. They burrow under the sand or soil creating tunnels which gives better circulation to roots.

Another option is to put your plants in small ceramic pots filled with flourite or laterite and burying the pot in the sand or gravel.

Good Luck. Plants are great.
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Old 07-15-2003, 02:51 PM   #4
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Flourite...what is the consistency of flourite compared to sand or gravel? What does it usually cost and where is the best place to get it? It would be great if I had a marine tank, Gobies are awesome little buggers! But you say flourite is good stuff?

You said sand is good for catfish, eh? I have two black fin sharks which are catfish....would they qualify and benefit from having sand? Thanks for the info. Advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks

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Old 07-15-2003, 03:11 PM   #5
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Oh ick. Do I really have to have snails? LOL I loathe them. I will be adding some shrimp; any idea if they will have an effect on the sand compaction?

I'm not sure about flourite consistency CC as I haven't tried it, but the laterite is similar in size and shape to regular small tank gravel. Do keep in mind they are all clay based products, and a quick rinse (very quick! don't want to wash away the good stuff) is a good idea as it will cloud a tank when its put in. I got mine from Petsmart.
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Old 07-15-2003, 03:26 PM   #6
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Fluorite, gravel, small-medium size grains, comes in brown or red. Well known as the substrate of choice for most plant tank folks.
Expensive, I paid $14 a bag (10 lbs) at a lfs 45 miles from my house. enough for my 90 gallon tank was costly. Frequently priced much higher than that, from what I've read here and other boards. Odering online is no good, cuz the shipping charges for that kind of weight will kill you. Fluorite can be mixed w/regular gravel up to a rate of 50/50, and still works well (from what I've heard).

One alternative, Schultz Aquatic Soil. Made for planting pond plants, is used by many folks in planted tanks now also. lighter brown than fluorite, grains maybe a bit smaller. Got mine for under $8 a bag (10lbs). Using in 1 tank, seems just as good as fluorite.

another option, laterite mixed with regular gravel, is supposed to work well.

Quote:
Do keep in mind they are all clay based products, and a quick rinse (very quick! don't want to wash away the good stuff) is a good idea as it will cloud a tank when its put in.
Would have to disagree, rinse, rinse, rinse! the dust is more trouble than its worth, IMO, and will cloud the tank every time you redecorate or move anything. Plenty good stuff left in the gravel!
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Oh ick. Do I really have to have snails?
You will most likely end up with them whether you want them or not. The MTS are good guys, and stay in the gravel most of the daylight hours.
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Old 07-15-2003, 03:27 PM   #7
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i use a mixture of sand and kitty litter (similar to flourite) in my 30 gallon, the only rooted plant I had in there was an "Arrow head" which is a swamp / marginal plant, but grew very well for me.

I pulled it a few days ago and it had a massive root structure grown under the mixture - it made quite a cloud that cleared up after a few hours.

I would venture to say that pure sand would be less than ideal, not only because of waste compaction but it also very 'light weight' and won't hold down some of the larger plants which haven't rooted yet.

Mixing sand with some clay like laterite, fluorite, litter or Schultz Profile would be your best bet ... perhaps this mixture will appeal to you:

3 layers, first being 1.25" inch pure 'clay' (your choice of those listed above), 2nd layer being 1/2" of clay and sand mixture, 3rd layering being 1" to 1.25" of sand.

This would give you a good "sub"-strate of pure clay, and then an intermediate area that is dense enough to hold down big plants before they've grown massive roots, and finally a layer of sand for curious fish to nose around in

as for cleaning the substrate, don't worry about it ... if you're going to do a moderate to heavily planted tank, you won't see the substrate very much - just clean out large items like dead leaves, fish, etc... your plants and biofilteration will deal with the rest.
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Old 07-15-2003, 04:28 PM   #8
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corvuscorax:

Don't tell me that about snails *la-la-la I'm not listening* LOL

I absolutely loathe them. Snakes? Love em. Spiders? Neato. Snails and slugs? I'm gonna go spaz in a corner as far away as possible LOL I have nematodes living happily in the gravel of my main tank and THEY don't bother me anywhere near as much as the snails did. Thank god for clown loaches.

I'm actually going to try to locate some potassium permanganate to dip my plants prior to adding them to the tank to avoid the whole snail/hydra issue.

The sand I purchased is Tahitian Moon sand; its pretty heavy stuff. I've layered it; sand/laterite/sand. Because its so heavy, I don't think the plants will have a prob staying rooted, but the weight is why I'm concerned about compaction and hydrogen sulphide. Is there ANYTHING else which will aerate the substrate (and can handle a freshwater 6.8 - 7.2 Ph tank with small fish and shrimp)?

As for the laterite being rinsed, this is my 1st go at a planted tank and I got the advice from some plant nuts over at a diff forum. I do have to say I did a brief rinse and there was little to no clouding when I added it to the tank. Next time (if there is one LOL) I'll try the non rinse route
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Old 07-15-2003, 04:39 PM   #9
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you can aerate your soil with substrate heating coils, either electric or hot water, or so I've read - minor currents are produced around the hot cable, drawing fresh cold water into the gravel and expelling heated / depleted water (and waste) out.

I have yet to produce a DIY version of SHC, but I'm still working on it ... to buy them retail is very expensive (60-80 for the cables and another 100 or 200 for the controller / power supply)
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Old 07-15-2003, 05:04 PM   #10
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The sand I purchased is Tahitian Moon sand; its pretty heavy stuff. I've layered it; sand/laterite/sand. Because its so heavy, I don't think the plants will have a prob staying rooted, but the weight is why I'm concerned about compaction and hydrogen sulphide. Is there ANYTHING else which will aerate the substrate (and can handle a freshwater 6.8 - 7.2 Ph tank with small fish and shrimp)?
Ooohh, I've seen some pics of this Moon Sand, its good looking stuff! I'm sorry, I don't know of any other critters that will aerate your sand.

I have electric substrate heating coils in my 90, I have no idea if they do any good or not. Rest of my tanks do fine without them. If I were doing it over, I wouldn't bother.

I also have a tank set up with soil/peat/gravel, low light, plants grow very well, but kinda slow. Definitley compacted, but roots dig right into it. No Hydro sufide problems either. No MTS in that tank. Just over 1 year now, no problems associated with substrate.

I'm sorry, but I cannot say for sure if you will have problems with compaction or hydro sufide. Having said that, and having several different types of substrates in my tanks (admittedly not your type), I would suggest trying it as is. When doing water changes, poke into the subsrate between plants and check for compaction, you will also loosen it up when doing this.
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Old 07-15-2003, 05:22 PM   #11
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Heh okey doke. I think I'll pass on the store bought substrate heating coils as this is only a 10g tank and my first go at a real planted tank. Don't want to spend THAT much money LOL get on that DIY already glmclell

I'll just go buy a cheap fro pick LOL that should solve the prob a little more cheaply, although it wont be anywhere near as cool. Why I got that the idea of a fro pick specifically after reading your post corvuscorax LOL I really haven't the vaguest idea. And yeah, the Moon sand is stunning. A deep black with nice reflections. I figure a small school of cardinals, a couple of dwarf gouramis, a few cherry shrimp and a couple of ottos or a small school of cories. Should be a nice to look at combination

Ack. I have completely hijacked your post CC; sorry!!
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Old 07-16-2003, 04:54 PM   #12
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I have a 1-1 1/2 inch layer of flourite topped by the same amount of sand. I use Malaysian trumpet snails to help aerate the sand to avoid anaerobic bacteria and compaction. I also rake the sand every now and again lightly to keep it loose. I used play sand(soft and untreated) Rinsed VERY well. I love the look. If you use a good base... I would suggest a flourite instead of laterate sand is fantastic... all though on its own... I am not sure its the best. And cleaning "swoosh" the vaccum lightly above the sand about an inch above and you should stir up the junk as it is all on the surface. You will get very minimal amounts of sand syphoned out. Maybe once every two years you will need to add a small layer of new sand.
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