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SusanB 09-21-2012 11:24 AM

Substrate and Stocking help
I am going to be setting up a 55 gallon tank soon (freebie from my brother in law who is no longer using it!) and I want to make sure I have all of my ducks in a row. My pH is about 7.6 and GH and KH are each 79 ppm. I plan on making this a heavily planted tank with loaches and schools of tetra. The tetra I was thinking about are Glowlight Tetra, Head and Tail Light Tetra and Diamond Tetra.

I am taking a trip to my LFS tomorrow to see what they have available to see if there other other options I might not be aware of. I am not buying anything tomorrow, I just want to see what they have and come home and do tons of research to make sure I will have fish that will work in my soft water.

The biggest problem I am having is deciding on some sort of substrate; I have done a lot of research but I am still undecided. I have play sand in my 10 gallon and I am not a fan of it. It may be because it is not planted heavily enough, but to me it always looks dirty. I was thinking of using either the Saf T Sorb which I can get at Tractor Supply or Spectrastone Nutmeg Gravel which looks like this:
Does anyone have any opinions or suggestions or my options? I want to start getting my supplies together before the tank arrives.

nicolaas 09-23-2012 09:04 AM


I have sand in 5 of my 9 tanks and in my opinion it is best to have a few corydoras in the tank to keep the sand clean.

The tetras will be great for that tank, they like soft water.

A group of kuhli loaches will look very nice. And they will also keep the sand clean.

AbbeysDad 09-23-2012 09:32 AM

I have used gravel but now I'm using well washed pool filter sand. I feel the sand is far superior to gravel. With sand there is never any waste or uneaten food that sifts deeply to decay and require routine gravel siphoning. Mulm collects on the surface of the sand where I let it decay or I can hover the siphon above the surface to remove.
Undisturbed deep (3") sand also makes an excellent bio-filter to assist in keeping the tank clean. Note that I do not have a planted tank, but do have floating anacharis.

redchigh 09-23-2012 11:26 AM

If safety sorb is like oil-dri, its great. Just soak it in tap water and rinse well.

Snails keep my sand clean.
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Byron 09-23-2012 02:46 PM

The substrate is something you want to get right at the first, because while it can always be changed, it is a lot of work to tear down an established tank, plus the bacteria issues associated with a new substrate.

So you want something you enjoy looking at, obviously, but remember that the substrate is primarily dependant upon the needs of fish and plants. It must provide a good bed for bacteria, suitable rooting medium for plants, and be acceptable for any fish that may "use" it, such as cichlids, all catfish, and loaches. And it will be m ore satisfying if it is natural in colour/appearance. If substrate fish like corys are planned, definitely go with sand. The Quikrete Play Sand which i happen to use repicates the sand in the Amazon so it is very authentic in appearance, and plants grow fine it it.


SusanB 09-23-2012 05:45 PM

Is there any sand that is reasonably priced that is dark in color? I have heard of people using sand blasting sand, but I am a little scared of that. I worry I would get something that would kill my fish.

Quantum 09-23-2012 06:26 PM

the black sand blasting media is coal slag, which is mostly silicon dioxide (but not SiO2 quartz as is most play sand - same chemically, but with different crystalline structure) and aluminum oxide, it is also some percentage of CaO, which will affect pH (raise it)

also consider that it is used as sand blasting media because of its texture (hard and sharp) so not ideal for any substrate fish

Byron 09-23-2012 06:35 PM

Agree, I have read elsewhere that one should not use blasting sand.

There is black pool filter sand, so I'm told, which is obviously better than the white which is not good due to the brightness (it reflects light, not good for fish). Then there are the black aquarium sands that one sees commercially, which are of course much more expensive.

Still not sure what it is about playsand that one could object to...I now have it in 5 tanks and I never even "see" it. The plants are doing well, corys are certainly better, it is very soft, and it is about as inexpensive as any substrate could be. And authentic in appearance as well. What more could one ask for?;-)

SusanB 09-23-2012 07:20 PM

The black blasting sand is out; I certainly don't need to raise my pH any higher than it already is. I think my objection to playsand is that I don't have it heavily planted in my 10 gallon tank and I can see the crud that sits on top of the sand. My 55 gallon is going to be heavily planted so hopefully that will take care of the crud on the sand issue.

Now that I have the substrate issue resolved, time to work on the plants and figure out what I want to put in there!

Thanks so much for all of your help!

AbbeysDad 09-25-2012 08:51 AM


Originally Posted by Byron (Post 1254509)
Still not sure what it is about playsand that one could object to...I now have it in 5 tanks and I never even "see" it. The plants are doing well, corys are certainly better, it is very soft, and it is about as inexpensive as any substrate could be. And authentic in appearance as well. What more could one ask for?;-)

The only possible objection to play sand is that some are very finely grained which can result in the sand packing which inhibits some beneficial bacteria development in lower levels. Some proponents of deep sand recommend somewhat larger grain sands to better promote water and nutrient transfer at various depths.
Suffice it to say that not all [play] sands are created equally and while some may produce excellent results, others perhaps, not so much.

Also, I seem to keep 'hearing' that pool filter sand is white and therefore too light. I have a pool ...and use pool filter sand in my aquarium and the only pool filter sand I have ever seen is sandy [brown] colored. That doesn't mean there isn't some white out there, but then I've also seen white play sand for sale.

Now, having rambled on about this, we might also 'say' that if the sand depth is only about an inch or so, any grain size sand would be fine. I prefer the potential merits of deep sand, but that's another thread.

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