Substrate in your Planted or Reef Aquarium

  1. What is substrate? If I have gravel in my aquarium, do I need special substrate?

Substrate is everything that rests at the bottom of your aquarium, whether it is gravel, sand, marbles, or anything else you may put down there.

  1. What is “Clown Puke”?

Clown puke is the bright multi-colored coated gravel that many people use to coat their tanks. Using clown puke is completely optional; while some people find it tacky, others absolutely adore it. Personally, we at MyAquarium aren’t too fond of this particular substrate because it just looks tacky.

  1. Do I need some special type of substrate to grow plants in my aquarium?

There is no special substrate required to grow plants in an aquarium. Putting in regular uncoated inert gravel between 1-3 mm in size in your aquarium will work perfectly. At MyAquarium, we recommend that those who are starting out use only a thin layer of ground peat moss, which comes in compresses bales at hardware and garden stores, as a base layer. Keep in mind that you should still be able to see the glass of the aquarium. One ounce of laterite per gallon of water is definitely a good idea, and you will be able to get some mulm, which is the stuff you vacuum out of the travel, from an established tank. You can put some of that underneath the gravel in your tank and your plants will grow to be very strong and healthy looking. Be cautious when it comes to using certain gravel and sands, as some of them contain minerals that can have a negative impact on the water chemistry of your aquarium.

  1. Can I not fertilize my plants if I use a fancy substrate?

While it is true that certain specialty substrates contain high levels of minerals, they do not have enough macro nutrients. Even if you have a special substrate in your aquarium, you will still have to feed your plants regularly.

  1. What is the best substrate?

The best substrate is whatever fits within your budget and looks good to you. I personally use SeachemFluorite, which is a combination of Fluorite and fine gravel, CaribSea Eco-Complete, Seachem Onyx Sand, and regular gravel in all of my planted tanks. This setup works well for me. ADA Aqua Soil is one of the newer substrates and it is gaining in popularity. There are a number of other substrates that others like to use, including Profile, Turface, and Soilmaster Select. I highly recommended that you do not use dirt, potting soil, or kitty litter at all if this is your first planted tank. While some people have had success using these substrates, most people’s planted tanks don’t do well with them.

  1. How much substrate do I need?

Most people with planted tanks use 2-4” of substrate. Click here if you want to know how many bags you should use for more common types of substrates.

  1. Can I use sand?

Whether or not you should use sand as a substrate will depend on a number of factors, including which type of sand you want to use. There are some people who use reef or marine sand because they like the white color, but it can lead to two big problems. One problem is that these types of sand can have a negative impact on the water chemistry in the tank. The other problem is that white sand may look good, but not so much once fish and plants are introduced to the tank. The white sand then begins to show everything that lands on it from the fish and no longer looks quite so nice. If you are trying to decide whether or not to use a certain substrate, try pouring a bit of muratic acid over it. If the material starts to bubble, smoke, or fizz, do not use it.

  1. Do I need a substrate heater?

No, you do not. This is the last piece of equipment that you should purchase for your tank, and only if you have a lot of extra money to spend. A lot of people end up regretting putting a substrate heater in their tank because of how plant roots tend to get tangled in them. If you want to save some money and avoid future headaches, don’t get one of these heaters.

Deep Blue Professional ADB18080 80 Gallon Reef Ready Aquarium – Review & Spec

The 80 gallon reef ready aquarium tank in black from Deep Blue Professional is a great tank for all your aquatic life forms and accessories, and it comes from one of the best names in aquariums. This tank is made in the United States and it measures 48 inches by 24 inches by 16 inches. You can place your coral frags so that you can grow your own gorgeous colony and then fill it with the most beautiful fish that you can imagine. This is a professional tank for those who are serious about fish but is so easy to use that even a beginner can set up their own marine wonderland.

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This tank from Deep Blue Professional is reef ready, which means that the holes that you need to drain into the sump are already pre-drilled so you don’t need to do any extra work. As you know there are many different species of fish to choose from and they will love this huge 80 gallon tank that will give them plenty of room to move around and space to hide or swim. You’ll love the fact that you can decorate your aquarium however you wish with lots of substrate space for decorative items and toys. Should be used in conjunction with a solid, commercially manufactured cabinet that is made to hold the weight of the tank and the water needed to create the habitat.

80 Gallon Deep Blue Aquarium

Your complete guide to 75 Gallon Aquariums, from Equipment to Maintenance

A s you probably know, owning fish can be a rewarding and interesting experience, and when you upgrade to a larger tank size, you can have even more of the same, although on a larger scale or with more fish. Keeping fish in an aquarium, while not the easiest thing in the world, is one of the most fun hobbies, because there are so many different types of fish, and different aquariums and environments to go along with them.

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Freshwater versus Saltwater Environments

You can create either a freshwater or a saltwater environment in your aquarium, but freshwater is probably going to be your best option. There are more things to keep track of in a saltwater environment like the salinity levels, and so a freshwater tank is a little less complicated. If you want to keep saltwater or marine fish, we’ll cover some of those basics a little later in this guide. For now, let’s stick with freshwater environments.

If you want to be successful at raising and keeping fish there are some things to keep in mind when setting up. Once you have acquired the proper setup, you simply need to make taking care of your fish a habit. We’ll get to the habits that you need to have a little later, but first, lets go over what you need to know to upgrade your fish keeping to suit a 75 gallon or larger aquarium.

Choosing a Location

If you are upgrading to a larger tank, the first thing that you need to worry about is location. You want to choose somewhere permanent, because unlike your small tank, you aren’t going to be able to move this one around when you want to. Remember that a gallon of water is about 8 pounds, so a 75 gallon tank will weight around 500 pounds. Unless you want to empty the water from your tank, or risk destroying your tank, you don’t want to move it. Because of the weight, you also need to choose the right cabinet for it, and that means something commercially manufactured to hold an aquarium that size. Don’t use your mom’s old dresser with the side propped up with old textbooks or something you bought at your local thrift store.

Here are a few other tips that you probably know, but they are worth mentioning for new fish owners who happen to be reading this article. All of these apply to both saltwater and freshwater environments.

  • Don’t put your aquarium in direct sunlight because it will make algae grow faster. Also, don’t put it in a drafty area. Both things – too much sunlight and too much cold air can cause drastic temperature changes that can be harmful to your fish.
  • Try to put your aquarium away from the most traveled paths in your home. Having people constantly walking past your fish tank will cause your fish to get stressed out unnecessarily.
  • Don’t put your tank too high or too low for you to be able to do maintenance. You might think it looks great way up there on the shelf, but if you have to get a ladder to do maintenance every time you are probably going to do it less often and your fish will suffer.

Essential Equipment Needed for Large Aquariums

Aquarium Filtration:

The first thing that you are going to need for a freshwater environment is an aquarium filter, and you’re going to need it to have a GPH or Gallons Per Hour rating that is the proper one for the tank size that you have. For example, if you have a 10 gallon tank, you’re going to need a filtration system with a GPH of 40 or higher. For a 75 gallon tank, you’re going to need at least a 300. You should always go a little higher to be safe.

Many people employ a sump tank for their aquarium, particularly marine aquariums, because there is extra equipment that can be placed into a sump tank. A sump tank is simply an extra tank that will allow you to place extra equipment and grow bacteria for biological filtration. As far as the actual filtration system itself, you can use similar setups to the freshwater filtration systems, such as a combination of biological and mechanical filtration.

You also have the choice of using chemical filtration along with the rest of your filtration system, but be careful that you know what you are doing, because too much of the chemical can be harmful to your fish. You also have the choice of using protein skimmers for marine environments, which are devices that create bubbles that the harmful substances can cling to and be removed. Also, with saltwater environments, you are going to need something to move the water like a power head.

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Tank Lighting:

The lighting equipment differs between marine and freshwater aquariums. Freshwater aquariums should be a little warmer than those used for marine lightning, and the lights should be high enough to discourage algae growth. For freshwater, the recommended rating is 5500-6500 Kelvin. A few larger tanks come with lighting, others you’ll have to buy lighting separately for. You’ll want to keep your saltwater tank lighting a little warmer, but on both, you should base it on the type of fish that you are keeping. The recommended measurement for marine lighting should be around 10,000 Kelvins.

Heating System:

Your going to need to keep water warmer, stable temperature for freshwater aquarium fish. That means that you don’t want temperature that fluctuates rapidly. You’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature with a thermometer and make adjustments when necessary. With a larger tank, you’ll want to have a backup heater as well as your primary heater in case of an outage, because you’ll be much more likely to have either larger, or more fish in the aquarium, which probably means more expensive to replace.


Use aquarium safe substrates like sand and gravel or choose live plant substrate. The sand and gravel will allow beneficial bacteria to grow. Freshwater environments should have gravel substrate, and marine aquariums should employ sand or mud substrate. You can use live plants along with whichever type of substrate you are using.

Backgrounds & Decor:

The purpose of a background is to make your tank look nicer and hide the equipment that is sitting behind your tank. Decor like castles and tunnels are also useful as it keeps the fish from getting bored.

Water Conditioners:

You need water conditioners to clean your tap water so that it is not harmful to your aquarium. A water condition neutralizes the chlorine in your water, rids it of any heavy metals and  then ages it to create less of a shock to your fish when you introduce it into the tank.

Testing Kits:

If you have kept fish before, you should already have these: a pH kit, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test kits so that when you cycle your tank you’ll be able to make sure everything is properly balanced. For saltwater aquariums, you are also going to need to test the salinity (or saltiness) of the water to make sure that it is the right amount for your marine environment fish.

Maintenance of Your 75 Gallon Aquarium


Cycling is the process of bacterial growth in the substrates and filters – good, healthy bacteria that is. The bacteria turns ammonia from decaying food and fish waste into nitrite and nitrate. This is your nitrogen cycle or “cycling.” So, how do you remove nitrites and nitrates? By changing your water regularly. You also can use live plants to help the cycling process.

You should already be familiar with cycling if you have owned fish before. If not, it is a good idea to test out your cycling process by adding ammonia manually. Start with about 5 ppm (test after 30 minutes or so) with the fish tank set up but the lights off. Wait a week after adding ammonia and then test nitrites, which should rise as your ammonia levels fall. A few weeks after that, nitrate levels will rise and nitrite levels will fall. Then, you can change out your water as practice and once you have figured out the process of cycling properly, you can add your fish.


You should clean the parts of your filter, and the rest of your equipment every few months, but only remove part of your substrate or equipment at a time, because you don’t want to upset the delicate balance of your fish tank. Remember, you need the bacteria that is growing inside your tank, and if you remove it, you need to replace it quickly with new bacteria.


As mentioned, you need to test the pH, the ammonia levels, the nitrite and nitrate levels and keep careful track of your fish tank. For saltwater tanks, you also need to test the salinity, so you are going to need those test kits as well.

Optional Maintenance Equipment:

If you want to make it easier to care for your fish, you might want to get some gravel vacuum units that can help you remove waste from your substrate. You will also need a couple of buckets for changing out your water – you don’t want to use your dishes – and you should also have a toothbrush for cleaning your equipment – again, don’t mix it up with your real toothbrush. Nets are also extremely useful if you need to remove your fish from the water. In fact, it might be almost impossible to catch your fish otherwise.

A Quarantine Tank:

You really do need a quarantine tank if you want to be a successful fish keeper. It only takes one instance of a sick fish wiping out your entire population to make you desperately wish that you would have gotten one, so get one before it even becomes an issue. You want your quarantine tank to be outfitted with a heater and a sponge filter, and it should be cycled with some of the gravel from your main fish tank. Anytime you get a new fish, you want to keep them in the quarantine tank for up to six weeks (even if they appear healthy and are compatible with the rest of your fish) to ensure that they will not kill the rest of your population.

Lighting Timers:

Lighting timers can help your fish feel more at home and less stressed since they need darkness at night and you may forget to shut down your lamps. Having a light on at night will cause them serious stress.

Automatic Feeders:

This should go without saying. If for some reason you forget to feed your fish, you automatic feeder will take over and you fish will get fed anyway.

Aquarium FAQs: Answers to Your Biggest Questions

There’s a lot to learn when setting up a fish tank. Here’s a list of some of the more frequently asked questions – hopefully these answers will help you get started on the right foot.

When should I run my tank’s lights?

A lot of new owners leave their tank lighting switched on 24/7, or otherwise don’t pay much attention to when they are turned on. Constant or inconsistent lighting can be detrimental to the health of your fish. Around 10 hours per day of light followed by 14 hours of darkness is preferable.

Since it can be difficult to remember to turn your lights on or off at the appropriate time (or you may simply not be home to do so), a timer is highly recommended. They run on a 24 hour schedule, so you can set them to turn on and off at specific intervals. For more detail on using lighting with a marine / reef aquarium take a look at our Planted Tank lighting here.

Are plants just for aesthetics?

Although the addition of plant life to your tank can provide something extra to look at and give your fish a more interesting environment, they also serve an additional purpose. Just like plant life helps supply oxygen to us humans, it also helps regulate the aquatic environment of your fish.

These plants reduce the amount of free waste floating around with your fish. Remember, their toilet is their tank, so it helps to have something to process this waste matter. As a bonus, they produce oxygen within the water, helping to balance out any problems in this area.

By providing these benefits, the presence of plants actually help correct any errors you might have with the chemistry of the water. They can help drastically improve the odds of fish survival.

What’s the deal with adding fish gradually?

For a new tank, it’s important to introduce no more than three fish at once. That means that when the tank is initially setup, the chlorine has been removed, and the ideal temperature has been reached, only a few fish should be added.

This will prompt the nitrogen cycle to begin, and it can take several weeks for this cycle to conclude. Adding too many fish at once can stop this cycle from properly taking place. After a few fish have had time to seed the nitrogen regulation process, you can begin to add more fish gradually.

Does an algae eater clean my tank for me?

Absolutely not, although this is a very common misconception. They will help clean your tank by consuming algae, but they produce waste of their own that they can’t remove. Adding an algae eater means your total fish population has increased, and you should clean the tank more often – not less often.

With that in mind, an algae eater can be fun to watch, and they do help keep the algae population under control – they just don’t technically clean the tank.

Does the maximum size of my fish depend on my tank?

Not at all. A fish will reach its maximum size based only on its type. A fish in a smaller tank will not reach a smaller size as a result. Based on that, it’s important to carefully select your fish based on the size of your aquarium, or you risk having to upgrade to a larger tank as they grow. Fish need plenty of room to move around to be happy, and you shouldn’t risk overpopulating your water with the wrong type of fish for your aquarium size.

What temperature is best for my water?

You should always look up your specific type of fish to determine what temperatures they are best suited for, but a general rule of thumb is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Most fish will be comfortable within a few degrees in either direction of this range.

Planning your 75 Gallon Aquarium

An aquarium of this size (75 gallons or larger) is a big commitment, requiring careful planning of both the individual components and the overall setup. By the time you finish this guide, you’ll be ready to purchase your aquarium and prepare it for use.

There’s a lot to consider when setting up your aquarium, but if you follow these steps, you’ll minimize your risk of making any rookie mistakes.

Before Buying Your 75+ Gallon Aquarium Setup

To ensure your project is a success, it’s best to thoroughly plan your setup before making any purchasing decisions. Careful planning in this area will help you avoid many common mistakes that plague beginners, and give your first batch of fish a fighting chance at longevity.

  • Research the type of fish you’re planning to house. Different fish have widely varying requirements in terms of necessary space, environmental conditions, and compatible equipment. This will be the long-term home for these creatures, so you want to make sure they are as happy and healthy as possible.
  • Buy a book aimed at your specific fish species. An entire book for the care of one type of fish might seem like overkill – but it’s not. Once you decide on the type of fish you will house, it’s worth at least a quick read on the caretaking of their type.Among other things, you’ll want to research the maximum size of your fish and the water volume requirements. This will allow you to purchase the right number of fish, without under or overpopulation issues. Another point to consider, if you’re planning to keep multiple types of fish, is how those types interact with one another. Some types of fish simply aren’t compatible with one another, and can cause major issues upon introduction.
  • Select the location that will house your aquarium. This might sound like an obvious point, but it’s often overlooked until it’s too late. You’ll want to make sure the tank will fit nicely in the designated area, filling the height and width in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Also take into consideration the need for distance around the electrical equipment, providing adequate airflow to ensure long life. Simply planning to push everything up against the wall is never an ideal situation.
  • Establish your budget. Once you realize the extensive equipment involved in fish care, it’s clear that the tank itself is only a small part of the overall cost. Aquariums can get expensive very quickly, and it’s easy to nickel and dime your way into a very costly project. Setup your budget ahead of time, and plan out a sample list of equipment so you know what to expect. If possible, try to keep your expenses at 10% or so below your budget, because unforeseen expenditures always seem to pop up before the project is fully completed.
  • Plan your components. In the past, the best way to pick out your equipment was to visit your local pet store and browse around. While still a viable option, the internet has become the best place to find everything you could possibly need. There are a lot of unique components available only online, and the price savings tends to outweigh the cost of shipping – even for large components. Plus, eyeing your setup online gives you the ability to do more research on your own before pulling the trigger.This is where a book with information specific to your fish type comes in handy. You can continue referencing it as you go, ensuring you stay on track to an effective setup.

Once you’ve considered these points and done adequate research into the requirements of your individual fish, you should have greater insight into making an informed decision. As you list off your components, you’ll likely end up with some of the following:

  • The aquarium tank itself
  • A solid stand for the tank
  • A canopy / “top” for aquarium
  • Substrate material (gravel)
  • Heating system
  • Lights
  • Filtration and pump setup
  • Multi-use chemical test system
  • Various necessary chemical additives (which will depend on your specific fish)

This doesn’t include the optional (but highly recommended) extras, like decoration for your tank’s interior. You can always add these touches later, but an interesting décor arrangement that mimics what would be found in a natural environment will help ensure your fish are happy and healthy. Additionally, they provide a nice aesthetic touch that makes any tank vastly more beautiful.

These examples also assume you will be using a freshwater aquarium – which is still the most common type, even among larger tanks. If you’re using a saltwater setup, you’ll need to take additional steps to achieve the desired salinity before introducing your fish.

As you plan the overall size of your tank, remember to check any details in your lease (if applicable), as some terms will prohibit very large aquariums on the premises. Ensure the floor is solid enough to support a large tank as well. A 75 gallon aquarium can weigh over 700 lbs when full, so it will place a heavy strain on the floor.

Once you have your equipment, it’s time to move on to setup. This can be an intimidating process for a first-timer, but there’s no need to stress out. While care must be taken to follow setup instructions closely, once you do, you’ll be on the fast track to being operational.

One thing to mention before we begin – don’t plan on being able to add your fish the same day you fill the tank. It takes time for the water to stabilize, for initial chemical additives to do their job in prepping the water, and for the water to be adjusted to the appropriate temperature (this alone can take some time).

With that in mind, it’s easiest not to purchase your fish until you’ve finished setting up your tank. That way, when you bring them home, their home will be all ready for them. You can just plop them in and watch them become accustomed to their new environment.

Setting Up Your 75+ Gallon Aquarium

With all of the planning and purchasing out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun part – putting it all together. Here’s what the process looks like, in an ordered step-by-step manner:

  • Setup the actual aquarium. This involves placing the tank on top of the stand. Ideally, your stand will be made specifically for the aquarium to ensure adequate size and support. These large tanks are heavy, and needless to say very fragile if they are dropped. Enlist the help of at least one other person (preferably two, to be safe) to ensure nothing goes wrong. There’s nothing more frustrating than a cracked or broken tank.Before continuing, be sure to remove all packaging material, such as protective films or stickers.
  • Fill the tank. First, you’ll want to lay down an ample layer of gravel. Before adding gravel to the tank, thoroughly rinse it off with clean water. Lay the gravel in a gradual slope that is thinner at the front and thicker at the rear of the tank.Next, fill the tank with water. This is usually done with a simple garden hose. Unless you have well water or are using a special chlorine-free water source, you’ll want to immediately use a chlorine neutralizing chemical. These additives make even basic tap water suitable for aquarium use. Follow the package instructions, which dictate the amount to add based on your aquarium’s capacity.
  • Optional: Add décor. As stated before, you don’t necessarily have to add decorations right away, but they do create a more appealing tank and give your fish something to enjoy in their environment. Don’t over-do it, however – your fish will still need plenty of free space to swim around.Always rinse off new decorations before adding them to the water. Basic décor usually includes some branches with faux leaves, some larger pieces of wood, some large rocks, and preferably something that gives your fish a cozy place to nest.
  • Setup the pump, filtration system, and heater. The individual steps for this process will vary depending upon your individual equipment models, so make sure to read the setup instruction manuals before continuing. Never plug in your equipment until you’ve finished setting up everything. The external pump motor will typically hang off the rear of your aquarium’s glass. Also take this opportunity to install the light fixture. Dial the heater in to the desired temperature, and when finished, plug it in and turn everything on.
  • Adding your fish. You’ll need to allow at least a full day (24 hours) for your water to reach the appropriate temperature before you can consider adding fish. It’s best to add fish gradually, if possible. After four weeks have gone by, you should do a test for ammonia and nitrite levels. It’s best to only have a few fish in the tank before taking this reading. Ideally, you’ll add the rest of the fish after that ammonia and nitrite balancing process has taken place.

There’s a lot to consider when setting up your aquarium, but if you follow these steps, you’ll minimize your risk of making any beginner mistakes.