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Unread 03/18/2006, 03:31 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Mountain View, CA, USA
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An Introduction to Substrate Choices

When setting up a new tank, one choice the aquarist must make is what (if anything) to put on the bottom of the tank. There are an infinite variety of choices, but for beginners, the three most common choices are:
  1. a shallow sand bed
  2. no substrate at all
  3. a living deep sand bed
Each method has its adherents and detractors. These introductory threads are intended to clarify the basic issues for beginners, not provide an in-depth guide to each approach. Furthermore, some animals have specific substrate requirements that must be met. For example, burrowing animals may require a specific size of substrate, along with a minimum depth. Some research into the animals one wishes to keep can avoid trouble in the future.

This chart summarizes some of the tradeoffs for the basic choices:

Shallow Sand

Deep Sand


Filtration Capacity(1)




Maintenance Time




Maintenance Cost




Food Production(4)




1) The filtration of any system can be augmented by a refugium
2) Until the sandbed must be replaced (if ever)
3) Includes the cost of restocking, which is considered optional by some aquarists
4) Again, a refugium can produce many types of live food

Although summarizing the expense of each system would be useful, the costs are too variable to make such a rating feasible, since they are dependent on location and various setup choices.

Jonathan Bertoni

Last edited by bertoni; 03/09/2010 at 07:53 PM.
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