I did a little bit of a search through the substrate part of the forum, but most of the answers I found are somewhat vague, and scattered through the threads with a couple of conflicting thoughts. I'm hoping I can sort of aggregate the answers here.
Right now, in both of my tanks (2g, 10g) I have ordinary colored aquarium gravel substrate.
I use a gravel vacuum when changing the water in my 2g (a 2-3xwk endeavor), and it seems to pick up things rather well (There's only a betta in the tank, so there's not a whole lot unless I miss pellets that he spits back out and they sink). I haven't yet needed to change the water in my 10g, since there are no fish in there yet (Fixing that this weekend, wanted to get this sorted first), but I imagine it will become an issue eventually.
However, I feel like every single tank I see on here so far seems to have some sort of sand or dirt substrate. So I have a few questions:
1) Is is possible to have a successful planted aquarium with just gravel substrate?
2) If so, how do you clean the gravel around plants? Gravel vac, a particular fish/shrimp/whatever? Will shrimp/plecostomus/otos get everything, or will it just need less frequent cleaning?
3) I know there are as many substrate, fertilizer, and additive recommendations as there are aquarists out there, but is there any consensus on what I could do to make a gravel substrate more successful?
I expect there will be a dozen and a half different answers, but I'm hoping there is some sort of general agreement on the basics. I'm a little afraid I'm going to be chastised for a "noob question", but the truth is I am still very new to planted tanks, so information is completely welcome.
Thanks for your time!