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Im still debating on what to use sand or gravel? im leaning toward sand cause they look nice and they are cheap!

but how hard is it to maintain it? for the people with sand, do they turn brown?
 

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I changed over from gravel to sand several years ago and haven't regretted it once...

Sand makes maintenance much easier...

With gravel you do not see the effects of neglecting maintenance as fast... but what you do not see is hurting your system...

With sand everything sits right on top... so I'm less likely to slack off on maintenance... and when I do step in to clean things up all the waste is right there on top, very easy for me to clean out...

The brown tint on sand is one of two things... finely broken down waste, or brown algae... Either one can be resisted by having a steady current across the surface of the sand, which also keeps the waste pushed away (hopefully toward a filter intake).

When it does turn brown it's very easy to rake your fingers through to turn it over. Doing this will burry organics (waste and/or algae) which can break down into "toxic gases". I see about 2 bubbles per year from this while maintaining over a dozen tanks. Although this toxic gas theory is completely possible, I feel it is one of the absolute least of our worries...

A few months ago I helped a friend address his neglected aquarium. After gravel vacuuming his 29 gal tank I couldn't imagine doing that to all of my tanks even one time... much less once per week... I can do a 25% water change including cleaning off the substrate on over 1,000 gal of tanks in 3 hours... It used to take me almost an hour to gravel vac my 125 gal (back when it had gravel in it)...
 
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