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The good and bad of your substrate choice

This is a discussion on The good and bad of your substrate choice within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I just cleaned 175 pounds of play sand I used two buckets. In one, I filled it about 1/5 to 1/4 full of sand. ...

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The good and bad of your substrate choice
Old 04-30-2012, 08:13 PM   #21
 
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I just cleaned 175 pounds of play sand

I used two buckets. In one, I filled it about 1/5 to 1/4 full of sand. I then took the hose and blasted the heck out of it, getting it right down into the sand to make sure it was really kicking the sand up. You then turn the water off, wait a moment (30 seconds or so) and slowly pour the water out. You repeat that about 10-15 times (yeah...) until the water starts to look clear after you let it settle. Helps that after you get the initial dirt out that you reach your hand in and stir it around while spraying with the hose, just to get all the dirt. Once it starts pouring clear, you dump that sand into the second bucket and start on the next batch...

Repeat ... and repeat ... and repeat until your done. Took me two days (not full days, but about 4 hours total). With a smaller amount of sand it will of course go much faster

Obviously outside in the street is best, as the waste water will be full of dirt and fine sand. If you do it inside, be extra careful not to heavier sand escape, as it might settle in your drain's trap. If you have a fine strainer on your drain that might work, but I found it was easiest outside in a lawn chair on a sunny day.

I wouldn't go over2.5-3" though. Sad compacts a lot more than gravel. MTS are wonderful for rooting around in the sand.
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:25 PM   #22
 
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Oh yeah, I forgot about the compacting sand and gas thing. Hm, lawnchair, drink and sand cleaning doesn't sound the worst. ha ha

I might have to give this a bit more thought. I have not been able to find any MTS snails yet either. Guess I would want some of those lined up first also. Ducks in a row, ya know.

Where did you get your sand?

Is pool sand as hard to clean?
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:33 PM   #23
 
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I got my sand form home depot for like $3, for a ( I think) a 50lb bag. I've also fallen in to the black gravel pot. I have some in a 26 gal, and I thinking of doing balck sand in my 75.

Last edited by Jayy; 04-30-2012 at 08:37 PM..
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:39 PM   #24
 
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One tank I have bigger black gravel.
The good: I think it looks cool, it hides any fish poop that might have been seen in there, and normally holds plants down pretty good.
The bad: The Red Devil I have in the tank tends to move the pieces around, he puts them in his mouth and moves them, I am worried that he might accidentally swallow one and die.

Another tank I have pool filter sand:
The good: It was cheap, easy to clean, and a new experience.
The bad: Poop is much more noticeable sitting on the substrate, also cleaning is a huge pain as the siphon sucks up a lot of sand, also I don't think it looks as cool as the gravel.
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Old 04-30-2012, 08:56 PM   #25
 
I remember my first choice of gravel as an bright blue gravel. Later on a strange red gravel. I wish I had known better. The stuff was so difficult to clean (stuff would stick to the gravel and refuse to come off with a vacuum), and...it just hid so much stuff underneath as it trickled down to create sludge.

Now with my big tank and my small one there is playsand and I'll have to say even if it's not black it's a massive improvement. Now I can just hover my electric aquarium vacuum right over waste and suck it up without sucking up sand. It's so easy to spot waste and clean it up. My loaches also love to dig in it.
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:05 PM   #26
 
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In all but one of my tanks I have the basic natural gravel. It serves its purpose well as it doesn't look bad and lets the plants root in it. I just wish it was a little darker to make the colors pop more. But with a black background, my tanks look pretty okay.

The goldfish tank is another story. I have large river rocks due to the impaction risk with gravel. It's certainly a different look. I tried to get majority darker rocks, so it will look more natural. The lighter rocks are covered with algae now, so it has taken on a very natural look (lol I need to update my pictures). The major downside to it is that I can't have plants in it. Even the stem plants give me a helluva time just staying put. I just ended up ripping everything out. I'm going to try putting plants in terracotta pots.

I'm going to change my 29 gal over to black sand when I get the funds. I can't wait to put the sand, black background, and a ton more plants in it.
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Old 05-01-2012, 06:46 AM   #27
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inga View Post
I am sure I am going to sound stupid here but... Do you put it into nylons or something to rinse it? I mean, I can't just toss it into my strainer like I did with the gravel. It would all scoot out through the holes. How do you handle that? I could lay some pantyhose in the strainer and pour the sand in over it. Ha Ha Now THAT would be a picture.

This project might be pushed up. I have wanted to re-do the 25 gallon for quite some time. Might be a good start.
Try placing sand in big pillow case and running water through until it runs clear.
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Old 05-01-2012, 07:27 AM   #28
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inga View Post
Oh yeah, I forgot about the compacting sand and gas thing. Hm, lawnchair, drink and sand cleaning doesn't sound the worst. ha ha

I might have to give this a bit more thought. I have not been able to find any MTS snails yet either. Guess I would want some of those lined up first also. Ducks in a row, ya know.

Where did you get your sand?

Is pool sand as hard to clean?
I got mine from Home Depot, Lowe's probably also sells it. There are various brands. Depending on your area it will be between $3 and $5 I think for a 50 lb bag. Quikrete is one, Pavestone is another brand.

Pool filter sand is easier to clean, but you have to find a dark color of it. Most is white, and white isn't a good choice (very bright for the fish).

I got my MTS from Petsmart, they'll give them away for free as they are a 'pest' snail. They are hard to find though, when the lights are on they usual are under the substrate. But look closely in all the tanks, particularly a plant tank if they have one. You might see one or two on the glass/walls. You only need one to seed a tank ;) But grab multiples if they have them. Petco is the same deal, pest snail so they don't care if you take them. Plus as chain stores, they can't sell you anything that isn't in the computer anyways.

LFS may or may not let you just take them, some sell them.
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Old 05-01-2012, 03:30 PM   #29
 
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Sanguinefox Wait until you change out your substrate someday. I changed mine out completely. I can't even describe the filth that was in that gravel and I keep my tanks very very clean. The STINK!!! Ugh!!! This is in part why I have decided to change out the substrate in my smaller tank when I re-do it. I think a fresh start isn't a bad thing. I will use the same plants, wood and won't change the filter so I don't have to "recycle" the tank.
Oh and "electric aquarium vacuum?" I have got to get one of those. :)

1077 Pillow case is an excellent idea.

Geo, Is the white really that much worse then the natural? maybe I could mix them? I have not seen dark colored pool sand but then.. someone made the point of the color maybe being a toxin for the fish? I guess it is better to stay with natural for that reason. All the stores around here currently have all kinds of strange colors of play sand. I am sure the kids love it but doubt the fish will. I will ask about some snails, thanks.
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Old 05-01-2012, 03:36 PM   #30
 
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Hi Inga! :)

I've been using black flourite sand and I'm pretty happy with it. I didn't rinse it, even though it's notorious for being cloudy. I just filled it really (extremely) slowly and am careful during water changes and I haven't had any trouble with cloudiness during normal maintenance. I swear my experience goes exactly counter to every one else I've ever discussed it with, lol.

The plants love it. I haven't found it too difficult to root plants in, except for bacopa when I trim and replant it...but those are cuttings with no root systems to help anchor them so I doubt any other substrate would work much better. I have a pretty thin layer of it, maybe an inch in thickness, because I was concerned about gas pockets and my brother (who keeps saltwater tanks) said it could be avoided with a thinner layer of it.

Anyway, as far as cleaning it, as long as you keep the siphon a couple centimeters away from the surface of the sand, very little if any gets sucked up. All the debris seem to settle right on top so it's easy to clean IME, whereas they seem to sink into the crevices of larger gravel. I guess my only complaint is that when I got a layer of diatoms once it looked like crap, but it probably would on any substrate.
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