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Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2014

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    Default My Substrate Reviews and Recommendations

    0 Not allowed!
    Thought I'd share some experiences with various substrates in my 10G planted tank
    I housed a betta, some shrimp, and some plants (eventually, will explain). So no chichlid-type pH buffer substrate needed.
    Hope this can help anybody decide on some substrate to fit their needs:

    First, I'd advise against gaudy artificially colored substrates. I believe they look kind of goofy&cheap, but thats just my opinion. If you get the cut-rate stuff I've both read and experienced the color "leaching" into the water. It probably isn't good for the fish and it just looks like hell. Next, I'd recommend larger gravel for beginners and sand for a second or third setup attempt. Gravel is just easier, and when you use a siphon to clean it's easier to pull the goop outta gravel. To clean my sand I use a circular motion to kick up the waste and its very easy, but if you're not careful you can kick up enough to blow your filter motor if its a HOB. Definitely sand is for the non-novice user.

    I didn't want to spend huge $$$ on those 15$/pound "planted tank" soils, so I originally just went with some River Rock Gravel. It's very natural colored and I couldn't have been happier with it (until I decided to have live plants).
    Pros: Good natural appearance, didn't leech colors, easy to clean, interesting color variation
    Cons: Not great for holding BB colonies (?), larger pebbles don't "blend" well, DOESN'T Hold plant roots well

    I got bored of the larger gravel appearance and I put some live plants in, only to have them fail presumably because the roots wouldn't do well in the larger gravel. I went and got some Caribsea Naturals Sand. You've got to clean the sand and all first so it's a bit of an initial hassle, but worth it. I put the sand in about 3/4 of the tank and let it gradually rise to the original gravel, made it look like a beach with the tide meeting the shore, really pretty- if I can toot my own horn. Very good sand, doesn't have the problems I've read about with some types of sand:
    Pros: Held plant roots better, extremely easy to clean, looks fantastic, not hyper-fine consistency
    Cons: Need to be careful with HOB filter (can ruin motor if kicked up), more difficult to setup (I've got "crystal river" type)

    *Not trying to endorse these particular brands, this is just what I have experience with; thought it'd be dishonest to recommend a generic "sand" or "River Gravel" so I linked in what I'd used.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Orange County

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    0 Not allowed!
    Looks like you took some time here! When you're using your siphon to do grav vac you should consider not "kicking up" the crap in the substrate. I'd highly recommend pinching the end of the tube with your hand to control just how much rock is coming up so you don't over siphon. It should always be your goal to lean your tank clean after cleanings. Turning off pumps and filters to minimize water flow is reccomended. (Internal sponge filters are a good method to maintain filtration for cleaning periods if you care)

    You'd be surprises but the nutrients in those plant substrates are extremely beneficial to your plant's root system. If you don't splurge for the full tank coverage, at least consider Seachem Planted Root Tabs. This is an inexpensive way to provide your tank with that essential nutrient value. This may be why you saw them fail. Consider more light also for plants.

    If you're worried about those magnet pumps in your HOB getting fine sand stuck in them, consider a sponge pre-filter (at least during cleaning?) to prevent lost of filter. This added mechanical filtration will make the tank clear up quicker as well. After all, it is hard to not knock up at least a little debri from the substrate.

    Also, I would't rule out those colored $5 bags of rock. They're cheap and not good for the entire tank, but after you have a plant substrate, you can add those colors in your aquascape for some profile.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Northwest Indiana

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    0 Not allowed!
    I Used Caribsea in my 125 and love it.
    220g Frontosa tank.
    210g monster fish tank.
    125g planted wild altum tank
    55g grow out tank.
    29g quarantine tank.

    Video of my 125

    Video of my 220.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    inland northwest, U.S.A.

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    1 Not allowed!
    I have nothing but gravel in both of my tanks, and my plants thrive. I use Flourish Comprehensive to feed them, and non-copper root tabs fortified with iron, which I push directly into the substrate. Gravel actually will hold down plant roots more securely, so they don't dislodge as easily when first planted. The roots manage to find their way amid the spaces between the gravel pieces and they seem to grow just fine in my tanks. I use smaller gravel -- not the tiniest, but midway between large and small. As long as there are nutrients in the substrate, the plants will find them.

    Gravel is much easier to work with, and as long as it's the smooth and rounded type without sharp edges, even dojos can thrive with it. I've had some actually bury themselves in the gravel (normal behavior for them), just as they would in a sand substrate.

    All sand at one time was part of larger pebbles, gravel or stones, which were broken down over time into finer grains. It all comes from the same initial source.

    As for colors, that's a matter of personal taste. I prefer darker substrates over lighter ones, but that's just me.

    Thanks for the info. Even though I'm no longer just a beginner, I would still have gravel for my substrates. I just prefer it that way.
    20 gal. high: planted; 5 white cloud minnows, 4 golden White Clouds, several RCS, 2 blue shrimp, 5 Amano shrimp, several snails; Azoo air. 65 gal: planted; 6 rosy barbs, 6 yellow glofish, 3 red glofish, 3 zebra danios, 5 white cloud minnows, 3 dojo loaches, 6 crimson spot rainbow fish, 12 large Amano Shrimp, several snails; AC110.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    NW IL

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    0 Not allowed!
    Nice post, thanks. I also have had experience with gravel, mine was hot pink when I started at age ten-then a more natural color when I upgraded from a 10 gallon to a 29 gallon. I hated how that painted gravel chipped while you cleaned it with your siphon. As a newbie I didn't really think there were any other options than gravel. Then I discovered corys and read that the gravel can be hard on them as they like to dig for food. So I switched to sand, and had it for a few months-but I thought my plants did better in the small gavel then the compacted sand so I looked for other substrates that would be goof for my fish and plants. That's when I discovered CaribSea Eco complete fine grain and fell in love with it, my plants did too and that has led me into learning more about how to keep my plants happy as well as my fish. When I upgraded my tank and had to add some more substrate-I learned they discontinued the "Fine" black Eco-Complete, so I added the regular black to add some depth to the tank

    I won't ever go back to gravel, and since my Eco-Complete doesn't break down; there is no need for me to go to plain old sand either.

    I don't work for CaribSea, but I feel their products speak for themselves- and very well too!

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