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Thread: Substrate that'll hold its shape?

  1. #1

    Default Substrate that'll hold its shape?

    I want to do a mangrove biotope, and I would be using regular old beach sand, but I want to create slopes, maybe replicate tides and get mudskippers to dig burrows and possibly even breed. With beach sand, this wouldn't work, since it won't hold its shape, so what substrate could I use instead? Maybe add something to beach sand to make it hold its shape? Or collect sand from a stagnant bay?

  2. #2


    Anyone know?

  3. #3


    If you are doing a mudskipper tank, you can either glue a shelf into the tank and glue a ramp onto the shelf. Then smear silicon over the glass and sprinkle sand on it. I have seen tanks that had multiple shelves glued in and each had a ramp, like a mouse house with ramps going up to different shelves.

    One tank had a ramp that went up about 2 inches and then levelled off for 6 inches, then went up a couple more inches before levelling off again. This continued up for about 4 or 5 levels. The tank was on a double tier stand with a sump underneath it. Basically they used two x 4 foot tanks (one above the other). The top tank had the shelves and fish in and the bottom tank held the extra water. The top tank had a drain pipe about 6 inches high and another about 16 inches high, that let the water drain into the sump below. (You could probably use 1 drain pipe and just have a few holes in it at lower levels.) There were 2 pumps in the sump and one pump ran continuously and put in just enough water to keep the water level at 6 inches. The second pump was on a timer and came on several times a day. It ran for a couple of hours and then stopped. The extra water caused the top tank to fill up slowly and the tank remained full for a couple of hours before the second pump went off. When it went off, the water level would slowly drain back down to the 6 inch mark. You could add a small wave maker to this system too.

    You can use a floating platform and silicon sand on it. A floating platform can be a plastic container with the sides cut out. It floats upside down so it has air trapped under it and the corners of the container act as legs so it doesn't accidentally sink and trap fish under it. You can also use a sheet of polystyrene foam, or even plastic water lily leaves. Mudskippers can jump out of the water and land on the platform to feed.

    If you are doing a mudskipper tank, do not have sand on the platform where they get fed because it is too hard to clean. Just have a smooth flat surface and put the food on that. Then any remaining food can be easily washed off.

    If you want deep sand for them to dig in, use an icecream bucket full of beach sand and glue some sand, shells, coral to the outside of the bucket to help camouflage it. Use smooth shells, rocks and corals so the mud skippers don't cut themselves up when they hop on it.
    Last edited by Colin_T; 07-04-19 at 11:03 AM.

  4. #4


    I'd prefer to keep it looking more natural, not just natural looking, so I think I'll pass on the shelves :P. It's why I just want to make a plain old slope, like the tank in That guy collected the substrate from the wild.

    "The substrate that I use is a very glutinous mix of fine sand, silt and mud"

    Of course, I could just get mud from the wild, but I'm just after some easier solution that achieves the same result.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    NSW, Sydney


    Easiest wya to do this I think would be to use some sort of barriers under hte sand to hold it in shape as much as possible. Than only the top most layer of sand will shift and can be readjusted when needed.

    Could use something like corflute or rocks or even acrylic/plastic sheets cut to size at different height levels as the "ramp" goes down. Using sand would look most natural I would think. Unsure how this would go for the rest of the mudskipper aspect though But it should work to hold the ramp to dry land up at least
    "The stuff I buy is a bit pricey however it is as dry as a nuns nasty" - BigDaddyAdo

  6. #6


    So the best solution would be to use baffles? It would certainly allow for more aquascape options. But I’d have to properly hide the baffles with rocks and other hardscape. Not that that’s a problem though

    I’ll see what I can do with whatever glass I can find lying around.

  7. #7


    make a triangle from glass or Perspex and use it as the ramp. Put it in place and fill behind it with sand and sprinkle sand over the ramp. Spread a layer of silicon on the ramp and it will help to stop the sand sliding down.

    by having a triangle you have the ramp but after the ramp you can have a big sand pit for them to dig in.

  8. #8


    Yeah I was thinking something like that, minus the ramp, so basically just to have a deep bed of sand for them, while covering up the barrier with rocks/decor.

    But disregarding the issue of "slopes", another concern is that regular old beach sand won't hold up, especially with continually rising and falling tides, if the mudskippers want to burrow. I read an article where the author tries to breed mudskippers, first by using PVC pipes to act as burrows, and although mudskippers, both males and females, took up residence in the PVC pipes, larvae were not found (unlike when the author instead collected mud from the North Sea, in which the mudskippers could burrow), which is why I originally asked how to make a substrate more 'sturdy'.

    Reckon I'll look into some sort of aquarium-safe clay to mix/replace the beach sand.

  9. #9


    if you get sand from the water, it will be finer than the stuff washed up on the beach.

    clay will be too fine.
    lime sand is regularly used in marine tanks and is very fine and compacts down.

    sandy beaches naturally change with the tides.
    If you use the glass/ Perspex triangle, it will act as a barrier to hold the main sand bed in place for them to burrow into, and the only sand that will move will be the stuff on the ramp, and silicon will reduce that.

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    I thought fine was good? Or is clay just too fine?

    How fine approximately is lime sand?

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    clay is too fine.
    lime sand is very fine and a little bit courser than clay.

    If you mixed lime sand with beach sand you might find a happy medium.

  12. #12


    Sounds good

    But if use 50%-100% lime sand, is there still a need for the barriers, or can the slopes maintain themselves?

    Where can I get lime sand? I’m having trouble finding it, what’s a good alternative?
    Last edited by pseudechisbutleri; 09-04-19 at 12:33 PM.

  13. #13


    Lime sand can still move about but it is less likely to move in large amounts. You get a thin layer on top that might get moved about but most of it should stay put. However, any sand on a hill/ slope will eventually slide unless something is used to stabilise it.
    Personally, I would still use the triangle to provide a ramp and stop the sand moving.

    Most pet shops can get lime sand in. If you can't find any at a pet shop, you should be able to buy it from Cook Industrial Minerals in Jandakot. That's where most shops buy natural brown gravel and lime sand from to sell in the shops. It's been a long time since I have been there but I never needed a business number or account to buy stuff. I just walked in with cash and bought 20kg bags of gravel or whatever I wanted. Maybe send them an email or phone them and ask if they deal direct with the public and what the minimum size bag of lime sand is. I have provided their link below.

  14. #14


    Thanks Colin, I’ll see if my LFS has lime sand, if not I’ll give CIM a call.

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