Sand as a substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 04:06 AM Thread Starter
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Sand as a substrate

I'm using all 100% sand for my substrate only because of how it looks (looks so great) Can anyone give me some pros and cons of sand in a planted aquarium and how to make it work? For those who are thinking of using sand as a substrate, I added some pros and cons:
Pros
Looks very nice (Gives natural look)

Cons
Clouds up at times
Hard to add in plants (Hard to keep it in the substrate)
Unable to siphon conveniently
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 12:52 PM
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Pros:
Easy to plant fine plants (glosso, hairgrass, etc.)
Cheap
Looks great
Inert (won't affect water chemistry)

Cons:
Inert (no CEC)
Detritus accumulates on surface
Anaerobic pockets
Poor circulation to roots

I'm using ordinary silica sand in two of my tanks. In both cases, I've mixed it with something to enhance it's properties. In one tank, I am using ordinary brown playsand so I mixed it with kitty litter (for CEC) and pea gravel for better circulation) In another tank I am using black silica sand, so I layered it on top of some peat moss/potting soil.
Both are working great.

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 03:51 PM
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Some of the cons that Sam stated can be addressed by adding MTS.

Running mostly pool filter sand over a mix of peat/fluorite/playsand (old substrate). Used to have some of the cons that Sam stated, but the MTS population has sustained and multiplied themselves to a degree where it's less of an issue.

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GulfCoastAquarian
In another tank I am using black silica sand, so I layered it on top of some peat moss/potting soil.
Is black silica a different sand than TMS? If so, where did you get it, and how expensive is it in your experience? From my understanding TMS is slag, a high iron material (it is often attracted to magnetic algae scrubbers)

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 05:31 PM
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I considered TMS, Black Beauty, slag, or whatever else it may be called. I didn't like the stories of granules sharp enough to kill a Cory. Sand is abrasive enough without having to have razor sharp edges!
I bought my black silica sand at my LFS. They didn't normally carry it so they had to special order it. It was cheap, though. About $10 for a 20lb bag. It's quite different than TMS, though. It's basically silica, and therefore pretty much inert and insoluble in regular tap water.

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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 06:06 PM
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Sand is what is on the bottom of the Amazon basin right? I had my doubts when deciding, but it works fine for me. Ive tried fluorite and profile.

Pros:
Cheap
Easier to plant than in fluorite
Does not damage plant roots during planting
Easier for plant roots to grow through (i notice much finer and longer root systems in plants in sand than in fluorite, but there may be other factors)
Holds down plants better than fluorite (assuming you have a sufficiently deep layer)
Doesnt cloud up water like fluorite when planting or moving plants around
Looks good!
Cons:

can easily get stuck in cleaning pads and scratch up acrylic.

no CEC - can be easily fixed by adding a laterite layer on the bottom. I havent noticed any side effects of no CEC in my plants. I add fertilzer spikes for the heavy root feeders. Sand seems to hold down substrate fertilizer better than in fluorite probably because its more compact and has less water flow.

mulm accumulates on sand surface - it collects in areas of no water flow. easily fixed by light vacuuming during maintenance.

Has anyone proven that aquatic plants need substrate aeration? Dont many plants grow in sand in the nature or heavy clays?
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-17-2004, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rayhwong
Has anyone proven that aquatic plants need substrate aeration? Dont many plants grow in sand in the nature or heavy clays?
If you think about it, most plants kept in aquariums are stem plants anyway. The few rooted plants do just fine even in inert substrates. I've been experimenting with enriched substrates and they can be very low maintenence, but in a high tech tank in which daily ferts are added anyway, a substrate becomes more and more of just an "anchor" than a source of nutrient, aeration, etc.
That's why I think heating cables are becoming less popular. Their main purpose is to create water flow by way of convection. With the advances in water column fertilization we've discovered, we don't need to focus on the substrate nearly as much.

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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-18-2004, 12:21 AM
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It's nice to have a layer of larger gravel atop your sand if you go that route. Not only to anchor your plants, but also - and I know this sort of defeats the purpose - but to add some discoloration and avoid the 'dirty' look of detritus.

I read somewhere that sand is bad for most plants because it compacts and makes it difficult for roots to grow. However, I do have a narrow leaf chain sword plant growing roots through TMS, to the point where it's visible from the side of the tank, without any difficulty.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 02:38 AM
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Where can I get some silica sand? None of the fish stores around my place carry it, and I can't find anywhere online that actually sells it (most places just comment on what a nice substrate it makes!). I'm trying to make an Amazon biotope, and pea gravel just is not rocking the substrate scene.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 05:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpankyPlants
Where can I get some silica sand? None of the fish stores around my place carry it, and I can't find anywhere online that actually sells it (most places just comment on what a nice substrate it makes!). I'm trying to make an Amazon biotope, and pea gravel just is not rocking the substrate scene.
Have you tried Home Depot? I was at one lfs the other day and their sand source (silica) is 100lbs bags of construction sand. Gotta e careful, but it's not impossible or expensive (Play sand at HD is less than $5 per 50 lbs).

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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpankyPlants
Where can I get some silica sand? None of the fish stores around my place carry it, and I can't find anywhere online that actually sells it (most places just comment on what a nice substrate it makes!). I'm trying to make an Amazon biotope, and pea gravel just is not rocking the substrate scene.
Take a minute and fill out the location area in your profile. It really does help us help you.

If you live on the West Coast the sand sold at Home Depot probably won't work as it's very fine and will compact.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 03:37 PM
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I live in Nebraska. I guess the aquarium industry isn't so popular out here, because there are hardly any stores geared toward fishkeeping (unless you count Petco )

I called Home Depot and Lowe's, and they both carry silica sand, but 100lb bags? I only have a 46-gal tank! I've also gotten bad reviews on playsand. I guess since it's so fine it compacts really badly. I heard that pool filter sand has large, round grains, and it comes highly reccomended, especially for tanks with loaches. I'm currently trying to figure out where I can get some of that. Pool supply store? I just don't want to accidentally get something toxic and kill all my fish and plants.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 05:52 PM
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Don't get hung up on names. Pool filter sand is not the same in every area. You actually need to SEE the product before you commit. And you are going to need around 70 lbs or so of the sand to get any kind of decent substrate. So just buy the 100 lb bag and be happy. Also you might try calling around to industrial supply houses and even feed stores. Sometimes chicken or turkey grit makes great substrate.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 07:29 PM
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*sigh* By silica sand, Home Depot and Lowe's both meant playsand. And all the pool supply stores in town are either way too far away, or they were closed. So I just got some playsand. It was $2 for a 50lbs bag, no biggie. I'm still looking for the pool filter sand, both online and in Omaha. The tank will not undergo its transformation until after Christmas, at the least. I want everything to be ready before I make the swap. So I still have time to find it, but I'm also very impatient.

Since playsand compacts really easily, would it help to prevent compaction by mixing it with something like pea gravel, and just using a thin layer of sand on the top (for aesthetics)?
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-19-2004, 07:33 PM
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Can someone explain what TMS, or Black Beauty or Slag stands for? Would the black silca sand be like the sand one finds on the big Island, Hawaii?





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