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Hi, I just bought a small aquarium and am planning to keep betta fish. I read all the basics on how to start an aquarium, heaters, pumps, lights and all. But I'm confused about one thing, the substrate. Can anyone with experience advise me what to put as the substrate?
Thanks!
 

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75g, 33L, 2g and play tanks
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There's no substrate, soil, gravel and sand.

no substrate is easier to clean, pretty much it. You will have to attach plants to things for this type of substrate or lack of.

soil, well this is high tech and I don't recommend to begin with. this leaches a lot of nutrients to begin and you are doing A LOT of water changes for first couple months.

gravel and sand are pretty much the same, a few differences here though.
Gravel is easier to gravel vac, you can stick it into the gravel and it will pull out the filth. Sand you will have to vacuum up as well but you'll have to be a little more careful as you'll end up sucking up sand with it.
Both of these are inert, so you'll want to fertilize if you are having real plants. well. if you have anubias and the like you may be able to not use anything.

so ferts... can dose the water column, I personally like to use osmocote tabs (there are other ones, do a little research though, don't just go name brand) that I buy off ebay and put in sand. Sand is easier in my opinion for tabs. having said that I still dose with Potassium and iron as I feel like it. I run a medium tech tank. So I do all the things people do for high tech, just not religiously.

for sand, you can just go to your local home depot or Lowes and get pool filter sand. much cheaper and you will have sand left over for when you decide to do your next tank. haha.
 

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Do you know how high tech you're planning to go yet? Just curious.

I wanted to expand on the soil explanation, slightly. I break it down further. "Soil" to my old school brain reads "sand capped dirt" and "ntp/ walstad". Definitely not something for people that don't have at least a keen sense of ecology or decent amount of experience with planted tanks- potential for crazy algae blooms make this method potentially very intensive to start. The other "soil" that planted tank keepers speak of is "aquasoil". A lot of people are using these now, even me, sometimes. I will admit that aquasoils are actually pretty easy to start a tank with a it will leech the ammonia needed for cycling your tank without you needing to do anything but the prescribed water changes (50% each day first week, every other day second week, 2 times the 3rd week and once weekly thereafter). The downside is it will draw nutrients from the column until it is saturated leaving a lot of people down a rabbit hole of chasing appropriate phosphate levels for months. It also breaks down over time requiring refreshing either in the form of replacement or root tabs.

Full disclosure- only 1 of my current tanks has aquasoil, the rest are inert- 1 pool filter sand, 2 locally collected river pebbles and stones, 1 normal petco rounded gravel with eco complete mixed in (contrary to package labeling eco complete is inert). IMO inert fine gravel/ coarse sand is the easiest "starter" substrate for new comers interested in low tech planted tanks.
 
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