How big is too big for gravel sizes when it comes to planting? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-11-2019, 11:44 PM Thread Starter
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Question How big is too big for gravel sizes when it comes to planting?

Right now I have a 2.5 gallon tank with three plants inside: Anubias Nana, a Marimo moss ball (around 1.5 inches in diameter), and a Windelov Java Fern. Looking through my tank, I see that most of the gravel is between 8-13mm in terms of length or width. My tank is 6" x 12".

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Should I change the change my substrate to get smaller and finer gravel?
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 11:04 AM
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People generally report that gravel sizes of 2-3mm is the sweet spot. Anything larger and you will have some trouble with plant roots. That said, folks plant in pea gravel all the time.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-12-2019, 09:01 PM Thread Starter
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In your experience, how thick, long, and wide are the pea gravels that you've seen? I'm definitely going to change my gravel since I have some backup ones ranging from 1mm to 8mm.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-13-2019, 12:05 PM
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Pea gravel is around 3/8" or 9mm. Still not great for plants but it can work. Coarse sand is better if you can find it in the right sizes. A search of this forum will show people planting in everything from coal slag blasting sand, to kitty litter, to chicken grit (small stones fed to chickens). Lots of cheap and good options available.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 12:28 AM
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Both those are rhizome plants and need it to be above the gravel/sand layer. You could pull the java fern up a bit just leaving the little roots in the gravel. The little roots will attach to the gravel and form a big matt of tangle and gravel. Atleast thats what they did in my tank before switching to sand.

Alternatively you can glue the rhizomes to larger rocks/wood and they will grow just fine that way.

I like course sand because its easy to clean and looks good IMHO. FYI I started out with gravel like that in my 40b.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 02:06 AM
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If you completely change your gravel you’ll be starting cycling all over from scratch.

If you’ve got smaller 1-3mm gravel that looks good with existing pea just start mixing it in from top and tap it in with fingers or tool and it will settle down between already cycled gravel.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 03:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
If you completely change your gravel you’ll be starting cycling all over from scratch.
Not really, you have BB in the filter and on most surfaces.


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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by cl3537 View Post
Not really, you have BB in the filter and on most surfaces.
From his other post he doesn't have a filter so all he'd have left is 2 low metabolism plants, a moss ball and glass, not much in way of bio surface area left for betta and snail poop processing, pretty close to starting from scratch.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 08:13 AM
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I'm in the same boat as you. I have that same type of gravel and want to change it out. I put some CaribSea Peace River in my 30g and I want it in my 2.6g tank since it's a lot easier to use for planting and it's easy on the fish. However, I have shrimp in the 2.6g tank and I can't change the gravel now because we recently found shrimplets in there. so now I have to postpone my plans until all the babies are grown enough that I won't hurt them.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 09:46 AM
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@jackproudbottom Yes, that gravel is big and as mentioned, plants have a hard time rooting in it. This isn't a big deal in your case since you don't have any stem plants. CarbiSea Peace River gravel is a excellent size ( I use it in my tank) and doesn't compact and turn to mush like kitty litter does over time.

Since you don't have a filter, if you really want to change it out, you'd have to do so really slow and over time. Doing it all at once is going to kill off your beneficial bacteria bed which means your tank is going to have problems with ammonia spikes. Even people that have filters that swap out their substrate all at once see cycle bumps as filters can only hold so much bacteria. The bottom of a tank has a lot more surface area, hence more beneficial bacteria.

The last time I swapped my substrate out, it took me 4 weeks. I visually divided the tank into quarters and replaced a quarter every week at the time I would do a water change. I didn't see any cycle bumps or ammonia spikes doing this way, but I also run 2 filters on my tanks.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-14-2019, 02:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smooch View Post
@jackproudbottom Yes, that gravel is big and as mentioned, plants have a hard time rooting in it. This isn't a big deal in your case since you don't have any stem plants. CarbiSea Peace River gravel is a excellent size ( I use it in my tank) and doesn't compact and turn to mush like kitty litter does over time.

Since you don't have a filter, if you really want to change it out, you'd have to do so really slow and over time. Doing it all at once is going to kill off your beneficial bacteria bed which means your tank is going to have problems with ammonia spikes. Even people that have filters that swap out their substrate all at once see cycle bumps as filters can only hold so much bacteria. The bottom of a tank has a lot more surface area, hence more beneficial bacteria.

The last time I swapped my substrate out, it took me 4 weeks. I visually divided the tank into quarters and replaced a quarter every week at the time I would do a water change. I didn't see any cycle bumps or ammonia spikes doing this way, but I also run 2 filters on my tanks.
I've swapped out the substrate twice and both times wound up with green water. And I didn't clean the Rena Filstar on those occasions either. Doing it in quarters over time is a great idea.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-16-2019, 03:12 PM
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I have in the past used 2mm to 6mm mixed washed river gravel, since our rivers drained from the Cascades mountains, it was mostly inert Igneous rock sourced, well polished, and a pretty gravel.

Mostly reddish and darker with brown and black tones.

One of the local dredge operators was selling what they called Turkey Grit for about 5 bucks a 5 gallon bucket worth. Bring your strongest friends along as a 5 gallon bucket of that gravel weighs nearly 80 pounds.

Starting small, keeping it simple..(?)
250 gallon stock tank, "pond"
20 gallon H CBS Shrimp tank

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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 05-16-2019, 03:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveKS View Post
If you completely change your gravel you’ll be starting cycling all over from scratch.

If you’ve got smaller 1-3mm gravel that looks good with existing pea just start mixing it in from top and tap it in with fingers or tool and it will settle down between already cycled gravel.
Agreed,

In fact in most situations, I have found that there is far more BB in the substrate then in the filter itself. Exception would be a large filter on a very small tank. I have many times forget to turn my filter back on after a water change for days and the tank did not have to recycle, but if you remove all of the substrate it will. The filter is somewhat over-rated as the main source of BB.


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