02-24-2008, 02:59 PM
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Be careful and do your research about new substrates, as many of them will cause an ammonia spike when added to new tanks. This was a consideration I had to take into account when changing my substrate, I didn't have any other tank for the fish to stay in for too long so I didn't want to add any substrate that would radically change the water parameters. I decided to use turface. It is cheap, looks good, and the plants like it. You have a limited budget and all of the substrates you were looking at would be well over $100 to cover the bottom of the tank well (including shipping). Really, your only options for under 50 dollars are play sand and turface. I would recommend turface.
One other thing, most substrates cannot be cleaned in the same way as gravel. If you stick the syphon down into the substrate it will just get sucked up. Turface is this way, it isn't really a problem, I just kind of swirl the syphon over the top of the substrate to get up the big pieces.
Also, what is your pH out of the tap? Do you add pH-changing chemicals to your water?