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Cheap, High Quality Substrate

Post by: Z. Mazza on December 09, 2005, 02:17:34 PM
I found this deal a few weeks ago, and thought I would pass it along to everyone here at petfish.net.

I'm a person that while I like high quality products, I also like getting a good deal. While looking around for more gravel for my aquarium, I noticed gravel was a dollar a pound! Over 5 dollars for a 5 lb bag?

I went to Lowe's (Home Depot) and looked around in the garden department. I came across "river stones." They were very smooth rocks, no more than an inch in diameter. The 30 pound bag was THREE DOLLARS! Thats 10 pounds per dollar.  :o Talk about savings! ;D

Needless to say, I found some great looking aquarium substrate, that looks absolutely beautiful with stem plants and sword type plants (if you use a substrate under the river rock). This would be great for those of you who don't want to spend hundreds of dollars trying to fill a 100+ gallon tank with substrate. You can get 90 pounds for less than 10 dollars.

I'll post some pictures when I get the chance and show you what it looks like.


Post by: b|ue Ash on December 09, 2005, 02:47:44 PM
My only question is.... I wonder if these rocks are safe, or if they have something bad which could leach into the water.

Anyone have experience with these rocks from lowe's?


Post by: Z. Mazza on December 09, 2005, 02:58:38 PM
I have experience. The pH out of my tap is 7.8 and with the declorinator it is 8.3. The fish do absolutly fine. This is BEFORE I put my water in the tank. The water in the tank is 8.3 also, so it doesn't adjust the pH. I've had it in my tank for about 4 months now. It is doing great, holds up, doesn't show fish waste, and is very easy to clean.


Post by: Mere Air on December 09, 2005, 03:03:08 PM
To me, the river rocks sold at Lowe's here look the same as those available at our local craft shops and PetCo.  PetCo sells them for a LOT more than 10 lbs per dollar.


Post by: Z. Mazza on December 09, 2005, 03:06:43 PM
I'd give it a try. They aren't sold "specifically" for aquariums, rather, landscaping. They work great for aquariums, and are a cheap alternative to the high markup of aquarium specialty products. They don't adjust the pH. If they do, it's not enough that I can even tell.


Post by: Radius on December 09, 2005, 03:22:55 PM
Just do the vinegar test on a few rocks to make sure.


Post by: b|ue Ash on December 09, 2005, 04:39:30 PM
Even the Vinegar test isn't fool proof. Rocks can do more then just adjust your pH.

Did you rinse them and bake them well before using them?


Post by: SerVo on December 09, 2005, 05:13:32 PM
My view is that even aquarium rocks have to come from somewhere.  Vinegar test will help determin how ph and harndess will be effect.  Though I think common sense is good:
look like a high metal content: ie is the rock rusting?
is it hard and not break up
does it look alright?

I've look around in them home improvement stores and honestly there are more safter substrates than non.  Then the ones that will cause ya the problems that I seen was the most common is limestone.  Soo in my opioion a good chance it is safe.

Another cheap source in the swams (rivers, steams, ect) is finding your own gravel.  Disinfecting is key (plus choosing a clean swamp).


Post by: Water Hound on December 09, 2005, 06:31:09 PM
I get a lot of my substrates now from my local landscape supplier. If I bring a small container, they'll usually give me enough for a 10 or 20 gallon tank for free because I buy topsoil, rocks and pavers from them as well. For a bigger tank, I would give them a couple of bucks for the coffee fund. Most gravels and decorative aggregates are $35-$40CDN per cubic yard. At about 1,300 lbs per yard, crushed lava rock works out to be about 2 1/2 cents per pound . I boil it really well to sterilize and then do a bucket test for a month. If the water stays stable, I'm good to go.

Larger decorative rocks and slate are also great deals there. Most flagstones, slate, larger river rocks, etc are 35 cents a pound with thousands to choose from for just the right one  ;)

Go visit your local landscape supply depot!


Post by: clevername3 on December 09, 2005, 07:12:37 PM
^ agreed


Post by: nonamethefish on December 09, 2005, 07:34:14 PM
Yeah. I think in general we are a little too crazy about what goes into our tanks. I have some landscaping gravel in a few of my tanks as well(the stuff was called "California Gold" which according to the dude is mined from near the coast). Pretty cheap and we bought some to put in the pond and I ended up using it in several tanks.

Personally I prefer playsand as substrate as it looks the most natural to me.


Post by: clevername3 on December 09, 2005, 08:21:42 PM
Yeah. I think in general we are a little too crazy about what goes into our tanks. I have some landscaping gravel in a few of my tanks as well(the stuff was called "California Gold" which according to the dude is mined from near the coast). Pretty cheap and we bought some to put in the pond and I ended up using it in several tanks.

Personally I prefer playsand as substrate as it looks the most natural to me.

Gold??? wow that must have been expensive!  I bet the girl fish love it! ;D


Post by: Water Hound on December 09, 2005, 09:27:04 PM
Gold??? wow that must have been expensive!  I bet the girl fish love it! ;D
No clevername3, diamonds are a girl's best friend.

Now that would make a cool display in a jewelry store. Imagine a betta swimming around in a tank full of gems...


Post by: PPulcher on December 09, 2005, 09:42:28 PM
I understand that most of the fish stores in my area end up buying their rocks from the landscape supply places and just mark them up ;)


Post by: Morriganhounds on December 10, 2005, 10:42:54 AM
OH that is **SO** wrong!!! Just plain evil! :)


Post by: Morriganhounds on December 10, 2005, 10:51:38 AM
My mom owns a landscaping company and I get my decorations from her - for free-
Except when I want colorful pebbles...

I even put cholla cactus skeletons in my livebearer tanks because it give tons of hiding spots for my fry!


Post by: Mere Air on December 10, 2005, 11:21:10 AM
I even put cholla cactus skeletons in my livebearer tanks because it give tons of hiding spots for my fry!

Do you have photos of the cholla cactus skeletons in your tanks?  Because it has holes in it, it sinks naturally?


Post by: Morriganhounds on December 11, 2005, 12:49:39 PM
It still floats at first and it rots eventually but I keep an eye on it.

I'll try to get a photo of it, but I don't know if I can. Camera is lost in the bottom of my closet aka "The Abyss"


Post by: Mere Air on December 11, 2005, 01:40:36 PM
...it rots eventually

Do you have an idea how long it is before it starts to rot?  I understood driftwood and coconut shells will rot eventually, too.  But after more than a year, they still appear to be holding up well.


Post by: Morriganhounds on December 11, 2005, 03:33:47 PM
Well, I've never measured the time...it takes awhile. It also has a lot to do with how degraded it is before I put it in. ;D


Post by: bassman on December 12, 2005, 09:30:45 PM
i usually use the pea gravel from lowes, its slightly finer than the river stones and about the same price, throw that in the cement mixer for a few hours and that stuff is smooth and fine. cheap is my middle name ;)


Title: Re: Cheap, High Quality Substrate!
Post by: S_T on August 09, 2006, 05:51:28 AM
One of the earlier posts warned against rocks that show some rust.  Is it a big problem?  I have some rocks with a few rusty areas.  Should I stay away from them?


Title: Re: Cheap, High Quality Substrate!
Post by: Mollielover on August 09, 2006, 06:37:45 AM
The best way to check is to do the vinegar test, If I remember correctly you pour the vinegar on the rock and if it fizzes it's not a safe rock for your aquarium.  Someone please correct me if I'm wrong. :)


Title: Re: Cheap, High Quality Substrate!
Post by: Chelle on August 11, 2006, 07:12:34 AM
I use river rock/pea gravel and play sand, exclusivly. I refuse to pay that much for colored rocks. I dont like the coloring and this was the natural choice for me.  I also use hartz grit and gravel for birds in some of my smaller tanks. it has more of a sand quality than play sand.  (thanks clint!) 

I have never had a problem with any of the above.


Post by: Maekellen on August 18, 2006, 10:37:32 AM
i usually use the pea gravel from lowes, its slightly finer than the river stones and about the same price, throw that in the cement mixer for a few hours and that stuff is smooth and fine. cheap is my middle name ;)

 Which is pretty much what is done on the river rocks at Lowe's, only they do it on a larger scale. :p


Title: Re: Cheap, High Quality Substrate!
Post by: Clint on August 18, 2006, 03:59:25 PM
Another good sand is swimming pool filter sand, from a pool supply store, ask for the coarsest kind they have. Its cheap, about 5.00 for 50 pounds.


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