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Hey all,

I'm an experienced salt water'er but new to planted tanks. I just bought a little 5 gal tank and am looking to start my first planted aquarium. I know the look i want and have done some research but have a question. I like the look of the hills and valleys but have seen lots of posts giving negative thoughts on a deep sand bed. With that information, how do people get the hills in their tanks? Do you do a deep sand bed in just those areas, or build the area up with rocks first and then put a smaller layer of substrate over it?
Thanks in advance.
 

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What bluesand said! I am fairly new to saltwater tanks, but it seems that reefers also tend to have negative view on a Deep Sand Bed (DSB) since it tends to collect nutrients essential for a algae bloom. I think eggcrate (sold as light diffuser at the hardware store) would be your best bet, although I have had success with rocks.
 

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Hey all,

I'm an experienced salt water'er but new to planted tanks. I just bought a little 5 gal tank and am looking to start my first planted aquarium. I know the look i want and have done some research but have a question. I like the look of the hills and valleys but have seen lots of posts giving negative thoughts on a deep sand bed. With that information, how do people get the hills in their tanks? Do you do a deep sand bed in just those areas, or build the area up with rocks first and then put a smaller layer of substrate over it?
Thanks in advance.
There are a few tricks:

Egg Crates (aka White Egg Crate Styrene Lighting Panel from home depot) - You can use this to build a solid foundation with hardscapes such as zip-tieing wood or creating holes for rocks to fit into or glue to. This doesn't do much with "saving" substrate but more for creating stability for the hardscapes. The bad side is dealing with plant roots going through the grates.


Close-Cell Foam - a good way to create a stability with rock hardscapes while subtracting some of the substrate usage. You can build this up in layers.
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAy6W77C-h0)

plastic or cardboard as retainer walls - Once adding substrate, you can place retainers to give the hill more durability as well as sectioning off plants from migrating into each other (some plants like to send runners through substrate and surprise you)



Wall Terrace - This is the visible retainer versus plastic/cardboard walls because you are actually using your hardscape rocks to create the retainer. You can use it to create a void in an aquascape or just want to create a rock cliff.



Nylon stockings with inert rocks - This is a great way to build up a load of mass like a rock cliff. Just make sure to use rocks that won't change your parameters.
 
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