What's the difference? Gravel or Sand

Discussion in 'Freshwater Substrates - Gravel, Sand' started by Honos, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. Honos

    HonosNew MemberMember


    I've been reading this sub-forum and found most threads are questions about sand. As a newb I really don't understand the difference between sand and gravel. Can someone fill me in on the pros and cons of the different substrate?

  2. JDcichlidlover

    JDcichlidloverWell Known MemberMember

    well sand is easier to keep clean because all the yuck settles on top and you can just gravel vac it right up, also if you have bottom dwellers like cory cats, loaches, or a syno cat the gravel can hurt their barbels (whiskers) while soft sand won't.
    Most people on here recommend sand, its more natural for the fish and it looks beautiful. gravel comes in tons of colors and is good if you have an undergravel filter, most people recommend a hob filter or canister.
    things to remember about sand are:
    turn the filter off
    sift your fingers through it before you gravel vac
    hold the gravel vac about a half in off the top of the sand or you'll suck sand up

    this video is courtesy of Eienna.
  3. oscarsbud

    oscarsbudWell Known MemberMember


    I have sand in 3 of my tanks and 1/2 sand and 1/2 gravel in my big one. The gravel does seem to hold the plants down better. But other than that, I would highly recommend the sand. To me, it is much more natural looking and my bottom dwellers seem to spend an lot more time rooting around on the sand side than the gravel.
  4. guster730

    guster730Valued MemberMember

    If you use pool filter sand it's heavy enough to not to be sucked up by a vacuum, although it's not necessary to stick the vacuum in the sand. I much prefer sand to gravel because it looks much more natural and waste is less noticeable. I recommend using pool filter sand, it's very cheap and does the job.
  5. kinezumi89

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Belated welcome to FishLore

    I have gravel in my 55 gallon tank and sand in the rest. I like the look of sand a lot better. I personally think plants stay in sand better; at least that's my experience. I have a heck of a time keeping some plants planted in my 55 gallon, but I'm NEVER replanting things in the other tanks (unless I pull it out accidentally while doing a water change, which only happens with the water sprite, which has very fine roots).

    Personally I think it's a bit more of a pain to clean because even with heavier sands, if your siphon's suction is too strong, it will very easily suck up sand. When I got my first tank with sand, it took awhile to get the hang of cleaning it - I sucked up a ton of sand in the process :p But now I frequently clean all the tanks without removing any sand. And if you do, I just dump the water off the top, wait for the bucket to dry, then pour the dry sand back in the tank.

    I think it looks a lot nicer, myself. It's easier to keep clean since the waste just settles on top instead of working it's way to the bottom like with gravel. It has a nice, clean look and comes in a variety of natural and unnatural colors. I currently have all Tahitian Moon sand (sparkley black sand) but I'm setting up a tank this weekend and I plan to go with a rusty red color.
  6. OP

    HonosNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the video!

    Does sand scratch the glass tank easier? I have also gleaned from the forums sand can cause a buildup of deoxygenated areas. How often would one stir the sand?
  7. FishGuy101

    FishGuy101Valued MemberMember

    I have sand in both my 40 gallon and my 10 gallon after having sand I won't switch back to gravel sand keeps the tank cleaner looks better and fish love it
  8. kinezumi89

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Sand does not scratch the tank. :)
  9. Quinn_Lamb98

    Quinn_Lamb98Well Known MemberMember

  10. Fashooga

    FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    I think sand looks great. One of the problems I have is that when I pour water in during changes they do create a crater from the force of the water, but I just rake it back and nothing happens.

    Sand is great for cories too. But for some reason my cories are digging holes in the middle of the tank for fun. Everytime I brush it back they do it again...so I let them do what ever they want with the sand.
  11. chevyguy8893

    chevyguy8893Well Known MemberMember

    + whatever number of people above for sand :).

    After switching to sand two of my tanks I found that I hated gravel. No matter how much I worked my vacuum into the gravel it would never be clean. Plus, having live plants they don't like the substrate around them disturbed. Over time they accumulated matter in the gravel started to mess with my water, so it went away.

    The only downside to sand that I have come up with is its inability to absorb any nutrients from the water column (no CEC), but that will only matter if you add plants and root tabs help with that.
  12. JDcichlidlover

    JDcichlidloverWell Known MemberMember

    I've heard about the air pockets and from what I've read, just follow the video instructions and stir it up a bit half an hr before your water change. I've read other people saying they only stir it up once in a while (1 a month) without any issues. I'm about to switch to sand. I'm getting tired of all the grime that gravel keeps no matter what you do. lol
  13. oscarsbud

    oscarsbudWell Known MemberMember

    I never stir the sand in my tanks. I do have mts in one tank that are always burrowing, but none in the others.
  14. RPPhoto

    RPPhotoNew MemberMember

    i honestly like sand, as it is inert and does not change water param's ...... i go down to my local Park and get a bunch of sand out of the play area wash it out a few times to make sure all the loose washes out...

    can be trickier to clean , but well worth it ...

    also you can use Silica Sand from HomeDepot, or PFS (Pool Filter Sand) which PFS is much much whiter and briter...

    when i do a clean of tank... i run my fingers through my sand just to make sure theres no air pockets or anything hiding that i might miss... good idea to do it as it helps the sand not discolor on the top..
  15. OP

    HonosNew MemberMember

    Thanks for your input everyone. I'm going to give the sand a go since I've done gravel before. What kind of fish do you suggest for the sand?
  16. oscarsbud

    oscarsbudWell Known MemberMember

    How big is your tank? What you can get depends a lot on that. Cories are great bottom dwellers. They love to root around in the sand and are a blast to watch. Loaches are another good choice.
  17. OP

    HonosNew MemberMember

    It's a tall 30 gallon.
  18. OP

    HonosNew MemberMember

    I went with medium grain said I found in Bulk at the LFS. What is a MTS?

    QQQUUUUAADDDWell Known MemberMember

    Malaysian trumpet snail. They burrow in the sand and basically stir it up.
  20. oscarsbud

    oscarsbudWell Known MemberMember

    I think you could safely put 6 cories in a 30 gallon. They like to be kept in groups. And they stick to their own species. So you shouldn't mix panda cories with peppered cories, etc. if you know what I mean.