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Sand substrate recommendations . . .

Wookii

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I'm in the process of testing out some different sands when I come to rescape my tank later in the year.

I currently have samples of:

  • Unipac Aquarium Silica Sand
  • Pool filter sand
  • ADA La Plata sand

I've been using the La Plata in my current scape, and it is a nice varied grain sand, but very light in colouration. For the new scape I'm after a sand that looks as natural as possible, but a little darker in colouration.

The Unipac Aquarium Silica sand that I have a sample of looks nice, and really natural, but is also a little bit lighter than I would have liked:


1611588441710.png


The pool sand is very light too, similar in colouration to the La Plata, but a bit greyer, so that is no good.

I wanted to take a look at Unipac's Silica Sand (different to the aquarium version) - the colouration looks ideal, though the grain size is larger at 1.5-2.0mm - but can't seem to find anywhere selling it:

1611588701464.png


Can anyone suggest a sand that they have used that is a darker colouration, closer to the image above (ideally in around 0.8-1.0mm grain size)? I was thinking of trying a play sand, but don't want to be left with 20Kg of the stuff if it's not quite right for what I want.
 

john dory

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One slight negative(if keeping cory)is they'll spit it all over your hardscape and any horizontal leaves
 

Wookii

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Wookii

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The only other one I’ve seen that looks decent is the Caribsea Sunset Gold:

1611618157697.jpeg

But it appears to be rarer than rocking horse turd in the UK, unless you’re prepared to pay through the nose via Amazon:

Caribsea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand, 20-Pound, Sunset Gold

Amazon product
 

Nick potts

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Is this the silica sand you were after?

 

Paul Kettless

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The Dooa tropical river sand is very nice, has lovely colouration and with different grain sizes. The sand is completely natural and no coral.
 

alto

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Caribsea Sunset Gold:
I’ve used this in the past but found it packed very tightly, ended up mixing with ADA Colorado sand for better texture
(this may vary between production runs, I was certain I’d used it previously and not noted this aspect)

Not sure if CaribSea has difficulty sourcing their usual sands, or if they’ve greatly curtailed the freshwater product line

You might contact CaribSea directly, they have always had extraordinary Customer Service!
 

Wookii

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Is this the silica sand you were after?


No I suspect they have just used the wrong image Nick, as it’s actually listed as ‘Unipac Aquarium Silica Sand’, and they only have one listed in their site. I will contact them to check though.
 

Wookii

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The Dooa tropical river sand is very nice, has lovely colouration and with different grain sizes. The sand is completely natural and no coral.

Thanks Paul, I’ll check that out. Is this image representative?

1611646515643.jpeg


If so it may be a bit too light in colouration, similar to the La Plata.
 
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Conort2

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not sure if this would be suitable? I use river which is much lighter in colour. It’s a decent rounded substrate and isn’t too expensive either.

cheers
 

Wookii

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not sure if this would be suitable? I use river which is much lighter in colour. It’s a decent rounded substrate and isn’t too expensive either.

cheers

Thanks Conor. The colour looks good, but I'm not sure about the grain size - 0.2-0.8mm? I've never used sand as a substrate before, and I'm a little nervous about the horror stories of anaerobic/hydrogen sulfide issues, though the more I read of that, the more it looks like it could be another fish keeping myth.

I do also want to ensure that I get sufficient nutrient transfer to the high CEC base layer that I intend to add, but again, I'm not really sure where the 'cut-off' is with respect to grain size. I.e. what are the minimum grain sizes recommended to ensure water circulation to the base layer?
 

Zeus.

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I'm a little nervous about the horror stories of anaerobic/hydrogen sulfide issues, though the more I read of that, the more it looks like it could be another fish keeping myth.

Yes, need to do some reading on that as well 'soon', so keep me in the picture what you find m8 :thumbup:
 

Conort2

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The rive
Thanks Conor. The colour looks good, but I'm not sure about the grain size - 0.2-0.8mm? I've never used sand as a substrate before, and I'm a little nervous about the horror stories of anaerobic/hydrogen sulfide issues, though the more I read of that, the more it looks like it could be another fish keeping myth.

I do also want to ensure that I get sufficient nutrient transfer to the high CEC base layer that I intend to add, but again, I'm not really sure where the 'cut-off' is with respect to grain size. I.e. what are the minimum grain sizes recommended to ensure water circulation to the base layer?
The river version is of a similar grain size. I use this with a base layer and find it causes no issues. It’s has a pretty open structure and shouldn’t cause any issues.

cheers
 

Wookii

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Yes, need to do some reading on that as well 'soon', so keep me in the picture what you find m8 :thumbup:

Will do mate - I've read wildly conflicting reports. Some with the obvious horror stories - "gas from the sand killed my fish" kind of thing - others stating that substrates need to be in the magnitude of metres deep to generate a sufficiently oxygen free environment. On top of that, numerous posts stating that plant roots provide sufficient oxygenation - though I don't know if that helps areas that don't have heavy stem planting.

Here is a post by @Simon Cole:

I wouldn't worry about anaerobic conditions. It is rather rare to find conditions that actually generate hydrogen sulfide in nature, and usually the substrate layer would need to be several meters deep with very specific redox and mineral conditions. I used to sample water on fens and never found enough to establish it was a metabolic derivative. Although scarce in nature, there has been no proof that these conditions have ever been observed in fish tanks. In fact, I think it would be very difficult to get this happening and many people feel it poses no hypothetical or actual risk. It is just theoretically possible in certain people's minds.

You don't need the lava, just the sand. If I'm planting into the sand then I use a proper substrate underneath. But if it's just sand then keep it simple.

Once he's got the fish fry out of his beard, he may be able to confirm :D

And a couple of entries by our current forum top poster that suggest it might only be an issue with an organic base layer:

Hi all,Almost certainly hydrogen sulphide (H2S), we can detect it really low levels (below one ppb). It is normal. I think you are also right and the mesh probably contributed, by excluding MTS. You will <"always get anaerobic zones"> in a fine grained substrate like soil, it isn't a problem and you don't need to worry. You will be getting some nitrogen loss (via anaerobic denitrification) in this zone of the substrate as well, but that shouldn't matter either if the plants are growing well. I think the "Gardenia" bit is probably relevant as well, because Gardenia spp. need an acidic pH to grow and the potting soil probably contained some organic matter, so perfect for Crypts and Gardenia.

The process of H2S formation is described in the Winogradsky Column link, but the quick version is as the organic matter oxidises it will use up any initial oxygen and then diffusion (through the substrate) will be too slow to replenish this. The organic matter then continues to decays under anaerobic (or anoxic) conditions, with the sulphate-reducing bacteria using the sulphates present (as the electron donor) and this produces hydrogen sulphide.

cheers Darrel

Hi all,It is <"hydrogen sulphide (H2S)">, we can detect it at very low levels, below one or two ppb. The issue is low levels of oxygen in the substrate, have a look at <"Winogradsky column"> link, and the <"which filter media..."> thread.

There are a number of reasons why you might have this, the most likely one is that the organic matter component of the soil is decomposing and its oxygen demand has deoxygenated the soil, this is because the rate of oxygen usage has exceeded the rate of oxygen diffusion. Once the <"soil has mineralised"> (the organic matter has oxidised) the oxygen demand will fall, how long that takes is going to depend on all sorts of factors. If you are adding ammonia to cycle the tank? You can stop. Ammonia will also reduce oxygen levels (nitrification is an oxygen intensive process) and it won't help in making the <"aquarium fish safe">.

If you have some floating plants? they won't help with the substrate, but they should reduce ammonia levels in the tank and help you get through this stage a bit more quickly.

cheers Darrel

As usual I'm probably worrying about nothing with a sand depth of 50-70mm, and should just crack on and use whichever looks the best.
 

Wookii

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The rive

The river version is of a similar grain size. I use this with a base layer and find it causes no issues. It’s has a pretty open structure and shouldn’t cause any issues.

cheers

Thanks Conor, that's good to know. How deep do you go with your sand substrate?
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I'm probably worrying about nothing with a sand depth of 50-70mm, and should just crack on and use whichever looks the best.
Yes I reckon. As far as I know I've never had any substrate issues with sand. I've just moved the lab. tank and the sand was pretty clean after ~10 years.

Long ago when I was in my "aquarium gravel, no water changes, plants as decorations", fish keeping stage I used to <"kill my fish with sickening regularity"> and had fairly horrible substrate fully of rotting organic debris, but I don't know which combination of these factors killed the fish.

cheers Darrel
 

Wookii

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Hi all,

Yes I reckon. As far as I know I've never had any substrate issues with sand. I've just moved the lab. tank and the sand was pretty clean after ~10 years.

Long ago when I was in my "aquarium gravel, no water changes, plants as decorations", fish keeping stage I used to <"kill my fish with sickening regularity"> and had fairly horrible substrate fully of rotting organic debris, but I don't know which combination of these factors killed the fish.

cheers Darrel

Thanks Darrel, do you think then with a 70mm substrate depth, and using most sands at around 0.25mm-1.0mm (possibly with the exception of the very fine silver sand) I'll be able to get sufficient nutrient transfer to a high CEC base layer?
 

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