What should I watch out for if I buy rocks and gravel from Lowes or Home Depot for my fish tanks? Are there any rocks to avoid? I plan on rinsing it out very carefully. Please let me know, Thanks, Pete
I cant comment on the selection of Lowes or Home Depot, as they don't exist over here in the UK.
but as for what to look for.
what tank is this for. if its acidic soft water type tank, then inert items are what your after, things such as slate and granite are suitable (there are others, but I cant think of them)
If its for a alkaline, hard water tank (such as rift cichlids or CA) then almost every rock is available to you (avoid ones with excessive mineral deposits like iron pyrite (fools gold) or rust)
I would like to recommend you that you get sand to start off with, as it will save you the time and money that you will likely spend replacing it all in a couple months time. I cant think of a single species that wouldn't prefer sand over gravel.
Lowes' "river rock" gravel is really dirty and has lots of sand in it. It will require a lot of rinsing. In my opinion, the fish store type natural gravel looks 1000 times better than the Lowes "river rock" gravel. I bought some thinking I would save some money, but ended up hating it after I got it in the tank and put water in it. I ended up changing it out for 3M Color Quartz T Grade in black and have never been happier.
Lowes didn't have much of a selection when it came to other rocks, like slate or granite. Maybe try a landscaping place near you. They'll have a much bigger selection of rocks and will probably be cheaper. :thumb:
If you are concerned about maintaining the proper pH and breeding high pH fish, then crushed coral you buy at the pet store is the best. I can think of many species, especially mbuna, that prefer crushed coral as they make a bed to breed in . Aquarium sand lakes the clay and other particulate matter that occurs in nature that is helpful in holding a bed together (pit the fish dig for breeding). Socolofi and others prefer digging in the gravel and are quite the architects and they don't like not having gravel to dig in. Crushed coral will help maintain a higher pH, help buffer the water so the pH doesn't dive as drastically as the water ages and is easy to clean and keeps the tank smelling fresh, much like lime keeps soil and pond water smelling sweet and fresh. I've done sand and some species do like sand, like acei, but it can clog up your filter and be a hassle to clean as well. The river rock at Lowes and Home Depot is probably ok if you for sure wash it well. Every tank I have has crushed coral and I wouldn't use anything else unless the species specifically needed sand to breed or other reason. The crushed coral is more expensive, unless you live in Florida and can go to the stone places and buy a small amount, most places will help you, then there are some kind of big shell pieces and it has to be rinsed out well. I've often wondered about clean limestone fines (tiny limestone gravel) but I think while it would be great on pH and the fish would probably love it, it would make the tank cloudy white all the time. I only put in an inch of gravel because my fish always lay eggs on the glass bottom or in a flower pot or something, so a big bag of crushed coral for me does two 55 gallon tanks and costs around 12 us dollars at the pet store. A cheap price to pay for not having to buffer water all the time. I would really spend the money on the gravel and the filter. I have used the white ornamental rocks to glue plants to to weight them down or just to add contrast to the floor of the tank and they look really cool under the lights. If you go to the stone place for your pea gravel (river rock) they will likely give it to you as a free sample or only charge you a dollar or two, but you will need to rinse rinse rinse. And with the price of gas these days, it might just be cheaper to get it at the pet store or lowes or something. But you really need to take the hose to it outside and rinse it really well, you need to rinse the crushed coral too, but the white stuff is good for the fish--it contains the buffers-- so just rinse it good enough that the water runs pretty clear, I usually only have to do two rinses with the pet store stuff. If you have kribs or something that likes soft water, then sand or river rock is good. I use a plain aquarium gravel for my kribs, but plan to swap them out to coarse sand or silt, I havent decided.
I checked both Lowes and Home Depot but they really did not have a selection of rocks that I was interested in. They have "bricks" and stones more suited for gardens and the like...landscaping. However, I did vist a few landscaping places in the area and they have flat, slate-like stones/rocks that are also used for landascaping but are more suitable for the aquarium IMO. I am seriously considering getting some from one of them. I have not enquired as to price as yet but I am sure it will be less expensive than the LFS. I am just not sure how much to get as yet nor am I settled on an arrangement. Decisions decisions...
Yeah, if you can find a rock supplier in the phone book or on the internet in your area, you can get a much bigger selection of flat rock and they have some really beautiful stuff they use for flooring. They also know more about the composition of the rock as well. I got some beautiful black sparkly stuff with white crystaline stripes down the edges and it cost me three buck US for a bunch of it. And he had tons of other stuff. Its for flooring and such for people who want natural flooring. He had lots of other shapes and sizes too. Also, sometimes wholesale tile places that also carry natural stone will give you their broken pieces or charge you very little. I wish you luck.
I've used pea gravel from hardware stores on many occasions with excellent results. It's great b/c it's cheap (<$3.00 per 25lb bag), but it does need A LOT of rinsing. Pet stores sell the same stuff in small 5lb bags for up to $5.00 each.
The color of the pea gravel varies based upon regional distribution. Here, for example, Lowe's has light colored pea gravel (almost whitish) and Wal-Mart has a brownish pea gravel.
If you're doing African cichlids, yes, pH buffering is a concern. For most other freshwater setups, pea gravel is great. Me?... I've got a 55gal with half Lowe's pea gravel and half crushed coral. It looks great, and I've had no issues with pH imbalance.
Yeah, pea gravel is pretty. I probably should have put that in my river/Kribensis tank. I just broke down and bought some white/bright stone fish gravel from the pet store. Its supposed to glow a bit under the lights, but its basically just very white pea gravel looking stuff. I like the crushed coral cuz I'm lazy and cheap and it saves me money and effort messing with water. If I could get it in black or another color, I probably would. I wonder if anyone has used crushed black volcanic rock in a tank?
Here's a photo of a 55gal I did using white pea gravel, crushed coral, and brown pea gravel (to blend w/ the rocks a bit). In case you're wondering about the background... it's a stone finish spray paint from Lowe's (which I read about elsewhere on this cichlid forum).
This is going to sound stupid probably, but I've never painted my tanks before, do you paint the inside or the outside wall. I would think the inside wall would get scratched up when you clean andit might hurt the fish? I don't know. I want to paint my tanks and maybe bottoms too so when they dig its not so reflective. Your tank looks really nice and the stone paint was a great idea and looks great.
i did not want gravel in my tank so i went with sand. i like it a lot better. easier to clean.
i did go to lowes for some of my rocks though. i saw they had broken ones in the corner they were gonna throw away, so i asked them about it and they gave em to me for free. i used those with some flat slate(i think thats what its called) my neighbor gave me and it made a great set up.
if you want to help buffer you tank look for holy rock. it is great for marine and rift lake tanks. that works well with crushed coral. or some Tahitian moon sand. :thumb:
All of the slate you see in these pictures was purchased from Lowe's. I haven't had any issues in 5 years using this stuff. Its referred to as a gold mica slate. I even included some setup pics of my new 29 gallon tank.