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Old 09-25-2011, 12:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Hey all! Long time since I've posted, but alot has happened. Ive got my 55 all set up, lookin good, planted and lit nicely. But I recently got aNOTHER 55, and I am about to start it up, first I have a quick question for opinions.

Which do you think is the better Substrate for live plants in a freshwaterautolinker.com autolinking image tank, Gravel or Playsand? I love the look of sand, very clean, but i also like the gravel look. Gravel is working great for the plants in my other 55, so i thought about staying with that. But, sand seems like a nice new touch.. Tell me what you think the plants would like better!


Ps.. I didnt ask about filters, lighting, fish, any of that, so assume I dont need any advice about it.. JUST the SUBSTRATE opinions, thanks
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:37 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Sand would probably be better for roots to grow in. Gravel, if the pebbles are really small, can also be good. Personally, I like the look of sand but when you hear some of the problems people have with, although most are from people with no experience with it, it just seems a pain to deal with. My idea of heavily planted has me covering all the substrate, so I've never really seriously considered using it. Why not try something in between? Safe T Sorb Oil Absorbent, 40 lb. - 0800989 | Tractor Supply Company I have been using this stuff for just over a year in my 75g and all my plants grow extremely well in it and have never used a single root tab = something you'll need with sand for your rooted plants. Check my gallery for my 75g, if you're interested.
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Old 09-25-2011, 09:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

I have both actually. My 125gal has sand substrate and my 10 gal has gravel. My plants grow well in my sand tank but the roots aren't as strong. I noticed that the root structure is much better in my gravel tank. If you do decide to go with a sand substrate tank I suggest going to your local pool supplier (if one is available) and purchasing sand from them. Canister filters for pools use sand and it works really well as substrate and it's super cheap!
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Old 09-26-2011, 06:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Between the two: Sand

If you like the gravel, do a mixture of it. Just add a touch of gravel to the top of the sand
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Old 09-26-2011, 10:50 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

I've heard of people wetting gravel and lining the tank walls with it, then filling the center with sand, and topping off with gravel. That way, it looks like there's no sand in the tank at all.

Plants benefit from sand more so than gravel, however sand can pack down very tightly and is also a much better place for anaerobic nitrifying bacteria to set up shop and generate toxic hydrogen sulfide gas that might bubble up and explode into your tank, wiping out everything. This hypothesis, however, is very rare in freshwaterautolinker.com autolinking image planted tanks and usually takes years to accumulate enough hydrogen sulfide gas to cause any problems.
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Old 09-26-2011, 01:38 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Hello Pal...

I'm "old school", so have always used pea gravel as my substrate. Sand, in large amounts, can potentially crush plant roots and make water changes a bit more challenging if you're in the habit of setting the water syphon on the bottom of the tank.

Sand can also create problems for plants like Anubias, Microsorium and Bolbitis that need to attach their roots to rocks or gravel. A sand substrate is also easily disturbed and if you have a type of potting mixture under it, you can have a real mess on your hands. Pea gravel is as easy as it gets.

As always, just one, old "water keeper's" opinion.

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Old 09-26-2011, 01:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

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Originally Posted by BBradbury View Post
Sand can also create problems for plants like Anubias, Microsorium and Bolbitis that need to attach their roots to rocks or gravel.
Welllllll....kinda sorta that is. ;o)

As long as the rhizome isn't more than 50% covered, they will do fine. I have both Anubias and JF planted directly in gravel and sand respectively ensuring that the rhizome is right on top of the substrate.
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Old 09-26-2011, 02:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

I use 1" peat moss, 1" play sand, 1" pc select (or gravel) layers.

peat moss prevents kh and gh buildup.

IME sand is better for rooting the plants although gravel can be used successfully.


my .02
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Thanks everyone for all the great advice, and helping me confirm my thoughts that sand would make a great substrate. At this time, I have decided to take a different route on the tank, and will be going for a subterranean feel, with a cave look. I am going to build large inserts from lava rock and maybe some slate mixed in, and use a grey granite chip that Subaru4wd and I found. I am going to keep the light low, and not do live plants at all In this tank, and go sand in the next tank, which will be brackish water.
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Old 09-28-2011, 09:24 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

This is the substrate Paladine & I are thinking of going with. Its a 3/8" chip mix, that we washed and sifted... removing most the larger pieces and leaving behind a mixture of small chips.



I am also planning on doing a substrate change on my 88g and was looking for a darker substrate. Something I could get for under $50. Paladine & I spent a couple hours washing and sifting, and im anxious to see it in my tank.

Im alittle worried about how all my plants will do, i am tossing around the idea of putting down some peat moss and then an inch or so of this stuff on top.
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Old 09-29-2011, 06:43 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Subaru4wd View Post
I am also planning on doing a substrate change on my 88g and was looking for a darker substrate. Something I could get for under $50.
Check with landscaping companies for a product called Turface. It is what replaced SMS and is very good as a planted tank substrate.
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Old 09-29-2011, 02:40 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

I have been using a mixture of sand and a larger substrate (coral) and my plants have been rooting and staying put very well in it. only problem Ive had with my all sand tank (30 gal) is that when you mess with anything on the bottom it makes the water super foggy. if you cant choose one you can always use both =D.

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Old 09-30-2011, 09:18 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

That 3/8" chip looks about the same coarseness as my Fluorite, and I'm growing plants with great success.
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Old 09-30-2011, 11:20 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Better substrate for freshwater plants, Sand or Gravel?

I'm using plain black gravel in my 20g and it's growing plants fine.

I'm using plain black gravel mixed in with Eco-Complete (mixed, not layered) in the 36g and those plants are doing even better.

Sand looks fantastic, you just have to remember not to have it too deep and to poke around in it each week so it doesn't settle and form toxic gas pockets. (Having a fish that digs in the sand can help you with that.) Sorry, I know you didn't want fish suggestions, but that was just something to consider if you go with sand.
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