has anyone used yard/pea gravel? i understand about not using treated gravel, but price/cubic ft is just so much better then LFS or chain stores. OR do i go the way of sand? tank footprint--5' x 1.5'
Yard gravel I would not use as it sometimes contains cement dust as a filler.
Play sand, pool filter and silica sand are cheap alternatives, I know here where I am in Canada, I got a 100lb bag of pool filter sand for $7.50.
Pool supply stores and even some hardware stores carry pool filter sand.
Play sand and silica sand should be readily available at any hardware store.
I have used pea gravel from a landscape supply, they term it Birdseye gravel. It is inert (at least this particular gravel is) so no issues there, but being larger-sized grains (comparable to pea gravel) the plants did not do as well. Visually it is a very good substrate for a river scape, such as one might prepare for Central American livebearers, cichlids, or Indian loach and barb tanks. Looks very nice, and as you've mentioned, is considerably less expensive; I paid a grand total of $3.50 for more than enough to do my 70g 48X18 inch tank with 3-4 inches depth. To give you an idea of what it looked like, the attached photo was my 70g Asian (Indian) riverscape when it was set up a year or so back. I now have this relatively similar setup using finer gravel and the plants are responding better.
I've been changing over to playsand in most of my other tanks. It has the same appearance as the sand common in Amazonia, such as the Rio Negro, so it is quite authentic. It is also cheap, from Home Depot I got two 55 lb bags which did my 5-foot 115g tank for $14. I prefer playsand to pool sand because it is not white (this is not the best with forest fish), although I have seen that it is possible to get black pool sand. The second photo is my 33g with playsand.
Wait, what is that Snuffleupagus in the back?! Since when are you harboring fugitive Muppets in your tanks, Byron?!
So how did you clean your play sand Byron?
I'm trying it in a 10 gallon betta tank, but wow is it dirty! I spent about a half hour outside with the hose and a couple buckets of sand stirring it up, dumping, repeat ad nauseam. I got it to the point that I could fill it with the hose spray hitting the side of the bucket and not causing the gravel to stir up.
I used a bowl when filling the tank to keep the disturbance as small as possible, but it still clouded up something fierce. I added a bucket, removed a bucket, back and forth until it cleared up again and filled the rest of the way. That worked well ... until the cory's were added and those guys sure like to dig! They've completely rearranged the sand and is always cloudy now >.>
For my planned 120/125g I'm thinking of trying to find ~1 mm gravel instead hoping it will be easier to clean while soft enough for loaches.
To the sand cloudiness. I wash playsand in a bucket in the sink in the utility room; I'm not going outside in near-freezing winter to use a hose.:lol: I put about 5 cups (measuring cups) in a 3 gallon pail, run warm water in, stir, dump water, and repeat. Probably 7-8 times. I judge by sight. When I fill the bucket without manually stirring the sand and I can see the sand, albeit hazy, I am done. When the sand is in the empty tank, I smooth it out as I want it, add wood/rock if being used, then fill about 4-5 inches water depth (using dechlorinator), then drain, then fill about 2/3 running the water into a large bowl. Plant. If this stirs up the sand too much, I completely drain and refill again. Start the filter and heater. Add fish.:-)
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