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Which one: Sand, River rocks or gravel?

This is a discussion on Which one: Sand, River rocks or gravel? within the Newt and Salamander Help forums, part of the Beginner Newt, Salamander, Axolotl & Help Topics category; I can get the first or second, but finding the third at a not-ripoff cost in a large enough amount ...

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Old 25th March 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default Which one: Sand, River rocks or gravel?

I can get the first or second, but finding the third at a not-ripoff cost in a large enough amount (best I can find is 1 pound bags) to fill my 21 gallon effectively is not easy. The gravel I have in my tank right now is very much not enough, so I was thinking of swapping it out for some new stuff.

The river rocks are about the size of marbles to a little larger, making them not-eatable by newts. The sand comes in smaller bags, a little more expensive and is silica sand.

Which one should I use for my fre belly newts?
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Old 25th March 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Gravel is not appropriate. It can be ingested, but not easily expelled, often causing blockages and impactions, possibly leading to death.

River rocks look nice, but are quite hard to clean. Poop and waste will fall between the rocks and collect at the bottom.

Sand is usually the best recommended. It's easy to clean, and doesn't cause impaction. However, if it's not washed well, it can cause the tank to be cloudy.

There are different kinds of sand: The pretty colorful sand from the pet shop (which is expensive), play sand (which is very fine sand, used for sandboxes), and pool filter sand (which is more coarse, and doesn't cloud up as much as play sand).

Ultimately, the decision is yours.
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Old 25th March 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks.

Still trying to track down an actual big-bag of playsand. I also saw this stuff called... Pyrite or something? It was like sand, but it was a bit flakey and coarser than regular sand, so I wans't sure how appropriate it was.

Thank you!
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Old 26th March 2008   #4 (permalink)
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will Zeolite sand be okay for newts? I find references to it only used in Filters....
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Old 26th March 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Zeolite is a mineral used in removing ammonia from the water. I don't think it would be appropriate as a substrate.

I found my pool filter sand at the local Meijer (akin to 'super walfart').
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Old 26th March 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Ugh. So Zeolite wont work? I thought Newts didnt like ammonia anyways...

No Wal-Marts nearby, and I can NEVER get through to Home Depots' seasonal department to see if they have anything like that.

this is harder than I thought.
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Old 26th March 2008   #7 (permalink)
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If you mean perlite, that would not work, it's too light and might even float.

Zeolite is more of a gravel consistency, not like sand.

I use pool filter sand in my tanks. It's a bit courser than playsand and less dusty. Playsand works OK, but you have to rinse it many times or it will cloud the tank initially.
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Old 26th March 2008   #8 (permalink)
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I'd say go with the playsand, unless you feel like finding a swimming pool/spa store (check the yellow pages) and getting pool filter sand.
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Old 26th March 2008   #9 (permalink)
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I'll see what I can find. The last play sand I used for my Hermits smelled HORRIBLY. I couldnt stand the smell, although I dunno how much I'd smell the sand if it was completely u nder water.
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Old 26th March 2008   #10 (permalink)
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Keep trying Home Depot. I suspect they'd have what you need. Just note that you usually have to buy it by the 50pound bag. That's a LOT of sand. Plenty enough to fill lots of tanks, plant pots, holes in the driveway, etc.

Zeolite isn't good as it will affect your biological filter (the 'good' bacteria living in the tank).
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Old 26th March 2008   #11 (permalink)
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HAH. I live in an apartment, although I could use sand for my Cacti...

I asked HD. They dont seem to carry pool sand, at least not by that name. I'll have to go in and ask specificially I think. If not, I'm trying various pool companies in the area.
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Old 26th March 2008   #12 (permalink)
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Sand is usually the best recommended. It's easy to clean, and doesn't cause impaction.
'fraid I have to disagree there.
I have more exprience with husbandry of small reptiles than amphibians, so I've always been wary of sand. I used to use sand in a fire belly setup. The animals I introduced were healthy CB individuals I'd had for over a year. Within 4 months one of them was dead(not eating) and the other had a major case of bloat. I am *convinced* the sand substrate is the only explanation as it was the only change.
I'm sure theres no risk of impaction in large amphibians, like axolotls, but if you consider how tiny a small newts digestive tract must be in comparison and the amount of substrate that gets sucked down the way they eat('gulping') impaction seems very logical to me.

I would be VARY wary of using sand as a substrate fr any small animal. I my opinion gravel is the best substrate for newts, though obviously you should select a size which is too big to be accidentaly ingested. Small pebbles and river rocks work quite well but you have o stir them around a bit for cleaning.
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Old 26th March 2008   #13 (permalink)
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My Home Depot was not very useful when I was looking for sand. You can use play sand, but as stated you have to wash it a lot. Also since is usually a fine grain and packs very well, then if it's applied in a thick layer and rarely disturbed I've heard of people having issues with anaerobic bacteria building up pockets of toxic gases, that can be suddenly released when the sand is disturbed. (No personal experience, just 2nd-hand tales of sudden fish kills.)

If you want to use sand I'd recommend Silica sand. For this sand the grain sizes are sorted and you can buy it based on the grit size. (Personally, I like 50 grit - coarse grit). This sand is used in construction and sand blasting. You'd think Home Depot would have it, but I couldn't find it there. I originally purchased some from a local non-chain aquarium shop. I've also found it at Osh, which is like Home Depot, but I think a CA-specific chain. It's relatively common, so you should be able to find some in your area, but you may have to call around to local building/lumber supply shops, garden/landscaping supply shops, art/glass-etching supplies, or places that rent sand blasting equipment.
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Old 26th March 2008   #14 (permalink)
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So many choices O.o
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Old 27th March 2008   #15 (permalink)
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I decided a mix of rocks and sand will do well. The rocks will make the tank look nice as well as help prevent ingestion, and the sand will fill in the gaps and make the plants easier to anchor.

I'm mostly worried about the floor. Its slanted forwards so I need to prop up the milk crates at the front.
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Old 27th March 2008   #16 (permalink)
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I'd guess that a mix of sand and rocks would have the disadvantages of both.

Sand works great, but the main problem is that it fosters anaerobic conditions. I've never had a problem with pea gravel, but I have had problems with sand. The only times I'll use sand now is for burrowing animals like sirens, but I've seen they might be able to burrow into gravel fine as well.
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Old 27th March 2008   #17 (permalink)
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I decided a mix of rocks and sand will do well. The rocks will make the tank look nice as well as help prevent ingestion, and the sand will fill in the gaps and make the plants easier to anchor.
For ease of cleaning in my tanks that get quite dirty I've found poting the plants to be effective.
I use small containers and pots without holes, covered in coco fibre, cork bark or with small rocks siliconed on. You can stick your plant in, fill with substrate(I use Tetraplant) and top of with a little gravel to hold it all down.
Once you've positioned your pots just spread a thin layer of pea gravel over the rest of the tank. You can stir this up for cleaning(or entirely remove/replace it) without disturbing your plants roots.

For a more natural look you can make a suitable container by taking a cork bark curl without any cracks, sawing the bottom of it off flat and firmly siliconing a piece of plastic to the bottom(you can buy a4 styrene sheets from craft/model shops cheaply and they work well). Java moss also takes well to coco. Firmly silicone a sheet of it to your pot them wrap in java and tie down with cotton. In time the moss will completley cover the whole container and the substrate
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Old 27th March 2008   #18 (permalink)
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Heh. actually all of my plants are fake so no need to worry about potting. I should've pointd that out.

Except for algae, I havent had much luck with real plants outside of my two cactus. I'll see about the Java.
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Old 27th March 2008   #19 (permalink)
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the pyrite you talked about a little bit earlier is actually known as iron sulfide or iron pyrite. Seeing as I wouldn't want sulfur or iron in my salamander's tank I wouldn't recommend that one, but you seem to ahve made up your mind. Personally I went to Home Depot and got river rock that is easy to clean, but too large for my newt to swallow. I have had issues with cycling, and now that we're talking about it I think that even though I washed the rock very thoroughly it may be what to blame.
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Old 28th March 2008   #20 (permalink)
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I'm not getting the Pyrite with your guys' reccomendations. I would have gone with regular sand and then the rocks too.
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