Substrate Questions AKA How Bad Did I Screw Myself?

SabreNation

Member
So I have committed the cardinal sin of aquarium keeping. I inherited a new 20g tall from a family member, immediately decided "yes, I'm gonna plant the heck out of this thing," got all excited and rushed out to my LFS to get substrate, lighting, etc. Substrate options were a bit limited and I did gravel in my other tank so I decided to go for sand in this one.

Oops. Turns out based on my post-purchase research that about the only thing worse for plants than gravel is... sand. I mean it is at least aquarium sand and not like el-cheapo Home Depot playground sand but still. So I have a couple questions now.

1) Just how bad is it? I mean I don't have issues with having to use root tabs and I already use Aquarium Coop EZ Green for my main tank and plan to use it in this one too. Plus I'm gonna try a low tech CO2 setup. (Just one of the cheap Fluval 95g pressurized kits for now) It seems based on what I've seen that it's possible but it's a pain. The one that seems like it might NOT be possible is the one I really wanted to try, though - carpeting plants. I was leaning toward Monte Carlo but that seems like it may not even be possible?

2) Given all of the above - is it possible (or worth it) to mix substrates a bit? Get a bag of a proper aquarium soil and either put it on top or just mix it right in with the sand? This could be kinda difficult to do without it looking ridiculous since I bought brown... er, tan... er y'know sand-colored sand but if it's something that could help and won't look ridiculous I'm willing to spend the extra money.

Any and all other tips from anyone with experience growing plants in sand is greatly appreciated. I don't have anything in the tank yet (just started cycling and I'm waiting for the LFS to get their new shipment of dragon stone in so I can add that and then put plants around it) so I suppose draining it and completely changing the substrate is an option but... ugh, I'd really rather not if it can be avoided.
 

mimo91088

Member
You're fine. I plant in the home depot sand without issue.
 

Mouska

Member
My plants are doing better in sand than with gravel. Some sand is bad for plants because the sand can suffocate the roots but sand with slightly larger grain are good for plants since their roots can spread faster which will also help with carpeting plants. Plus carpeting plants will be thicker in sand than in gravel.
 

Sputnik

Member
I have a sword in sand in my multi tank. Use root tabs and you will be good. Another thing that has worked for me is not to bury all the roots too deep. Some roots go straight down but others I make sure stay very close to the surface. Not sure why that helps, unless the roots are able to absorb some of the liquid ferts I use for the anubias, but it seems to make a difference.
 

mimo91088

Member
A key to success with sand is to rinse the heck out of it to get all the tiny (basically dust) grains out of it. That's what compacts.
 

JettsPapa

Member
mimo91088 said:
A key to success with sand is to rinse the heck out of it to get all the tiny (basically dust) grains out of it. That's what compacts.
. . . or just buy pool filter sand. While I understand some of it still needs rinsing, I've used two different brands that didn't. By the way, all my tanks are heavily planted, have sand substrate, and are doing fine.
 

mimo91088

Member
JettsPapa said:
. . . or just buy pool filter sand. While I understand some of it still needs rinsing, I've used two different brands that didn't. By the way, all my tanks are heavily planted, have sand substrate, and are doing fine.
That was my plan but I couldn't find it locally. So I made due with well washed play sand lol.
 

faydout

Member
Sand should be okay. Crypts and some of the rosette plants should do a-ok in it. Stem plants like Ludwigia, and Hygrophilia may not do as well in sand as in gravel, but it's not a big difference. Root tabs might be a little more of a need in sand than gravel, but I wouldn't replace the substrate unless you just do not like the sand.
 
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