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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am searching for a substrate for my new tank that is on its way. It is a 450 gallon, 8 feet wide by two feet deep and 42 inches tall. I would like to have a darker substrate since the decor is the lighter holey rock and black background.

My question is, does anyone know where I can order gravel or sand in bulk? The largest I can find is 20 pounds, and by my calculations, i am going to need a lot of 20-pound bags.

Also, what is better for Mbuna cichlids? Sand or gravel? Is there a difference?

Lastly, this is my first time keeping cichlids so any advice would be much appreciated. :D

-Thank you
 

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1) You can try to order Black "Sandblasting" sand from most hardware stores.
2) Sand is best, Mbunas like to dig, and gravel traps too much junk.
3) Are you sure you want "Black Sand"? I have 2 tanks, one had black sand, one had white. Got tired of the dark look and replaced with white sand. Now both tank have white sand= More better (IMO).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'm hoping the black sand against the white holey rock will be a nice contrast. Nothing is set in stone though.

Is that sand safe for the fish?
 

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Most use sand. Few choose black.

I wanted live plants, so I needed a substrate that could hold them in place. I went with Seachem's Flourite Black, which is a smallish clay type of gravel.

The thing you hear most is cichlids need sand because they cannot move gravel. Well, when I had males and females, mine had no problems digging massive craters or piling it halfway up the glass. It was really bizarre!

The females are all gone so they don't do that anymore. They do forage for food through it quite easily though, so no issues there. That might be species specific though, I am not sure.

I too wanted the contrast that a black substrate provides. I understand that cichlids sometimes color up better against a natural background, but I am okay with what I have. I love it actually.

Anyway, at $21 per 15 lb bag (7 kg), it is on the pricey side. So if you're not doing live plants, which most aren't, you can probably find a cheaper alternative.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So most use sandblasting sand? I guess my concern is if it has chemicals that will hurt the fish. Or the sand being sharp and harming the fish as they dig into it.

I found some black diamond sandblasting fine sand grade. Is that good?

-Thank you for all your help
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Also, what do you know about silica sand? Someone suggested that over the sandblasting sand. We are unable to find it, but if that would be better, we will keep looking.

-Thank you
 

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Silica sand is a bright white to a tan color. Pretty much the opposite of what you are looking for.

Sandblasting sand is generally free of chemicals. It needs to be very cheap so there is little desire to add anything to it to make it more expensive. It's usually silica sand The black material is generally made from combining silica with metals such as aluminum and iron to give it the black color.

You can buy it online at Menards but shipping for a 50 lb bag to california is going to be expensive.

Andy
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I found some sandblasting sand at my local Tractor Supply store so I won't have to pay for shipping. The place that shipped it cost a few hundred for shipping alone.

I will go pick that up soon.

-Thank you for your help
 

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To clarify, most (if not all) black blasting sands are some type of slag. could be coal, or could be nickel (which I have) or something else. There is no silica in them.
 

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Ariana7667 said:
I found some sandblasting sand at my local Tractor Supply store so I won't have to pay for shipping. The place that shipped it cost a few hundred for shipping alone.

I will go pick that up soon.

-Thank you for your help
I highly suggest getting the "medium" grade (20 - 40 mesh I think) and not the "fine".

The medium is still awfully fine IMO.

I have the medium in one tank ... and am still not entirely happy with it, wishing the grains were actually larger ... say in the range of 1/16"+ to 1/8" ... something like a very coarse sand/very fine gravel.
 

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One source of darker sands and gravel is Red Flint http://www.redflint.com. They have all sizes of sand and gravel, including aquarium sand which seems to be PFS in a different bag, as the specs are identical.
As to aesthetics, I prefer a more natural appearance which means the rocks and substrate match, rather than contrast.
Further, i would concur that #20-#40 has too much fine in it. My prefernce is for a #12, as even the #20 is quite fine.
 
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