Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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RedBelly 05-19-2010 01:18 PM

Sand or Gravel??
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Right now im up in the air between white sand,crushed coral,or black gravel for my 75 gal.the only fish i have right now is a 10yr old redbelly and a small spotted catfish.When the piranaha dies i plan on setting up a assorted breed of african cichlids which like a high ph and would go perfect with the crushed coral since it raises the ph.

Im also worried about sand getting kicked up in the water from my sometimes erratic piranaha..most of the time hes dosile but hes a big strong fish so it doesnt take much.I think the wood,decorations and holy rock would contrast better with a white or black instead of my amazon color gravel.

So let me know what ya think!!

xrayjeeper83 05-19-2010 04:33 PM

Ive always like the look of black gravel, the only reason I went with playsand was price

Byron 05-19-2010 07:45 PM

The substrate should be suited to the fish. And this involves colour and texture even for rift lake cichlids. The substrates in the rift lakes is sandy and rocky, so that is your guide.

I would avoid white sand as it will cause a certain amount of "brightness" which not only impacts your viewing but provides a bright substrate that is not appreciated by the fish. The light entering the rift lakes causes algae to cover things.

Coral would be nice, but I would caution that an entire substrate will raise the pH a lot. Not knowing your tap water pH, nor the degree to which the coral would raise the pH in such a might want to check into that. A buff coloured sand like play sand, or dark grey play sand, would work well, with a rocky decor.

All this assuming that eventually the cichlids will be on their own, not sharing with the two present fish.

iamntbatman 05-20-2010 03:23 AM

I would have voted for black sand if you had that included in the list. Brightly colored Malawi cichlids really pop over dark substrate, and I prefer sand over gravel, especially in applications where plants aren't really an issue.

RedBelly 05-20-2010 08:53 AM

thanks for the help guys your definityly helping narrowing the choices.the only reason crushed coral was a option was i heard it raises the ph in the high 7's and that is perfect for the cichlids..but with that i could have plants.

can cichlids still thrive in a neutral ph like 7??

i think its up in the air between black sand or black gravel.i did see a pic online with a black substate and cichlids and the blues and yellows really popped.i ll keep ya guys posted hopefully with some new pics soon.

Byron 05-20-2010 12:48 PM

I agree, dark substrates always "disappear" more and the fish (and plant) colours stand out. Plus as I mentioned most fish come from dark substrate habitats so they feel more natural and "at home" over dark substrates.

I would have the pH in the high 7's or 8's for rift lake cichlids. What is your tap water pH? Years ago I had tap water at 6 and zero hardness and used dolomite gravel for a small tank of rift lake cichlids and it worked well, the pH was close to 8. But I didn't understand or appreciate the dark substrate issue then (30 years ago now), and I would never use dolomite (which is white) as a substrate now. If you tell us your tap water parameters (pH and hardness, both GH and KH) we may have suggestions.


RedBelly 05-20-2010 06:02 PM

yea im def leaning toward a dark substrate now.i want it as natural as possible.

as for my water parameters i know my ph is around 7.3 and as for the others im going to bring a sample of my tap water and fish tank water to the lfs and get the numbers of everything.

Byron 05-20-2010 08:23 PM

My recommendation for a good filter would be a canister, and if so, you could easily have one of the baskets filled with dolomite or coral. With a tap water pH of 7.3 this would easily result in a pH close to or above 8, and suitable hardness. Your hardness numbers when you have them will tell us how much (approximately) dolomite/coral might be needed.


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