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I'm about to be converting a take that is ~ 1200 gallons from Saltwater to Planted Freshwater. I'm looking for an economical substrate that will be easy to work with. I prefer black or grey color but am open to other suggestions.

One non-black alternative I am considering that has worked in my unplanted home tanks is the small pea gravel that people buy to mix with concrete. It's reasonably inexpensive and is available at the local hardware store. We're planning on having some African cichlids in the tank and I've heard certain species can root around in the substrate and disturb plants. I'm thinking the pea gravel might be a deterrent to this.

If I do go with the pea gravel, should I put a layer of peat down underneath it? Would mixing some sand with the gravel be a good idea or not?
 

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I would go with Mineralized soil if you want cheap. You will need a warm dry room to dry it in, but if you have that, it should not be a big deal.
Here is a link.
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...-mineralized-soil-substrate-aaron-talbot.html

I do not think anything good will be cheaper, but it may not be the easiest thing to do. I really do not like pea gravel myself. It looks too plain IMO.

As far as the Peat goes, use it very sparingly if you do. On my tanks, I wind up just putting it into the filter so I can control how much without having to tear out all my substrate.
 

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I use small pea gravels in my 5.5g CRS tank and my plants are doing fine
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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I don't think I'd go with mineralized soil combined with digging cichlids; they could keep it stirred up all the time.

What are the dimensions on this tank? 1200 gal is a LOT of water... and a challenge to light properly for plants. Depending on your lighting, you may do best just to stick with plants like java ferns, anubias, mosses... in which case you wouldn't need to get any special substrate at all anyways.

Or you could use pots for the plants.
 

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Oops, sorry. I did not see the part about the African cichlids. Keep in mind that African Cichlids require much harder water than most fish. You will most likely need to add some buffer to your water when you fill it up and every water change after that.

Are you planning on going with Mbuna's, or some other type. They are very nice fish. I have a small tank of them myself. They have great personality when they are over populated.

I was always under the impression that plants like softer water, so be sure to look into that before setting your plans in motion. I know there are a few plants that do well in hard water, but you can't get just any plant. Someone correct me if I am wrong on that.


Most of the African cichlid tanks I have seen do not have plants both because of the digging problem and the water hardness.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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I'd probably just plant out the corners of the tank with something easy like Vallisnerias and stick some Swords and Crypts in buried pots around among the rocks, and stick some Java ferns inside some of the rock crevises- then you could still keep most of the rockwork.
 

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Are you sure that's 1200 gallons? Seems more like 650ish to me.

Regardless, i think I would get some inert substrate such as SMS or turface pro league. Perhaps 3M colorquartz S or T grade if you can find it.

Getting enough of the above to cover a tank that size will still cost a bit of money, but will still be 5-10X cheaper than aquasoil or etc.
 

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One nice thing about African Cichlids will be if you put enough of them in there, you will see them swarm to wherever people are. Your customers that come into the lobby and walk by will see a bunch of fish following them back and forth.:biggrin:

Thats my experience anyway.
 

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If you're going to have African cichlids (not sure what type you are planning to keep so this won't apply in all situations) you may want to plant fairly heavily and get your plants established before adding the cichlids. Many species are plant eaters and can totally destroy your hard work by uprooting and ripping up the plants. Larger substrate will help with preventing the fish from digging up the plants, although if you choose large species they will even move the pea gravel around. Probably consider anchoring the plants to driftwood or larger rocks.
 

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i dont think i read this...but if youre going w/ africans, you should stay away from the peat. it releases tannins into the water which lowers the ph and hardness (if im not mistaken).

id go w/ pool filter sand to be honest.....its probably the cheapest and wont affect your fish
 
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