Choosing the best substrate/gravel

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Corzz79

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Hey all,

I’ve bought a new 180L aquarium and I’m just wondering if I should be buying a substrate to put underneath my desired grave? I know there are different types, if the tank is gonna be more plant focused but I want some moss and a few nice plants.

I have bought a rock style granite colour background and im thinking a light gravel sand. Once you start looking at different styles and textures, they all start to look the same.

I don’t mind buying a fertilised substrate for the planting areas and the lighter colour on top and everywhere else.

Unless there is is a substrate/sand/gravel all in one and the colour I want (which is white or pearl etc.

I also have catfish and loaches, so the bottom needs to be on the 1-2mm size? So I’ve been told and read.

would really appreciate any help.

Not to mention that when. My new aquarium arrives, I will need to go thru that cycling process also.

Is it actually quicker to cycle new aquariums with hardy fish? Or cycle it empty?
 

Nataku

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Cycle the aquarium in a fishless cycle - its faster as you don't have to constantly do water changes during the process, and you don't risk killing any fish during the cycle. Put the plants in right away though, they actually help with the cycling process.

Loaches will prefer a sand or other smooth substrate. So if you are going with gravel make sure they are rounded and smooth, no edges.
Plants will do just fine in sand or gravel with root tabs or a liquid fertilizer added to the tank. No need to get a fancy substrate unless you're going with a fancy hi-tech planted tank.

Pool filter sand available at Walmart or home depot or lowes or pretty much any home improvement store is a white to off white color and will work nicely for catfish and loaches. Its cheap and worth checking out as that may well be the color you are looking for.
 

barracooter

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If you plan on having catfish, you definitely want a sand substrate. They use their barbels to look thru the substrate for food, and gravel is not only much harder to move around, but can damage their barbels (which can lead to a lot of different problems for them). They will prefer smoother/softer sand, but so long as it's sand and not gravel you should be okay.

IME fertilized substrate isn't worth it, as I've never noticed much of a difference. I think you're better off with some basic cosmetic sand and fertilizer tabs for the substrate and fert powder (or whatever you prefer) for the water column. Unless of course you want a low tech tank with plants like crypts and java ferns, in which case you probably don't have to fertilize at all (I've grown a bunch of crypts on a window sill with no extra light or ferts).

Also, catfish and loaches are both bottom feeders, so they're going to be competing for both food and area. If you haven't already bought the fish, I would suggest going with one or the other and adding a school (or an individual) of midwater/topwater fish like tetras or gourami. If you already have both though, you should be okay so long as the tank has a large enough footprint to house both.

The depth of the substrate is far more important for the plants than it is the fish. So long as they aren't moving enough sand to expose the glass, it's deep enough. Plants prefer 2-3 cm of substrate if I recall correctly, but I might have the units wrong.

Finally, a cycle with fish is quicker if I'm not mistaken, but is highly not recommended. It puts a lot of stress on the fish, and will impact their color and lifespan. Fishless is definitely the more humane way of doing it. If you don't want to wait particularly long, try to get some janitorial grade ammonia. You can do the math and dose exactly the right amount for your tank's future bioload. With straight ammonia you can control exactly how much ammonia goes in the tank (aka how big your bacterial colony will be), not stress out any fish, and you don't have to wait for food to rot into ammonia. It's how I cycle all my tanks and I never have to wait long. Just make sure your bacteria can completely remove the ammonia you dose within 24 hours before you add the fish.
 
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Corzz79

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barracooter said:
If you plan on having catfish, you definitely want a sand substrate. They use their barbels to look thru the substrate for food, and gravel is not only much harder to move around, but can damage their barbels (which can lead to a lot of different problems for them). They will prefer smoother/softer sand, but so long as it's sand and not gravel you should be okay.

IME fertilized substrate isn't worth it, as I've never noticed much of a difference. I think you're better off with some basic cosmetic sand and fertilizer tabs for the substrate and fert powder (or whatever you prefer) for the water column. Unless of course you want a low tech tank with plants like crypts and java ferns, in which case you probably don't have to fertilize at all (I've grown a bunch of crypts on a window sill with no extra light or ferts).

Also, catfish and loaches are both bottom feeders, so they're going to be competing for both food and area. If you haven't already bought the fish, I would suggest going with one or the other and adding a school (or an individual) of midwater/topwater fish like tetras or gourami. If you already have both though, you should be okay so long as the tank has a large enough footprint to house both.

The depth of the substrate is far more important for the plants than it is the fish. So long as they aren't moving enough sand to expose the glass, it's deep enough. Plants prefer 2-3 cm of substrate if I recall correctly, but I might have the units wrong.

Finally, a cycle with fish is quicker if I'm not mistaken, but is highly not recommended. It puts a lot of stress on the fish, and will impact their color and lifespan. Fishless is definitely the more humane way of doing it. If you don't want to wait particularly long, try to get some janitorial grade ammonia. You can do the math and dose exactly the right amount for your tank's future bioload. With straight ammonia you can control exactly how much ammonia goes in the tank (aka how big your bacterial colony will be), not stress out any fish, and you don't have to wait for food to rot into ammonia. It's how I cycle all my tanks and I never have to wait long. Just make sure your bacteria can completely remove the ammonia you dose within 24 hours before you add the fish.
There are so many different opinions out there hey. But I appreciate your advice and tend to agree with you. I would only start cycling with hardy fish like tetras etc. it’s a nice tank and I’m excited and I wanna do it right and I don’t mind waiting, I just want to do what’s easiest and best, I guess!
 

Nataku

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No this is a sand of a slightly larger size than the super fine stuff you usually see in a child's sand box. It is used in pool filters here in the US, but works great as substrate in aquariums as well...
not sure if the same systems are utilized in Australia.

Another option you can look into is roofing granules/roofing grit. This is like a smooth finegravel or coarse sand, often available in many natural hues. If you're looking for a white type, Shasta white is a type I've seen utilized in tanks around here. But, in Australia you likely have different brands than what I see around here. Still, look up roofing granules and you should be on the right track.
 

Sauceboat

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I definitely agree with pool filter sand, but I’d also consider adding potting soil beneath it if you intend on planting any root feeders, I’ve dirted all my tanks and I love it. Grows plants great and it’s great not having the hassle of root tabs which hardly work anyway.
 
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