Substrate--good yet inexpensive?
I recently bought a 55 gal., and as always seems to happen to everyone, I am ending up spending much more than I had planned to get it up and running. The heater and filter that came with it are just plain cheap, and I fear the heater would be a hazard after what I've read, so I ordered an Eheim Jager 300wt. heater and a Penguin 350 filter. I already have a 20gal high and a 10 gal. tank. I got the Eco Complete substrate for them, but with all the plants, caves, decorations, etc. that I'll need for the 55, not including the fish, its really starting to run high, and I find I can't afford to use the Eco Complete in the 55. I know about 1 lb. of substrate is needed per gallon. What brand would you recommend that is a good substrate, yet won't cost me $50? I have decided not to get sand. I want a pre-packaged substrate that won't mess up the chemistry in my tank and is halfway decent as far as looks. I am thinking of going with blue or black, or a combination.
Get natural non painted. Alot of the artificially colored gravel in my tank is peeling. It looks ugly and who knows what is in the paint that might now be leeching into the water and poisoning my fish. Probably too late but 300w is way overkill on a 55g for your heater.
I am currently using black diamond blasting media in planted tank as a cap over soil .
It is black and inexpensive, and I found it at hardware store for about eight dollars for fifty pounds.
Plant's seem to be doing well and the corydoras I have show no signs of discomfort after three month's.
Flourite black sand is similar but more expensive for perhaps a little bit of iron.
Black diamond is said to contain a little calcium,magnesium,and iron but it does not prevent me from keeping Rummy nose,Cardinal tetra's,Pristella's, Amano shrimp,Cherry shrimp So effect's to water chemistry seem to be quite small.
Spoke to a number of people online after wading through almost as many nay sayer's, before pulling the trigger on this substrate and thus far ,I am pleased.
Sand won't affect your water parameters, unless it is a marine sand (usually crushed coral).
A lot of people around here, myself included, use Play Sand. The kind you get for a kids sand box. The sand is "Silica, crystalline, quartz" which means it isn't minerals that will dissolve and increase GH, KH, and pH.
It's less than $4 for a 50 lb bag. The only issue is cleaning it, it takes a bit of time, but saves you loads of cash.
Good suggestions from other members. If cost is a factor as you indicate, I would not waste your money on enriched substrates. I have Flourite, which is comparable to Eco-Complete, in my 70g and it is a disappointment; I would never do this again.
Fine gravel or sand is best for plants. It's up to you which you want, but consider fish; if you want substrate fish like corys and loaches, sand is definitely better in my experience.
Beyond that, go with a dark and/or natural colour. Ladayen is correct, i also have had gravel that lost its coating. Not all do, but avoiding colours avoids the risk.
I changed my 115g 5-foot tank from gravel to playsand last year, for a total of $14. Looks super, and the corys are enjoying it too. And plants grow very well in sand. If you are determined to avoid sand, then the onlycheap alternative will be bulk fine gravel from a fish store or if lucky a landscape outlet. But make sure it is not calcareous or it will raise the GH and pH.
In wal-mart, they sell a product called 'oil-dri' in the automotive department.
Rinse it, and mix with equal-amounts of soil. Then cap with 1 inch of well-rinsed oil-dri.
Oil-dri is a 'fracted' (semi-fired) clay... It also darkens with age to a nice charcoal black.
It *can* lower the kh/ph, but only at first. If you rinse it well, then soak it for a day, it won't affect the chemistry at all.
I actually abuse it's ability to suck up nutrients, by adding the unwashed oil-dri to a concentrated fertiliser mixture and let it soak for a day or two. Then a quick rinse and you have a (mildly) enriched substrate for $9 per bag. (The bags are huge, but the substrate is very light dry.)
Thanks so much everyone for your suggestions! I will check them out. Layaden, I am very disappointed and bummed, as I researched heaters (brands and wattage) online for HOURS over several days, and read in several places that 300wt. would be enough for my tank. I certainly didn't want to get one that didn't have enough wattage, and I figured if I set a 300wt low, it wouldn't get the tank too hot. Is there a real risk of it overheating my tank? I let my house get pretty cold at night in winter. It often goes down to the high 50s, so I wanted to be sure I had a heater that would keep the tank warm enough. I'm sure Amazon will take it back for a lower wattage, but of course I'd have to pay shipping again.
If it works as intended, it will be fine. The problem is everything dies eventually. When it does it will most likely get stuck in the on position. This will raise your tank temp well over 100 degrees killing everything. Just a question of if it happens 3 weeks or 20 years down the road. I try to keep my wattage on the lower end so if a heater does get stuck on if hopefully wont raise the temp too high. I am slowly working towards getting 2 heaters in each tank so I can keep the wattage down. If one heater dies there is still one more to heat, if one gets stuck on it wont be powerful enough to boil the tank.
A 250W is more than enough for a 55 gallon. Larger tanks don't need as large of heaters as smaller tanks, they have more thermal mass and loose less heat.
A 'safe' approach would be to use two 150W heaters, one on each end. This works really well with a canister filter as your input and output will be on the ends too, giving you a nice even heat distribution.
And as ladayen points out, if one of the heaters fails on, it will take it longer to heat the water giving you time to notice there is a problem.
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