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Sand

This is a discussion on Sand within the Beginner Planted Aquarium forums, part of the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium category; --> The choice of substrate is somewhat dependent on what type of plant tank you want in the end. The answer to this question also ...

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Old 04-05-2009, 11:07 AM   #11
 
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The choice of substrate is somewhat dependent on what type of plant tank you want in the end. The answer to this question also applies to how much light and whether or not CO2 will be necessary.

I have always used regular aquarium gravel, the smallest grain size, and you can see my two current tanks in the photos under "Aquariums" below my name. I have been contemplating setting up a third tank with sand for a different look. As watts300 said, sand can get sucked up when cleaning the substrate, and this means you have to be careful to still disturb the sand in order to prevent the compaction that will, if left unchecked, cause pockets of nitrogen gas and eventually pollute the tank. Interesting that every book on planted aquaria I have recommends gravel over sand. I expect it is because of the compacting issue. But if you're willing to undertake the work to prevent this, no problem with sand.

As for using Eco-complete or similar substrate, this will depend upon the type of tank you want. If you intend to have CO2 and therefore mega light (3-4 watts per gallon), you should balance it with a substrate that has the nutrient additives like Eco-complete. But if you don't plan on CO2, and therefore will use less light (1-2 watts per gallon, I have 1 watt per gallon on both my tanks), you don't need additives in the substrate. I dose with liquid fertilizer twice a week (using Seachem's Flourish now, previously had same success with Kent Freshwater Plant Supplement) and I have the plant tablets in the substrate next to the larger swords which are heavy feeders. I've had tanks running and looking like these for 15 years.

If you go with gravel, make sure it is inert, that is, regular gravel for aquariums that won't alter the water chemistry. Don't use limestone or dolomite or coral-based gravels, as they will raise the hardness and pH. They are only intended for marine tanks and African rift lake cichlid tanks that need a high pH. Freshwater plant tanks, normally having slightly acidic water, need regular gravel or sand, whichever.
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Old 04-05-2009, 03:17 PM   #12
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
This means you have to be careful to still disturb the sand in order to prevent the compaction that will, if left unchecked, cause pockets of nitrogen gas and eventually pollute the tank.
The whole statement leaves me curious... but with that in bold more so.

The sand needs to be intentionally disturbed? Where would the nitrogen come from?



Does the relatively shallow sifting count towards the intentional disturbing of which you speak?
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Old 04-05-2009, 06:52 PM   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watts300 View Post
The whole statement leaves me curious... but with that in bold more so.

The sand needs to be intentionally disturbed? Where would the nitrogen come from?



Does the relatively shallow sifting count towards the intentional disturbing of which you speak?
To answer your first question, I quote from Peter Hiscock's book "Encyclopedia of Aquarium Plants" because he says it so well [page 43]. "Sand can cause problems if used as the sole substrate in an aquarium. Over time it will compact, preventing water movement and causing anaerobic conditions, which result in stagnation and the release of toxins. Stirring the sand gently and regularly will prevent this problem, although most plants do not appreciate constant disturbance. ... When using sand, be sure to choose a completely inert form. Many commercial sands contain traces of lime or calcareous materials, although most of the products sold by aquatic retailers are safe."

I'm assuming that you are somewhat familiar with the biological processes in an aquarium termed the nitrogen cycle, by which nitrosomonas bacteria convert ammonia into nitrite, and nitrobacter bacteria convert nitrite into nitrate. This is an aerobic process, which means the bacteria use oxygen to perform these tasks. In the substrate, oxygen also needs to be present, and oxygen is releasd by plant roots. A substrate rich in organic material (waste and nutrient-rich additives) naturally contains large numbers of bacteria that break down these organics into nutrients that the plant roots can use. The oxygen is quickly used up in this process, and the substrate becomes anaerobic; different types of bacteria form which do not need large quantities of oxygen or which create their own. These anaerobic bacteria release toxic gases like hydrogen sulphide. As the bacteria use nitrates, nitrogen is released. As long as the substrate is not too fine and compact the combination of slow-moving current and the release of oxygen by the plant roots should prevent the majority of the substrate from becoming anaerobic. But if the substrate compacts, it will turn anaerobic, causing plant roots to rot and when released into the water cause problems for fish.

Just as with gravel you "stir it up" a bit with the syphon during the weekly water change, so you must with sand, but you can't use the syphon as watts300 said because it sucks up the sand. You can use your fingers to gently work through most of the sand to ensure it is not compacting, being careful not to disturb the plant roots. As I've never used sand myself, I can't say how much disturbance you need to do to ensure a healthy substrate. Others who have sand should be able to advise on that point. There will be pockets of anaerobic conditions in the substrate, whether sand or gravel, but they must never be allowed to expand to the point where they cause pollution as I've tried to explain. It seems to be a bit trickier to ensure a healthy substrate with sand than gravel.
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Old 04-06-2009, 07:39 AM   #14
 
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That's good to know. Seems I need a rake. I'll fashion something with a kitchen fork (one of those with two tines for for poking and holding) so I can reach the bottom from above the surface. In the places where roots are, I'll just stab the sand a few times. I cleaned the sand well enough before I put it in the aquarium so that when I "disturb it" it doesn't muck up the water.

(Funny. I just noticed, in rereading my previous post that I neglected to phrase it "shallow sifting from my clown loaches." Doesn't matter though. :) I have my answer.)

Thanks.
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:44 PM   #15
 
Okay. I'm back again. I was all set on getting eco-complete. I actually finally found some in the local store but much to my surprise it was basically gravel. I had gone this whole time assuming it was sand. SO i assumed that they made both kinds (sand and gravel). So i came home, looked around online and all i'm finding is the gravel type, is it safe to assume that is all they offer?

If that is the case, what other sand substrate options are out there and what is suggested for plants? I was wanting sand solely for my cories and would like to stick to sand for their sake. I just need to know what sand options are out there, which is best for plants, and what i need to do to make up the nutrients the eco complete offers. I know i need a liquid fert and plant tabs, what else?
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Old 05-01-2009, 01:00 PM   #16
 
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Earlier in this thread someone suggested play sand from Home Depot, and I believe others on this forum have used it. I have seen it (never used it myself), and it looks like nice sand (if that makes any sense). Others say it need considerable rinsing to get all the dust and debris (whatever) out. Just be sure that you don't get sand intended for marine or rift lake setups, as it will contain dolomite/limestone/coral or similar to raise hardness and pH, and you don't want that in a freshwater plant tank.

I have seen it suggested in magazine articles on planted aquaria that you can put a layer of eco-complete or similar in first, then a layer of sand on top. Personally I would expect the two to be continually mixing through plant root growth, corys sifting through it, and regular cleaning (vacuuming), so I'm not sure this would be so good, but to each his own. With regular sand, plant tabs inserted next to certain plants (heavy feeders like swords) would be it for the substrate. Plus your liquid fertilizer added once, twice or thrice weekly depending upon other factors (type of plants, light, available CO2 from fish, nutrients in the tap wwater).
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Old 05-01-2009, 01:15 PM   #17
 
I have been thinking about the play sand. I was just curious if there was anything similar to eco-complete in sand form or something between the two. Just something that might aid in plant growth. If there arent any other options then its off to the hardware store for play sand. I'll just pick up the tabs and ferts and get it started. So as long as i use the tabs and ferts i shouldnt have any problem growing plants? (given all of the correct lighting, CO2, etc, etc.) Didn't know if that is all you had to have to make up for the lacking nutrients the eco-complete has.
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Old 05-01-2009, 05:31 PM   #18
 
There is Seachem's black onyx sand, but it is more expensive than eco-complete. Also Pet Solutions has eco-complete for less than DFS. I personally don't like using regular sand and trying to grow plants in it. I use eco-complete or Flourite.
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Old 05-02-2009, 02:55 AM   #19
 
How fine/soft is fluorite?
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Old 05-05-2009, 12:19 AM   #20
 
Flourite is a rougher/sharper gravel than eco-complete.
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