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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

It's been a good 15 years since i last had an aquarium but looking through this forum and youtube has been very inspirational so i thought i should start a nano tank with shrimp and some small fish.

My last tank had malawi cichlids with just a couple of anubias attached to lava rock but this time i would like to have more plants.

I have read a lot about soil substrate and understand this is the way to go, however, i really want to plant in either fine gravel or sand to reduce risk of cloudiness, breakdown of substrate and general longevity (i assume this will not be popular).

It would also be great to know how you scapers do the beautiful "levels" or ledges without putting dangerously thick layers of sand/gravel in the back of the tank?

So my idea is this:
Stock Juwel primo 70 with additional filter (Fluval U2) for reduced maintenance.
Sand or gravel feeded with root tabs and fertilizer in the water column (please help me with best grain size and depth of sand for planting without risk of gas pockets or rotting).
Marsilea crenata as carpet, taxiphyllum flame moss on the rocks, bacopa caroliniana as background.
Small fish load for reduced maintenance, i was thinking 6 male endlers guppy and 4 kuhli loaches.
And lastly 10 cherry shrimp that hopefully will multiply.

All input to this is greatly appreciated!
Thank you,
best regards
Niklas
 

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Hello and welcome!

I much prefer planting in sand then any other substrate and at this point I won't consider doing it any other way. That said, these days I put down a thin layer of aquasoil (usually 1/2 inch or less in depth) and then pour sand on top. You could easily skip this and go with root tabs if that is your preference, I don't like root tabs as much because they go away over time and you won't know it because you can't see it. Aquasoil recharges with fertilizer put in the water column and sticks around for a long time (forever? the oldest aquasoil I have is around 2 years and its still there, other people have had it for far longer).

Anyway you can create more depth if you put down rock to create terraces. As for gas buildup under substrate... well in my experience this is just an aquarium boogeyman. I've run tanks with more then 8 inches of straight sand and never had any fish murdering gas kill everything in my tank. Professional aquascapers will routinely fill more then half the depth of their tank with substrate and likewise there are no issues. In hiking around the woods I've run into ponds and streams inches or a couple of feet deep that have fish, snails, and amphibians all living in them without issue despite the 'substrate' just being dirt of literal unlimited depth. Anyway my point being that you shouldn't worry about gas killing everything. Not saying that a anaerobic bacteria doesn't exist in our aquariums, it does, but gas release from anaerobic bacteria is natural and it doesn't stick around long enough to do any harm to the critters we keep in our tanks.

Hopefully this is helpful.
 

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Like you, I prefer totally inert substrate and for the same reason: I don't want to change it out every couple of years when it is exhausted or having to deal with fading nutrients as it approaches exhaustion. I also prefer not to use root tabs for the same reason. I dose water column only and I believe it provides the best long-term stability option. However, active substrates certainly have their adherents and they do provide a safety net, particularly for beginners and those that don't mind the change-out.

In my case, I have an inch of sand below about two inches of CaribSea, Super Naturals Peace River, which are good gravel size and hold plants with no issues.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you very much for the answers, i will look into the products you have mentioned, not sure they are available in Sweden though.
 

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Definitely not alone. Active substrate is overrated in my opinion. Such that I'm actively trying to figure out how to move my precious black sand (not sure if it's black diamond or what) when I move. I do, however, use root tabs and dose according to the instructions (or after a year, whenever I remember to do it tbh) since I can't be bothered to fertilize outside of what I feed my fish.

For the levels, a trick I read in a book was to just silicon glass in place so that you could stack the sand up. However, this depends on how deep the sand bed you're intending is. If you're super concerned and are levelling something like 12" deep, then you could fill in around 4-8" of that back depth with something like expanding foam.

It also depends on how fine the sand is. Sand that's oolitic or even silica/quartz based compacts so much that I'd be hard pressed to use it except in a shallow .5-1" substrate. The black sand I have now doesn't really compact but is still fine enough that it's not gravel, so I can set up a 2" layer just fine.
 
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