Sand for planted Aquariums
I want to know you guys experience with play sand. Does it work with plants? Which exact sand should I look for at lowes or home depot. That way I could get the exact one you guys use. :-D. And How much should I put in a 55 gallon planted tank, that I'm going to set up.
Sand is not a desirable substrate for most live plants due to its density. Plant roots have a very difficult time growing through sand, and because sand compacts so tightly, it prevents organics from working their way down to the root systems to feed the plants.
Sand is also very difficult to keep clean, a planted tank makes that even more difficult. Gravel vacs are nearly impossible with sand, unless you want to clog your household plumbing (which happens quickly and is expensive to fix). There are a few complicated/messy safeties for doing water changes/gravel vacs with a sand substrate, but I try not to volunteer those in open forums because unless something such as eels are in the tank where sand is needed for them to burrow into, I don't suggest it in a freshwater tank.
Play sand is something I have always considered a no no in a freshwater aquarium. There is never a way to know how heavy the mineral content is with it, and the grains tend to be very fine, which creates mud on the bottom... thus organic breakdown that can cause problems for the animals. If sand is absolutely needed, silica sand is the best and safest option. You should be able to purchase it at any lfs that sells gravel and other specialized plant substrates, or at most reptile supply stores. If its not seen on the shelf, you can ask for it. Some lfs's don't stock it regularly because there is such a low demand for it in most areas, but it should be easily available to them through their distributor.
And lastly, sand and filters don't mix. If sand (even a few grains) gets into the filter, it will quickly burn out the motor of the filter. If sand is a must in an aquarium, a good sponge is suggested to cover the intake tube. Because sponges collect a lot of organic matter, this needs to be rinsed thoroughly at least once/wk or more to prevent slowing or stopping of water flow into the filter (which can also burn out a filter motor quickly).
For a planted aquarium there are many good options (better than sand). Fine grade gravel looks like large grains of sand and is much less dense than actual sand. This would be a much healthier option for your plants and easier for you to care for. Most plants can do fine in medium grade of gravel (which is also considered "standard size"), which is even easier to maintain and also looks nice.
If you are looking for an inexpensive substrate that works great with most live plants, may I suggest pea gravel, which can be found at places such as Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Pea gravel is what I keep in most of my planted tanks and have never had any problems or complaint over the course of 20+ yrs. The last bags I bought cost me about $3.50 for a 50 lb bag... which is plenty for a 55 gallon aquarium.
If you wish to go a bit more "high tech", there are things such as Echo Complete, which is made specifically for planted aquariums. Some people like those and report great results from these kinds of mixes... personally, I find them to be a waste of money. Plants can be healthy and grow well in most situations without the need for such a complicated, expensive, and often time consuming mess. (yes, I have tried various types over the yrs, always return to the pea gravel and get the best results for plants and fish with the pea gravel)
Lots of options for you, but I would not consider play sand (or any sand) one of them.
Hope that helps.
I've known people to use about 2 inches of play sand as their substrate with no problems, but I've never used it by itself...
Personally, I use soil substrates with about an inch (maybe a little less) of sand on top... I've used play sand and "reef sand" before with no problems. (Brand is below- be careful, some reef sand is extremely alkaline and designed for marine tanks, but strangely this ine isn't.
It's a little bit more expensive than play sand, but still cheap- $4 for about 5 pounds, and it has a large (for sand) grain size. Also, requires no rinsing, and available in tons of colors.
Play sand's main drawback (in my opinion) is the color.... Usually whitish, and white substrates stress out fish.
If you use sand or sand/soil, you'll need to make sure the sand doesn't compact. MTS snails will help with this, but you need to occasionally stir the bed (if sand) or poke it (if you have soil underneath).
For pictures of my black sand/soil tank, check out the link in my sig to my soil substrate topic.
For pictures of play sand, look up some of angel079's tanks.
I admit, I'm behind on my maintenance. Since that pic, I've cleaned it up a lot, but haven't been able to borrow a camera.
Adding my contrary experience here I have used Play-sand for years in planted tanks.
Here's my play-sand tanks
Yellow's 55g - 55 gallon Freshwater fish tank
CPO - 20 gallon Freshwater fish tank
2nd New Shrimp Farm - 10 gallon Freshwater fish tank
Here's the black sand tank (using same reef sand brand as shown in picture above)
New Shrimp Farm - 10 gallon Freshwater fish tank
I have neither problem with the plants growing, nor issues with cleaning nor compacting, so all is well in these tanks :-D
To make wok on you as easy as possible, I'd suggest to add some MTS's they actually do wonders whether you have a sand or gravel tank.
What about construction sand? It's much coarser than play sand I'm sure and it's pretty cheap, just wondering if it would be any good.
Well we use it for mixing with cement, not sure if stuff for pavers is different. Never heard of it having calcium or anything much different than any other kind of sand. Is it so much it wouldn't be good for some kind of hard water tank?
Actually construction sand is just a coarse play sand, used for filling in soil under a foundation...
Pretty sure it's inert.
Make sure not to use it with bottom-dwelling fish- I think it's got some sharp edges.
i use sand in one of my favorite tanks. I have no problem with it at all. The one problem is i have to me gentle with how i clean the tank. Move too hard and sand could swish( yes swish) away from the plants in the tank, revealing their roots and possibly uprooting them. So simply be gentle with the tank
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