Discussion: Best Looking Substrate?

Liquidhorses

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Hey all! I know there are a large variety of substrates out there and was planning on capping my gravel with another type (or replacing altogether). In your opinion, what is your favorite substrate to use and what is the most aesthetically pleasing? I use EcoComplete CaribSea but am leaning towards Fluval now!
 

Lorekeeper

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In a freshwater tank, I personally love the look of pool filter sand, or even play sand, if it's not too fine. It's not natural looking, and it's hard to keep clean, but man, it can make for a beautiful tank.
 

JLeeM

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I haven't used a good quality substrate for plants, but out of the substrates I have used Black Diamond Blasting Sand is by far my favorite (and the cheapest). My corys love it too. They dig their faces in up to their eyeballs.
 

TexasDomer

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I wouldn't add any finer substrates on top of your gravel (it'll just sink between and below the gravel), but sand is a great option. You can grow many plants in it, and it is preferred by most all bottom dwellers.
 

Silister Trench

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To make this much more complicated than it should be, here I go:

It really depends on the tank and where I want to go with it. In tanks where I want to show coloration of plants or livestock with more bold colors I prefer black substrates, and Thunder_o_b really hit the nail on the head with their first picture. That being said I'd use a black nutrient less substrate like Black Diamond in non-planted tanks. In a planted tank with lots of greens and reds I prefer Fluval Stratum, but only if the tank was very heavily planted immediately. If not heavily planted, then Fluval black sand.

In a tank with fish that aren't very colorful, usually more neutral with dark coloration, I prefer lighter substrates. A 50lbs bag of play sand costs about $5 at Home Depot and is a mix of fine-small grain sand with a tan overall color, but a natural mix of black, brown, grey, some pink if studied closely. It reminds me of sand you scoop from a beach after big storm because of the finer silty sand mixed with granules, but should be rinsed very well because of how murky the water becomes initially to remove some of the finer sand. It closely resembles ADA Colorado sand and other more expensive natural substrates, but that's my opinion.

In tanks with no bottom feeders such as corydoras I like the Home Depot play sand for its natural color, but usually find dark rocks out and about, bleach harmful bacteria or hitchikers from them, then smash them to bits and spread around structures and plants. It really looks like the best of both works. Contrasting dark stone against lighter cosmetic sand. You can use smoother dark stones if you have bottoms feeders. This is my hands down top pick for substrate and contrast if you like a more natural approach, but want to keep an artistic look to it.


Guess I could complicate things further, but that'll do for now.

And TexasDomer is 100% correct about capping your current substrate. She's right about a lot of things.
 

Gypsy13

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I’ve just bought BDBS and pool filter sand cause I still can’t make up my mind! I have albino corys (I LOVE these guys) and my other fish are light colored. I have a couple plants but will be getting more when I get my new 40 breeder going. IF I can decide on the sand. So if you get it figured out, let me know. Please.
 

Thunder_o_b

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Gypsy13 said:
I’ve just bought BDBS and pool filter sand cause I still can’t make up my mind! I have albino corys (I LOVE these guys) and my other fish are light colored. I have a couple plants but will be getting more when I get my new 40 breeder going. IF I can decide on the sand. So if you get it figured out, let me know. Please.
So far it seems like the plants do better in the BDBS. Not sure why. The BDBS does seem to rase the Ph a bit. Other than that the water is from the same source and the same plant supplements are used in all aquariums here.
 

Gypsy13

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Thunder_o_b said:
So far it seems like the plants do better in the BDBS. Not sure why. The BDBS does seem to rase the Ph a bit. Other than that the water is from the same source and the same plant supplements are used in all aquariums here.
My ph has come up to 6.8, almost 7. Maybe it would help?
 
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