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Sand or Gravel?

Date Published - 6th April 2014 - Published by - iQuatics Ltd

One of the most exciting parts of starting out in fishkeeping is making all of the various necessary choices! Deciding whether to go for a saltwater aquarium or a freshwater setup is definitely an interesting journey and of course much of what you decide will be based on your available funds as well as the type of fish and plants which attract you.

Your choice of substrate…that’s the sand or gravel on the bottom of the tank will also be led to some degree by not only budget but by what’s in your tank! Whether you choose sand or gravel in the end it’s important to realise that both are doing essentially the same job; keeping ammonia levels down, providing a good environment for the healthy bacteria which aquariums play host to as well as providing a growing medium for plants.
Both sand and gravel can look very attractive but some hobbyists feel that sand is the more appealing of the two owing to its finer texture and its natural appearance. What you choose will depend not only on your budget and taste but also on what types of fish and plants you want to keep.
Gravel is what you will see mainly in freshwater set-ups and it’s great in terms of choice as well as cost. The pros are obvious;
• Gravel is simple and quick to prepare for adding to your tank and needs only a rinse before you settle it.
• It’s attractive and comes in a variety of colours.
• It makes a great hiding place for the bits of waste which are not removed by filters but this can also be seen as a con! Invest in a little vacuum to attend to the issue.
• It’s relatively cheap.
The cons of gravel are few; some people complain about the “shifting” which occurs especially during cleaning time; this is potentially not great for plants as they don’t like to be moved around a lot.
Sand is usually found in saltwater aquariums as it’s the most natural choice for most fish and plants whose natural environment is the ocean. The pros are as follows;
• Sand is very attractive and natural in appearance.
• It makes a great anchor for plants.
• It’s very easy to clean as debris can simply be fished out from the top surface of the sand.
• Burrowing fish love it.
Sand does take a little more maintenance than gravel and it also needs to be prepared more carefully. Before adding new sand to your aquarium you should be very careful to rinse it well…it’s often playing host to dust particles which won’t improve either the water quality or the appearance of your aquarium.
Whatever substrate you choose, be careful not to choose one which is very pale in colour; the pale surface can cause stress to the fish as it reflects light so well. Add plants and larger rocks for interest and be sure to prepare the substrate very well before you add it to your tank.
You have just read another great aquarium blog post by iQuatics. If you would like us to blog about a specific subject or if you have your own aquarium blog content which you would like published on our website, please get in touch. Together we can help grow the iQuatics aquarium blog into a vast resource full of combined industry knowledge.

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