05-05-2012, 02:51 AM
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Either sand or gravel can work very well once we rule out extremes. For instance, pea sized gravel looks great but just isn't a good substrate because food gets too quickly is out of reach and plants don't root well. Sand is great except glaring white and black may be less than desirable. Personally, I like small natural gravel or tan colored sand.
Now for sand, whether play sand or pool filter sand, make sure you rinse well - and I'm talking bucket and hose rinsing outside (cool beverage optional). You really want to rinse it really, really well to remove the 'fines' (dust like particles) lest you'll be fighting cloudy water after it's in the tank.
As for cleaning, unless heavily planted, fine gravel may require the occasional gravel siphon cleaning. For sand, it's merely a hover over method as needed. Also for sand, some feel it needs to be stirred. I think if you have some Malasian Trumpet Snails to stir the upper inch (or stir the upper inch during weekly water changes) your fine. Again, moot if the tank is heavily planted. And don't worry about anaerobic regions down under as they are inevitable and not the concern some seem to think. (It's actually stirring detritus deep into anaerobic regions that can present a problem.)
So there you go...sand or fine gravel. Both work well. In some ways, sand may have a slight edge.