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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all
I am wondering what sort of substrate is best for a planted aquarium?
I am going to get some gravel type river rocks and was wondering if i needed something other than that if i wanted to put plants into the tank...
I would appreciate any input anyone would have!!
Also, for a 75 gallon aquarium, how much substrate would I need? (in lbs.. lol)
Thanks!
 

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I like sand, specifically pool filter sand, which is coarse and cheap. You definitely need something much finer than the smooth river rock gravel, IMO. Plan for at least 2" of substrate for proper root development, which would likely wind up being about 80 pounds.

What varieties of plants do you have in mind?

Edit: There are nutrient-rich planted tank substrates you can buy (EcoComplete, Fluorite) which are awesome, but might get a bit pricey for this size tank. You could consider blending a few bags of it in with another cheaper other substrate that had a comparable grain size. The best fertilizer is fish waste, so when you clean your tank try to avoid sucking up the mulm that accumulates, and leave that for the plant roots.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Than you for your reply Stellaluna,
Is it possible to mix different colours/types of sand?
will my plecos destroy the plants? I will be getting a 6" monster, and I currently have a little 2" buddy.
Would it be okay to use african cichlid sand? or would i have to use some other sand...
will it clog up my fluval 404 filter?
before i go and buy a bunch of sand.. i want to make sure plants will work... and i want to make sure that sand will work in my aquarium....

I am not sure what types of plants yet.
thought I would ask my favourite petsmart person. He knows his stuff....
 

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You can mix any type of sand you like. For the plants it is more about grain size, and for your tank in general you need something that is not so fine that it will compact down (though if you have a heavily planted tank the root systems will prevent this).

When you first add sand substrate to your tank it will take a bit to settle, but that is another benefit to coarse sand - it won't fly around the tank much, and you can even do water changes without sucking it up in your syphon. When I first started with sand tanks I used to put an AquaClear sponge over my filter intake (instead of the basket) to keep sand from being sucked up into the filter, but over the years I have abandoned this since the sponge needs such regular cleaning out (it acts as a prefilter when used like this) and if your intake is not right down on the bottom it does not suck up sand, especially after the sand has settled and the tank is established. The granules actually become coated with bacteria and they are not so light.

Cichlid sand is generally high pH and some might discourage you, but if you have some I'd give it a try - it is the perfect coarseness - and I use it myself. I do not find that it drives up the pH of my tank water, since the water is not flowing actually through the sand bed. For my Africans I have gone to great lengths to try to buffer up my water and raise the pH (I have moderately hard water already) but have not found any method that does so short of chemical additives. IMO a little buffering of the water stabilizes pH anyway, which is a good thing.

Edit: Regarding the pleco, he might be hard on plants, but as he grows it will be more from a physical standpoint - startling and crashing through, breaking off stems, etc. I find that as they mature they eat less and less plant material and eat more and more fish food - YMMV. If he is a good little fellow and scrapes algae off the glass then he might scrape plant leaves, too. Try it and see - no biggie - you'll figure out pretty quickly how he'll be with them.

The types of plants you get depends entirely on how much light you will be providing in terms of watts per gallon. Be careful at PetsMart - they sell terrestrial plants as aquatic plants all the time, and they won't survive for very long (like liriope, or monkey grass - something you'd plant along your sidewalk, lol)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So would you recommend larger grain size?
Sorry, i am just trying to learn the most I can so I can walk into Big Al's with pride (lol).
Would I have to cycle the sand as well? (with the current tank water)
Would catfish and Bala sharks have any issue getting food off the bottom of the tank without eating sand? Or would they adjust themselves?
What plants would you recommend?
I was hoping to have a set up with a lot of tall, lush plants in the back, some medium ones on the sides, and in the front a lot of small ones, like little grasses or those little clumbs or leaves.. dont know what they are called. But In the back, i also wanted some pieces of slate. (could i get slate tiles from a hardware store?) and then my two ornaments, with my plastic plants (was told to keep some plastic in the tank)...
Does that set up make sense to you?
Do you have any recommendations for large plants, medium plants, and small plants.. that work well for... angel fish, bala sharks, skirt tetras, mollies, barbs, dwarf gouramis, paradise gouramis, plecos and catfish...

Thank you!
 

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IMO = In my opinion
YMMV = Your mileage may vary

Still recommend sand, but a coarse grain. Not play sand, which is very fine and compacts itself down tightly. A pain to maintain.

The sand will need to grow bacteria, which can take a couple of weeks. How you accomplish this depends on whether your are replacing old substrate with new, or starting a tank from scratch and using contents of another tank. What is your situation in that regard?

Catfish actually require sand, and fish like cory cats will actually have a markedly shortened lifespan if they are kept in gravel tanks, in my experience. Their barbels are used to find food from the bottom, and sand is the substrate found in their natural environment.

For tall and lush you cannot beat Amazon sword, and I always keep cryptocorine species, java moss and fern, and Anubias species. The last three don't require substrate - just rubber band them to driftwood, rocks or your slate and they'll attach themselves. Those are no-brainer plants that require very little from you.

See what plants are available and research them as to light requirements. The groundcover type plants are going to be tricky without high light, CO2 and other nutrient dosing. Green hygro (or other Hygro species) is another plant I usually have in my tanks, but in some areas it is not available, considered a threat to the ecosystem if released in the wild.

Other plants to consider are anacharis, dwarf onion, temple plant, water sprite, aponogeton, banana plant, valisneria, dwarf sagittaria and/or chain sword (ground-hugging), echinodorus sp., wisteria, etc.

See what is available in your area and try it. If it does not do well, try something else. If the plant has red color to it, it probably has higher light requirements and may be tricky to keep alive. The fish you mention will do great with any kind of planted tank, and they will appreciate the cover it provides, and will help them establish territories.

What kind of lighting do you have or will you have?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I am transfering my current 30 gallon to a new 75 gallon. I will be transferring my two decols (one is a cav rock for my pleco, and the other is a resin half trunk of a tree... my gouramis love it...), i have two large plastic plants, and 4 smaller plasting plants that will also move over. the filter is currently being used by the owner.. to keep the two catfish and the 6" pleco going strong...
Not sure the exact lighting. It is coming from a man who had 5 tanks and has decided to cut back on his hobby.
He said the light is from home depot. Not sure the exact light. Pretty sure it is flourescent...
can double check. But I know he has plants in his tank...
i would be buying the sand either this week or next week and start the cycling using water from my current tank..... using aeration and such.

Should I wait to see what the lighting is like, and then look for plants that match?
should I go to big al's for my plants ( a specialty fish store )?

Thank you so much for your help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi Dmaaax,
I had looked into flourite.. but i cannot afford to cover my tank with it.
I can, however, afford sand.. as it is cheaper than gravel.
I am trying to get the tank set up as inexpensively as I can....
 

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Hi Dmaaax,
I had looked into flourite.. but i cannot afford to cover my tank with it.
I can, however, afford sand.. as it is cheaper than gravel.
I am trying to get the tank set up as inexpensively as I can....
Make sure you go with low light, low tech tank then. Try to keep lights at or below 1wpg otherwise you will run into problems with your plants wanting more nutrients that you substrate does not have, and wanting CO2.
 

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You could buy a bag of Fluorite and mix it in with whatever else you use. It would help. If you do, it is extremely cloudy when you first put it in - some rinse the heck out of it, but I don't - I let the dust settle into the substrate to do its job.

Barring that, you can buy substrate fert tablets and shove them into the gravel near the root balls of the plants.

It sounds like he is using shop lights for the tank, which would perhaps mean there are 2 40-watt fluorescent bulbs (I have done this for 55gal tanks also, since they measure 4') and in your case you'd have about 1 wpg (watts per gallon), which is pretty low, unless he has two of these shop lights, bringing you to a decent 2 wpg. I'm just assuming, here, so it might be good to see what he has had good luck with in terms of plants, and see if he'll throw some in the deal.

I've never been to an actual Big Al's, but I shop there very frequently online and they have wonderful prices - I would imagine they have good plants, too. I'd love to have one near me!

So try to move as much of your old tank stuff over to the new tank as you can, but only when you will have inhabitants - the bacteria will soon die without any fishies in there providing nutrients.

Warning about those hollow logs - I have one (in storage, lol) that killed several of my fish by them getting trapped in there - some prized angels. I have heard of this happening to others, so if a fish turns up missing one day, check in there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
what if i put in 21 kg of flourite, instead of the 49 that it asks for.. then it is about half...
and mix that in with sand.. would that work? it wouldn't be completly flourite, but it would be darn near half...
 

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I love eco complete. Great stuff. To make it mix effectively, try to get sand that is approximately the same grain size as the EC or fluorite, or whatever it is you decide to use. Otherwise, the coarser aggregate will rise to the top, and the finer sand will stay on the bottom.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Unfortunately... i live in canada.
So options for shipping are VERY limited.

Why do American companies find it easier to ship to PR than to Canada? PR is throw an ocean...

I don't know. I try not to buy from American websites.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
i decided to go with gravel.. its what I know and love, and also.. the gentlemen helping me pick my substrate said he does not recommend sand at all and actually doesn't agree with selling it unless you have some sort of fish that needs sand to nestle in...
Will plants be able to root in rocks? or could I use little plant pots or something o the sort?
 

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Any bottom dweller is going to live a longer, happier life with soft sand, but there is nothing scary about it!

I am sorry he is discouraging people from it, unnecessarily IMO. I use it in all my tanks and prefer it - even in my tank without any plants and without any bottom dwellers. When you think about it, most every tropical fish comes from places with sandy substrate. Maybe he feels that because it needs to be stirred every so often that it is too much trouble. Fine sand can compact and create anaerobic patches, but honestly this is very easily avoided. If you have plant roots or Malaysian trumpet snails (they burrow in the sand) the sand will not become compacted.

Plants will root in gravel, as long as it is not big round stones. Typical aquarium gravel is fine, though you might want to put fertilizer tablets into the soil to give the roots some nutrition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well, maybe I will take the trek across the city one more time. With my bottom dwellers in mind ^^, and return the gravel. Maybe I will get a different sales person this time...
Any sort of sand best recommended?
Brand? type?
 
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