04-02-2011, 12:57 PM
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I have used gravel bought in bulk from landscaping/stone places. If you can find what you need, it will be a real savings in money. But, make sure it is useable.
Some gravels are made from calcareous rock and will raise water hardness and corresponding pH. This is no problem if you intend keeping only hard water fish (livebearers, rift lake cichlids, some other fish) but not in a tank of soft water fish. Inert gravel, meaning it will not affect water chemistry, is what you ideally want in most cases.
The gravel size should be small, "pea gravel" is about the largest you want to use; anything larger will trap food too easily and cause other problems. Small-grain gravel (1-2 mm grain size) is best with plants. Some fish need small gravel, some work well with pea gravel; depends what fish you have in the tank.
I used the pea gravel last year in a 70g tank, and a couple weeks ago I pulled it out. The plants did not do well in it, and the loaches didn't seem to be happy. All are now in another tank with 1-2 mm gravel and much happier.