I just bought another 37 gallon tank and am wondering what I should start with for substrate. I need to buy gravel and that sort of thing and am wondering what kind and how fine of grade I should get. Should I put something below the gravel?
What kind of substrate depends on what kind of filter, fish, and plants you're going to put in there and what your budget is. You can get really great planted tank substrate in a variety of grades from fine sand up to coarse gravel at about a buck and a quarter to a buck fifty a pound, but you'll want at least one pound per gallon (or more if you're going for a deep, sloped substrate), ad mostly it comes in 25 lb bags, so your looking at 60 bucks for two bags of eco-complete, Onyx, or Flourite if you want to go that route.
For less, much less, than half that, go get a 50 lb bag of play sand (make sure it's not coral sand) and a 50 lb bag of organic potting soil. Mix half of each together, and rinse a dozen times until the water isn't opaque any more. (Plant a tomato in the other half, or chives, or both.) If you like, you can add some peat and/or some laterite while you're mixing to lower the soil PH and add iron.
My experience has been that plants like a substrate that's as fine as possible without compacting. That's also what bottom feeding fish tend to like. If you do use a fine substrate, particularly in a deep bed, you will have to put something in there to keep it stirred up. I use Malaysian Trumpet snails. Other people use a fork or a skewer to stir the substrate once a week.
good luck on this new setup! :) looking forward for your journal. :)
A nice alternative to Eco-Complete or something like that is AquariumPlants.com own substrate. I've never used it, but I've seen some great planted tanks with it, and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than the other stuff. I currently use their root tabs and I love them.
I've found that overall, Aquariumplants.com is a pretty good site for the aquatic plant world. If you need any help, call their phone number. I have heard only great things about the help they provide via phone/ e-mail. I agree okiemavis that their own substrate has been in some wonderful tanks. My dad had a stunning 125 gallon tank that used their substrate, and it won a local award, I think, in part due to the benefits added by having their substrate. I think it is a pretty good product, you should give it a shot. :)
okiemavis, is also right in that their tabs are great. I use their tabs and my plants are doing great. :) I have bought 99% of my plants from there, and have never had any problem with anything they have ever sold me. Once again, Their staff are a great help to any beginner with plants if you call their number. They will help you get off on the right foot in the Aquatic Plant world. :)
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