using creek bed sand/substrate? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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using creek bed sand/substrate?

I'm wondering if it'd be possible to use substrate taken directly from a natural creek bed? We have a nice wet weather creek that runs through very rural ranch land (ours included). We have very mineral laden water in this area, heavy in calcium (lots of limestone). I suspect the creek substrate will reflect this, some areas of it are soft silty others are hard rock bottom. I'm going to walk over and inspect it closer this afternoon. In the past when we've walked through it and played in it I never really inspected the makeup of the sand/dirt that closely.

In the sping/summer the creek is full of fish and crawdads. Is that a good sign of it being uncontaminated?

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 04:28 PM
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i would recommend against using sand out of a creek. as you you are in a rural area and that probably means there is agriculture either on your property or upstream. this could potential contaminate your substrate with pesticides herbicides etc....

as for the abundance of fish in the spring don't forget that water you see them in is changing nearly every second. you your aquarium will probably have a portion of the original same water in it for life.

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 05:04 PM
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Test the water with all the tests you have. Some of the chemicals might be reflected in the material you choose (such as high GH or KH). Some of the materials you test will be rinsed out of the substrate before you use it, so are nothing to worry about (Nitrogens).
Take a scoop of the material you think is good, and add some RO or DI water, and test that every few days for a week. If the GH, KH, pH or TDS increases over a week, then it will do the same in your tank. (This may be good or bad, depending on what you want)

Take a glass jar with you the next time you go to the creek. Scoop up some 'silt' and add water. Shake the jar really well and time how fast stuff falls out of the water.
30 seconds = Sand. Good.
2 minutes = Silt. Pretty good, as long as there is not too much.
over 2 minutes, and if the water stays cloudy = clay. Not so good. A little is OK, it helps hold nutrients in the substrate, but too much simply leads to anaerobic pockets in the tank.
Test the materials at several areas along the creek. Some areas may be more sandy than others. Dig deeper and see if the material is the same a bit deeper. Or else plan on just skimming the top couple of inches to get aquarium substrate. Do not worry about animal poop in the water, this does not cling to the substrate too well, especially a predominantly sandy one. If there are any mine tailings in the area run, do not walk away. The heavy metal contamination is nothing you want to deal with.

Live fish and other things in the water suggests that there may be fish diseases and parasites that you do not want to introduce to your tank.
Bake, boil, or air dry exposed to the sun to kill these.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 05:46 PM
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I've never done it, but couldn't you mineralize it, as if you were mineralizing it like top soil?
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 05:58 PM
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I have used river and pond sand in several tanks with no ill effects. So long as you are not in a ground water contaminated zone(noted by the EPA) then you will be ok. Heavy metals are the usual culprit in water.

I find that it looks nice too.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-15-2010, 06:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Y'all!

Diana, I like your idea and I think I'm going to go ahead and do just what you suggested. Since I'm taking the time to plan things out I have time to experiment. I even have an empty tank I could set up with some test fish to see what happens (nothing live the plentiful offspring of live bearer tanks....).

The only thing I can't test for are TDSs. Do I need to worry about that for a planted tank? I sure don't in my regular freshwater tanks, both of which have a couple live plants that are thriving. I use 4 stage DI water for my reef tank, but plane old tap water for my freshwater tanks. My 10g has been running for 11 years straight in two different locations. It even survived my oldest feeding the fish gummy worms when he was little.

I'm not too worried about chemical ferts and such. I live rural, but its ranch land, not farm land. It's too rocky to grow much of anything.

Cool that you've tried it and had good luck overstocked.

Time to go experiment!!


PS - I wonder if adding poly filter to the water would show anything interesting. It picks up and changes color when reacting to some metals. Hmmm...
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