Using sand as a substrate - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:33 PM Thread Starter
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Using sand as a substrate

I've heard a lot of bad things about using sand as substrate, but I've also seen a lot of people who use it and love it. I was thinking about using sand in my next planted tank but I'm not really sure which route to go. Some people use ultra cheap stuff like pool filter sand but I would personally rather use something that was designed for aquarium use. Also I know sand is inert so any recommendation on how to get some nutrients in there? Root tabs or something?

Here's a quick link to one particular cheap way to go with sand as it seems to have a lot of good reviews: http://www.acehardware.com/product/i...uctId=11683357

Anybody have any thoughts?

Last edited by Blackheart; 12-05-2015 at 06:35 PM. Reason: .
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:40 PM
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Seachem Flourite sand is meant for aquatic plants
CaribSea tahitian moon sand is meant for aquariums
Root tabs will be the way to get nutrients to root-feeders

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 06:46 PM Thread Starter
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I can just imagine how dirty Flourite sand is though because I use regular Flourite substrate and it is extremely dirty. Whenever I do a little cleaning in my tank, dust and debris always gets stirred up from the gravel and there's a cloud of it in my tank.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2015, 09:54 PM
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You won't go wrong with that Ace product of pool filter sand that you linked to.
Would be nice though if it came in other colors than the light brown sand color which Ace usually sells (they normally don't carry other colors, which may be available at pool supply stores, e.g. white, light grey, light pink, several shades of sand/beige color.)

PFS is inexpensive compared to LFS bought sands, but quite frankly that doesn't mean it's inferior, as it will generally have all of the features or more, (with the possible exception of some nutrients) than most of the LFS sands which usually cost a lot more.

If you get #20 or #30 grade density quartz-based silica PFS it will have little or no dust so doesn't need rinsing, the grains will be large enough to not be siphoned out when using a standard aquarium vacuum tool, heavy enough to not free float in the water column when disturbed (so will not get into filters & clog them), easy to keep clean, looks real good, and will grow many plants quite well using nothing but root tab ferts.
That can't be said for cheap play sands & other sands available at the big box stores.

Here's a couple of pics of a discus tank to give you some idea of the look and the variety of plants it grows well.






I use white PFS & have done so for years in my discus & other tanks - wouldn't use anything else in low tech environments.

P.S.
A lot of the bad things you might have heard about sand is the risk of the development of toxic anaerobic gas pockets.
That usually occurs with play sands which compact very heavily & easily, thus paving the way for this to happen. It also generally occurs when sand substrate is layered quite deeply, e.g. over 3" deep.
IME, this rarely occurs with larger-grained PFS, particularly if it's no deeper than 2.5" -3", which is all you need to grow plants well.
I keep mine approx. 1/2" or less in front in the open free-swimming areas (as you can see in the photo above) and no more than 2.5" at the rear in the planted areas.
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Last edited by Darkblade48; 12-17-2015 at 12:30 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2015, 05:50 AM
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I'm trying to decide on a sub as well op. I want sand because it looks better than gravel or dirt and it's easily to move around.

I done the research and it is good for planted tanks. You just need to add fertilizer.

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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2015, 09:38 PM
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I find almost nothing that can't be messed up by somebody on the net!
But sand is one of my favorites as it looks very natural. I have it in almost all my tanks in varied combinations. Some is cheap play/all purpose sand but I never buy it after getting into pool sand. Big for me is not needing to clean it for hours! The extra cost of pool sand is just about even if I have to spend a hundred gallons of water washing the cheaper stuff. I drain my tanks to flower beds and those which have pool sand collect a lot less sand in the flower beds. It just stays down far better and that makes it stay out of the filters better. It doesn't take much sand to mess up an impeller and shaft.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-12-2015, 11:56 PM
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I agree with Rich. The other benefit to sand is that all the waste stays on top of the sand and gets swirled around so your filters can remove it. And you do not need to vacuum it other than to swirl the vac above it to get any debris floating where you can suck it up. Much less maintenance.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-16-2015, 02:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by discuspaul View Post
P.S.
A lot of the bad things you might have heard about sand is the risk of the development of toxic anaerobic gas pockets.
That usually occurs with play sands which compact very heavily & easily, thus paving the way for this to happen. It also generally occurs when sand substrate is layered quite deeply, e.g. over 3" deep.
IME, this rarely occurs with larger-grained PFS, particularly if it's no deeper than 2.5" -3", which is all you need to grow plants well.
I keep mine approx. 1/2" or less in front in the open free-swimming areas (as you can see in the photo above) and no more than 2.5" at the rear in the planted areas.
I have a tank with almost 7 inches of sand in certain places but I have heavy routing crypts and trumpet snails, don't have to worry too much about sand is a great substrate.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-16-2015, 02:21 AM
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The product in the link is a 20 mesh pool filter sand. It should work well in an aquarium.
The aquarium specific sands are available in other colors. Some fish behave better over darker substrate, showing off better colors and swimming farther out in the open.

Another source of sand-like substrate is the swimming pool builders and refinishers.
They can add a material that is often a quartz based granule to make the pools a different color.
One such supplier is Pebble Tec.
Pebble Technology International
Be careful: Some of these finished include actual shells that could raise the GH, KH and pH of the tank.
Get to know some of the pool installers and refinishers in your area, or swimming pool supply stores to find these products. Check particle sizes and colors.
3M-Color Quartz was used quite a lot several years ago, and I still have one tank with this. Unfortunately it is not available any more.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-29-2015, 04:58 PM
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I have the ACE hardware sand that is in the link. It does need to be rinsed several times as there is dust that comes along with it. After rinsing and adding water, you will still get a little cloudiness but it will settle. Afterwards, you can move the sand around in the water and there will be no cloudiness. I have Amazon Swords, Crypts, Bacopa, Dwarf hairgrass, Elodea, wisteria and some other plants and supplement nutrients with Osmocote+ ice cubes, Seachem Flourish, and soon, Seachem Flourish Excel. For lighting, I run a Finnex Planted+. The plants seem to be happy for the most part. Planting in sand can be a little challenging, but once you get it in there and the plants are able to root, it's pretty solid.

The amazon swords aren't flourishing as well as the rest of the plants, but the tank has only been set up for a month, and I've read that some melting, dying back, and regrowth happens due to the plant acclimating to the new water. I've noticed great new growth with the elodea, but the initial plant matter has melted off. No big deal.

You'll need two bags for your 55 gal.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-29-2015, 05:25 PM
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Sand is the only substrate I've used and I've had great success with it. I love sand in the planted environment. It is easy to plant in, dense enough to hold down plants, and roots grow well in it. I haven't put any root tabs in my tank since the beginning and my plants haven't slowed down in growth at all. I feel that inert substrate is fine, especially in a low tech tank.


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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-07-2016, 03:38 PM
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I love sand since I switched to it2 years ago. I use QUIKRETEŽ Commercial Grade Sand with no problems. I do not disturb the substrate.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 01-07-2016, 04:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SwissCheeseHead View Post
The amazon swords aren't flourishing as well as the rest of the plants, but the tank has only been set up for a month, and I've read that some melting, dying back, and regrowth happens due to the plant acclimating to the new water. I've noticed great new growth with the elodea, but the initial plant matter has melted off. No big deal.

You'll need two bags for your 55 gal.
Amazon Swords are heavy root feeders and like/need deep substrate. I would use root tabs for them and crypts. I just planted my AS is in a coconut husk planter with rocks in the bottom to hold it down. I expect the AS to enjoy the depth of root structure in it. I've also added root tabs around my crypts because they are heavy root feeders as well, and I think fewer nutrients go down into sand substrates.
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