Sand substrate, depth, and dead zone worry - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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Sand substrate, depth, and dead zone worry

How do I have a deep sand substrate safely?
I'm setting up a new 40 gallon and want to use sand since the tank is acrylic. I'm afraid gravel would scratch the tank and I like the look of the black sand. My concern is the sand I like generates dead pockets pretty readily even in my 10 gallon with only an inch or so of substrate. For swords, I thought 3-4" was recommended, but I don't want a bunch of anaerobic zones in the sand. With plants and sand, I can't really do an into-the-substrate vacuum cleaning to prevent dead zones.

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post #2 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 12:52 PM
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Malaysian trumpet snails, MTS would be good for a sand substrate.
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post #3 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 01:44 PM
I second this I have black sand in my 125 gallon tank with mts, I love my mts I don't see them a whole lot but they do a wonderful job. I maybe wrong but I don't think you need 4" that's a lot of sand, I may have 2". I also have a long spatula (for cooking) that I use to move my sand if say it gets blown to deep in one area you can just run your spatula across it and level it, way easier than trying to use your hand.
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post #4 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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Yea, I already have a ton of MTS in my 10 gallon and have a bunch (several hundred at least) in my current 55. Still end up with dead spots.
The swords tend to like a deep substrate. Hard to stir up a substrate with swords, they don't like their roots disturbed!
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post #5 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 06:41 PM
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How do you know you have dead spots? I have sand in 3 tanks now and I've seen nothing to indicate trouble. And, some anaerobic zones are essential for good plant growth and good health in the aquarium. Read my article on bacteria, I cover this in the bit on substrate.

I would just leave it alone. However, 2-3 inches is sufficient. I reset my 115g about a month ago with playsand, and I put in 110 lbs (50 kg) which is 2 bags. It evened out to about 2.5 inches. I built up areas along the back with slabs of basalt to have deeper areas for the Echinodorus cordifolius, E. major and E. bleherae. There's about 1.5 to 2 inches elsewhere. I've no intention of touching it. I have Malaysian livebearing snails too.

My other two sand substrate tanks have been running for a year, about 2 inches sand depth.

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 #6 of 6 Old 09-02-2011, 08:01 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again Byron, I thought I had read that swords liked 3-4". but if 2" will work, that's good for me and costs less too, especially since the acrylic tank has no rims to block the substrate view. I know I have anaerobic spots in my 10 gallon since I'll pull plants and get the bubbles, along with some really stinking buried plant parts sometimes...

On the flip side, I have noticed no problems with the plants, snails, my young plecos, or other fishes in the tank. Your advice is good - if it's not really an issue, don't make it one!
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