What is the minimum or good average inert playsand depth for a planted tank? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 12:47 PM Thread Starter
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What is the minimum or good average inert playsand depth for a planted tank?

Hello all,

In a frenzy of activity on my tank, from discovering when I measured that I had less than 3/4ths of an inch of sand, to adding the rest of the bag of playsand to bring the tank to 3.75" in the back, approx 2 in the front, now I believe I have created a "deep sand bed" and can see a layer of black anaerobic activity forming underneath.

a) I am a little fearful of the anerobic depths even though I know that if it is left undisturbed it could, or even should, be no problem.

b) When the black layer finishes spreading throughout the front and side views, it will not look very attractive.

c) I hear that the anaerobic areas will consume nitrates, which is not desirable for plants to perform well.


Now, I really do not want to use any substrate other than playsand. I love my corydoras Sterbaii, and my "other half" does as well so I can't simply adopt them out and change to a better planting substrate. I have observed their barbels grow out over time on this substrate and I do not wish to take any chances with the decidedly mixed reviews of any non-playsand sandy substrate. I am happy with what I have now.

I don't have another tank nor the inclination to buy and cycle one in order to create a second tank for the sterbaii; my next tank purchase will be at least twice as large as my current 20 gallon high, and I will use Eco Complete or some such and not keep Corydoras in it.


So - Is there a recommended depth of sand, which a) will not have the anaerobic issues and b) still support healthy root systems? I wasn't even coming close to being able to properly root vals, sag, crypt wendtii etc in the previous depth and although the vals pop up from time to time, more and more of them are now starting to "grab" the sand with their roots and the crypt is growing great.


Thanks for any help because I would like to keep my current community setup and also plant it (with CO2 and EI in the next 2-3 weeks as parts come in), but not also be worried constantly about the "DSB"!


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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 04:41 PM
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As with any sand, you run the risk of anaerobic pockets developing. Yours is at a depth that tends to encourage that type of development. You need to stir it up well and expose any patches to the water circulation & oxygen to diffuse it's harmful growth. I maintain PFS substrate @ 1/2" depth at the front, and no more than 2.5" at the rear - just enough for rooting plants properly. And I stir up the sand in pretty well all areas at each wc ( 2 X week). Result:
No patches whatsoever have developed in about a year since tank set up.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 05:17 PM
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P.S. to my post above.
I have assumed here from reading your post that the blackening activity in your tank hasn't been present for a very undue length of time, and with your sand depth being no more than about 3.5", then it seems unlikely that the anearobic gaseous toxicity has reached a level at this point that can be fatal to your livestock. But the longer you leave it undisturbed, the worse it will get. And keep in mind, that even if undisturbed, the developing toxicity can still leach to the tank water. Hence my sugggestion to slowly & carefully move it about to diffuse it's further development. Try a chopstick to do this.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-30-2011, 11:03 PM Thread Starter
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It's been approximately a week, give or take a couple days, since the change.

I'm not sure how much is anerobic and how much is fertilizer tabs leaching through the sand horizontally. Also, another bit is that some or maybe even much of the discoloration is because new sand was layered over all, so maybe the blackened sand isn't anerobic bacteria but instead it is dead aerobic bacteria.

Now I get to try and figure out, logistically, how to remove a bunch of sand again, and hopefully not get all sorts of cloudiness from fertilizer tabs into my water column. Basically need to do an entire rescape as I will need to pull out all of my plants and re-root them, and even now they're not even really rooted "well" as i can see 1/4" to 1/2" of roots sticking out of the sand.

My tank did have a brief ammonia spike measured a couple days after the addition of new sand but has since returned to 0-0 measurements The bacterial population right now is probably mostly in my canister and not my substrate would be my guess because the sand is relatively new, so it wouldn't be a bad time to even do a 100% changeout, or at least I could scoop the "clean" upper layers out, enough to do the levels of sand i want, wash them etc just like if i was preparing new sand, and a 100% water change out which would probably prevent any problems from fert tabs etc. Just another day of stress for my fish and plants though.


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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-01-2011, 12:04 AM Thread Starter
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i have changed my plans and will have 2 tanks instead of 1 in order to devote one to optimum plant conditions and one to optimum corydoras conditions. everyone's happy.


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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 05-01-2011, 12:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc7 View Post
It's been approximately a week, give or take a couple days, since the change.

I'm not sure how much is anerobic and how much is fertilizer tabs leaching through the sand horizontally. Also, another bit is that some or maybe even much of the discoloration is because new sand was layered over all, so maybe the blackened sand isn't anerobic bacteria but instead it is dead aerobic bacteria.

Now I get to try and figure out, logistically, how to remove a bunch of sand again, and hopefully not get all sorts of cloudiness from fertilizer tabs into my water column. Basically need to do an entire rescape as I will need to pull out all of my plants and re-root them, and even now they're not even really rooted "well" as i can see 1/4" to 1/2" of roots sticking out of the sand.

My tank did have a brief ammonia spike measured a couple days after the addition of new sand but has since returned to 0-0 measurements The bacterial population right now is probably mostly in my canister and not my substrate would be my guess because the sand is relatively new, so it wouldn't be a bad time to even do a 100% changeout, or at least I could scoop the "clean" upper layers out, enough to do the levels of sand i want, wash them etc just like if i was preparing new sand, and a 100% water change out which would probably prevent any problems from fert tabs etc. Just another day of stress for my fish and plants though.
Your thinking is quite logical. It could very well be root tabs leaching horizontally &/or other causes for the discoloration in the substrate. In an event, you seem to have it all under control, and I'm sure you'll do what you feel is right and necessary to produce the result you're looking for. Doesn't seem like you need much, if any, guidance.
Good luck to you. Keep us posted.
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