Is there a enriched substrate that looks like regular sand? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 01:06 AM Thread Starter
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Is there a enriched substrate that looks like regular sand?

I want to grow plants with my fish but I like the natural look for a substrate (sand). I'm having a hard time finding anything like eco-complete , fluorite etc. that looks like sand. It seems like if you want to grow plants in a enriched substrate you have to us a product like fluorite with an inch or so of sand on top to get the natural look. I don't want black sand on top ... just sand that is sand colored. Can someone give me a suggestion? Don't want to layer my substrate if I don't have too.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 01:51 AM
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Well, to be clear, there's nothing "enriched" about Eco or Flourite. They have a high CEC, but they come in the bag completely inert. The high CEC will allow the Eco (lava rock) and Flourite (baked clay) to absorb and store nutrients. So they're great for planted tanks, but you supply your own nutrients.

Baked clay is used as a soil amendment (so by farmers) and as baseball diamond infields. Turface is a popular brand, and you can find it at a John Deere if you've got one near. Check their website for color and other distributors.

Also, aquariumplants.com has their own version that comes in several colors, but shipping heavy buckets is a bit pricey.

And don't forget pool filter sand, probably the cheapest of the lot and available at any pool supply, but the color might not do it for you.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 02:10 AM
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If you want a sand only substrate and still be able to grow plants you are going to need some root tabs. As long as you replace them every couple of months you should be able to grow a decent variety of plants.


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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 02:12 AM
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Use whatever sand you want and add slow release tablets well buried, and not too many of them.
Coarser sands allow more water movement through the sand, and this will encourage the tablets to release the fertilizer, and it can end up in the water column.

Pool filter sand is very good. All the particles are the same size (usually 20 or 30 mesh) so it does not compact in the tank, and allows good water movement through the substrate. If you have more than one swimming pool supply company near you, look at the different products. Mostly they will be off white. Perhaps with black specs. Looks pretty good, where I want a white substrate.

Play sand is a mix of fines, and can compact. I have heard of people rinsing away the fines, and ending up washing away as much as half the material.

Black Diamond is blasting sand, available at masonry stores (brick, rock, pavers, concrete blocks and related materials). Do some research- the edges might be sharp, and not good for bottom dwelling fish, or any that sift the substrate through their gills. Cories especially may get minute cuts to their barbels, leading to infection.

Sands available in pet stores may suit you, but be sure you check the pricing, and compare to the pool filter sand or black diamond.

The local masonry stores, and places that sell materials in bulk (soil, bark, soil conditioner, rock...) also sell bags of sand in many different grades. The local bagging is Lapis Lustre. The sand in these bags comes in many different sizes from 30 mesh (same as pool filter sand) to a fairly coarse sand labeled 'Aquarium Sand'. It is about 1/8" diameter pieces- verging onto a fine gravel. You might ask about "Kiln Dried Sand" and see what your local stores have.

Some sand may be from a limestone or related parent material. Such sands will add minerals to the water such as calcium, magnesium (raising the GH) and carbonates (raising the KH). These are OK in hard water tanks, but not good for soft water fish.
If you can get a sample (bring a baggie, and look for a broken bag) take it home and test:
Put the sample in a jar of water with a tight lid.
Shake really well.
Q: How cloudy is the water? Does it go away quickly (few minutes to an hour)? This is good.
Now swirl the jar. Not shake. Just as if you had a filter or power head running that blew some water against the sand.
Q: How cloudy is the water? If it clouds just a bit, then it will probably be OK with a quick rinse before using. If it clouds too much with just a small disturbance, then there is probably too many fines in there, and it might keep on clouding the water.
Test GH, KH, TDS, pH of tap water with no sand, then test the jar of sand and water a few hours after mixing, then the next day, then several days later. You make the call about how much change in these parameters is OK for the tank set up you have in mind.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 12:55 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, thanks for the information. From what I have read, the short answer in NO. There is no product like eco - complete or seachem fluorite that looks like natural sand. So .... my options are to go with sand and use root tabs for ferts or layer my substrate with something like fluorite or eco - complete on the bottom and cap it with sand. I wouldn't have this dilemma if I didn't have a problem esthetically with a black substrate .... I just don't think fluorite or EC looks like a natural freshwater lake or river bottom.

I'm probably going to go with a sand cap on top of fluorite. It's probably going to look like a mess if I decide to move plants around. I'm just going to have to be very careful I guess and only do it if absolutely necessary.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 08:11 PM
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I capped Eco-complete with http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002APMU6?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=od_aui_detailpages00gravel. It is something of a mess. Next time I would just go with Peace River and tabs. The research I did indicated that a grain size of 1-2mm dia. allowed the proper amount of water circulation. Most "aquarium sand" has much larger grains. Food falls down between the grains where corys can't get to it. Nothing in my local Petco or Petsmart had the proper grain sizes.

Peace River has rounded grains that are cory friendly. Downside is that it is expensive at about $25 for 20 lbs. I like it because it reminds me of some of the coarse sands on N. California beaches (they are state parks, so illegal to remove anything).
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-15-2015, 09:25 PM
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Peace river is my favorite gravel as well, natural colours and perfect grain size.
I call it very coarse sand.

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