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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds 4

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


Deep Sand Beds 12/16/03 Happy Holidays to all: A special holiday greeting to Anthony, who may recall my barking blue hippo tang's prognostications from last football season concerning the Steelers. <heehee... I do recall> Well, my tang has been as quiet as the snow that buried the Steelers yesterday! Sorry, Anthony, but if it is of any solace, I am sad to admit that I am a Giants fan...nuff said after last night's debacle. <grumble, grumble> I have read the article and FAQs regarding deep sand beds and find them fascinating. I apologize in advance for my stupidity, but I have learned that the only stupid question is the one that does not get asked. So here goes... I have a 125G FO without live rock, wet/dry with skimmer, that has been operating for over four years. The nitrites are zero, but the nitrates consistently hover around 50. I was wondering the following: <thanks to the wet/dry no doubt> 1) Are we talking about just plain old sand, or must the DSB consist of live sand? <plain ole fine sand is fine. All will become "live" enough for NNR (natural nitrate reduction) in as little as two weeks> If it is live sand, must the sand be quarantined to avoid disease? <if so yes... but only a handful is needed for a good innoc> If live sand, must a lighting be present to sustain its viability? <none> 2) I would like to perhaps add the DSB to my sump. I will try and explain my sump configuration as best as possible. Water returns from the display tank and into a compartment that holds the protein skimmer. The water then flows to the left, over a filter pad. It then drips down into the compartment that contains the carbon bags and wet/dry media. >From there, it goes into a compartment that houses my Rio 2100 that returns the cleansed water back to the display tank. I could probably make two sand beds. The first would be under the wet/dry media. That area is roughly 6" by 12", and could accommodate a 5" deep bed. <a good depth> The second bed would sit beneath the Rio 2100, which measures roughly 6" by 18". This area could also have 5" deep of sand. <fine too> Do you think that it would be beneficial to establish these two sand bed areas? <it would not doubt help to reduce nitrates... but reducing your dependency on the wet/dry would be better... more live rock and more skimming> Also, if so, would I need to place the Rio 2100 on some sort of support to ensure that it would not pump the sand into the display tank? <yes... likely> I appreciate your insight on what sounds like may be an effective way to reduce my nitrates. Thanks, Mitch <best regards, 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>

DSB substrate 12/9/03 Hi Bob or Anthony, I love your book! When is the next one out? <kind thanks... and Vol. 2 (Reef Fishes) will be out in 2004. We hope to have it ready for late summer perhaps> Is there anything in this hobby other than water which is not controversial? <good point, although can you please define what you mean by "water" <G>?> I am planning a DSB for a new 75 gal tank. I was planning on spending $$ for 200 lbs of aragonite until I read Dr. Shimek's papers on substrates. His opinion is that only the particle size (fine) matters and not the composition itself. <there is merit to this belief IMO and I myself prefer sugar fine aragonite for most applications too (because most folks want/need nitrate control/support)> I live in SW Fl and have beautiful calcite beach sand which he feels would be just as good. <depends on what your perspective is. For nitrate control you will need more of it if it is more coarse... and subsequently need better water flow and sand stirring (you or creatures in the tank). And even if it is sugar fine, it will not contribute minerals as well (at all, nearly... none) as aragonite. Aragonite is much better in this category as it dissolves at a pH of still over 8.0... but calcite does not dissolve until the pH dips into the dangerous mid 7's on the pH scale> He also states that aragonite will not be much of a buffering agent as it does not breakdown until the pH is much lower then it should be. What are your thoughts on this? <I disagree on the latter. From what I've read in science and hobby literature, aragonite dissolves easily in still higher pH waters (over 8.0) and my practical experience with 48,000 lbs of this sand delivered for my coral farm and used over a decade supports this <G>. Seriously... the half life of sugar fine aragonite is a mere 18-24 months in most aquaria... meaning that your 6" bed will be about 3" deep after 2 years and have contributed so many useful minerals in the process> Will I have the same results using the local sand assuming all other things are equal? <good results but not the same. No worries, the mineral loss can be reckoned by more water changes and careful supplementation of your system with calcite instead> Thank you for you respected opinions. <thank you for caring to know them my friend... best of luck. Anthony>

DSB substrate II 12/9/03 Anthony, Wow, talk about a fast reply! You and the Crew are great! <we aim to please... that and we have no social lives and sit by the computer all day. Oh, yeah... we write for a living. Phew... we are not total losers <G>> The buffering question and at what pH is dissolves seems to be the major difference. But we all know it does dissolve, so those minerals must go somewhere! <exactly... and many folks (myself included) have noticed that the need to supplement with Calcium and/or buffer is markedly decreased in such systems> I lean more toward your explanation as you certainly have used enough of it. I suppose in the overall scheme of things, the price of the aragonite is one of the least. <yes... true. And it yields so many natural benefits> I shall plunk down the $$ and buy some! <have you heard about buying this same material from Home Depot Stores packaged as play sand (formerly South Down brand)?> (you don't have stock in the sand mine do you? :)) <heehee...nope. Its a rule around here.... we take no free samples and as such can remain unbiased about recommendations/critiques> Thanks again <best regards, Anthony>

Sorting Out A Sandbed Situation... My current tank is a 55 gallon reef. The tank is about 1 1/2 yrs. old and is experiencing a major algae/ red slime outbreak. I am about 99% sure this is due to the nutrient sink I have created with my 2 - 2.5 inch mixed size sand bed. As luck would have it I will be flooring the room that it sits in and replacing it with a new tank, stand and larger sump/ refugium. I have plenty of new Southdown (real cheap here in NJ) as well as the Florida live sand and (mixed sizes) and aragonite from the existing tank. I was going to use a DSB but after talking to Jason at AquaC and reading a lot of posts, it seems as though they are starting to fall out of favor. <Well, there has been a lot of talk on the hobbyist boards of late regarding the alleged downsides of deep sand beds. While much research remains to be done on this topic, I think the benefits of DSBs outweigh any negatives. I get the feeling that a lot of the negative stuff is put out by people who have had bad experiences due to lapses in husbandry, improper installation of the sand bed, and other potential miscues...The DSB concept is quite valid, IMO> The way I see it I have several choices: A) 1" Southdown in display with 1" existing live sand in dedicated 8g 'fuge. B) 4" Southdown in display with 1" existing live sand in dedicated 8g fuge. C) 1" existing sand in both display and fuge. D) 1" Southdown in display with 4-5" existing live sand in dedicated 8g fuge. I am leaning towards C since I like the look of Southdown Sand and the flexibility of taking the fuge offline if I want to change to shallow bed, or mud at a later time. I am starting to think that the most important thing is macro for nutrient export regardless what bed I use. <Well, one thing that I feel pretty strongly about is that you need to go 1/2 inch or less, or 3 inches or more. My thinking is that 1 inch is too shallow to foster denitrification, but too deep to be fully aerobic, which is a potential recipe for long term problems. If you're inclined to go this route, better to use a sprinkling of sand in the display, and a 3 inch plus bed in the sump...Modified Plan "D"> I am looking for any thoughts or suggestions you guys might have. I would just like to get it right this time around. <You're on the right track!> Thanx as always, Ken <My pleasure Ken...It's good to get feedback from lots of sources here. I would take anyone's suggestions (including mine) with a grain of salt, taking into account basic husbandry concepts, an plan your system in a manner that works best for you! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Sandbed Stuff Thanks Scott F. <You're welcome!> I meant to say option D. Anyways, what about 3-4" Southdown in the display with 4-5" of the existing mixed size live sand /cc for the fuge. <Ahh...sounds good to me> Denitrification in the main tank with pod production in the refugium. Would I need to clean/rinse the existing sand before adding it to the fuge. Would I need to add a specific detritivore kit? I currently have 3 brittle stars. <Personally, I would not "clean" the sand, for fear of eliminating more potentially beneficial life forms. I'd limit additions of detritivores to the existing brittle stars, and maybe some worms. Again- I'd be hesitant to add any creatures that could be too disruptive. Possibly contrary to popular thought, but I don't think that lots of "sand stirring" is either necessary or desirable, especially in a well-maintained tank> The existing sand bed is loaded with spaghetti worms and bristle worms that I can salvage. I was thinking of adding 2 small cukes, about a dozen Nassarius snails and about 2 dozen of the smaller red leg Mexican hermits to new Southdown in the display. <That seems fine to me...Again, I wouldn't disrupt the bed too much, even in the display> Also saving some of the existing sand in nylon bags and using it to seed the display, or is just adding it to the fuge sufficient for biological activity? Any thought or comments are greatly appreciated. Thanx, ken <Well, Ken, I'd be inclined to just place it in the refugium. Sure, you can seed the refugium by keeping it in bags, but in my experience, such procedures don't seem to be necessary. Just dump it in! BTW, for a lot of killer information on DSBs and refugia, trust me and get a copy of Anthony and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" book- exactly what you're looking for...Makes a great holiday gift! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

DSB Grain size (11-21-03) A question about optimal grain size for a DSB - I am starting a 90g reef, with 20g sump and 45g refugium - I plan for 6-8" DSB for both the tank and fuge - would you use grain size ranging from 0.2 to 1.2 mm called "sugar" sand, or 0.5-1.2 mm called "Select" - the select is more expensive. This is a lot of sand - around 450 lbs.<I would go with the sugar sand if it saves you money.  I don't really see any advantages in going with the "select".  There are a lot of people using Southdown play ground sand from Home Depot and having good results also.  I would do a search on this at our site: www.wetwebmedia.com.  Cody> Thanks John

DSB Grain Size II (11-22-03) Thanks very much. <No problem!> Southdown is not available here. I tried to get some, but with shipping it would cost MORE than the "expensive" sand. I may try using local natural ocean sand, after screening it and washing it. Our local ocean temp is only 6-8 degrees Celsius - so of course most of the flora and fauna would not survive at reef temperatures. Any comments here?<If you use the ocean sand rinse, rinse, and rinse some more! There might be something on this at our site, www.wetwebmedia.com.  Good luck, Cody.>

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 

DSB redux... redux... getting reduxulous 11/5/03  Hi crew members. I am writing about DSB and if they are still any good. On two big bulletin boards there have been a rush of respected people who have gotten rid of them because they are phosphate trap or have "crashed". Have you guys read those threads?  <we have responded to others in recent days with queries of this nature>  Lately they have gotten very heated and people have all kinds of info hat is over my head to back it up. Now I am starting to worry.  <you have nothing to worry about if you have adequate water flow (10-20X) over any depth of sand, and good nutrient export processes (skimmers, water changes, etc)>  Do you think those people have a good point?  <the critics are misguided by their own misinterpretation of the correct way to employ a good DSB in my opinion.>  Also have there been many DSB that you know of that are over 5 or 8 years old? Is that rare to find?  <not rare at all... the methodology is quite old (public aquaria - decades). I have written about this topic at length in my "Book of Coral Propagation" and more so in our latest "Reef Invertebrates" (almost 40 pages dedicated to live sand and refugiums). In the last decade I have purchased and used 48,000 lbs of fine aragonite sand for DSB strategies in aquaculture (just as other pioneers like Dick Perrin at Tropicorium have). I can assure you that DSBs are easy to operate once understood and maintained properly... and have many outstanding benefits. They are time-tested IMO>  Thank you  <best regards, Anthony> 

DSB opinion 11/5/03  To Bob and Anthony reef central has had 50,900 people view deep sand beds and the problems with them could both of you give me your ideas on all of this? Thanks RGibson  <cheers, Ralph... our position on the matter (pros and cons) is spelled out in a fantastic new book <;)> that I happen to know you have in your possession, "Reef Invertebrates" by Calfo and Fenner. It is truly the most comprehensive coverage on the topic to date (nearly 40 pages dedicated to live sand and refugiums). A review may require more time in the lav. Ha! kindly, Anthony> 

Converting to DSB  >Howdy Crew,  Howdy, Marina here.  >I try not bug you guys without first doing my research, but I don't want to blow up a year old marine tank. Here's the situation:  29 G  Undergravel with powerheads  One powerhead with intake sponge on the tank bottom  >>I assume this is for additional water movement, yes?  >350 Tetratec HO  Eheim canister  Prizm (yes, I know, I have to clean it every other day for it to work) HO skimmer  2-3" of mostly coarse to medium aragonite and crushed coral substrate  25lbs of beautifully encrusted Fiji LR.  Tank inhabitants are:  3 Damsels  4 hermits  1 banded coral shrimp  and a recently growing population of Aiptasia anemones.  >>Lovely.  >I perform bi-monthly 15% water changes (distilled water and Instant Ocean) and change power filter/carbon/PolyFilter every two weeks, maintenance the Eheim every month, but I still have to add buffer to raise pH above 8.2 every couple days.  >>This is because you're using distilled water, which I'm sure has all the buffering capacity of RO/DI water (that is to say *none*). It really should be buffered BEFORE you even mix the salt.  >All other, Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate/Phosphate read 0. I want convert to DSB for more buffering (I have bought 30lbs) of fine aragonite, but really don't want to capture everyone and pull all the existing substrate and LR out.  >>Gotcha, but know that if you continue to use the distilled water without buffering before you mix the salt you'll still likely have pH jumps.  >Is there a way to gradually add the fine substrate to the existing substrate and remove the powerheads from the undergravels?  >>You wish to remove the undergravel filtration completely, yes?  >Should I add or remove some of the external mechanical filtration?   Thanks, Randy R.  >>Alright, I'm going to assume you wish to convert entirely to a DSB, sans undergravel filtration. You won't need to pull the live rock out, but you'll need to move it so you can remove the undergravel filter plates. This process is going to really stir things up, so I'd be sure to have the canister filter cleaned, ready for a few more quick cleanings with all the detritus that's likely to be stirred up. So, dealing with one side at a time (may be a good idea to allow a week or two in between, just to be safe), remove filter plate, shift present substrate, carefully add wet new sand (rinsed, please!), then shift substrate back over. The more carefully you do this, the better, as you'll disturb your bacterial colonies less. I don't think you'll need to disconnect the canister filter, especially with the lovely Prizm you've got there, but do continue your maintenance schedule with both. Once you've got the deep sand bed in, I assume you know you can't vacuum it as you do an undergravel filter. Know that it can take quite some time for it to become well-established, so the less you can disturb it, the better. Light vacuuming of the CC may be necessary, but not for a while. I hope this has answered your questions, and accept my apologies for the late reply, as the person in whose inbox this was hasn't been able to answer queries lately. Marina

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

Macroalgae and DSBs 11/2/03  Hi, I am looking to add macro algae to a new sump. Can you tell me the best kind to use?  <that depends on many factors... but Chaetomorpha (Spaghetti algae) is hands down one of the best overall. Gracilaria is also quite good. Avoid Caulerpa in my opinion. See about all and why in the FAQs and archives of our site at wetwebmedia.com>  I thought about mixing a few kinds together, but I read one response in a reef forum, and it said that you can make a mistake adding different types of algae together (maybe Gracilaria and Chaetomorpha?...  <all algae fight (allelopathy) and one will ultimately succeed all at the expense of considerable energies. Pick only one species per tank>  I don't remember for sure). They actually compete against each other and can become toxic.  <yes... to each other, to invertebrates... and even to some fishes>  I didn't know mixing macro algae could do that. That's not what I had in mind to do :-) This response also said the grape Caulerpa being one of the most noxious of all of the algae. Is that true?  <very true by a remarkable scale of magnitude>  I thought it was a good kind to have?  <Caulerpa can be a boon or scourge. I dissuade folks from it because it is too labor intensive for most folks>  The response also talked about macro algae going 'asexual' and becoming toxic. What does this mean? I have never heard of this either.  <please do a keyword search of this topic and any other that interests you with the google search tool from our home page at www.wetwebmedia.com and all will be revealed to you my friend>  Secondly, I read in another forum where a lot of reefers were talking about having reef tanks with bare bottoms (either no sandbed at all or a very small sandbed. They ripped deep sand beds talking about DSB crashes and really messing up tanks.  <removing DSBs is a knee-jerk reaction by aquarists that have improperly installed them or have poor tank husbandry overall (usually inadequate water flow). We explain this dynamic at great length (tens of pages) in our book "Reef Invertebrates">  I have never heard of this and have never thought of having a tank with no sand at all. Everything I have ever read talks about live sand being a very important part of biological filtration.  <agreed... there are tremendous benefits to live sand and rock methods>  I am confused.  <just need to read/research more my friend... and not so much from message boards with much opinion and inexperience (or limited experience) but from tenured and objective sources/authors>  Can you tell me your take on having deep, medium, shallow, or no sandbeds?  <I wish to help here my fried... but a proper answer cannot be relayed in an e-mail less than 20 pages! Please do simply read through our archives or if you feel frisky, that new book of hours is months old and covers all of these topics at great length. The most comprehensive in the industry to date>  Thanks, Paul  <best regards, Anthony Calfo>?

DSB help 10/30/03 I sent the email below back on 10/6.  To date, things have not changed.  My pH still wants to stay at around 8.6....   <hmmm... not much to worry about. I recommend ph in the range of 8.3-8.6. You are fine where you are at mate. NSW on tropical reefs is 8.45> I have changed water twice, 100% volume .  Buffering will not bring down the pH.  <buffering with ALK minerals indeed can only take you higher. No point adding it despite ridiculous marketing claims of a few products> What can I do?  <relax... or read a bit more to get a better understanding (comfort) of how pH/ALK works. Do check out some excellent articles on the web by Randy Holmes-Farley> This tank has been stuck here now for almost 2 months.  I am considering trashing the DSB. <good heavens... the DSB has little to do with it mate. Even if it did, it has so many great benefits! Please don't make a fine situation bad with a knee-jerk reaction like this> but if I do, go to a 1 inch bed, I'm not sure whether the pH will come down then either.    I feed the tank regularly, it has cycled completely, NH2, NO2 and NO3 are at zero, algae growth is minimal.....What to do? Thanks, Frank <relax my friend. Your tank is fine. Perhaps read some of our WWM articles archived like my piece on "understanding Calcium and Alkalinity". Also, see if you can get your hands on a copy of our new book "Reef Invertebrates" which has the most comprehensive (and extensive!) coverage of DSB, live sand, refugiums, etc among many other things in it. Kind regards, Anthony>

DSB and mandarin for a 45. (10-29-03) Dear Crew: <Howdy, Cody here today.> First off, thanks for all the incredible info you have been giving myself, and anyone willing to learn and ask!  I am now about 6 months into my 45 Gallon FOWLR setup.  I have about 45 Lbs. of live rock, 3 inches of LS, 2 False Perculas, 2 Yellowtail Damsels, 2 Chocolate Chip stars, 1 Peppermint Shrimp, many cleanup crew members including a reef tune up kit from IPSF.  I have 2 questions.  First off, what would be the best way to make my live sand bed deeper without triggering another cycle?  My second question is actually a situation/question.  When I purchased the Reef Tune-up kit from Indo-Pacific, I also purchased an Amphipod breeding kit, and set it up in it's own 10 gallon tank.  My plan was to let them breed for a few months, while slowly placing them in my 45Gal show tank...with the hopes that I will be ready for a Mandarin in a few months.  I have already placed a few Amphipod in the tank... and the Damsels seem to like them as a snack while they fall to the sand...Would they actively search them out for dinner.  I already feed them Formula 1 & 2, and flake...Everyone in the tank seems to love this combo. I know the Chocolate Chips have allowed me to rule out any Corals, So I was thinking about a couple feather dusters until I can move the stars to another tank and bump up to some beautiful coral.  Will the Peppermint Shrimp eat these?  I have read that some become interested in feather dusters when the lights go out!<I would just add the sand gradually over a extended period of time, maybe like ? in. at a time.  If you have a lot of LR in the tank you may just be better off just adding it all at once and testing your water quality lots.  As far as the mandarin I would not add one to this tank unless you have the amphipod setup to where you can feed 2-3 times a day with a lot them being constantly produced.  It would be even better to feed 5-6 times per day.  The feather dusters should be ok but there is always some degree of risk.  Cody> Thanks a million in advance, Steve

DSB and Nitrate >Just to confirm your questions below, my DSB is at least 6" deep of Southdown Carib sand.  That also includes about 1" of LS from the Gulf.  I as well would think after 6 months that it would have kicked in.  The LS from the Gulf is pretty coarse.  More like crushed shells, which then lays atop the sugar fine DSB.  Is this not good?   >>There should be no problem with that, but the live sand "from the Gulf".. well, I have no experience whatsoever with this. >What can I do to boost this DSB into action?  Or as previously mentioned....just keep waiting?   >>You could do that, or give them a hit with the water changes and adding macroalgae. >Will the nitrate levels eventually hit 0 when the DSB kicks in?   >>At least get down to 10-15ppm, yes. >What am I looking for as a sign? >>Bubbles in the substrate.  You may want to consider getting the most recent book written by Bob and Anthony, "The Natural Marine Aquarium-Reef Invertebrates", as it's got an EXTENSIVE chapter on refugia, DSBs, and using macros for filtration and nutrient export. >You also reference having enough sand stirring inhabitants.  All I really have is a brittle star and snails at the moment.  Can you suggest others? >>Most specifically, there are sifting cucumbers (sorry, don't know genus/species) as well as sandsifting stars.  I suggest searching online with those keywords, as well as sites like Inland Aquatics.  Marina

Put Your Toe in The Water! On to That DSB & Coralline >I don't exactly ever remember in the past 7 months if the nitrates were as low as 10ppm except when they first started to rise.  This tells me that my DSB has never really kicked in.  It has been a steady slow rise to where they are today.  Is there anything I can do to help things along?  Is time the only thing that will tell? >>Hmm.. I'm wondering about the DSB itself.  I would think it would have kicked in by now.  Is it at LEAST 3" deep (for sand)?  If it's not sand size grains, and maybe more on the order of 1-2mm grains, then it would need to be 4"-6" minimum (this would work well with the sand, too, just be sure to have sufficient sandsifting animals to avoid compaction).    >On another note, what else can I do to help my coralline algae grow?  My calcium at last check was at 375, alk at 4.5 and pH at a "balmy" :-) 8.4.  I add a tsp of Kalk almost every night.  Once again is this just a time thing?  Patience? >>I'm not the best person to ask about calcium and alkalinity, but your calcium level seems to be in a good range, between 350-400.  If I recollect correctly, you want your alkalinity to be on the high side, though I would think that 4.5 meq/l IS on the high side.  Very perplexing.  Here's a link to a discussion on such: http://reefs.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=29957&highlight=correct+alkalinity Randy Holmes-Farley is also a chemist by profession, so his information can be counted on to be pretty good. http://www.reefs.or/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=24550&highlight=correct+alkalinity Also.. http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/no2002/chem.htm Marina

- Deep Sand Bed Clarification - Help! I have a 60 gallon DAS tank that is over-run with undesirable algae growth. I can control the problem with weekly major water changes, although I know that I should only do smaller water changes to maintain the balances, etc.  The tank is got the front angle-cut ends  |        |        | \________/ Per the advice I received at the local store, we layered the sand bed with fine sand then with coarse sand to about 2-3 inches.  After reading some of the articles I know now that 2-3 inches is inadequate. <Yup... not really a 'deep' sand bed but a sand bed none-the-less.> Much of the sand in the front of the aquarium is hardened... I suppose from the see-saw effect of Kalk additions. <Yes, that would explain it.> I use a float switch with a 6 gallon source of fresh water/Kalk mixture to automatically keep the tank topped off.  I suppose I have been using too strong a dose. <Yeah, would separate these two.> Pump capacity is pretty much what you suggest... I have the filter pump that pulls through the weirs/protein skimmer and foam filter.  In addition to that I run with 4 Maxijet pumps at about 925 gallons/hours plus the pump that cycles through my chiller.  On top of all the sand, I have about 60-75 pounds of live rock. As far as livestock goes, I have a branch of pink hammer corals, green hammer corals, torch corals, an open brain up on a rock (should be on the sand, right?), some xenia, plenty of mushrooms, a couple toadstool leathers, cabbage leather and a variety of button corals, etc.  We have a small assortment of fish, i.e. a medium brown Scopas tang, a maroon clown, a Pseudochromis, a blenny, a couple damsels, a sally light foot crab, a serpent star fish, a tuxedo urchin, and a good assortment of snails, and hermits. First the DSB.  Will 3-4 inches of fine sand suffice? <Not really, need more than four inches to call it deep. At three to four inches, your sand bed will likely be a source of nitrates rather than eliminating them.> And do I need all the rock? <Yes.> I can only imagine that everywhere there are rocks, these places are "dead spots", as far as current goes? <Not entirely, especially if water is moving as you say... water will move through/in/around.> And what about the sand beneath them? <Should still harbor some life, although it's always best to try and get the rock sitting on the bottom of the tank, not just on sand.> Do I have too much water current happening? <In my mind, there's no way in the practical sense to have too much circulation.> And what do you recommend about topping off my system with the automatic top-off set up that I have? <Leave out the Kalkwasser, dose that separately.> Go to a 2-part calcium system and only top off with fresh water... no more Kalk? <Kalk is fine when used sensibly - in top off was an honest mistake that is easily corrected. Two part calcium additions would be better balanced, would be less likely to turn your sand bed to rock, but I think you've identified some other areas where you can change your practices and also eliminate other instabilities.> And then, you say to stir the sand from time to time.  How deep should this stirring be? <As far down as possible.> Should the hose end vacuum be used to sink into the sand and deep vacuum? <I would not gravel vacuum a deep sand bed.> What about the sand bed behind and beneath the live rock? <Move the rock around every so often - six months or so.> So, something like sea cukes are safe and stir the sand enough? <Yes.> Any other creatures you would recommend?  And what brand of fine sand would you recommend? <Any that is fine enough.> Your help/advice will be greatly appreciated. <Cheers, J -- >

- Deep Sand Bed Clarification, Follow-up - What, then, should be my minimum depth of sand? <Four to six inches. More would be better.> What brand/type of sand? <No brand preference. Any calcium-based substrate is fine. I'd go for a couple of grades - sugar-fine on the bottom, something a little more coarse above that, and something even more coarse above that to hold down those sugar-fine layers.> The fine "live sand" or do I need to add more critters to really make it live? <Anything bagged as live sand will have no 'critters' - any live rock you obtain should come with a good deal of live which will appear suddenly one day, several weeks after addition of the rock - these will make your sand 'live'.> And will all the current I have blow the sand? <That's why you need a layer of something heavy on the top.> Thanks for your patience and thanks again for your advice. Barry <Cheers, J -- >

- DSB and Coralline Algae - I don't exactly ever remember in the past 7 months if the nitrates were as low as 10ppm except when they first started to rise.  This tells me that my DSB has never really kicked in. <I would agree.> It has been a steady slow rise to where they are today.  Is there anything I can do to help things along? <See if you can cut back on the amount of food you put in the tank. Perhaps hold off on the large water change - need to nitrates to kick start the sand bed.> Is time the only thing that will tell? <In the end, yes.> On another note, what else can I do to help my coralline algae grow?  My calcium at last check was at 375, alk at 4.5 and ph at a "balmy" :-) 8.4.  I add a tsp of Kalk almost every night.  Once again is this just a time thing? <Yes.> Patience? <In bulk supply. Cheers, J -- >

Deep Sand Bed and Mandarin questions - 10/24/03 Dear Crew: First off, thanks for all the incredible info you have been giving myself, and anyone willing to learn and ask! <Which is why we do what we do> I am now about 6 months into my 45 Gallon FOWLR setup. <A newbie.....Cool......I get to break you in.....Ha!>  I have about 45 Lbs. of live rock, 3 inches of LS, <Has been known to be a problem in the past. Nitrates galore!> 2 False Perculas, 2 Yellowtail Damsels, <Wow, so far, an aggressive little tank. You are gonna have trouble soon, my friend> 2 Chocolate Chip stars, <Wow.> 1 Peppermint Shrimp, many cleanup crew members including a reef tune up kit from IPSF. <Love this company! You likely have a lot going on in this little tank. Be careful!>  I have 2 questions.  First off, what would be the best way to make my live sand bed deeper without triggering another cycle? <A little at a time like maybe a 1/2 inch every week or two. See here and read through the FAQs too! http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm>  My second question is actually a situation/question. <OK>  When I purchased the Reef Tune-up kit from Indo-Pacific, I also purchased an Amphipod breeding kit, <Good idea, but easy to do yourself> and set it up in it's own 10 gallon tank. <As per the directions eh?> My plan was to let them breed for a few months, while slowly placing them in my 45Gal show tank...with the hopes that I will be ready for a Mandarin in a few months. <Uh......NO! No way will a mandarin be able to compete with the badgering of damsels and clowns (BTW- I have never seen clowns and true damsels in the same part of the reef. Two very distinct environments) The mandarins I have observed throughout the indo-pacific live in rocky outcroppings in lagoonal type environments. Damsels do inhabit the same area with one exception; it is a BIG area. Lots of room for mandarins to hide, eat, and create a territory same is said for the damsels. I would highly recommend not purchasing a mandarin for this reason alone amongst many others. Too small an area and hard to feed and provide stress free living. There will likely not be enough food even in the specialized 10 gallon amphipod breeding kit you have created to feed even one mandarin. Well, maybe one, but not in this tank. Too many others to graze on said items as well>   I have already placed a few Amphipods in the tank...and the Damsels seem to like them as a snack while they fall to the sand...<Exactly!> Would they actively search them out for dinner. <In between feedings....probably. Opportunists for sure!>  I already feed them Formula 1 & 2, and flake...Everyone in the tank seems to love this combo. <Good choices. Likely fine> I know the Chocolate Chips have allowed me to rule out any Corals, So I was thinking about a couple feather dusters until I can move the stars to another tank and bump up to some beautiful coral. <I wouldn't on the feather dusters, I mean.>  Will the Peppermint Shrimp eat these? <I guess in theory maybe?? Not so sure though. Do a little research through the forums and see what other have come up with this combo>  I have read that some become interested in feather dusters when the lights go out! <Kind of what I heard too, but I have no such evidence> Thanks a million in advance <You're welcome, mate. Please reconsider the mandarin. A beauty to behold but for a jewel in the sea. Leave it to ocean realm to let it be!  -Paul> Steve

A Few Questions, Cont'd By the way, in reviewing my email to you, I noticed some ambiguity in one of my questions... <I'm sure it was unintentional! ;)   > "Asked differently, what surface area and depth (i.e. volume) of sand would be good for the 125-gal main display? Smaller would be better when considering space available." <I wish a magic formula existed which would indicate a specific amount of sand needed, but too many variables exist.  The amount of denitrifying bacteria increases with volume of sand AND proper food source.  The food source here is directly correlated with whatever livestock you may add to the mix.  Simply put: You'll need to construct your sand bed based on what you'd like to keep.  In a reef, keeping the bio-load light is a key to success.  If you're planning on 1+ pounds of live rock per gallon, a huge DSB isn't necessary, and it sure isn't pretty to most.  A smaller, remote DSB offers lots of options and serves it's purpose.> What I meant was, what volume of sand (DSB) in the sump is recommended to support the 125-gallon main display.   <If you're going to use the Ecosystem system, the only way you'll be able to run a deep sand bed is in a refugium.  With a 125 Gallon display, a 20-40 gallon refugium with a 4-6 inch DSB will work well and help to support a beautiful reef.  Good luck! Ryan>

-Smothered rock?!- Hey guys, My system setup is 240 8'x2'x2', 3 250 10000k MH w 2 6' Icecap 03 VHOs. Internal hard piped recirculation system, 1000 GPH pump w 8 heads. Overflows to a 125 AGA partitioned tank w 36 x 18 two layer 7" deep sand bed w plenum w 2 96W PC (eventually a deep sand bed refugium). Turboflotor 5000 Baby skimmer-over pumped with a valved bypass going to a 36" spray bar to cause cross-current on the DSB's linear flow. 1500 GPH return at the head. I cured 300# of live rock in the main system w the DSB setup. I cured and cycled the main system to readings of 0-0-60 added carbon and water changes to readings 0-0-10. <Nitrate should go undetectable soon as the sandbed establishes its anaerobic pockets.> Plenty of life now in the DSB, I also seeded the DSB w the filter sponges from my two Fluvals on other tanks (lots of copepods, Amps, worms, baby Astrea snails and the such!!) <Yum!>  Yesterday and today I arranged the LR and put in a 5.5 two layer DSB in the main system. This morning there were plenty of worms in the main system's DSB. Finally to my question; Since I buried and basically smothered 5.5 inches of LR is it reasonable to expect to get a delayed Ammonia and NO2 spike from the die-off on the smothered rock?? <I suppose that would depend on what got buried. With the amount of live rock and sand in the system, I would suspect that any ammonia produced by the decaying matter would be rapidly converted to nitrate in very short order. I would still test for ammonia and nitrite, but I doubt that you'll be able to detect anything.> I want to add my fish next week and my corals the week after from my other systems!! <It never hurts to extend the schedule a little! -Kevin> Thanks, Bill Walters MGR, Shark Aquarium Union, NJ

DSB vs. Aesthetics- Hi Kevin, I hope you're in good spirits. <That I am, thank you!> I am sold on the DSB. I was just curious though about the benefits (if any) on a thin layer of sand. Say 1/2 or less. I have read time and time again Steven Pro's view of either 1/2" or less or 3"-4"(for a 35 gallon aquarium). I can hear him saying that "1"-3" is NO MANS LAND for Denitrification, where it is too thick to be aerobic (contains water with oxygen in it) and too thin to be helpfully anoxic". I sometimes can feel his pain/frustration because he has repeated this so many times in the FAQ's, I am sure he and you other guys are getting sick of repeating it. I made a list of Pro's and Con's of DSB Vs SSB for myself and the only reason that I would even consider a Shallow bed is for Aesthetics only. but it's such a significant factor for me to consider. My tank is only 18" high. Going with a DSB would significantly detract from the swimming room of a FOWLR aquarium. <True, but you need not go deeper than 3.5-4"> Would there be more chores involved with as thin layer than a thick layer i.e. cleaning and stirring sand? <Since you're not worried about disturbing anaerobic areas of the bed, stir away!> or is it really about the same in the end as far as the husbandry of the tank goes? <It's not that much different, but you may need to concentrate on other methods of NNR> I guess that the question I really want to ask is "Is considering a fine sugar sand bottom of 1/2" or less really a waste of time or does it significantly contribute to my tank enough to consider a thin <I think you mean thick here> bed?" <Personally, I'll be running DSB's in all future tanks, FOWLR or whatever. A deep live sand bed in an external refugium would serve your denitrification purpose for you, while you could have minimal sand in the tank. Pick up Bob and Anthony's new book Reef Invertebrates. It's one of a few (actually, can't think of any others) that bluntly address the whole sandbed depth thing without coming to a conclusion on what is "best". It's got all the why's and wherefores on any depth.> It is funny, I went to my local Big Al's to look at their CaribSea oolitic sugar size sand and I though I would pick the brain of the manager. I ask his opinion about DSB and how much sand he thought I should put in. guess what he said, "about two inches is all you need". <Ask 50 people, get 49 different answers...> After that I thought to myself, I shouldn't have asked. But I do know what sand to get through that exercise because it was the one sand the he only had one bag left of. <Careful, I can think of plenty of things that are quite popular that you shouldn't be using!> that gave me a pretty good indication that that's the sand experienced hobbyist's are using. Talk to you soon. <I wish you much luck with this tank and I hope I have been of some help. -Kevin> Cheers. Mike Tol

Deep Sand And High pH Dear Sirs <No "sir" required- just Scott F. with you today!> I have a 120 gal marine setup Two months ago it crashed so I took the opportunity to convert to a DSB.  The DSB is roughly 5 inches  deep.  Over the course of about 3 weeks I added sugar fine aragonite to that depth.    The bottom 2 inches or so are mixed  sugar fine and 0.5 - 1.5 mm aragonite.  There is a wet/ dry connected, flowing at about 1600 gph. Ammonia is ~.25  ppm.  NO3 and NO2 are not detectable.  I feed it daily.  There are no fish or anything in the tank. About 75 lbs of live rock.  The pH is 9 and won't come down. <I believe that it will come down over time...Do monitor this regularly...> I had a problem initially with sand being moved by the power heads, would have an algae bloom, with subsequent rise in pH, and then settle back down.  I figured what was happening was that anaerobes were being uncovered , or aerobes being buried, with die off. <A good theory, and a possibility...Disturbing the s and bed can disrupt the denitrification processes...> I got the circulation problem solved , but now the stinking pH won't come down.  In a few places in the back of the aquarium, there are black circular spots, 1 or so inches in diameter. Sort of looks like algae.  Since these were the last places to be covered to final depth , I assumed that is where  decay products are rising and blooming algae. <Sounds like a distinct possibility...> What is wrong?  Why wont the pH come down ?  Been stuck this way for 2 weeks at least.  Started turning the lights on for short periods during the day and am getting a little algae growth, diffusely over the DSB. <The high pH is likely to trend down over time on its own, as indicated above. However, I think that you're probably looking at the effects of well-buffered source water and a deep bed of fine aragonite doing its job. Quite frankly, I don't think that you're doing anything wrong. Just be patient and monitor water chemistry regularly...Once you get on a regular day night cycle with lighting, I'm sure that things will stabilize at a lower pH level. The algae growth is, unfortunately, a common part of new system break-in. Patience, once again, is the call here. You can read up all about deep sand beds on the WWM site, and in Bob and Anthony's "Reef Invertebrates" book...tons of good info. there! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Remote DSB in 50G FOWLR - Salute to the crew at WWM! Greetings from Malaysia and an immense big up for a fantastic site (my fishkeeping bible of-sorts). <Word.> Right, to my question, I've read through the articles and FAQs re. DSBs and am still a little blurred around the edges. My tank is a 48G FOWLR with a skimmer (AZoo tri-super, an Asian brand I think. The recommended brands like Aqua C/Berlin are not available or waaay to expensive) and an Eheim knock off called Jebo (once again Eheim products are way beyond reach) plus powerheads and two internal Fluval 4s containing activated carbon... All are functioning adequately but due to overstocking (I volunteered to adopt my friends refugees as she had to move overseas) nitrates are a little high at around 50ppm. <Eek! Do a couple of 25% water changes, get those nitrates down.> Anyway, I did an overhaul as the refugees gave everyone whitespot so I removed them to treat in a few QTs recently acquired (have learned my lesson and full of remorse) and now my main tank is bare bottomed (from UG with medium grade coral sand) but I'm planning to add a sump to my system (about 30-40gallons) and am wondering whether a remote DSB of 5" around a half or third of the entire sump area (the rest will be for the skimmer and return pump) is a wise or recommended idea? <It's not a poor idea...> I've read on FAQS that DSBs are not advised in FOWLR 'main' display tanks due to the heavy bio-load but what about remotes? <I've not seen this recommendation, and I for one run a setup very much like this on my own FOWLR tank so... I think you would be fine.> Is it going to help with denitrifying significantly at my specs? <'Significant' is hard to define - I think it will 'help', 'how much' is hard to say.> Also, if it is gonna help, do I need a lot of live rock above it? <Well, you would need the live rock no matter what - doesn't necessarily need to be 'on' the DSB.> I'm not sure there is enough space for DBS and LR. <Chances are not - most sumps don't run at their full capacity, so I rather doubt you will have the room.> Another option is using the space for add more LR to boost my systems specs. <And this would help too.> The Jebao will be relegated to holding activated carbon and phosphate removers when the sump is added. The tank mates are: (original) Maroon clown 3" 2 yellow tail damsels banana wrasse 11/2" marine betta 2" fu Manchu lion 3" (refugees) clown trigger 11/2" yellow margin trigger 11/2" Niger trigger 2" Picasso trigger 2" I know this is a mix made in hell but its only temporary till I can find homes for the triggers (they are remarkably well behaved at the moment) either with other fish keepers or my LFS. What it boils down to is will the remote DSB be beneficial to my system with the original occupants? <I think so, yes.>  I know it won't cope with the present capacity but what about when the triggers move on? <I'd be looking for a larger tank myself - that banana wrasse will get much larger than it is now.> Thanks a lot for your time! Nicky. <Cheers, J -- >

Bubbles! Folks, <Morning! Welcome> Thanks for all the advice and having such a great site. It's wonderful!!! My problem is this... I'VE GOT BUBBLES EVERYWHERE!!!!! Let me explain. My 4 1/2 in sand bed is producing LOTS of bubbles. It's getting on the rocks. I turkey baste it daily but it keeps coming back. At this point and time I'm thinking about removing the DSB and using about 1" of substrate. This tank is about 2 months old. Any help will be greatly appreciated. <Tank is still "settling" itself.  If the bubbles are still an issue in another 2 months, write us back.  Perhaps an extra powerhead would be of use?  Best of luck! Ryan> Thanks Jim

Going Deep (Sand Bed For Denitrification) I am looking for help with rising nitrates.  Current conditions: 90 gal tank, 20 gal sump, AIS-90 skimmer, Mag 9 pump, 2 - 401 power heads, wet/dry filter (used just as a sump) with all the bio balls removed, 50 micron filter pads on the drip plate, carbon and chem pure in the first baffle, 96 w power compact, ph 8.2, alk 300, nitrite 0, nitrate 40+, salt 22ppm, 78-79 degrees temp, 1 med hippo tang, 1 med yellow tang, 3 sm. green Chromis, 2 clowns, 1 med Betta, 1 med hawk fish, 1 green polyp, many plate and disc mushrooms, 1 sm xenia, 2" of LS, 75 lbs LR, lots of crabs and snails, did I miss anything important? <Water, maybe? Just kidding, LOL- sounds good! Make sure that you rinse and/or replace the micron pads often (like weekly, or twice weekly). Also- get the sand bed up to at least 3 inches. Two inches is too shallow to foster complete denitrification processes, but too deep to be fully aerobic...Not good for the long run...Go deep!> Nitrates were at about 60, 10 mo.s ago when you recommended removing bio balls and 25% water changes weekly, it worked.............. down to about 10. <Cool...>   Recently, over 3-4 mos.,  the nitrates have slowly risen from 10 to 40 - 60 range again.  I am doing 15 - 20 % water changes weekly, using Instant Ocean salt. <A good strategy, IMO>   Make up water is RO, bare bones, no phosphates.   I vigorously vacuum the LS when I change the water. Is that a problem, am I screwing up the LS by removing the good stuff? <Good insight...You might be disrupting the beneficial denitrification processes that are taking place in the sand bed. A deep sand bed (like 3" or more, minimum) can realistically reduce nitrate to undetectable levels in an otherwise well-managed system, if left undisturbed> Feeding is about a tablespoon of flake, every other day.  Skimmer output is erratic and I want to change the sump to keep the water level constant to the skimmer. <Excellent thought- it will make a noticeable improvement in the quantity and quality of skimmate (funny that I used the word "quality" to describe a bunch of crap, huh? LOL). Thanks.......Mike C. <Well, Mike- I think that you're on the right track. Kick up the sand bed height, keep up your otherwise good husbandry practices, tack up a "Do not disturb" sign over the sand bed, and I'm sure that you'll see nitrates head south in due time. Good luck, and hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

May need to tear down the tank before moving day. Dear Crew, <Howdy> I find myself suddenly moving as a result of my landlady selling the house unexpectedly.  The "big day" is 10/4. So I read all the moving FAQs and the articles, but don't find some of the exact info I'm looking for.   The new landlord/owner of my duplex has already begun major renovation in the downstairs unit (I'm upstairs).  They are rewiring the whole house, which caused a power outage for me upstairs on the circuit which runs the tank and my sump overflowed (thank god I was home)... you get the picture.   I anticipate power interruptions now on a regular basis until I'm gone.  Here's my question -- I read Anthony's post (last week?) about using a new dustpan to remove the DSB in layers and label them  and replace in order.  Can I pack the layers covered in water  in Tupperware for like 7 days? <Yes... do anticipate having to "re-cure" the DSB substrate... there will be some die-off...> If not, for how long?  Can I wrap my rock in damp newspaper and seal it up in plastic for that long as well ? <Yes, much of the LR collected/provided from the wild is "out of water" this long... and longer nowadays> If I wanted to add more sand to my DSB to make it the deeper DSB :)  once I get in to my new place (30 min drive), should it be the bottom layer, or the topmost layer?   <The bottom if you want to do immediately, on top a bit at a time (a sixteenth or two of an inch) over a period of weeks... after a month or more wait after the move... if you can wait to add to later.> Thanks as usual for the great guidance! <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Moving/DSB quandary 9/9/03 I have just ordered a 110g tank with built in overflows that I will be setting up in my new place. I will be using my current 55 as a sump to house skimmer and mechanical/chemical filtration, and have a follow up query regarding my DSB. I can either buy a ton more sand and create a DSB in the 110g, using my existing DSB materials from the 55g on top of new sand, or I can keep it in the 55g. Two problems come to mind: 1) If I add 5" of new sand to the 110g and add my current DSB in layers wont I be spreading it rather thin due to the larger surface are of the bigger tank? Potential for a problem or am I being paranoid? <paranoid to be sure. Thinning the already aerobic sand is not a problem> 2) I plan on adding some Lexan partitions to the 55g before putting the sump in operation. The silicone will take a few days to cure so how can I keep the DSB alive during this period? <plastic storage bins or garbage cans with heavy aeration/circulation/stirring> The stress builds daily as I prepare for the move, but I did just finish a sweet little 25g Igloo cooler setup with heater, air stone, etc for the vertebrates...at least I know they will encounter as little stress as possible during the move. Thanks so much, E <best of luck! Anthony>

Deep Sand Bed Problem 9/1/03 Dear Anthony. It's been a long time (for me!) since I've written to you, but that means I'm doing great with my tanks.  I really enjoy your responses to others and sense sort of a DARK humor lurking within. <heehee... rather jaded at times from seeing folks that have the means to help themselves and their charges, but simply choose not to do so. Case in point... that ignorant chap last week that simply could not see the error in having well over ten foot worth of fishes at potential (2 sharks, a parrot, grouper, Sweetlips, etc) with only a 120 gallon tank. Heartbreaking at times. Some of them will certainly die due to his lack of empathy and common sense. Its then that my humour takes a dark turn <G> Anyway, my deep sandbed is about  5-6 inches, and is about 5-6 months old.  I ordered lots of critters and starter kits, etc. (maybe too many) so have a hefty crew under the sand.   <all good> I have had problems with brown algae in the past, but that is well under control; however, something seems to be emerging in one area of my sandbed (55 gallon tank) which looks as if something brownish black has been poured on the surface.  It is starting to cover at least 1/3 of the sandbed.  I have been vacuuming it off in the last two water changes, which, because of this, have been 2 days apart.  I see it starting to spread again and am concerned for my fish.   <hmmm... perhaps a mat forming Cyanobacteria (blue-green, black, maroon all possible). Usually requires stronger water flow to rid it> How do I take care of this-keep removing it, digging it all out and replacing it? Wouldn't this disturb the sandbed?   <in this case no... it spreads the algae. Increase water flow and let the skimmer handle the rest> This is my logical choice but want to check with you. All my water parameters are in normal range and the tank is two years old.  Fish are great and want to keep it that way. My best to you and all! and hope you're having a great Labor Day! Connie PS:  Thanks for your remembering I'm a painter when you autographed your book.  Hope sales exceed all expectations and you become famous-er and richer. <heehee... if we are realistic, we'll count on the former <G>. Lucky if we get the latter, perhaps :) Anthony> Deep Sand Bed Problem 9/2/03 Dear Anthony:  You were right on regarding Cyanobacteria on my deep sandbed. We had removed one of our power heads and replaced it with a smaller one, as our clown seemed to be having a problem swimming in that current.  We put it back yesterday and it looks as if it is already working.  Thanks for your quick response. <very welcome... and do simply tee or diffuse the effluent of the pump if necessary. Big turnover in the tank is the goal... laminar flow alone is not necessary> I am starting to have a problem with Aiptasia, however.   <alas... a clear sign of a feeding/nutrient problem (excess). Most often from heavy feedings of particulate food... but sometimes just from poor skimming. Limit the food/nutrients and you will limit their growth> When I inject it with white vinegar it doesn't seem to quite do the trick.  Boiling water kills the rock and the Aiptasia pops out again nearby.   <all a waste of time and treating the symptom and not the problem> What would happen if I immersed a live rock in white vinegar - would it kill the live rock as well.   <no doubt would kill far more good> I used to have only one; now I have four teeny ones.  Would LOVE to nip this in the bud, but have read Bob's statement, "they'll be baaaack!" Any suggestions?? <Aww... no worries. 4 are not trouble... get some sturdy scissors or poultry shears and bite the rock underneath of them... effectively skinning the polyps off th rock wholly> Your fan, Connie PS:  Immersing the rock in salt works but also kills the rock.  Bad idea. <Si, senorina <F> Antonio>

DSB Screen or No? - 8/29/03 Hello Staff, (So I don't offend someone for the improper gender or name) <no worries... most of us are confused at any rate> I am going to start a tank with a DSB and would like to know what screen to use to separate the upper and lower "halves" of the sand bed. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You, Daniel <no screen at all... I do not recommend mixing grains in a bed. Bob and I cover live sand at great length in our new book "Reef Invertebrates". The advantages and disadvantages systematically of each grain size and at various depths. The short story, however is that there is no significant advantage and arguably a disadvantage to NNR strategies when most aquarists do not make the bed deep enough in the first place (too often under 6"). Some folks say its best to mix grains to diversify the micro fauna. But that's what live rock and plankton refugiums are for (micro crustaceans). If you want to commit to a DSB... go for a static bed of fine (under 1mm) sugar sized sand at 4-6" min. IMO. Best of luck, Anthony>

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>

Sand Bed Question >Howdy Crew,   >>Greetings.  Marina tonight. >I sent in this question last week but I didn't get a reply, so here it is again.   >>Persistence is key.  With the Sobig virus we've been FLOODED.  Apologies. >Sorry if you get a double post in case the other one appears.   >>No worries. >I will be moving 90G Acrylic Tank with 4" DSB to a new location, a special "fish room" inside the wall, only see the front panel of the tank from the living room.  I plan to drain the tank, move the rock, fish, and corals, but leave the DSB in there.   >>Ooooo... scary proposition, even for an acrylic tank. >I will then move the tank up to the opening in the wall, get it so that the top of the stand matches the top of the new stand/location, push the stand up against the wall, then slide the tank from one stand to the other.  I assume this should be okay, no stress to the tank.   >>IF (and this is a big "if") you can do it exactly like this, with no "catching", torqueing, or stress placed on seams/sides, then we can only keep our fingers crossed.  Naturally, you understand that we cannot recommend anyone do this, though. >My question is this:  how long can the sand bed be left without being submerged under water?  I plan to add another bulkhead or two, so it may be an hour or so before I add the water back. >>I would think that as long as it's kept somewhat wet (more than just damp) it would suffer little. >Is this too much time?  If so, could I add a little water, just enough to be an inch or two above the top of the sand bed, then run a powerhead to help aerate the water?   >>I wouldn't worry about any more water than what JUST covers the sand.  Also, wouldn't worry about a powerhead, as you'll have an ENORMOUS surface area to volume ratio going on there. >Also, I plan to add some acrylic rods elbowed together forming a matrix of sorts into the sand bed to support the live rock, it's on PVC posts now but I don't care for it.   >>I've seen pics of this and it looks like quite the neat trick.  Nowhere nearly as unsightly as PVC. >Will jamming all these pieces of acrylic into the sand disrupt it too much? >>Very doubtful, just be sure that, assuming the DSB is well-established, there is no mixing of the layers. >Thanks a bunch, Paul >>Very best of luck, and here's to several HEFTY friends and much pizza and beer (cola for me, thanks) for their efforts, eh?  Marina

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>

Moving/DSB Quandary - 8/19/03 Greetings exalted Crew, <sorry... just exalted a little there: lots of cabbage Kim chi> How to move an established DSB? I will be moving into my new place in a month and I'm curious about the best way to move the 4" of aragonite in my 55g. <in 1/2-1" layers and labeled in order... to be re-installed in the next tank in the same order. A sturdy plastic dustpan works well for this. We are trying to prevent aerobic faculties in the top layers from getting buried in anoxic depths of the next bed/tank> With all that sand I don't think I will want to carry it down 4 flights of stairs in the tank... <it would be a risk of breaking a seam on the tank even if you could or were willing> By scooping it out and disturbing it am I running a risk of something more serious than just losing some nitrification abilities for a while? <not at all if the bed was not neglected. You'll be able to confirm that by smell or no. If the tank lacked water flow or had a nutrient export deficiency, the bed will be foul once you dig in. I suspect the bed will be remarkably clean once you bite in> I am considering getting a larger tank if the wallet allows, any pointers here?  Thanks mucho, y'all are always a big help and an asset to the hobby!  E <best regards - A>

Cycle Questions and DSB installation - 8/14/03 Hi All, Tried this question yesterday and seems the response got lost.  <I saw it and it is probably in one of the crew's inbox so you may get this answered twice. Unfortunately we don't have the bandwidth to just sit around and wait for email to come in. Being that we are all volunteers, we get a handful of email and go through it as soon as we get time from our jobs, kids, school, vacations in some cases, etc. Sorry for the delay, Sam. ;-) There are some emails further delayed than yours. =) In any event, let's get to it>   Anyway, getting ready to cycle a new tank, but there seems to be different opinions and how.  <Yes indeed>   Some say lights on others off.  <I like lights off during cycle with NO starter fish. Lights off because lights on with a high nutrient spike like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate would be advantageous to algae growth. Just a few pieces of fish flake food or sinking pellets or something every few days.>   Some say skim others no.  <I believe most, if not all of us here at wetwebmedia, would employ a skimmer during cycle for a great many reasons. One is that the tank will likely spike any way even while skimming. The skimmer is more of a chemical filter, taking out chemical constituents out of the water>   You get the picture.  <Yes I do.>  Suggest to me the most proper procedure and also when the DSB should be installed in this equation.  <I would install the deep sand bed after I have placed my live rock. Place the live rock, then pour the sand around it. Be sure to add some sort of live sand from either a friend, store bought, or ordered from a great many fine online dealers. I would avoid the bagged "live sand" as your only source (OK to use, but doesn't have a supply of the many sand organisms (mostly bacterial forms)> Thanks in advance.  Sam <You're welcome - Paul>

- Bubbles in the Sand Bed - Hi Crew - just following-up with the clarification you requested regarding the use of sand sifters in attempting to eliminate sand bubbles and nasty brown color: I notice the bubbles in the sand against the edge of the glass (since that area is immediately visible) but they do appear to be dispersed throughout the sand.  Although I might be wrong, I actually did mean to say SO2 (sulfur dioxide) - not CO2 (as decaying matter produces SO2). <Doh! My bad.>  <Most sulfur produced in your sand bed is the result of denitrification; a very beneficial process.> When I sift through the sand to release the bubbles, <You should leave the sand bed alone and let it do it's thing.>  A "rotten egg" odor (like that of SO2) is released as well, which clouds the water for a few seconds in the immediate area of release.  I was told, if the sand bed exceeds approximately one inch in depth, SO2 is typically a result.  Is this incorrect? <I installed a 6" sand bed in my aquarium just for this purpose. In sand beds over 3" oxygen starved pockets develop where bacteria convert nitrate to nitrogen gas. Even though you can smell the sulfur (likely hydrogen sulfide), it is well below a toxic level. Deep sand beds are not dangerous and are extremely beneficial. I suggest you purchase Dr. Shimek's thin paperback Sand Bed Secrets> Describing the brown color: this appears between the sand and the glass.  It does not appear to be slimy, it is not on the surface of the sand bed and it does not trap bubbles (not itself, but bubbles are trapped within the sand).  <Sounds like diatoms, it is unlikely that you would ever see sulfur pockets in between the sand and glass because of the oxygen producing bacteria>  The goby, Nassarius snails, etc. were originally added to eliminate a brown algae (assumed diatom) that began growing on the surface of the sand bed shortly after the tank cycled and I began "normal" durations of light but I do not know if this is the same type of algae (or if it is algae).  The appearance of this brown substance is somewhat like rust is developing between the sand and glass. <All kinds of algae and stuff likes to grow sandwiched there, I suppose we're missing out on a good time!> On a positive note, the diamond goby has learned to eat brine shrimp and chopped silversides from a piece of plastic tubing (smart little guy!) <Excellent, now it can make a turnaround!> This has allowed me to provide food to the goby without it being taken by other fish and he appears to be gaining some body mass.  Thank you for all the help!  Greg <Good luck! -Kevin>

- Scum between the sandbed and the glass, EW! - - Diatomaceous growth - Crew,  Tying back my last follow-up email to the original question -- now that we have narrowed this rusty appearance between the sand and glass to likely diatom, is there anything I can do to eliminate this ugly stuff? (horseshoe crabs are not working).  It is driving my cleaning-obsessed wife crazy! <Hehe, unfortunately nothing will really go down and clean that area. Pretty much everyone's sand bed looks like that, but if you want to avoid divorce you could stick some kind of an algae scraper down there to get rid of it. With the amount sand stirring critters in that tank, I'm not worried about disturbing the lower layers. Good luck! -Kevin> --Greg

Doing It The Right Way! (Planning A New System w/DSB) G'day Bob, Scott and the rest of the wondrous wet web wizards of the watery depths! This is Rob here from Down Under. <Hey there, Rob! Glad to hear from you again! Scott F. with you again tonight!> I e-mailed you guys a few weeks back looking for advice on my plans for my FIRST marine tank setup. Scott was kind enough to reply and let me know that I was basically on the right track. He then suggested I go back and do MORE RESEARCH!!!!!!! And perhaps revise my plans. I have. I also have many new questions, queries and doubts! <Oh, man- I sent another fellow hobbyist back to the books! Part of the fun, though! > So, here goes..... I am planning on adopting the following species: 1 DWARF lionfish (max5"), 2 LARGE tomato clowns and 1 bubble tip anemone as a start, I'll take my time with these introducing the lion first, then the clowns and eventually if all goes well the bubble tip. <Glad you're "easing" into the anemone...No need to rush> All are available (reasonably) locally and all are caught with nets by people I know well. <Outstanding!> Current plans are for a 150 gal (570litre) tank 48"L X 36"W X 20"H nice and wide, good surface area (see I do read your articles!) I will also be using an under tank sump of 56gal (215litres) I am really hooked on the idea of natural filtration so this tank will get about 200lb's (90kgs) of live rock. <Terrific! It will be a very stable system!> Skimming will be by a locally made (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie OY, OY, OY) venturi unit running from the sump and powered by a 650 g/h (2500lph) pump. These units are made by a bloke in Western Australia who started building his own DIY setups years ago. They have a brilliant reputation and are much, much cheaper than the units imported from your neck of the woods. < Awesome- DO support your "local talent" whenever possible! A good skimmer is such an important investment- well worth it!> Heating will be from 2 - 300W quality units. Lighting will be by fluoro's,  160W of HO and 80W of Actinic (still some doubts as to whether this is sufficient, especially with the anemone in mind.....Your views?). <May not be enough...Even though your tank is relatively shallow, you might want to add a couple more tubes...You simply cannot have "too much" light for anemones, in most cases...> All fluoros are very well reflected and powered by remote, electronic ballasts and will be housed in a custom made (by me!) hood. <The best kind, IMO!> Circulation will provided mainly from a closed loop running on the inside top of the tank with various injectors placed at strategic locations and depths. This will be powered by the 1050g/h(4000l/h) return pump from the sump. I will have to run some test's to see if this is sufficient, if not extra powerheads will be employed. <Sounds nice. If you intend to keep SPS or other high-current loving corals at some later time, you may want to consider a pump or pumps that can push 10-20 tank volumes an hour through the system...Like lighting- you can rarely have too much circulation> O.K. I hear you thinking, this guy's got it together! <Yep! Very much so!> Well that's what I thought too! Until I walked into my LFS (600kms away!). <I've heard of "walkabouts" before- but 600kms...? You're seriously dedicated! I'll never complain about the 20 minute drives to good LFS in my area!> You see, I had initially intended to use a wet/dry filter in my sump to back up the live rock and skimmer. However on looking closely at the shops fish and invert display tank (120gal) all they had was lots of rock and a protein skimmer! Nothing else! This was a good looking tank with all inhabitants looking bright, cheerful and full of life. I was stunned and intrigued. On talking to the shop crew (Seth and Kath, they make a good team!) they told me that the secret was all in the substrate. Sure enough there it was, 5-6" of good looking fine coral sand with plenty of activity going on. <A deep sand bed certainly serves as an excellent nitrate reducing "filter"...a nice thing to have> Anyway I checked it out on the web and found out all about plenum bed construction, Jaubert's method, anoxic bacteria and 0 nitrate levels. After much research I am planning on this stage of using a deep substrate level (5") in my main tank and constructing a plenum system in the sump. The main reason for not using a plenum in both is that I want to aquascape the main tank to resemble a section of reef I know well from diving and having to minimize the rock's 'footprint' would be difficult. I really need your advise on this! Is the full biological filtration method just a pipe dream and is it beyond a beginner like myself? <No- it isn't! Embracing natural methods is probably the most simple and effective thing you can do as a beginner, or as an advanced hobbyist! Your idea of using a plenum in the sump is certainly workable. I personally prefer "static" ("plenum-less") deep sand beds, as they seem to work as well as plenum-equipped systems (although there is plenty of debate on this topic among hobbyists). If you are going to go the plenum route, it's absolutely vital that you follow the "standardized" recommendations concerning sand bed composition, depth, plenum height, etc. These configurations were arrived at after enormous amounts of testing by researchers like Jaubert, Goemans, Gamble, etc., and are not just random numbers. Most of the people who claim that plenums don't work are the ones who "modify" the parameters of their plenum. You may want to check out Plenum guru Bob Goeman's http://www. saltcorner.com site for a lot of good information on plenums...> I am aiming eventually to 'get into' corals so the idea of continuing the biological filtration cycle with the break down of NO3 to NO2 to NO and eventually to pure N is highly desirable. I await your advice with baited breath oh wise and all knowing denizens of the deep! Sorry this is so long winded, got carried away, as usual, if I mention the word "fish tank" one more time I might find myself without a house keeper, bed warmer and long suffering friend! Thanks for your help guys and gals!  Rob <Ahh Rob- I think that you're doing great! It's so cool that you're doing the "modifications" and "tweaking" to your system before the system is actually set up! The time that you take now to research the various concepts will repay you many times over with a successful tank! I think a well constructed sand bed (with or without plenum), protein skimmer, and sump, fortified with aggressive maintenance procedures (water changes, etc.) will greatly enhance your chances of success. Keep in touch, and best of luck to you! Regards, Scott F.>  

The Sandbed-Shaken- Not Stirred? I've created a DSB in my marine tank. <Good for you! An excellent technique to reduce or eliminate nitrate continuously and naturally!> I wonder if I should add any sand shifting (if so which ones? I need some reef safe ones) organisms. <Personally, I am against the heavy "stirring" of sand, by both the aquarist and sand-dwelling animals. I like to disturb the sand as little as possible. IMO, It's okay to stir the very top layers (no deeper than 1/2"-3/4" or so, just to keep the sand from clumping, but it may not really be necessary if the system is well-maintained. If you are inclined to use "sand-sifting" creatures, I'd limit your "crew" to a few brittle stars. They do a great job at scavenging uneaten food and detritus, and do not overly disturb beneficial processes occurring in the sand bed.> But then, if they shift sand will that not provide oxygen to the lower layers of sand, so no anaerobic bacteria will grow and therefore no nitrate reduction will occur? Thank you. <Well, the argument for as little disturbance to the sand bed as possible holds well here! Over-zealous "maintenance" practices can interrupt the very processes that you are trying so hard to foster! Read a lot more on sand beds in Anthony and Bob's new "Reef Invertebrates" book! God luck and enjoy your system! Regards, Scott F>>

Deep Sand Bed (DSB) discoloration 8/1/03 Hi I have a 120 gal fish and inverts tank.  It crashed 2 mo.s ago and everything died.   <Yikes... very sorry to hear it> I have since changed to a 4" DSB and am in the process of slowly re-stocking.  Is it normal in a DSB for roughly half (lower half) of the DSB to be darker in color than the top half.   <yes... if the discoloration is only between the glass and the sand (caused by direct and refracted light causing algae just in that visible plane). The discoloration should not be throughout the sand bed... else it is an indication of gross nutrient overload (overfeeding) or inadequate water flow (seek 10-20X tank turnover minimum)> It seems to be a very clearly defined partition that varies very uniformly with the depth of the sand.  The lower darker half is more light brown to tan colored , whereas the top half is pure white.   <we have pictures and descriptions of this in our new book "Reef Invertebrates" (Fenner/Calfo)> The substrate is Caribe sand mostly .5-1mm, ~25% 1-2 mm.   <I'm honestly not thrilled about mixed grain beds... but with enough water flow and due diligence... it can be managed. Also needs to be 3-4" deep minimum... deeper would be even better> It seems to be that light does not penetrate to the deeper levels, but I'm not sure. <you are correct my friend> Thanks very much. Frank <always welcome... do check out our coverage of the topic at great length in the new book. Best regards, Anthony>

DSB Questions Mr. Fenner, <Hi there> I am contacting you in regards to DSBs.  I have a small reef website, mainly informational, with the intent to promote tank raised frags, tank raised fish and aquacultured LR.  I have also developed an interest in helping beginners avoid those mistakes we all make as newbies... <Or "oldbies" for that matter> I have a free newsletter I send out, and am thinking about doing an article on DSBs, and I would like comments from some of the experts...  So if you wouldn't mind, would you please take just a moment to answer the following question: "What would you consider to be the one most important factor in starting, and/or maintaining, an effective DSB?" <... just one? Okay, the depth of the material used... though (of course it's make-up, particulate size, uniformity... are important as well. But in my estimation, more folks "fail" with their DSB's due to a lack of depth of substrate than any other single factor> If you have the time, I would love to have any comments you have about my site.  Please feel free to stop by. <Oh, yes. We have a link to your site. Good show. Bob Fenner> http://www.fragexchange.com John McCann FRAGexchange.com

Shifting Sands (Pt. V) Scott, <Hello there!> Thanks a lot as always! <You're quite welcome!> I think I am inclined to try DSB (4").  At least I can monitor it during and  a while after LR cycling to see it really helps with Nitrate.  Very appealing concept if it can lower nitrate/phosphate especially I want many things to low and stay low in small set up.  Dr. Ron says open sand surface is important with no LR on it. <I agree with him on that...> So it may seem as if Biowheel (which does not produce more nitrate than what is available in my tank) + DSB (reduce Nitrate) + very, very little LR (just enough to give hiding space for Clown and shrimp) might be the best option.  But I will still ditch the BioWheel (for more circulation) and go with about 5-7 lb of LR since LR seems to have some limited ability to help reduce Nitrate. <Well stated, IMO...The Biowheel is not "bad"... I just think that good live rock can do as good a job at contributing to "biological filtration"...> Even after 4" sand, it still leaves about 10" water column.   With 150 GPH eclipse filter and Aquaglobe PH, there should be plenty of flow in 10" water column. <Should be nice!> I am thinking I will not put in air stone.  Aquaglobe has a venturi. If it is quiet enough for my son's bedroom I will use it. Otherwise I will ditch it. <Agreed...may be a bit noisy...Just break up the water surface a bit...you should be fine> What's up with someone saying air stone in marine tank will lower PH?  I thought more air is good?  Does PH really go down if you have air stone in marine? <Air stones drive off C02...Help oxygenate the water...I believe that the effect would be just the opposite>   I will be sure to report my findings on both DSB and Aquaglobe PH. <Please do!> Thanks a lot. Kevin. <Good luck, Kevin! Regards, Scott f>

Deep Sand Bed >Greetings from Northern California, >>Greetings from Southern California!  Marina today. >I'm currently setting up a new 18 gallon reef tank, and currently have a little over 2" aragonite substrate (.5mm-1.7mm). There is nothing in the tank right now but this, and water mixed at a SG of 1.026. Reading your articles about the benefits of natural nitrate reduction by using a sand bed at a depth of 4" or more has convinced me to try and implement this for the great long-term benefit it would provide. >>Great! >I would have gone with a really fine substrate, but have been unable to find it in my area. One of your articles mentions that at larger grain sizes, a greater depth is required. I wanted to know if I can use the grain size I mentioned above to create an effective DSB, or if I should try getting some fine aragonite through the mail and then adding that along with the existing substrate. >>Your biggest limitation is the tank space you'll lose going deeper, but it most certainly can be done.  I would suggest 5"-6". >In either case, I would like to know the depths I should be aiming for. >>DSB's seem to work best when they're at least 4", although you'll find/meet many who go as shallow as 3".  The whole point is to create a sufficient anoxic area, and because the tank is almost considered a nano, you'll have to make up partially the surface area with depth.  I think you can achieve admirable results using what you have at a depth of 5"-6" (doesn't have to *all* be that depth), Brian.  I do hope this helps, and best of luck!  Marina

Set-up DSB - 7/14/03 Anthony or other crew members: <a treat tonight... you get me and several of my multiple personalities: one is a professional wrestler interestingly enough> I continue to be grateful to you & Bob & the entire crew for all that you do for this great hobby. <friends and fellow hobbyists like you are the inspiration. We thank you in kind!> I read the FAQs everyday. I love your new book-gave it 5 stars on Amazon. <wow... gracias! Such feedback on Amazon and abroad really is a big help to other browsers/buyers... and certainly to the authors <G>> One piece of advice I liked was related to the importance of supporting the LFS. I have access to 2 very conscientious & helpful ones here in the Salt Lake City area (Mountain Shadow Marine in Centerville and The Aquarium in Sandy). <ahhh, yes... I know Randy as MSM and like him very well! Will look forward to meeting the other folks in time> I always respect a merchant who won't sell you something he doesn't think you're ready for. <agreed... it helps the customer, long-term business and the hobby at large. Kudos to them> I am working with both of these to expand from my current 80G FOWLR. I have convinced my wife that this is a good middle-aged expensive hobby-safer than a Harley and cheaper than an antique fire engine (maybe not by much). Anyway, she gets a new floor and I get a new tank (not near the new floor). <all good and agreed :) > In 2 weeks I will set up a 180G FOWLR circulating with the 80G (eventually to become a reef) and a 44G upstream refugium. I have already paid for the All-Glass pre-drilled 180G. Water will be pumped out of drilled hole in the back of the 180 & split between the 80 & 44, then returned by gravity to the 180. There will also be a 48X20X18 sump under the 180. This will contain a DSB & algae and a Euro-Reef CS8-2 skimmer (with ozone). It will be lit by power compacts as recommended by Randy at MSM. <fine set-up/plans> Eventual stock: 80G: 1 ocellaris clown, 1 dusky Jawfish, 1 flame angel, 1 Royal Gramma, 1 canary wrasse, 1 yellow tang, 4 cleaner shrimp 180G:  1 Foxface Rabbitfish, 1 purple tang, 1 bird wrasse, 1 Lemonpeel angel, 1 majestic angel (5", already in QT, active, eating voraciously, was thriving at LFS for 6 weeks), and possibly a snowflake eel. No shrimp. Questions: 1. Does this grouping seem reasonable? <yep> 2. I want the 44G refugium to be a 'pod farm. I love watching Mysis, 'pods, tiny brittle stars & other creatures. What DSB substrate is best to get the greatest variety? Per your book, different sized produce different critters. Could I make half of it sugar fine and the other half a bit larger? <no mixing of substrates... and for the larger micro-crustaceans... they will favor media above the substrate after all. For natural: Chaetomorpha spaghetti/wire algae (or another like mass)... or artificial... course polyester pads (like pond filter pads or dish scrubbies)... superb pod condos> 3. With DSB in the sump, refugium and 80G display (for Jawfish), do I need any substrate in the 180? <not for NNR> I know that bird wrasses do not bury themselves & there will be plenty of LR for hiding in. <agreed> 4. I currently have a Remora Pro on my 80G-should I leave it there for additional skimming beyond the CS8-2? <yes, please... and alternate cleanings with other unit to help maintain uninterrupted skimmate production> 5. Which would be better, ozone or UV (or both)? <I have little or no use for UV on a display tank... but find many benefits to ozone and a Redox meter on such aquaria> Thanks, Steve Allen. <thanks kindly my friend... be chatting soon. Anthony>

Shifting Sands, Pt. IV (Or, "As The Nano Turns") Thanks, <A pleasure, as always!> After I fired off the e-mail, I went to Dr. Ron's forum and your assessment is absolutely correct.  Dr. Ron considers even sugar fine grade a bit coarse and recommends 4+" of this stuff.  I am learning so much that my head spins.... <Yep- I know what you mean...Sooo many different views- sooo much info out there!> As a nuts-and-bolt hobbyist who have constructed and seen lots of sand beds, would you still go with DSB in Eclipse 12 if you were in my shoes?  Have you seen successful 4" DSB (nice denitrification benefit and nitrification) in small tank like this?   <I have, and it will definitely limit the water volume in such a tank...Really a tough call; one that is predicated on both your sense of aesthetics and functionality> I read in one of the forum that Dr. Ron was against the use of DSB in small system (< 29 gal) saying it would not be efficient and may become detritus trap but the careful reading of the forum seemed to indicate that his opinion on small tank DSB was based on his theory and experience with larger system, not the first hand or even second hand experience with small system.  Theory is good, but real experience is also important in my opinion.   <Yep...There are views out there that suggest that it will rob the tank of oxygen, function as a nutrient trap, grow algae, etc. Again- there seems to be more room for serious study on this topic. If you are so inclined, I'd give it a shot...> On the side note:  I ordered Aquaglobe powerhead to put in my Eclipse.  You mentioned more circulation is good but had a concern about heat build up with PH. One nice feature of this is that transformer is NOT in the PH but is a part of the power plug.  So less heat issue. <Very cool- literally and figuratively!> It is also really tiny so little water displacement.  Nice features for nano.... <Absolutely!> I do not know how reliable this PH is but I guess time will tell.... <Yep- the jury is still out on this one...Give it a shot, take careful notes on your experiences, and SHARE with your fellow enthusiasts! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

DSB and H2S Hey Crew, I talked to the owner of my LFS, who is purportedly an expert in marine biology/ichthyology with degrees in both fields. <heehee... good for him. Now all he needs is a degree in aquarium science which has nothing to do with field biology or ichthyology> In our conversation, he stated that deep sand beds (and plenums too) should be avoided because without expert attention they will, within 6 to 18 months, go over to producing H2S and obliterate everything in the tank.   <true in some circumstances... although "expert attention" really is not needed/ Just good common sense and husbandry. We address these issues at great length in our new book Reef Invertebrates: https://secure.wetwebmedia.com/order_form.jsp  --  http://wetwebfotos.com/store/nma-ri.html > I have searched the FAQs and forums and have not found anyone who seems to have problems with H2S.   <very true for most. And my experience with DSB is 10+ years and 48,000 pounds of aragonite sand used for my greenhouse coral farm operation> I am setting up a 90gal reef in a few weeks (4-5" DSB) and this conversation has me a touch worried.   <no worries... DSB can be wonderful. I highly recommend them if you are a good aquarist> What is the prevailing opinion of the WWM crew?   <any depth of sand can work with proper address> I have read so much about DSB from so many sources that I am thoroughly confused.  It is my impression that it is necessary to more or less leave the DSB alone physically (save for some sand sifting organisms like Nassarius snails and worms) and just pay close attention to water quality.  Am I off the mark?   <hmmm... not really. String water flow is crucial for these and all reef aquaria though for good water quality. Critical here> Is proper DSB maintenance more involved then I think?   <extremely low maintenance. Our coverage of the topic in the new book is about 25% of the 400 pages total! (on plants & algae, refugiums and live sand)> Thanks in advance for your advice. Nick <best regards, Anthony>

Shifting Sands (Sand Bed Depth) Thanks again for quick reply... :) <My pleasure!> I have the last DSB question. I spent endless hours on WWM and nano-reef.com but only found conflicting opinions. <About sand beds...really- you're kidding! LOL> "3" min and 4" or more is better": I read some people saying this rule was based on using a relatively coarse grain size (2mm+).  So some think it you use "sugar fine" grade (0.2mm - 1.0mm), you achieve the same result with the half this amount (2 in.) because circulation within substrate is less thus less oxygen for the same depth. <So many complex processes occurring in deep sand beds...> For the same reason, some think 4"+ of "sugar fine" grade makes it easy to develop dangerous sulfur gas.  I think this same group of people mentioning Ron Shimek's article. Since you have more experience and read more on this topic, what is your opinion on this issue (half depth for sugar fine grade)? Thanks, Kevin <I'm certainly not a marine scientist like "Dr. Ron", but I am a nuts-and-bolts kind of hobbyist. I have constructed and seen lots of sand beds, and I can say that even with the sugar sized oolithic aragonite, I think that you'd be well served with a 4 inch depth. I've never really experienced (or heard of anyone else experiencing) problems with hydrogen sulfide in a well-maintained DSB...With good husbandry and stocking, I think that the DSB is a great asset to any system! Regards, Scott F>

Deep Sand Beds >Hi Guys, >>And a gal, Marina here. >I just discovered your great web site. I'm upgrading from a 50 to 110 gal. reef tank. I plan on having a 5-6" deep sand bed. I've read about South Down play sand in your forums and none of the Home Depots on the west coast sell it. I've discovered at our local hardware supply a white sterilized play sand from San Juan Capistrano, CA. >>Home of the famous swallows, and my favorite Mission. >The sand is the sugar type which measures .2 to 1 mm in diameter. It's not from the Caribbean, but it's still from the ocean. Can you give me your pros and cons about using this type of sand? Thanks in advance,  Dick >>Well, not knowing what it's comprised of will make it a little difficult to give you best/worst case scenarios.  The reason we like Southdown is because it is quite similar in composition to Aragonite (calcareous, and IIRC oolitic as well).  Assuming it's been *very* well washed/cleaned, also calcareous in nature, and has no pollutants, then I would think that you should be able to use it as well.  Otherwise, your biggest concerns are those listed above.  Calcium content is another concern, not as great, but it is a terrific benefit garnered from using the other sands.  One way you might be able to determine very quickly if it's NOT calcareous is to pour a bit of vinegar on it.  If it fizzles, you know it's base/alkaline.  If it does nothing then you can eliminate the possibility that it's calcareous.  I do hope this helps, and best of luck.  Marina

Giving it a shot--DSB material follow-up -- San Juan Capistrano source >Hi Marina, >>Good afternoon. >Thanks for your quick reply. I'll give it a test and see what happens. >>Excellent, I do hope you meet with success.  This would be helpful to many other local reef enthusiasts should it prove to be useful, I'm sure.  Marina >Best regards,  Dick Cavdek

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.

Your Book, Deep Sand and Ammonia Dear Anthony:  I received your and Bob's new book a couple of days ago and found it really informative with beautiful photographs.  I received Hillary's autograph the same day, as well as Alice Waters, and I must say yours was my favorite, nicely inscribed, thank you, thank you. <Holy cow! what a compliment! And BTW... I was inhaling when I wrote the invocation <G>> On to my deep sand bed.  The side which gets indirect light from windows is turning really green.  Is this something to be concerned about?   <Not at all... truly harmless> I looked at the sand beds in your book and they look similar to me, except mine is getting greener every day.  Any thoughts for me? <Not much to do short of having a placard on the tank to cover the area of sand depth from light> Now for the *big* problem.  I am turning you over to Joe, my chemist-type "water man". <"Hey, Joe... where you goin'... with that gun in your hand?" Yeah, right... like that's the first time anyone has ever sing Jimmy Hendrix to you <G>> This is Joe.  I've been  purchasing RO water at a water store near our home.  In addition to the reverse osmosis they use carbon filtration but no deionization.  I dump my five gallon plastic buckets of water into a 30+ gallon plastic garbage can and add Instant Ocean salt.   <Hmmm... hoping that you heat and heavily aerate the water first... if not buffer it> I've been detecting a low level of ammonia  (0.1 ppm) in all our tanks recently.  I tested the 30 gallon can and have found this level of ammonia also. <hmmm... very odd. Are you using Nessler's reagent with your test kit? Have you tested against a standard (even using your assumedly ammonia free tap water)?> I purchased some distilled water, tested for ammonia (none) and added salt.  I immediately tested for ammonia and found none.   <Doh! I should have read further... :P> I tested this distilled water salt mix a day later and found this low level of ammonia.  I have tested the purchased RO water for ammonia (none), added salt and a day later have ammonia (again only 0.1 ppm).   <Bizarro... not sure either how to explain it. May I suggest you present this to our good friend and chemist Randy Holmes-Farley in his forum over at Reefcentral.com? Really great chap> I have added "Prime" to the water that tested positive for ammonia and the water still shows ammonia.  I've been told that "Prime" will remove the ammonia but the tests will still show an ammonia content.   <Not sure I believe that to be true/accurate> I have also been told that chloramines in the water will breakdown to yield ammonia.   <that part is correct> The Water Store, where we are purchasing the RO water maintains that their water does not have chloramine.   <Hmmm... just wondering if you've confirmed the purity of the water now passing through their RO? Test for hardness (should be scary low near zero)> I am using a twenty minute ammonia test by Nutrafin.  It is difficult to match colors.  The ammonia quantity is definitely not an exact science. <Correct> My questions are: Where are we getting the ammonia, from the water or from the salt?  Is this enough ammonia to be concerned about?   <Unlikely from the salt...wondering if there isn't mild biological faculties at work in your storage vessel. DO test all the same in a new/clean vessel> PS Anthony:  This water thing has been going on for the last two-three months.  We saw a letter the other day addressed to WWM about this very same thing, and she was advised to shift to the same kind of salt we are using. <Indeed... Instant Ocean is one of the finest salts around IMO. No worries at all there> Thank you, Anthony, for expert (as always) advice! Connie Cavan (and Joe too) <Best regards to all :) Anthony>

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