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I looked through the pages briefly(at work so I can't spend all day on here:icon_frow) maybe someone can point me in the right direction if there's a thread like this already...

How important is it that cichlids have a sand substrate?

I have a small gravel substrate, I forget what size exactly but not the smallest gravel that I've seen. Will not having sand or very fine gravel be detrimental to the health of the fish if they burrow when they get ready to breed?

http://i.imgur.com/O6pAcsO.jpg

That's a picture of my female Jewel I used to have...she was about 2-1/2 to 3" at the time for reference. I've tried to stick to cichlids that spawn on flat rocks, but I've heard Green Terrors and Acara will burrow and rearrange substrate.
 

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Sand is much easier to kick up and find it's way into impeller assembly of filter(s).
Also much easier for food,poop to get buried in the sand as the fish root around .
For cichlid's mentioned,,I would use large grain gravel pea size or larger, and no more than an inch or inch and a half deep.
This makes gravel vaccuming much more effective ,less food,poop to become trapped in substrate.
 

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It doesn't matter what substrate you go with South/Central American cichlids will dig in it, and try to rearrange the tank to their liking. I have a Red Texas cichlid in my 45 gallon planted tank, which has flourite/floramax/ada amazonia capped with 1" of play sand, and he still digs up the sand around "his hideout".

Cichlids are notorious for digging, and rearranging aquariums no matter how hard to attempt to stop them.
 

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I never much cared about them digging ,seem's to come with keeping em.
My suggestion of thin layer of large gravel has more to do with maintaining water condition's/quality between water changes by limiting that which can become trapped in the substrate(s).
 

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I would not sweat at all over what to use with those cichlids. I might lean away from a dirted tank but the concern about vacing is not too important in a planted tank. I find that if I leave more food and debris in the tank, I need to add less nitrate! Once you get lots of plants and roots growing you will not want to vac very deep anyway. Just think of the debris as plant pellets made by nature?
I would recommend using what you think looks good but assume it will be mixed over time.
 

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I haven't witnessed my GBRs ever rearranging my gravel substrate but if they did I wouldn't mind. Think about it, if you're going for a natural look you can't get any more natural than the fish doing it themselves ;-)


Edit: Also my rams are doing fine in same size gravel you have and like to pick at left overs and plant matter that lay in it
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I would not sweat at all over what to use with those cichlids. I might lean away from a dirted tank but the concern about vacing is not too important in a planted tank. I find that if I leave more food and debris in the tank, I need to add less nitrate! Once you get lots of plants and roots growing you will not want to vac very deep anyway. Just think of the debris as plant pellets made by nature?
I would recommend using what you think looks good but assume it will be mixed over time.

OP mentioned Green Terror and Blue Acara both of which will make keeping rooted plant's in place a challenge for it is their nature to move substrates around.OP also mentioned concern's about substrate during spawning. Fish mentioned may dig several pit's for spawning before settling on one .Or may move babies from pit to pit after they have become free swimming.
Don't anybody read previous post's??
Anybody else offering advice on this topic cared for these fish??
 

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OP mentioned Green Terror and Blue Acara both of which will make keeping rooted plant's in place a challenge for it is their nature to move substrates around.OP also mentioned concern's about substrate during spawning. Fish mentioned may dig several pit's for spawning before settling on one .Or may move babies from pit to pit after they have become free swimming.
Don't anybody read previous post's??
Anybody else offering advice on this topic cared for these fish??

To be fair, I'm basing my posts off of my own experiences with my electric blue acara and my other cichlids who do not dig. But at the end of the day every cichlid is an individual and will behave differently. It's not overly black and white.
 

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Each tank and fish will differ so it is logical that experience will vary.
I found no trouble with cichlids and digging that was more than I could solve. Just takes a bit more thinking and persistence. If digging is a problem, give them places to dig and reserve some places not to dig.


Keeping fish and keeping plants requires some understanding of both. Whether it is cichlids or other fish, we just have to work with what nature gives us and deal with the problems.
 

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^true that. Every fish requires different kinda substrate. Shell dwellers wont be happy if they dont have sand to play with. Same with the earth eaters.
Now Malawians like a bit bigger grain size so that they can make caves and all.
Some cichlids wont care what substrate they have.
If you could list the names of the fish you have, maybe we can help.
 

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Would research the cichlid's I intended on placing in planted tank.Study their feeding/spawning habit's.These habit's are well documented on forum's regarding nearly any species you can think of as well as with those who breed the fishes.
Make plan's for the fry if spawning is ones aim so that you have outlet for the fry if successful .
I believe it is natural for one to want to breed the fishes at some point during their time in the hobby but we do the fishes no favor's by not preparing ahead of time.
Those who attempt to place human qualities to fishes, and suggest personality play's any part over the fishes natural instinct's are just wishfully thinking.
Some species do indeed dig more than other's, but to say that we should deal with it when and if it happen's is not a very well thought out plan.
Is in my view the difference between those who care for tropical fishes,,and those who simply collect fishes.
Opinion's vary.
 

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Part of the original question was about burrowing. I would assume that is not meant to say they dig a tunel or trench but they should be expected to dig. I would say that it is quite likely to happen so plans need to be made. The easy way is to change fish but then we would miss out on one of the highlights of really watching fish. For me the far better plan is to let the fish live as normal as possible and still do what we want with the tank. If we want to have plants and fish that are likely to dig we have to figure out a few more things than otherwise.
Since you are not going to live long enough to get a digger to stop digging, the next best I find is looking for ways to direct and channel the digging. Figure out where the fish are going to dig and don't put your plants there!
CA/SA fish are not as evolved and specialized as the African lake fish so it gets a bit harder to predict where they will dig. That doesn't mean you have to give up, just have to be a little smarter. If you think a fish is going to dig, it will usually be done at the lower part of the tank. Figure out where your type fish is likely to dig. They don't just go out and dig in a random way. It just looks random to someone who doesn't watch carefully. Do your fish dig next to the wall, next to a rock or wood? Maybe they nest under cover like wood or rocks. So for starters, don't put your plants on the bottom and where the fish are going to dig. Even a 1/2 inch higher will deter many. Only a real dummy will try to dig in a pile of rocks he can't move when there is a nice spot right next to it that is easy. You just have to arrange for spots to dig and spots where they won't dig. Then the real hard part is admitting the mistake when you get it wrong and have to do some rearranging! Somebody has to be the smarter one of the pair. Is it going to be you or the fish?
 
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