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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds, Biological Make-Up

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,  & FAQs on: Rationale/Use, Dangers, Physical 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, Mud Filtration 1 Live Sand, Plenums Nitrates in Marine Aquariums, Refugium Substrates/DSBs,

Microbes... unnecessary with LR present... Macrobes? Maybe a purchased kit... or just the LR complements...

Question about Application of DSB to Increase Bio-Diversity in SPS Tank -- 07/21/08 Hello WWM Crew, <<Hello Scott>> I wonder if I can get your input regarding a decision I made recently to convert my (two years running) 135 gallon SPS system from a shallow sand depth to a DSB? <<Certainly>> The display contains roughly 120 lbs of live Kaelini rock. The circulation rate through the sump is about 1300 GPH, which I have since increased rather dramatically by adding four EcoTech Vortex pumps. <<Excellent>> Filtration consists of an Ecosystem 3616 Mud Sump with some Chaetomorpha (in addition to lots of other types of competing micro algae) and roughly 25 lbs Live Rock. The mud sump also houses an Eco-Reef CS 135 (which consistently produces dark skimmate) <<'¦!? Do you mean a Euro-Reef CS135?>> and four (1 cup) bags of carbon of which one bag is changed weekly. Water parameters are good, with pH around 8.3 and ammonia, nitrite and nitrate not detectable per Salifert test kits. I keep the aquarium relatively lightly stocked with the following fish; Flame Angel, Bicolor Blenny, Purple Tang and Sunrise Pseudochromis. The system is also home to a Blue Legged Hermit Crab, about 6 Astrea Snails and a Serpent Star, along with three small Acropora, two Montipora and a Pocillopora SPS. Thanks to your help, these animals are thriving. <<Is good to know>> In addition to the above, it has always been my goal to develop a system with the maximum level of biodiversity possible under the circumstances and have relied heavily on "Reef Invertebrates" by Calfo and Fenner (along with your outstanding website) for guidance along the way. <<Some good reading for sure>> As part of this strategy, I try to 'rotate" about 15 lbs of fresh (8 weeks cured) rock to "seed" the mud sump every couple of months with new life. <<An excellent practice'¦ Bob has often touted 'replacing' a portion of the rock in one's system on at least an annual basis for this purpose and too help replenish buffers/biominerals that do get 'used up' from the rock>> In spite of my efforts find that I don't get the level "critters" (copepods, amphipods and other types of desirable LR hitch hikers) that I am trying to foster and thought a DSB might be appropriate at this time. <<Mmm'¦a deeper sand bed may help with these particular critters by a small measure'¦but for critters such as amphipods and mysids, a course matrix like the Chaetomorpha macro-algae and the rock rubble is a better 'producer' of such in my opinion. If populations are not what you think they should be it is likely you need to 'feed' your refugium (I like inexpensive and easy to use shrimp pellets for this). Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of DSB methodology and I think it will be a great addition/benefit to your system'¦just don't expect an explosion of amphipods and mysids from simply increasing your substrate depth>> When I initially set up the system, I decided against using a DSB because I was new to reef systems and was not sure I could maintain this properly. Instead, I opted for a 3/4" sand bed using (0.5 - 1.0 mm) aragonite. Over time, my husbandry skills have improved and with the recent addition of the Vortex pumps, accumulation of detritus is kept to an absolute minimum so I just added more aragonite to obtain an average bed height of about 3-1/2 to 4 inches. <<Okay'¦sounds fine>> The heavy agitation by the pumps is a mixed blessing. <<Ah'¦yes indeed>> While the high flow does keep detritus in virtually continuous suspension, it also has the affect of creating some very dramatic "hills and valleys" in the sand. To the extent that some areas of the tank are shallow (say 2" depth) and others are quite high (around 6"). <<I do understand'¦ I have a 7' sugar-fine DSB in my display along with seven Tunze Stream pumps of varying power/flow rate. The key; and the challenge, is in arranging/positioning the pumps to minimize disturbance of the sand bed. Some 'movement' is inevitable (especially when/where flows converge), but I find positioning the pumps as high/near the surface as possible still allows for very good flow throughout the tank while minimizing movement of my substrate>> I have attached a photo for your reference, which shows the lower lip on the cabinet which covers the bottom 1" of the sand bed. <<I see it'¦ That's some extreme movement for sure'¦and not conducive to the true function (Nitrate reduction) of the DSB, in my opinion. It does also appear from the picture that at least one of your EcoTech pumps is positioned quite low in the tank. I suggest you move these to the top of the tank and see how things go>> I am at a point now where I am reluctant to add more sand as I don't want to reduce the water column height any further. Based on your experience and expertise, would you please advise your thoughts; have I stumbled into an "intermediate" zone that will achieve neither of the benefits of a DSB or a shallow bed? <<More the former if the bed is in a constant state of change'¦and maybe even becoming problematic over time if/when certain elements are 'bound-up' but later released by severe movement of the substrate>> Can the above setup help to improve biodiversity if one is careful to insure that there is an absolute minimum of detritus accumulation on the sand bed? <<I don't understand how you are making this correlation. Many of the critters that inhabit the substrate are'¦detritivores. As I alluded earlier'¦low population density of these animals is likely directly related to the availability of foodstuffs'¦to include detritus. I don't mean to send mixed signals as we all know detritus 'accumulation' is to be avoided. But continually blowing your sand around (whether shallow or deep) as much and in the manner your photo depicts will not be conducive to fostering substrate biota of any kind. If you can't or don't want to reposition the pumps to minimize shifting of the substrate'¦I suggest going back to a sub-1' depth (for aesthetics, mainly) and concentrate on boosting the biota in the refugium with regular feedings>> Thanks in advance for your reply. Scott <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Dry Live Sand 4/5/08 Hi I have a question regarding DSB's I currently have two inches of aragonite sand and want to seed it with live sand, my LFS told me to use pink live sand (not really pink just called that) which is the type they claim to use on their tanks which look great. <OK> My only problem with this is that the sand is shipped like aragonite sand in that it is dry in a plastic bag. I was wondering if dry live sand is just a scam or if the microfauna is able to live dry? <There will be absolutely no seeding benefit from this sand, and for that matter very little from water packed sand in a bag. The best thing you can do to seed your system is to talk someone with an existing tank into a cup of their sand or to simply add live rock to the system. Regards, Scott V. >

Sandbed Predators -- 12/10/07 Hi WWM crew! <<Hello Joe!>> Finally I get to write instead of read. <<Is that a good thing? [grin]>> I just finished cycling my new 125 gal tank with 200 lbs Fiji rock, a 4" fine (Ocean Direct) sand bed and refugium. <<Cool!>> I also added a micro fauna selection from IPSF including mini stars, spaghetti worms, sandbed clams, pods, etc. (everything they sell). <<Excellent>> Now, I am ready to transfer my inverts from my old tank and want to avoid any threats to my new sandbed inhabitants. I have a cleaner shrimp, a banded shrimp, a sally lightfoot crab, 10 medium hermit crabs, 2 emerald crabs and a serpent star to transfer. <<I see>> Should any of these be avoided? <<All will prey on the biota in the sandbed to some extent; as will most everything you plan to keep in this tank...is just 'how it is.' The big concern is to avoid those organisms that will 'deplete' the life in the sandbed to the point it can not be self-sustained...such as 'sand-sifting' sea stars. For the benefit they provide versus their potential for damage, 'I' would exclude the crabs...but that's just me. But whether you keep them or not, leaving that sandbed to mature and giving the biota within time to reproduce/attain sustainable populations will mean much, not only to the continued long-term health of the sandbed, but to the system as a whole>> Also, are there any 'safe' sand stirrers that you would recommend? <<Little if anything is entirely 'safe.' But the addition of Nassarius and Cerith snails will pose little risk while agitating the sandbed, with the added benefit of being beneficial detritivores>> I like the idea of a DSB or just lots of micro-diversity. <<Indeed...and the added 'bio-diversity' contributes to the overall 'balance' of the system>> There are LPS and community fish in my near future. Thanks, Joe <<If you have the patience, leaving the tank to run as it is for 6-12 months before adding fish or inverts will make an amazing difference in the long-term. Regards, EricR>>

Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biodiversity 11/19/07 Hullo :) <Hello> I have a question regarding DSB. <Ok> I understand for a DSB to really be a NNR instrument, it needs the small creatures (worms, pods) to colonise it. <Yes helpful, but the NNR is done by bacteria, not microfauna.> However, I also know that by the time we get the sand from the beach (best form of LR) <Not necessarily, the potential for contamination by pollution or undesired organisms is quite high in most sand collected from beaches. I prefer a little cultured sand on top of "dead" sand or just letting the Live Rock seed it.> it will have a fraction of the bio diversity in it. <Yes> Is my understanding correct? <Mostly, but it depends on where this thinking is taking you.> Cheers Ranjith <Chris>

Re: Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biodiversity 11/19/07 Hiya Chris, <Hello> Thanks for the quick response. <Welcome> The reason for the question was whether just taking construction sand and seeding with Live rock will help me accomplish the following: 1. Keep nitrates under 5ppm (bottom layer) 2. ensure ammonia and nitrite are zero (top layer) Cheers Ranjith <I have to admit I'm not familiar with construction sand, but as long as it is calcium based, of the right size, and free from chemical additives it should work nicely for what you are trying to do here. Given time the LR will seed the sand with all sorts of life.> <Chris>

DSB creatures or not? 11/07/07 Folks, Thank you for a candid and well informed source of data for this most challenging and rewarding hobby. My question is in regards to "stirring" a DSB (>5" deep, no plenum) designed for Natural Nitrate Reduction. I have heard both sides - the sand (<1.0mm size) should be populated by sifting creatures (sand sifting stars, Nassarius snails, etc...) <No on the sand sifting stars, please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sndsftstrfaqs.htm A couple or few Nassarius snails are probably good.> to continuously prevent the sand from being totally static; <Yes, but not primarily by these creatures. You need sand worms and other tiny (many microscopic critters) which you can get with "seeder" sand. Live sand that comes in a bag is not quite good enough. You need live sand that is cultured to seed a sand bed.> others who say that for NNR to occur properly, the sand bed must be totally static so that gas bubbles are not released back into the water column. <Not true. The sand needs to be stirred, but on a micro level.> Is there a truly correct stance or does it even matter? I could not find a clear answer, although there is quite a bit of literature on DSB in WWM to go through. <I hope I've cleared this up for you. Please let me know if you have more questions. :) > Thanks in advance! Seth <Best, Sara M.>

Re: DSB creatures or not? 11/07/07 Sara, Thanks for the quick reply. I have a mix of crushed coral and fine sand (<1.5" deep )in my display tank crawling with 'pods and such, so I'll sift out some of the sand to put in the Fuge that will contain the DSB to seed it. <That will help, but you should also get some sand from a friend with an established sand bed (or order some cultured seeder live sand online)... or get it at your LFS if they have it. The more diversity you have the better. And actually, you'll also want to re-seed you sand every so often.> I'll probably get rid of the crushed coral once I devise a good method of separating it from the sand (a colander or something I guess); I dread the cloud storm the separating will do in the tank though. <Hmm, why are you doing this? I know we don't recommend a mix of crushed coral and sand. But once it's been done, I'm not sure if trying to "fix" it couldn't potentially cause more problems than just letting it be.> Thanks again for the clarification! Seth <De nada, Sara M.>

Deep Sand Bed, Low Salinity System 9/21/07 Hi. Greetings from Alaska. <Hello from Chicago.> I have a 55gal. FOWLR with quite a bit of fish. Bicolor angel, Raccoon B/F, Fox Lo, Royal Gramma, Flame Hawkfish, Tomato clown and a Yellowtail damsel. <I would call that very heavily stocked, even overstocked.> I am a big fan of hyposalinity system and that is not as a treatment but as a method of my hobby. <I have to disagree with you here, keeping fish in anything other that natural as possible conditions is exceedingly stressful over time and leads to an early demise.> I am running this tank for more than a year now and I have no disease or any problem on my fish during this period. <Unfortunately I don't think this will last over the long haul as the conditions take their toll.> I am planning to buy a HOB refugium and make a deep sand bed in it. My question is: Can a anaerobic nitrifying bacteria form or thrive in a deep sand bed with a salinity of 1.010 SG? Thanks for your response. Larry <The bacteria will colonize this area, there are many species that live in all different salinity levels. However I encourage you to reconsider your approach.> <Chris>

Re: exciting new question... blue cheek goby with sand bed-- 09/17/07 Hi again. <Hi, sorry for the delay in responding. I was at MACNA all weekend :-)> Thank you very much for your reply. We have done extensive research on DSB's and get conflicting information all the time. <Fair enough. There's still a lot we don't know and different people have different ideas/theories. This is just all the more reason why it's important to understand enough to be able to investigate these ideas/theories for yourself.> One last question, I understand that it is not wise to use a sand sifter star, however we do already have a blue cheek goby, is this fish going to be a problem? <The fish shouldn't hurt your sand bed much. But these fish can be tricky to feed sometimes. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gobyfdgfaqs.htm> We are going to definitely go with a DSB probably 3inch plus and use Live Aragonite Sand and not listen to LFS :-). <cool> Many thanks Nicola <De nada, Sara M.>

DSB, biota  -- 7/3/07 Cool, thank you. So I am correct in assuming that "sand stirring inverts" refers more to those on the micro size rather than larger ones such as snails, conchs, stars, cucumbers, etc? <For the most part, yes. And actually, I'd stay away from any sand dwelling echinoderms. Too many of them eat the critters you do want. As for snails and conchs, there are some types that might be good but aren't essential. Nassarius vibex snails are good scavengers and will move the sand around. It's also fun to watch them suddenly rise out of the sand during feeding like something out of a zombie movie. If you can find a *small* species of conch, one of them can be good too. The trouble with conchs though is that a lot of them look alike and they're almost always sold when they're tiny. So it's often hard to know just how huge they might get.> Meaning you essentially stock it like a normal tank (minus fish and corals in this case) and seed the sand bed? <Yep. That's pretty much it. If you want, you can get other little critters sold for sand beds and refugiums. But you probably already have a lot of these things already.> Sorry, kinda clueless...the folks at (all four) of the LFS's I go to regularly cant tell me much about DSBs other than they exist and there are reports of them working. <Haha, no worries. It's not always easy to find this info.> Thanks again, Mike <My pleasure, Sara M.>

Re: Live Rock on Top of a DSB ? -- 06/28/07 Hi Mr. Firemouth - nice name! <Thank You, I breed Firemouths> I have comments regarding your reply: > Subject: Live Rock on Top of a DSB ? > Hi there guys! > <Hi Jason> > I've got a 20 gallon fuge for my 70 gallon mixed tank. > It's a new setup, only 2 weeks old. I've placed some sugar-fine sand in the fuge. To "seed" the sand, I placed about 15 pounds of live rock (from my last snorkel dive) on top of the 4-5 inch sand. My fuge is very visible, and I like it looking nice. It is actually part of my display, separated by glass with a couple small holes.  > I've got some questions regarding the setup... is it ok to leave some live rock on top of the DSB? > <Yes, Live Rock on the DSB is OK. Just make sure there is plenty of sand dwelling fauna to keep the sands maintained> Yes, I've had live rock for 2 months, and the other half was transported from the ocean correctly, so it's been 2 weeks, and no spikes so far. <After 2 months the tank has been cycled and will support the new rock without impact to the biological filter> What kind of "sand dwelling fauna" should I keep in the DSB .. I thought items such as brittle stars and gobies were a no-no since the DSB should not be disturbed.. ? <Here you are looking for worms, detritivore kits. They are available from a place called Inland Aquatics in Terre Haute, Indiana. They will keep the sand active for you> Also, if I keep cleaner shrimp and the like in my refuge, will the eat my amphipods and copepods? <Cleaner shrimp will be fine in the fuge. Amphipod/copepods will reproduce thru out the system and there are booster live pod kits that you can purchase from your LFS to increase their numbers.> Jason > <Rich aka Mr. Firemouth>

Need Help Choosing A Suitable Detritivore For My Sump Sand Bed -- 05/31/07 Hi guys! <<Paul>> Love the website and have spent hours reading it, thanks. <<Welcome>> I'll start with a description of my tanks: I currently have a 70-gal tank, a 30-gal dedicated refugium and a refugium that acts as a sump. Now on to the question, I'm looking for a detritivore/garbage eater that would stir up the sand bed in the sump. <<Mmm, several come to mind...what are the 'conditions for employment' here?>> It doesn't have a lot of water flow going through it, and I would consider it low flow. <<Not a problem>> Being that it's the lowest flow in all of my setup, I've found that it collects all the organics that the prefilters on the overflow boxes do not. <<Indeed...is a 'settling chamber' for solids. You say you have an attached refugium already...this being the case, your system would be better served if there were no sand in this 'settling chamber' portion of your sump thus allowing you to periodically (weekly/bi-weekly) siphon the settled material from the system...in my opinion>> Being that the pump is only blocked by a plastic barrier that's approximately 10" high before water falls down to the pump, I'm looking for something that can't get over the gate. Here's a rough picture of my sump: <<Mmm, yes...is this an accurate representation? I see you have a plenum system...you do realize the live rock hinders its function...and that large bioturbators are not desirable as they can mix/destroy the different bacterial zones>> I was thinking a starfish of either the Brittle Star family or something in the Fromia family. <<Both will server as detritivores, and both can scale that partition you mentioned as well...in fact...pretty much anything you place in this 'sand' chamber will eventually find its way to the 'pump' chamber>> My main concern is that they will survive in a low flow environment. <<As long as there is sufficient oxygen/gas exchange...yes>> I have a Sand-Sifting Star, and a Chocolate Chip Star and both have been alive and well for over a year and a half. <<I see...so this chamber is only for de-nitrification then, as these two stars will voraciously consume the benthic and sessile biota within>> The Sand Star even lost one of his legs (I accidentally crushed him under a piece of live rock) but over the course of the last 6 months has completely regrown! <<Well fed indeed...and testament to the quality and care of your system>> That being said I'm sure my water quality will support another, I'm just trying to choose the right species for my purpose. <<More than good water quality is needed...you must be able to provide adequate nutrition/environment/et al>> I hope you can lead me in the right direction of a good species for this purpose. <<I would choose an Ophiuroid species...is the least likely to 'scale the wall' if kept well fed, in my opinion, and will consume detritus without disturbing/digging as deeply as the Astropecten>> My LFS suggested a Blue Linckia, <<Ack!...no!>> which I didn't buy because I've read about their diet needs. <<Ahh...Goodonya mate!>> So any help here would be much appreciated! <<Hope I have provided some. EricR>>

Coquina Clam Query -- 5/5/07 Good Afternoon, <Hello.> I sometimes have very odd ideas, and have been kicking on around for a few weeks. Specifically, I am wondering how the coquina clams (Tropical species of the Donax Genus) often found in large numbers on Florida beaches might fare in a home aquarium, specifically in a Deep Sand Bed. <These would be more temperate than tropical.  I will say I received a few very similar looking clams (genus Tapes) in a clean-up crew package, but they were a more tropical variety, and they were quickly knocked out by my pistol shrimp.> As these creatures are found in the first few inches of sand, one might wonder as to their ability to "clean" the top of a DSB of leftover food and aid in the goal of "Zero" nitrates. (They live deep enough in the sand that I can believe they are at least not primarily photosynthetic, but not deeper then my DSB). <They are not at all photosynthetic.  They are filter feeders.  The bacteria deep in the bed will ultimately be more helpful with nitrates.> In my search for information, I've only found references to aquaculture facilities and to temperate to cold water species collected off of northern states such as New Jersey. Some web site I read mentions once or twice that you might want to research a life form before you place it in your aquarium, but this particular critter doesn't appear to have much information about them.  <Not typically an aquarium species.  Here is one article about their occurrence in the wild: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/Coquinaclam.pdf . Consider what the average temperature is in the collection location. http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/egof.html .  The water temperatures on Florida beaches range from 50-85 through the year, so while these species can probably survive tropical temperatures, they may need the cooler temps to thrive. They also need a finer sand than the typical aragonite for their digging.> If it helps, I run a 150 gallon aquarium with a 15 gallon sump and 30 gallon refugium, as well as a deep sand bed. While this tank is relative new, it may very well be fairly mature before I collect enough research on this topic that I am prepared to risk the lives of a few coquina's in it. <I would stick to making soup with these, and not risk the die off in the aquarium. Or order a truly tropical variety.> (Here's to hoping that I'm not one of the questions referred to existing F.A.Q.'s, I did search on every term I could think of!) <I only find this page with a reference to coquina in a refugium: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reefopfaq17.htm  Alex>

Too Disruptive For DSB? - 04/15/07 Greetings WWM crew, <<Howdy David>> Thanks for taking the time to try to answer my questions. <<Is our pleasure to assist>> I've been through dozens of FAQ's and haven't been able to find the specific question that I'm looking for. <<Ok>> I currently have a 55g with about 1 1/2" to 2" of CC and about 50 lbs of LR on a 48"X12" footprint, and I'm planning on putting in a 4" deep DSB. <<Ok>> I have a Sand Sifting Star and a Diamond Goby. <<Mmm...>> My questions are: 1)  Would the Sand Sifting Star eat too many of the beneficial critters in the DSB? <<Most assuredly yes.  These critters are very efficient predators and would decimate the sand bed infauna in a tank this size>> And 2)  Will the Goby dig up too much of the DSB for NNR? <<In my opinion/experience...very possible...along with the fact this species of sand-sifting goby has the habit of grabbing a mouthful of sand and then swimming over the reef "crop dusting" the corals as it moves along.  A much better sand-sifting Goby choice for a DSB in my opinion is Amblygobius phalaena, or the Dragon Goby.  These fish do an excellent job of sifting/stirring the substrate but limit their digging to only a couple centimeters.  And they will stir fine sand in to the water column with their activity, but they don't swim over the top of the reef dusting all below>> Thanks again and keep up the good work!! David <<Welcome...and am trying.  EricR>>

Deep Sand Bed Questions... biota 4/12/07 Hi crew, I was hoping that you could clear up some questions regarding the usage of a DSB. <Will try.> I read several articles about the subject including a 3/01 article written by Dr. Ron Shimek that appeared in Aquarium Fish Magazine.  In that article, (I have attached a copy), Mr. Shimek refers to seeding the DSB with live sand, preferring a purchase of live sand from a local pet store or online vs. from another hobbyist's established tank, (if I am understanding him correctly).  He also mentions the advantages of purchasing Fauna Kits or Detritivore Kits to stock the sand with live critters, (after introducing the live sand).  Do you feel that one or the other would suffice, (IE: the live sand or Fauna Kit), or should introduce live sand and subsequently a kit?  <If the tank holds no fish or other potential predators and will remain this way for a few weeks/months then I think the LS is enough.  If the tank is already stocked then adding the kits will be helpful in raising the population to breeding levels before they get decimated by the predators.>  (I have an 85 gal tank). Ron also mentions: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU ADD "SAND-SIFTING" ANIMALS SUCH AS BURROWING SEA STARS OR SOME GOBIES.  I'm not clear on this statement.  Does this mean that you shouldn't add sand sifting/burrowing animals at this time or at any time thereafter? <Never>  Some of the fauna kits include shrimp, brittle stars, copepods, snails etc.  Don't these animals sift through the sand?  <Yes, but what he is referring to are animals that eat microfauna found in the sand, most snails, serpent stars, and copepods live in the sand but feed off algae, detritus, and not other sand dwellers.>  His article does mention that the purpose of these critters is to turn the sand bed over, therefore I'm a bit confused. <Turn over as in aerate and clean up, but not hunt other "sand mates", at least not to an appreciable level.>   Another question is after the sand bed is established can I introduce a clean-up crew, (Nassarius & turbo snails, hermits, conch etc), or would this be counter-productive since they would devour the fauna kit crew? <Avoid ones that would feed on the fauna kit livestock, which would be mostly crabs here, although not exclusively.  Nassarius and turbo snails will be fine along with most other clean-up crews.> Last question, for now, would my system benefit from having sand in the refugium? <Depends on what you are looking for.> I have a small combo sump/refugium which was made out of an old AMiracle wet/dry filter.  It consists of an area for the skimmer, additional baffles, a return area and a small area segregated for the refugium.  I can't add sand to the sump area, (don't know if this would be a suggested method), however I could add some rock to the return area of the sump and some sand/rock to the refugium area.  Any suggestions?  As always I thank you for your educated opinions. Thanks, Frank <Sand in the refugium would be nice especially if you are going to maintain a DSB, this will give the critters a safer place to multiply away from the normal tank livestock.  Be careful though, you do not want sand getting blown out and running through the return pumps, which will significantly reduce their life.  If you have not already, please see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marscavart.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm for more.> <Chris>

Re: Deep Sand Bed Questions Part II, biota   - 04/12/2007 Chris, <Hello> The info you provided was very helpful. <Glad to hear.>  My tank is currently being setup, therefore no livestock. <Ah, good.>  A couple of additional questions: do you agree that purchasing live sand offers greater benefits then seeding with live sand from another hobbyist's tank? <Depends on the tank you are getting it from, a well maintained tank is better than some holding tanks I've seen in stores that have sand-sifting stars and gobies in them.> If so is any brand better than another? <Careful here, sand kept in a bag for days/weeks is no longer live, regardless of the label.  Best to get from a tank at the LFS.> Do you feel that all the critters they offer in a fauna kit would develop in the system naturally? (I plan on letting the tank run for a month before adding livestock, (fish/corals). <Yes, really the LR is enough to seed a sand bed.  The longer you go without fish the better the diversity will be.>  What could I add to the tank to help promote the growth of critters/bacteria and to feed them?  <Clean water is usually enough, otherwise a very small pinch of fish food every few days will be plenty.> Thank you again for the info, Frank <Chris>

DSB stirring organisms, yea or nay ? Leave out the macro-fauna  8/27/05 Hola Crew... <Que tal Juan?> Getting down to the last few questions as I make the final decisions on the reef tank I am designing and I just became more confused than normal <G>. <Keep studying> I *was* planning on adding a brittle star and a couple of gobies to a 150 gallon (size keeps changing !) reef tank with a 6" DSB but my research today lead me to some comments by Dr. Ron S. (whose opinion I certainly respect) where he seems to indicate nothing larger than infauna should be allowed into a DSB display tank. My question is; is this a topic being hotly debated currently ? <Mmm, not as far as I'm aware. RonS's opinion is widely shared> Should I flip a coin or add the macro fauna and hope they don't burrow down into the anoxic area of the DSB ?!? <I wouldn't> Thanks again for all the *great* info at WWM ! John

DSB info for coral propagation 3/16/05 Hello, I have enjoyed reading many of your informative articles in the past and hope that perhaps you can help shine a light on a number of questions that I have. <glad to do so :)> I am attempting to start a greenhouse grown coral farm. I have a number of personal tanks in which I have used DSBs to assist in environmental filtration. Presently I am setting up a 800 gal system and am investigating other sources for sand to use in these systems. I can purchase aquatic sand from my sources but have been reading a lot of literature that says if you are not buying "live" sand, you are over paying for basically playground sand. <not true... there is no need for so-called "live sand". Its not needed, and frankly... many of the products sold as "live sand" are really a joke. Carbonate sand is carbonate sand... period> I am concerned about this as I am not able to set the system twice but I have no need to spend unnecessary $. Hard enough to get started as a small business. <no worries... clean, dry sand is fine or better: can be inoculated as you wish. More control> If these substrates are indeed avail for proper use in these systems what do you recommend? I have inquired as to available sands and have the opportunity to purchase many types. <calcite or aragonite would be ideal. If you go for silica based sands... you need to compensate for its lack of buffer> I have heard the "play sand " available at many home improvement stores works well. <true... do see the many message boards posts confirming this through the years> I also wondered about something like masonry sand. <eh... rather dirty. Some concern for contaminants (river dredged)> I know that they use this type of sand for playgrounds. It has a sugar sand particulate size. Any recommendations would be appreciated. One further question, I have a great number of snails in my systems that lay eggs , but never does the population increase. <some species have complicated larval cycles that do not succeed in aquaria> Any ideas? <do try for strombid snails from IPSF.com or Ceriths/cerithium species from Florida for easy to breed marine snails> Thanks for your time and I look forward to your reply. <best of luck in your endeavors :) Anthony> 

DSB Critters (Too Disturbing?) - 06/12/05 Hi crew, I am replacing my 40gallon long aquarium because it leaks and is scratched up with a 55 gallon when I can afford it, and I have been thinking about filtration possibilities. <<Always good to think ahead.>> I want to use my diy pvc skimmer that I had to disassemble because it was leaking horribly (it seems to work very well when I was using it for my 40gallon...). <<Mmm...perhaps time/chance for some reengineering.>> Anyhow, I was wondering about the idea of having a 5-6" DSB in the 55g, but some of the "talk" at reefcentral.com about DSBs...well I don't know if it will "crash" or not if maintained properly. <<With a proper substrate (sugar-fine sand) and adequate/proper water flow this is of little concern.  I've had DSBs that were 7-8 years old with no issues (Anthony has one in the 10 yr. range).>> What I was wondering is are sea cucumbers (the sand mopping variety) bad for a DSB? <<Love'em myself...have two in my system with a 6" DSB.>> And, are hermit crabs also bad for DSBs? <<Don't know that they affect a DSB one way or the other.  But I prefer to keep them out of my tank for their opportunistic dietary habits.>> Another question is will a yellowhead jawfish disturb a DSB too much, possibly causing it to not function properly? <<Is a possibility, yes.  But will likely find a spot to its liking and stay...becoming a small concern to the DSB overall.>> Thanks, Adam <<Regards, Eric R.>>

DSB for NNR...(nitrate control and refugia) 6/22/05 Hello, I have set up 75 gallon refugium for NNR (natural nitrate reduction).  I can only get the 1-2mm aragonite here in South Africa.   <Heeeey! Are you aware of the SA forum? Good local networking for you (seeing tanks, frag swaps, etc): http://sareefkeeping.com/forum/index.php> What is the perfect depth for the bed, 6 inches, 7 inches?   <4-6" minimum indeed. But with strong water flow above it when using more coarse sand. I'd opt for at least 6", mate.> Also, what else do you recommend I put in the refugium?  Live rock, Caulerpa?   <Neither. LR impedes flow and has less benefits there... Caulerpa is noxious if not toxic and too tedious to keep long term (risk of vegetative fission, etc.). I'd recommend a Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria colony for safer algae and as good or better pod/plankton production> Would it benefit my system to add some coral to the refugium as my main tank is FOWLR? <No, my friend. On the contrary! The coral will prey on zooplankton that the refugium generates for your fishes. Please consider reading our extensive refugium coverage in "Reef Invertebrates" where a full chapter is dedicated to styles, benefits, disadvantages, etc> Many Thanks, James. <kindly, Anthony>

System set up 1/1/04 Hello <Hi Martin.  Happy New Year!> I am currently setting up a marine system and intend to use a DSB, the display tank is 60"x24" highx19" deep with a sump 48"x15"x15". I intend to make the DSB 5-6" deep <Sounds like a nice system and an appropriately deep bed.> my questions are can I seed and mature the DSB before connection in to the main tank. then add live rock to the main tank. <IMO, the best way to seed the bed is with the live rock itself.  A lot of critters will migrate from the rock to the sand.  This is especially true if you get good quality rock that has not been overly processed.  Another reason to add the live rock first is that without it, the system will be too "sterile" and there will not be any food or diversity of habitat for the critters to exploit.> i have not seen anywhere a detailed procedure for setting up a system with a DBS. can you please help ? <Generally, it is simplest and most effective to add the sand, fill the tank with salt water and then add the rock and some water movement devices (can be through the sump, or just powerheads).  Once cycling is complete and things have stabilized, add additional critters to "seed" the bed.  It is also ideal to let the tank go fish free for a couple more weeks while adding small amounts of food to feed all of the critters that you want to grow.  When adding rock, do be sure that it is placed so that it won't topple of the sand shifts.  Also, I put as little rock in to or in contact with the sand as possible, even going so far as using PVC pipe sections as "legs" to support the rock.  This prevents "dead spots" of no water movement, leaves more sand area exposed and gives you more for your money on live rock.  Also ask around in your local aquarium club or other aquarists and see what folks are happy with and unhappy with to help guide your set up.> best regards. Martin <Good luck, and let us know if you have any other questions.  Adam>

Startin' With Sand... Hello, Crew! <Hello there! Scott F. with you!> I found your articles on a DSB interesting, and I think I am sold on it for my new 120 gal tank. <It's a great methodology if assembled right> My question is, in a new tank I will shoot for a 4" depth. Can I add dry oolitic sugar sized sand (dead) with some CaribSea Kick Start live sand to start? <Sure. Better yet-you could use one of the "kits" offered by Indo-Pacific Sea Farms or Inland Aquatics to help seed the tank with beneficial micro and macrofauna...> Also, is it best to add it first to my after the water is in, circulate it till it clears up then add my live rock? <That's the way I'd do it> If so, should the live rock be fully cured in a separate trash can before I add it to the tank? <Well, I prefer to cure the live rock in a separate container or aquarium before adding it to the display tank> As always, Thanks for all your help in getting to where I am now. <And I hope you can keep going beyond that, too! We'll be there for you! Good luck! Regards, Scott

Starting' With Sand (Cont'd.) Thanks for the quick reply! Deeply appreciated. <You're quite welcome!> When you suggested an activator for my dead oolitic sand did you mean the (Surfzone live sand activator by Indo-Pacific Sea Farms) to kick start? <Yep- that's a great way to seed a sand bed. The cool thing is that Gerald (Heslinga), Indo Pacific's owner, always seems to throw in some "extras" in every order...A great place to order "diversity" animals from! Have fun! Regards, Scott F.>

Working With Sand Dear WWM Crew, <Scott F. here today> Thank you for your reply the last time regarding the DSB critters. I have one last question to ask the master aquarists :) My DSB in sump has no lighting and I have no intention lighting it up, I'm merely gonna to seed the sand bed with pods and critters using live rocks. And then I'm going to dump in a sea cucumber to handle the detritus build-up on the sand surface. I'm also thinking of removing the filter floss in the chamber before the DSB to allow all the particles to settle in the DSB to feed whatever's gonna live there. What do you think of this setup? any recommendations? Thank you for your time :) Cheers, Alan <Sounds just fine to me! Regards, Scott F> Detritivores and DSB Questions 4/19/04 Hi Crews, <Hi-dee ho!> You guys have the World's no. 1 reef site !!! <Danke, Grazie, Merci... rock on my brother> Didn't bother you guys for a month or so, but unfortunately I have to do it again this time. I have a male CBS (Stenopus hispidus) in a 30 G (2' x 1.5' base). I have read many sites and received conflicting opinions. <republican versus democrat?> 1. Is it reef safe, potentially not reef safe, or completely not reef safe? <potentially not reef safe> 2. It does but isn't too keen on eating poops on the sand bed. I'm thinking of exchanging it to a skunk cleaner shrimp, will it help reducing the poops on the floor? <neither shrimp eats detritus or feces> And how many can I place in such a small tank (I don't mind feeding them though, I have only 2 Ocellaris clowns and a blue velvet damsel)? <these are purely ornamental shrimp and serve little utilitarian purpose. Common serpent starfish would be better here> 3. What other reef safe and non aggressive detritivore/scavenger can I put in there? <the list is long... and you need to first identify what component you are trying to manipulate or export before we can find a creature to help you do it. Is you target diatom algae, Cyanobacteria, filamentous algae, solid matter (this should not be so... more water flow needed if you see such particulates), etc> 4. From the Ron Shimek's site it says DSB needs to have micro-crustaceans moving in the sand bed to function properly, I started of with entirely dead sand, does these critters comes with live rocks? <some yes... but seeding your tank with handfuls of live sand from other healthy tanks (stores, club members, friends, etc) will be very beneficial> If yes will they migrate to the sand beds? <yes> If I were to collect some sand from the beach will I get those critters? <I cannot say... I have no idea what beach on the planet you live near... if this is not a tropical beach, then no... bad idea. If it is a tropical beach, you still have to quarantine it like your fishes, corals, live rock, etc for 4 weeks minimum to prevent the introduction of a pest, predator or disease> Thanks so much guys. :-) Wid <best regards, Anthony>

Detritivores and DSB Questions 4/20/04 Hi Anthony, <cheers, my friend> That was lightning fast. <that's what she said... er, wait a minute.. you were referring to my e-mail reply. Gotcha. Always welcome :) > Thanks for the answers on the shrimps, I am enlightened.  Unfortunately I am all alone and I can't even get live sand from LFS here. <no worries... much of the desirable microfauna will migrate from live rock> 1. How do I quarantine beach sand? Does it mean that after I put the sand in saltwater premix for 4 weeks all parasites and diseases will die off and it will be safe? <essentially yes, they will die without a host by 4 weeks time> 2. I've seen some brown coloured spiny brittle stars in my LFS about a foot long across, are these the most feared green Green Brittle Star (from the WWM site some of them appeared brown to me)? From the WWM web page on brittle stars there isn't any other species mentioned that will reach this size. I live in Singapore and what we see in the LFS are usually from the indo pacific region around here. Thanks again :-) Wid <without a picture of your starfish, I cannot say my friend... it would be pure guesswork. But there are many books and web pages with pictures of the predatory Ophiuroid O. incrassata species. Do look and compare yourself... they are quite distinct animals. Best of luck, Anthony>

Converting to DSB >Dear Zen masters of the zoosphere: >>Whoa.. how very.. "anime".  Greetings, grasshoppah.   >I'm a newbie with a 9-wk old 30 gal. glass tank, 304 Fluval w/ bioballs, PolyFilter, and phosphate traps, Seaclone skimmer, 96 w. combo fluorescent.  Current inhabitants include 3 damsels (1-1/2"), 2 perculas (2"), and 1 yellow tang (3").  All fish are doing very well and I don't intend adding any more.  I have one polyp that is dying due to algae overgrowth (I'm trying to bring it back through periodic cleaning), and a couple of pieces of so-called "live rock" purchased from my LFS, which actually turned out to be clumps of coral with algae on them. >>Oof, you need some good live rock.  Also, 9 weeks is a bit soon for a noob as yourself to be housing inverts just yet.  Need to let things settle down a bit, first. >All vitals seem good-- pH 8.3, sg 1.023-4, NH3 0, N02 0, N03 10 ppm-- except Ca (350 mg/L). >>You're not housing any stonies, and a range of 350-400 is certainly acceptable in such a situation.  You don't really want it significantly higher than 400 unless you have high calcium demands in the system. >Anyhow, here's my problem:  I want to establish a reef tank and add inverts.  I've had tremendous algae blooms which I am starting to get under control. My substrate is ~ 1" crushed coral.  I'm thinking a comprehensive solution to my algae/calcium/biodiversity problem would be to add a 4" DSB using Southdown (now Oldcastle) Tropical Playsand, and then seeding it with the critter pack/macroalgae from IPSF.  Does this sound like a good strategy? >>It does, but honestly at this point I would FIRST spend the time and money on the best quality live rock I could get a hold of.  Once you have *that*, you can install the DSB, maybe some macroalgae, and not worry about buying the critter pack (unless you really want to). >If so, my questions to you are: 1.) the sandbags say Caribbean, sterilized, silicate free, and then down at the bottom "not recommended for aquarium use."  Is this just a sop to the aquarium sand mfrs. or are you aware of any deterrent additive they've put in the sand? >>No deterrent, just a CYA kind of situation.  Silicate isn't going to cause much trouble anyway, but is sharp-edged, and many critters aren't appreciative.  It also does nothing to help with Ca levels or alkalinity.   >2.) Placement: reading through your site I've seen recommendations for placing the sand directly in the tank, and, conversely, removing all stock and H20 and then placing the sand.  I really don't like option 2-- more work and more stress on fish IMHO.  But what do you think?   >>Wet the sand, and either make a "director" with PVC tubing, or just load it up into a net or cup and gently pour where you want it.  Be prepared for the cloudiness, can last up to two weeks easily.  Have a turkey baster on hand to blow it off any inverts (though you're not quite ready for them). >3.) I've had good success in our freshwater tank maintaining a 2" river sand bed covered with a coarser aggregate that allows for periodic vacuuming.  Would it be a good idea to remove the crushed coral, place the sand, and then place the coral back on top as a covering layer, or just go with the sand, or (as I saw in another post on your site), place the sand on top of the coral and let it sift through gradually? >>Ah, definitely, just let it migrate. >4.)) Finally-- how long after I add the sand should I wait before adding the critter pack?   >>I'd wait till the cloudiness goes away, but then again, as I said before, I'd buy the live rock before installing the DSB.  That's where the real value is, in my honest opinion, and it will provide you with what you seek much more ably.. is that a word?  In any event, it will provide the biodiversity you seek and then some.   >Many thanks.  Wyatt Evans, Washington NJ. >>Many welcomes, hope this has helped.  Marina

Getting In Deep (DSB Question) Hello Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. at your service!> As always, I find this site to be most helpful, and a joy to read. <And it's a joy for us to bring it to you!> I have recently been obsessed with reducing the nitrates in my 45G AGA FOWLR tank.  Thanks to this site, and the excellent FAQ's, this past weekend I increased the size of my sand bed from 3 inches to 6. (The initial 3inches of sand is 1-2mm aragonite.)   At that depth, the nitrates remained constant at about 40 ppm.  To increase the DSB size, I added 20 lbs of oolitic sand.  To prevent the oolitic sand from blowing around I added another 10 pounds of 1-2mm aragonite.)  --This took me to a depth of 6 inches. (Give or take a half inch) <Nice...I'll bet that you'll see a rather quick drop in nitrates once things get going a bit. Of course, this takes into account the fact that your overall husbandry techniques are good, too!> Now on to the Questions:  Do you think that this was a sound methodology? <I believe that it is. There are numerous opinions on the merits of deep sand beds, However, I feel that they are a great addition to almost any marine system> The FAQ's have numerous references about beneficial organisms such as copepods, amphipods, etc which allegedly stir the bed, and prevent it from becoming a 'nutrient sink"  This may seem like a really stupid question, but where do I find such organisms? <I don't really buy into the "nutrient sink" theories of doom and gloom. Well-maintained deep sand beds have worked for years. As far as creatures to inhabit the sandbed is concerned, my favorite source is Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (www.ipsf.com). They offer a great selection of diversity creatures at good prices. Check 'em out!> Do they occur naturally?  Can I buy them?  I have nobody in my community to "trade a cup of sand with." <By all means, do check out IPSF> More importantly, can the DSB function properly without them?  Please enlighten me. <A deep sand bed is more dependent upon microbial processes occurring deep within the bed than it is on "surface-dwelling" creatures like amphipods. Many of these animals will come as "hitchhikers" on live rock, and will multiply natural in favorable conditions. Still, it's a great idea to "seed" your DSB with some desirable worms, etc. Again, a source like IPSF can help> I believe that I read a reference by Mr. Fenner which stated that he didn't siphon the DSB, but rather he stirred it with some sort of stick.  In lieu of gravel sifting bugs, is stirring the substrate a sufficient alternative?   <Yep...and don't disturb the bed deeper than say one inch or so, or you can disrupt the very processes that you're trying to foster> How long to you think that it will take to see an appreciable drop in nitrates? <Weeks...maybe less. You'll be pleasantly surprised!> As always, I appreciate any assistance you can provide. Richard <Our pleasure, Richard! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> 45G FOWLR 6" DSB 23.25 LBS Live Rock 1 Magnum 350 Dedicated Mechanical Filtration 1 Magnum 350 Dedicated Chemical Filtration (Granular Activated Carbon, Phosphate/Silicate magnate) 2 Hagen Aquaclear powerheads for circulation 2 Penguin 1140 Powerheads for surface agitation 1 Marineland Penguin 170 BioWheel filter. PH 8.09 Temp 76.4 Ammonia 0.06ppm Nitrate: 0.0ppm Nitrate: 44ppm Alkalinity 5.0 Meq/l Phosphate 0.01ppm Silicate 0.0ppm Dissolved Oxygen 7.4ppm Deep Sand Bed and Aiptasia Control Hi Don, Thanks for your help. I did increase the deep of my Sand Bed. Right now is like 3 1/2". I did wrong the calculations to have 4+". Later I will increase a little bit more to have what you suggested. <3.5" is OK. I would not worry about it and add more later as you can> When I did the 50% water change, I vacuumed the existing Sand as much as I could and I discover that there are a lot of worms. These guys are like 1 or 2" long. Some of them are very thin but other are a little bit wide with a lot of very small arms, live the serpent star arm. The color of the worms is like pink. Is this a pest that I have to get rid of? Or these guys are part of the desirable fauna? <I don't get too excited about worms like this as they will help keep the sand stirred> I read the article regarding Aiptasia and the Q&A. I got king of confused. When it is mentioned to use a hypodermic syringe to directly applied Ca(OH)2, this means inject the liquid or just put the syringe the closest to the Aiptasia and run the liquid trying to spray all the Aiptasia? can this be done inside the main tank? How much of this Ca(OH)2 is needed for each Aiptasia? I read that some one use white vinegar. Is this secure to use this in the main tank? <Try to get the Kalk into the Aiptasia, which will likely be difficult. If that is not possible, get the solution as near as possible. Turn off all the pumps to allow the tank to settle before application. I have not spoken from anyone who has successfully used vinegar but I have read of decent success. It should take a very small amount of solution to have an affect.> Also I am going to try with the peppermint shrimps and the Hairy Red Legged. I returned the bicolor to the dealer so the shrimps are save now. <Excellent to hear> I hope this is not bothering you too much. <No worries, it is why we are here! Good luck with your search and destroy mission<G>, Don> Thanks a lot, Rodrigo.

Sand-Sifters 8/25/03 Hello all at WetWeb, <cheers> Looking for a good sand-sifter for a DSB.   <few if any should be needed if you have adequate water flow (10-20X) and aggressive nutrient control> Don't want to bring in cukes for fear of evisceration but need a good sand-sifter.  What do you recommend?  The Amblygobius phalaena has been recommended, but I want to be certain the fish will thrive.  Would you care to opine?   <they are outstanding and bulletproof fishes... one of my favorites for this purpose> 72-gallon bow front will be his/her new home.  Already have some Nassarius snails, micro hermits, etc., from IPSF, but need additional sifting. <Hmmm... in a 72 gall.. with those other sifters already... do consider if your skimmer is working as well as it could (3-5 cups weekly or better)... water changes adequate? (10-25% weekly), etc> Many thanks, Peggy <best of luck! Anthony>

Deep Sand Beds II <Cheers, Mitch> Please forgive me for asking, but I just want to be crystal clear about the DSB. If I have no live rock, the plain ole fine sand will become "live" from the bacteria that populate the water, right? <exactly... and inevitable. Although this sand will not develop microcrustaceans or larger macrofauna without a seed from live rock and or some live sand (wild), it will still become very active biologically with nitrate reducing bacteria> And, even though the DSBs that I am proposing are small in size, they should have an impact in reducing nitrates, correct? <yes... correct. The sand depth is most important here (over 3" and over 5" is best)> Happy Holidays! Mitch <to you in kind my friend. Anthony>

Re: DSB livestock Hello one and all, In reading about DSBs I see references to 'worms and pods' that should be populating it'¦ well where do you get these critters?  I have live rock --but how do I know any made it in on these (if they're normally introduced as hitchhikers that is)  I just want to make sure my DSB functions as it should. <You can go one of two general routes: either supplying starter cultures of these animals from purchasing them direct (like from IPSF, Inland Aquatics...) or allowing your live rock to populate the substrate. I don't encourage buying "some live sand" in a bag to do this. Bob Fenner> Many thanks DGG

Re: DSB livestock Bob: Whew!  $60 for the detritivore kit!  Sometimes I think it would be cheaper to raise white tigers.... <Me too... how about checking with other hobbyists in your area to see if one will "give you a scoop" of their populated substrate? Maybe a club, local fish store... Bob Fenner> DGG

Stirring The Sandbed Good evening every one <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have a couple of questions about maintenance of my new 4 inch sandbed.  I perused your FAQs and got confused. I could swear Bob said to use a wooden dowel and punch holes and gently stir once a month - all the way to the bottom of the sandbed. I'm pretty sure Anthony said to do this, but only to the top 1 inch.  Is there a consensus here?  I am not a scientist but want my sandbed to work.  I currently have my old crushed coral substrate on top of the sandbed in mesh bags to seed it, plus my live rock. <If you're working on developing a true "deep sand bed" (I think that Bob's reference was to a "fish only" setup with a more shallow substrate...), I'd keep my stirring limited to the top 1/2 inch to 1 inch, to avoid disrupting the denitrification processes that you're trying to foster. To be honest, I really don't stir my DSB at all. You may want to utilize the services of a brittle star or two to do it naturally for you, without excessively disturbing the sand bed> I read an article today saying that I should seed it with a kit (rotifers, etc.)  Is this correct? <There are a number of e-tailers that offer "starter kits" of appropriate sandbed animals. My favorite source is Indo Pacific Sea Farms in Kona, and other folks swear by Inland Aquatics, or other firms. Most of these kits contain beneficial worms, snails, bacteria, and other useful creatures to help "jump start" your sandbed. Do some searching on the net for some good sources.> Also, I had lavender/purple algae all over the sides of my tank and in the substrate.  I left it on the sides when I cleaned the tank, but it is vanishing fast.  Why is this?  And will it come back?  I have plenty of it on my rocks, don't want to lose all of it.  Can you explain? <Well, if the lavender/purple stuff is coralline algae, then you will need to maintain proper calcium/magnesium/alkalinity levels to keep it going. If it is a Cyanobacteria (a nuisance algae), then you don't want it back! Do a little reading on the WWM site, using the Google search feature to get more information on exactly what kinds of algae you are seeing> A note to Anthony:  I took your advice and went through all the crabs.  Just have six red-legs now, along with snails. I will watch them carefully, and if I lose any more shrooms they will get fired. <I'm sure Anthony will be stoked to hear that!> I also got a new Remora skimmer, and wow, what a difference. <It's an outstanding skimmer, and really will do a great job for you! Glad to hear that it's working so well for you!> Thank you all so much for your continuing support  I have been doing this for a little over a year now and have come a long way.  It is a very rewarding "hobby" (more like "addiction". And it would not have been possible without your continued support and advice. Connie <Connie, we are so happy to be able to be of assistance for you! Sharing experiences and growing together in the hobby is what this site is all about! Keep growing in the hobby, and feel free to call on us if you need any additional assistance! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Mixing Up A New Substrate> I haven't bugged you guys in a while - so I thought I was about due. <Never a bother! This is what we do! Scott F. cruisin' on the laptop tonight> I am moving next week and thought it would be a great opportunity to replace my 5 year old 40g FOWLR with a new 45 with a brace since my old 40 has a few chips out of a corner and is bowing too much for comfort. <I hear ya! Good idea> I know it'd be nicer to take the opportunity to upgrade to a larger tank but I am a poor law student and the 45 with same dimensions will still fit my stand and PC fixture (and the brace will be added comfort).  I am also going to build a sump/fuge. I plan on putting a DSB in the fuge with some macro - along with my skimmer and heater. In my current 40 I have about 4" of crushed coral that is full of pods and spaghetti worms that have developed over the years and I don't want to lose all that life when I switch tanks because I'm going with sand in the new tank (less than 1/2"). Can I put the old crushed coral in my fuge with the DSB? on top of the DSB? under the DSB? mixed with the DSB? Which combination would work best - or am I better off just sticking 6" of Southdown in there alone with some macro and LR rubble, let new life grow, and pitch the crushed coral (and all that is within it)? <Well, there are a lot of schools of thought about DSBs. A larger particle size is very good for copepods and other larger benthic organisms. Typically, many worm species do not do well in crushed coral substrates, so you're ahead of the curve here! If you are looking to a DSB for denitrification purposes, I'd stick to a fine oolithic sand at 4-6 inches of depth. I agree- why waste all of the life forms that have reproduced so fruitfully over the years, so I think that I'd go with a relatively shallow layer of the crushed coral in the 'fuge, and add a 4-6 inch DSB in the display, if you can handle that. Otherwise, your plan of "seeding" the other sand isn't such a bad idea. There is no absolute rule as to how to do things here...> Secondly, believe it or not, I have a UGF under my crushed coral (at the insistence of my LFS - although I'm sure it didn't hurt). I have not cleaned under it since I put it there almost 5 years ago. I can only imagine the sludge that will be there when I tear down the tank. Would that "sludge" be of use in a sump under the sand? <Well, the organic material that accumulated under the UGF plate is probably best left out of the system. The potential for a large influx of undesirable substances, such as hydrogen sulfide, nitrates, etc. is too great to ignore. I'd just seed the new substrate with some of the old stuff...Should do the trick> Sorry for the long email for short questions . . . THANKS. <Good luck with your plans! I'm sure that it'll work well for you! Regards, Scott F>

Fighting conch vs. DSB - Strombus alatus 6/22/03 Hey Gang! shouting "howdy" from Denver! <right back atcha Tex!> Anthony, the LFS sold me a fighting conch after I asked for something to keep a sand bed stirred up. The little conch disappeared under the sand. Did the LFS sell me a good DSB critter or? <perhaps... this Strombus species grows medium large (4-5"... or 10+ cm) and is rather clumsy in the reef. Like all Strombids, they do not fare well in tanks with a lot of rock and need enormous amounts of deep live sand to survive long term (say 100 gall mostly sand 6"+ for lifetime). They eat both algae and meaty fare... rarely if even bother cnidarians and are fairly good at aerating sand> They said it would get about the size of my fist, but would take quite a while for it to get there. <agreed> Also, I got a great deal ($45) on another 70 gallon tank with a double iron stand, while I've been thinking 'bout a lion fish to put in there, I've also been wondering if it would be overkill to put the 70 gallon reef display over the 70 gallon, if I turned it into fuge/sump. <actually sounds cool for stability if the fish 70 is not overfed... and lions are large but infrequent feeders. Could work nicely> Having a great day & hope you are as well! Stormbringer <to you in kind my friend. Anthony>

Re: Live Sand Bed 7/5/03 Anthony, <cheers, my friend> Thanks for the info on the LSB and your usual prompt response. <always welcome :) > Still can't believe you guys respond as quickly as you do--and today's even a holiday! Any ideas as to where one might locate large quantities of the sugar-fine aragonite?   <Caribbean white child's play sand from the DIY store (Home Depot or the like) is really quite fine. Perhaps you've heard of the SouthDown brand on the message boards?> Locals only seem to carry the SeaFlor.   <Hmmm... do browse the online catalogs for brands that carry what you like (like CaribSea)... then contact the mfg for the closest dealer to you... let them work a little for your money ;) > Also, any length of time to wait before adding the sand stirrers, live sand, to the new substrate? <Hard to say... perhaps 6 months or more... especially for the sea cucumbers> Mix in live sand or simply add to top of bed? <Simply dump on top... and do resist predaceous fishes for many months. Let the DSB establish well first> Thx again. <Kind regards, Anthony>

Brittle Star, freshwater/marine algae, euryhaline sea minkees Hi, Bob and experts, <<And hello to you...>> I just brought two brittle stars and I would like to know whether is it safe to keep in a DSB ? One is a Banded Serpent Star (Ophiolepis superba) and one is normal brittle star (Ophiocoma sp). Both are about 3-4 inch big. <<As long as they aren't green brittle stars [these can be predatory] you should be all set. These seastars really don't do much below the surface of the sandbed.>> 2. Just curious to know whether a fresh water algae (seaweed) is able to grow in salt water ? <<No, I don't think so... different osmotic balance required in cell walls, etc.>> 3. One last thing, I planning to keep brine shrimp. Wonder I will stay alive in saltwater? <<You mean like Sea Monkeys? No, they need true brine.>> and if yes, can I add those stuff into my reef tank after it hatched? <<You could add it like food, but I wouldn't add these as inhabitants. The resulting die-off could spell disaster.>> Thanks Regards Danny <<Cheers, J -- >>

Debate... (Deep Sand Beds...) Hi Bob... Thought I'd get your opinion on something that seems to be of some debate on the http://wwwsaltwaterfish.com message board. <Okay> The deep sand bed. How deep?  <A few to several inches in most hobbyist set-ups... depending on grade, composition/make up, how spherical, desire of use... chemical, habitat...> Sand sifters or no sand sifters?  <I say with in most cases> The debate is about the bacteria that exist within the DSB that help eliminate nitrate levels. Some say that sand sifters are good and help mix things up...others say that sand sifters disturb the colonies of bacteria that need an "oxygen less" atmosphere to survive. The anti-sand sifters also claim that disturbing the DSB might release toxins into the tank. Do you have an "official opinion" that I could share with this group? <Yes... that all these statements are valid within degrees... most all erstwhile sand sifters only move about the upper centimeter or so of material... no big deal... and as some folks state/d of benefit as well> Also, thanks for tipping me toward the CPR site to look at their HOT refugiums. I'll be getting one of those in the next couple of months. <Good designs... the owner of the company (Suk Kim) goes to a lot of the hobby venues (WMC, MACNA...) and listens carefully to what folks are looking for, having troubles with... in designing, offering new products. Smart> Still have to put the rock in the tank...it's almost done cycling. Hopefully all levels will be 0 this weekend so I can build my reef. The empty tank is getting a little dull as far as decor in the living room :-) I've also recommend the CPR refugiums to others on the board mentioned above. Since I can't really give my own advice yet, I will have to site yours. Seems to be a hot topic. <Good to find folks thinking, debating.> As always, your advice and guidance are appreciated! Kind regards, Misty Johnson <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: sandbed question Hello again, I have a couple of follow-up questions. 1. For future reference, when you have a sandbed in a separate sump is there a certain size that is appropriate for a 100gal tank? <Mmm, well, the bigger the better... no less than a fifth the volume of the main tank...> Do suggest adding one of those sand starter kits like the one from inland aquatics that has the worms and other stuff? <Generally not... enough critters come in/on the live rock to adequately inoculate the new substrate> Do you have to feed the sandbed since it is separate, because I thought the worms and other stuff in the live sand eat the detritus. Do you add sand sifters? <No to both... enough food of different sorts will find its way there... and almost never a need for sand sifters> 2. For now, do you know if those fluidized filters actually work and if they are a benefit? <Do work... but almost never needed... You don't want to overdrive nitrification... such technology (FB) is for high and variably bio-loaded systems... like wholesalers, aquaculture facilities... Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Brett

DSB Hi Bob - I converted my crushed coral substrate to a DSB yesterday in my 120 established tank- used Southdown sand that I seeded with the CC from the existing tank (made balls with nylons). Two days later, the water is still cloudy. Is this normal? <Yes> How long will it take to settle? <A few days to a week or so> I have a sand stirrer/detritivore kit coming to me on Wednesday, and plan to add it after the lights go off - any further suggestions? Robb <Mmm, would have been better to add these organisms a week or so later. Can you accommodate them elsewhere? Bob Fenner>

Wrasse vs. DSB sorry to email you directly...I can't for the life of me figure out how to post a question on wet web media for you. <when you like, you can go here http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/ and click on a folder/topic of interest. Then once on that folder, click the link near the top of the page that says "post new topic". Simply type in your question and when finished click "post message"> is there any truth that a fairy wrasse would be harmful to a DSB system in any way? i.e.: eating pods or other necessary inhabitants or otherwise causing havoc?  <definitely not "causing havoc". If so by that measure, then clownfish, damsels, pseudochromids and many other popular fish are far worse. Yes, the fairy wrasses will eat zooplankton: but so will corals and most other fishes, yet we are keeping them from reef tank either <smile>. Truth be told, most reef fishes are too much of a burden for our DSB fauna and that is one of the reasons why a fishless, upstream DSB refugium is so popular (plankton blooms and overflows nightly to feed tank without the main "colony" ever being decimated by fishes> thank you. dr. drew <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

DSB Hi again, It's regarding DSB. I got sand in my present 4ft tank and intending to add it into the new tank to speed up the process of maturing the tank, however part of the sand is cover with algae. 1) Is your advice to me to add all the sand in my present into the new tank? <Yes> 2) How to arrange the sands in DSB?  Bottom - Crushed coral? Medium - Medium finer sand?? High - Fine sand ? <I would just use all fine sand.> I plan on buying some sand sifting sea stars (Astropecten polyacanthus). Is it advisable to have it if I intend to setup a reef tank with little peaceful fish, shrimps and snail. <No, I do not like to use those starfish.> 3) Is sand sifting sea star reef safe? <They will not eat corals, but other beneficial life forms.> 4) Will it harm live form or vice versa ? <They eat many worms and other good creatures.> Thanks again. Regards, Danny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Water Changes/DSB Critters - 07/19/05 Hello Eric, <<Howdy James!>> Thank you again for your help and advice.  I have listened to you many times in the past and will do so again. <<Ahh, power <G>...I'll try not to abuse it...>> At the moment I change 10% of my water a week with natural seawater. <<Mmm...still using the NSW eh.>> This amounts to just under 40 gallons.  I have 8 fish around 3 to 5 inches so I am not overstocked. <<Depends on the fish, but likely so in this case.>> I also have a very efficient Aquamedic Baby skimmer. <<Good>> So do you think I could get away with a 10% change every 2 weeks? <<I hate to dissuade anyone from 10% weekly water changes if they are already doing them, but give it a try and observe occupants/test for debilitating changes in water chemistry.  Likely a bi-weekly change of 10% will be fine.>> Here in Cape Town I can get IO salt and Aquamedic salt.  As with many things the salt over here is much more expensive than the USA. <<Yes...and we still moan about the cost <G>.>> The pH of our local seawater is 8.6.  So you are right, making my own will be much better. <<Mmm...pH is fine...my concern is lack of a buffer pool (rapid drop in alkalinity), parasites, disease/pollution...>> My DSB refugium has been running for a month now.  It has 5 inches of 1-2mm size aragonite.  I can see no life of any kind in there, should there be? <<Yes, something...even after only a month (algae's, micro-crustaceans).>> Should I add anything else? <<Can you light this 'fuge?  If so I would add some macro algae (Chaetomorpha or Gracilaria).  If not lighting/macro algae, add a couple pieces of live rock to "kick start" your critters.>> When I go real close to the glass, my Regal Tang comes up to me, then the black part of him completely turns into a bronze/gold colour.  This really impresses my friends.  Why does he do this? <<I've always found these tangs to be especially "skittish."  I had one in particular that even after 8 years, would "freak out" every time I approached the tank.  The loss of color is a sign of stress/disturbance/mood...the tang is merely reacting to the presence of the "large strange creature" invading its domain.>> Many Thanks, James. <<Always welcome my friend, Eric R.>>  

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