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FAQs about Marine Substrates: About Collecting Your Own

Related Articles: Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biofiltration, Denitrification, Live Sand, Live Rock, Biominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Marine Substrates 1, Marine Substrates 2, Marine Substrates 3, Marine Substrates 4, Marine Substrates 5, Marine Substrates 6, Marine Substrates 7, Marine Substrates 8, Marine Substrates 9, Rationale, Selection, Reef  Substrates, By Type: Aragonite/s, Coral Sands, Silicates, Dolomites/TapAShell, Southdown & Such, & Physical Make-up, Size/Grade, Location, Depth, Marine Substrate Cleaning 1, Marine Substrate Cleaning 2, Moving/Replacing/Adding To, Marine Substrate Moving/Replacing/Adding To 2, Substrate Anomalies/Trouble-Fixing,

Washed up coral would be fine provided you soak in a 10% bleach/water solution before using. This will require a good freshwater bath and rinse before placing in your aquarium. As for the beach sand, same process, but it is definitely not worth the effort involved.
James (Salty Dog)

Experimental sand bed, Wild/collected substrate, biota inclusive      2/8/13
I a current conducting and experiment on live sand beds in a small marine tank. It is a follow up to a previous post. I live at 35 degrees south in New Zealand close to mangrove swamps next to the ocean. The tank I have is 30 c x 30 cm x 60 cm. It is currently sitting outside on the veranda where it receives some of the daylight sun part of the day.
There is 7.5 cm of sand at the bottom that was scooped in a mangrove stream not far from the ocean. It seemed packed with life. When spreading out the sand, there were snails, crabs and cockles. I added premixed salt water to save me having to carry water back in the car. I also had a small mangrove shoot and a clump of macro algae that looked like strings of 8 mm round beads.
<Perhaps the common Caulerpa racemosa>
I added mixed seawater to save having that much water sloshing around in a car. There was lots of silt in the mix that clouded the water but in 24 hours all this is on top of the sand. Sails are busy ploughing through the sediment and up the glass.
There are already tracks visible in the sand bed looking at the side of the tank, and bubbles forming in the bed. There must be detritivores mixing the sand bed. There is no pump, or heater. Temperatures will fluctuate, but probably no more than they do in the mangrove where the sand in low tide will bake in the hot sun till the tide comes in.
In my previous marine tank, which was a very "high tech," set up with no live rock and no live sand, brown slime algae that covered everything in a week was a recurrent problem despite zero levels of ammonia, nitrite nitrate and phosphate. I did not think at the time to add snails from the mangrove sand. That option did not even cross my mind. I did not know there were snails in there.
This tank is as low tech as it gets. My experiment was to see if this tank would get over run with algae too or if the biology of the sand bed would keep it in check. A bucket of water left out of the sun for my dogs will get green in a few days unless changed. I was going to let this experiment run for about a month or more.
I was not sure whether to keep the cockles in there or the crabs that are about 5 mm to 1.5 cm in size. The entire mini ecosystem has to feed of something. That something where they came from must be from what the tide brings in, which I suppose is phytoplankton. If they die off, it will just pollute the tank. For this experiment I could add some Seachem phytoplankton in a bottle. I could also feed some imaginary fish and corals with the addition of a small amount of ground up pellet fish food, and do periodic partial water changes. If the system is not over run with algae it would show the ecosystem is coping.
Can you offer any advice on my experiment?
<To boldly go as you've stated, really. And keep good notes of your observations, speculations>
Are crabs and cockles ever
kept in marine aquariums, or are they more of a biological liability than an asset.
Michael Lomb
<They can be assets in balance. Bob Fenner>

Florida Sand/Substrates 2/16/12
<Hello Braiden>
 I am new to starting an aquarium.  I am going with a 90 gallon reef ready with a 30 gallon sump.  I Googled and looked through many articles and found some stuff about Florida sand and somebody (Mike D I believe) asked if the person was from the Fort Walton Beach area.  That is where I am gathering my sand from and I would like to know if anyone knows what the composition of the sand is from that area.  Do you know if it is silicate based?
<The sand on the Emerald Coast beaches is comprised mainly of quartz washed down from the mountains by the Apalachicola River, 130 miles east of Ft. Walton Beach. It is this quartz, ground to a perfect oval in each grain of sand, that makes the beach "squeak" when you walk on it.>
I hear silicate sand is bad.  Do you think this sand would be ok to put in the aquarium after boiling it or another cleaning method if you have a recommendation?
<Silica sand will cause diatom blooms and is not recommended.  The quartz sand on your beach is actually silicon dioxide, a type of silicate.>
If you do know what the sand from that area is made of, what pros/cons would it have using it?
<For one, it has no buffering capability to help maintain pH and dKH.>
I was going to add a scoop or so of live sand from the LFS to get it going if that would help.  It is very white and very fine sand with a few tiny little black specs in it.
<Likely iron oxide.>
Also I was wondering if sand that fine would make my water look cloudy or if it would stay settled at the bottom with no problems.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
<I would use aragonite/crushed coral sand.>
Thank you.
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Ocean Additions 2/2/10
<Hi Laurie>
Just new to this hobby, could you let me know your thoughts on adding sand from a beach and pieces of washed up coral to a reef tank, is it dangerous, are there things you should watch out for?
<Washed up coral would be fine provided you soak in a 10% bleach/water solution before using. This will require a good freshwater bath and rinse before placing in your aquarium. As for the beach sand, same process, but it is definitely not worth the effort involved. Since you are new to the hobby, I will provide you with an index to our
articles/FAQ's. Do read/learn/enjoy.
Thanks for your time.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

newbie question regarding water and substrate for new tank Taking a Stand on Sand (Wild collected versus pre-packaged) 09/04/2008  Ok, I'm sure this has been covered already but couldn't find anything. So I've had my tank sitting on the stand for about a month now. Wanted to wait till I had the ideal spot ready for it which required taking down a wall into my kitchen and will have the tank as a peninsula separating the entry way and the kitchen. Spent all Labor day weekend doing this and the electrical. <Sounds like my kind of weekend project! Scott F in today!> About the tank, it's a 180 G. with a Dolphin 1/3hp Amp master 4700. Go a trickle filter with a Sealife Systems Impact protein skimmer. <Good circulation, I see!> So here's the gotcha, money is really low. I live in Boca Raton, FL. about 15 min.s. from crystal clear beach. There are small reefs right on the beach. I'm thinking about going to get my water and sand from the beach during high tide. I know a lot of you are cringing but I will be far from any marinas or inlets. <I am cringing, of course.> Anything that I should consider before I do this? <Yes, actually. First, I am always hesitant to give a thumbs up to the idea of collecting sand from local beaches. Not only does it pose some potential pollution/contamination issues, it can also create problems for the environment. Beach erosion is a very real problem here in California, and sand becomes a pretty precious resource after storm events. Sure, the impact of one person is seemingly minimal, but the cumulative impact of "just a few" hobbyists collecting from the wild could be significant. It may not even be legal to take such materials from nature- do check local laws. The substrate materials that you buy in aquarium stores come from companies that are collecting such materials are doing it with the proper licensing, etc., and are collecting from far offshore where the erosion issue is not a problem. In the end, I would recommend that you go with the packaged stuff. As an alternative, you could use the packaged play sand called "Southdown", which is Aragonitic in nature, and relatively inexpensive, found in home improvement stores. It's a less expensive alternative to the packaged aquarium products. Hope this helps. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Are you DBL sure I can't use beach sand??   3/1/07 Thanks for the quick reply... <Of course.> but I'm confused... <Okay.> if the marine critters are ok with it and we have a ton of them here...starfish and the like why wouldn't it be ok for my tank? <You are making the common mistake here of comparing something as large as the ocean to an enclosed bio-tope not even a fraction of it's size. Please search WWM the effects of silicates are well documented. You are not the first to ask this question.> Is it due to the calcium and buffering capacity? <Somewhat...it's not as efficient as aragonite but it's mostly die to the effects of silicate on the nutrient levels in the water, trapping detritus and causing unbearable algae tirades.>   Also, what is your opinion of Haitian live rock compared to Fiji Aquacultured? <Both are nice, Fijian is probably cheaper and easier to come by.> Very grateful for your help. Thank you! <Of course, Adam J.> Re: Resp. to removing sand from florida beaches   3/1/07 From Kaz I used to live in Deland near New Smyrna Beach. From what I remember the mile long beach is a nature reserve and, as such, collection of sand is probably prohibited anyway. <Thank you, being in Southern Cal. I am not familiar with your law, however I do encourage everyone to check w/ local fish&game departments before interfering with your natural surroundings. Adam J.>

Re: Sand from beach, Necessary Filtration in Reef Aquaria  3/5/07 Wow. that was fast! <Oh I just happened to be answering some other questions when your email came in.> I have another question if you would be so kind... <Of course.> I've put in aragonite and bought 70lbs Fiji premium which is now cycling in my tank with powerheads and skimmer and an HOT. My question is this:  What type of filtration to go with? I've done a ton of research on wet/dry and know about the nitrates. Therefore I was going to leave out the bioballs and basically use it as a sump. But my tank is not drilled (couldn't be, tempered glass) so I need a prefilter. After doing more research I'm worried about how unreliable the prefilter and U tube can be. So what is my alternative? <A hang on refugium.> I've read everything on WWM on plumbing with a prefilter and there doesn't seem to be a fail safe answer. <There are tricks to make them more reliable, but I can't comment on hose because I don't have any personal experience. well because I never trusted the d@mn things to be honest.> Shouldn't I have some sort of a filter? <A large skimmer, lots of water flow, the live rock...you have DSB...and LOTS of frequent water changes...accompanied with a low/moderate stocking level is what I would aim for. If you can swing it look into a hang on refugium.> I know live rock is the best filtration but isn't it prudent to have carbon, <Not in a mature system...though good to have on hand in an emergency situation.> PolyFilters, <Nah, can be uses but not a necessity.> etc?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!   Thank you. <Welcome.> Jennifer <Adam J.>

Beach Sand 11/1/06 Hello, <Hi> I have one quick question. I live on the Oregon coast and was curious if I were to take wet sand (by the water) and start an aquarium with it, if the nitrifying bacteria would live in tropical temperatures. Brian <Not really a good idea, most of the microfauna/flora will not survive the elevated temperatures of a reef tank, and unknown contaminates are a real concern.> <Chris>

Don't Use That Sand...  4/6/06 Hi crew/Bob <Hi Joe, Jen here.> I just wanted to get some advice on an issue. A few months ago I brought back a bit of sand from a clean beach. For the past month or so, it has been stored in a few buckets which had previously stored cement and paint.<Ick> These buckets were cleaned prior to filling with the sand, although remnants of each I would think are still present. <More than likely> I would like to know if I can now use this sand in my SW tank? <I wouldn't.> I will rinse thoroughly and remove all (though few) pieces of debris from the sand first, however, I am concerned whether adding the sand will have a detrimental effect. It might be worth adding that the sand looks very clean although I realize it's mostly what you can't see that does the damage! <First taking sand from even a 'clean' beach can cause problems.  You have no idea the microscopic organisms that may be living in it.  It, even though unlikely, could be the downfall of an entire tank.  Second, the sand has been stored in buckets that have been used for something else, toxic chemicals at that - so there may be residue here.  Remember, if you're using it for a tank - make sure its new and clean, even the bucket.  Third the sand has been sitting for months, there could be biological breakdown here that you probably don't want to add to a tank anyway.  OK? Best thing to do is buy your substrate and seed it from an established tank. Best of luck, Jen S.> Thanks in advance for your advice, Joe

Question Regarding Hawaii and Sand 11/3/05 I plan on collecting some live sand from Oahu for my tank, in accordance with Hawaii law of course (1 gallon per person per day). Thankfully, most of the sand here is of the right composition, with lots of calcium, <Yes... am sure you've been to the Waikiki aquarium down at Kapiolani... seen the "saltwater wells" they've used for decades... very good water with little work> but I am not sure where to find sand fine enough to establish a good, nitrogen-cycling deep sand bed. <Is most everywhere> I thought I would try Bob on this, since he has some familiarity with Hawaii. I went to Lanikai last weekend, and the beach sand is fantastic, however the live sand in the tidal zone is much more coarse. Any suggestions?  <I would use this over the fine/r...> Also, after using your website for several weeks, I finally bought your book yesterday. It will be a great reference to keep around. Thanks. Doug Cook <A hu'i ho! Bob Fenner> 

Self-Collected Substrate Material? 11/1/05 Hi There, <Hi! Scott F. with you today!> I live on the West Coast of Ireland and have access to Irelands only coral beach. The sand is composed of fragments of broken coral from about 3-10mm long. Would it be safe to use this as a substrate? The beach, water is pristine. Would the fact that it is coming from a cold water environment to a tropical tank reduce the possibility of introducing pathogens? The tank is a new tank and will have no fish in it for at least two months. Thanks for your time, David <Well, David, I am always concerned about the introduction of pathogens and/or pollution from wild collected substrates, but it sounds like you may be looking at a good product. Be aware, however, that fairly coarse (and I'd classify this material as "coarse") substrates do require a lot of attention to husbandry, as they tend to trap detritus over time. I'm not 100% certain that the temperate/tropical issue would assure you of a potentially disease-free substrate. I am, however, more concerned about the ecological impact of collecting from beach sources.  Many communities have strict laws about collecting wild materials from their beaches and other ecosystems. Do check with local authorities first. If they give you the "green light", then it's worth a shot to use this material. In the end, your 2 month "fallow" period will probably help reduce the possibility of introduced pathogens. I'd still clean and rinse the material thoroughly before use. Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.> 

Sand From the Local (Non-Tropical) Beach, Not a good Idea  10/6/05 Hi guys, and gals. <Hello, Adam with you this evening.>  I have a question that could be useful for some people. <Probably that's why we post them in the FAQ's.>   I live on Myrtle Beach, sc.  And I can't find the good homeland as they only have the "sackrete" brand of play sand.  <I assume you're referring to Southdown, it is seldom seen in recent years.> and my trip to a few Lowe's in the area didn't produce any results either.  So my question is: can I collect the substrate off the beach? <Not a good idea.>  I'm sure your gonna say that the substrates from the beach has parasites and pollutants in it.  and my response would be a scenario were I would boil the substrate somehow to disinfect it. And kill the parasites, hopefully.  <You're right if pollutants and parasites were the only thing to be worried about it would be very easy to sterilize and cure the sand. But you didn't think it was going to be that easy did you? The problem that we face is that sand is not sand.  The sand you would find on a tropical beach is calcium based, the remains of ancient corals and other calcium based organism remains.  The sand you will fin on your local beach is silicate based. At the least it will give way to uncontrollable diatom algae growth in your tank.>  And is collecting 200 + lbs. of sand from the beach  illegal? <Varies from localities, consult you local authorities before collection.> thanks for the help. <No problem, and not to nit-pick but please capitalize and punctuate sentences as this will end up in the FAQ's for others to view. It saves us a lot of time so we can help others. This time I'll help you about a bit and run it through a word processor. Thank you, Adam J.> Local Beach Sand, Not a Good Idea  10/4/05 Hi Bob. <No not Bob. Adam J responding to you tonight.> I'm a newbie so please bear with me , not that I'm cheap but can I start my reef tank  with sand from the local beach  ? <Generally not a good idea, most American 'beach-sand' is filled with silicates.  At the least they cause horrible diatom growth.> I live in Long Island N.Y. There are lots of drift wood, rocks,   I liked to take that is of course if it's legal, think its  possible ? <You would have to check with the local authorities as far as the legality of such collection.> Rich R. <If I may ask a favor of you, please capitalize and add appropriate punctuation in future queries. Adam J.>

Sea Sand Bed - South Africa 3/30/05 Hi guys & girls fantastic site!! I have a question: in about a month's time I am going on holiday to our eastern coast of South Africa (Durban). I currently have a 400litre tank with a medium depth sand bed consisting of crushed coral and aragonite. I was wondering if I can bring back some sea sand back from the coast to give my live sand a boost. The sand by our coast consists mostly of just plain sea sand and crushed shells. Can I use this, isn't it too fine in size ? What do you recommend? Thanking you in advance. Werner Schoeman  <There are many caveats to this. Temperate animals will not survive long in your tropical tank. Also, temperate sands may not be coralline in origin, so they won't add to buffering capacity and may contain undesirable elements. Pollution is also a concern. "Live sand" is (or should be) collected off shore in tropical regions near reefs. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Collecting Your Own Substrate? Hi you guys <Scott F. your guy tonight!> Thanks for all the info. I would like to set up a new tank with a sump. In both the sump and Main tank I would like to add a DSB. For this I need at least 5-6" of gravel sand. Being from South Africa I have a little problem. The LFS stores here only have Aragonite 2-4mm in size. My understanding is that I need fine sand for the DSB to work at its best. <That's the general consensus at this point...> Can I use Aragonite (2-4mm in size) for the bottom half (3")of the sump and tank? <Well, you could mix some of the larger sized particles in, but the fine stuff is really what you need. BTW, a "true" deep sand bed is more like 5" plus...This will be deep enough to foster the beneficial denitrification processes that you are seeking> Can I collect sand from the ocean to use for the top half of the DSB? Or Can I just collect sand from the ocean to use on my DSB.? <Well, a lot of it has to do with the source. Many near-shore sources may have contamination, impurities, etc. Additionally, your locally-found sands may or may not be aragonite based, which will deny you many of the buffering capabilities of aragonite-based products. In my opinion, it's better to go with the (admittedly more expensive) commercial products. There are also potential ethical and legal issues associated with the collection of natural materials. Do check with local authorities before engaging in such activities.> When collecting sand from the ocean is there do's and Don'ts. Should I rinse the sand? <Again- depending on the source and condition of the material, rinsing can be either a great idea, or a disastrous proposition to inhabitants of the sand bed. Do your homework first...> Can I use NSW for the water in my tank? When collecting NSW for how long can it be stored & should it be aerated when not used. Thanks Gustav <Well, Gustav- you can use natural sea water, but there is a definite protocol for its appropriate use. Please see the FAQs on water and water quality here on the WWM site. Lots of material on the pros and cons of NSW use in aquaria, as well as ways to prepare it for use. Do some research here and see if you are up to the challenge! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Sandbagging <Hi Paul, MikeD here> We are going to the Keys next week for a little diving and relaxation.
<You couldn't pick a better place as long as you factor hangovers in> Aside from maybe violating a couple of local laws, what is to stop me from filling my swimming shorts with beach sand and stuffing the whole mess inside my suitcase for the flight home.<This is great! The first thing is that it's VERY uncomfortable, the second is to use care that you don't get something alive in there you weren't counting on!**grin**>  You see we live in Kansas and aragonite sand is very expensive out here (like $2.00 a pound).<It's pretty expensive here too, not much less>  I know one should never disturb reef life or collect your own live rock, but beach sand?<Well, there is ONE minor problem, that being that our sand is largely silica, not aragonite. Before doing that I'd just go down to Home Depot and get some Mason's sand....much cheaper and safer!>   I could pick up a couple of empty pop bottles and some cigarette butts along with the sand and say I was cleaning the beach.<Now, THAT would be appreciated!> Thoughts?
<Most Florida sand is silica, just as is used in children's sandboxes, with the exception of very high surf areas, where some of the beach is finely crushed sea shells, often dredged up from a mile or so out as "Beach Replenishment". The sad part is, for all your conscientiousness, the state itself is quite hypocritical, with the huge amounts paid for "beach front property" often given priority over the sea bottom that's dredged up for those expensive "private" beaches.> TIA Paul in Stilwell, Kansas

Collect Your Own Gravel-Or Buy A Bag? Dear Scott, <Hi there!> I have recently collected some black rocks which are about 0.5 to 1 cm in size which I intend to you as gravel for my 55 l tank. Should I put these rocks as my gravel or should I use sand? Appreciate your reply. <Well, as much as I like to use natural materials in aquascaping, I would err on the side of caution. A number of factors come into play here: First- are you contemplating using the rocks in a freshwater or saltwater system? The type of rock is, of course, extremely important. Any old "black rock" could be anything from largely inert obsidian to rock containing (and capable of leaching) many potentially toxic compounds, such as Sulphur, arsenic, lead, or who knows what! In a closed system, this could be disastrous! The old technique of testing a collected rock with some "expendable" fishes before placing it in the display tank is both inhumane and inconclusive. In modern reef and other systems, with aggressive water chemistry and seemingly constant environmental manipulations being enacted by even the most casual aquarist, the potential long-term problems are too many. Bottom line- unless you are absolutely certain as to the composition of the rock, and are positive that it came from a pure source, I'd (regretfully) fork down the bucks and buy aquarium-safe material. Rock on! Regards, Scott F>

Question on using sea sand Hi everybody sorry that I am bombarding you with all these questions - I absolutely love your site please can you answer the following questions for me. I currently have a medium depth sand bed with crushed coral & shells etc - I am going down to our coast this Christmas (South Africa) and am thinking of bringing back some sea sand to help fertilize my existing bed. The sand found in rock pools in SA is of fine to medium size but mostly consists of crushed shells and normal sea sand. Will this be ok to use? <after a quarantine period of 2-4 weeks, it will be safe and useful> Also can I just put it into a packet and keep it slightly moist on the flight back? <yes, indeed... will be fine for 18-24 hours easily> * Would you recommend that I vacuum my sand bed when I do monthly water changes? <yes, it is critical with medium and coarse substrates at any depth> * As money is a bit tight at this point in my life - what would be the best alternative in using a RO/DI unit to make up tap water, I have read on your site to store my water at least for a week with an airstone to help purify the water. Is this the best bet? <it is helpful but not comparable to RO/DI> Thank you so much for all your assistance!!!! Have a fantastic Christmas!!! Werner Schoeman <best regards, Anthony>

Saltwater substrate adventure in Dubai Hello People, <Hello Lyndon> Hope you are all well. I am considering adding a sand bed to my 60G Tank. But... 1.) There is only one Marine LFS in Dubai (Where I live)...People say that Saltwater is very demanding according to the LFS guy...We brave ones know that ! 2.) He does not sell Live Sand or Live Rock 3.) No online store will ship here...and even if they do...I cant afford it right away as I'm saving to buy an Aqua C skimmer.... I HAVE to collect this from the excellent reefs on the East coast...there is no prohibition as there are obviously few or no collectors from here... <I see> I am trying to figure out what kind of sand to collect.. colour... particle size.. how deep I can dig up... what to be wary of etc.... <Collect in a few feet of depth, one millimeter or larger diameter, from the surface down to an inch or so... likely need to rinse (in seawater, on site) to remove much of the life for transit (else will die, take longer to "cure")>   And when I pick some LR rubble....what do I look out for... <Sponges, larger macro-algae... leave them in the sea... often die in transit otherwise> Can you give me some advice on this please ???? Thank You...as always your help is much appreciated. Regards Lyndon <Enjoy the anticipation, task, and do make it known what you experienced. Bob Fenner>

A Million Grains Of Sand...Free For The Taking? Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> We are heading to Jacksonville, Florida for a week this summer.  We are staying at a family friend's house on the beach.  Is it possible to use the beach sand in our aquarium? Brian <Well, Brian, this is a pretty common thought for us crazy hobbyists...I mean- why not? It's right there...it's free, it's...well- actually- it's probably a really bad idea! Besides the fact that beach sand is a fairly precious natural resource (in my area, the sand at local beaches helps prevent erosion, and this is really important!), sand collected near or on shore could contain all sorts of potential pollutants, ranging from simple organic silts to possibly toxic chemicals or agricultural runoff. Most of the packaged sand that we buy at the LFS is not beach collected, so it is generally free of these potential pollutants. Personally, I'd resist the temptation and fork out the bucks for pre-packaged sand. Enjoy your vacation! Regards, Scott F.>

Sand Bed Hello Mr. Fenner, I want to say right off the bat how thankful I am for your book and web site.  <Thank you my friend. Getting better all the time> A year ago I bought a 75 gallon aquarium to keep  marine fish. "It's not any harder the FW, just more expensive." Geez I had no clue. Mixing salt to the water then to the tank, feeding only flake food, the same gravel as my FW tank (I'm sure you know all of the bad stories of people who started the same as I.) <New ones most days> I am ashamed of my ignorance towards this hobby and how lazy I was about fixing it.  <Ah! But aware of where you were, going elsewhere/forward> After too long I am now hell bent on going it the right way and have formed a good plan. I bought 85lbs of LR. A skimmer!! I am learning about different food stuffs and everyday maintenance. I ordered power compact lighting last week and I have a refugium empty and waiting to be filled. :) Very excited. <Yes!> My next upgrade will be adding a 4" sand bed. What I have right now is (1 1/2") live sand & crushed coral mix that looks to be active. Worms and clams and creatures that I have no idea who they are moving around in it. I will also add a 4" sand bed to my refugium. <Good> This brings me to my question. I live in Fort Bragg in Northern California. I am right on the beach as a matter of fact (lucky me.) I am wondering since I do not need live sand, I am assuming my active bed will seed whatever I put in it (Slowly of course) would it be acceptable to go down in the waves and get some of our sand (beach ranger permitting)? <Not a good idea actually... too much/cold difference in temperature for the majority of organisms to bridge... Along with concerns re pollution, pests...> From 55* to my tank that is at 80*. I am sure all of the critters will die off (will sieve it to take out larger stuff) but I wonder if it will do the same as sand from my nearest marine store. I don't think it will harm anything, I guess the best question is will it do any good for it? <Not really... well, perhaps as an experiment... but not in/with your main tank. You will/would suffer "cloudy water" problems that would be persistent... from die-off, adjustment in many ways.> I am planning on increasing my water circulation. I want to get an external pump and have a spray bar (I hope that is the correct term) along the back of the tank. I am not so happy with looking at internal powerheads. :) I am wondering if you have any thoughts about going through the plumbing hell (not my strong suit) to have this setup. Do you think it would be worth it for my system? I want to have a fish and hardy invertebrates system. Perhaps a reef is the very distant future. <Lots of ideas on plumbing are posted on WWM and on to a link to Oz's Reef... a good idea to draw out/diagrammatize your various choices... to show others, gain clarity in your final design> Thank you for your time and I hope you will be able to write back. Ann <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Sand (for marine substrate) Hi, Bob and good day. Thanks for Your advice on magazines. I looked on some of their web sites. Not bad. When I went through my 100+ old TFH magazines I came across a lot of Your articles which I'm reading about a zillion times now. My freshwater tank is gone and the aquarium is clean and ready to be set up as a marine fish tank. I received 3 bags (about 150 lbs) very fine ,less then 1 mm diameter, coral sand from a friend of mine who owns a key island on Guanaja. Very clean 'off white' sand. I will wash it and then put about 1" on the bottom of my tank. Is that o.k.?  <Yes, likely fine> My petstore here has no sand whatsoever at the moment, so I'm stuck with what I have anyway. Then I will put the coral decoration in and then I have to wait for the salt, test kit and equipment that I ordered ( bio wheel to go with my canister filter, 2 power heads). I will keep You updated. Regards, Bernd <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Set Up and using local ingredients Aloha! <Salutem dicit my Hawaiian friend> Sorry if my question is a dumb one but, I am about to set up a 50 gal Marine tank. I plan on purchasing a protein skimmer or a combination bio. skimmer like Bak 2 . If this sounds like it will work fine. But, my main question is, I live 50 ft from the ocean here in Kauai. I would like to use the local sand and rock <Mmm, not to be perceived as too Spartan, but don't get caught... a no-no in HI with the DNR> instead of buying live rock and sand. I will probably use fish I order and some local varieties as well. Can or should I use the local sand and rock or still order it from somewhere else? <Ah, I would very likely use the materials at your immediate disposal... If in doubt at all, let the collected substrate run w/o other livestock till you register appreciable nitrate, no ammonia, nitrite... Bob Fenner> Mahalo for your response
<You're welcome>

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