Thinking of getting rid of my SMS and going with sand...
I'm running a low tech setup in a 55g and have grown tired of the SMS substrate. I have the reddish orange stuff and I've never been a huge fan of how it looks - I got it because it was cheap, sort of matched the flourite I've got as a base layer under there, and because it got rave reviews here. Lately I've gotten really sick of how light weight it is too. It is really tough to plant something and have it stay down unless it is a big plant, and it's so light that when I try to use the python I end up sucking up substrate. Recently this has been a problem because the fish have a parasite issue and I really should do a thorough gravel vac in addition to the treatment, but I can't. I'm thinking I might just tear it all right out of there and start fresh. (While I'm at it I might upgrade to a larger tank, but we'll see.)
I have always liked the look of the black substrates like an eco-complete, for the plants, but with the fish I keep I also really would like a nice white sand. Of course I realize that using the python with sand is another fun adventure, but I imagine (just guessing here) that it's a bit easier to plant stuff in sand. Not sure though, because I've never had sand before in any of my tanks.
Here's the other challenge - I have eartheaters. Yeah, I know, it's not the best combo with plants. But it's not super densely planted and they got bullied in the other tanks. I've grown accustomed to living with their re-landscaping so it's not that big a deal. But I do need to be sure that it's a substrate that is OK for them to be mouthing. I also have clown loaches - not sure if they have issues with sharper stuff.
So... is it wise to go the sand route, or is that just going to be the same amount or more trouble? If I do sand, given that I also have the eartheaters, should I still have that base layer of the flourite underneath? (So far they have never exposed it from under the SMS, but I have a good 3-4" of SMS in some spots) Are there any other considerations when using sand? What would be the best type, given the types of fish?
Or should I just go with the eco-complete? It wouldn't look quite as good with the fish but it sure would be easy.