5 top tips for us­ing sub­trates

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - New fishkeepers -

1 Don’t go too deep. If you’re not in­tend­ing to plant your tank then you don’t need deep lay­ers of sub­strate — a few cen­time­tres to cover the bot­tom is suf­fi­cient. Deeper lay­ers will make main­te­nance more com­pli­cated and take up vol­ume that could be used for more fish!

2 Wash be­fore us­ing. Un­less your sub­strate specif­i­cally states that it is cleaned and ready for use, it will need thor­ough wash­ing be­fore you add it un­less you want a ‘swamp’ themed tank! Most sub­strates are sur­pris­ingly dirty and it can take sev­eral washes in buck­ets of wa­ter to re­move fine sed­i­ments car­ried with them. It’s a te­dious job but worth do­ing.

3 Cheap al­ter­na­tives such as gar­den cen­tre gravel or play-pit sand can make eco­nom­i­cal choices for those on a bud­get, but do check to see if they will af­fect your wa­ter chem­istry be­fore us­ing them. Most aquar­ium spe­cific sub­strates are in­ert and won’t mess with PH/KH but th­ese ap­par­ent bar­gains can cause prob­lems. If you’re un­sure, leave a hand­ful in a jug of wa­ter overnight and com­pare the test re­sults be­fore and after. If there’s no change, you’ll be OK to use it.

4 If you are plan­ning to keep bot­tom dwellers like Co­ry­do­ras cat­fish, be aware that some gravel can have sharp edges which may dam­age their sen­si­tive mouths. It’s usu­ally bet­ter to use soft sand for th­ese dig­ging species to pre­vent in­jury.

5 Some planted sub­strates can re­lease am­mo­nia into the tank wa­ter when first added, so fish should not be added to newly set-up tanks, even with a ma­ture fil­ter in place. Read the in­struc­tions care­fully be­fore use and mon­i­tor with your test kit.

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