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silica sand

>From: Bill Ruff <bruff at lcse_umn.edu> 
>Subject: silica sand

>The silica sand ...was $3-4 per 100lb. bag and one bag was more 
>than enough for a 70gal to a depth of about two inches....Even 
>when I plant the plants the sand fall downs around my finger as 
>I push them in and no soil is released. It works 100% better 
>than I expected! Another caution though, I would experiment with 
>a minimum amount of sand to seal in the dirt.... roots may 
>eventually grow down to it but you may want to use less than two 
>inches of sand. I'm pretty sure 1 to 1.5 inches will work just 
>as well.

I use the same kind of sand, except about 3-4 inches deep, with laterite 
and peat in the bottom third.  Advantages and disadvantages. I find that 
plants root extremely fast and deep in this substrate.  One time, as an 
experiment, set up a tank with sand on one side and gravel in the other, 
and found that sword plants rooted dramatically faster in the sand.  A 
disadvantage of this is that the plants rapidly become so well rooted that 
they can't be taken out without causing a rather large mess.  

My current tank has been thriving now for almost 3 years, with Echinodorus 
and Cryptocoryne species so completely intertwined that it's almost 
impossible to remove anything separately.  Bunch plants like Hygrophila, 
Rotala, Myriophyllum and Shinnersia also send out very long roots if left 
undisturbed for more than 2 or 3 weeks. 

I've observed that the proliferation and growth rates of the Crypts 
(wendtii and pontederifolia) has increased dramatically during this time, 
and I associate this with robust root systems.  George Booth has said that 
(IHHO) substrate heating coils contribute to long term stability.  It will 
be interesting to see what my tank does in the next couple years without 
substrate heating.  (Assuming that I don't rip the whole thing apart for 
purely esthetic reasons.)  There was some speculation this list at one time 
about whether heating coils would induce convection curents in fine sand. 
My feeling is that they probably would not, especially in sand as deep as 
it is in my tank.

Bob Hoesch
Winter changing directly into summer in Ashland, OR