Re: Sand Substrates - an alternate view
>I have been experimenting with sand, sand-peat, and various sand-peat-gravel
>mixes for about a year, in tanks ranging from 10G to 55G.
I have been using sand as long as I have been growing aquarium plants.
on six years now.
>In the Western US, it has become nearly impossible to get decent aquarium
>gravel. Most of what is available is "Lapis Lustre" by RMC Lonestar. It is
>very pretty, but so loaded with sea shells that it will destroy any
>soft-water tank in no time. The pH heads up toward 8 rapidly. I have been
>trying to use silica sand-blasting sand, which normally is widely available
>in only 30 mesh (quite fine).
When you use sand, espically fine sand you do not have to have as deep
a substrate. I use between one and two inches.
>My tentative conclusion is that it compacts too much to be a useful
>substrate, and my various attempts to adapt commercial UGF plates and
>custom-designed UGFs have to all be rated as failures. They kind-of worked,
>but not well enough to recommend them to a friend.
An UGF and sand is NOT a good idea. First it is difficult to keep the
sand out of
the filter and the usual depth of substrate needed for a UGF is much
to much for
>Vacuuming works OK if you use a larger-mouth vacuum tube and smaller hose to
>avoid sucking the sand out. A layer of coarser gravel over the sand works,
>too, but you need to resist the urge to plunge the vacuum too deep.
Most of the crud stays on top of sand so you do not have to vacume to
>I am facing the most unpleasant task of tearing down a heavily-planted 55G
>this weekend, to replace the mixed substrate that has been in there for
>almost a year. It is hard as a rock in places, and highly anaerobic looking.
The only times I have had this type of problem is when I used peat
in the substrate. Usually there are no anaerobic sections or they are
>This unpleasant task is what prompts me to take your question as an
>opportunity to advise people that sand can be a real problem. My apology to
>the folks on the plant mailing list for reporting it here first. I had been
>planning to post this there, but it is hard to admit a solid string of
>failures, so I never seem to get a "round tuit."
Any substrate can cause problems. One point. Did you have an
snails in the tank? They constantly dig in the substrate performing
functions as earthworms. I would not think of a tank without these
>Bottom line: Don't use fine sand unless you have a profound reason to do it.
Beg to differ here. I would not use anything else though I have been
experimenting with adding some earthworm castings to the bottom inch
of sand when I use a 'deep' substrate of two inches.
Ed Tomlinson (tomlins at cam_org)
Home of pppdial: http://www.cam.org/~tomlins/pppdial.html