Much like a beach needs the ocean and the sand to be complete, so to does your tank need water, plants, and what’s called aquarium substrate. “Aquarium substrate” is just a fancy way of saying “fish tank gravel,” and, no, ordinary sand won’t work in your aquarium bottom. So put away that tiny yellow plastic shovel and pail and read up, children.
The type of aquarium substrate you need will depend on the type of aquarium size, plants, and of course the fish you have. It’s pretty simple, but don’t just pick them at random.
Here are the different types:
River sand: Ideal to line your aquarium bottom if you have a bottom-dwelling species. It allows for the easy flowing of water and plant roots.
Fine gravel: This is perfect if you have a smaller aquarium or if a larger aquarium substrate would look a bit queer in a tiny tank. Proportion and style is key.
Medium gravel: It’s your typical one-size-fits-all kinda gravel. Should work for just about any size aquarium. A totally standard aquarium substrate, if that’s what you need.
Coarse gravel: If you want to create a really snazzy stream-bed effect in your tank, use this. You can also mix it in with some medium gravel for a different effect. It will fool your fish into believing they don’t just live in a tank!
Once you’ve selected the proper gravel to fill your aquarium bottom with, remember to wash it because it’s likely to be dusty and dirty. True, they’re supposed to be dusty, but you don’t want to dump in a bunch of contaminants into your tank. Place small amounts of it in a bucket, add water, and then agitate it with either your hands or a designated wooden spoon, for example, set aside for just this very purpose.
Drain, repeat, and keep doing it until the water drains as clear. Do this until all the aquarium substrate is clean. You can’t hear it, but your fish will thank you. If you spring for the enchanted gravel that lets you understand what fish say, then you will be able to hear it. But that’s another post for another time.
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Thanks for reading!