do plants grow better in sand?(like regular play sand/silica sand) or better in gravel?
Sand compacts relatively quickly and can damage the roots. Gravel is probably better for the plants, plus it's easier to vacuum. If you do decide to go with sand, make sure to stir up the sand to help with compaction.
In order of best for plants:
Eco Complete or other specifically designed soil for plants
Layered substrate specific for plants ( hard to do and maintain)
Smaller than pea sized gravel, natural river run gravel
Epoxy coated gravel
Sand (could be second on list); This doesn't mean it won't work, it can work very well but you need to stir the sand often and take very good care of it. Malaysian Trumpet Snails make a huge difference. I have seen tanks with Tehetian Moon sand or Black onyx sand with beautiful plants in then of all sorts but the ones who have it and use it say that they have to do a lot of maintenance to keep it that was.
I guess it really depends on what you want and what you are looking for as far as growth and tank appearance.
I use Eco-Complete, it's a fine product. Almost all small gravel will compact, which is one reason I use powerheads in a reverse flow configuration. Specifically, Marineland 660r (r meaning reverse flow) with and undergravel filter. I also use powerfilters(internal and/or external) and canisters (on the larger tanks, 125 and larger). I'm kind of like Toolman Tim, if alot is good, more is even better.
The power filters also help to filter out larger detritious and adds even more biological filtration. A good thing.
Most any plant will grow best in a smallish grain gravel designed for plnats (such as eco complete). With that said, plants that propogate by runners (Pygmy Chain Sword, Hairgrass, Saggiteria) tend to like finer gravels, and do pretty well in sand. Course the trick with sand is keeping the plants rooted, and if you come up with a good answer for that, let me know.
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