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sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
edited May 2011 in Beginner's Forum
Ok... I know i've often wondered what substrates actually really look like before I buy them. Alot of the store pics just don't seem to give any real detail.

So... here are the substrates that i've got (only one missing from the pic list is Red Sea Flora Base as that's underneath the dupla ground in my 3ft tank and I don't have any spare lying around atm)


Out of the tank....



In the tank... (note: The eco complete has a slight mix of Eco African Cichlid Sand hence the white bits)



  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Eco Complete African Cichlid Sand (Note: this stuff raises PH)


  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Dupla Ground

    Out of the tank....


    In the tank.... (Note: Brown bits are actually Red Sea Flora Base which is underneath the dupla ground)

  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    General Small Aquarium Gravel... (Actually... It was sold to me as a Pool Filter Sand... but it's defiantely not Sand)

    Out of the tank....





    In the tank.... (underneath is Eco Complete)


  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    I will add more pics as I get them <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> But at least this gives you some idea of what they actually look like.
  • Betta-LoverBetta-Lover Member Posts: 461
    Lovely substrate sthn.

    I like the black stuff, and the last one.

    Cheers Bl <!-- s:lol: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_lol.gif" alt=":lol:" title="Laughing" /><!-- s:lol: -->
  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Thanks BettaLover <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->

    Yeah... Eco Complete is pretty good especially for plants. I kinda wish the grains were abit smaller though... more like sand. One of these days i'll give ADA soil a try & see what that is like... damn it's expensive though.
  • BrengunBrengun Moderator Posts: 1,985
    Ha, me too Betta, we must have similar tastes. <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
  • AnonymousAnonymous Member Posts: 356
    Thanks for the pics sthn.

    Another thoughtful and generous idea. It's nice to see what the substrates look like.

  • ekulekul Member Posts: 129
    Which of those substrates gave you the best results in the planted tanks?

    I'm about to set up a new tank and usually DIY the substrate, but am looking into investing in some of the nutritious substrates available online.

  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Red sea flora base is pretty good... have a look at my 200L Thread to see the plants. And so far i've noticed mixed results with the Eco Complete, the plants are booming in the little 29L quarantine tank but are not doing anywhere near as good in the 60L tank... however that may be because there is more depth of Eco in the 29L and only about 1/2 that depth in the 60L.
  • ekulekul Member Posts: 129

    I just had a look, and it's pretty pricey, but if it works, it's worth it. How many of the 5kg bags did you use for your 200L? Also, is it quite solid, or is it muddy like aquasoil?
  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    The red sea flora base is more softish semi-solid (from memory), it's not mud and i've never even seen Aquasoil so I can't compare it to that. I know it certainly doesn't feel like mud when I stick my fingers in it and I can feel the pebble like structure of it. I will try to remove some of it from my tank so I can take a pic of it. Just remember that the top layer is Dupla Ground which I found pretty much useless for growing plants.

    For my 200L tank I had 3x 5.4kg bags of Red Sea Flora Base but I can't remember what sort of depth that gave me... but obviously it was sufficient enough for the plants especially with the extra topping of the dupla ground.
  • ekulekul Member Posts: 129
    Did you use it straight, or did you need to cap it with gravel and fortify it with ferts / laterite?

  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    My tanks are not that complicated..... the only tank that has been "capped" is my little 29L with the Eco Complete topped with small gravel. But that was just cause I wanted a different look in that tank. It isn't necessary to cap an of the above plant substrates unless you want to. And no fortifying with ferts or laterite.... except the odd dosing here n there with a couple of the Seachem Flourish Ferts.
  • ekulekul Member Posts: 129
    Thanks.... There are so many choices at so many prices it's hard to decide which is best. I think I'll order a bag of the red sea flora base. I have a DIY aquaponics project I'm working on and am looking to run a few different substrates through it, including fortified aquarium substrates such as flora base. I might add to this thread once a couple of results are in, if that's OK.


  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Yeah that's fine, the more good pics of substrates we can get in this thread the better.
  • HarlanHarlan Member Posts: 403
    i use sand with soil under it the dirt at my house is sposed to be the best for plants in australia theres HEAPS of farms nearby
  • ekulekul Member Posts: 129
    Hi Harlan

    Any pictures of the results?


  • shtonkalotshtonkalot Member Posts: 11
    This isn't as good as Sthn's very informative posts but I didn't see it pictured yet so:



    Bird sand from Big W at $1.81 for 1.5KG, it took less than two bags for the below (small, 1ft) tank:


    And following Sthn's lead here is some sand in hand action shots.



    No information on how it goes for growing plants in sorry.
    Great for Goldfish that like to get pebbles caught in their mouth requiring fiddly semi surgical actions to remove, I'm looking at you Black Moore.
  • HarlanHarlan Member Posts: 403
    the dirt + sand things only been goin for a few weeks so only new leaves starting to come up and i need some new light tubes ill take some pics in a few weeks when the plants get established
  • NikkiJNikkiJ Member Posts: 102
    Thanks for showing the substrates. I have been reading here and have the ecocomplete on order as setting up a new tank and dont want the fiddling of cleaning tank gravel (considering i have about 7 kilos in the garage). Weighing up if I will put soil and peat under to try and set up a permanent tank. Current smaller tank hasnt been emptied for about 3 years but isnt very healthy.

    New tank sitting in lounge waiting for me to paint the base is 88 x 40 x 40cm, an ex Seaworld tank so quite solid.
  • SoutherngirlSoutherngirl Member Posts: 56
    I changed from the coloured gravel (black and white) to course sand in the weekend.
    (the fish tried to help by getting in the way!)

    Since then I've noticed the pH levels are lower (normally 7.2 now 6.8ish) and my fish appear a lot happier.

    Just thought I'd add this as it obviously had a big impact on water pH.
  • NikkiJNikkiJ Member Posts: 102
    Any updates with the sand in regards to cleaning?
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    I have sand in a few spots in two of my tanks, I just use a small gravel vac to skim over the top for a small clean up, but for a big one, I stab the sand with the gravel tube same as you do for gravel , if you watch it closely, you can vac it deep and lift it before it gets up to the hose, then it will fall back down again, I haven't had to top mine up..& my plants are growing well, but both tanks have a base of common gravel.
    Hope this helps...
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • NikkiJNikkiJ Member Posts: 102

    My two bags came but its nowhere near enough, havent put it in yet as still deciding on location. Will need 2 more bags so just dabbling into other means. I have fine black gravel to hand but the amount of water wasted cleaning it has me not wanting to use it.
  • kellykelly Member Posts: 60
    my plan is garden dirt bottom with regular aquarium gravel (see OP) over the top

    ill report my findings!
  • NikkiJNikkiJ Member Posts: 102
    Sounds like fun!

    I have an article where a tank has been running for years and he has the soil, then peat moss and then gravel. It looks very good in its pictures.

    I have been reading about and found my local native supplier and pond specialist has dark river sand. So will go for a scout. Mappins, for some reason I have been putting off going there. Wondering if I know my pocket (aka husband) will complain a lot..... <!-- s:laugh3: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/PMSL.gif" alt=":laugh3:" title="laugh3" /><!-- s:laugh3: -->
  • QueenserpentineQueenserpentine Member Posts: 91
    anthing from ADA is great i've found and doesn't look too bad
  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Here's another substrate pic thanks to 321clayt <!-- l --><a class="postlink-local" href="">viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2659&st=0&sk=t&sd=a</a><!-- l -->


  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Ohhhh....... Now I like the look of that one sthn...
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • sthn75sthn75 Moderator Posts: 3,487
    Yeah, it does look good doesn't it Moo. I think it'd probably be a good gravel topper for Eco Complete.
  • aroma_topiaaroma_topia Member Posts: 38
    Hi Sthn75, Thanks for doing that.

    I am changing to a planted aquarium, so being able to see the product out of the bag is fantastic. At the moment, I have your everyday aquarium gravel (blue), but I want to put in a substrate that is great for the plants I intend to put in, as well as make my tank look as natural as possible. Although the blue is "nice", it doesn't look natural. lol

    As a beginner, its also great to be able to see information from members of the forum who actually know what they are doing & also to know there are other members going through the same processes as I am. The information you all provide is priceless. I have no doubt in my mind, that the information you give so freely & generously has saved many people alot of money & heartache.

    Thank you all very much

  • esskayesskay Member Posts: 3
    Hi guys, i'm completely new to aquariums so all this info is extremely helpful - but I recently (before reading this thread <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> ) bought some "bonzai" sand (usually used for bonzai plants) - essentially black coloured sand that I was hoping to use as part of my substrate. It looks like uniform 1mm grains, and seems to be completely washed - rinsing saw almost no cloudiness in the water.

    Essentially I'm just wondering if anyone has experience of (or has heard of) using bonzai sand/gravel in their tanks? I've got gravel as the main part of my substrate, but I saw this sand and it's brilliant black colour and couldn't go past it. It's too dark now, but i'll try and get a photo of the stuff tomorrow.
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Sounds ok to me, would love to see a photo, I think it's a great idea..I do bonsai myself..& black gravel of any diameter is good...

    I have river sand in one of my pap tanks & it's fine, ya just gravel vac it like any other, but careful not to suck up too much you will suck some up..but it works as a substrate.
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • esskayesskay Member Posts: 3
    Thanks for the quick reply Mooo, glad to hear it! I'll make sure I put some pics up tomorrow.
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Kool & Oh and appologies but mooowelcome.gif
    Good to have you join us.. <!-- s:dance3: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/dance.gif" alt=":dance3:" title="dance3" /><!-- s:dance3: -->
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • DougDoug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371
    as with any 'experimental' substrate keep track of your pH, KH and GH levels. These can be affected by the choice of gravel. For example, marine sand is loaded with shells which will increase KH (carbonate hardness) which will in turn increase pH which can be great for marine fish or for African Rift lake chiclids but deadly to american fish. Just keep an eye on the levels, all of those tests can be bought from a fish shop for pretty cheep. if you notice anything begin to change let us know and we will see whats happening <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
  • esskayesskay Member Posts: 3
    Thanks for the assistance everyone, I got a master test kit along with all the other gear (filters, heaters, air pumps, etc) when I got the tank (ebay) so according to the tests my pH is at 7.8 already - I only added a couple to handfulls of the black stuff just to be on the safe side and see what effect it has. I was hoping to have a pH around 7.0, so I might invest in some peat filter medium (and stay away from chems). The water I was soaking my DW in was down at 7.0 after 24 hrs, so I'll see how the tank goes over then next couple of days (driftwood is in the tank now, the tank was only filled yesterday so the pH might still have a bit of changing to do).

    here's a couple of pics - the edges of the grains seem very reflective, I think that's what caught my eye...


    and the obligatory in hand shots:

  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Oh I love it <!-- s:dance1: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yahoo.gif" alt=":dance1:" title="dance1" /><!-- s:dance1: --> Use it <!-- s:dance6: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/Boogiedancing.gif" alt=":dance6:" title="dance6" /><!-- s:dance6: --> It will look amazing <!-- s:thumbright: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_thumright.gif" alt=":thumbright:" title="thumbright" /><!-- s:thumbright: --> <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D --> Your fish will stand out great, but while your at it, paint the back of the tank black or at least stick some black cardboard on it, will make the whole contents pop!!

    Good idea staying away from those powdered buffers, go with the peat and persevere till you get your desired's much more natural..
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Fishful thninkinFishful thninkin Member, Classifieds Posts: 209
    i was wondering if i used sand from a fast moving fresh water creek that looks like ordinary beach sand if it would change the ph of my tank water and if not would it be to fine to use to grow plants in or create a scratching problem for my cichlids
    when the sift through the substratre.
    KELLY <!-- s:fish: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_fish.gif" alt=":fish:" title="fish" /><!-- s:fish: -->
  • DougDoug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371

    it will be full of all sorts of bacteria and bugs and illnesses. it would lead to many many issues.
  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Agree with Doug <!-- sthumbdown: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_thumbdown.gif" alt="thumbdown:" title="thumbdown" /><!-- sthumbdown: --> bad idea to use sand from a creek..Go to the nursery get yourself a bag of River sand, cost $8.50 at my local nursery center..I've used it & it was fine, even my plants grew reasonably well..
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • Fishful thninkinFishful thninkin Member, Classifieds Posts: 209
    <!-- s:thumbleft: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_thumleft.gif" alt=":thumbleft:" title="thumbleft" /><!-- s:thumbleft: --> thanks good to know i was just curious <!-- s:scratch: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_scratch.gif" alt=":scratch:" title="scratch" /><!-- s:scratch: --> , ive been told sand is bad for fish because it changes the water a bit <!-- s:study: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_study.gif" alt=":study:" title="study" /><!-- s:study: --> .Anyway i was going to use normal aquarium gravel in my tank.

  • MoooMooo Moderator Posts: 7,653
    Sand is fine so long as you run a skewer through it to release the gasses that can get trapped in there...I still do the gravel vacs, you can do it without getting sand sucked up if you be careful how you do gets easier with practice..
    photo mooo_avat.gif "I'm a Doug Addict" photo cow2heartkisses.gif
  • DougDoug Member, Classifieds Posts: 2,371
    depends on the sand too, I use silica sand (pool filter sand) and its great because its totally inert (wont affect the water at all). Coral sand on the other hand will buffer the pH and hardness higher and this may cause issues, particually if you plant on keeping americans or other acid loving fish.

    there are lots of different sands and it is best to check they are ok for aquarium use before setting them up. good way to do this is to get a sample (2 handsful would be plenty) and put that into a plastic container. then get some demineralised water (avaliable from most hardware stores/car stores and is very hand stuff to have around for topping up your radiator in the car etc). Test the demin water for all that you can, tests to focus on are pH, hardness (GH), Carbonate hardness (KH) but test everything you can. add some of the demin water to the sand and leave it for a few days and test again, then after a few days test again. You will soon see if the sand is affecting the water. if it is then take this into consideration when planning your tank
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