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WWYD? A twisted tale of substrate and corydoras


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I have a 20 gallon aquarium that's been going along pretty well since I set it up 10 or so months ago.  I have 7 sterbai corys, 2 nerite snails, 4 amano shrimp and (gasp) a betta fish in the tank.   They all get along famously.  I have sand substate for the cory cats but I'd like to do more plants in the tank that are rooted in the substrate, not just glued on the rocks and wood.  I was thinking of putting a layer of something like CaribSea Ecocomplete under the sand to support more plants and better plant growth.   Is this safe to do with the cory cats?  I'm assuming if I had a thick enough layer of sand over the other substrate it would damage their barbels.   Any advice?   suggestions on best substrate for plant growth?  Thanks!

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I wouldn't change a thing and put in whatever plants you want. The stories of Corys not doing well on other than sand substrates are just that... stories. And in my experience rooted plants like sand just fine too. You'll have to run root tabs with rooted plants in sand.  You can make it as hard as you would like, but you don't have to. 

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I second what @Kensaid.  I’ve kept cories for decades on a variety of substrates and the only ones that have had any barbel changes are ones that were born that way or got injured.  I’m currently running sand or bare bottom in everything, but if I decided to do gravel, it wouldn’t stop me from putting cories in that tank as long as other inhabitants were compatible.

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You can keep the sand and just add root tabs for rooted plants. I prefer this over eco-complete; I used eco-complete in my first planted tank and if I were to do it over, I'd replace it with a finer grain gravel, aquasoil, or just plain black sand. I do not like working with eco-complete for various reasons, and I find it quite challenging to plant in vs. sand.

All that aside, I have six corydoras elegans in my 29 gallon eco-complete planted tank and they are totally fine. Beautiful barbels and they dig around. I've had them for about seven to eight months now.

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Changing substrate is always tricky. You can leave the sand and use root tabs for your rooted plants. I like sand because I am non-committal when it comes to plants, and like to have the option of changing the aquascape without creating an anoxic bomb by releasing poison gas into the tank. My substrate tends to be on the thin side as well.

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On 10/19/2021 at 10:00 PM, laritheloud said:

You can keep the sand and just add root tabs for rooted plants. I prefer this over eco-complete; I used eco-complete in my first planted tank and if I were to do it over, I'd replace it with a finer grain gravel, aquasoil, or just plain black sand. I do not like working with eco-complete for various reasons, and I find it quite challenging to plant in vs. sand.

All that aside, I have six corydoras elegans in my 29 gallon eco-complete planted tank and they are totally fine. Beautiful barbels and they dig around. I've had them for about seven to eight months now.

My problem with sand is the corys are uprooting plants.  The sand is fairly fine and as they wiggle around the sand is getting moved away from the base of plants.  My amazon swords are struggling because they are lifting up out of the substrate so I'm looking for a system to keep them covered.   The root tabs in sand aren't working out well.  

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On 10/20/2021 at 6:13 AM, mrsjoannh13 said:

My problem with sand is the corys are uprooting plants.  The sand is fairly fine and as they wiggle around the sand is getting moved away from the base of plants.  My amazon swords are struggling because they are lifting up out of the substrate so I'm looking for a system to keep them covered.   The root tabs in sand aren't working out well.  

You might try placing decorative river stones around the plants until they are better anchored.

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On 10/20/2021 at 4:13 AM, mrsjoannh13 said:

My problem with sand is the corys are uprooting plants.  The sand is fairly fine and as they wiggle around the sand is getting moved away from the base of plants.  My amazon swords are struggling because they are lifting up out of the substrate so I'm looking for a system to keep them covered.   The root tabs in sand aren't working out well. 

I have placed my big rooted plants under bits of Dragon stone, and use the stone to prevent access to the root tabs due to the thin substrate.

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On 10/20/2021 at 6:13 AM, mrsjoannh13 said:

My problem with sand is the corys are uprooting plants.  The sand is fairly fine and as they wiggle around the sand is getting moved away from the base of plants.  My amazon swords are struggling because they are lifting up out of the substrate so I'm looking for a system to keep them covered.   The root tabs in sand aren't working out well.  

How deep is your sand?  It may not be deep enough.  If your plants don’t have a fairly good amount of roots, they may not hold well, especially if the sand is shallow.

I tried to get some tiny Pogostemon helferi from a tissue culture to establish in my 100 gallon, but their roots weren’t quite as developed as I thought.  When I turned the cories loose in there, uprooting the P. helferi was one of the first things they did.  After daily replanting for a couple weeks, I gave up and moved the helferi to another tank where they are doing well.

If your plants are small enough, you can invert a glass dish or jar over top of them to protect them from the cories for a couple weeks.  This will work best if you can prop the container up just a little bit so the cories can’t get to the plants but water can.  Or placing stones/pebbles around the roots for a few weeks could also work.  If I had know the glass dish thing when I was trying to root the tiny helferi, they would probably still be in the 100 G.  They are happy in another tank, at least.

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On 10/21/2021 at 9:15 AM, Odd Duck said:

How deep is your sand?  It may not be deep enough.  If your plants don’t have a fairly good amount of roots, they may not hold well, especially if the sand is shallow.

 

Well it started out between 2-3 inches when I set up the tank. It's down to about an inch now thanks to my overly aggressive weekly cleanings, LOL.  I do need to add more sand, which I plan to do soon.  So that's an excellent point.  Thank you!

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Might I suggest some chopstick snails for sand cleaning?  And mulm is your friend when it comes to plants.  It may not be the prettiest stuff, but it’s plant food.  If you have snails that will work it into the sand for you, then you don’t have to clean aggressively.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  😝 😆 

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On 10/21/2021 at 8:58 AM, Odd Duck said:

Might I suggest some chopstick snails for sand cleaning?  And mulm is your friend when it comes to plants.  It may not be the prettiest stuff, but it’s plant food.  If you have snails that will work it into the sand for you, then you don’t have to clean aggressively.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  😝 😆 

I second Odd Duck on this!

I periodically 'touch up' my sand in the Walstad tank by rinsing sand until it's clean, then filling a ziploc freezer bag and cutting off the corner (like cake decorating) so I don't have a huge cloudy mess.

I pretty much only do it for special photographs or filming, lol. Definitely not a regular thing I do.

Deeper substrates definitely encourage better root growth, and make it harder for fish (or snails) to uproot. Not helpful for turtles😅 but @Atitagain has adapted my turtle & cichlid proof idea, and seems to be having success. A little plastic canvas around the base of plants gives plants something to anchor with, once they have grown enough roots (like under Odd Ducks glass dome idea)

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