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Discussion Starter #1
As the title says, I need help choosing a substrate. The reason I just didn't go off someone else's post is because I have specific factors that need to be considered because of my water and the fish I will be getting. I would really apreciate the names of good brands along with your posts to help me find them better to research. If you don't know a brand, could yall at leat spell out what yall are talking about instead of using shorthand? I might not know what it means :-/

The Facts
1. pH is 6.2 from tap and 6.8 after 48 hours of sitting.
2. Water is very soft
3. 20 gallon long that will be filled 1 inch deep, so quality over quanity since I wont need an obscene amount.
4. Silica free (with my low pH, I experenced a terrible brown algae/diatome breakout that covered my tank. The problem was confined to the one with pool filter sand and did not improve over 6 months until I removed it. Believe me, I tried everything else first)
5. Good for Betas and Kuhli Loaches (preferably fine smooth gravel or sand that wont compact or ruin my filter). I also might get afew Otos later on, but if it works for Kuhlis, it should work for Otos too.
6. My plants will be stem and floating. With no root feeders, enriched substrate isn't really necessary. Plant wise, at most it will be something for the plants to hold onto.
7. Appearance is irrelivant. Function over looks. I only want the substrate that is best for my fish and plants
8. Avaliable in the US
 

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There is no such thing as silica free sand. Sand IS silica.

Look at caribsea supernaturals sunset gold.


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Well, sand is silica. It's just what it is and there is no way of avoiding that. Even gravel will have it (sand is just pulverized rocks).

However, it is 'crystalline silica' and is stable, which means it will not react with water. You can read about it in the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), section X.

http://www.quikrete.com/PDFs/MSDS-B4-Playsand.pdf

The water you describe is similar to my own, and others here on the forums. My tanks pH is ~6.4 in all 4 of my tanks.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the sand you purchased, but I can say that myself and many others here (with soft, acidic water too) have not had this issue with sand. All new tanks generally experience a dolomite outbreak, but it goes away on its own over time (if not eaten by some fish).

For gravels you will probably not find anything in pet stores, your only hope there will be a local store. Commercial substrates are either silica sand or gravel. The alternatives are usually for marine tanks and/or african lake cichlids and are calcareous, which means they dissolve in water and add mineral hardness (GH & KH). You don't want that, this is stuff like crushed coral, dolomite, and aragonite.

For your filter, are you using a HOB? If so, any sand is a concern if it is 'disturbed' so don't run the filter when you first set up. The issue is the impeller is located on the bottom of the HOB, so when the sand settles in the HOB reservoir, it can get caught in there. With canister filters this is less of an issue, because the impeller is located at the top and thus doesn't have to worry about settling sand. A sponge filter however may serve you better on a 20 gallon tank. Less current, equal functionality, never have to replace a cartridge.

You are correct that your substrate choice will have no affect on your plants.

You say you don't care about appearance, just functionality with the fish. Well, appearance actually DOES affect the fish. You want to avoid anything bright (like white) and what I'll call clown puke (hot pink, blue, neon green, etc etc). Just get something natural (tan/dark brown) or get black. It is better for the fish and will make them feel less stressed.

Okay, so if you want something specific I will say just head to Petco and buy their store brand black sand. Information is scarce on it, but I believe it is either all plastic, or regular sand that's epoxy coated (just like fish store gravels are epoxy coated). An alternative is to go to a landscape supply company and see what they have for gravels, you may be lucky and they'll have some fine gravels you can use. Third, go online like to aquariumplants.com and buy their gravel. It's expensive though, especially with shipping.

I personally use the Quickrete Playsand from Home Depot/Lowe's, but you've expressed you don't want to use that.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
The silica based sand I used was Sea Gule pfs. Like I said, the situation didn't exist until I added it and got no better until I removed it, so it had to be the sand. And I was told about some silica free substrate via PetSmart Corporate Hotline, so I assumed that all substrates were not silica as I was told by them that they do have silica free (see where I'm going with this?).

I don't have a Petco anywhere close. We have to go to either PetSmart, a small lfs, or maybe one of those hardware stores or something.

What I meant by not caring about what it looks like, I meant to say that I don't care if it looks like poop with corn on top as long as it works. And I know about avoiding white an florecent colors, but thank you for adding it to your post as I'm sure there will be someone who comes across this thred that might not have. :)

I've heard of a lot of people suggesting that particular playsand, but after the disasterous results I had with my pool filter sand (which was also recomended to me on here), I'm a little gun shy about using non-aquarium sands. Plus all the hours of rinsing would be tough on me considering I only have full use of my right side. The degree of use I have on my left varies from day to day.

Oh! And I honestly have no clue what HOB means. I have the walmart brand one and a Tetra whisper 10-30i. And even still, I could catch a 20 gallon kit on sale for cheeper than just the tank and hood, so I'm clueless atm. I'm hoping that I find a setup that includes a stand too.
 

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The silica based sand I used was Sea Gule pfs. Like I said, the situation didn't exist until I added it and got no better until I removed it, so it had to be the sand. And I was told about some silica free substrate via PetSmart Corporate Hotline, so I assumed that all substrates were not silica as I was told by them that they do have silica free (see where I'm going with this?).
Yes, I understand how confusing it is. But the fact remains that "silica free" sand is still made of silica. Silica IS sand, and sand IS silica. It's not an additive or anything - it's the chemical composition.

Here's a place that advertises SILICA FREE SAND! Silica Free Sand, Non Silica Sand, Healthy Sand, Safe Sand

Just what you are looking for, right? Wrong.

From their Q&A

2. Is your silica-free sand really silica-free?
All sand has some type of silica in it -- by nature, silica is part of the physical composition of grains of sand. So, speaking technically, there's no such thing as sand that does not have silica in it.


Now, you can go with aragonite, which is a calcium based sand, but it is not inert.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Why do they call it silica free if it isn't silica free!?! Thank God they don't make the peanut alergy labels o_O

No. It has to be innert. God I didn't realize this was gonna be so hard! :(

Also, when I say soft, I mean very very soft. Our well is filtered with sand which is an amazing natural filter. If I remember right, I think our hardness was maybe like 20ppm from the tap?
 

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I'd reccomend 'Estes ultra reef sand". Its inert, epoxy coated, and about $1 a pound. Its probably available in different brand names, since its pretty much identical to a construction material called 'colorquartz' and 'spectraquartz', and smooth enough for bottom dwellers.

Might still want a minimum of two inches so the stem plants will be held down.
 

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I won't belabour the points about silica and sand but you will need more than 1" to hold stems decently.

There are so many people using various types of sand (me too) without the issue that you had that I'd be surprised if were actually the sand... but I'm not asking you to justify or discuss it further as you obviously spent 6 months trying to fix the trouble.

Jeff.
 

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I'm surprised you had a problem with pool filter sand as I'm using it and it's great...I'll confess that it took a fair amount of rinsing, but it has a grain size large enough to stay put. That's important because many of the very fine sands can be trouble.

I like sand over gravel because no matter what you do, uneaten food and waste gets down into gravel and requires routine gravel siphoning to prevent a nitrate factory. With sand, it just sits on top where it's more easily removed.

Edit: In the above I meant sand instead of gravel, NOT sand (over) on top of gravel.
 

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Personally I have my Kuhli Loaches on 'Flourite Black Sand' which is an enriched sand substrate. It is more on the expensive side ($20 for a 15lb bag), and honestly although I love it and adore it, it is very fine and takes several months and a canister filter to get it to settle and not cloud the water column at the slightest touch.


For an inert black sand, I know a user here who keeps Kuhli Loaches on Tahitian Moon Sand, which is completely inert. (I know it says 'Reef and Marine' but it's totally inert and fine for FW)

'Carib Sea' is probably the most popular brand of 'aquarium' sand, here's a link to some. I'm pretty sure I bought mine from Petsmart. I'd go with the smaller grain sized ones, such as Sunset Gold. Instant Aquarium

You can also look at buying sand online - If you buy through Drs. Fosters and Smith (and I think Petsmart/Petco) online, any order over $49 is shipped free.
And through Amazon anything over $25 is generally shipped free, too. :)

Good luck! You'll have to post pics when you decide what you want! :D

EDIT: I also have a low ph, and have had luck with 'Quikcrete Playsand' (although I have not had loaches on it, yet, but I truly think it would be fine, it's a very soft sand), but I only bought it because it was cheap. I'm not a huge fan of how it looks (I don't really like light colored sand), but I have it in my Quarantine tank so if I have to heavily medicate the tank/one of the fish brings in a nasty, I can just toss the sand instead of worrying (but then again I'm paranoid sometimes). Sorry for the ramble!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you all for the information. Especially you Jent. It will make choosing a sand at PetSmart much easier. You too Red. From both my threads. I'll look up the one you sugested too and call the lfs to see if they keep it.

Yes, it had to be a sand problem. I have 2 tanks: a 10 gal and a 2 gal. They originally had gravel and had no problems. Before I restocked my 2 after upgrading Gus, I changed my 10 to sand and added better lights. That's when the brown algae started. I then stocked my 2 and used some of the let over pfs as substrate. I got brown algae in it too. I though I had cross contaminated the tanks. I started to try to get rid of it. I tried agressive cleaning, more light, less light, more fert, less fert, no fert, more plants, large pwcs, and everything else you could imagine. He light and fert made a slight difference, but not much. The, I decided to take the sand out of my 2 one day and replace it with gravel because it was harder to clean in the tiny tank. It wasn't long after that that the brown algae slowed way down. Both tanks get water from the same mixed bucket every pwc. Same. light schedule. Same everything! And yet I couldn't catch a break with the big tank until I changed the substrate. So is any other explanation even possible?
 
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I haven't used Tahitian Moon Sand, but I have seen other reports from users who say it is quite sharp and as such would not be good for loaches which have no scales and like to burrow.
I've seen the same, but Chesherca keeps both Kuhli and Dwarf Kuhli (I can't remember the scientific names :-?) on Tahitian and all of her loaches are healthy and active. I asked her like 5 billion questions about it when I was considering buying it, haha :)

Oddly enough, my loaches have never tried to burrow in the sand, but they would burrow in gravel. Then again now they have an entire leaf littered tank to play hide and seek in :roll:
 

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I have kept Corys with the TMS without any problems.

Loaches really only burrow when they feel threatened. However, they do like to hide under things, so soft is still important.


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Discussion Starter #15
Good to know. :)

Since I'm getting all this good advice anyway, could you guys recomend the best numers for my tank? One person said to have 6 female Bettas, 8 Kuhli, and 6 Otos, but do I have to have so many loaches? I would rather have more Bettas. Could you guys give me a number that would work the best?
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I did a search OL for Quickrete and foundsome disturbing stuff. Apperantly, it contains trace amounts of asbestos and the dust from it is a know carcinogen! Some states require a warning label on the bag stating that it should not be inhaled and can cause cancer. YIKES! I think I will go with another option O_O
 

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I did a search OL for Quickrete and foundsome disturbing stuff. Apperantly, it contains trace amounts of asbestos and the dust from it is a know carcinogen! Some states require a warning label on the bag stating that it should not be inhaled and can cause cancer. YIKES! I think I will go with another option O_O
That's the general sand product warning. I called them a while back and had them send me the prcess that the premium playsand goes through. The carcinogenic issue is with the silica dust which is only an issue with dry sand. They sell a silica free version (maybe not quickrete) that has most of this dust removed for use in playboxes that are in more arid regions. The silica, being inert, can build up in the lungs causing similar issues as asbestos does. Children playing in dusty sand are at risk, hence the warning.

For the record, any sand product will have the very same issues, don't inhale the dust. Just that aquarium sand is not so prolific that it is a public hazard, that and it is used wet so there is no issue whatsoever.

There was an incident of hazing in our town many years ago that involved talcum powder. The victim ended up with some serious lung issues from it. Seeing as inhalation of talcum powder is not the intended use and there are no warnings on it, nobody thinks about it. Any inert dust or powder can have the same ramifications.

Playsand is fine if rinsed wet... it isn't even dry in the bag typically.

Also, asbestos is not a hazard if wet either, they use water methods to remove it from buildings because of that.

Jeff.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
What about the fish? Would it be a danger to them?
 

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No, asbestos is not a carcinogenic due to it's chemical properties, it has to do with the physical interaction with the lungs. Like silica (sand) it is essentially inert but asbestos is worse as it is a fiberous material. If our lungs were full of water, it would not be a problem as it would flush in and out... other than the fact that we would have drowned... that would be a bummer.

It's funny but my brother asked me about asbestos in sand this afternoon after this thread was started... completely unrelated but we had the exact same discussion. Sometimes things that have a very small potential for problem sound worse than they are without all of the information. To be honest, I might react the same way if I didn't know some of what I know. Keep in mind that I am not trying to talk you into sand or anything, just providing some frame of reference.

I just cleaned some quikrete playsand this afternoon to add to the office tank as I didn't add enough for the plants to have a good foothold yesterday. It's darker than the other brand I used in my home tank.

Jeff.
 

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For the fish mentioned (the loaches particularly) you want soft sand. Which type is up to you, just make sure it is soft (not all sand is) and inert.

After years of using only fine natural gravel, and saying "no" to sand, I now have sand in 6 of 7 tanks. And I use Quikrete Play Sand. You worried about the rinsing; don't. Yes, the water will be cloudy longer, but this is not going to harm the fish, and it will settle. What I do is rinse the sand (not completely by any stretch of the imagination), put it in the tank, arrange the hardscape (wood, rock). Then fill maybe 4-5 inches with water, then drain that out. Then plant, add water carefully (onto a bowl or something to avoid disturbing the sand) and leave it. The natural appearance of play sand cannot be matched. And it is very inexpensive.:)

Byron.
 
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