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RE: Onyx Sand vs Gravel and Laterite for Discus?


My main reason for replying to your post is simply to say that if your
lfs said that your water was too hard with 0 GH and 1KH then he/she has
no idea what they are talking about. Those are almost ideal conditions
for discus. Personally, mine are kept at about 0.5GH and 2.3KH with
swords, n. siamensis, crypts, anubias and both fish and plants thrive.
pH sits around 6.8 with a bit of CO2 added just for fun (HA!). I just
use a mix of alluvial coarse (2mm) sand and fine (2-3mm) gravel. No
substrate fertilizers... Just some slow release 'clay ball' type
fertilizers which I push into the substrate every now and then, along
with Seachem's Flourish and Flourish Iron. Lighting around 1.5w/g of
standard fluorescents... 6700K 97CRI. Could have more light and better
substrate but the plants I keep are by no means difficult or picky....
And the discus are growing at great guns in those conditions.

Splurge out, and ignore what your lfs said with regards to hardness if
those are the values you have tested. I'd be considering shopping
elsewhere personally, especially if they almost refuse to sell you a
product simply because they have misconstruded ideas about what you, as
a customer, should do. *shakes head* unbelievable...

I have no first hand experience with your specific question on Onyx sand
vs gravel and Laterite. However, I'd imagine either is fine - I've seen
people use both. From what I gather Onyx sand is an excellent substrate,
and know of others that use Laterite and gravel and are also very
satisfied with that setup.

I am not sure about the composition of Onyx sand, but I do believe it is
not so much a 'fertile substrate' but a special, awesome looking,
substrate which you will possibly have to add slow-release tablets to
(many apologies if my assumptions are wrong however seachem ;)).
Laterite is an integral substrate fertilizer to use with gravel is a
favourite with many - pulling plants out leaves a bit of a puff which
clears, and tends to limit what you can do as far as ruffling up the
substrate goes since you want the laterite to *stay* at the bottom. It's
a matter of personal choice. I'd probably go the onyx sand for a basic
array of plants... I'd go the laterite with gravel/sand mix if trying to
keep really difficult plants and will have tones of co2 and light. IMHO
that is. Also IMHO and experiences, discus are shy and tend to hide a
lot with lots of light - maybe something to think about when choosing
your plant / setup array also - which maybe would affect your substrate


Adam Shaw

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 09:42:50 -0500
From: "Jen Jones" <jen.jones at tufts_edu>
Subject: Onyx Sand vs Gravel and Laterite for Discus?

Hello everyone -

I'm a long-time lurker on this list, but rarely post.  I appreciate all
info I've gotten from this list!  I have had plant tanks for several
and am interested in setting up a planted discus (120 gallon) tank.  I'm
_not_ interested in breeding the discus (no time) - this tank will be my
first experience with them, but I've kept tropical fish for almost 20
My tap water tests at 0 degrees GH and 1 degree KH with my test kits.
used fluorite in the past, but wasn't happy with it because I find it
difficult to root plants - I prefer the consistency of fine gravel as
substrate.  I mentioned my intentions to a pet store employee, who
and basically refused to sell me the onyx sand because he was convinced
my water would be far too hard for discus.  My intention was to
raise my water hardness to around 5 degrees with RO right, etc anyway,
I've read several articles on the krib and the back issues of this list
make it seem like this would be fine.  My intention is to go with the
that if you set up your tanks successfully for plants, the discus will
just fine.

That was a long intro to my questions:  Does anyone have any experience
Onyx Sand, and what does it really do to your water hardness?  Should I
the safe route and just stick with gravel and laterite? (And does Onyx
look as cool in the tank as it does in the bag? :) )

Thanks in advance for your help,
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