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Is gravel necessary ?

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Is gravel necessary ?

Post by alexmtl on Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:41 am

Many aquarium enthusiasts have gravel in their aquariums.

Gravel is an eye pleasing decoration that can be found in most pet stores in a wide variety of colours and sizes. What are the best colours and what are the best size (courseness) for the aquarium ?

For those who aquascape, gravel is a natural substrate for various plants. Plant keepers use various courseness from sand to river rock to anchor their plants and to add to a natural biotope look, captured through the aquascaping presentation.

For breeders, most do not use gravel in the grow out (fry) tanks. General practice is a clean sterile tank, whereby food and detritus can be readily vacuumed, thus reducing nitrates and harmful accumulation. Gravel is usually not used however, some breeders are beginning to add a thin layer partially covering the bottom, alongside the box filter.

Is gravel necessary ? Members of the CanadAquaria Forum give you their views based upon their successful fishkeeping experience and knowledge.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by cephalotus on Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:59 pm

Dark colored substrate is supposed to bring out more colour in many fish.

Choice of substrate is also especially important for bottom dwellers. Make sure gravel is not too sharp. Sand is said to be more gentle on sensitive barbels. fish with injuries are more susceptible to infections. On the other hand, sand/soil is a bit harder to clean than gravel, and dirty substrate can also make fish sick, so make sure to choose a substrate that reflects the amount of work/time you are willing to put into maintenance.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by caoder on Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:35 pm

Substrate is also an important decision for people desiring live plants in their aquariums. Depending on the substrate there are benefits and drawbacks for plants and other aquatic life. Most plants benefit from having substrate that are high in nutrients while others do not draw nutrients through their roots at all. Some substrates also help buffer or alter the water chemistry.
Depending on what you want with the tank, there are many commercial and DIY choices.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by Ursus sapien on Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:59 pm

Pellia, java fern, mosses, anubias, naja, elodea, bolbitis... all grow without substrate. Other plants can be grown in clay pots. There are many options.

So, no, gravel or sand are not necessary. I keep a number of planted bare bottom tanks.

Some fish (arowana, for example) are greatly bothered by the reflectons; for fish like that, ceramic tiles can be cut to fit the tank bottom. The tile gives you bare bottom ease without the reflection.
The outside of the bottom glass can also be painted to the same effect.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by CAAIndie on Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:33 pm

Great responses. I have not done bare bottom, but I have seen a good number of them.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by GaryE on Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:21 am

I never do bare glass tanks - there is always a sand or gravel substrate even for fry. It provides a platform for the microscopic food fry love to pick at, and gives a better sense of security to young fish.
I breed a lot of livebearers in with the parents. I've learned that while I was taught that fry run to the surface, that isn't always accurate. I put a few handfuls of uneven surfaced rocks about the size of the Christmas chocolates I just ate too many of along the bottom of all livebearer tanks, on top of the gravel. I also usually make a small pile or two in the corners. I find most livebearer parents are cannibalistic for the first few hours, and then back off. The fry head for cover in the rocks and I get lots. I've wondered if the famous run for the surface was a desperate attempt to hide in tanks with no cover down low, and is a phenomenon produced by bare tanks.
It doesn't matter what fish are breediing - Cichlids, livebearers, killies, tetras, rainbows - I offer a substrate and I get a few handfuls of java moss or hair algae in there as soon as the fry are swimming freely. Too clean and bare kills, in my experience.
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by JayB on Mon Dec 30, 2013 11:44 am

I've always used substrate both for appearance (personal preference) and for rooted plants in all my tanks. I prefer the larger smooth gravel as it is easier to keep plants in place until they are well rooted.

Food and waste does collect in the gravel but that actually breaks down and the mulm which forms becomes a nutrient rich "soil" for the plants.

As for the need to keep grow out tanks pristine, I've kept and bred sailfin mollies which like rather pristine conditions. Thus frequent large water changes were done but I only ever vacuumed the gravel in open areas. I think to raise hardy fish, one needs to try to emulate conditions in nature (where conditions aren't always pristine). The large gravel and the resulting mulm build up and plants seems to create that effect. That's the approach I had success with.

That said, I think bare tanks are a personal preference, both for aesthetics and the ease of cleaning.

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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by mikebike on Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:53 pm

the ease of cleaning tanks is an ongoing chalenge for me.

I love the look of a planted tank, but my choice of fish makes keeping it planted very difficult.
I now screen potnetial gravel though a 1/4 mesh so that I can use all 1/4"+ gravel in the tanks.

I find larger gravel is easier to finger syphon.

I use a 3/4 inch clear hose heled in my hand with my finger straight out about 1" past the end of the tube.
I hold it near the bottom and start the syphon into a large net over the waste water bucket bucket.

I move my finger around the gravel and suck up any debris stired up.

Check the net for any fry or eggs that got sucked up!
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Re: Is gravel necessary ?

Post by kaban on Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:47 am

Gravel provides extra space for nitrifying bacteria to settle. If filter fails or power is out, it gives you more time to react.
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