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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I started a new 20 g planted tank a little bit too fast. I got a nice deal and the same day I was about to pick the tank up I saw a member was selling great looking, but large gravel. I got it and spent hours to setup the tank with lots of plants, etc. The gravel looks wonderful, I love the rocks a lot. But when I got everything settled (including myself) I started thinking more about cleaning, etc. I always used fine gravel like 2-5-6 mm before and it works well with snails and algae eaters. Now with this one I am not sure if I will be able to clean at all. I know a lot of people don't even bother to vacuum a heavily planted tank as plants use the fish waste as nutrition, but they usually don't use such kind of substrate, I guess.
So, my question is can that work? I will hate to change it and redo everything. But if I need to change it, it's better to do it now, not in a few months when I start to have issues.

Thanks a lot in advance!
 

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i'd stick to fine gravel over larger grains, what some people do for added effect is toss in some larger gravel types with their pea gravel and use pebbles as finishing touches. Really makes a nice river bed look. If you do go this way though, i'd recommend getting substrate heat cable for aquariums (not terrariums! they are way too hot!). Cover that in sand, then sprinkle laterite, then a fine peagravel, then your top layer. This way your substrate will have much better nutrient circulation, improving plant fert uptake from the water column. Keep in mind the coarser the grade, the harder it'll be for fine rooted plants to take (ie carpet plants)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So, you would definitely recommend to redo it fully? What if I get a bad of a fine one and pour it over to fill the holes a bit? Or it's probably better not to try covering it, but just start from scratch?

I don't think of planting carpet plants, I like long stems better.
It will be low light low maintenance tank.
 

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well as long as you don't think the gravel can crush the roots, then there shouldn't be an issue, I'd only recommend redoing it completely if you are personally unhappy with it. Many say to use only eco complete, or florabase, or other clay based substrates. Others swear by fine sand, and others swear by mineralized topsoil. in the end it comes down to what you want for your tank, and the look you want to achieve. The best way is not the only way, its just the most ideal from a plant growing prospective.

i didn't realise you said its already done, otherwise i'd have said this in the first place. As for a 20gallon. If you water change weekly, and don't use a python, its simple to use the vacuum just then. For me i've picked up a fluval edge vac, as its small diameter and long, allowing me to get into many area's and giving me time to vacuum more thoroughly. if you cant get the whole substrate in one waterchange who cares, just work from the other side the next time :)

Also the coarser grains also increase the chance for fry to survive if you're the type to just leave them in the tank :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Nice input :) I do love the look for sure, from my perspective that kind of rock look is very nice. But as I said, after a couple of days of thinking I started to feel a bit worried :)
Hope it will work well then.

As for the roots, I hope the plants will find their way. Maybe I should just wait a couple of months and see how it will go. If it's not unhealthy.

I always vacuum with a small tube, almost like air tube, so it gives me time to go everywhere. With fine gravel it is a pain. With this one - not sure yet.
People say sand is good for cleaning, I just reacted fast as I really liked the look of these rocks.
 

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i hate cleaning sand as if you turn your head and drop the tube too low you suck up a ton of sand, lol. Pain in the arse in my opinion. atleast with larger substrates you got weight to it, its just a matter of sizing your vacuum hose (or flow clamp) so it doesn't suck up substrate
 

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I currently have a tank with rather large gravel (inherited from a friend). The gravel is about 1/4" - 1/2", and angular (i.e. not round like river rock). All the plants are having a blast in there, and when you look on the underside of the tank, you can see a very healthy complex root system throughout the tank (not sure if they are just using the space between the bottom glass and the rocks to spread the roots, or if its in between rocks too). I've pulled out a few plants in the past few weeks (for my new tank), and they had very good fat roots.

When I clean the tank, it is a bit harder to clean. With fine gravel you just hover over the gravel layer and the junk gets sucked up, while the gravel falls. With the rocks I need to jab the vacuum hose into the rock (yes, jab it in with some force). I need to do that because the rocks are too heavy and they don't get lifted up by the vacuum (i.e. can't clean underneath them). On the other hand the crap does fall between the cracks so the debris is not as noticeable as with sand or fine gravel. And because of that I pretend to believe that the plants have better access to the nutrition because it forms almost a soil under the rock layer.

Also when I was talking to Tim (Aqua Flora Nurseries) he said that the substrate does not matter too much (for the plants). More important are the other factors (light, nutrition, co2, etc). You can ask him about it.

I've never had issue with algae either, and my nitrates seem to be ok (granted, I don't check often). Probably because the tank is heavily planted and I also have hardy fish).

So my conclusion:
- Rocks are fine for the plants
- The debris is not as visible because they fall between the large gravel
- Cleaning is harder, if you are picky about it ... (i am not). Your fine air tube method might not work.
- I've never really had a problem with nitrates (check to see if your fish is sensitive. Things like rams might not appreciate it).
 

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depends on what plants you want to grow. carpet plants or plants with thin stems will be a pita because they will just keep sliding out of the gravel. Smaller grains = thinner plants you can keep.

I had a 20gal with black fish gravel. The typical stuff you would find at the lfs. I grew java fern, java moss, hygro species in there very well.

Currently i have fluorite in my 32 gal and im growing, anubias nana, dwarf sag, java fern, brazillian pennywort (likes floating better), and asian ambula. I used to have a lot more plants but they died off when i had really bad cyano. I need to get some more hygro for my tank. I need to try it again...as well as some vals
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks a lot for all the input. I guess I will stick with these setup and see how it will run for the next month or two. That should be enough to see the plants growing, etc.
I just have low light ones that should have goot roots as well as floating ones. I am about to get Riccia and hopefully attach it to a piece of wood or other decoration.

I have Java fern, sunset hydro and another hydro one (forgot the name), hornwort, moneywort, water lettuce and a few more that I am not sure of their names. So far they seem fine and grow some small new leaves, but it is pretty new to tell.
 

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I think that the larger pebble type gravel will be pretty. If you plant water sprite and java fern and wisteria or other types of plants that take a lot of nutrients from the water, then it doesn't matter what is in the substrate. You can put plant weights on your stem plants to hold them down. Stem plants can be hard to keep down even in finer gravel.

I used to have larger sized gravel and never found that it was harder to clean. I liked it.
 
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