but was wondering if most plants would do better in sand or gravel
Well Known Member
Some plants prefer gravel and some like sand. Most will tolerate both. The biggest problem with sand (gravel can do this too but it less common) is that it can have build ups of gasses beneath the surface. If the gasses escape it can cause big problems with fish. Occasionally sifting the substrate or having plant with large root masses can alleviate the issue.
The best substrates are either nutrient full (like ADA Amazonia $$$) or ones that have a high CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) This means they can absorb nutrients from the water and make them more easily available to plant roots. Regular gravel and sand both have very low CEC so this makes them both less desirable for plants.(Not to say they wont work) On the other hand substrates like Eco Complete and Seachem Flourite have very high CEC which make them better.
Hope this makes sense. LOL
More than 10 years
Good advice from Nate. Most plants tolerate both. There are plants that grow better in sand such as Vallisneria & there are others that do better in gravel, such as Echinodorus species. Many foreground plants need to be planted in a very fine substrate such as sand or Eco-Complete so that the very shallow roots can penetrate & get a grip in the substrate. Those same foreground plants often will not stay rooted or spread out properly when using a gravel substrate. All plants will do best in a specific planted tank substrate such as Eco-Complete or the very expensive ADA soils.