Substrate for planted aquarium

mommameerkat

Member
I'm looking at different options for substrate for my (currently lightly) planted tank. I like the idea of having sand for substrate because of the waste sitting on top and being easier to clean, but I read that sand is not ideal for plants because it's too compact for roots to spread. I was thinking about doing different types of substrate layered. I currently have small river rock style gravel, but I hate the level of maintenance required. Would adding sand on top of the gravel work? Or would I be better off just leaving the gravel as is and deal with the maintenance? Or is there a combination anyone has tried that they love? I'm new to this so I would love to hear all of your ideas! I would like to add more plants eventually as well.
 

Unknown9182

Member
mommameerkat said:
I'm looking at different options for substrate for my (currently lightly) planted tank. I like the idea of having sand for substrate because of the waste sitting on top and being easier to clean, but I read that sand is not ideal for plants because it's too compact for roots to spread. I was thinking about doing different types of substrate layered. I currently have small river rock style gravel, but I hate the level of maintenance required. Would adding sand on top of the gravel work? Or would I be better off just leaving the gravel as is and deal with the maintenance? Or is there a combination anyone has tried that they love? I'm new to this so I would love to hear all of your ideas! I would like to add more plants eventually as well.
I never have heard of a gravel and sand combo, I have been thinking pretty recently if there is such thing of a gravel/sand combo substrate which would probably look pretty cool and interesting. I’d keep the gravel the way it is because if your plants are doing good now there really isnt any need to change it plus sand can get kicked up and cloud a tank but other people would probably beg to differ. I have no experience with sand substrate. It would take a lot of work to add Sand to your substrate. But interesting idea With sand and gravel combo.
 
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APColorado

Moderator
Member
I use nothing but sand in all my planted tank. You just have to use root tabs for root feeding plants.
 

goldface

Member
I usually collect my own substrate from the great outdoors, so I have a mixture of sand and various sized gravel. I don't layer them. They're all mixed in together.
 

Masspanic

Member
I’m layering volcanic soil and gravel in a (to be heavily) planted tank, and gravel and sand in a (to be medium) planted tank. I like the layering look—I say try it out with some root tabs From what I’ve been reading, maintenance shouldn’t be too bad as long as you don’t care about a little mixing where the types of substrate meet.
 
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mommameerkat

Member
Masspanic said:
I’m layering volcanic soil and gravel in a (to be heavily) planted tank, and gravel and sand in a (to be medium) planted tank. I like the layering look—I say try it out with some root tabs From what I’ve been reading, maintenance shouldn’t be too bad as long as you don’t care about a little mixing where the types of substrate meet.
I'm not concerned about the substrates mixing at all, I just want to have the sand on top. I think the look of the sand on top will be nice, plus I know that there are certain fish that NEED sand, but none of the ones I've considered need gravel, and I can't see why any fish would, but I'm no expert so there very well may be some that do. Now if only I can talk my husband into spending more money on the tank to add sand lol. Thank you for the tips!
 

mattgirl

Member
mommameerkat said:
I'm not concerned about the substrates mixing at all, I just want to have the sand on top. I think the look of the sand on top will be nice, plus I know that there are certain fish that NEED sand, but none of the ones I've considered need gravel, and I can't see why any fish would, but I'm no expert so there very well may be some that do. Now if only I can talk my husband into spending more money on the tank to add sand lol. Thank you for the tips!
Maybe if you point out to him that pool filter sand is very inexpensive it won't be too difficult to talk him into it. I paid a whole $5.00 for 50 pounds of it. I made sure to rinse it really really well and have never experienced even a tiny bit of cloudy water.

I rinsed it. Lowered the water level in my tank by half. Then I removed the gravel and replaced it with sand. My fish were in the tank throughout the whole process. I have gravel covered with sand in my 10 gallon grow out tank. I didn't want to go through the process of removing the gravel so just covered it with sand. Since I don't have to deep clean the sand the sand and gravel hasn't mixed.
 

Toothy

Member
I might try this on my new tank build. Probably more money and fuss than what is needed but looks pretty cool.

 
  • Thread Starter

mommameerkat

Member
mattgirl said:
Maybe if you point out to him that pool filter sand is very inexpensive it won't be too difficult to talk him into it. I paid a whole $5.00 for 50 pounds of it. I made sure to rinse it really really well and have never experienced even a tiny bit of cloudy water.

I rinsed it. Lowered the water level in my tank by half. Then I removed the gravel and replaced it with sand. My fish were in the tank throughout the whole process. I have gravel covered with sand in my 10 gallon grow out tank. I didn't want to go through the process of removing the gravel so just covered it with sand. Since I don't have to deep clean the sand the sand and gravel hasn't mixed.
$5 is great, I'll have to look into that, thanks!
 

TClare

Member
Like Goldface I collect my substrate from a local river and it has mixed sizes from very fine sand to coarser gravel. In one of my tanks I put a layer of fine whitish silica sand over the top, it was inexpensive and has worked well, plants are doing well in that tank. It has mixed only slightly with the river sand, I did this to make it look more Amazonian and it looks quite natural especially with the decomposing almond leaves in the top.
 

Infamousj25

Member
APColorado said:
I use nothing but sand in all my planted tank. You just have to use root tabs for root feeding plants.
I read that "carpet" plants like dwarf hairgrass and dwarf chain swords grow better in sand. Do you know if that is true from experience? I was planning on switching my substrate from gravel to sand eventually and start growing live plants with my fish.
 

Aprilbeingbasic

Member
I had alot of luck with this layering-

Lava rock for any high areas
1.5 inch Topsoil mixed with some terracotta clay (5-10%)
1 inch washed kids play sand
1.5 inch small pebbled gravel

The sand layer really helps stop tannin leakage from the soil and just gives a good barrier for floaters etc but the gravel is the best look and best for planting, by the time the roots are going through the sand they are pretty established. Once they hit the soil they go crazy.

I have since had the change this to double the thickness of my soil layer as I also added emersed plants but when it was just submersed plants I had about 20 species, all doing awesome.

Also with this you can do areas of sand that meld into areas of gravel. I did this to have a sandy patch for my cories
 

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