Gravel or Sand for my new freshwater tank? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
 
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post #1 of 5 Old 03-06-2012, 07:22 PM Thread Starter
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Smile Gravel or Sand for my new freshwater tank?

Hi there,
I am starting up my first freshwater tank, and it is a 360 L (95 gallon) tank and i am struggling to decide whether to use Gravel or sand. I am planning on keeping a pleco and a fire eel, both of these prefer sand to gravel. I want to have sand as i prefer what it looks like, but am worried about the maintenance and where to get it? I went into a aquarium shop and the man told me sand is a no go because of the build up of toxic gas pockets in the sand and it is hard to clean. Also if i did end up getting sand i have no idea what type is best? I like the look of the white sand (i think it might be silica) but dont know where to buy this stuff?
Thanks a lot!
Any feedback would be helpful!
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post #2 of 5 Old 03-06-2012, 08:06 PM
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There is some truth to what the store employee told you, but gravel can do the same if it is too deep and not properly maintained, so I wouldn't let this put you off sand. For years I used fine gravel, then two years ago began experimenting with sand and now love it. The trick is not to have it deep, in a 90g I would aim for 2 inches overall. I have this in my 115g and it has worked well.

If plants are intended, those with good roots systems like swords and crypts will help keep the sand loose and well oxygenated. And Malaysian Livebearing snails work wonders, as they burrow throughout the sand.

I would not use silica sand though, for two reasons. First, it is white and no fish likes a white substrate. Second, silica can cause diatoms, brown algae, which feed off silicates. The best and least expensive sand is common gray/tan play sand. I use Quikrete Play Sand from Home Depot or Lowe's. It took two bags for my 5-foot 115g, a total of $14. You can buy dark (black) sand for aquaria in fish stores but it will be considerably more expensive.

Photo below is one of my playsand tanks.
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Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #3 of 5 Old 03-06-2012, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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Ahh thanks a lot for that, Your aquarium looks lovely! Looks like its going to be play sand for my tank then! Also another quick question? How do you clean the sand before you put it in the tank? just in a big bucket? And is there any way to prevent it from getting in your filter (i have a canister filter). Thanks a lot.
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post #4 of 5 Old 03-06-2012, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pche View Post
Ahh thanks a lot for that, Your aquarium looks lovely! Looks like its going to be play sand for my tank then! Also another quick question? How do you clean the sand before you put it in the tank? just in a big bucket? And is there any way to prevent it from getting in your filter (i have a canister filter). Thanks a lot.
On the filter, the intake should be about 5-6 inches above the substrate. Mine is in the back right corner (the filter outflow is in the top left corner). I never touch the substrate, so it is unlikely to get stirred up back there. You could lay a flat chunk of rock below the intake if you really want to make sure.

Washing the sand is very tedious. It does have a lot of fine dirt in it. You can do it outside with a hose, but I use a 3 gallon pail with about 5 cups of sand at a time, and in the laundry sink (less likely to clog from the bit of sand that will get down the drain). Rinse, dump, rinse, dump...over and over. But the end result is worth it.

Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #5 of 5 Old 03-06-2012, 10:07 PM
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i took Byron's advice and grabbed a bag of play sand for my new 20 gallon tank. i washed the sand a couple days ago. it does take a LONG time to wash away the dirt from the sand but the end result is well worth the effort! (SO much better than the black and white gravel i have in my 5g)

thanks Byron :) ill have pics on my thread soon...
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