Is gravel and crushed coral substrate for cichlids ok ?

Fishjunkiejimmy

I’m wondering if anyone has any experience using gravel and crushed coral as a substrate for there cichlids? I have sand in all 3 of my tanks because that’s what they prefer. But i recently bought a power vac that works great and really makes the maintenance easier but unfortunately it sucks up the sand when I have the power high enough to remove waste. I used it on my gf tank witch has gravel in it and it worked great and has me obviously thinking of switching substrate. But at the same time I don’t want to put anything in the tank that will make my water friends uncomfortable just for my convenience. Any and all opinions are welcomed thanks.
 

A201

Gravel is inert & fine for all fish. Crushed coral / calcium carbonate substrate will likely up the PH to as much as 8.2 & lock it there. Great for African & Central American Cichlids. Live bearers will also do well. Most hatchery fish can also adjust to the elevated PH.
 

Fishjunkiejimmy

Yea I wasn’t sure if cichlids would like the gravel. A I know they like to suck up the sand and scrape food off of it and spit it out but I guess they can do that with the gravel to. Most of my cichlids are close to adult size anyway
 

A201

All the Cichlids I've ever kept did quite well in an aquarium w/ gravel substrate. No worries.
 

Jerome O'Neil

Most Africans will do fine. South Americans tend to like it a bit more acidic, though.
 

Fishjunkiejimmy

That’s great news i really like the pro vac I got but it sucks the sand right up. I was worried that the Africans might need sand because some of them ingest a bit of sand to help with digestion
 

CHJ

When I ran cichlids SA or Malawian I ran pea gravel (from the hardware store. No need to pay the fish keeper tax) substrates. The fish loved it as the pebbles were still small enough for Malawians to move around so they could redecorate as they saw fit. With SA cichlids you could eventually move to river rock if your species is large enough. Adult Oscars and Terrors have no problem moving 1" river rock around.
I was also running powerheads with an under gravel filter so it wouldn't have worked with sand. Man do I miss under gravel filters.

Edit: I just noticed you have a Venustus as your profile pic. While I was raised to never put coral or saltwater anything in fresh, your mix should be great for a Malawian tank, it isn't like you are dumping a sack of sand dollars or unprocessed coral in there.
Is "nothing salt in a fresh tanks!" still a rule of thumb? I'm guessing crushed soral from the pet shop is probably cleaned and totally rinsed these days?
 

Fishjunkiejimmy

Well the absolutely no salt in a freshwater tank has most definitely gone out the window. It is actually highly recommend for some freshwater fish as they come from brackish or semi brackish waters. And African cichlids fall into that category and I actually just started using salt in my African tank. It’s by all means doesn’t have the salinity of a marine tank but just enough to mimic the their natural environment. And as I’m sure you know that’s how u get the happiest fish and that equals nice colours. Plus it has multiple health advantages for your fish mainly I feel anyway fending off parasites and helping any minor injuries stay clean and healing faster. So if You are still doing freshwater tanks i highly recommend doing a bit of research and finding out if and how much salinity your fish can handle. I was quite surprised to find out how many freshwater fish actually benefit from some salt in their tank. Thanks for the help with the question though. And your input on the pea gravel is still helpful as I also have a SA tank with Oscar,JD, and a fire mouth. And am looking to switch out the sand for gravel. For the same reasons as the Africans. Witch has nothing to do with the ph that was just one of my concerns lol. It’s cause I just bought a nicrew power vac plus and I love it ! It makes my water changes and substrate cleaning super easy but I have to hover just above the sand with it when sucking up waste. I used it in my gf 45 that has gravel and I sure did like being able to just stick it in the gravel and suck everything out.
 

CHJ

No "things from salt water" was the rule, corals, conch shells, sand dollars, dried out starfish, other nightmares, etc.

When I got into fish, they recommended salting every tank (what was it, something like 1tsp per 5 gallons? per 1 gallon? something like that. I just remember the little milk carton full of salt that we got for my first tank). I was not a fan of the idea. If you want to salt a tank go brackish or marine (or get into expensive shrimp if you really love bespoke water). Salting as a preventative seemed like maybe I should work on not cultivating the issues it prevents. I also suspect when the tank is permanently salted that the bad things adapt like they do with antibiotics if anything under 100% are killed. Not that I haven't salt dipped when the need arouse.

I knew my Malawians loved my well water with its screaming high PH. That water was hard enough to forge a sword on. Pretty gray blue green crystals all around the water line. I was not aware of them liking salt.

https://malawicichlids.com/mw01011.htm suggests Malawi is 21mg/l salinity. That is just 21 ppm right? Because metric? Should I be including the chloride PPM with the sodium PPM?
Salinity - Water Education Foundation says that under 1000ppm you are fresh water. ~2% of the cap seems to me to be really fresh water.
https://www.emwd.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/salinityfactsheet.pdf?1537294845 suggests rain has a salinity of 5-10PPM. If Malawi is only 2-4x as salty as rain water, which for the most part is distilled water + airborne pollution. I'm not sure I should be salting a Malawian tank. On the other hand it says ground water starts at 200MG/L, which is 10X the salinity of what Malawi is? Hmm, one of the links may be wrong or Malawi is crazy fresh.
If I didn't run RO I'd want to test the salinity of my tap before adding salt is what I'm thinking.
Grain of salt: I may be misreading all of this as I'm not a chemist.

I do know the fish I run these days and I think I have only one tank without scaleless fish (haplos, cories, plecos, a true fresh water puffer, etc). Salt can set fire to scaleless fish, same for copper and piles of other things. I do not want my corries burnt.
I wonder what the salinity of my tanks is just from food? Is a refractometer the best way to test? I have a TDS meter that may or may not still be working. I have a brewing Hydrometer. I never got a refractometer for brewing, I should pick on up anyway.
 

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