Pros and cons on sand vs. gravel??

Discussion in 'Freshwater Substrates - Gravel, Sand' started by aBathingRay, May 13, 2012.

  1. aBathingRayValued MemberMember

    Well now that I am starting to get a handle on this fish keeping thing I want to upgrade from my 20 gal starter kit to a rimless 60 gal tank. I kinda like the look of the sand but what I want to know is what are the downsides if any to having sand over gravel. Or just in general what are the pros and cons of having sand from gravel?

    Ps. This site is awesome I'm glad I found it. All of u guys have helped me a lot so far. So thanks in advance!!

  2. Z123abcValued MemberMember

    I was thinking of switching from gravel to sand also in my 55g I don't want to start a new thread so I want to ask this question if your fish poop would you see it on the sand more visiably than gravel also do plants do better in gravel or sand

    Last edited: May 13, 2012
  3. ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Plants will grow in both gravel and sand.

    The downsides of sand (IMO) are:
    - you have to regularly stir it to release nitrogenous gasses
    - it's difficult to vacuum without sucking up the sand
    - depending on colour (you can get black), detritus shows more
    - you need to be more careful on where you place the filter intake so as not to suck sand into the filter

    It also depends on what you want to stock. Some fish don't do well with sand, especially some bottom feeders.

  4. aBathingRayValued MemberMember

    At least for me I want to do mostly community fish. No chiclids this time around. But what about your common pleco will they do fine with sand? I want to do black sand or black gravel. I think it has a classy look to it. But I think with black it'll hide a lot of the poppie matter..

    As for stiring wouldn't that be about the same as doing a vacuum. Just sorts manually. To get the matter to rise up and filter into the filter
  5. mmolitor87Well Known MemberMember

    You turn off the filter when you clean sand or you'll have a big problem. Sand will damage hob filters, but canisters are usually fine. You still don't want to clog your media with it though.

    When I clean my sand I just am careful to keep close enough to suck up the poop and as little sand as possible. You will lose sand. That's the bottom line. I recommend a python for higher suction or you'll have a hard time lifting the poop without globs of sand too lol. After I siphon the surface I stir it up to release any gasses (mts help with that too!) And wait for it to settle. Anything burried in the sand will usually settle on top. Siphon again to remove the newfound stuff and then refill the tank.

    I've heard of people putting a nylon stocking over the end of the tube of a normal siphon to let the water and sand drain into a bucket and catch most of the waste. That might be something to look into if you find yourself losing a lot of sand.

    I love the sand. Such a nice look to really makes the fish and plants stand out. Sometimes I think gravel would have been easier, then I see my cichlids playing in the sand lol.
  6. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

  7. AlasseWell Known MemberMember

    I have playsand, river sand and pool filter sand.

    Playsand - vivid white colouration but shows up all detrius big time. Vaccuming requires care as it is very light and easily sucked up
    River sand - A nice cream natural colouration, not uniform sized grains. Heavier than playsand but will suck up the syphon if you get too close
    Pool Filter sand - a cream natural colouration , uniform sized grains. Can be vaccumed the same way as gravel. Highly recommended
  8. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    ryan, which fish don't do well with sand? And what bottom dweller doesn't like sand?

    I never stir the sand - I have snails to do that. Everyone always says to watch out for gas bubbles, but there are never ever and threads started about it. If it was such a problem, for sure we'd see "gas bubbles killed my fish" threads. At least one.

    There is a different technique for vacuuming sand versus gravel. It's really no more difficult. I actually found it easier, when I used to vac the sand.

    With good filtration and circulation, waste is not a problem with sand. I never see waste and I have some very heavily stocked tanks.

    I keep my filter intakes within 2 inches of the sand.
    Last edited: May 13, 2012
  9. ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Jaysee - Goldfish don't do well with sand, their habitual substrate sifting for food stirs up the sand and irritates their gills.

    And bottom dwellers, well I believe cories can 'choke' on larger grain sizes.
  10. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    My goldfish love the sand, as do the corys. And every other fish I've kept with sand :;dk
  11. mmolitor87Well Known MemberMember

    In my 60 gallon I have my canister filter intake 4-5 inches above the sand. Maybe I should get a little extension. :p Do you use a powerhead for extra circulation to get waste to the intake? I have a pretty strong current - so strong if my juvie convict isn't careful he gets a free ride across the tank, looking quite shocked and terrified the whole trip. I'd be very interested to see pictures of your setup so I can try to replicate it. :)
  12. soltarianknightFishlore VIPMember

    Id say both have their cons and pros.

    Sand cons
    It is not compatable with all filtration methods
    all the waste sits right on top of it(obviously this may also be a pro)
    harder to vac without sucking it up
    needs to be stirred

    Gravel cons
    Makes getting rid of cyno a pain
    may wear down on bottom feeders fins/barbels

    But in all honesty, either or is nice. There is nothing that would make me say DONT GET THAT. Unless you have amphibians, then stay away from the sand imo.

    If you do get sand though, MTS and Assassin snails will be your best friend.
  13. aBathingRayValued MemberMember

    I have a little frog. Would I have to re home him or leave him in the gravel tank?
  14. Disc61Well Known MemberMember

    there are pros and cons to just about every substrate. gas bubbles do exist, i have found them myself. the biggest con would be they show debris and dirt more than gravel does unless you get a dark sand. but myself, i changed all my tanks over about a year or so ago and would never go back to gravel.
    cleaning is easier in my opinion as all the debris sits on top of the sand. just turn you filter off and your done in minutes.
  15. soltarianknightFishlore VIPMember

    The only problem with frogs is that they may make habit of swallowing sand while eating, unlike fish, who pass sand through their gills, the frogs cant exactly do that.
  16. aBathingRayValued MemberMember

    Oh ok. That makes a bit of a difference. Hmm guess he will be apart of the 20g gravel tank then
  17. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    I've kept my dwarf frogs with sand for a while. They are fully capable of differentiating between sand and food, as well as spitting any sand out.

    I didn't say the gas bubbles don't exist, I was suggesting that they aren't as dangerous as people say, based on the lack of threads supporting the notion. It's just like the myth about carbon spontaneously releasing everything and killing the fish, except it's something that actually could happen... Even though there are never any threads about it....
    Last edited: May 14, 2012
  18. soltarianknightFishlore VIPMember

    Gas bubbles can contain high amounts of nitrates and even ammonia. When they are released they hit the surface and diffuse with the water. Theres your proof.
  19. JayseeFishlore LegendMember

    The gas bubbles do not contain any ammonia or nitrates. The last step of the denitrification process is the formation of gas, which is what happens in sand beds that are sufficiently deep.
  20. JoannaBWell Known MemberMember

    Please explain about why assassin snails. Wouldn't the assassin snails kill the MTS? Or would they not kill all of them just keep the numbers at bay. if so, then what is the recommended number of assassin snails in proportion to MTS, and I assume one gets assassin snails only if one already has too many MTS?
    Last edited: May 14, 2012

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