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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds, Conversion To/From

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, Biological Make-Up, Size, Location, Depth, 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,

Almost always, it's best to remove all present livestock, decor, substrates... and place the DSB material, refill (if you can wait a day...) and return all else.

Sand bed top layer sticky/lumpy??      11/12/13
Hello WWM
I have a question regarding the sand bed in my 220 gallon reef. I was moving a rock today and noticed that the top layer of sand in areas seems to be lumpy/sticking together... almost gooey looking. This gooey top layer is around a cm deep, under that top layer, it seems to be normal.  I was doing a light siphon to pick up some visible detritus, and I was dragging up these sort of strings/clumps of sand.
Any ideas??
Thanks so much
<Could be... either biological... organisms making the goo... or simply supplements glomming together... Do you have a microscope of let's say four hundred magnification? Bob Fenner>
Re: Sand bed top layer sticky/lumpy??      11/13/13

Thanks for the quick reply Bob!
<Welcome Alex>
Unfortunately, I do not have a microscope handy. I have read that bacteria can do this sort of thing, worms I'm the LS, or even snail eggs....
<Yes! These and more>
Do you feel that there is any danger to my aquarium regarding this?
<Mmm, not much; no. As long as a good part of the bed is patent, not stuck together, you/they should be fine. This stated, I would break up the mass/es, with a wooden or plastic dowel... while executing your regular water changes>
 I have a couple of sleeper gobies on my wish list, maybe these guys could help.
<Ah yes>
I have read that you enjoy goatfishes; any of those in particular that would work in a 220 with a few tangs and a fox face?
<The smaller species are good choices here>
Regarding the sand bed, I was looking to add a couple more inches of sand, would you recommend siphoning out this top layer beforehand?
<Mmm, no; not necessary, nor advised. I would keep it in place, stir, vacuum and place the new on top>
And will I potentially wipe out some of the life in the sand bed if I were to put two additional inches of LS on top of the pre-existing LS?
<Maybe "some"; but not appreciably much... you, we could write/do a thesis on the changes here>
What is method you recommend for taking a 2" sand bed to 4"?
<Please peruse these files:
and the linked series, above>
Thanks so much
<Ah, welcome. Bob Fenner>

DSB       3/7/13
Hello WWM Crew,
Having poured over your site on the topics of DSB, I feel that I am finally getting up to speed for the most part on DSB.  I wrote about 6 weeks ago about a "new" nitrate problem that I couldn't resolve. (Yikes high, over 100) After researching your site, I felt it was my sump (Tidepool), at least in part and Bob agreed.
<Yes; I recall>
Following his suggestions, I removed the wheel then ultimately the entire unit and swapped it for a Eshopps R-200 refugium. Due to size considerations, this was the largest unit I could fit. My "fuge" area is now 10 x 13 1/2.  (the entire unit is 36 x 14 x 16, substantially larger then the Tidepool). I run a Reef Dynamics skimmer in the sump.  When I went to my LFS to buy sand for the DSB, they were aghast that I would do that...gave me all the warnings of killing everything etc.
They convinced me to go with just Chaeto macro algae for now on alternating light schedule.  So, feeling a light in the knowledge dept, I went home and spent a week or so learning about DSB before I make my move.  So here it is...the scenario or question. 5 year old 90G reef, Sump with approx 25 gallons of working water. Return pump is running at apporx 1200 g/hr.. I also have two Tunze Turbelles running at approx 1700 G/h. So my total pump volume is approx 5,000 g/hr (too low??).
 I can't adjust this flow rate much right now from my sump, will this be too much/little for a DSB, since I read multiple times that they enjoy a low flow rate?
<Will also be fine; just not "more efficient" for the extra flow>
 Also,  Knowing my new Chaeto likes to tumble, I can add a small power head to tumble it.
<Likely unnecessary, as you'll find>
 In the display tank, Will Chaeto over the DSB be a problem?
<Not a problem>
From your postings, I don't think so, but again we're dealing with 2 flow rate issues.  My sand bed in the display is between 1.5 and 3 inches with about 70 lbs live rock. It would appear to be your "medium sized grain" of aragonite, not too fine.  I have since learned about the "life" of my sand, and realize this is less than what I started with. I have a medium bio-load 7 small fish, some soft's/zoo's/star polyps and one medium sized Torch Coral. I think I came to realize that my display sand bed is in the danger zone of being a nutrient trap and the other part of my NO3 spike.
<Could well be a contributor>
 The main point of question, will a DSB (properly constructed) in my limited space be enough to give me NO3 relief?
<I'd bet w/ ten to one or better odds>
 Without converting my display tank into a sand tank, I intend on being far more aggressive with sand maintenance up top, which will also help. If you think it may help, I can "clean" my current sand bed buy siphoning off some detritus and adding some fine sand, but again, I don't want to alter the aesthetics too much if possible. The never ending balance between cost/aesthetics and function once again rears its head.  Thanks again, you guys are great! Brett
<Thank you for sharing... I sense the energy and opening awareness in you.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Candy Cane Coral - Much Belated... DSB des.,  8/28/08 Hello Benjamin: <Hey Tom! My express apologies for my very un-express reply! I'm afraid I'm doing a lot to tarnish the reputation of my very fine crew-mates...> As always thanks for the feed back. I have been searching and reading all I can which is good and bad. Since there are many views that all may work in certain situations. <Much opinion, witchcraft, experimenting behind success in this hobby> I only have 1 LFS that has knowledge within a 30 miles radius (probably farther) and this one won't commit himself by being personable and help you make decisions. This is unfortunate since he has many years of experience and it shows in the quality of his tanks. And here I am struggling trying to make the choices that are proven to be effective. <Understood> Let ask another question. Would it be safe to remove the crushed coral on the bottom and replace it with a DSB? If so, I assume I would live the live rock in place trying minimize the disruption. Correct? <Absolutely correct. This would be a GREAT change for your aquarium> If I were to make this change should I also consider the HOB refugia? If so, what does this do? If I were to purchase one rather then DIY how do I size it and select brand? <I would always consider a refugium, but the DSB would be a big step in the same direction- the elimination of nitrogenous wastes. The advantage with a refugium is you wind up growing a lot of nice microfauna for your corals to snack on. I know of some products by CPR Acrylic you might look in to; a caveat being that the price of these small items may outweigh their practical value. Steven Pro did do some pretty adept DIY work with the old AquaClear power filters- I think we have the material indexed here, if not I'm sure a search of the web will provide the full article...can be done for little cost> Regards, Tom <Benjamin>

Re: Candy Cane Coral - Much Belated   8/29/08 Hello Benjamin: Thank you for responding. I realize were all busy in this world these days and I appreciate all the suggestions you and the WWM team provide. <Thanks for your understanding.> Since I wrote the last time I have been reading as much as I can on WWM and it's a wonderful place. Hats off to you guys & gals. <Thanks much! I myself continue to learn volumes from our archives...> Let me get back to the question at hand. The DSB! I have purchased several weeks ago about 6 bags of sugar fine sand (180 lb +/-), egg crate & PVC and again been searching trying to figure exactly how to tackle the project. Let me describe what one of the techniques I think I understand. Cut the egg crate to create a bottom Cut the same pattern for the top Cut pieces of PVC and use as leg supports between the bottom and top use glue Make it so the top of the egg crate is approx. 4-1/4 to 4-1/2" high Begin to scoop out crushed coral Move the rocks around to be able to get all crushed coral out including what is underneath the rocks. Put in my egg crate support I build and put sugar fine sand (4") in and re-set the rocks on the egg crate. Now I should end up with ¼' -- ½' space between the rock & sand for water to flow. <Rock suspended above a DSB...no dead spots...very nice> Drill and plastic tie the rocks together as needed. <Some people have also had success using paving stones and fiberglass rods as supports for 'pillars' of rock that provide for unique shapes and configurations> Also maybe get creative with the drill and PVC and build an arch or something similar to what's in the Coral Propagation book. <Always a nice centerpiece for a tank> I have not attempted yet because I am trying to understand before I cause more problems. <I know how that goes!> Questions: 1) What to do with my fish, crabs, corals & snails during the project? <Best case: Move them to a filtered, heated QT area (even a big Rubbermaid-type bin works) while you do your work. Once the dust has settled, move them right back to the system. If you're handy about it, you can even use the same water- take it from the tank, replace it to the tank- and avoid pH or SG problems> 2) Do I need the crushed coral I am removing for anything? <Some might use it as a cheap media for Ca+ reactors, canister filters...I would use it in the bottoms of potted plants, could be a freshwater substrate, could be nice for a gravel walkway in a garden....in the Grape Nuts at April Fool's...> The initial reason I started writing was do to the health of my candy canes (losing the green center color). What I have learned since I began writing was nitrates being high (80+). I have been doing a water change every week (5-10 gallons on a 46 gallon bow) stirring up the crushed coral and vacuuming. I can now have the nitrates close to 20. <Great improvement!> Also prior to losing the green center I had begun replacing my water nightly with a half-gallon drip of Kalk. Based on my rocks turning white and some of the crushed coral sticking together like golf balls I believe my solution wasn't mixed properly or something. <Alk/Ca+ balance problems, perhaps?> I now no longer use Kalk. Maybe will one day when I learn how to mix and dispense properly. <Yes, a project to tackle after the DSB, perhaps. Wonderful stuff, but a lot of varying opinions on how to use it, and a reputation that does, I think, have a sort of negative-placebo effect on new users> The Green centers are starting to comeback! <Victory!> I think I have learned a lot in the past month! Thanks to WWM!! <Glad to hear it Tom! And I'll just put in a plug for our forum, bb.wetwebmedia.com, which is a great place to chat about plans and ideas for DIY opportunities. If you're not there already, I think you'd be a splendid addition to the community.> Regards, Tom <Benjamin>

DSB not working??? 4/10/08 Hi Friends, <Hello> I used a DSB and saw the amazing effects in my 120 gall. Due to this I recommended using a DSB to my friend who has a similar tank. We setup the DSB of 5" in his cube (120 gal) around 3 weeks ago. Used RO water. Has his old live rock around 60Kgs from the tank which we reused. Tank inhabitants are 3 fish (regal tang, yellow tang and 2 Perculas and one bi color angel) <4 fish?> A few inverts (mushroom, Zoanthid, 2 cleaner shrimp) We see that nitrates (no3) are hovering above 20ppm persistently from week one. Recently a bicolor angel went missing in the tank (around 2 weeks ago). Also one cleaner shrimp died. Can this be causing no3 to consistently stay at 20ppm? <Yes> Another thing is the live rock did not have much of fauna on it. So we don't have worms etc which will keep the sand stirred. <Give it some time, bet there are still some on the rock, or get a little bit of new rock to reseed the old rock.> Does this make a big difference? <Not really for nitrate reduction, but helps maintain the overall health of the sandbed and tank.> As I understand anaerobic bacteria are the ones who do the conversion of no3. <Yes> How long does it take for a new DSB to get active? <Can tank well over a month depending on many factors, and is not a cure all for nitrate, just another helper in nitrate control. If a tank is overfed, overstocked, or under maintained the nitrates will still be a problem.> Any help would be greatly appreciated by the fishy folks who are waiting to be put back into their home :)) Cheers and Thanks Again Ranjith <Welcome> <Chris>

Adding DSB to Existing Sump   3/1/07 Hello Fish Enthusiasts, <Yes, hi! Mich here.>   Thank you so much for all your time and efforts in helping us.   <Our pleasure to serve.> I found your site about 7 months ago -- and there is no website I spend more time on -- You are awesome!!! <Glad you are enjoying it!> I have a 75-gallon FOWLR with an existing 37-gallon sump.  In order to reduce nitrates, I will be converting my sump to a sump/refugium.   <Excellent!> I will be adding Arag-Alive Fiji Pink to a depth of 5 inches covering approximately ½ the sump along with some live rock from my main tank. <Very good.> Can I just add the DSB without causing harm to livestock in the main tank? Should I add the DSB an inch at a time and monitor water parameters? <Would be the most conservative route and a wise choice.> Should I add snails/hermits to the DSB to help with cycling?   <No.> If not, how would you recommend I cycle the sand since moving the fish is not an option?   <The sand will be seeded via the micro fauna currently in  your system.> Thanks again for your help, <You're welcome!  -Mich> Scotty Nicholson

Adding sand where once there was none - 10/20/2005 Hi! <Hello> Great site! Can I add a DSB to my 40g tank that currently has no substrate at all?<Absolutely!> And is it as simple as pouring it in?<Essentially yes.> My tank is occupied by 3 fish, 2 maroon clowns and a yellow Tang<We all make mistakes> (who will be going to a bigger home soon, I promise).<Yay!> <Sounds like a plan.   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugdsbfaqs.htm This link will help you out. - Josh> Dan Protein Skimming Power/Phosphate/DSB removal  7/15/06 Hello, Thanks for running such a great site.  I've learned so much from reading your Q&A's. < Bob and the others do a wonderful job! > I have a 55g reef tank with about 50 lbs of live rock and a 4" deep sand bed.  It's about 15 months old and so far everything has been working very well, except for a recent, steep phosphate spike.  Is that typical for a DSB? < No, that is not typical at all. >   (I don't believe it is from overfeeding.) < Are you feeding frozen foods? If you are not rinsing the foods well, the phosphate from the juices could be encouraging the spike. Another thing to consider, if the prepared foods have fish meal in the first five ingredients, the phosphates could be coming from that! >   Is an extremely high level of phosphate a possible cause for my losing a number of fish recently, a day or two after acclimation (which I normally do gradually over about 1-1/2 hours)? (It's not due to a mantis shrimp;  there is no clicking, and no sightings at night.) < I seriously doubt the phosphates would cause that kind of reaction. I would look more at temperature fluctuations, or the possibility of airborne pollutants. > After talking to a couple of LFS, I'm becoming convinced that the DSB will eventually crash, and I am planning to remove it soon.  How gradually do I have to do that? < A four inch sand bed is not deep enough to really cause a serious problem, but if you must remove some, only remove an inch or so. Remember, the sand under the first inch layer is horribly toxic. Don't stir up too much! > My main question has to do with skimming.  I have an Aqua C Remora (not Pro) with the Maxijet 1200 powerhead and overflow box (I have no room for a sump).  One LFS is saying that that is not enough skimming capacity for a 55 g tank.  Currently I have four small fish, a cleanup crew of 20 hermit crabs and 15 snails, four small colonies of mushroom polyps and two small frogspawns, but I hope to add a few more fish and many more corals.  How much skimming power do I really need with this setup, once the DSB is gone? < That is directly related to the amount of food you feed, and the frequency of partial water changes. To place exacting limitations, or requirements on such is difficult. > < Yet another thing to consider is the possibility of your source water or supplements containing phosphates. Be careful when adding anything to buffer the pH, for nearly all related products use phosphate buffering agents! > Many thanks for all your help < I hope I was indeed helpful! > Bob < RichardB > "Sponges grow in the ocean. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen." ~Steven Wright DSB & Calcium Hello WWM, <<Hi there>> I have two questions the fist being. I have a 90 gallon reef tank that has been set up for 9 months. I have about an inch of live sand as a base. I was wondering since I have quite a bit of live rock and soft corals, is it too late to add a DSB? Everything in the tank is starting to look really good and would not at this point want to mess it up. I'm not sure if moving all that rock with corals attached would cause havoc on them or would it be worth the risk from the long term benefits? Also If I use sugar sand can I pour it over my live sand that is a little more course? <<Fishkeeping is subjective, so the answers to these things depends on who you ask :P I have had no problems with deep sand beds. Thing is, they DO need to be maintained (water testing needs to be done regularly, so you can foresee any pH etc, problems and remedy them) You don't want your sand bed to become supersaturated with organics without your knowledge. There is plenty of opinion in forums here about DSB's, read on! If you have a sump, you can put your Deep Sand Bed there. That way you will not have to mess up your reef structure: this is beneficial for a few reasons: the ease of installing it, maintaining it, an removing it if you change your mind further down the road. Another idea is if you have enough open space at the front of your tanks rockwork, you can try adding the sand at the front of the tank only, and just letting it drift back in between the rockwork. If you add sugar sand, you will not need as deep a bed, three to four inches should be more than sufficient, and you can stir in gently into your older sand. Once you do add the new sand let it sit, do not disturb it unless it's necessary. It will take a while before the new sand bed becomes a nitrate reducing machine, so be patient. I prefer the idea of putting it into a sump, though. Just seems easier.>> Second question is about my calcium levels. They seem to be quite high around 550 with Alkalinity at around 3.0 -3.5. I was trying to get coralline to grow I might have over done the Calcium a bit. Even after three water changes using Tropic Marin salt the levels have not come down much. I was using Seachem's Reef Complete & Reef Calcium. But I have not added any of those supplements for over a month? <<First, you might want to try a different calcium test kit, just to verify your previous results. And take a water sample to your LFS so they can test it also, and compare results with yours. Your alkalinity is too low. Is your pH also low? Is your pH stable? Does your tank have good circulation? All things must balance. Please do some more water changes, to lower your calcium to approx 400-450 max, and use your products to keep your Alk and pH stable, if necessary. And, as always, do so gradually.. Please make sure of your test results before adding anything. You should use good test kits, and you should be as precise as possible when doing them. Keep a written record, and remember that a relatively new set-up such as yours can show normal fluctuations. Just be sure they are accurate ones, so you can react accordingly. Keep on testing :) -Gwen>>    Thanks again for your help! <<Welcome>>

Removing a DSB? 11/30/04 Hi Crew, <howdy> Searched your site and did not find an answer to this question: I have found that I am now suspicious of my 3 year old DSB.   <likely should not be... if you have had proper water flow (20 X or so) and good nutrient export, DSBs are low maintenance and tremendously beneficial> I have a 110g reef with 1-Yellow Tank, 1 Blue Tank, 2- Clowns, 1-Watchman Goby, 1-Neon Goby, 1- Dottyback, 2-Cardinals, 3 6-10" BTA's 1 SPS and 1 LPS.  This may be overstocked?? <nope... no worries here> I am not sure, with a EuroReef CS8-2 skimmer.  It has been fine until recently: Nitrate was 0, now 5 and I have been very working hard lately to keep the DSB clean from diatoms/brown algae on the surface and also between the glass on the front and sides. <weak water change schedule catching up with yo more likely. 10-20% weekly or at least 25-30% monthly?> Nothing has changed (water source, filtration, lighting, etc.) except the age of the DSB.  Now it is a real hassle and I like clean sand.  I want to take the DSB out leaving 1/4-1/2" of sand, is this ok to leave the bottom layer of sand?   <yes... but you lose a tremendous nitrate removing potential (the DSB)> How do I remove the sand with hurting the livestock?   <manual labor... drain away clear water, livestock and rock and remove the little bit of water and all sand left. Replace and top off. several hours and a sore back later you are done> Also can I save the used sand for when I get a larger tank, which will be soon? <indeed... give it a good rinse, keep it dark with high water flow in a garbage can/other aquarium, etc> Thanks for the help, you guys are the best and the main source of information that I trust. Rich <best of luck/life. Anthony>

Re: Removing DSB Hi Anthony: <He's out till 12/12...> <weak water change schedule catching up with you more likely. 10-20% weekly or at least 25-30% monthly?>!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please tell me that you mean for a short time!?!?  I couldn't afford the salt, water (.50 a gallon) or time!?!?   <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm and the Related Articles, FAQs (linked, in blue, at top)> I currently do 10% a month and also replace about 10-15 gallons a week through evaporation (open top, MH lighting) which costs me quite a bit in water as it is.  Will I actually have to change 25% of a 265 gallon tank (which is what I plan to upgrade to soon) with the same livestock?  If so I may stick with the 110g. <Better to do more frequent, less volume changes... but I'd be looking into making my own change water...> Thanks for the advice I will reconsider removing the DSB. Regards, Rich <Bob Fenner>

Replacing CC with DSB Hello again,  <Hello Julie> Sorry to be a bother but after reading all the FAQs on DSBs and Nitrate control I still have a few questions. There seem to be a few conflicting answers throughout the FAQs and I just wanted to clarify a few things if possible. I just did a 40% water change yesterday and removed enough of my gravel to decrease the base to 1-1/2 to 2 inches. I vacuum my gravel at every water change as well in order to try and keep a handle on my nitrates. However, I understand now this is a losing battle and I'm ready to go to a DSB. <Julie, since you lowered the depth of your CC, I don't believe you gave it enough time. I would wait a little longer and do your water changes/vac gravel, and see if the nitrate comes down.>  WWM said I could leave this gravel and place the DSB on top but I've seen answers in the FAQs that say to remove the gravel completely and start anew with a DSB. I'm willing to do either, am I right in assuming removing the gravel is the better course of action?  <There is more than one way of doing things. It's not absolutely necessary to remove the layer you have in there now.>  I'm going to be using the very fine grain sand suggested by WWM. I have two questions regarding this, is it best to use a DSB in both the tank AND the sump or is their no real benefit in having a DSB in the sump if it's already in the 90 gallon tank?  <What you will have in the tank should be plenty.>  Regarding the live sand, is it best to have the entire DSB composed of live sand (like Fiji live sand if the cost is not an issue to me?)?  <I would if $ is not an issue.>  Finally, I've seen a few responses to the question of the cycling of the tank after replacing CC with DSB. At least one FAQ states that there will be cycling and spikes after doing this and that marine life will probably suffer. Elsewhere in the FAQs there is indication that this will not be the case. As described below my bio load is light. I was planning on transferring as much of the tank water as possible to a clean container along with the marine life and then creating the DSB and replacing the water and the marine life. I know you of course cannot guarantee that this will work but do you think I need to recycle the tank first before replacing the marine life or will I more than likely be ok without doing this? <Julie, live sand is much like live rock. There will be die-off and it will need to cycle. Just keep your hermits and snails in there while it is cycling.>  Thanks you so very much for your time. It's extremely helpful to all of us to have such a fabulous resource at our fingertips!  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> 

Replacing CC with DSB - II Hi Salty,  <Hello Julie> Thanks for the quick reply. <You're welcome>  Not to be dense, but when you say just keep my hermits and snails in there while the tank is cycling do you mean in the tank itself?  <Yes, I cycled my last rock with hermits and snails>  Should my damsels, star and shrimp and xenia be ok in the tank or do I need to find another home for all these while it's cycling? <Yes, they will need a home.>  Finally, I read somewhere that I need 1-1/2 pounds of sand per gallon to create a 2 inch base but I'm not sure what size tank that was based on (since many 75 and 90 gallon tanks are the same size on the bottom but just different in their height). Obviously tanks differ in shape but if you consider a standard 90 gallon tank, approximately how many pounds of sand would I need to buy in order to create a DSB here? I was looking at some Fiji sand on eBay and the auction ends today but I would like to have a better idea of how much I should buy. <Julie, I would call Drs. Foster & Smith, tell them your tank dimensions, and that you want a four inch depth of sand. They should be able to tell you how many pounds you will need. (They sell the Fiji live sand also)> Thanks so much for your help?  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> 

Replacing CC with DSB - III Great! Thanks for all the help. One last question if I may. When the sand eventually dissolves and I'm left with half of what I started with and I go to replace it, will I need to remove critters from the tank at that point as well due to the pursuant cycling? I know that is in the distant future (1-2 years as the sand slowly dissolves) but I can't imagine having to recycle the tank again at that time whenever new live sand is added. Thanks a million! Julie  <Julie, you won't have to recycle. Just add a couple of cups of the dry Carib Sea or whatever brand to the tank. Measure your original sand depth once it is all in, then a year later check again and see where the level is. You will probably have to do an average as the sand levels will vary along the bottom with the sand sifting crew. James (Salty Dog)> 

Reef & DSB Maintenance  Hi! I guess I can't specify, but if I could, it would be to Mr. Fenner and Mr. Calfo. I am enjoying your new book Reef Invertebrates. I have been convicted about some things I'd like to change. <Interesting> A man at the LFS set me up and I trusted him but he was just a bit behind in his information. And now I know more and want to re-do a few things. Already have. I bought a skimmer, upgraded my lighting, installed fans in my hood and now I have a very stable temp all the time. You discuss deep sand beds. It makes sense and I'm having a tough time keeping clean the crushed coral. Plus every time I deeply siphon it I feel like I am sucking up some of the mandarin's food! I wish I didn't have to disturb it so like that! I am meticulous in my water changes. I thoroughly siphon the substrate, clean all filtration pads, pre-filters, etc. <Mmm, biological cleanliness is not sterility...> No trouble with the usual tests. Even nitrate is as low as it gets (Got the lowest when I removed all the Cell Pore's balls which were pretty yucky!) . No phosphorus, ammonia, nitrite, and this is after I followed your advice and took out the bio balls. I am waiting a while to take the bio wheel out just to be sure. I put in a refugium that has a nice deep sand bed with Gracilaria, Ulva, and Chaeto and tons of copepods and amphipods. Now I wish I could do it for my main tank. It is a 90 gallon with a Tidepool sump, with skimmer, UV, adequate pump, two powerheads, adequate lighting. The fish are Red Sea purple tang, blue hepatus tang, flame hawk, ruby-headed fairy wrasse, sailfin blenny, royal Gramma, 2 ocellaris clowns, mandarin, and a coral beauty. This is the last of the fish to be added with a desire to keep some easy corals. Do you think I am one of those overstocked? <You're right about there> And now for the questions about the sand/ crushed coral change. In the book you say pick one size of grain and stick with just that and try to get spherical. Did I understand this right? <Yes, this is ideal> So say I removed portions from week to week replacing with this sand. Yes I know it needs to be between 4-6 inches deep. Will all the junk stirred up removing the crushed coral and putting in that sand bother anyone? <Perhaps> Will the fish be really compromised? <Maybe> I do have a patch of green starburst polyps. That is the only coral. What method could you suggest for easy removal and minimal junk stirred up of the crushed coral? <A large diameter siphon to suck it up/out... a good sized container/s to allow the water to settle, decant back to the tank... and/or a bunch of water pre-mixed, matched for replacement> What is your suggested method for getting that live sand in there without a massive cloud? Or you may simply think I should leave it alone. I just wish I could do a simple water change without the incredible time put in to siphoning so long every week and just sit in front of the tank instead of always being IN the tank! And to find live sand... no one seems to sell the real live stuff in large quantities. It seems I just buy lots of some that supposedly has lots of bacteria in it. Then I am supposed to inoculate it with a small purchase of say, IPSF Å's Surfzone Live sand activator (what if that is a different size sand, though?). <No biggee> However, I did buy that once and stuck it in with my crushed coral and everybody in the tank thought it was great feeding and ate everything up. So are folks like me destined to be stuck with bad decisions made in the beginning or is there hope of a healthy, positive transition?  <Mmm, you seem to be (along with myself, a few known others) in the small minority of folks that will read, learn "second" or other hand w/o having to personally experience less-favorable experiences first-hand...> Pardon all the detailed questions but I really want to do this right this time. Again, thank you for the book and when is the next one coming about the corals? I don¹t want to start purchasing them until I do some reading. Thank you again and I look forward to what you will share with me. Sincerely, Renee' <Do investigate, perhaps join a marine club, attend some of the "group of groups" club meetings likely IMAC, MACNA, the various marine conferences... for input, inspiration... You'll do fine, take your time... Bob Fenner> 

Deep Sand Bed (DSB) challenges 1/11/04 Dear Anthony: <cheers, Connie> I am really looking forward to meeting you next week at the pot luck party, but meantime have issues on my fish tanks.  Am hoping you can help us decide what to do.   <all good> Joe, the water carrier and pump man has persuaded me to combine my two tanks 30 & 60 gals., as I only have 3 fish in one and 4 in the other.  There are several ways I can do this, by either eliminating a clown from one tank or the pair I have in the other tank, but my main problem is this: We are seriously considering removing our DSB (about 9 months old) and going back to gravel in our 60 gallon tank <yikes... say it isn't so!!!> for the following reason:  When we got back from our trip three weeks ago we found that we had Cyanobacteria in the corners of our tank.  Unfortunately we lost one small fish and two shrimp to this and have just about wiped it out, but  as we got rid of it, was replaced by brown algae with spots of Cyanobacteria on all surfaces except those not exposed to the lights.  We have done the following:  We have upped the water flow to approx 1500 gph; we do a 5 gallon water change daily  and vacuum off all of the brown algae,(60 gallon tank; we have ROWAphos in the Fluval and also have been changing the charcoal in the Fluval 2 x week, and lastly, I cut back on the amount of food I was feeding the fish (3 small wrasses and a clown.)  We have a Remora skimmer and lots of live rock.   <excellent... good moves and all address the common problems (inadequate water flow, excess nutrients) that are the real causes for difficulties with DSBs. A good DSB really never We are starting to think that our sandbed is the source of all of what is coming up every day and my husband wants to remove it and go back to 1/2" gravel, which gives us no problem in the smaller tank, and in fact is a breeding ground for amphipods, etc. <sort of... having 1/2 inch or less is little or no trouble if vacuumed/maintained properly... but has very little benefit either. DSBs are even easier (in the sense that that they require no siphoning/stirring) if set up properly from go: ideally, 4+ inches (avoid under 3"), sugar fine is best (course can be a real challenge) and with adequate water flow above it. You have addressed all of the common problems already... I'm wondering if the bed if not deep enough or fine enough? If either and coupled with weak water flow for the prev months, then you could have a bit of a nutrient sink going on. A breakdown may indeed be best at that point, although I'd vote for putting a clean DSB right back in if you want plankton production and nitrate control> How would these fairy wrasses fare w/o the DSB or w/o the live rock?  My husband is tired of helping me with the heavier stuff here, like hauling water and cleaning the Fluval, and this has become a bone of contention.  Joe (husband) has tested the water for nitrates, ammonia, ph, calcium, and all parameters are okay, there are no nitrates at all. the ph 8.3 and the calcium 400.  The salinity is 1.024.  When we look at the sandbed from the sides some of it looks black, some red, some green, etc. and we worry about the blackish stuff which is near the surface.   <likely no trouble at all... incidental growths. You'd know if it was anaerobic (stink!)> I personally think that some of this is the pink macroalgae which is growing everywhere combining with the green stuff, but am no expert. <hard to say here> Before we shut down the tank, give the fish away, etc., I really need your professional opinion here as to what may be happening here.  As a write there are a few suspicious spots that could be a touch of Cyanobacteria.  When we find these "spots" we carefully remove them by hand so they don't disintegrate into the water before we vacuum daily, as I mentioned above. Beer isn't doing it for me this time and am thinking of giving the wrasses away and just keeping the hardier fishes.  Please give us a hand.  Thanks so much.  I am concerned that our proposed new environment will not be good for my reef fish (wrasses). <gravel would be quite inhospitable to the wrasses. To the point that if you go that way, you may need to add/hide a bowl of fine sand for them in the tank to sleep in and for their scale/skin health> Desperately seeking help, Connie <be seeing you soon my friend... do bring pics of the tank! Anthony>

Deep Sand Bed (DSB) challenges II 1/11/04 Dear Anthony:  Thanks for your quick response..   <always welcome my friend> The sandbed is a mix of fine sand, there is not supposed to be coarse sand, but maybe there is some. <Hmmm... not sure what you mean by a "mix" here. Fine sand is/should be uniform in size. It is the very definition of "oolitic" aragonite (a (round) fine grain size). Sugar fine ideally here but anything under 1mm would be good> We were wondering if we put 2-3" of new live sand on top if that will help. <perhaps not... especially if the cause is settled nutrients in the current bed. Can you send me a pic? Or is your house close by to any of the SeaBay routes next weekend? San Jose/Cheri's... way to Monterey, etc?> Thanks, Connie <be chatting soon. Anthony>

Mixing Sugar size sand to current crushed coral 6/20/04 Hi.  I have been reading up on DSBs.  My reef presently has about 2 inches of crushed coral.  Can I just add a couple  bags of aragonite sand on top of my current floor?. <Yes, but I suggest doing so slowly so that any living critters have a chance to work their way to the surface.  A good rule of thumb is to add only about 1/2" at a time, and wait at least a day in between.  A big problem with this is that sugar size sand tends to produce a lot of cloudiness.> Will I get the benefits of the sugar sized sand even if it is mixed with the bigger sized crushed coral?  Thanks D. <Absolutely.  Do consider the hassle of several sand additions and all of the cloudiness before making your final decision.  In the long run, it may be easier to remove tear the tank down, replace the sand bed and set the tank back up.  It just depends on what you think is easier.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Goin' Deep (Deep Sand Bed ) Hi Scott <Hi there!> How are you? <Doin' fine, thanks!> I want to increase my sand bed from about 2 inches to 6 inches in my already established tank. Can I just add the sand slowly on top of my existing sand? <Yep...that's how I'd do it.> I have read and come to learn about the many benefits of a DSB thus making me want to also move toward that direction. <A great idea!> Please advise. Thanks Again Regards, Ziad Limbada <It's that simple...Just go slowly and monitor your tank along the way! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> Moving' On Up - 08/20/03 Hey crew, <Hey Mike, great name btw ;) , PF with you today> After 9 months of planning, researching, being out of the country...in a few weeks I get to switch my 2 year old 75 gal marine tank to a 125. they grow up so fast...so after reading, rereading the FAQ's, I now have a interim Livestock storage at my LFS - Something's Fishy, in Roanoke, VA to give him some press- please interject in here if seems bad--so I will move the stock, with about half the old water to the store, move the tank in, put Southdown sand in, about 4 inches, and put the remaining old water in and top off with new, ready mixed water. I'll leave some room so when I add the stock back in, I can add the water they come in too right? <Here's the mighty big if: If, and only if the tanks you have your stock in at the store aren't part of the stores main system. If they are, then quarantine your animals before returning them to the tank. Heck, you might just want to QT them anyway.> Here's question 2. I don't plan on adding new Live rock at first, since my bioload won't change but I'll have a new DSB - I'm replacing CC. Should I put the old rock in the new tank to seed the sand, or just house it at the LFS? <I'd say use it to seed the sand bed. You might want to get a mesh bag and put a couple of cupfuls from the top of your CC bed in there, leave it for a few weeks, that'll let the critters in there migrate out to your DSB.> I've found some conflicting reports in FAQs.-- then I monitor for a cycle before sending everyone to their new home, this cycle should be short, I've read. I think I have a good handle on things, and after some settling, I get to put an order in to one of the big public aquariums for freebie frags from their coral show tank-Woohoo! <Very cool> and it only cost me a month of volunteering...<Cheap at half the price.> and yes, I've read the moving aquariums article several times - thanks for more of your great info that helps us all out when we need it- if you're ever in Roanoke, swing by- anyone else out there near Roanoke?  Thanks,  Mike <You're welcome Mike, good luck with the move, PF>

Nitrates, Crushed Coral, and DSBs. Hi, I am a 14-year-old fishkeeper, and I just saved up enough money to buy a complete setup from a guy. The tank is a 90 gallon show tank (6 feet long by 1 foot wide by 2 feet tall).<nice> It came with absolutely everything. Lighting (6 x 40-watt), Prizm Pro Deluxe protein skimmer, Rena XP3 Canistar Filter, at least 100-120 pounds of live rock, and a 1-2 inch bed of crushed coral.<sounds nice> The creature list is: 1 Blue/Hippo Tang, 1 Scopas Tang, 1 Koran Angel, 2 Percula Clownfish, 1 Tomato Clownfish, 2 fire cleaner shrimp. 1 banded coral shrimp, 1 large green brittle star, an African Red Knobbed Sea Star, 15+ snails, 3 crabs, 1 bubble anemone, 1 carpet anemone, 1 tube anemone, frogspawn, torch coral, numerous mushrooms and Ricordea, and I think that's about it. I bought the setup 3-4 weeks ago, and obviously the crushed coral was stirred up pretty well during the move. I think it's the detritus in the crushed coral causing the nitrates.<yea and the loss of some denitrifying bacteria.. but expected> I want to remove them, but there is so much live rock I don't want to stress the fish again (they are still getting over the stress of the move).<agreed> I've been doing weekly 30% water changes with thorough gravel vacuums. The previous owner never had a nitrate problem. Chemistry is: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, pH at 8.2, and the nitrate is at 80 ppm. <just continue performing water changes>The fish and inverts are all fine at the moment, but the tank seems like a ticking time bomb if I don't get a DSB or something in there. How can I switch the crushed coral to a DSB with as little stress to the fish as possible, how much sand will I need, and where can I get sugar grain sized aragonite sand for a reasonable price? <You don't need a DSB...the crushed coral is fine. It would be too much of a hassle for you to replace the gravel, especially with a large bioload which you already have, just keep performing water changes until you get the nitrates under 30ppm. Your aquarium will eventually "balance" and you should be fine. Don't take your gravel out and replace it with fresh gravel because you will lose a great deal of the denitrifying bacteria which lives and reproduces in the sand bed and then you will have a HUGE problem, Good luck, IanB> Thanks so much for your help, Zack

Moving an Established Plenum, to be Converted to DSB?  >Dear Crew,  >>Dear Suzanne, yes?  >I need to move my 36 gallon bowfront reef tank. Originally set up last May, I added a plenum two or three months ago. Naturally this was just before I read "the" book and learned that the plenum probably wasn't worth the extra effort.  >>Often a matter of debate, properly set up and all it's proven to be a very good means of filtration.  >If you feel it's advisable, I'd like to eliminate it after moving the tank. Here's my setup:  The sand bed 1-2mm aragonite, approximately 7-8" deep. The topmost layer constantly shifts around, thanks to two tunneling zebra gobies and SuperMom clownfish who frequently wags her tail in the sand near her two anenomes. (This crew provides quite a lot of entertainment in their tank positioned right next to my desk, so I'm tolerant of their remodeling efforts.)  >>Indeed, c'est la vies, yes? They have no idea, of course.  >The bottom half is about 4" deep. It has gradually attained a grey/black speckled appearance which is about 2" deep at the sides of the tank and gradually rises to just over 4" in the center of the tank, extending slightly above the vinyl screen placed between the top and bottom layers. The top half looks more normal, with just some algae discoloration between the sand and the glass.  >>Ok, so it sounds as though you've got distinct layers.  >My only mechanical filtration is a protein skimmer and frequently changed activated carbon. When I set the tank back up after the move, I'd like to get rid of the plenum.  >>I might be inclined to agree.  >However, I'm concerned about the potential for creating some kind of bacterial witches brew.  >><nod>  >This tank is also home to several varieties of delicate Xenia, a few Sarcophyton and a couple of anenomes, so I would hate to upset the balance too much. I have other tanks in which I could temporarily house the livestock, but since the Xenia are difficult to acclimate, I'd like to minimize the moving trauma for them.  >>If this is the case, then I'd get them set up in temporary housing a week or two before the move, make sure they're well situated.  >Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide on how to approach this move. Suzanne Hathcock  >>You're welcome in advance of my advice, and here it is. Since you can see such distinct layering, I think this is going to make the task of keeping said layers intact and separate. I would use something like a dustpan to remove each layer, carefully, to its own bag. Probably something nice and roomy like a black plastic trash bag would work well. Keep the layers separate, and if necessary tag them in some way so that you can place them back in the right order. Now, this is all going to be after you have removed the fish, other inverts, and live rock to their own bags/buckets (depending on how far the move is. If it's just to another office very close by then buckets should suffice) first. Then, when the tank's moved, you simply reverse the procedure. You'll want to be able to basically let the substrate slide into place, it won't be perfect, you just don't want to get it all completely mixed. I would take this time to do a 50% water change as well, and have water on hand should another change be needed quickly. After that, simply replace everything, and once you feel all is going well enough for your prized Xenia, place that back in as well. I believe we may have some moving FAQs on site, but you can also try searching my nickname on http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk (our forums) - "Sea Maiden", along with the nick "Freckleface", and "move" or "moving". In a thread about her move I give more extensive advice for "bigger" moves. Marina 

Replacing the sand bed Hello, My name is Lee and I live in Melbourne Australia. Before I get into the question I want to ask, I just want to compliment everyone involved with the WWM website, it is by far the most informative, professional website that I have yet in counted, and believe me I have seen a few ! <Thank you much for the kind words> Now, my question is "Can you add a DSB to an existing reef aquarium? If so what are the risks involved if any, and what would be the best way of going about it. <Yes you can add DSB. I recently went through this and tried the large diameter PVC pipe to act as a funnel, I tried putting the sand and water into large plastic bags and set the bags in the aquarium and cut open to allow sand to flow out. Both of these techniques failed miserably for me. Large amounts of silt all over the tank, really a mess. The best I believe is to get enough containers to hold the volume of water in the tank, pump the water out and remove the livestock, put in the new sand bed and refill the water. If you are organized and have a large enough pump, it should not take more than 30-45 minutes. You want to end up with a bed that is no less than 4" and around 6" is better.> My setup: Tank is 461 litres with built in overflow. Custom made Trickle Filter with Bio Balls and a 72 litre sump. 50kg of Live Rock. 15kg Base Rock. Pond Master 2800 tank return in sump. Custom made Protein Skimmer. (Venturi, and assisted with a Otto 200 Power Head) Korallin 1502-C Calcium Reactor, vacuum pump and pre-filter. KNOP reactor media Rainbow Lifeguard 25watt UV Sterilizer (Connected to aquarium return line) Fluval 404 Canister Filter for additional filtration For water movement I have two Otto 200 for bottom circulation and two Otto 600 for mid water and top of water column. Each of these is place either side of the built in overflow which is central on one end. 300watt heater. Pin Point PH Monitor (PH 8.2) Two twin overhead light reflectors: Power-Glo Marine-Glo Tri-Phos Actinic     (All are 37 watt) Bio Load consists of: 2 Banded Coral Shrimp 1 Bi-Colour Angel 2 Ocellaris Clownfish Chelmon rostratus 2 Turbo Snails 1 Blue Starfish 1 Anemone 6-7 Soft and Hard Corals. Ammonia 0mg/l - Nitrate 0.5mg/l - Nitrite 0mg/l - Phos 0.1mg/l - Calcium 450-500mg/l - dKH 100mg/l In general my tank runs well with no problems so far and is 8 months old. I believe in emulating nature as much as possible and I believe adding a DSB would be very beneficial to the overall balance of the system. There is a lot of miss-information out there and I want to obtain the best possible information I can before going ahead with the DSB. Any help and information would be most appreciated indeed. Look forward to hearing from you soon. <I hope this helps, Don> Kind Regards Lee

Re: Replacing the sand bed Hello Don, Thanks for the quick reply ! Outstanding :) In light of your answer, I have decided to have a 5" DSB, and I will be taking your advise and removing the live stock and the water. <Excellent, I think you will be pleased with the results. Just make a good plan, have all the stuff you expect to need and it will go well> I want it to run smoothly there by minimizing in more undue stress to the live stock etc with delays. I have 1 or 2 more question's though: 1. "Can I just place the base rock onto the sand? or should I use supports? <I favor placing the rock directly on the sand> 2. "Eventually I would like to rid myself of the Trickle Filter but keep the sump (Maybe a Refugium), when would I be able to remove the Trickle Filter? time frame etc" <I would wait until water values stabilize before going to the next change. Ammonia and Nitrite 0 and Nitrate as close to as possible, should take a few weeks to make sure. Then remove about 1/4 of the biomedia at a time over a 2-3 week period. Monitor the Nitrites and as long as you go slow, they should remain at 0 and you should have no problems. As Bob says, only bad things happen quickly.> Again I look forward to your reply. <Glad to be of service, hope all goes well. Don> Regards Lee

Deep Sand Beds >Dear Marina, >>Good evening, Mohammed. >thank you very very much for your fast reply. It is nice to speak to an expert, and know that their advice will do more good than bad. >>Thank you for such high compliments, Mohammed, although I must protest, I only resemble an expert. ;)   >I just wanted to ask you the following: a) Are you saying that I should remove everything and start again with DSB?  If that is the case then I will have to find a home for all my animals, corals, and live rock. >>Not necessary.  You should first acquire the sand, wash it to remove the very finest of silt, and carefully add it to your tank.   As I mentioned previously, a sand that is calcareous in nature will help in two ways, not the least of which is the capacity to buffer the alkalinity of the water.  You will first remove your crushed coral.  This is a good reason to do a HUGE water change, by the way.  Then add your freshly, well-washed sand VERY gently and carefully, so as not to cover too much with it.  If it's very fine, much will stay in suspension for quite some days--simply give it time, and it will settle out. Then just squirt it off the animals.  Remember (and refer to the links within the links) that you'll have to give this time to grow all the bacteria.  In the meantime, you can try using your friends' water, see if that makes a difference. >b) Is skimming a must? because this system is at my work, and noise is a no no !!! Skimmers are a bit noisy. If I have to add one, then I will, however, I would rather not. >>Understood.  No, skimmers are not a "must", they do help greatly, but it is certainly possible to keep a system (especially a nano) without them.  You will have to make up the difference with water changes, plan on doing 50%/week (5 gallons, not too bad) instead. >c) If I keep the crushed coral, and never vacuum it again, then is that the same as a DSB? >>No, it is not.  A DSB means specifically *sand*, and coral is far too large to create the anaerobic layer vital to denitrification.  Sugar fine to 1-2mm sizes can be used, I recommend something on the fine side because this is a nano. >d) Is there any other suggestions you can give me other than the sand-bed and the skimmer, or are those my only solutions? >>Please read these links, and the links that are included within for an idea of the scope of solutions and applications, one of the links, if I recollect correctly, speaks on algal filtration methods. >come to think about it, my friend does have a DSB. >I did a couple of tests on my tank water, and even took a water sample to my LFS to be tested, and everything is fine. >>Good to know, though it's helpful to know what was tested, and exact readings. >The sand-bed idea does sound reasonable, however, I want to make sure that it will work before I go disassembling everything to add the sand. >>Again, read up and you'll see there's no need.  Besides, you have to place the rock in before the sand anyway (never build rockwork on top of a DSB), so that makes it even more practical.  Just remember it takes time to get going.  Marina Sand Storm Hi how are you guys today? I have a question regarding sand. I am setting up a 55 gal reef with DSB I have added the sugar fine sand without rinsing it. I had thought I read to do that somewhere. <Quite likely here, and possibly from me.> WOW what a cloud in my tank. It did settle down and I am running a canister filter on it to try to take some out. <No, you don't want to do that. The dust is good. It buffers your water and makes a very good place for bacteria to colonize (smaller particles = greater surface area for bacterial colonization.> The thing that I am wondering about is will the fine powder eventually compact to a solid and not allow the benefits of the DSB? <Not unless you have pound upon pound of it, which is pretty unlikely.> Should I remove and rinse? <No.> Or will everything work out with time? <Give it time, remember, nothing good happens fast in a reef tank. Good things come to those who wait.> Thanks Dennis Vigliotte <You're welcome Dennis. Have a good weekend, PF><<I'd pre-rinse... RMF>> Deepening a Deep Sand Bed I have a 90 gal tank setup since 1/10/03. Currently I have 1 coral beauty and a variety of Turbos, dwarf and scarlet hermits. I am not in a rush to stock. <Good> I have 90 lbs of Kaelini rock and a 2- 3" fine sand bed. I now know that this depth should be at least 4". I want to use extra fine aragonite sand. Can I add this sand a bag at a time allowing the nitrifying bacteria to catch up before adding more? Will it be okay to do this with inhabitants in the tank? thanks <One bag at a time, or all at once, it's up to you.  You will want to rinse it really well and pour it in slowly and carefully to avoid a sand storm.  My front porch currently looks like a beach from rinsing sand a little too aggressively. -Gage>

Deep sand bed conversion 5/14/03 Thanks Anthony, How much of the existing sand would you re use? <use all on top of the new "sterile" sand if you like> I have read that some people use only from the top 1", yet when I look up at the tank from inside the cabinet, that is where I can see a lot of the worms and life. Some suggest rinsing it? <if its in good condition (has not been allowed to accumulate excessive detritus) I would not rinse it> Any tricks to keeping the unused sand for a few months since I would like to use it in a new tank I am setting up? <strong water flow and feeding actually (source of organic matter)> My quarantine is out of the question (copper). A bucket with an aerator and circulating pump? <yes... but spread out a bit... shallow plastic storage containers work well (as for under beds)> Once I make the switchover how long would you wait before bringing the fish back in? <2-4 weeks if chemistry agrees> Thanx again, Ken <always welcome. Anthony>

Deep sand bed Hi guys, <Howdy, Don with you today> Happy Tuesday J <Thanks!> When we put our 55 gallon Reef Aquarium together I zoned out and used a crushed coral substrate. I don't know what I was thinking. <I spend my entire day wondering the same thing <G> > Anyway, I want to make a deep sand bed (3 inches or so). Will my tank cycle again if I use new sand? Is there a way to do this without cycling the tank? We have an anemone, so I don't want to rock that boat. <You don't mention how much live rock you have. You will likely see a slight cycle depending on load. I would have as much aged, aerated water available as you can to do water changes during this process. Do you have a plan for changing the substrate? Just 'pouring' in the sugar fine sand is likely to be a dangerous/frustrating experience as a silt storm will result. The best approach is to empty the tank into holding bins with a high volume pump. Swap the substrate, and refill the tank. 30 minutes tops if you plan things well. BTW, 3" is in the danger zone for a DSB, more than 4" with 5-6 being ideal.> Also, how long does it usually take for a clownfish to find the host anemone? <Could be immediate, could be never, depending on the individuals> Thanks! What a wonderful resource you have here!!! <And I am humbled at being a part of it. Ta Ta, Don.>   C Evans.

Deep Sand Bed and Aiptasia control Hello, <Hi Rodrigo, Don here today> I have no words to appreciate all the benefits everyone can get here in your web site. Thanks a lot. <Thank you, it is an honor for me to be a small part of this> I have very high nitrates (huge)  in my reef tank. Everything looks fine with the fish and corals but reading here I just notice that my sand bed is in the range where you say is not good (1" to 2"). My tank is 29gal (the base 30" x 12"). I am planning to increase the deep to 3" or 4" using the Southdown Sand. Is this sounds good? <I would go 4+ while you are at it.> I am planning to do a 50% water change this weekend that I haven't done since 6 months ago. <Yes, likely a major part of the problem. If you can, changing 3-4 gallons weekly will do wonders with the water quality> May I ask you how to mix the new sand with the existing one? I thinks some of the actual sand is fine but also some it is not that fine (not coarse either). Or should I put the new sand over the old sand? Maybe I should do the opposite? Right now I have a couple of Maroon Clown fishes and a bicolor Pseudochromis so I think these guys are hardy enough to resist some chemistry changes. I also have skimmer, AquaClear with Polyfilter and Chemipure. <If the existing sand is < 2mm then I think I would go right over the top, a little at a time.> I have a second question: I have some Aiptasia, like 10 of them. One month ago I tried to introduce a peppermint shrimp but the Pseudochromis bicolor bothered him until he died. Should I remove the bicolor from the tank? The Aiptasia looks very ugly. <Check here for more info on controlling Aiptasia: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/aiptasia/aiptasia.htm Hope this helps, Don> Thank you very much, Rodrigo.

Trapping crabs/DSB in Sump Hello there again, <<hello back...>> Thanx for the info on the Kole Tang eating habits question (re: eating fish poop). I feel relieved that it's OK for it to be doing this. My current question is on trapping unidentified crabs. I didn't take time to identify these crabs, but I have seen at least two light brown/tan colored crabs, with bristle-like/short hair covering most of their bodies. I want to trap them and move them to my 10 gallon for now, until I get a chance to trade them in at my LFS. I plan on getting some soft corals over the next year. I read about a fish trap consisting of an empty soda bottle with the tip cut off and the neck inverted into the body. Will this work for crabs too? <<I think so, yes.>> I haven't seen any DIY taps for crabs on the web, but I only went to two sites, suggested by the OZ's Reef website. If not, can you suggest a better way of trapping these suckers? <<Not really - crabs are suckers for stinky treats so you should have no difficulties with the soda bottle trap.>> Eventually, I'll remove the hermits, and replace with more snails. Also, I was thinking about putting 4 inches or so of aragonite sand into my sump after I take out the bio-balls to make a DSB and help reduce nitrates. Any thoughts? <<Create a plan that will perhaps allow you to run without the sump for 24 to 48 hours so that you don't cloud up the main system when adding the sand bed.>> Nitrates are currently <10 ppm, and I have about 55lbs of live rock in a 55 gallon tank. I would actually put it right under the box where the bio-balls are currently in and where the water drips down to, and use a separator to prevent sand from going into my main pump and skimmer pump. <<Hmm... that part sounds a little dodgy, only because you'd end up with a lot of sand in suspension - constantly stirred up by in the incoming water. You might want to re-think that part.>> Thanx a bunch, Randy M. Yniguez, MA <<Cheers, J -- >>

Bed of sand, adding DSB Anthony Calfo I am going to change to a deep sand bed in my 180 ga reef tank, the tank is 6 foot long I would be doing it 2 foot at the time. You have not said if the live rock is to be moved to one side of the tank while doing this? RGibson <Cheers, Ralph. I personally would never add deep sand incrementally for many reasons... not the least of which is repetitive stress on the animals from an inevitable milking of the tank after each shot of sand. At any rate... I would have plenty of tubs and plastic barrels handy... have the fine sand presoaked (freshwater is fine) and ready... use a large pump to drain the display completely (moving water to the barrels and livestock to the tubs), put the deep sand in and fill the tank right quickly again. It is the most direct approach IMO. Kind regards, Anthony>

- DSB Addition - Good Evening, Hoping your Holidays were pleasant. <And good evening to you, JasonC here.> I am currently running a 60g breeder tank, FOWLR, 2 Ocellaris clowns, a Koran angel a yellow tang and a rather 'cute' scribbled Rabbitfish? my wife liked. I have now about 50# or LR in the tank with an inch or so of aragonite on the bottom, with a 20g Ecosystem homemade sump underneath with another 10-20# of LR in it. I am running into a problem with algae and was thinking of adding a layer of sand, 4-5" deep and am curious as to what you would consider the 'best, easiest, least stressing' way to add in this DSB. My thinking is to basically take the LR and critters out of the tank, I have a couple wheeled Rubbermaid containers around, and placing everything in those while I siphon out the aragonite and lay in the sandbed, replace the aragonite, and then the LR with critters. <Sounds reasonable to me.> Not having done anything this drastic to the tank in a long while (I had to find a dead hitchhiking nudibranch when I added some LR) I am worried about the stress this will place on my fish and LR, I highly doubt anything will be out of water for more then a moment for transfer to the containers. I have read the FAQs, but haven't found much in the way of this particular scenario. <You should be fine. The fish will be a little stressed, but probably not any more than they were when originally caught and shipped to your local fish store. I would consider keeping that Rabbitfish separate from the others because they are venomous, and someone [a fish, perhaps you] might bump into it during the stay in the other tank. You might also consider leaving the lights off in the holding system just to make the fish think it is sleepy-time and hopefully relax a little. Other than that, the plan sounds good.> Many thanks, and happy new year, David Burger <Cheers, J -- >

Converting to Deep Sand Bed Happy New Year, you guys are the best. <Happy New Year to you too.> I started out about 7 years ago with a 130 gallon Marine setup.  I was successful for about two years then I had a catastrophe with my lights while I was on vacation for a week, and my aquarium crashed.  I let it sit fallow for two years keeping the water topped up and the filter and skimmer running.  My current setup has been running successfully for a little more than three years.  I have as a substrate about 1/4 to 3/4 inch of crushed coral that has been in the tank since the beginning.  I have about 70 pounds of live rock, I reseeded it after the fallow period and it is quite lively! I want to add about another 40 pounds of live rock and convert to deep sand bed.  I have a couple questions bout the order of things and the final setup... 1/ My LFS will cure the new rock for me, and I will saturate the sand at home in salt water before adding, Should I add some water from  vacuuming the crushed coral to the sand as it is soaking or will this just seed the sand with Cyanobacteria which is present in the aquarium? <I would save as much of the old tank water as possible.> 2/ Should the live rock sit on top of the sand, on the bottom with the sand around it, or suspended on pieces of base rock so that there is space underneath the rock for sand to fill in? <Just sit the live rock on top of the sand.  Be careful how you stack the rock if you have fish that like to move sand around.> 3/ When removing the crushed coral should I be meticulous about removing all the bits and detritus or should I leave some biology behind to keep the circle of life intact? <I would remove as much as possible, your live rock, tank, and filtration will have enough life to get the tank going again.> 4/ This may be a stupid question.  I have a giant carpet anemone about 14 inches across, a 3 inch clarkii clownfish, a 4 inch hippo tang and 2.5 inch coral beauty as well as the usual compliment of snails and crabs.  Should I remove all livestock from the tank before adding sand or can they stay if I am careful?  These are big fish and will have to be boarded at the LFS if necessary. <When you add the new rock and sand the tank will most likely go through a cycle and will probably be too unstable for the current inhabitants.  To be safe I would move them until you are sure the tank is good to go.> I have read all about this on wetwebmedia and am a lurking member of WetWebFotos, but I still have these questions.  Thank you for taking the time to read and answer my questions. <Not a problem, it's my pleasure.  If you have not already, browse through our FAQs on DSBs, there is a lot more info there. -Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm  > Kevin.

Re: DSB Substrate Sorry to bug you guys once more, but it will be the last for a while ;) <No problem.> Just a quick question. I'm adding a DSB to my existing 1/2'' that I have right now. Is it ok/better to add the 4-6'' around the LR that sits on the bottom of the tank, or should I lift out the rock and place all the sand across the tank bottom? Thanks again Crew! Take care. <If it is not too difficult I would lift the rock and place some sand underneath it, and put everything back on top.  In all reality, if I did not want to yank everything out of the tank I would add it slowly over time to the existing setup. -Gage>

- Switching to a DSB - Hello crew, <Greetings, JasonC here...> First and foremost, thanks for the site. It has been the most helpful resource in setting up and maintaining by first aquarium. <I'm glad you find it useful.> I am afraid I have somewhat of a "mutt" of an aquarium. It is an 80 gallon all-glass. I started off two years ago with 20 pounds of liverock and two triggerfish, a niger and a Picasso. The substrate is just enough crushed coral and shell to cover the bottom, if that. Since I started, the triggerfish have grown, and mushrooms and green star polyps have come out of the liverock and are spreading. I also have purchased about 15 blue leg hermits and 15 snails, 7-8 turbo and 7-8 astrea. The triggerfish are well behaved and do not notice or bother the snails or the crabs. I am also using a Fluval 404, three AquaClear 802 powerheads, and a large protein skimmer. (I forget the brand, but it is working well) Recently, I added another 30 pounds of liverock. I think I am not planning on adding any more rock, corals or fish, but I want to maintain the health of the liverock and the system. I read over all of your FAQs and am thinking of adding a DSB or using sand as a substrate. I am mainly doing this as a buffer and to maintain the calcium levels for the liverock. <Live rock does not 'need' massive amounts of calcium, but rather provides it in small amounts to your system.> I do not add any additives or use a calcium reactor, for cost reasons, and thought this would be another method. <The primary benefit of a deep sand bed is natural denitrification - buffering is a secondary benefit, but you will get the same affect from the addition of the live rock - both are made of calcium carbonate.> My plan is to siphon out all of the crushed coral, vacuum detritus very well, remove the fish, turn off the powerheads and filters, and slowly add 4-6 inches of home depot sand. Afterwards, I will return the fish and restart the powerheads. Does this plan sound OK? <Well, just keep in mind that the Southdown sand is very, very fine and really needs a layer of something heavy on top to insure it doesn't blow all over the tank. If you have a skimmer, I would make sure it is running while you add this sand - you tank water will be filthy. If you don't have a skimmer, you should get one.> Am I crazy for using san with triggerfish? <No.> Can I leave the live rock on the bottom glass and place sand around it? <You can, but you're going to get sand all over the live rock.> Thanks for your time and help. I tried to find the answers to these questions on your site and elsewhere, but to no avail. Any other tips you can give about my current setup would be appreciated. <Cheers, J -- >

How to convert to DSB Hi Bob! After careful consideration, I have decided on using a deep sand bad in tank on my 55ga. On my earlier reef tanks I never used DSB's or plenums and nitrate always seemed to a problem. Water changes, light feedings and all to no avail. So I want to give a DSB a go. My question lies in how is the best way to convert a tank that has been set up for 10 months? I have about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of Florida crushed coral by CaribSea already. Should I lay some screening down on top of this to keep the smaller reef sand (CaribSea special grade reef sand) from eventually mixing together? Should I remove the old substrate altogether? <Both approaches can be used. In either case I would suggest placing a half to one inch maximum new material in/amongst the existing at a couple of week interval> I will add some live sand on the top layer to help seed the fresh bed because I am concerned about ammonia and nitrite spikes. <Bingo.> I can remove the fish/inverts and place them in a 38ga and cycle the new tank if absolutely necessary. <Should be unnecessary. With no screen, mixing the new/old will prevent such a change, with slow addition, enough nitrifiers should be present. Bob Fenner> Zimmy

Clarification on Deep Sand Beds Dear Jason: Thank you for your response. <<no problem>> Could you please be provide a little more detail on your opinion regarding my desire to convert my sand bed to a deeper sand bed? <<we are talking about converting your sump [taking out the bio balls] into a refugium here, correct? You simply add sand to it to the appropriate depth, preferably something very fine grained. You could do the same in your tank, but the purpose of a sump/refugium is to keep the beneficial critters out of harm's way in the main tank.>> Thanks again very much. John <<You are welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

DSB (and nitrates) Question 8/18/05 Good Morning Crew! <Andrew> I've got a question, which might not have a simple answer (What does in this hobby? )..... <Don't know... and am afraid to expand on...> My question lies in the necessary size of a remote DSB in relation to the "primary" tank for Nitrate control.  I've read every (And there are a LOT) query regarding DSBs on this board, and the info in the Reef Inverts book by Anthony, and Bob, but I'm still not sure I've gotten what I'm looking for. I'm in the process of moving my tank, and will be setting up a 72G bowfront tank, with a 20G sump, and (roughly) a 4.5G HOB CPR Aquafuge for Pod production/Macroalgae. If I don't go nuts on stocking levels, would a 5-6" DSB in the Sump (Probably 2/3's DSB, partitioned for water inlet from tank, and the Eheim 1260 return pump) and Refuge be able to control my Nitrates at or very close to Zero? <Mmm, will definitely help... only practice can tell how much> If you need any further information regarding additional circulation, filtration, etc, let me know.  I just hesitate to add the DSB to the display tank as a 72G primary Aquarium isn't particularly huge, and I'm not very fond of the 5-6" sand bed look, <Me neither...> but if it's necessary, function will prevail over form. I realize a lot has to do with maintenance, stocking levels, etc. but is there an effective "rule-of-thumb" ratio of Nitrate-consuming sump/'fuge size to aquarium size? <Not as far as I'm aware, or concerned... the bigger the better... but no minimum, matching value... Just too many other factors to place in a string of variables in such an equation... foods, feeding, lighting... chemistry... temperature...> (I have this really bad feeling you're going to say there are too many variables to tell) <Heeeee! It may well be time for you to join our Crew, start answering queries...> I'd just prefer to add the DSB from scratch, instead of stressing the heck out of the livestock by adding it later should it not be adequate. <Will be fine... I say, go ahead!> Thanks for your help with the question,  and for the amazing amount of help and information you provide! -Andy
<Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

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