02-25-2010, 02:12 PM
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It must be inert. Some types of sand are, some aren't. The top 3 cheap substrates I have heard of are
1) 3M Colorquartz: $30 for 50 lbs. Comes in all colors including but not limited to blue, plum, white, brown, tan and black. Inert, and the sand (S-Grade) comes in smooth, round grains. They also have a T-Grade similar to fine gravel. Best of all the quartz is extremely dense and therefore heavier, making it harder to be come sucked up in your siphon or filter.
2) Pool Filter Sand: Dirt cheap, maybe $5/bag. Inert, usually a whitish yellow. You can cap some Shultz Aquatic Soil (or any other inert soil) with it and away you go!
3) Turface: Good planted tank substrate, resists compacting (it's used for baseball fields) and holds nutrients well.