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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds 9

Related Articles: Deep Sand Beds, Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Live Sand, Biological FiltrationBiominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & AlkalinityNitrates in Marine Aquariums

Related FAQs: DSBs 1, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 5, DSBs 6, DSBs 7, DSBs 8, DSBs 9, DSBs 10, & FAQs on: Rationale/Use, Dangers, Physical Make-Up, Biological Make-Up, Size, Location, Depth, Conversion to/from, Maintenance/ Replacing/Adding To, & Live Sand FAQsFAQs 2Live Sand 3, Identification, Selection/DIY, Systems/Placement, BiotaMaintenance, & Marine Substrates, Live Sand, Mud Filtration 1 Plenums Nitrates in Marine Aquariums, Refugium Substrates/DSBs,


Live Sand Maintenance     8/24/17
Bob -
I've read your write on live sand maintenance at Live Sand , where you state,
Live Sand
"Maintenance Issues: Should you periodically stir your Live Sand, even vacuum it? In my opinion, yes. A bunch of infauna will die consequently, but the effects of sifting are warranted: removal, reshuffling of mulm, release of trapped gasses, re-assortment of life forms... all make stirring, vacuuming "worth it"."
My question to you, and I realize there's a lot of debate here, e.g.; one camp saying not to vacuum the sand at all, but when you say to vacuum, how deep do you suggest vacuuming the sand? Down to the glass or just at the surface level?
<Were it me, mine, I'd vacuum all the way to the bottom, BUT only half or third of the tank/DSB at a time... alternatively, I'd at least stir (with a wooden or plastic dowel) the whole thing and vacuum the top couple inches.
Bob Fenner>
Thanks, John
Re: Live Sand Maintenance

OK. The sand bed in my tanks is on average 2 to 3 inches. So I am not sure if that constitutes a DSB.
<Four inches, 10 cm. plus is about it. Depends on grade mostly>
As I am always reading, learning, trying to maintain the best tanks possible, and for whatever reason I started recently reading more about sand bed maintenance, my new concern (question) is have I been creating potentially deadly issues for my fish by vacuuming the entire tank sand bed from top to bottom?
<Nah; not much/any cause for concern>
I see that you've stated to me to not vacuum the entire tank but only 1/2 or 1/3 of the tank each water change, yet stir up the rest of it with a wooden or plastic dowel.
<Yes; to preserve infauna stocks>
I suspect that will reduce the disruption of beneficial bacteria while not potentially releasing an over abundance of toxins in the water?
<This too>
I do on average 25% water changes in my FOWLR tanks every 3 to 4 weeks (these tanks, except one, includes some noxious soft corals, e.g.; mushrooms, leathers, ...etc.), again, while always vacuuming the entire tank and from top to bottom. Thus far, it has been working thru the years but I am beginning to wonder based upon further reading if I've just been fortunate so far and I've really been playing with fire by my husbandry and eventually I'll either 1) kill off good bacteria and/or 2) stir up and release too many toxins (nitrates, nitrites, ...etc.) that could quickly and negatively impact my water quality despite the water change? Or maybe my sand bed isn't deep enough to where it has mattered that much?
<There is a means and extremes measure here. You do want to have an ongoing static AND disruptive (mild) situation. Too much change can trigger too much negative reaction; too little can allow the same>
Thank you, John
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

DSB Transition      12/5/16
Aloha Bob, I followed your tip and remove all the black cinders from the first stage of my sump.
Together with installing a GFO reactor I have gotten the phosphates down from 5 to <.25. Here's a pic of my DT, which I may keep shallow and vacuumed then install a DSB remotely.
<Very good>
Do you like the idea of a giant Rubbermaid tub DSB\Refugium as part of this system.
<Yes I do. These are MIGHTY fine products... sturdy, easy to modify, chemically inert... and cheap per volume>
Looks like Cyano keeps creeping in .
<Time going by here... Patience!>
Still no coralline with 12KDH. Using RI water now with lots of water changes. Only has come down from 14- high KDH is still a mystery.
<Time here as well>
I plan to add a few inches to my sump, regardless. In the next image you can see my current second chamber of my outdoor sump. There are some layers of cinders in there and lots of life.
<I see>
My main question is do I remove all that sand pictures in my sump, since it may have trapped phosphates- then leave a little bit to re-seed the coral sand? Or do you feel it's safe to just place new sand atop this and not stir things up too much?
<The latter is the route I'd go>
Keep in mind I have plenty of room outside to plumb in a new sump or remote DSB. Would you replace the 20gal sump with a 36-90 since I have the room?
My DT is 100g. Mahaloz!
<I would ALWAYS make sumps, refugiums, DSBs... As LARGE as possible>
Sky Kubby
<Bob Kubby>

Too view of sump.      12/5/16
This goes with my last two emails for perspective....
Sky Kubby

DSB replacement cont...      12/5/16
Here's a couple more follow up pics show the close up of the layer of black cinders in the sand bed. Remove or safe to cover with more sand?
<Safe to cover>
Also note the precarious positioning of my sump on the ledge. This is why I'm thinking of replacing it with a long larger sup against the back with a proper base. Do you agree or think this will suffice? Thanks!
<I'd replace w/ larger w/ proper base for sure. BK>
Sky Kubby

Re: DSB Transition      12/5/16
Perfect, thanks! Since I’m solar powered I’m going to gravity drain from this sump into the RubberMaid via a 2” pipe, or something, so as not to add an extra pump and possible failing system.
<You are wise here>
Or better yet, use this sump inside the (250g?) RubberMaid, as a pump return chamber! ;-)
By the way I see you replied Bob Kubby. Is this a typo, or a long-lost relative!? LOL!
<Just pulling your fins, BobF>
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby

HI Solar Powered Aquarium: RDSB      12/7/16
Bob, here's a pic of the washed crushed coral sand. Are you sure you'd still recommend this stuff after see the grain size? I bought a bunch of bags of this stuff.
<Yes I would; and good pix>
After reading so much more I am surprised how many people say Crushed coral sand will be a detritus trap and how many people have taken their systems down after installing such a bed.
<Mmm; yeah; well... all systems require "some" maintenance; and such beds REALLY s/b periodically (partially; like half each interval) "stirred" (shades of James Bond!), and/or vacuumed>
I could see however that the superfine particles in this cc sand would be perfect and probably settle to the bottom. Then the life in the sand would eat up the detritus, right?
<Yes; most all... depending on... foods used and amounts, circulation, relative amount of bed, biomass... You and I could formulate a model describing eh?>
I plan to have the DT drain directly into the far end of the Rubbermaid tub. Then gravity drain into my sump via a 1 1/2" pipe for a clean return.
<I'd use a 2" ID, likely two such pipes...>
My total system now is about 150 watts. So it will be slow flow in the DSB.
Here's almost what it will look:
Except the sump will be turned facing the wall. Am I on the right track here?
<Appears so>
I'm going to get bulkheads and other fittings to connect the sump and Rubbermaid now.
<Schedule 40 will be fine. No need for the extra expense of 80>
Have it drain over or drill both containers?
<Either... if there's gravity, drop distance the former>
I've read a lot and this is the best I could come up with. Any ideas on how to make no bettah?
<Not so far... just waking here though!>
<Por nada amigo. BobF>
Sky Kubby

Re: HI Solar Powered Aquarium: RDSB. Sump des; substrate/DSBs f's   12/9/16
Bob, in reference to my Rubbermaid RDSB and 20g. sump, you said:
<Either... if there's gravity, drop distance the former>
Jut to be clear- that would mean the Rubbermaid! I was planning the water entering the DSB then gravity feeding into the sump, this dropping the sump level, not the RubberMaid.
<Okay... >
Are you suggesting I plumb it the other way around? I didn’t want to suck sand into my DT.
<No; what you have in mind is fine>
Also, the test washing of the sand seems futile- it’s like 20-30 washes in a 5 gal bucket (1 bag of sand) seems to still be producing a never-ending supply of murky tan sediment.
<Likely dissolving as you go. What you've sent as a photo is fine. I'd rinse, swirl 5-10 lb.s at a time... rinse maybe a dozen times per batch... This too will clear>
Even settling overnight, it’s still cloudy. Do I want to keep some of these fines and let it settle on the bed- almost like mud?
It will be low flow in there so I could see that possibly working.
I read where you said to wash another substrate in 5# increments, I think. Is it better to wash this stuff like that, or all at once in the RubberMaid tub?
<The first here>
For the latter, give as good of rinse as possible in the RubberMaid all-at-once, then let it sit?
What about using some of those packets for clarifying the water that came in a couple bags of CaribSea sand I got?
<Mmm; you could>
The CaribSea I got for my DT was “Supernatural”, was really fine (maybe .25-.50mm). It doesn’t say on the bag or on the site whether it is silica-based or not. But it “ seems” like tiny white crystals. So did I blow it if it is silica based?
<Not necessarily... at least if "some" of the material you're using is carbonaceous... the "cinders" are practically all silicate>
Here’s the link at Petco: http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/caribsea-super-naturals-aquarium-sand <http://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/product/caribsea-super-naturals-aquarium-sand> It stays on the bottom of my DT but the powerhead, if misdirected blows it everywhere. It does make a good mat and all detritus stays on top.
<No worries, redirect powerhead/s, pumps, discharges to blow horizontally along the surface; just below water level>
All good to put some of this crushed coral sand atop that to bring my DT sand bed up to “Deep” levels and keep it from stirring up too much?
<Sure; though it will be mixed in a few days, weeks... w/ coating by biofilm/s et al., most all will settle down. You'll see>
Or would that just be a detritus trap like everyone says? I know we’ve been over this before and as you say it will probably all mix together anyway but just want to make sure in this unique situation.
<You're obsessing....>
Here’s a pic of the CaribSea sand in action, and, at the end, the coral sand after about an hour of washing LOL!:
Some friends gave me some frags finally- yay!
You can see a pile of sand excavated by a common local crab. I need to get him out if I want to have a DSB in here, right!? Mahaloz!
<The crab will be fine... good to have some digging, tunneling here>
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Re: HI Solar Powered Aquarium: RDSB      12/11/16
I'll hunt Pimpled Basked Snails in sandy tide pool areas with some meat. In "Hawaii Sea Creatures" (Hoover) it says they can kill small crabs and shrimp. But my coral banded shrimp should be good, right?
Drupes seem too predatory. If I can't find snails for my DSB am I doomed?
<Not doomed... worms, small crustaceans and much more can/will come to "do the job">
I'll keep the sea stars to the sump for detritus and remove the DSB in the sump to inoculate the Rubbermaid DSB.
I just added more crushed coral sand to my DT. Yes it's clearing up nice and fast with the bio-magnet clarifier but I have to say some of the sand chunks do seem rather large, like 1/4".
An old aquarium friend told me different sized substrate is good for growing different types of life.
<This is so>
I'm confuse why so much info in the DSB FAQs say only to use fine sand.
<Non-divers, non-studiers of bio.... perhaps sellers or stock holders of fine sand companies!>
I just stirred the front of my glass to make it look nicer i.e., different levels of sand and colors of algae. See pic.
Is this good practice, say quarterly?
I'll substitute the basaltic non-porous rocks for my calcium-based rocks when they're done curing. But are they worth keeping in my RDSB?
<Worth keeping>
Or just get rid of them? The do make good platforms to build aquascaping upon....
Lastly, about that crab... He's a common rock crab with black pincher tips. I'm finding pieces of bristle worms everywhere and think he's pinching them in half. Would this be grounds for expulsion?
<Close to it>
It seemed to coincide with when I added sand. I kept finding dead worms. Maybe the layer of sand just killed them?
<Likely a contributing factor... the crab will not be able to find, consume all>
<A hu'i hou! BobF>

Re: HI Solar Powered Aquarium: RDSB      12/11/16
I may not have mentioned that the drain line to the Rubbermaid from my DT is only 1”.
<Mmm; I don't think so; or at least very much hope I didn't miss this. "It" won't work... >
Do you still recommend that the overflow from the Rubbermaid to the sump be dual 2” bulkhead to bulkhead? Or will dual 1” suffice?
<It will not. PLEASE READ here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/SystemPIX/PlumbingPix/Oneinchart.htm
and the linked files above... incl. the FAQs files, detailing the trials, travails of folks who've had too few, too small drain lines. I'd have two-two inch at a minimum>
Also, there’s a layer of sediment on everything in the DT now that the sand settled that won’t blow away swishing my hand over it. I brushed lightly- hopefully goes away over time. It’s really clinging to the hair algae making it more pronounced, though. Do you want to shy away from completely scrubbing live rock? Of is this a case that may call for it?
In Gratitude,
<I'd lightly vacuum it away; a bit every week. B>
Sky Kubby

Re: HI Solar Powered Aquarium: RDSB     12/12/16
Sure enough, as the article stated, I just calculated my flow through my 1” pipe to be 300gph. I did this by the container filling method. However I’m not experiencing the issues outlined in the link you gave me. Yes, I have a lot of noise coming from my overflow box but it’s not because the water line is rising above the box, or creating siphoning issues. The noise is because the water falls so far. It flows in flex tubing out that wall and into the sump. So it seems I don’t have an issue with restricted flow out. Perhaps that will change when I run the outflow the length of the RubberMaid to dump in at the far left side.
<Sky; mate... When, not IF this one inch line become occluded... a snail, some gravel... Do NOT trust this line>
I’m not sure what you meant by:
"<"It" won't work... > "
The RubberMaid RDSB addition or my whole system?
<The plumbing here. PLEASE send along a diagram of your whole system. The going back and forth with bits/pieces is very easy for me to make mistakes here>
If I’m just having softies and want minimum wattage from a return pump so as to not tax my solar system, will the 300gph flow suffice?
<For how large a system? I'd have several volumes changed/recirculated per hour>
Or do you just mean that to you mean to have 2” overflows from the Rubbermaid to the sump won’t work.
>.... ALL through-puts should be over-sized and redundant<
Is the idea to keep it uniform diameter throughout? Since I have 1” pipe, I thought I’d be able to proceed with two 1” bulkheads from the RubberMaid to the sump. Or do I really need to I re-plumb the stock fitting that came with my 100g tank to 2” for my RDSB to “work”.
<ALL TWO INCH is the route I'd go>
The other issue is that I probably cannot fit two 2” bulkheads on the far side of my sump which is the curved part.
<Use the flush area of the Rubbermaid>
Maybe one with silicone. I understand the need for redundancy with the second bulkhead. The RubberMaid tub needs to be pushed up flush with the house to provide room to walk on the sidewalk around it. This kind of eliminates the bulkheads to go where they are supposed to (on the flat front and back sides).
<I'd sacrifice the sidewalk space>
I was hoping to plumb from the far R side, opposite to where the inflow would be on the L, to create a flow of current accrues the DSB.
<..... this makes no sense. Id est, I have no idea what you're referring to>B
Maybe I shouldn’t be hung up on this though the concept makes sense. I can re-plumb with 2” for better flow, but I wanted to make sure we were on the same page as I’m not shooting for growing SPS in high flow system. Of course, that would be cool if you think I could still manage with my little LEDs and supplemental natural sunlight.
Of course in the Rubbermaid is a different story. It get Full sunlight so I could probably grow some SPS there. But we already talked about this and you said it would be good as low flow. Tanks.
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby

Remote DSB About to Integrate!      12/23/16
Aloha Bob and Crew, Here’s the final plumbing on my remote DSB, and hopefully my final questions:
1. I’m waiting for the water cloudiness to go away and I will hook up the line where the blue shut-ff valve is. Better to T the valve if I need to remove the RDSB for any reason, diverting the flow directly to the sump?
<.... Sky, mate... I've asked you to make, send along a diagram... I really can't tell clearly from your pix OR descriptions what you're referring to. I do agree however with plumbing that allows turning off elements, isolating them>
2. I only have one drain now, gravity feeding into the sump (below the long pipe). I will add another as you recommended. Is there anything else I should do before adding this to my display loop? Besides water parameters being the same?
<... can't tell from here, this>
I got some Ogo Limu and put it in a sump. It was from the store. Is it dead or will it grow?
<Hopefully the latter!>
If not, I contacted NELHA but they didn’t know Gerald. Do you have a direct contact?
<It's been years... Heslinga doesn't deal much with the public; but he has a website: IPSF.com (I better check this; yeah, it's good) Would be GREAT if he had more liking for visits; for you to get on by there at NELHA and have a chat>
My Live Rock is almost done curing. I cured in full light for part of the day, like you suggested and it definitely grew algae. Can I give it a good scrub before I put it in the display or will it kill off too much bacteria?
<I'd leave the algae on it>
Looping back to my RDSB question: Since the sump will be in full sun for part of the day (when it’s not raining) I could have some major temp swings. Do I need to be worried about this? Am I going to need a shade cloth over it?
<I would definitely shade it; maybe even from the rain... temp. wise, August and September can be brutal on the W. side, even at moderate elevation>
Finally, here’s some pics of my overflow system so you can see how the whole system is plumbed. These two pipes flow in and out of the two pipes coming out of the wall in the first pic.
<? Can't make out>
The floss, I just re-added because I couldn’t get rid of the gurgling noise without it. Change that out monthly, you think?
<As frequently as it's dirty... maybe every week... better to get/use sections of foam that you can rinse, dry, re-use>
I also have a sponge filter in there next to the overflow box which was sold to me by the same guy who suggested I use cinders in my sump. I don’t see too many reefers using those- is it time to let that one go?
<I would hold onto it... for a few reasons; as long as it's not a major contributor to NO3 build-up>
<Cheers! BobF>
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby

Re: Remote DSB About to Integrate!      12/23/16
Okay Bob, here’s diagrams over images to be more clear.
<VERY nice; but didn't get the SumpDiagram... you sent two copies of the OutsideWallDiag.>
Water is still a little cloudy but I’m ready to hook up the line from the DT to the DSB.
I’m a little worried about the temp swings and another algae bloom but trusting this is the best course for overall stability. It will be nice to get some yellow tangs in there to eat the algae in be beautiful, plus I can expand LR, frags, etc.
<Yes; and there are friends (Pablo Tepoot down in S. FLA comes to mind) who do situate their filtration et al. outside; tied in w/ plumbing to the main/display inside their homes....>
I left the sponge in the middle of the sump so it may pick up particulate and so as not to let the Limu through to the return. There’s a big space in the middle of the sump if I remove the sponge- about 2-3 inches that would definitely let stuff through.
<I see>
Any last minute suggestions before I hook it up?
<None really. I'd fire it all up and see>
The green line here should actually be blue- coming from the outside, however blue on blue wouldn’t show up well.
<All right>
The overflow from the DSB gravity feeds into the sump.
<I see this; now....>
In Radiant Health,
<And you, BobF>
Sky Kubby
Re: Remote DSB About to Integrate!
Sky! The upload brought up all three diag.s when refreshed. Thank you again. B

Re: Hawaii 150G Remote DSB      12/23/16
Bob, I can see now with a test run that, it may be best to use the overflow line out from the Rubbermaid to the sump as an INFLOW from the DT. That will make better gravity flow from the DT as well as shorten the distance. It’s the highest portion on the RubberMaid. If I go up and over the Rubbermaid I’m fighting gravity a s depicted in the picture/diagrams I sent in the last email.
<Ahh! Again, drawing all this out ahead of actual construction (with elevations) would likely have alerted you (anyone) to this issue>
Then I can boost the diameter of the overflow pipe <s>
to 2”, come into the Rubbermaid a couple inches below the existing overflow, but on the apposing side (also the wall side), then plumb the 2” pipe in and up at an angel, so there’s better suck/draw/siphon.
<.... you're soon to know... AND realize the value of over-sizing (esp. draining) plumbing and having redundant lines....>
Then I’ll drill another 2”bulkhead into the sump at water level to deliver the flow into the sump. Sound like a better idea?
<Try it and see... DO know that when the system is up and going, the "transit volume" is going to "stack up" in the tank, and the volume be lowered in the supply (Rubbermaid)... You WILL NEED to be careful re NOT overfilling the Rubbermaid...>
The part that I cant figure out is how I would do two 2” pipes since I only have the one side of the Rubbermaid. Did you say before I could T them into one or is that a bad idea?
<Better to run separately; yes; and at slightly different levels... Going forward, and had we had this conversation from the beginning/planning phase/s, I would have STRONGLY encouraged you to do most of your circulation INSIDE the main tank itself... Too much risk in relying on outside gear IME>
Thanks and Happy Solstice/Holidays.
In Radiant Health,
<And you Sky. BobF>
Sky Kubby

RDSB Update    1/18/17
Aloha Bob and Crew, while the system did seem to stabilize with the addition of the 150g. Rubbermaid RDSB, I have been dealing with a diatom outbreak in the main tank that just won't stop.
<It will in time>

I held back in writing before figuring it would cycle away with my 0 Po4 reading, But no. Then I got to the bottom of that Caribsea sand it old you about, questioning the silica properties of it. Sure enough the "Florida sand" is actually silicate-based. I put two bags in my Dt before topping of with an inn of Crushed Coral.
Am I doomed?
<No... though you might consider augmenting the SiO2 with some calcareous material... this can be placed on top or mixed in>
Here's a pic but it's hard to tell with that clown constantly digging holes- isn't that no bueno for the DSB, btw?
<Likely no big deal>
Funny to watch him hammer the button lip of the RBTA so it reaches up to hold him better!
<Cheers! Bob Fenner, out your way in March>
Sky Kubby

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