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Have a 75g sitting empty and been wanting to start a mbuna tank. I thought my LFS would be a good place to start since they carry a ton of cichlids and the store owner seemed knowledgeable.

I wanted to walk out of the store with some substrate to start and was recommended CaribSea Eco-Complete African Cichlid Mix. I bought 4 20lbs bags and dumped it in without rinsing like the instructions said.

While looking online for some rockscape inspiration I noticed just about every Mbuna tank was sand. This substrate has some sand in it, but most of it is basically shells and some small stones. Doing some more reading I learned that sand is the better choice for Mbuna.

Is this true, should I get rid of the (very expensive) substrate and switch to sand or is it fine and should I keep moving forward?
 

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Your new substrate is gonna work out just fine. Kind of an expensive lesson I guess, as the LFS guy was literally 'on the money' in selling you that stuff.
Yep.
Always helps to remember, the LFS guy just needs to make that money!
So, where you may have gotten ahead of things a bit, is in dumping the sand in the aquarium right off the bat. And yes, you should ALWAYS rinse the dust and fine particles out of sand first. But no, in this case you need to put in the structure first, before dumping in that sand. Reason is, you want rocks and other heavy things setting solidly on the bottom glass of the tank. Otherwise, your relentlessly digging Cichlids could dig out under a heavy object - or a VERY HEAVY - stack of rocks, causing instability in the rocks, resulting in the very real risk of a collapse in the pile. Yikes!
The Dreaded, ROCKFALL!
So, I would scrounge, source out or even purchase some rocks for your tank. (Landscaping rocks are pretty easy to get in the states). From your post, I see you are intent on creating an African Mbuna tank? If so, you will need to get a LOT of rocks for the 75 gallon aqaurium (there are a LOT of pictures on this site of well-set up African Mbuna aquariums).
And, once you are ready to start building out the rocks, then scoop all of the sand out first. Once the sand is mostly all gone, then you can - gently - place the rocks down onto the bottom glass in the desired stack or configuration you are happy with. After that.... dump the sand back in again!
 
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