Sand Substrate

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benthyer

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I am looking at changing my tank to a sand substrate but read something the other day that having sand with plants isn't ideal?
 
I found this hard to believe as I have been lead to believe that it is good as it makes it easier for the roots to spread and it will help disrupt the sand to help prevent the build up of gases.
 
If I can avoid it I don't want to spend money on adding a fertilizer/soil base tor the plants as well but might consider if a strong enough case is made for it, but so many tanks are succesful with plants without this.
 
As a side note as well I have also set up a DIY CO2 system in the help that it will help my plants spring back to life again after they all seemed to be struggling recently.
 

fm1978

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If you chose your plants very carefully and go for easy(ish) to grow ones, there's no reason why normal, cheap sand won't work. I have argos play sand and as well as cories loving to sieve through it, my banana plant, anubias, mosses and bulb type plants grow just fine with no extra ferts or CO2 and a 'normal' amount of light.
 
If you're dosing CO2 and ferts I can't see why you should have any problems particularly if you avoid the very needy plant types.
 
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benthyer

benthyer

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I currently have anubias, java ferns and a sword(?) and won't go for anything needy as I don't have good enough lighting for it either.
 
Another reason why i would like sand is for my Cories, they just don't seem as happy any more and I make temporarily move them to my other tank which does have sand but will mean that they are in my sons room and out of sight :(
 
I am very tempted to get play sand, but also quite like the idea of black sand to really make the colour "POP" but I also have a black background so might be too dark?
 

fm1978

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Black sand could work equally well, just so long as it's cory safe. Too jaggy and it can get stuck inside gills.
 
Dark substrate may even be preferred by your corries and they may even darken to match it and feel less vulnerable. The question of it being too dark is very subjective, I suppose. Maybe you'll love it because of the high contrast and 'pop' of some of the fish colours!
 
Don't think you've got anything to worry about with sand and those plants. Shouldn't be a problem.
 

nic1

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Hi!
I just wanted to butt in here as I did the same thing you're thinking of doing.
I used to have gravel but I changed over to Play sand from Argos over two years ago and added all sorts of plants,
I have a dwarf Lilly which was a bulb when I got it-It now has 4 or 5 leaves floating at the waters surface with new leaves sprouting every day, dwarf hair grass, java fern, vallis, mini amazon sword and many more, some even produce flowers... I have no co2 system but I do use fertiliser tabs that last 6months.
So using sand in my opinion is just as good as gravel :)
Just took a couple is snaps of my tank before I went out just to show you...
It's a bit over grown and messy now as I've neglected plant trimming as I'm house decorating....but the fish love it that way :)
 

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benthyer

benthyer

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Thanks for your input Nic1 :)
 
I did find it odd that someone would think that sand wouldn't be suitable for plants but then again it is the internet after all so can't believe everything you read!
 
I do quite like the look of the play sand and it is also ideal for Cories so maybe I will just get some of that. It's difficult to find black sand that is small enough, not sharp and won't fade in colour, plus it is expensive!
 
Your tank looks great Nic, hopefully I can get mine looking as good as that with the plants!
 

malfunction

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If you do go for play sand, wash it very very thoroughly as it's unbelievably dirty.
 

fm1978

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malfunction said:
If you do go for play sand, wash it very very thoroughly as it's unbelievably dirty.
Yeah, that's very true.
 
For £3 a bag you can't go wrong!
 

squidneh

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Pool filter sand is a tiny bit more expensive, where I live at least, but you only have to rinse it for about 5 minutes. I just dumped the 50 pounds into a bucket, stuffed a garden hose to the bottom and stirred a few times until I was totally sure it ran clear. It's a white/beige color, and my tank is painted black for the background. All my fish look great with it, my corys and other bottom feeders love it.  I'm in the process of switching over from fake to live plants but I haven't heard anything about being unable to grow hardy plants in it. Good luck with your set up 
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Byron

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You are wise to move to sand, in my view.  Starting three years back, I began changing my tanks' substrates from fine gravel to play sand, and have not regretted doing all this work.  I have corys in two (soon to be three) tanks, and you are correct, sand is much better.  Their habit of sifting it for food and expelling the sand particles through the gills is not so easy with gravel.
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My tanks are all planted, though a couple are mainly floating for biotope reasons.  But my Echinodorus species (larger swords) and Helanthium species (pygmy chain and chain swords) have no problems.  Compaction can occur with gravel as much as sand, and a bit like under wood or rock is fine, but plant roots, not having the sand too deep, and Malaysian Livebearing Snails all help with keeping a healthy clean substrate.  I wouldn't waste money on so-called enriched substrates from my experience with Flourite; the same plant species were no better, I had to add just as much liquid fertilizers and even substrate tabs, and the roughness actually damaged the corys' mouths and barbels [changing to sand cleared this up]. 
 
I had black in one tank but didn't like it; every speck of detritus is visible, something I do not see with play sand because it is a mix of mainly gray with black, tan and some white.  At least, the play sand I get here in Canada is like this; not sure what your UK sand might be, but it is probably similar.  This is much like the sands in the Amazon basin.
 
Play Sand is highly refined as it is safe for kids to play in.  I have had no issues with corys and loaches over this substrate.  Avoid blasting and paver sands as they are not refined and may be rough.
 
Byron.
 

malfunction

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I'd agree that pool filter sand is much easier to clean than play sand. Its a lot more expensive though. A few months back, the cheapest price I could find was £17 for 25kg...Argos play sand was £3 for 15kg. If you don't mind the extra work, then play sand is definitely better value for money.

I was also thinking about black sand a few months back. I rejected it in the end because it seemed to make the fish I was interested in (geophagus) look dirty. Plus a there seems to be a lot of posts advising against using it for bottom dwellers (too coarse, so causes injuries).
 

squidneh

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The price difference is good to keep in mind, in the US its $7 for a 50lb bag
 

Alasse

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I have planted tanks with sand alone, Flourite alone, Eco complete alone, and a tank with DIY substrate mix, and topped with course river sand
 
I can say from experience that the Flourite, Eco complete and the DIY mix topped with sand grow far far better than just sand on its own. I personally am more impressed with the mix substrate, the plants are growing like weeds and look lush and beautiful.
 
Any tank with sand alone i now tend to grow just Val and then plants that dont use the substrate at all. Compared to a plumped up substrate, for me, sand alone just doesnt cut it
 

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