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RE: Cheap Gravel and Planted Discus Tanks

Greetings Wayne, plant tank and Discus enthusiasts,

Wayne wrote to the Discus Fever list about sources for cheap gravel. So for
those just starting out and those specifically interested in starting a
planted discus tank l I thought this may be of use.  I wish I had this
information in a nice little package when I started planted discus tanks!

-----Original Message-----
From: Wayne Lin <cariboo at earthlink_net>
To: Discus <discusfever at rainwaterdiscus_com>
Date: Sunday, January 31, 1999 2:27 PM

    I am thinking about setting up a planted tank. Can anyone suggests me a
good and cheap way to get sand/gravel/substrate??? I am not planning to
spend too much money on the substrate from the local aquarium shop. Thanks
in advance.


I would not take the risk of putting a gravel/sand in my tank that contains
lots of calcium or other toxins that will reek havoc with your pH, water
chemistry or kill your expensive discus. Buy the small 1-3mm gravel made for
fresh water tanks from your LFS.  It will be well worth it not having to
tear it out later.  IMHO spend your money on good lights, Co2, and inert
gravel, it ain't worth the hassle searching, driving to quarries all over
town and the like. I have read too many horror stories about so called
"cheap gravel."  I get mine from Aquarium Center in Baltimore, about

Now if you can get a nice, 1-3mm gravel from a local quarry, stream bed or
lake  "may be high in carbonates, which will complicate maintaining your
target water parameters, unless you are keeping Rift  Lake cichlids  and
cats.  You can beat this by testing with muriatic acid,  available at
hardware stores and home centers.  If you drop the gravel in a glass of acid
and it bubbles, not good.  You can carry a bottle of acid with you while
shopping, or explain to the salesman that you want to take samples home and
why.  Pack them in baggies and label them.  Find something you like and go
back  and buy some." (Quoted form Bob Dixon,  Aquatic Plants Digest at
http://www.actwin.com/fish/aquatic-plants/month.9808/msg00375.html ).

--More info on planted tanks especially planted Discus tanks!

For more info on planted tanks I would go to The Krib
 http://www.thekrib.com/ ) specifically to the plants and planted tank
section and read everything you can about gravel, fertilizers and
substrates.  There are 2 or 3 camps on substrates for planted tanks.  The
laterite/grave, the fertile soil/gravel substrate and the plain gravel/fish
mulm groups.  I use the laterite (Dupla) methods with some modifications.  I
use Dupla laterite and use commercially available liquid fertilizer like
Kent's or Tropica's MasterGrow.  Don't use water column fertilizers with
Nitrates (N) or  Phosphates (P) in them unless you know for sure your tank
is N-limiting.  You will have your hands full keeping N and P low in a
Discus tank anyway.  Believe me the key to a planted discus tanks is plant
heavily from the start with fast growing plants (like 70-80% of the
substrate), WAIT a month for the tank get buy any chemical/nutrient, algae
and other nasty in-balances/swings then add your quarantined Discus (see K.
Randall' article below on planted Discus tanks).  My planted 125g Discuss
tank runs without algae only after about 6 months in operation, observations
and fertilizer tuning.  It is a site to be seen though!

Go to the Aquatic Plant Digest (hosted by FINS
http://www.actwin.com/fish/index.cgi), and subscribe to the APD.  Then read
the archives until you are blue in the face.  Other good sources are the

George Booth's page:  http://www.frii.com/~booth/AquaticConcepts/
George is a Dupla pundent and keeps planted Discus tanks

Steve Pushak's page:  http://home.infinet.net/teban/
Steve's page is a wealth of information about alternative substrates and
their chemistry not to mention lots of other good information.

Steve Quackenbush's page: http://www.malloftheworld.com/aquarium/
Read his 3 part article on planted tanks and pick up some plants from him.

I also like the series of articles at Aquarium Frontiers by Karen Randall
 http://www.aquariumfrontiers.com/).  Look through the archives back through
last year.  She has done a series of excellent articles on plants and
planted tanks including one on tank setup and gravel/substrates.
 http://www.aquariumfrontiers.com/1998/jan/aquatic/default.asp ).  Also see
the article Karen wrote about planted Discus tanks in the series at
http://www.aquariumfrontiers.com/1998/sep/aquatic/default.asp ).  Perfect
for what you are about to do.

Now did I answer your question about "cheap gravel?"  Probably not, but you
will run across it somewhere in your reading.

Hope this help and all is well,

Tom Brennan
brennans at ix_netcom.com