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FAQ: Can I use SAND as substrate? How to convert?
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Raul-7
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Joined: 12 Mar 2003
Location: Torrance, California

PostPosted: 2003.09.25(Thu)7:03    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. No, it's VERY hard to grow plants successfully in sand. Sand is a very compact substrate which causes plant roots to rot frequently.
2.It's much easier for them to stay in one place and not uproot. As the smaller the substrate, the better the plants take root...but for sand, it's not always as 'dead-spots' occur which means no cirrculation, causing the roots to rot.
3.Sand is accepted by many scavengers, and especially by fish with barbels (eg.Barbs,Corys,FW Sharks) as they are sensitive.
4.When sand goes through the filter it usually comes back out through the upcurrent, as they particles are so small the go thorugh the media. You may think it's harmless, but sand causes the axel of the motor to wear-out.
5.Sand doesn't cloud the water for long periods of time, as it quickly goes back down. But it really depends on what type of sand you have, but most don't cloud the water. Though sand is easily moved by any fast/strong movement over the sand which causes it to rise into the water.

Arrow I would advise you to stick with gravel or clay rather than sand. As the disadvanteges of sand clearly outweigh the advanteges. If you must use it, only make a small patch of it for your scavengers. Good luck with your tank! Smile
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Steve Hampton
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: Jacksonville, FL

PostPosted: 2003.09.25(Thu)9:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll disagree completely with the above statements regarding compaction of sand and nutrients.


Quote:
1: Does it make plants grow better?


As a blanket statement I would say no. Sand can make an excellent substrate for a planted tank. The issues regarding compaction mentioned by others is not correct, unless very fine sand is used. Pool filter (silica) sand and sand blasting sand are two coarse grade sands that make excellent substrates. Seachem sells an excellent sand named Onyx Sand. (charcoal grayish color). Plain sand with no additives such as laterite and peat will not provide any nutrients to the plant roots. This can easily be overcome with the addition of plant mulm, laterite, peat, and/or solid fertilizer tabs. Adding MTS (Malaysian Trumpet Snails) will help bring debris into the sand to breakdown and provide nutrients also. My point is sand can be made equal to or better than other substrates but one can't simply add sand by itself and have plants grow better.

Quote:
2: How well are plants able to stay in place once they are well rooted?


I never experience any problems with plants staying in sand. Once rooted they stay very well.

Quote:
3: What affect does it have on fish, especially scavengers?


They adore sand, debris stays on top and can be sifted through easily.

Quote:
4: What does it do to the filter?


As long as you keep the filter intake tube raised a couple of inches from the substrate surface there are not any issues. If you were to stick the intake too close to the substrate, sand could be sucked into the filter, eventually damaging the impeller assembly.

Quote:
5: How easily does the water cloud over?


The initial clouding is dependent on how well you wash the sand. If you wash it well there is very little clouding and what little there is can be cleared within a few hours using poly-fil in your filter and settling.

I have used just about every kind of substrate. For ease of use, Eco-Complete seems to be tops, but it's pretty expensive. Though a bit messy during setup Flourite is always a wonderful trouble-free albeit expensive substrate. But, my current favorite is a homemade substrate containing sand, peat, laterite, plant mulm, and MTS.

I use coarse pool filter sand for the first 2 inches. I then add laterite at the rate of 2 oz. per gallon, a handful of peat per 10 gallons, and as much plant mulm as can be harvested from an established tank. I thoroughly mix this "bottom layer". I then add approx another 2 inches of sand to "seal" the organic material. I then usually add a 1/2" to 1" layer of pea gravel or river rock. Lastly adding the MTS to help work the substrate and to continually add and replenish the organic material to the substrate. I found that all the objections people (I was one of those) make are unfounded. With careful planning sand can make wonderful and very inexpensive substrate.
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uLtRa
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Joined: 11 Apr 2003
Location: Southend, UK

PostPosted: 2003.09.25(Thu)10:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve, what kind of peat do you use?I'm guessing it has to boiled first yes? How do you collect the mulm from a tank?
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Steve Hampton
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: Jacksonville, FL

PostPosted: 2003.09.25(Thu)11:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

uLtRa wrote:
Steve, what kind of peat do you use?I'm guessing it has to boiled first yes? How do you collect the mulm from a tank?


I use dry ground peat like found in a plant nursery, Scott's is the brand I use.

To collect mulm:
With a bucket and vacuum hose siphon the gravel deeply and try to vacuum as much plant debris from the gravel surface as possible. A 5 gallon bucket is best for this process. Allow the bucket to settle overnight undisturbed. Decant the water off by using just a siphon hose, no vacuum attachment remove all the water until only the plant mulm (goo) is left in the bucket. Pour/scope this into the bottom layer of your substrate.
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UnKnown
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Joined: 15 Sep 2003

PostPosted: 2003.09.25(Thu)15:32    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm..... Thanks for all of your replies. I think I'm going to do a mix with 2" of gravel, and 1" of sand over the top of the gravel. That way I still get the clean look of sand I was looking for. I looked at the Onyx sand, I'm not sure if I would like a tank with such a dark substrate. Would play sand work OK or is that too fine? Any other suggestions welcome. Steve, where do you get your pool sand and how much $$$ do you pay for it?
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Irons
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Joined: 27 Feb 2003
Location: Buffalo, NY

PostPosted: 2003.09.26(Fri)8:23    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Steve, what kind of peat do you use?I'm guessing it has to boiled first yes?


Steve,

Do you boil your peat first? I just picked some up today. I HAVE TO get some c02 in the tank. I run only 2ppm by day and 3 by night on 2- 2liter generators.

Update: I went all crazy like... stuffed the a piece of knee high stocking. Rinsed, soaked and put under the sponge on the Aquaclear 500. Now the tank really looks like a section of black water in the amazon. *LOL*

Update2: Particulate matter cleared up after a while leaving the tank with a slight haze. This morning the haze has lifted some, but the water is "stained". Which is fine by me because the tank looks really good. Lets hope the plants can take it.
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Irons
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Joined: 27 Feb 2003
Location: Buffalo, NY

PostPosted: 2003.09.27(Sat)11:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just tested the water. pH down by .2, KH still only 3degrees. Making day time co2 up 1ppm. This peat stuff looks like it's going to work.
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Steve Hampton
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: Jacksonville, FL

PostPosted: 2003.09.27(Sat)11:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

Irons wrote:
Just tested the water. pH down by .2, KH still only 3degrees. Making day time co2 up 1ppm. This peat stuff looks like it's going to work.


Just so no one becomes confused. Adding peat can and usually does create some CO2 during the decaying processes. But, the addition of peat renders the methods of determining CO2 levels useless. The addition of another strong acid (humic) interferes with the KH, pH relationship used to determine CO2 levels. Adding a small amount of peat to the lower levels of the substrate has a negligible effect, filtering with peat will become problematic for determining with any accuracy the CO2 levels in the tank.


UnKnown wrote:
Would play sand work OK or is that too fine? Any other suggestions welcome. Steve, where do you get your pool sand and how much $$$ do you pay for it?


Most are too fine IMO. Some are also fairly well buffered, so care must be used. Quikcrete brand, though too fine for my liking seems to be inert. Pool filter sand can be purchased at any pool supply store, I live in Florida and there is one on every corner. Most Lowe's Home Improvement Centers carry pool filter sand too. It's cost less than $4.00 per 50lb. bag. Two 50lb. bags will cover a 18" x 48" tank with approximately 3".
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Tim McDonnell
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Joined: 25 Nov 2003
Location: Earth

PostPosted: 2003.11.27(Thu)10:49    Post subject: Sandy Substrate, Painfull Gills Reply with quote

I am looking forward to buying a new aquarium but would like an african back water theme. That would Require a Sandy bottom for the aquarium. Although no under gravel filter would be involved, would the sand irritate the fish or get in the gills and maybe hurt and kill them?
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number6
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Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: 2003.11.27(Thu)11:10    Post subject: Reply with quote

No in fact many cichlids are sand sifters passing sand over their gills often and on purpose.
Since under gravel filters are out dated and superseded technology the lack of a UGF is not a problem. A canister or hang on the back filter is far superior.
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