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Question about sand and dirt

Fred13

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Hello!
I will setup a low tech tank with sand and some low demanding plants.
I will use a natural sand as a substrate with a grain of 0.4 to 0.8 grain. Since I won't use co2 I am looking to enrich substrate and promote plant growth as far low tech it can gets.
My thoughts are:
1 cm of dirt ( deponit mix e.g.) capped with about 3.5 cm of sand.
2 cm of amazonia soil blended with power sand (I have them spare) and capped with 3.5 cm of sand.
And as a last choise I am thinking of spreading nutrition tablets. However I don't believe this is a viable option.
I v seen that most of the above setups have been worked for some of you . Which one do you think is the best approach ?
 
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My thoughts are:
1 cm of dirt ( deponit mix e.g.) capped with about 3.5 cm of sand.
2 cm of amazonia soil blended with power sand (I have them spare) and capped with 3.5 cm of sand.
Is this an “either or” plan or do you plan on doing all that together? If you go the dirt route then I would suggest adding a layer of crushed lava rock or pumice (similar to power sand) and then covering the dirt with garden fabric or something similar. This will keep the dirt from becoming compacted at the bottom and the fabric will keep the dirt from getting through the sand.

Go to Tutorials and check out @Tim Harrison guide for soil substrates.
 

Fred13

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Is this an “either or” plan or do you plan on doing all that together? If you go the dirt route then I would suggest adding a layer of crushed lava rock or pumice (similar to power sand) and then covering the dirt with garden fabric or something similar. This will keep the dirt from becoming compacted at the bottom and the fabric will keep the dirt from
Hello , it is an either or plan . Yes I see the tutorial, garden fabric is a nice trick. However tutorial suggests a 3mm grain sand. I am thinking of 0.4 to 0.8 so I can introduce several happy cories. Is this ok ?
I though 0.4 to 0.8 isn't that fine like play Sand etc
 
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I have playsand and don’t much care for it. It compacts and gets ugly fast. That’s a myth that corries can only thrive in smaller grained sands. However, you could use finer grain sand if your going to have an area for corries to frolic and not be planted. If the whole tank is planted then the granule size is a moot point.
 

Fred13

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I have playsand and don’t much care for it. It compacts and gets ugly fast. That’s a myth that corries can only thrive in smaller grained sands. However, you could use finer grain sand if your going to have an area for corries to frolic and not be planted. If the whole tank is planted then the granule size is a moot point.
I see, yes I also believe it's a myth since I had cories in 1-2 mm quartz gravel and they were doing amazing . They couldn't filter it through their gills though.
Is 0.4 to 0.8mm considered play sand ? I think 0.1 to 0.2 is play sand. Correct me if I am wrong.
 

Fred13

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I will spread a thin layer of the power sand , a second layer of dirt (deponit mix) , I ll secure it with a garden fabric and then cap it with 3.5cm of sand.
It seems more than enough for low tech plants.
What do you think about my plan ?
 

rebel

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For low tech, I would just use coarse sand and root tabs (with or without some clay). No need to get fancy.
 

Big G

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Re: fine sand.

I've got silver sand in two tanks atm. About as fine as it comes I believe. More dust than grain.

Looks great (mostly) but it's high maintainance. Every bit of mulm, aquasoil dust or other particulate that lands on it slightly tarnishes that white glint. It's so tight there's little room for bypass. It catches and turbidity hravier than water basically. I find that the only way to deal with it is to either accept it will not remain pristine or syphon the top layer/whole thing off and periodically top up with fresh or cleaned sand.

I do both.

To get the non-sand solids away from the sand grains can be quite a performance - especially dust from aquasoil . I'm still refining the process but involves by turns lots of agitation in a bucket, cyclonic water syphoning, fine grid sifting, magnets ,long drying and storage. (And if the water is going down the sink/loo) coffee percolator filters . Yeah, don't even go there. Get a life etc.

I give the sand in situ a good, controlled blast with a turkey baster or a gentle scarification with a fork to combat gas and rotting organics precipitating a spike. It's probably unneccisary as the plants would mitigate it but well, it is what it is. Small tank, pretty volatile.

Do I regret it?

No (ish) . I batch process the old sand I syphon so it's not too bad and I like developing the refining process.

Would I choose it again?

Probably not


Would I recommend it?

Probably not


Hope that helps

Bg
 

Fred13

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Re: fine sand.

I've got silver sand in two tanks atm. About as fine as it comes I believe. More dust than grain.

Looks great (mostly) but it's high maintainance. Every bit of mulm, aquasoil dust or other particulate that lands on it slightly tarnishes that white glint. It's so tight there's little room for bypass. It catches and turbidity hravier than water basically. I find that the only way to deal with it is to either accept it will not remain pristine or syphon the top layer/whole thing off and periodically top up with fresh or cleaned sand.

I do both.

To get the non-sand solids away from the sand grains can be quite a performance - especially dust from aquasoil . I'm still refining the process but involves by turns lots of agitation in a bucket, cyclonic water syphoning, fine grid sifting, magnets ,long drying and storage. (And if the water is going down the sink/loo) coffee percolator filters . Yeah, don't even go there. Get a life etc.

I give the sand in situ a good, controlled blast with a turkey baster or a gentle scarification with a fork to combat gas and rotting organics precipitating a spike. It's probably unneccisary as the plants would mitigate it but well, it is what it is. Small tank, pretty volatile.

Do I regret it?

No (ish) . I batch process the old sand I syphon so it's not too bad and I like developing the refining process.

Would I choose it again?

Probably not


Would I recommend it?

Probably not


Hope that helps

Bg
It seems that you have a very fine sand , something between 0.1 to 0.2 mm. I am looking into a 0.4 to 0.8 sand which is more in the coarse side.
I found that between 0.5 and 1mm is considered medium sand. Anything below this is fine .
 

Hufsa

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Corydoras should be able to sift sand with grain size 0.4-0.8 no problem.
I would not go above 0.8 to 1 mm grains, its a bit too big for the corys but I hear its great for plant growth.
0.1-0.2 is very very fine sand and unless you have very specialty fish I wouldnt suggest going for this size. Would also not recommend more than about 2 cm substrate thickness with this sand size.

If youre putting some kind of dirt below your sand, make sure its far enough below so that the corys can not dig it up. A medium sized cory easily digs 2 cm down.

Maybe you could use a courser sand in the back, and have an unplanted area of fine sand in the front. You wouldnt need to put dirt under the sand if you're not planning to plant there, reducing your risk of the corys digging it up. The sand may creep between the course grains in the back with time, requiring you to top up the front every now and then. Or you could do fine grain in the back as well, I think your plants will still get through it ok, especially if you have some tasty nutrients for them to find at the bottom. But you should take my plant growing advice with a pinch of salt, I am still pretty good at growing algae and am a fishkeeper first and foremost.

Or maybe if youre planning to use a fair bit of stones, you can seperate the sand area in front from the planting area in the back. I see the aquascapers using filter floss to plug the gaps between the stones so that the soil doesnt creep through the stones onto the sand.

It is definitely a balancing act when you want to set up a nice habitat for your fish, but also get good plant growth.

---

I got a bit carried away writing this part so I wouldnt blame people if they skip it; :geek:

When it comes to corys and sand -in my opinion- there are a few different factors that you should consider when chosing the substrate.

The grains should be small enough for them to exhibit their natural sifting behavior.
I personally find it a bit cruel to deprive them of this option entirely. Its like having a bird that never gets to fly.
A compromise with a designated fine sand area may be a good option.

Another consideration is wether the substrate will be sufficiently oxygenated, so that they do not suffer from barbel loss or damage. I think that barbel loss is more commonly caused by unhealthy conditions in the substrate, rather than course and sharp substrate. This is why you can find people who have corydoras on sharp gravel "without problems" (aside from depriving them of natural behavior), and you will also find people with very fine sand with corydoras suffering barbel loss, because the sand has turned bad.

You also want the grains to be as rounded as possible. I would even say the roundness is more important than the size.
Obviously even if you got tiny razorblades sized 0.1-0.2 the fish would still get hurt sifting it through their gills.
Give the sand a good squint in the shop if you can, or check with others if they know how sharp the grains are in the sand you are wanting to buy.
Its also really helpful to run the sand through your fingers before buying, but this is not always possible.

I know of fine grained sand sized 0.2-0.7 I would not keep corys on, because the sand is made by crushing the stone and thus the grains are sharp even though they are small. I was very unhappy with most of the JBL Sansibar range because of this. It was uncomfortable and abrasive on my skin when I was planting in the tank or moving the sand.
Other sand types will be sourced from water worn sands (not crushed), where the grains are much more rounded and therefore safer for corys, even if you go up a size.

Nerdy part over :shy:

---

I may be entirely incorrect, but I thought that "play sand" was a sand made for the sand pits that kids dig and play in.
That it has a larger range of grain sizes, like 0.1 to 1.0 for instance. The wide range of grain sizes enables the sand to pack more tightly without slipping or falling apart, and this makes all the castles and dragons and whatnot stay upright better when little Timmy is playing 😁
It is the same ability that makes this kind of sand unsuited for our tanks. We dont want the sand to compact, so something where most of the grains are the same or similar size will be better for oxygenation, like 0.4-0.8.
But maybe the term play sand is used more broadly or means something else in the UK.

While "Pool filter sand" often has rounded grains and is made in a narrow range of sizes in order for it to be good for filtration. My understanding is that its also usually made of inert quartz so it doesnt affect water values.

I didnt think any of these terms were used for the sands you buy in pet shops, but again I may be mistaken.
 

Fred13

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Corydoras should be able to sift sand with grain size 0.4-0.8 no problem.
I would not go above 0.8 to 1 mm grains, its a bit too big for the corys but I hear its great for plant growth.
0.1-0.2 is very very fine sand and unless you have very specialty fish I wouldnt suggest going for this size. Would also not recommend more than about 2 cm substrate thickness with this sand size.

If youre putting some kind of dirt below your sand, make sure its far enough below so that the corys can not dig it up. A medium sized cory easily digs 2 cm down.

Maybe you could use a courser sand in the back, and have an unplanted area of fine sand in the front. You wouldnt need to put dirt under the sand if you're not planning to plant there, reducing your risk of the corys digging it up. The sand may creep between the course grains in the back with time, requiring you to top up the front every now and then. Or you could do fine grain in the back as well, I think your plants will still get through it ok, especially if you have some tasty nutrients for them to find at the bottom. But you should take my plant growing advice with a pinch of salt, I am still pretty good at growing algae and am a fishkeeper first and foremost.

Or maybe if youre planning to use a fair bit of stones, you can seperate the sand area in front from the planting area in the back. I see the aquascapers using filter floss to plug the gaps between the stones so that the soil doesnt creep through the stones onto the sand.

It is definitely a balancing act when you want to set up a nice habitat for your fish, but also get good plant growth.

---

I got a bit carried away writing this part so I wouldnt blame people if they skip it; :geek:

When it comes to corys and sand -in my opinion- there are a few different factors that you should consider when chosing the substrate.

The grains should be small enough for them to exhibit their natural sifting behavior.
I personally find it a bit cruel to deprive them of this option entirely. Its like having a bird that never gets to fly.
A compromise with a designated fine sand area may be a good option.

Another consideration is wether the substrate will be sufficiently oxygenated, so that they do not suffer from barbel loss or damage. I think that barbel loss is more commonly caused by unhealthy conditions in the substrate, rather than course and sharp substrate. This is why you can find people who have corydoras on sharp gravel "without problems" (aside from depriving them of natural behavior), and you will also find people with very fine sand with corydoras suffering barbel loss, because the sand has turned bad.

You also want the grains to be as rounded as possible. I would even say the roundness is more important than the size.
Obviously even if you got tiny razorblades sized 0.1-0.2 the fish would still get hurt sifting it through their gills.
Give the sand a good squint in the shop if you can, or check with others if they know how sharp the grains are in the sand you are wanting to buy.
Its also really helpful to run the sand through your fingers before buying, but this is not always possible.

I know of fine grained sand sized 0.2-0.7 I would not keep corys on, because the sand is made by crushing the stone and thus the grains are sharp even though they are small. I was very unhappy with most of the JBL Sansibar range because of this. It was uncomfortable and abrasive on my skin when I was planting in the tank or moving the sand.
Other sand types will be sourced from water worn sands (not crushed), where the grains are much more rounded and therefore safer for corys, even if you go up a size.

Nerdy part over :shy:

---

I may be entirely incorrect, but I thought that "play sand" was a sand made for the sand pits that kids dig and play in.
That it has a larger range of grain sizes, like 0.1 to 1.0 for instance. The wide range of grain sizes enables the sand to pack more tightly without slipping or falling apart, and this makes all the castles and dragons and whatnot stay upright better when little Timmy is playing 😁
It is the same ability that makes this kind of sand unsuited for our tanks. We dont want the sand to compact, so something where most of the grains are the same or similar size will be better for oxygenation, like 0.4-0.8.
But maybe the term play sand is used more broadly or means something else in the UK.

While "Pool filter sand" often has rounded grains and is made in a narrow range of sizes in order for it to be good for filtration. My understanding is that its also usually made of inert quartz so it doesnt affect water values.

I didnt think any of these terms were used for the sands you buy in pet shops, but again I may be mistaken.
Hello ,
This is a great answer and thank you for your time.
According to your post , 0.4 to 0.8 will work just fine for their shifting behavior and also for the plant growth and the oxygenation of the substrate. I will move towards this option.
If they dig about 2 cms deep then the 3.5 cm height will do the trick without issues. Nice info you gave me on that.
Thank you for the substrate separation tips, I know all of these options. However in this tank I won't do any separation between different types of substrates. I will just use sand in order to provide a long term environment without any issues such as the blending of the different types.
In conclusion , I am not really sure about the spots I am going to plant. I will probably plant in random spots just to keep this biotope sense in the tank. Therefore, I will use 1 cm of dirt in the most part of the tank.
I believe this is pretty enough for the plants I am going to use (amazon swords, tenellus, saggitaria etc).
This is a fish oriented tank combined with my love for plants :)
 

Zeus.

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2 cm of amazonia soil blended with power sand (I have them spare) and capped with 3.5 cm of sand.
Tried this and the AS ends up coming through sand when you replant/move plants, had mesh to hold AS down also which worked well until I came to lift some plants out and all the roots was intertwined in the mesh, needed rescape to sort it out. Presently have just one type of sand in there makes planting moving plants easy, its all low tech mostly an storage for plants I've removed from main tanks when trimming/maintenance etc
 

Fred13

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Tried this and the AS ends up coming through sand when you replant/move plants, had mesh to hold AS down also which worked well until I came to lift some plants out and all the roots was intertwined in the mesh, needed rescape to sort it out. Presently have just one type of sand in there makes planting moving plants easy, its all low tech mostly an storage for plants I've removed from main tanks when trimming/maintenance etc
I see.. Putting sand on soil doesn't seem a viable long term option.
Do you believe that dirt would be a better solution?
Since dirt is sand-type , the only issue I can imagine is the cloudiness of the water when I uproot the plants.
 

Zeus.

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Since dirt is sand-type , the only issue I can imagine is the cloudiness of the water when I uproot the plants.
What ever you use there will be cloudiness when you uproot plants as the detritus in-between the substrate particles is disturbed. I have been experimenting with sand and grit as a substrate in my high tech 'pot tank' and have been quite pleased with results, sand does yield a denser carpet of mini hair grass. I am dosing Urea in the tank also which a risk with it being ammonium based however every dosing a very little very often, think its setup to dose about 100 times a week so the ammoium/nitrite peak is avoided, which you would get if dosing 7 times a week.

I am thinking of just using sand in my 500l tank on the rescape I will be doing soon due to moving. Most of plants I like are do well growing in the water column/sand/grit so the need of a rich/active substrate seems a little questionable ATM.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Most of plants I like are do well growing in the water column/sand/grit so the need of a rich/active substrate seems a little questionable
My thoughts as well. There might be microbial? advantages to a humus rich substrate for Cryptocoryne spp. etc .

cheers Darrel
 

aec34

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Most of plants I like are do well growing in the water column/sand/grit so the need of a rich/active substrate seems a little questionable ATM.
This is pretty reassuring - I’m currently experimenting with cuttings and spare plants in sand/gravel in jars in any bright spot I can find in the house through necessity (husband will have a fit if I buy another tank...) Pleased that there is a chance they will survive!
 

Fred13

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What ever you use there will be cloudiness when you uproot plants as the detritus in-between the substrate particles is disturbed. I have been experimenting with sand and grit as a substrate in my high tech 'pot tank' and have been quite pleased with results, sand does yield a denser carpet of mini hair grass. I am dosing Urea in the tank also which a risk with it being ammonium based however every dosing a very little very often, think its setup to dose about 100 times a week so the ammoium/nitrite peak is avoided, which you would get if dosing 7 times a week.

I am thinking of just using sand in my 500l tank on the rescape I will be doing soon due to moving. Most of plants I like are do well growing in the water column/sand/grit so the need of a rich/active substrate seems a little questionable ATM.
So just to sum up , do you suggest a sand only bottom and regular dosing ? Is this ok for heavy rooters too? (e.g. amazon swords) .

Kind reminder. I am talking about a low tech tank. Easy plants, low light and long term direction strategy.
 

Big G

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Hi all,

My thoughts as well. There might be microbial? advantages to a humus rich substrate for Cryptocoryne spp. etc .

cheers Darrel
There’s always the option to go with just epiphyte plants. I’m finding that small clusters of moss attached to stone chips with cyanoacrylate and then the chipping buried just below the sand line seems ok and the moss is happy enough. I’m having pretty good luck with Tripartita Japan and S.Repens with this technique in both high and low energy. It may also have the fringe benefit of providing more resistance to the Corys disturbing them during the rooting stage. I have a particularly demonstrative Tiger Nerite that can ‘bully’ newly planted cuttings so I use the above technique and surround the stem with a few chippings until the root system establishes itself. Usually within about a month in the low energy tank.

I’ve also tried sand over aquasoil and found that reasonably fine denier stockings are about the best compromise. You cut and stitch a sort of wabi Kusa ball or slab of stocking/tights filled with soil, place it, then inert substrate on top. As said, you get a puff of particulate if you then remove a rooted plant from the wabi ball but it’s no more than removing from established bare aquasoil really if you’re careful. Could always have a running 6mm airline syphon in the other hand to capture the detritus as you extract the plant if you want to. The main advantage is that it makes moderate rescaping a bit easier as you can syphon the sand off the soil in stockings and gently shift the thing. Yes, you’ll get some runoff if you lift it but if you’re that committed to a rescape then there are going to be some water changes involved anyway. The downside as I see it is that less of the organics will find their way into the soil to keep the fertility going nor can root tabs be ‘injected’ into the wabi. You also can’t mix in new aquasoil with the old to keep up root nutrition. I’m certainly no expert on nutrient uptake but would make a stab at saying heavy root feeders might not do so well, or perhaps, well for so long using the above.
If you’re someone that likes to break a tank down and rescape every year or six months with co2 then its not an issue if you’ve got your fertility and lighting sorted out.

Pictures of my dreadful first attempt at just placing cut pieces of fine netting between the aquasoil and sand are at the beginning of my Tracy Island journal. I ended up removing it all in the end and went with seperate areas of exclusively aquasoil (which get planted heavily so don’t show once they’re grown in) and plain sand with just a few Marimo’s on for the shrimp to push around . Plants that will grow from soil areas to cast their shadow and foliage over sand can look very effective too.

Bg
 

Zeus.

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So just to sum up , do you suggest a sand only bottom and regular dosing ? Is this ok for heavy rooters too? (e.g. amazon swords) .

If you use AS any brand it will work, however over time the active substrate will lose its CEC (Cationic Exchange Capacity) and possibly break down, if you have hard water this will speed up the loss of the CEC as well. So if planning to rescape yearly AS is the easy winner. AS has a much higher carbon foot print then sand/grit.
Sand/grit is inert all it provides is anchorage for the plants, using lava stone will give some CEC. Most folk who use sand grit add something else for nutrition even if its just clay, but is there a need to add anything else ?????
I have read threads where folk have use inert substrates only and suddenly they stop posting which suggests issues esp if going high tech. However since I have been using inert substrate only in my pot scape I have been pleasantly surprised with the results so far. Maybe because of me dosing 100 times week with my DIY ferts - dunno!

So to use inert substrate only you take a risk it may not work depending on the plants you choose. But if you use one inert substrate in tank its so easy to add root tabs as there is no mixing of different substrates. If you ask at your LFS they will sell you every product on the shelf if they can.

Plants are masters at what they do and have been doing it for millions of years, provided them with 'just' enough of what they need and they will survive, provide them in slight excess what they need and they will thrive and bloom to the max, how much is enough without going OTT
 

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