Freshwater aquariums are used for rearing freshwater aquatic organisms. If you keep freshwater fish either as a hobby or for commercial purposes, then you would need to know the exact way to care for them so that they do not die off. One of the ways of making sure that your fish thrives in its tank is to add some substrate to the tank. Although it is not compulsory to add a substrate to your aquarium, it is highly recommended that you use one.
The most common substrates that are used in aquariums are gravel and sand. The question that arises, however, is “is sand or gravel better for freshwater aquarium? Choosing the best substrate, that is, the material that lies at the bottom of the aquarium is essential and not only for its aesthetic values but also because it has a significant impact on the wellbeing of your fish and plants. Although they are somewhat similar, they each have their benefits and deficiencies.
With that said, different types of aquariums require different substrates. Before choosing a substrate for your freshwater aquarium, you have to consider some properties of the substrate, which would determine whether it is right for your aquarium or not. Such properties include:
1. Size Of The Particle: The particle of different substrates differs in size. Sand has a tiny particle size, while gravel has a larger particle size. Sand is compact and does not allow water to pass through it as freely as gravel does. Also, its tendency to compact can lead to areas lacking in oxygen. Because of this lack of oxygen, a substance known as hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic to fish, can form in the aquarium.
Gravel, on the other hand, permits the penetration of wastes and leftover food and can lead to a buildup of substances that are dangerous to the fish if not properly cleaned. Also, some species of fish tend to pick up substrates in their mouth and move it around. The substrate they can do this with is sand, and it can cause irritation to the fish, large-sized particles are more beneficial to use as substrates because the fish would be unable to scoop it in their mouth.
2. The Ease With Which You Can Clean The Substrate: Cleaning the substrate in your fish tank frequently is vital to the wellbeing of your fish. This is because cleaning it often helps to prevent the buildup of dangerous microorganisms and algae in your tank. If you are spending a lot of time and effort cleaning your fish tank every time, you are going to get tired pretty fast. Therefore, it is best that whatever substrate you are choosing for your fish tank is easily cleaned.
So Is Sand Or Gravel Better For Freshwater Aquarium?
Benefits of using gravel as a substrate for freshwater aquarium.
Gravel is the most commonly used substrate for freshwater aquariums. It has a host of benefits that makes it the preferred choice for most of these aquariums. Some reasons why you would be better off using gravel for your freshwater aquarium include:
- If you have species of freshwater fish with a tendency to pick up substrates in their mouths. It is not a great choice to use sand as a substrate for these species of fish because the particles can irritate them if swallowed. However, because of its larger-sized particles, gravel is a far more suitable substrate for these fish as they would be unable to pick up its particles in their mouths.
- Gravel is very easy to clean out, unlike sand because of its large particle size that does not harbour dirt. Apart from this, it does not swirl down the tunnel, like sand, which, because of its tiny-sized particles, will wash away with dirt when you vacuum the tank.
- Gravel gives an aquarium a more natural look than other substrates, mimicking the natural habitat of the fish.
- It comes in various sizes and colours, a fact that serves to increase its aesthetic purposes and make it attractive to the eyes.
Disadvantages of using gravel as a substrate.
- Large-sized particles of gravel easily allow waste materials and leftover food to pass through it, thereby causing a buildup of materials that may be toxic to the fish. However, it is easy to clean these particles up and so; if you are committed to the wellbeing of your fish and you clean up leftover food without allowing it to build up, you should have no problems.
- Having sharp-edged gravel as the substrate may not be in the best interest of your fish if you own species of fish that enjoy burrowing into the substrate. The same thing goes for if you have species like catfish which do not have scales as the sharp edges of the substrate can tear their skin. This can result in infection of the wound by bacteria.
Benefits of sand as a substrate
Using sand as a substrate for your freshwater aquarium has its advantages and disadvantages, with the downsides more than its benefits. The benefits of using sand as a substrate for your freshwater aquarium include:
- It gives a smooth look to your aquarium and does not allow the easy penetration of leftover food and wastes through it.
- Some species of fish that enjoy burrowing into their substrates would find it easier to burrow into the sand than into gravel.
Disadvantages of using sand as a substrate for fish.
- Some species of freshwater fish have a habit of scooping up substrates in their mouth. If you have this fish in your aquarium, you will be better off using gravel as a substrate. This is because they can easily scoop up sand in their mouth and swallow it, an act that could cause them irritation.
- Sand is a more difficult substrate to clean the gravel. This is because it has smooth particles that will quickly get vacuumed right out of the tank along with waste when it is being cleaned.
- Sand is compact and does not allow water to pass through it as freely as gravel does. This tendency of sand to compact can lead to areas in it that are lacking in oxygen, also known as anaerobic dead zones. Because of this lack of oxygen, a substance known as hydrogen sulfide, which is very toxic to fish, can form in the aquarium.
For freshwater aquariums, the best substrate to use is gravel. This is because gravel allows water to flow through it, resulting in the effective prohibition of the buildup of microorganisms like some harmful bacteria and amoeba in your aquarium. It is essential to prevent this buildup because it can lead to an accumulation of aquarium mould which can make your fish sick.
Another important reason why you should use gravel as a substrate is that it is big enough not to pass through the filter of your aquarium and clog it. When purchasing the gravel to use for your freshwater aquarium, it would be better if you chose smaller sized gravel. Pea-sized gravels are the perfect choice as the spaces between them are small enough to prevent food particles from falling in between them. This helps to keep your aquarium neat and tidy.
Also, the particles are large enough to allow water to flow freely between them and are large enough that they do not get sucked into your aquarium filters because of their size. Maintaining your aquarium is very necessary for the continued health of your fish. Using gravel as a substrate makes it very easy to manage your aquarium is gravel is very easy to clean compared to sand.