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Gravel Substrate

Contents:

  1. sand
    by huntley-at-ix.netcom.com (WRIGHT HUNTLEY) (Tue, 18 Apr 1995)
  2. Multiple Copies/Sand/What Plant/Coils
    by Erik Olson <(e-mail)> (Tue, 18 Apr 1995/1996)
  3. Substrates: Sand
    by HoeschB-at-mail.fws.gov (Wed, 19 Apr 95)
  4. re: greensand
    by N.Monks-at-nhm.ac.uk (Neale Monks) (Wed, 23 Oct 1996)
  5. volcanic materials as substrate
    by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com> (Tue, 2 Dec 1997)
  6. Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #654
    by "C. Black" <black/seanet.com> (Wed, 25 Nov 1998)
  7. Tex-Blast in Bay Area?
    by Wright Huntley <huntley1/home.com> (Thu, 19 Nov 1998)
  8. Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #655
    by "E. Leung" <leung22/hotmail.com> (Thu, 19 Nov 1998)

sand

by huntley-at-ix.netcom.com (WRIGHT HUNTLEY)
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 1995

>From: Eric Schoville <schovill-at-expert.cc.purdue.edu>
>Date: Mon, 17 Apr 1995 22:09:16 -0500 (EST)
>Subject: Sand 
>
>Which type of sand should I use for my aquarium.  There are three
>types that I know of, Silica sand, Crushed coral or beach sand, and
>the Play sand that they sell at hardware stores.  Alternatively I 
could
>collect some form a local creek.  
>
>Also, which fertilizers should I use in the substrate.  Is there an 
>inexpensive source for Laterite, or do people recommend that I put
>a layer of potting soil beneath the sand.
>
>All responses are arppreciated,
>

If you can collect from local creeks, that may be a good source, but 
sterilizing it is a triple pain.

The Medium Aquarium gravel we get around here from Monterey Sand (Lone 
Star Brand) is a real problem in plant tanks. It's loaded with shell, 
and will drive your pH up and hardness to 300+ppm in no time. Use it 
only in SW tanks! It's $30 a bag at one local pet shop, too!

In Reno, last week, I went to a builders supply (actually in Sparks) 
and found that a Sacramento company, Basalite, sells a water-washed 
Medium Aquarium gravel that is beautiful, and passes the acid test for 
limestone or shells. I believe it is produced by Silica Products, and I 
know Home Depot carries some Basalite products. It was nicely rounded, 
good color mix, and CHEAP ($2+ for 50 lbs).

I have made the Lone Star stuff suitable for one plant tank by soaking 
it in straight pool acid, but that is a hazardous and nuisance task, 
compared to getting the right stuff in the first place.

Let's all go to the closest Home Depot and request that they get the 
Basalite Medium Aquarium gravel in stock. It's basically a finer 
version of the decorative Basalite pea-gravel-size stuff they already 
carry.

I have used the finer (30 mesh) silica, sand-blasting sand with good 
results over UGF plates by purchasing some of the fiberglass cloth used 
to make boats or pools, and putting it over the UGF plates so the sand 
wouldn't fall thru. It seems to work, and the plants are growing like 
mad in it. I put down sand, a thin layer of boiled peat, more sand, and 
a surface layer of treated gravel for appearance.

One mistake I made was adding a tiny bit of regular plant food to the 
substrate. It took weeks and lots of (mostly RO at that) water changes 
to get the ammonia down to safe levels. The forms of nitrogen in 
regular plant foods are MOST unsuitable for aquaria. We live and learn.

Wright
- -- 

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Multiple Copies/Sand/What Plant/Coils

by Erik Olson <(e-mail)>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 1995/1996

> From: Eric Schoville <schovill-at-expert.cc.purdue.edu>
> 
> Which type of sand should I use for my aquarium.  There are three
> types that I know of, Silica sand, Crushed coral or beach sand, and
> the Play sand that they sell at hardware stores.  Alternatively I could
> collect some form a local creek.  

Silica sand: cheap, available, works.  Don't use if you want to keep 
corys or other bottom-feeders because the sand (essentially tiny glass 
shards!) will shear off their barbels.

Crushed coral: Don't use unless you want high hardness and pH.  coral
contains Calcium Carbonate, which leaches into the water.

Play sand: probably too small to be practical.  But cheap.

River sand/gravel: Always a good option.  Make sure to 
wash/boil/sanitize/whatever before using with your prize fish!

> Also, which fertilizers should I use in the substrate.  Is there an 
> inexpensive source for Laterite, or do people recommend that I put
> a layer of potting soil beneath the sand.

You might try any iron-containing clay as an alternative for laterite
(this is what I do).  As far as I know, there is no cheap laterite, only 
expensive and free.

Potting soil has been used by some, though it doesn't actually contain 
many nutrients (potting soil is mostly peat) and gets used up after 6
months to a year, requiring total teardown.  Potting soil also has a 
tendency to go anaerobic very quickly.


Substrates: Sand

by HoeschB-at-mail.fws.gov
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 95

     A few comments on the use of sand as a substrate for plants.
     
     I bought a 100 pound bag of sand from the local hardware store for $4. 
     I believe it is usually used for making concrete.  It is light greyish 
     brown and flecked, not blinding white like beach sand, and looks nice 
     and natural. It passed the acid test; I put some in a jar with water 
     and it did not change the pH.  It was rather a chore to clean, and 
     took quite a few rinses.  Now I have my tank set up with 
     sand/laterite/Tetra Hilena-D and am still seeing beautiful growth six 
     months after set up. (Several types of large and small swords, Rotala 
     indica, Hygrophila polysperma). An advantage is that the root systems 
     grow rapidly to enormous size.  This is also a disadvantage, because 
     the bigger sword plants are impossible to move without disrupting the 
     entire tank.  I just pulled up a huge Echinodorus cordifolius and made 
     quite a mess --it had roots 18 inches long.   In the future I will 
     have to decide from the start where large plants will be permanently 
     located.  Even small plants like E. intermedius or quadricostatus root 
     deeply and are hard to pull up without making a mess.
     
     A possible disadvantage might be the lack of water circulation through 
     the fine particles.  We will have to see what the long term stability 
     is.  My feeling is that substrate heating coils would probably not 
     work well with fine sand.
     
     When I originally set up this tank I put some sterilized peat and a 
     small amount of sterilized composted manure in.  This turned out to be 
     a bad idea.  In retrospect what apparently happened was that the 
     substrate went anaerobic and produced small amounts of H2S, which then 
     fed a bloom of single cell blue-green algae. (thanx to Shiao Wang for 
     help with this diagnosis). I battled this chronic cludy water 
     situation for several months, then gave up and tore down the tank.   
     If the tank is densely planted right from the start this may not be a 
     problem, but I would not be inclined to put a nitrogen source down 
     there again!
     
     Someone (Erik, I think) mentioned that sand substrates are bad for 
     Corydoras, but I have not seen this.  I have a shoal of Corys which 
     love to root about in the sand, and their whiskers are intact.  Other 
     types of sand may have this problem, but not this stuff.  
     
     Sand does not need vacuuming the way gravel does, since detritus just 
     sits on top.  Again this is also a disadvantage, as it does not hide 
     the junk, and can make things look a bit unkempt.
     
     Right now I'm battling a form of algae which grows out of the sand in 
     green filaments with length a cm. or less.  This stuff goes fairly 
     deep into the sand as well, and is very difficult to  extirpate.  I 
     don't have any Epalz. siamensis (SAE's), but neither Pleco (actually 
     Pterigoplicthys) nor Otocinclus care for it.  It is very unsightly.  
     If anyone has comments on this nasty stuff I'd be most interested.
     
     Up to the minute news:  almost two weeks ago I put in some Crypt. 
     wendtii and pontederifolia, under a huge melon sword.  Both types 
     started producing healthy new leaves within days.  The pontederifolia 
     is now producing runners and sending up new plants amazingly quickly. 
     By contrast, I tore out a mat of Echinodorus intermedius and 
     replanted the best looking ones, a la George Booth.  These are not 
     growing with anything near the alacrity I expected, and after two 
     weeks have yet to produce any runners.  What might be happening here?
     
     That's enough rambling for now.  
     
     A big round of kudos to Shaji and the others who started this list!
     
     Regards to all
     
     Bob Hoesch
     National Fish & Wildlife Forensics Laboratory
     Ahsland, OR
     HoeschB-at-fws.gov


re: greensand

by N.Monks-at-nhm.ac.uk (Neale Monks)
Date: Wed, 23 Oct 1996

Jeff and Denise,

Greensand, at least in the UK, is the name give to a number of marine
sediments, including some rich in phosphatic nodules (called coprolites -
but they are not!). These coprolites have been mined for centuries as
fertilizer. Incidentally, real coprolites are fossilized animal droppings.
The greensand is green because of a mineral called Glauconite, which is
formed in marine conditions of high nutrient levels. Phosphorus is an
important part of Glauconite.

Anyhow, the sand is calcareous and *will* harden the water.

If hard water isn't a problem, then the Greensand will probably be okay.
But you would be best to leave it out, and use silica (glass) sand, which
is inert.

All the best,

Neale.

volcanic materials as substrate

by "Roger S. Miller" <rgrmill/rt66.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 1997

Jos K. K. Liem wrote:
>  
> I wonder If anybody have experience in using volcanic as a
> substrate.
> 
> Amano uses for several tanks vulcanic sand.
> Volcanic soil is usually  very fertile.
> 

For the most part volcanic stuff is just rocks.  Nothing special.  You 
probably want to avoid anything recently erupted, since it may be very 
unstable, acidic and contain sharp fragments.   With that said, now I'll 
blither on about the details...

There's really two common sorts of volcanic areas.  One would be like the
Columbia River Plateau in the US or the Deccan Plateau in India.  The
available material is mostly just dense black lava called basalt.  
Sand or gravel made from the basalt is pretty stable and probably safe 
for aquariums.

The other kind of volcanic area includes many island arcs like Japan and
New Zealand and also major mountain chains like the Cascade Mountains in
the US and parts of the Andes and central Mexico.  The rocks there are
much more diverse.  My area here in New Mexico (somewhat like east Africa)
has features of both. 

A fair part of the coarse sand, fine gravel and stones that I can collect 
out of the local river is of volcanic origin.  This stuff is not all 
created equally.

I'm fond of the rounded pebbles and stones of scoria and lava.  These are
either black or iron-red and full of bubbles, so they're fairly attractive
and much lighter than most stones.  Java fern anchors to it very easily.

Some volcanic material is mostly glass.  That includes obsidian (black and
glassy), pumice (solidified foam) and sometimes a kind of rock called
"tuff", which can look like anything from black glass to white chalk. 
Obsidian and pumice can be quite unique and attractive.  But natural
volcanic glass is impure and may not be as stable as man made glass. 
Using it in an aquarium - particularly something like a rift lake tank
with high pH - may give your water slightly elevated silica levels.  My
tap water is quite high in silica because of reactions between ground
water and volcanic material in the aquifer.  I'm not sure if there's a
problem with that (aside from having water deposits from hell). 

Sands and gravel composed of volcanic material might contain some of both
of those types.  Probably the largest component is just fine-grained,
somewhat weathered mixed bag of different kinds of tuffs and lavas. 
Smaller streams in volcanic areas will sometimes yield sand or gravel that
is all one color but larger streams will yield sand or gravel with a lot
of different colors and textures.  Very interesting to look at.  You might
want to pick out sharp pieces or the odd bits of obsidian (looks like
black glass) and pumice (floats when its dry), but otherwise it should
make fine substrate material. 

Soil derived from volcanic material is another thing entirely.  These 
can be anything from white clay to black sand, so its hard to generalize 
their quality as a soil.  Don't mistake recently erupted ash (like from 
Saint Helens) for soil.


Roger Miller

In Albuquerque, where all the volcanoes are now peacefully snow-capped.


Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #654

by "C. Black" <black/seanet.com>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998

At 03:48 AM 11/19/98 -0500, you wrote:
Subject: Tex-Blast in Bay Area?

Anyone know of a source for 1-2 mm Tex-Blast (or something similar) in 
the San Francisco bay area and/or east bay?>

I've used a product which is used in drinking-water well installation.  It
is "filter-pack" sand and is almost pure silica sand of nice roundness.
The sizes are available as "screen sizes" which specify the sand which
passed a certain screen size and was held on the next (eg. 10-20 Colorado
Silica sand would be held on a 20 wire-per-inch screen but would contain
only particles which passed a 10 wire-per-inch screen).  I use 8-12 when I
install wells (depending on the aquifer materials).  You can get the stuff
from Well Drilling Supply or Drillers Supply type establishments.   I find
the cost per (for an admittedly large, 100-pound) bag to be pleasantly low
($10ish) compared to LFS prices.  You can use the extra in your garden to
increase permeability or to top-off containers with attractive light
colored sand.   I use it to keep the silt out of my outdoor pond when I
repot my hardy waterlillies in the spring.  This material is largely inert
leaving you free to add what you want to obtain your desired result.   Hope
that helps.

C. Black - Hydrogeologist, Seattle



Tex-Blast in Bay Area?

by Wright Huntley <huntley1/home.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998

> From: "E. Leung" <leung22@hotmail.com>

> 
> Anyone know of a source for 1-2 mm Tex-Blast (or something similar) in
> the San Francisco bay area and/or east bay? During some extensive
> searching I found that everyone around here carries a washed "Lapis
> Lustre #4 Aquarium Gravel," which is very similar or perhaps synonymous
> with Monterey beach sand. It contains shell fragments and obviously is
> not inert.

You are right about the Lapis Lustre, Eric. I go ahead and use it, just
making water changes more often for the first few months. The shell
chips seem to "coat" or something and drop in solubility after a while.
Pool acid treatment accelerates that process. I avoid using it in very
soft acid tanks. It is about $8 for a 100lb bag at Lyngso in Redwood
City.

Basalite, in Sacramento, distributes truly inert gravels (water-washed
granite) from Silica Resources, Inc. in Yuba City. I know Home Depot
gets other products from them, so maybe they could special order a few
hundred pounds. I doubt if they could afford to for small amounts. I
used to get the SRI medium aquarium gravel from a building supplies
place in Sparks Nev. I haven't found any such place in the Bay Area
willing to pay the extra freight costs to get it. :-(

Wright

- -- 
Wright Huntley, Fremont CA, USA, 510 494-8679  huntley1 at home dot com
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Aquatic Plants Digest V3 #655

by "E. Leung" <leung22/hotmail.com>
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998

Wright wrote: 

You are right about the Lapis Lustre, Eric. I go ahead and use it, just 
making water changes more often for the first few months. The shell 
chips seem to "coat" or something and drop in solubility after a while. 
Pool acid treatment accelerates that process. I avoid using it in very 
soft acid tanks. It is about $8 for a 100lb bag at Lyngso in Redwood 
City.

Basalite, in Sacramento, distributes truly inert gravels (water-washed
granite) from Silica Resources, Inc. in Yuba City. I know Home Depot
gets other products from them, so maybe they could special order a few
hundred pounds. I doubt if they could afford to for small amounts...

- ---

Well, we have group buys of SAEs...<grin>. I'll have to talk to the 
gardening people at Home Depot, though they've never been able to 
special order anything for me. Much thanks to all for the responses 
(both off and on list) to my query. RMC Lonestar seems to have a 
stranglehold on the 1-3mm sandblasting sand in the greater Bay Area! 
Every major rock quarry I've been to carries Lonestar's shell-ridden 
Lapis Lustre. Of course, many LFS sell the stuff by the pound, despite 
the fact that it isn't inert. I noticed this years ago, but now I know 
who's supplying the stuff.  

I do have a question on the grain sizes however. For those of you who 
have seen the #4 Lapis Lustre, I grabbed a sample of their #3 
Lapis...imho it is still large enough to be used effectively in planted 
aquaria. It seems to be an excellent size for use with smaller 
"foregrounders"...particularly glosso, though not so fine that it has 
the potential to compact (rising hardness aside, as recent observations 
from APD posters seems to suggest that the plant often flourishes in 
soft water). Any opinions on this smaller grain size? The small white 
fragments of shell are still evident. 

Wright, you noted that the shell fragments seem to lose buffering 
effectiveness after a time...I haven't been so lucky. A ten gallon tank 
which contains #4 Lapis--shell and all--has been up for a year and 
unfortunately the hardness and pH (minus CO2 injection) still rise. I 
wonder if perhaps the smaller grained #3 shell particles would erode 
away or "weather" more quickly than the #4? Erm, maybe I'll continue my 
search <grin>. I'd really prefer not to use the Lapis with my discus 
pair if at all possible, but I have to admit it is *somewhat* 
do-able--the very frequent water changing would alleviate the rising 
hardness to some extent (and with the hopes that the stuff would cease 
to buffer after awhile). CO2 injection would control the rising pH. 
There don't seem to be many alternatives though when it comes to these 
gravel sizes. One of the (few) downsides to living in the Bay Area I 
suppose. Even the ultra-expensive epoxy-coated gravel sold for the hobby 
is not small enough. I wonder what Steve Dixon used in his 60" tank? 


Erik Leung
Wandering aimlessly in search of an inert, fine substrate in S.F. 


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