Aquarium Gravel FAQs

Gravel and sand may seem like a simple subject but with so much variety of aquarium substrate, how do you know what you need? Here we answer some frequently asked questions.

Should I clean gravel first?

Although they are usually pre-washed, gravel can accumulate grit in transit as the grains rub together therefore it’s best to rinse it before you put it in your tank or the water will go cloudy. The best way to wash gravel is to put a little bit in a clean bucket and wash it with a hosepipe. Keeping swishing the water around and tipping away from the murky water as if you were panning for cold and when it runs clear decant it and start the next load.

How much gravel do I need?

This can be tricky because gravel is sold in weight but of course, in your aquarium, you are interested in the depth the gravel comes to not the weight. For sand such as silver sand aim for 2.5cm (1″) but with gravel go for around 5cm/2″ or more. To work out how much you need, simply determine the volume you require and multiply it by the weight of a litre.

Why has my gravel made the pH rise?

Many coloured gravels are made from white dolomite which contains calcium and magnesium so if you keep fish that require soft or neutral water you need an inert gravel. Swell Harlequin Gravel is epoxy-coated and is inert so it won’t affect your water chemistry.

What is an inert substrate?

Inert substrates and rocks don’t alter the water chemistry. Inert substrates are of particular importance to those keeping fishes that like soft water, such as discus. All of the Swell own brand substrates such as Swell Nordic Gravel are inert.

How can I keep my substrate clean?

The easiest way to keep the gravel clean is to regularly use a gravel cleaner and you can’t go wrong with a good old fashioned syphon cleaner. Just try not to drink your aquarium water – it’s really not pleasant.

Gravel cleaners are so useful, and they can be used during a water change too

How do I use a gravel cleaner?

Syphon-powered gravel cleaners such as the Algarde Gravel Cleaner are designed to remove dirt-laden water from within the substrate when you’re doing your partial water change each week. You should be able to vacuum most of the tank floor while only removing about a quarter of the aquarium water.

What size grain do I need?

More dirt may get trapped in the substrate if you use a larger grain size because of the gaps between the grains. In contrast, very fine substrates, such as sand, don’t allow much dirt to be trapped, so detritus tends to sit on top, where it can be sucked into the filter or syphoned off.

Can I use a mixture of grain sizes?

You can and a nice mixture makes an aquarium look more realistic.


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