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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds 5

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

Related FAQs: DSBs 1, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 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,


Goin' Deep (Deep Sand Bed ) Hi Scott <Hi there!> How are you? <Doin' fine, thanks!> I want to increase my sand bed from about 2 inches to 6 inches in my already established tank. Can I just add the sand slowly on top of my existing sand? <Yep...that's how I'd do it.> I have read and come to learn about the many benefits of a DSB thus making me want to also move toward that direction. <A great idea!> Please advise. Thanks Again Regards, Ziad Limbada <It's that simple...Just go slowly and monitor your tank along the way! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> Deep Sand Bed Questions Thanks for the reply.<MikeD here again. You're very welcome>  When we were discussing the deep sand bed option you said you liked fine grade aragonite.  Do you mean don't put a deep sand bed in at all?<Aha! what we have here is a simple matter of miscommunication. "Deep Sand Bed" refers to the depth of the substrate as opposed to the makeup of the substrate. Aragonite or crushed limestone comes in many grades, ranging from coarse pebbles a 32nd of an inch across to very fine, looking and feeling like normal silica sand in consistency>  , or do you mean use the aragonite sand??<Yes, sand grade crushed aragonite>  How about a mix of the two 4" of the Southdown, 2" of the aragonite?<that would be fine, although the finer sand will eventually end up on the bottom as it will stratify.>  Or would it be better just to use a fine layer of the aragonite and forget about a deep sand bed (in the display tank)  I do like the look though of a deep sand bed, or am I asking for trouble with these large fish?<4" of very fine crushed aragonite IS a DSB or "deep sand bed". By using true silica sand, two problems are often encountered, 1) sand is silica based, thus inert and does nothing to assist in keeping your pH alkaline, and 2) it can pack down SO tightly that it even keeps water and oxygen out, Partially this allows for anaerobic bacterial action and can be good, but conversely, if organic matter gets buried it has the potential to form pockets of gas that end up being hydrogen sulfide, which can result in a bubble being released that can drop pH instantly PLUS is so deadly that a fish getting a whiff of it in the face can be killed even faster> Getting back the my sump and live rock option...  If I was going to use 1.5#'s  of live rock per gallon for the 180 for filtration and not use a wet-dry filter I would then make a refugium with a deep sand bed in the sump as well.  But if I have to use the wet dry / and the live rock I would not have a refugium then.  Does that sound all right?<Sure. It's all a matter of choice and many use a refugium with a DSB and the LR placed on top of that. If lit, the LR then can grow macro-algae which can remove enormous amounts of nitrate from the water>  Pretty much what I'm debating is that I don't want to buy a $1,000 in live rock and then have to shell out $500 for a wet-dry<Understandable. Don't forget however, that you also have the option of using largely dead base rock (Honeycomb limestone is best) and some LR. Over time it ALL becomes LR and the time is often MUCH shorter than many realize. Many LFS don't mention this as it cuts down on profit tremendously>.  But if that's what I have to do then so be it.  Let me know how all this sounds.<Does this help any?>  Thanks

DSB and Plenum questions 8/16/04 I set up a DSB in my 22gl reef tank. Why has the system running for 2 months still in high nitrate around 25mg/L.???  My system is set up like just 3" of powder fine sand and live rocks including stocking with soft and hard corals, one yellow tang(2"), one blue tang(2 1/2"), three clown fish (1/2"), one maroon clown(1"), one purple fire fish and one cleaner shrimp. <Wow!  That's a lot of fish in a 29 gallon tank!  Tangs of any size are too active for such a small tank.  75 gallons is a reasonable minimum, and even a tank that size should only hold one or two.  I suspect that the amount of food you are feeding for all of these fish is a major part of the problem.> I done water changes 20% every 2 weeks.  My equipments including protein skimmer, 2 powerhead, a chiller, 1 canister filter(1360L/hr) What should I do or just wait until cycled???? <Nitrates will continue to accumulate even after the cycle.  Water changes are rarely effective at controlling nitrates because they are produced so fast.  I would suggest removing the canister filter completely.  If you want to keep the canister, it should be cleaned weekly.  Be cautious of the amount of food you are feeding and consider giving up a couple of the larger more active fishes.  Best Regards.  AdamC.> Don't Fear The Sand (Unfounded DSB Fears?) Crew, <Scott F. here tonight> You guys are great... Thank you for the fast response and great advice.  I have a few more questions for you though...   Just a point of clarification, at your suggestion, I'm planning to order some amphipods and other bugs from IPSF.com.  Until I make the order, a stirring of the gravel bed (not to exceed 1 inch in depth) is an acceptable alternative to the bugs?  How much of the bed do I stir, and how often? <Sure. I'd stir once every week or so, and just enough to keep the substrate from clumping> Now on to another topic....  At WetWebMedia's FAQ's, and some other marine forums, I've heard many people knock the concept of the DSB as dangerous, not just because of the "nutrient sink" theory, which we discussed earlier, but also because of the possible production of Hydrogen Sulfide.  While I view most of this as nothing more than uninformed hysteria, (As I stated in my previous email I was confident enough to install a 6" DSB) I hear these hysterical ramblings so often that it does give me a moment of pause....  For my own piece of mind, Can you explain the processes behind the formation of Hydrogen Sulfide in Marine Aquaria, the likelihood of it occurring, and the best maintenance practices to avoid it? Richard <Well, Richard- that's a pretty tall order in the limited space that we have here...Whole books (Shimek, Goeman's, and others) have been devoted to the subject. In a nutshell, the formation of hydrogen sulfide is largely overstated, IMO. Yes, hydrogen sulfide will form in the lower parts of a deep sand bed. However, it will not emerge from the sandbed to poison the tank. It will flow up with water to shallower sections of the sandbed, where it is converted into sulphate, which animals utilize. Essentially, there will be no release of this stuff into the water column. Yes- it's more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Hope this helps alleviate some of your fears. Good luck! Regards, Scott F> Getting In Deep (DSB Question) Hello Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. at your service!> As always, I find this site to be most helpful, and a joy to read. <And it's a joy for us to bring it to you!> I have recently been obsessed with reducing the nitrates in my 45G AGA FOWLR tank.  Thanks to this site, and the excellent FAQ's, this past weekend I increased the size of my sand bed from 3 inches to 6. (The initial 3inches of sand is 1-2mm aragonite.)   At that depth, the nitrates remained constant at about 40 ppm.  To increase the DSB size, I added 20 lbs of oolitic sand.  To prevent the oolitic sand from blowing around I added another 10 pounds of 1-2mm aragonite.)  --This took me to a depth of 6 inches. (Give or take a half inch) <Nice...I'll bet that you'll see a rather quick drop in nitrates once things get going a bit. Of course, this takes into account the fact that your overall husbandry techniques are good, too!> Now on to the Questions:  Do you think that this was a sound methodology? <I believe that it is. There are numerous opinions on the merits of deep sand beds, However, I feel that they are a great addition to almost any marine system> The FAQ's have numerous references about beneficial organisms such as copepods, amphipods, etc which allegedly stir the bed, and prevent it from becoming a 'nutrient sink"  This may seem like a really stupid question, but where do I find such organisms? <I don't really buy into the "nutrient sink" theories of doom and gloom. Well-maintained deep sand beds have worked for years. As far as creatures to inhabit the sandbed is concerned, my favorite source is Indo-Pacific Sea Farms (www.ipsf.com). They offer a great selection of diversity creatures at good prices. Check 'em out!> Do they occur naturally?  Can I buy them?  I have nobody in my community to "trade a cup of sand with." <By all means, do check out IPSF> More importantly, can the DSB function properly without them?  Please enlighten me. <A deep sand bed is more dependent upon microbial processes occurring deep within the bed than it is on "surface-dwelling" creatures like amphipods. Many of these animals will come as "hitchhikers" on live rock, and will multiply natural in favorable conditions. Still, it's a great idea to "seed" your DSB with some desirable worms, etc. Again, a source like IPSF can help> I believe that I read a reference by Mr. Fenner which stated that he didn't siphon the DSB, but rather he stirred it with some sort of stick.  In lieu of gravel sifting bugs, is stirring the substrate a sufficient alternative?   <Yep...and don't disturb the bed deeper than say one inch or so, or you can disrupt the very processes that you're trying to foster> How long to you think that it will take to see an appreciable drop in nitrates? <Weeks...maybe less. You'll be pleasantly surprised!> As always, I appreciate any assistance you can provide. Richard <Our pleasure, Richard! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> 45G FOWLR 6" DSB 23.25 LBS Live Rock 1 Magnum 350 Dedicated Mechanical Filtration 1 Magnum 350 Dedicated Chemical Filtration (Granular Activated Carbon, Phosphate/Silicate magnate) 2 Hagen Aquaclear powerheads for circulation 2 Penguin 1140 Powerheads for surface agitation 1 Marineland Penguin 170 BioWheel filter. PH 8.09 Temp 76.4 Ammonia 0.06ppm Nitrate: 0.0ppm Nitrate: 44ppm Alkalinity 5.0 Meq/l Phosphate 0.01ppm Silicate 0.0ppm Dissolved Oxygen 7.4ppm Skimmers and DSBs Hi Guys,<Hi James, MikeD in Florida here> Two quick questions.<Sounds easy enough>  For my new 1650 litre system of 7 marine fish and LR<400 US gallons? I'm seriously envious, with my largest being a 1200 litre tank> only, would it be better to buy 2xturboflotor1000 or 1 x turboflotor5000 shorty? Here in South Africa AquaMedic is the only skimmers available and the 2 options come out at the same price.<if the cost is the same, I believe I'd go with the two as the likelihood of both going kaput at the same time is slim, thus when you eventually do have a problem, you're not under so much pressure to make instant repairs and the negative impact will be less> Also, should I put a DSB in the main tank or will one in the sump be enough?<That largely depends on your sense of esthetics and the type fish that you are keeping. Wrasses that bury at night, for example have been known to commit suicide diving into a bare bottom, and likewise many puffers bury at night.> If so, how deep a substrate in the main tank?<I run about 6" in my 1200 liter tank, but by living near the sea, rely on large marine snails and fish safe crabs to keep it from becoming a detritus trap.> Many Thanks again,<You're more than welcome.> James.

How Much Sand and Filtration for a 1300 Litre Tank? Hi Guys, << and gals, although not here right now >> I'll be as quick as I can.  I do really have to ask these questions as you are the only people I will listen to.  The LFS are no help.  My 1300 litre main tank and 500 litre sump have just been delivered. << Excellent >> 1) I have read all the DSB FAQs but need a little clarification. I have bought some aragonite 1mm - 2mm size as I couldn't get sugar fine size (I'm in South Africa). << I don't like sugar size, so I think you got what you want. >> My aim would be for natural nitrate reduction.  Do I add a 5-6 inch deep sand bed to the main tank or  to the sump and how deep in the sump if so?  << I like about 4 inches in the main tank, and in the sump. >> A DSB in the sump only may be sufficient as I only have 3 Tangs, Niger trigger, Coris wrasse and a blue ringed angel plus LR and no corals.  << Actually the more corals you have, the less sand you need, as the corals are helping to filter the water. >> They are all around 4-5 inches at the moment.  I don't plan on adding anymore fish. In my 300 litre tank which is there current home my nitrate ranges from 0 to 10. 2) Is it better to add 2 x Turboflotor 1000 or 1 x Turboflotor 5000 shortly? AquaMedic is all that's available here? << Sorry, I'm not familiar with them.  Basically the more filtration and the more water motion the better. >> 3) If I put a glass cover on top of the tank to stop dust, evaporation etc. would it not stop oxygen getting in and gas exchange? << Yes, and no.  A glass cover isn't bad, unless it is like a tight seal and doesn't allow gas exchange.  A better idea is a glass shield right under the bulbs, but not all the way across the tank. >> 4) I have read sump FAQs as well, but do I add bioballs and those round ceramic things to begin with, or just more LR? << I would stay away from bioballs, and just go with more live rock. >> Thanks so much.  I've just been reading the "Goodbye to Powerheads" article so I'm away to build a water return manifold.  My fish are going to love me for this.  I don't know how people can swap their fish around, I have gotten so attached to mine. << Me too, good luck. >> Kind Regards, James. <<  Blundell  >>

What substrate size should I use in my DSB? Found your site. Read the FAQ's.  Still confused, don't want to make mistake! Am setting up 110X tank for reef community.  Propose 100-150 lbs Fiji. LR My concern is the live sand bed, which everyone seems to have slightly different opinion on.  I intend to do a DSB but want it varied enough to be safe and yet support both small and somewhat larger micro-crustacean populations.  Would I be correct in using @ 60% Nature's Ocean Aragonite Live Sand (.05-1.0 mm), 20% Medium Grade (1.0 to 2.0mm) such as CaribSea Seaflor Aragonite, and 20% Coarse grade (2.0-4.0 mm) crushed coral? These recommendations come from Dr. Shimek and Jonathan Lowrie, with the addendum that large populations of diverse infauna are a must. << I really don't think substrate size matters much, but would rather have a mix than a constant particulate size.  Therefore, I like what you are proposing to use. >> If this is incorrect I would love to know BEFORE I invest in more sand.  I already have 80 Lbs of the Nature's Ocean Live Sand.  Please help!  I want my "critters" safe and happy. << I think this would work well, no worries here, as long as you like the looks of those substrates. >> MommaKat <<  Blundell  >>

Embracing The Right Methodology (Tank Set Up) Okay, I've read through the link you sent me on the deep sand bed, and understand that it is not voodoo, but indeed a viable option. Now, my friend does a DSB and excellent circulation, with no other filtration whatsoever besides periodically running a skimmer, but not 24/7, in a sump. His tank is healthy, and there is NO plumbing. Under his tank is completely empty. (very appealing) It seems to me that a sump and 24/7 skimmer would be a better way to go,?,?,?, <I see no reason not to run the skimmer 24/7> at which point I am plumbing down to a sump, thus defeating the "neatness" factor he has achieved. In YOUR PERSONAL OPINION, would you go with his set-up? Or a DSB combined with the sump-24/7 skimmer? Or simply the sump/skimmer without bothering with the DSB? <Nope- I'd run the skimmer 24/7, utilize a sump, and also a DSB!> While I understand that your website is written in a fashion that lets the aquarist make his own decision.......I am asking for your personal opinion. If you were me, which would you do? Thanks so much. Pat <Well, Pat- I'm glad that you understand that any advice that you get from anyone- is essentially an opinion, and it's generally up to you, the individual, to make the ultimate determination. I like skimmers (I think that they're essential!), love sumps, and really think that DSB's can make for an amazingly successful system. Go for all three, and I think that you'll be quite pleased! A skimmer is your primary line of defense against nutrient accumulation, while a sump provides extra water capacity, a place for chemical filtration media, and (if you light it) area for macro algae cultivation. A DSB, if properly set up and maintained (i.e.; left undisturbed), can provide excellent denitrification and additional biodiversity. These three systems all compliment each other, and provide ample opportunities for fostering biodiversity and nutrient export processes. Good luck with your system! Regards, Scott F.>

Controversial Topics (Sandbed Depth And Caulerpa Use) Hello, <Hi! Scott F. here> I have read through much of the site but still have some questions.  First I will tell you what I have--the contents of the tank have been together--Ecosystem aside--for about 1.5 years in a 100 gal tank: My set up is this (for about 6 weeks--I took all the water/sand/rock from the 100gal tank): 60 gal tank 100 lbs. live rock 3-4 inch DSB (fine-medium grain size sand--although more medium than fine) Ecosystem 40 refugium with miracle mud and healthy Chaetomorpha, red tang heaven, and Ulva and lots of pods/snails AquaC Remora HOT 280 watt PC lighting (soon to add another 110 watts) Pacific Tang, Maroon Clownfish in love with his Condylactis anemone, Firefish, Royal Gramma, Rock Blenny, Purple Lobster, two hermits and soon to be removed (although cute) Spotted Puffer as well as one sea anemone.  I would like to make my tank non-predator and ready to eventually contain some corals (ergo adieu to the sweet puffer). <And the anemones, too!> I inherited the contents of the tank from a friend and bought the skimmer, and refugium (although the Ecosystem 40 is for a 40 gal I figured it is better to have a small one than none at all at this point--and space is a constraint esp. with a somewhat reluctant spouse who 'doesn't care much for fish' I'm trying to keep it all as inconspicuous as possible).  Everyone seems very happy and all the fish responded very well to the addition of the refugium last week (swimming all around the water return...and the normally shy gamma came out and is now all over the tank). No water problems so far. Questions: 1. I currently have the 3-4 inches of sand with the rock resting on top in the tank.  The sand is different levels due to the two water pumps I put in--they've blown it around a little (I actually think this looks better than flat sand all the way across).   <Me, too!> The manual to the Ecosystem refugium says that I shouldn't have a deep sand bed.  My LFS says that that I should have put the rocks on the bottom of the tank, and then filled the tank with sand (three inches) and eventually the sand would settle into the rock.  Should I remove some sand?  Should I try to put the rocks on the bare tank bottom and add sand like my LFS says? <6 of one, half-dozen of another...I'd keep the sandbed 3-4 inches, and be done with it...> Will the DSB in my tank disrupt the refugium system? <I can't imagine what it would> I would rather have less sand in my main tank but initially put it all in there since I thought a DSB would be fine (I got it all from my friend with a 100 gal)--also...is it a problem that my DSB sand is not all fine grain but more small-medium grain pieces ( read on your site that fine sand is best for DSB)? <Well, fine grain is best, but it is certainly acceptable (IMO) to have some larger-grade pieces mixed in. Looks better, too! Do read some of the works of Dr. Ronald Shimek on sandbed composition. Lots of opinions on this topic.> I have noticed that after a month the sand layer is whiter on top to the depth of 1.5 inches.  Should I simply have one-two inches of sand in the tank since that seems to be the amount of sand that is getting good circulation??? <A lot of the conventional wisdom on sand beds dictates a deeper layer. Two inches may be too deep to be fully aerobic, but too shallow to foster complete denitrification. Again, there are a lot of opinions on this, and new data is coming in all the time. However, I'd stick with the tried and true for now: A sandbed should be 3 inches or more, or 1/2" or less!> If I need to take out sand and re-do the sand/rock would it behoove me to elevate the rock on a PVC/eggcrate setup for better circulation? <Can't hurt- but it's not 100% necessary. I'd personally try to leave as much surface area open as possible. You could elevate the rock or stack it to accomplish this> I really want to do what is best for the long-term/benefit of the organisms. <Agreed! That should be your goal!> 2. Should I add Caulerpa to the refugium?  I have read pros and cons.  I want minimal hassle and am worried the 'sexual life of Caulerpa' will be too burdensome.  But do the benefits outweigh the bother, or will I be fine with what I have?   <I like and use Chaetomorpha, myself. It grows, it's an excellent "substrate" for planktonic/amphipod growth, doesn't go "sexual", can be easily harvested, and it's fun to give away to your friends (Everyone wants this stuff at the Club "Frag Swap"! Let everyone else offer their "Blue Torts"- Everyone wants my "Chaeto!"> Thanks for your help--it is very overwhelming and time consuming trying to learn all of this and I appreciate all the time your crew dedicates towards helping people like myself (so hopefully in turn I can help others!). Saskia <MY pleasure, Saskia! That's what we're all about! Sharing this hobby that we all love so much! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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

Re: tank setup question--Ecosystem, DSB, live rock specifics Hello and thanks for the reply.  I have some follow up questions regarding DSB.  You mention that I should read Ronald Shimek's articles--I actually had before I wrote you and his articles actually prompted me to rethink my DSB as it is not fine grain sand.    I corresponded with him on Reef Central and he said that I could go dig up some marine/sand mud along the coast where I live (los Angeles) provided it is in an area with no/little pollution concerns (and to check local laws don't prohibit digging up sand).  What do you think about this?  << I wouldn't do it.  With all the money we spend on our tanks, I wouldn't skip corners on buying sand.  I really like the CaribSea products and would certainly just buy sand. >> He also recommended trying what he will do for his next tank--a blend of silicate sands. << This is common where I live, but I really don't like using silicate sand.  I see no advantages to it. >> The discussion is here: http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=3064537#post3064537 Let me know what you think!  Thanks for all the advice!  << I think you will be much happier with the common crushed coral types of products.  Also, if something does go wrong you'll always be questioning the sand.  So to me, it is worth the piece of mind to just get good crushed coral from the beginning. >> Saskia <<  Adam B.  >>

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

Super nutritious DSB/sandbed 5/28/04 Hi WWM friends. Before I undertake emptying my tank and scooping out the sandbed, I wanted to get your advice. <ironic timing... I just pulled 600 lbs from a tank last night that I wanted to move 15 feet into a new fish room. The sand (supplemented over the years) is nine years old and magnificently full of life. It's unfortunate to me that so many people criticizing DSBs haven't actually ever set them up properly (adequate depth, adequate water flow, etc.)> I have a 75-gallon reef tank that is home to four ocellaris clowns, five green Chromis, hippo and Atlantic blue tangs, a mandarin, a goby, a royal Gramma, two cleaner shrimp, a peppermint shrimp and the usual bunch of hermits and snails. <do consider leaving out the hermits... they take a heavy toll on other more desirable life forms in their sand bed> For lighting I have a pair of 10,000k VHO's, a pair of standard fluor. actinics and one, 175-watt halide pendant (5500k). <very nice combo> I have a very large downdraft skimmer in the sump and I use a couple bags of Chemi-Pure and Kent reef carbon in the sump. <Okey-dokey> This is a system that I bought used, minus livestock and live rock, eight months ago from someone who was getting out of the hobby. He had run it very successfully for about a decade. About the only thing living that I bought with the system was the sandbed, which I kept intact because it was full of life. I bought it as a 50-gallon setup and transferred the contents after a few months into my current 75-gallon tank (thus the use of one pendant halide on a 48-inch tank). Four months ago, I was having some trouble with red slime and green hair algae and someone from my area marine aquarium group (Central Illinois Marine Aquarists) told me I should be using R/O water. <hmmm... perhaps. But for other reasons more likely (consistency of evap and source water for new seawater). Not as a solution to a nuisance algae problem necessarily. Do rely on aggressive skimming and strong water flow in large part for this> After I bought a used R/O system, the tank became miraculously clean. The undesirable algae was gone. I was amazed. <this was due, IMO, to the overall attuned attention you paid to the tank at the same time> Well, about a month ago (after three months algae-free), I noticed some red algae and green hair coming back. This red algae was the fibrous kind that harbors air bubbles and lifts off sand and rock surfaces in strands (not the smoother kind that covers surfaces; I can't keep their names straight). <perhaps a dinoflagellate (the strands with bubbles)> I changed the filters on my R/O, but that didn't stop it. <yes... as per above> My phosphate level tests fine and I'm certain that overfeeding isn't a problem. So at the most recent aquarium group meeting, someone suggested that my sandbed is probably harboring a ton of nutrient and is the most likely culprit for the green hair and stringy red algae I'm getting now. <complete bunk... and weak excuse that critics use. At best, it is only true when tanks are run without adequate water flow and nutrient export mechanisms.> This sounds reasonable, and I attached a photo in which I think you can see the red algae growing beneath the surface of the sandbed (sorry the photo is not great). I'm willing to empty the tank and replace all the sand if this is truly the cause, but is there anything else I can do that's not so extreme (and won't smell up the whole house)? <this is truly not necessary my friend... increase your water flow (approach 20X turnover for most reef tanks... close to 30-40X for hardcore SPS tanks> Would something like Bio Chem Zorb or maybe fresh Chemi Pure have any effect? <not likely... too small> Maybe PhosBan (though the phosphate tests OK)? <some merit here... test kits testing for inorganic phosphate only when the majority of phosphate in your tank may be organic> What's weird is how using R/O cleaned up the tank like magic for a few months and now this comes along. <again... not the RO, but your increased attention to the tank at the same time: water change, fresh carbon, improved skimming perhaps?> We also have a 29-gallon FOWLR tank that is nice and clean, so I know the R/O is working. <yes... overall, its a good idea to use purified water of a reliable consistency> You folks have always been a tremendous help. Thanks in advance for any suggestions and sorry this message is book-length. Matt Dietrich <no worries... and please do write back with an update. No kidding... if you increase water flow in the tank and tune your skimmer (clean frequently, adjust as needed) to get it to collect dark coffee colored skimmate near daily, I assure you this algae will be gone in less than three weeks without any other effort. Have faith my friend. Anthony>

Remote DSB Hello crew at WWM, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I'm a marine newbie…my tank is about 4 months old now…I'm thinking of adding a sump to my 55g reef/fish tank.  The biggest tank I could fit in my cabinet would be something like a standard 10g tank but about ? of the standard height…so I would probably have around a 5-7 gallon sump. I would like to add a 4-5" DSB in it.  Is that enough area (volume) for NNR for my 55g tank (around 35-45g of actual water). <I think that, if you set up the sandbed with a fine oolithic aragonite product, it can have a very positive effect!> Tank setup… 55g All-Glass Tank 75lbs base rock (pretty much live now) 2 lbs live rock 220 watts Compact Fluorescent (110w 10k, 110w Actinic) Red Sea Prizm Protein Skimmer (this skimmer really sucks) CSL 9 watt UV sterilizer Magnum 350 deluxe filter 2 PowerSweep powerheads 2 False Perculas 1 Yellow Tang 1 Yellowtail Damsel 1 Dwarf Lion 1 Coral Banded Shrimp 3 Emerald Crabs around 9 Astrea Snails around 12 Blue-leg Hermit Crabs 1 pretty much bleached ???? anemone mushroom corals button polyps Pumping Xenia One Torch Coral Branch - 2 stems One Hammer Coral Branch - 2 stems Coralline Algae is just beginning to encrust rock and glass… Thank You, Ronald Leguidleguid <I'd go for it, Ronald! Even a small sandbed can have some very beneficial results! It is certainly worth the effort! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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

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

Deep Sand Bed Controversy?  Hello!  <Hey there! Scott F. here today!>  Have to say that I have learned a lot reading all the questions and answers that your group puts out. Thanks!!! I have a 125 AGA tank that I drilled for over flows and for closed loop system, plumbing is ready and now I need to take the next step.  <Cool! Now the fun starts!>  I have received, through many of different outlets very good advice, and I want to get your input too. I have a 125 AGA (that will be a reef set up) with a 55 AGA sump. I don't want a BB so depth of sand in each?  <I'd say 4"-6", if you are shooting for a "true" deep sand bed (DSB)>  I Have been told 2.5", have been told 4"+, have been told DSB are accident waiting to happen, been told DSB don't work only when people don't put the right kind of critters in it, etc....  <Imagine that! Contradictory information on the marine aquarium hobby? Nah! Seriously, there is tremendous controversy and confusion on the application of sand beds in aquaria. It seems to me that the people who claim "disasters" after having utilized a DSB in their systems almost always have other issues, such as questionable husbandry habits, excessive bioloads, unusual animal combinations, etc. "Anomalous" crashes of DSB-based systems usually have their origins in some other problem, IMO. The science behind sand beds in aquaria has been well-documented by the likes of authors/aquarists such as Ron Shimek, Bob Goeman's, Larry Jackson, and our own Anthony Calfo. Yes, there is still controversy and disagreement, even among these people! If you don't believe me, just attend a MACNA conference and listen to the heated discussions on this topic! If properly configured, and if the overall system husbandry is up to par, deep sand beds perform remarkably at processing organics and removing nitrate, as well as providing an area for increased biodiversity in the system. A great treatment on deep sand beds can be found in Bob and Anthony's "Reef Invertebrates" book, and on plenum advocate Bob Goeman's website, saltcorner.com. In the end, having a sandbed is a good thing...If you properly follow the "rules" for the methodology that you like. Choose your methodology, care for your tank diligently, and stick with it.>  Over flow from tank into sump first passing through filter floss and then over bio balls before entering into sump? I have been told this is to keep the tank from crashing if I have a problem with LR in future, that if I use bio balls I am creating factory for Nitrites, that if I use bio balls they steal the "food" for the LR, if I use floss I steal food for the filter feeds, etc....Please can I have you thoughts on this.  <If it were me, I'd omit the bioballs, as they do tend to assimilate ammonia and nitrite so rapidly that they cannot cope with the nitrate that is produced as an "end product" of the nitrification process. If you are shooting for a reef system, or one with low nitrates, bioball-"filtered" systems tend to work against you. If you are using other mechanical media, do be sure to clean and/or replace them frequently, so that they don't become nutrient "traps", working against the other good husbandry habits that you are so diligently developing>  Thanks Jim Mc  <My pleasure, Jim! Choose your methodology-one that you are comfortable with- and follow the established parameters exactly, and I'm sure that you'll be fine! Regards, Scott F>

Deep sand beds 4/1/04 Hey again guys.  A complex maybe and simple question(s) pertaining to deep sand beds. I am planning a nano reef in a 10 gal with an old 15 gal below as a fuge.  In the fuge I would like Gracilaria for nutrient export and food for another tank and pods. The fuge would have around 12 gallons, 4-5'' DSB of sugar size oolithic sand, and LR. <Sounds like an excellent plan.  I would go with a minimum of 5" of sand in the 'fuge since it will settle and dissolve faster then you might imagine.> My target species for the nano are an Open Brain and a Plate Coral in the sand and Xenia, Green Star Polyps and Mushroom frags on 10-12 lbs LR. My fish would 1 Purple Fire Fish and a Clown Goby. <The clown goby is an excellent choice, but I would reconsider the purple fire fish because of their jumping tendencies.> My question is would it be beneficial to have a 3-4'' DSB in the both tanks? <Only marginally.  A DSB in one or the other should be plenty.> Also should I use a different size sand, for the needs of different size creatures, in each tank? I would seed both sand beds with larger crushed coral from 2 other tanks and possibly try and get a handful of sand from the LFS. <Different sized sands will definitely support different types of life.  In order for this to work, you would have to use fine sand in one tank and fine in the other, but it would be a worthy experiment! Unless you have a stellar LFS, do consider getting "seed" sand from other hobbyists.> As long as you are here would it be better to just drop in the larger CC or put it in a cheese cloth or something and then remove it after a while? <Probably not worth the effort.  The CC will quickly sink into the finer sand and won't cause any problems.> Thanks again. You guys deserve all the beer you can drink.  Walt <Ha!  You have obviously never seen a WWM crew bar tab!  Best Regards, Adam>

Re: Deep sand beds 4/2/04 Adam,  Thank you for the quick response. I am planning on a glass top to hopefully keep the firefish in the tank. <Ahhh....  Wise choice.  Do keep in mind that this will greatly reduce light transmission into the tank.> In your response on different size sand you said one tank should be fine and the other tank also fine I believe. Did you mean to use sugar size <1mm oolithic in one and say a 1-2 mm slightly larger grain in the other? <Ooops!  I mis-typed.  I meant one should be fine (oolitic/sugar fine) and one coarse (Puka shells, crushed coral, 3-5mm).  The 1-2mm grain size products (like CARIBSEA "special grade reef sand") don't support any useful life besides bacteria.  Critters can burrow into fine sand or live in the spaces in very coarse sand, but nothing does well in the in-between grain sizes.> Also if I did skip the firefish would 2 clown gobies pair up as they are hermaphroditic or would they have to be purchased as a mated pair?  Thanks again  Walt <It is always better to purchase a pair if possible to be sure of their compatibility.  Your retailer may be willing to put two together to see if they get along.  Spawning of clown gobies is very common in captivity and their partnership/social behavior makes them a very delightful choice.  Best Regards.  Adam> Blame It On The Sand? Hi all, <Hey there! Scott F. with you today> I have a question about my DSB. I had a Cyano outbreak in my tank and was chatting with a friend about it, and he was convinced I needed to remove my DSB. I am not one to have knee-jerk reactions based on one problem so I wanted to get your opinion on the matter. I have a 4" DSB with fine (sugar sized) aragonite I have the turnover on my pre-drilled Oceanic 75gal maxed out, any more turn over and I'm overflowing on to the carpet ;). All of the flow is created by the returns. I use a manifold system with 3 outputs; no power heads. My friend is convinced that the problems originate form the DSB and the small sections of visible gray areas. Are these gray areas really bad? <A lot of times, these are simply areas of coralline algae, or perhaps some aggregations of micro-organisms thriving in the layer between the front glass and the sand. Before blaming your DSB, do a thorough set of water tests, and see if there are other factors at work, such as phosphates in source water, etc. Lots of ways to address these, such as aggressive nutrient export mechanisms (protein skimming, etc.). There has been a lot of talk lately on the various internet discussion boards blaming DSBs for all sorts of problems. I'd be patient and stick with the DSB method, myself.> There are some spots that you can see in the lower parts of the DSB thru the glass. I was wondering if this is a cause for alarm and therefore a misapplication of a DSB on my part or if I should look into other possible solutions like adding a power head (I was really trying to avoid this with my original design; using a manifold.) Please advise, and thanks in advance for all the help. <I'd look at a variety of factors before blaming the DSB for this bloom. Sometimes, it's as simple as an RO membrane that needs replacement, or a protein skimmer that's not getting the job done. If your DSB has been constructed in accordance with generally accepted techniques, I'd have faith in the organisms residing there, and give it more time to do its job!> The volunteers at WWM ROCK! Ryan <WWM readers ROCK! Regards, Scott F>

Mistakes, Or Innovations? Hello everyone, I love the info. you all have been providing, it has saved me from making mistakes, thanks. <We're very happy to be of help to you! Scott F. at the keyboard today> I have been reading DSB FAQ's for the last two days and I now have a couple of Q's of my own. I think I should have visited your site sooner in regards to this subject. I don't know why I didn't, brain fart :). Hopefully it will be less flatulent in the future:). <I won't touch that one...I could. But I won't! > Anyways, I bought and placed Carib Sea Aragonite ( I think it was Sea Floor Special) in my new 125 gal. corner show tank. It didn't have the particle size on the bag any where but it looked to be no more than 1mm in size. I know it isn't sugar fine or oolitic. It does have many other smaller sized particles in it ranging from what looks to be sugar fine all the way up to 1mm. I was under the understanding that a range in sand size (from sugar size to 1mm) was good to have because the different critters that will eventually be in their need different sizes. Each species needing a particular size in order to survive. So if there is a range in sand size the DSB will be able to support a large diversity of species. True? <I believe that it will> Then I read, after placing this sand in to the tank, the DSB FAQ's on this web site and sugar fine seems to be the size that best be suited for a DSB and particle sizes shouldn't be mixed. <Well, there is a lot of thought and controversy on this matter. Yes, an all oolithic sugar-fine aragonite is ideal, but mixing grades of smaller-grain sands is also useful, IMO. I've done this in deep sand beds before with great results. However, you don't want to mix grades that are too dissimilar, as this can result in lots of compaction and channeling, potentially reducing the efficiency of the bed. Finer grades are useful for assisting with buffering and releasing bio-minerals into the water.> I had also added live sand samples to help seed my current sand bed from reputable LFS's. Since my sand bed is already mixed should I go ahead and fill it with the same material I have started with or should I fill the remaining 2" ( I'm going for a 5" DSB) with sugar fine sand to increase its numbers in the DSB? <I'd continue with the same material at this point.> Next Q. I know that certain sand sifters eat DSB critters, I understand why this is bad and I'm not going to use them, but I have also herd that when sand sifters are sifting they are also destroying the tubes/burrows, that these DSB animals make. In doing so, they are restricting good water flow through the DSB that aids in the denitrification process and filtration and that this destruction is not a good thing. The DSB should be left undisturbed by all except for the DSB animals and only they should do the sifting. Yes, No? <I would say an unqualified yes. I believe that you don't want animals that are too aggressive in their sandbed movements. Even in regular maintenance, the hobbyist should not disturb anything but the top layer of sand, IMO> My 125 gal came with two wet/dry filters attached in the overflow box. They are filled with bio balls, should I replace these all together and put carbon filter pads in their place? My new tank has only been running for 4 or 5 days. <Personally, I'd dump the bioballs altogether, and let the sand bed and live rock do the "filtering" in your tank> My sump is a plastic barrel cut in 1/2 and holds 40 gal. The reason for its addition was because we could not get the pump to stop leaking at the threaded pipe attachments. We were going to add a sump any way. We needed something that would keep the leak contained and it was the best option from what we had to choose from. <A great improve move, IMO!> I know it isn't the most desirable shape but it's what we have to work with for the time being. I wanted to put a DSB made up of sugar fine sand in the sump. I  was thinking of attaching PVC to the inlet hose and have the PVC go all of the way around the inside of the barrel with little holes in it pointed towards the sand. Would this diffuse the water enough so that it wouldn't destroy the DSB? <It probably will. I'm afraid that you'll have to experiment with this. You can always dial down the flow if too disruptive> Would it provide enough current to prevent dead spots or any other harmful scenarios? If this is a good idea, should I place the pvc on top of the sand or just enough above it for adequate (non-destructive) circulation? <I think it will work. I'd place the return just above for maximum efficiency> Almost done:) I have seen some F/O and reef tanks with a little macro algae purposefully planted in there. Some looked like grass the other was green and broad leafed. It looked really nice but should it be done? Or, should all algae's be kept in the fuge? <Your call. As long as you can manage the growth of the macroalgae, and as long as they don't overrun other sessile life forms, there is no reason not to include macroalgae in the display.> Last one, I have rinsed my sand with tap water, I had no other type to use, will the sand in my tank now be leaching tap water chemicals in to my tank? <I suppose that it's possible, but I wouldn't lose sleep over this> I also have some LR in a 50 gal soon to be F/O that had been setting in fresh water from the tap for 2 mo. It was dead at the time and bleached. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, duh, but are they now leaching these tap elements back in to my salt tank? <Again, probably not a problem> There is a lot of emerald green micro algae on them, the snails aren't eating it. I am going to add a fuge in to the system with macro algae, will this eventually remedy the problem, if there is one, with the element leaching. Or will the micro algae growing on it now use up these elements? <Well, it will grow as long as there is "fuel" to use for it's growth.> Sorry, I need to buy Phos., ALK., and Calcium test so I can't tell now if that is what is happening. Ammonia:0, Nitrate:0, Nitrite:0, PH: 8.3, Specific gravity: 1.023, temp. 78-80F DSB 5". Or should I just remove these pieces of LR, they are coloring up nicely now, red, purple, lots of green. <I'd leave it in there at this point> Ok I'm done, so are my hands. Thank you for your time. Shauna <My pleasure, Shauna. Feel free to write any time if you have more questions. Regards, Scott F>

DSB, anoxic dilemma? 3/18/04 (Perhaps the term hypoxic for the mid-zone) Hi bob, <Anthony Calfo in his stead> I have a question regarding depth of substrate. You mention to use 1" or less (completely aerobic) and 3" or more to create an anaerobic environment for denitrification. You mention any substrate thickness in between those parameters would cause anoxic havoc. I'm a little perplexed by this. <me too... I am nearly certain Bob would have never said this... and I agree with part of the assertion, but would not use the phrase "anoxic havoc". Where is this from  my friend. Our book, the archives, etc?> Firstly, the anoxic environment created by 2 inches is still an anoxic environment and I do not understand how it differs from 3 or more inches of substrate? <part of the misunderstanding indeed... I do not believe a 2" substrate can get adequately anoxic for NNR... and if you'll take the time/years to use and study DSBs, the you will see that 3"/75 mm is the bare minimum for effective NNR... hence the rule> Wouldn't both anoxic environments (in between 1-3 inches and 3" plus) create H2S? <not the goal at either depth, and regardless cannot be assumed without an address of nutrients sunk to feed/fuel the conversion> How is it that one is safer than the other? I'm sure there is something I am missing here, <yes> I just want to understand what that is. <me too> Please do not refrain from becoming really technical in order to get the point across (that is if you have time to), that is, layman's terms are not necessary, nor is the need to explain technical terms. <no time alas at length... but please let me direct you to the extensive detail and discussion we have of it in our "Reef Invertebrates" book or the free wetwebmedia.com archives (much info there if you will take the time to sort through it)> My last question. Why would one want to rid Live rock of its biodiversity...i.e.. removal of mantis shrimp...etc. How would they be detrimental to 1) fish only tanks or 2) reef tanks? Are these animals prone to being hosts of pathogens detrimental to animals/organisms in the tank more so than animals commonly kept in aquaria? Or do they just eat factors important in maintaining good water chemistry? Why are they deemed unwanted? <depends on the species. You must ID that first. Spearers catch and kill fishes... even the smallest/"safest" smashers instead still mow through other desirable invertebrates like gastropods. Judge them by what you deem more useful in your aquarium... purchased snails/fishes... or expensive meals> Thanks so much! Mars <rock on... Anthony>

DSB, anoxic dilemma? II 3/19/04 ...so my apologies. I replied to an e-mail regarding the quote below: [I have a question regarding depth of substrate. You mention to use 1" or less (completely aerobic) and 3" or more to create an anaerobic environment for denitrification. ] You mention any substrate thickness in between those parameters would cause anoxic havoc. I'm a little perplexed by this. <me too... I am nearly certain Bob would have never said this... and I agree with part of the assertion, but would not use the phrase "anoxic havoc". Where is this from  my friend. Our book, the archives, etc?> Someone else said "anoxic havoc" <<no worries... am following along>> (Not your site...again my apologies). What was said in one of your archives was it was dangerous to have a sand bed between 1"-3". Here is the quote: [Sand Confusion: Aesthetics or Denitrification? Anthony, I'm confused about the proper depth of substrate. Below is what you said in one of your letters. I don't get it. It seems contradictory. What's best, 1/2 inch, 3 inches, or 5???? Your words are in the red. Thanks! Pam PS] I'm really not trying to be confrontational, I just want to understand! <<Hmmm... you need to consider the sources my friend, and most importantly, the specific circumstances. We give advice based on each given scenario... and there is no one "magic" rule that works best for all systems. I'll recommend different substrates (grains/depths, etc) for fishless, versus small fish, versus heavy fish displays. They are very different bioloads. Furthermore... each aquarist has different benefits prioritized in what they would like to get from their sand beds. You simply cannot nail this down to a single rule my friend. You are also reading and quoting multiple authors here... Bob, me, Steve Pro (below) and other web sites. Not a fair comparison between different > [I figured I would answer your question because I am here and we have pretty much the same point of view on this subject. If you have no sand, zero inches deep, a bare bottom tank, you are OK. As you add sand, you are OK until 1" deep. At this point all of the sand is aerobic (contains water with oxygen in it). As you go over one inch, you change from a completely aerobic environment but not to a true Deep Sand Bed (DSB). Deep is the imperative word. You do not get all of the benefits until you reach 3" or greater. In between 1 to 3 inches is a sort of no man's lands for denitrification. I hope this gives you a better understanding. -Steven Pro>> The substrate is about 1/2 inch in the front and increases to about 2 inches in the back. <dangerous in my opinion. Too thick to be aerobic but not thick enough to be helpfully anoxic. Just dangerous, and the reason why so many other reefers have inaccurately faulted "deep" sand beds. The rule stands at 1/2 inch or less, or more than three inches (I prefer a five inch minimum for denitrification. Anthony> Why is it dangerous? How is it different in having a sand bed over 3"?  Thanks again!!! Mars <<I don't think I can spell it out any more clearly than it has been in our archives and books. In practical applications - typical reef aquariums that are poorly planned mixed garden reefs (LPS, SPS, clams, etc... all together unnaturally at times) with modest to poor water flow... with modest to poor water change schedules... with weak skimming, etc... all of the common flaws in beginner to intermediate aquarists aquariums.... these are not conducive to succeeding with sand beds in the 1-3" range. Finesse husbandry and you can then finesse and employ most any depth of sand successfully (good water flow, sand stirring, aggressive skimming and water changes of 15-20%+ weekly, etc). regards, Anthony>>

DBS, anoxic dilemma? III 3/19/04 I think we all share the same view point. Thanks for your opinion and input. I think I'm clear on all this now (actually I'm sure of it). Just wanted to make sure i wasn't missing anything and you and your team have reinforced my beliefs. <excellent... this is truly the benefit of getting a wide range of opinions... making a confident decision based on an intelligent consensus> I must say you guys are speedy with the replies, so far I'd say you guys are the best source of info I've come across. Keep up the good work and thanks a lot!!! <it is a labor of love :)> Cheers! mars <best of luck to you, mate. Anthony>

DSB Hi all! Another question here! After doing some searching I can't seem to find an answer. In my 46 gallon bowfront I have 24lbs. of CaribSea Live aragonite. After reading your site I wish I didn't. However I did so that's it. What I'm wondering is if I wanted to do a DSB of 3" should I layer some fine sand above it or go with a larger size, CaribSea 1-2mm. ? Would this cause more problems? Thanx again for all the help! Eileen :)<I prefer the 1-2mm CaribSea, but that is just my personal preference, good luck, IanB>

Deep Sand Bed Thanks for the reply.  I have been "doing my homework" since November.  I am just about ready to dive in! <Excellent!> I bought Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation" and Anthony and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" as well as several others.  I truly value the WWM opinions above all others.  Thanks for such a great site.  One more question... would you recommend a DSB in the main tank if I don't have one in the refugium?  Thanks again. Dan <Deep sand beds are very useful, and add a nice adjunct for biological filtration to your system. If you don't mind the aesthetic of a deep sand bed, I'd highly recommend one! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Moving A Sand Bed To A New Tank Hi Crew, <Hi there! Scott F with you today> Time to ask the experts!. I tried posting this on RC and have received conflicting advice. I have set up a new 75g with new water, new 5" DSB (Dry bagged) and base rock. I have an existing (about 1 yr) 30 gal with DSB, live rock, coral, snails, crabs, no fish. The new tank has been up for 2 weeks, I used some change out water in the initial fill. How is the best way to transfer everything over to the new tank? All at once? Move just the DSB and let new tank cycle? Leave old tank bare bottom for a while? I plan on using all the water from the 30 gal. I would like to move it all at once if that's safe. Please help as I don't want to kill off  anything. Thanks! <If it were me, I'd move all of the sand and water over at once, and let the tank cycle, monitoring it regularly. I would not add any new animals of any kind until you are certain that nitrite and ammonia are undetectable for some time. Patience counts here. Regards, Scott F>

DSB On a DSB design, can half the tank be 5-6" like in the back of the tank with about 1" in the front like a two tear look.  With live rock as a ledge support.<This should be ok just be careful about dead spots.  Cody> Mark Deep Enough Sand Bed? Hi guys, <Scott F. your guy tonight!> after going through all your DSB pages, I've decided that I'm going to add one in to my established 4ft tank. I am currently half way through my project, and have hit a bit of a snag which i hope you guys could help me with. <We'll try!> I've also bought a refugium, which I'm adding to the system as well. Originally, I was only going to the DSB in the refugium, but decided to put it in the tank, because I knew that I would always be regretting it. So, I get home after buying all the very fine sugar-size sand I could get (I've found only one place that gets it, and I bought it all), put all the fish in the shiny new refugium, took out my old gravel, and put in the sand. The problem is that I only have enough sand for about 3.5inchs deep, and can't get any more for at least a month. My understanding is that this is not deep enough. <Well, it's not a "deep" sand bed at this depth- but it is workable> I'm not really sure what to do, but I see the below as my options: 1. Leave it as is (with 3.5 inches). I remember seeing that cos its finer, doesn't need to be as deep, but not sure of the minimum. <Well, there are many thoughts on this. As I mentioned above, it can be useable. You can always add some additional depth as you locate the substrate> 2a. Add some more sand that would be larger grained, about 1-2mm, and mix it in with the sand. <Can be done, too> 2b. Put an inch or so of the coarser sand OVER the fine sand. <A possible solution> 2c. Put an inch UNDER the fine sand. This will be a bit trying tricky, and will cause another sand storm. <I wouldn't do this> 3. Use all the fine sand to make a 6-8inch DSB in the refugium. Main tank  has a foot print of 48x14, refugium would have a DSB of 23x12. <A viable option...> 4.Wait a month for more sand to come in. <That would be my call> What would recommend? <I'd go with #4, myself> Also, does the sandstorm affect the fish? <Could irritate some fish or inverts, but I wouldn't be overly concerned if you're careful> Thanks in advance. My system is currently pulled apart, and I'm sort of in panicky mode, because I don't know what to do... <Don't panic...You'll be fine leaving things as they are for a while. Just obey the common sense rules of husbandry, and you'll be fine! Regards, Scott F.>

Deep Enough Sand Bed? (Cont'd.) Hi Scott F., thank you for your response, but i have a follow up. <Ask away...> I was in a rush (i.e., my tank was pulled apart), and decided to go ahead option 2c below, where I now have 4-5 inch DSB, with about 2 inches of more course aragonite (1-2mm), and on top of that, 2-3inches of very fine reef sand. You said you wouldn't do this, but unfortunately, i already did. Is this something bad? Should I redo it? the sand is very fine and blows around easily, should I put another inch layer of the 1-2mm aragonite over the top, adding an additional layer? <Actually, I don't really see any harm in this. Yes, DSB "purists" will want a DSB constructed exclusively of sugar fine sand, but I personally have not had problems in mixing different grades of sand together. > I'm not sure why you don't recommend it, I thought that the finer sand was recommended for infauna growth and movement? Or was it not recommend because of the storm it would produce? <Well, I didn't recommend this because it seemed to imply that you were going to disturb the lower level of fin sand in the process. My concern was that you would seriously disrupt the very processes that you are trying to foster in a DSB. Organic material can be released into the water en masse with such a disruption...Sorry if I didn't fully explain my concerns...> Thanks. <My pleasure! Regards, Scott F>

DSB and light cycle ?? 3/13/04 I would like an expert opinion please.  Thought you folks might lead me in the right direction.   <Adam here today, and I will certainly try!> I am planning a 400 gallon mix reef/fish tank 96x30x36 tall.  I would like a fair amount of fish with plenty of open space for swimming.  For circulation I am planning a Amp Master 3000 for return and 4 Tunze streams to get me in that 10-20 times turnover zone or greater.  With that much water movement and the fair amount of fish waste produced can I still use the fine sugar grain sand bed in the display?   I am afraid I will have a sand storm if I really turn up the Tunze streams and my other concern is that the DSB will not keep up the fish waste pollution.  I have heard of DSB failure due to overstocking with fish.  I do not plan to over stock, but plan to have a fair amount of fish.  Need your opinion if a refugium based DSB would be best in my situation.  I also plan to do 10 gallon weekly water changes and use a Euro-reef 12-2 skimmer.  If I have the room I wanted to run reverse lighting Gracilaria/Chaetomorpha fuges too. <You could still use the fine sand, but you may have to finesse the current devices so that they don't blow directly onto the sand.  You will also have to secure them well so that they can't be redirected by coming lose or being dislodged by snails or other inverts.  A healthy, very alive sandbed should handle any reasonable bioload, particularly with the other methods you plan on employing.  A remote sand bed/refugium is worth considering, but you will have to be very conscious of detritus accumulation in the display.  If you have a fine DSB in the display, brittle stars and sea cucumbers will do a lot of that work for you.  FWIW, I would aim closer to 10% weekly water changes rather than 10 gallon!> If I went to a refugium DSB how big of an area do you think I would need for good nitrate reduction for this size tank?  Also.....if I go refugium DSB what specific grade sand and depth would work best in the display tank.  I want to produce a lot of copepods/amphipods somewhere in the system for my fishes with medium course sand like CaribSea special reef.  Could this be accomplished with a 1/2 or less med-course sand in the display?  Need your suggestions please. <Ironically, I have found that CaribSea's "special grade reef sand" is the least reef tank suitable sand they produce, and is only useful for aesthetics.  Use a coarser substrate (crushed coral or Puka shells) to encourage pod populations and finer (oolitic, Southdown, sugar fine) for nitrate reduction.  Each of these must be managed.  DSB's must be kept "lively", and caution must be used that coarse substrates don't accumulate detritus.  A remote DSB 1/3-1/2 the area of the display should be adequate for nitrate reduction and should provide plenty of growing space for macroalgae.> For lighting I was contemplating 6 hr on-off cycles.  I live near the desert in CA and could keep my lights off during the hottest part of the day with this cycle.   I have heard of people do this with fish ok....but is it ok with corals too. <I would suggest that you have some light on throughout the entire photoperiod.  You could reserve your most intense lighting for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening to ameliorate heat issues.> That's all for now. Thanks!<Best Regards.  Adam>

Working With Sand Dear WWM Crew, <Scott F. here today> Thank you for your reply the last time regarding the DSB critters. I have one last question to ask the master aquarists :) My DSB in sump has no lighting and I have no intention lighting it up, I'm merely gonna to seed the sand bed with pods and critters using live rocks. And then I'm going to dump in a sea cucumber to handle the detritus build-up on the sand surface. I'm also thinking of removing the filter floss in the chamber before the DSB to allow all the particles to settle in the DSB to feed whatever's gonna live there. What do you think of this setup? any recommendations? Thank you for your time :) Cheers, Alan <Sounds just fine to me! Regards, Scott F> Sorting Through Sand (Sandbed Practices) Hi Scott, <Hello again!> I have a couple more questions here. <Sure> 1. For DSB, is the denitrification effect proportional with the depth of the sand? Or is the denitrification effect more proportional to its surface area? <Well, there is some controversy as to how deep the sand bed depth must be to foster maximum denitrification processes. Some studies have indicated that natural denitrification can occur in the top half an inch or so of sand in natural reef environments, but in aquariums, we tend to recommend minimum depths of 3 inches for maximum performance. DSB methods have been proven for years, so the practice is well documented and successful for many hobbyists.> 2. The recommended DSB thickness is 3 inches. Does this 3 inches includes the thickness for the plenum? <Plenums require strict adherence to sand depth and grain size (see sandbed advocate Bob Goemans' site,  saltcorner.com , for more on this technique) in order to function properly. The depth that we are referring to is for "static" (plenum-less) sandbeds.> 3. How thick should the plenum be? <The standard recommended height of the plenum area should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches, usually created with eggcrate over some PVC pipe sections. A screen is placed over the plenum, and sand (about 2-4 mm in size) is placed over that screen at a depth of about two inches. Another layer of screen is placed over that sand (to help prevent detritivores from burrowing into the plenum area and disrupting the processes within). Sand is placed over this second screen at a depth of about 2 more inches. That's all there is to it! Of course, the processes involved are a bit more complex.> 4. Do I have to keep the plenum dark? In another words will the anaerobic bacteria be affected by light? <Well, the plenum area does not let light in> 5. To the best of my adjustment and cleaning of airstone, I get only light brown tinted skimmate in my counter current skimmer, do I have to chuck away my skimmer? Or get a more powerful air pump? <Could very well be the solution, if all other adjustments are not working> 6. If silicate sand are used, the are minerals leached to the water going to affect livestock's health directly? Or it is just causing algae bloom? <Silicate is mainly a contributor to nuisance algae blooms> 7. Will changing 50/50 tube to pure 6500K or 10000K tube improve coral/anemone photosynthesis? <I prefer 10000k for functionality, but the 50/50's look better, IMO. wattage is very important. I tend to favor metal halide over fluorescents, as they provide optimum intensity for photosynthetic invertebrates> Thanks sooooooooooooo much... :) Wid <My pleasure, Wid! regards, Scott F.>

- Refugiums and Deep Sand Beds - A very good evening to you crew... Evolving to a reef tank from a FO? <Good morning to you.> A rundown on my set-up first. (Should I include a rundown each time I e-mail you?) <All depends on what we are talking about... it happens often enough that folks email doesn't make it back to the original respondent. Including the relevant parts always helps.> 180g tank 20g sump (tank double drilled with two 1 1/2" holes at each end with pipes to surface to skim from top) Both leading to trickle filters with bioballs. One goes to a skimmer first, a Turboflotor 1000 and then to bioballs) One goes straight into bioballs, (both have prefilters). Also have a Berlin skimmer in sump driven by  Eheim 1060 which doesn't seem to produce much skimmate at all. Nonetheless, I think having two skimmers is a great idea! Two canister filters (which I hate) one has nitrate reducing granules (haha) one has chemical, (carbon & RowaPhos) filtration. The chemical one goes through UV (55 watt) back to tank. SG = 1.022  Ph 8.2 Temp = 80F Ammonia = 0 Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 40ppm - lose the Bioballs....OK, Thanks, will do. <What you need to do is address those nitrates. Your attempts to move towards a reef tank will be frustrated by a nitrate level this high. If "address" means remove the bioballs, then so be it.> Alk = 4.23, dkH 11.8, Calcium 270! Now a week later it is 290. I am  raising my calcium by the use of Kalkwasser... SLOWLY !!! I would like to fire two million questions at you guys but I know I can't in one go, so here are just a couple? First of all. Can I, or rather should I (once my refugium is set up (DSB LR Macro etc)) use an external skimmer, for the supply to the refugium? <Your choice would work, but I'd think getting unskimmed water in the refugium would be of more use> If yes (and I know you hate to be brand specific but an external skimmer that is rated for around 500G will do fine as my system will be around 250G (I live in the UK).....Any preferences? <Have no idea what is available to you in the UK... there are many good skimmers... would bet there are one or two that are make in the UK. Really do recommend trying to get around to some stores and see how these things are built... quality equipment will have the look and feel something well designed and built. Cheap equipment will feel light and flimsy.> This will simply run through the refugium and under gravity back to the under tank sump. Also I intend eventually (after doing my homework) to keep an Anemone. Maybe a Bubbletip or one of the easiest to keep that may be a home to a clown or two. I have at the moment in my 6x2x2 display, 2x150wattMH and 2x40watt Actinics. Would it be more beneficial to the anemones to install a 3x150watt MH at 14k each and if I do this, would I need to add actinics too? <Actually, I'd shoot for two 250's and include actinics.> One more then I'm done... promise! The DSB... should it be just fine grade sand? or can I just take out of my tank the mixture of fine (aragonite) and rough stuff  (crushed coral) to seed it? <Don't see why not.> Anyway I am getting conflicting ideas on how best to make this DSB as I guess the LFS's are trying to sell me Miracle mud etc. Any opinions? <This this can be pretty free form and many things will work. Don't think the coarse gravel will have any ill effect.> Very much appreciate the information and support given freely and impartially on this great site.... Cheers, and many, many thanks crew! Simon <Cheers, J -- >

- Adding to the Sand Bed - Hi, Thanks your all your help in answering mine and others questions! I have read through many of the DSB FAQ's and I can't seem to find the answer to my question:  A little tank background 55 gal SPS tank with 70 lbs LR, skimmer, small refugium with sugar fine DSB, the main tank has 1/2" to 3/4" sugar fine sandbed.  What I am wanting to do is add more sugar fine sand to the main tank, but, I first want to make sure that the Nassarius snails and other critters won't be harmed by adding the sand on top of them.  I know I could the capture the snails because when I feed they come popping up out of the sand for their share.  (They also have converted several areas with thin layers of eggs.) <The Nassarius snails will be fine.... go ahead and add the sand.> In your opinion, what would be the best way to accomplish this task? <A bit of a pain in an existing tank. Will dust up for a day or so...> Also, could I leave the LR in place and kind of fill in around it? <I'd take the rock out, dump the sand in and the put the rock back.> Thanks again for all of your help. Cheri <Cheers, J -- >

Adding to a Deep Sand Bed - 2/27/04 Hi again! I have just learned that you could test aragonite sand by adding it in vinegar. <Tried and true> Well, i had a bag of white sand left sitting in our garage because the dealer said it was silica sand. Anyway, i proceeded testing it and it indeed sizzled. <Ain't it cool?> There were pebbles that remained though but this solves my huge problem because NO ONE here sells aragonite. <Where is here?> Anyway, I currently have a 1" Crushed Coral bed in my display tank which has been up for 6 months. i want to change it all and put a 4" DSB in the main tank and a 6" DSB in the fuge. My CC is all covered in brown algae and have a few what look like earthworms with heads that resemble golf balls in various places. <Peanut worms??> I initially thought of replacing all of it with the sand but just realized that all the current critters in the CC would be taken out too. <Correct> 1. Could i just cover them instead? I mean like pile over the sand with the CC underneath? <See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> I know i could put the CC on top to seed the sand but I hate how CC can trap detritus. <Use a small tube to siphon out the bad stuff> It's almost like a magnet to detritus and wouldn't want anything to do with it again. 2. If i remove it totally, would i have to re-introduce a couple of LR in the tank again to re-seed it? I currently have 200lbs of LR already in my tank. <Live sand would be better. A few scoops from your old sand or better yet a few scoops from others (reef club, friends, local fish store) but if not adding live rock will help in time. Here is some info http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm Be sure to check the links in the above article (FAQs) f? questions and our replies> By the way, I only have one 3" Sailfin tang and a 1" damsel in my 140g FOWLR tank right now so i could easily move them to my quarantine while i start-over my tank. <Excellent. Watch water quality> Again, many thanks for your very valued info. <No worries. Good luck ~Pahulio> Ken Millan Philippines

- Deep Sand Rising - Hi Crew, Sorry for yet another question! I set up my 75g a few days ago with a 5" DSB of sugar fine pure aragonite and some base rock. Will this stuff ever settle down? I let it sit for 48 hrs with no filtration. I am now running a Aqua Clear 500 to clear out the sediment but when I turn on the 2 Maxijet 1200's, it just kicks the sand up all over again. I have tried moving them around, up, etc but it is still "digging" out trenches. I really don't want to buy more sand of a larger grain size to lay on top but that's all I can think of. Any other suggestions?? <Yes.> How do you have sugar fine sand and high flow? <Put a one inch layer of larger, heavier particulate sand on top. Will take care of the problem.> Thanks again! <Cheers, J -- >

DSB Advice 2/22/04 Hi, Long time listener, first time caller… <Glad you finally picked up the phone!> As a project, I'm looking at building a 2 level  sump with 2 DSBs, due to not having a large available foot print under my tank. Looking at the attached highly technical drawing (which is not to scale), the yellow is the DSBs, the brown is the skimmer (water comes in in this chamber), and the black being the Out pump back to the main tank. I intend to have live rock in there too. I have a few main concerns that I was hoping you could help me with: 1. Do you see any issues in the top DSB not being under too deep water. The top level may only have a few inches of water above the sand bed. Could this be a problem, could this increase the oxygen level in that area which will  affect growth of anaerobic bacteria? Should I make that DSB thicker? <Not an issue at all.  A thin film of water flowing over the sand would be fine.  Oxygen diffusion is primarily limited by low water exchange within the sand, not the O2 concentration in the overlying water.  A DSB should be at least 3-4" deep, so as long as you meet this minimum, that is fine.> 2. What would be optimal flow rate of this sump? <Hard to say, but more than a few hundred gph would probably disturb the sand quite a bit, especially in the upper layer.> 3. This there a problem with the skimmer being in the initial chamber that the water enters, again, will this add too much oxygen with affect anaerobic  bacteria? Should I move it so that an exit chamber has the skimmer? <As stated above, this is little concern in terms of O2 concentration in the DSB's.  IMO, the physical location of the skimmer is completely a matter of convenience.> 4. and lastly, are there any general problems with the design as a whole? Am I wasting my time trying to make the top layer? The sump will be a tall 2ft tank, so the top layer may be 1ft long (minus skimmer chamber + room to set up Out pump).  I have an established tank which I don't want to touch. <You never stated what size tank this was for.  If you're current tank is bare bottom or just has a thin layer of sand, you will probably see some of the benefits of a DSB from a bed with as little as 25% of the surface area of your display (for example 2ft^2 of DSB for a 2ftx4ft (8ft^2) tank).  More is better, but what you have proposed looks like a maintenance nightmare. If you really have you heart set on more area, I would consider removable trays to contain the sand.  I would stack the trays with spacers in the center of the sump, have water enter on one end, flow through the stack of trays to the other end where the pump would be located.  This way, you could unstack the trays for maintenance, you pump would not have to be set on sand (a sure way to destroy the pump), and you could have your increased surface area.  HTH. Adam> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

DSB Debate... Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Hope all is well and a very big thank you for your help! <Our pleasure, thanks!> I have been reading through the DSB FAQs and I am now torn as to how I will be setting up my new 55 gal SPS reef.  I really don't want to go the deep sand route as can't find any play sand that I would feel comfortable using.  (Yardright's website says that their play sand is NOT suitable for aquarium use and Home Depot in this area is using play sand from a company called Bonsal.)    <Well, you don't have to use Southdown or other play sand for a successful DSB. Most of the fine oolithic aragonitic products made for aquarium use are just perfect!> Basically, the tank will have approximately 65-70 lbs of LR and my plan was to have a 3/4" - 1" live sand bed (Aragalive pink Fiji) and a HOT converted (no mud, using Aragalive oolithic) Ecosystem Refugium and skimmer.  Also, the tank will not have a large fish bio load (1 barnacle blenny, 3-4 damsels, snails and 2 peppermint shrimp). My question to you is:  Would my plan work or would the benefits of the DSB be far greater? <I believe that the benefits of a DSB would be measurably better> Again thanks for all of your help! Cheri <Do consider a DSB for the benefits that you seek. it's not the only way to decrease nitrates and increase biodiversity, but it is certainly one of the best...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

10 in depth of water 2/12/04 I have s quick question, If my tank is only 10in deep can I use SO fluorescents (of the appropriate temp), changed regularly, in conjunction with T5's to light Euphyllia, Sarcophyton, Heliofungia, Pachyclavularia, Plerogyra, Catalaphyllia, Trachyphyllia? Could I possibly go to 12 in depth. Also, I will have an 11 inch sand base under them, and of course live rock in the tank so some corals could be placed higher if needs be. All of the corals you listed will tolerate SO fluorescents with no problem, even if you increase the depth a bit.  I would recommend that you try to get four lamps per foot of tank width and cover the entire length (four lamps over a 55 or six over a 75, for example).> Is the sand bed to deep? In the main tank I don't want the sand dissolving under the coral and lowering them, could you recommend a sugar fine sand that doesn't dissolve. <I don't think 11" of sand is too deep, but after about 6" I don't think you will reap much additional benefit.  You also have to take into account the tradeoff of diminished water volume.  If the only goal is to get the corals closer to the light, then I wouldn't bother.  Any aragonite based sand will dissolve.  Silica sand will not dissolve, but it's use is controversial.> I will be using Aragamax in the sump to help with buffing as well as a calcium reactor. Finally, water changes are very important and I do them frequently but as many people know what ever you spend on your equipment initially pales in comparison to what you will ultimately spend in upkeep. I am trying to set up a system that meets all the animals needs but is cost effective over time. Since I do 25% water changes every week the expense of salt is killing me, any help in getting less expensive salt that will get the job done. <I too believe in the importance of water changes, but unless you have tremendous input, 25% per month should be more than OK.  I can often find IO brand salt for about $10 per bag and less than $40 per 200gal bucket.  Getting any brand for any less than that will be a challenge.> I know many people say just have better filtration, but I have an excellent protein skimmer etc., low contaminants, I have just found water changes help allot, maybe its diffusing all the things we can't test for like chemical warfare etc...I just don't want to stop using them as they have worked for me.  What do coral farmers do about the huge amount of salt they need for their systems? Thank you Greg <Again, you have my agreement about the benefit, but you may get 90% of the benefit with half of the water changes.  Small amounts of regularly changed carbon will help too.  Any business with large systems simply buys salt in large quantities.  Since a large part of the cost is freight, buying in pallet quantities saves cost.  Also, some large commercial facilities re-use water, sending "used" water from SPS systems to soft coral, fish only or live rock systems for example.  Hope this helps.  Adam>

DSB Hello, <Hi! Ryan with you today> I am currently working on setting up a 75 Gal FOWLR and have some questions on the sand bed, filtration and water flow. <Gotcha.>  The set up would consist of 2 -1 1/2" bulkheads with an elbow and strainer placed in each corner of the upper back panel of the tank for the overflow bottom of tank is tempered glass). <OK> These would drain to a 29 gal sump with an AquaC EV 120 skimmer and the water would be returned by a SEN 900 pump through 3/4" pipe over the top center of the tank with 3 outlets. <Great> I would like to have a 1" live sand bed and 75 #s of live rock in the display tank.  The occupants of the tank would be as follows: 1 Percula Clown 2 Green Chromis 1 Spotted Cardinal 1 Hi Fin Goby 1 Chocolate Chip Starfish 1 Turbo Snail 3 crabs 1 Coral Beauty 1 Yellow Tang 1 butterfly <pretty vague...but I would not recommend any butterfly to a tank less than a year old> May add some corals down the road <Not with your current list of tenants.  Skip the crabs and the chocolate chip starfish, and it's possible to keep corals in this setup.  Coral Beauties are seen in reefs, but usually eat coral polyps in a system of this size.> I am concerned about the filtration (nitrate levels in the long run) and the water flow rate. <Nitrate levels will not become uncontainable with regular water changes.> I would like to keep the maintenance to once a month. <Hmm...all reef tanks require daily maintenance.  Once a month for a regular overhaul is OK, but you'll need to observe and react daily.> Would the skimmer, live sand and live rock be enough filtration? <Yes> Would the 2 -1 1/2" bulkheads provide enough flow? <Yes> I have used the drain and overflow calculator at reefcentral but I think that this tool is based on the drains being drilled in the bottom of the tank. <as long as your systems TOTAL turnover is more that 10x hourly, you're ok.>  I also used the head loss calculator and came up with 546gph.     Would a DSB in the sump be a good idea? <No, the volume of water moving through the sump makes it a bad place for a DSB.> I could rearrange the DIY glass sump that I have already made to accommodate an area that would be 16"L x 9"H x 8W for live sand, but I have read on the site that DSB is not ideal for FOWLR set ups because of the bio load. <I'd spend the money on more quality live rock.>  I do have an area in the sump that I could put bio balls that would always be submerged would this be better than the live sand in the sump? <No, better to cram it full of rock.> I have been reading a lot of the articles and FAQs on WetWeb for the past three weeks and I am so confused.  My head really hurts from all the info. <This hobby is supposed to be therapeutic! ;)  Good luck, Ryan> Information overload!!!!!!! Sincerely, Doug

Sump/refugium/deep sand bed - confusion I have been reading many of your FAQs and doing a lot of internet research over the past couple of months. <Research is the best thing anyone can do for a reef tank.  Kudos for taking the time to look it all over.> We set up our FOWLR tank 15 months ago and are now wanting to upgrade to a reef tank.   Current setup: 77 gal AGA Fluval 404 canister filter Seaclone skimmer 4x96W fluorescent light 2 powerheads approx. 30 lbs live rock 2" live sand/crushed coral bed <Well, the Seaclone skimmers aren't the best on the market, but it does get the job done.  If you are going to do light loving corals and things like clams you will need some lights that are much more powerful than that.  Check out of the Lighting section on Wetwebmedia.com to learn more about what sort of lighting you will need for the corals you wish to keep.  I myself like a bit more live rock in my tank, one to two pounds per gallon.  But that is all up to personal taste.  If you feel that 30lbs is enough then that sounds fine.  As for the sand bed, With larger tanks many reefers are finding Deep Sand Beds to be very beneficial to the overall well being of their tank.  I myself use sand beds, and skip the crushed coral.  My findings were that large crushed coral has lots of dead spaces for food and waste to rot in.  The sugar grain sized sand in my tank not only looks nice it also offers a low oxygen area for the beneficial bacteria to break down the ammonia.> What I would like to do is get rid of the filter and plumb in a sump so that skimmer and heater etc. can be hidden.   <Very good plan, tank looks so much more natural without all the extra stuff hanging in the tank.> I understand from your site that the Seaclone skimmer isn't very effective and plan to buy a new one (am thinking about the Aqua C EV180). <A nice skimmer, a friend purchased one recently and he hasn't had any complaints.> First question - is the 4x96 light strip going to be ok to keep low to med light corals (tank is 20" deep)?   <Depending on the bulbs you use, and how often you replace them then there are a some low light corals and mushrooms that would do quite well in lighting like that.  Other corals you might need to feed more often to balance of the amount of light.> I also plan to add 40-50 lbs additional live rock and create a 4" DSB in the main tank. My purposes for this would be NNR and phosphate reduction. <This is why it pays for me to read the emails prior to answering them.  I had addressed the issues above.  More rock is good, and DSB are great!>     I am currently battling a hair algae problem which I am fairly certain is due to high PO4 due to a lazy maintenance schedule (nitrite is 0 and nitrate less than 10). <Getting a bit lazy with tanks will lead to some outbreaks of some weird stuff.  Luckily it was hair algae, which can be eaten by many clean up critters (Turbo snails being a big one). I did a 40% water change 2 weeks ago, and another 25% change last week and plan to continue on a 5-10% weekly water change using RO/DI water. <Good plan.>   My test kit only does PH/Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate but plan to buy a better kit. <having a better kit will definitely assure that you will know much more about your tanks well being.  For corals you will want to know the Calcium and Alkalinity levels.> I am confused as to how to accomplish NNR - so much conflicting advice. <Simply put, by having a deep enough sand bed, which should be around 5 inches, you will have a low oxygen area and should offer a great area for the bacteria to grow and do their work.  There are a few good articles in our articles section here on WetWebMedia.  And I also suggest checking out the Forums here as well.  You will meet a few folks that really know there stuff about NNR.> Does what I am planning sound workable?   <To me it sounds quite workable.  I've known people have impressive reef tanks with much less.> I don't have much space under the tank and want components hidden as tank is in living room, so would have to pick either a sump or a refugium.  I am leaning towards a sump as the refugium would never be seen under there and I would have to find yet another outlet to plug a light into.  Basically I need a simple but effective filtration method.  I plan to keep my current tank inhabitants (lawnmower blenny, firefish goby, blue damsel, 2 BBT anemones, blue band goby, and canary wrasse) and add some corals like torch coral, mushroom, xenia, easier LPS. <Bubble Tip Anemones are more delicate than any of the other corals you will be adding to this tank.  I would do some research into what they need in order to thrive.  Anemones really don't have a great track record in people's tanks.  In fact somewhere between 80-90% of Anemones imported in die in home aquariums due to poor tank conditions.> Do I need a refugium in addition to a DSB for effective filtration? <Adding a refugium will be beneficial to the tank in general.  It's not a needed thing in the grand scheme of things with use with DSBs.  But, a refugium will over a larger volume of water, since the depth of the sand bed will remove the effective water volume from the tank.> Thanks for any advice you can offer. Barbara Ottley <Hope that helps.  Good luck, and keep up the research.  I suggest you also look at getting the book "The conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Robert Fenner.  It's a great book and will give you a great deal of knowledge of the subject. -Magnus>

DSB - 2/5/04 Thanks for that. <No problem> OK, about the sand, the refugium at present is a stand alone 20 g tank, with a 4 inch DSB over a 1 inch plenum. <Perfect. Don't have to have the plenum, but doesn't hurt to have it in the configuration really> As you say, it does have a lot of microfauna in it, <Excellent> however, I was going to pull the DSB during the tank transformation to a refugium, and go bare bottom refugium, because it has been starting to get algae, which I have attributed to phosphate buildup in the DSB. <Possible for a sand bed to retain phosphates but sometimes there are other reasons as well. Try to increase circulation if you can, look into replacing bulbs if they are old, add more seaweeds and Algaes, maybe add a few algae cleaners (if they apply) and don't under estimate the value of more frequent water changes> However, I have been feeling bad about removing the DSB, because it has been excellent for nitrate reduction. <I agree. Exactly why deep sand beds are ideal and natural> It is actually aragonite, could you recommend anything I could do that would allow me to rescue this DSB and save it to use in the refugium? <Hmmmm........look through here for some ideas: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Plenums.htm  Worst case scenario, you rebuild the bed without the plenum, then add some of the old sand to the top of your newly added deep sand bed. Not really sure this is a great answer but I hope it inspires some thinking. Thanks for the question, ~Paul>

DSB and Skimmer 1/30/04 I read Anthony's bit on alk/ca supplementation, and was wondering when he claims the ideal being a deep sand bed of 10+ cm aragonite sand, and mentions water movement, is that water movement through the sand via a undergravel type filter system or just movement at the surface of the sand? <not through the sand at all my friend... do read up on deep sand beds and all will be clear soon/promptly. They are static beds intended in large part to be anoxic to support natural nitrate reduction. Dr. Ron Shimek has an inexpensive handbook on the subject and we have the most extensive coverage of the topic currently in our "Reef Invertebrates" book. But getting back to your question... just strong water flow above the sand bed is needed to keep particulates in suspension for proper handling (consumption by filter feeders, export by skimmer, etc). Good water flow prevents excessive solid matter from penetrating and accumulating in the deep sand bed (DSB)> I have two 400w Metal Halide lamps on my reef setup which is 32" deep, one is 5500k the other is 6500k and are in a homemade melamine hood about 30" above the surface of the water, with two 20,000k 40Watt fluorescents and two 40Watt actinics, I don't know too much about lighting, and am concerned the balance of the halides to the actinics is too far out, (lots of halide, very little actinic),  I was considering switching the two  40w actinics to two VHO actinics, and maybe downing the halides to 200Watts each at around 10,000k, would this be beneficial or a waste of even more money? You are very much on the right track here my friend. The 400 watters are excessive unless your display is a hardcore collection of shallow water Acroporids (or other shallow water corals) and/or clams. Lower wattage halides would be just fine. The fluorescents (of any color) are not needed here particularly when you use lamps 6500K or higher. They are just for aesthetics if you like> Lastly, I have a Berlin classic skimmer with a mag 700 on it, and in the last few months it has hardly been doing anything at all, <they have this reputation. I myself do not care for the model/brand... not as consistent as other models IMO like Euroreef or AquaC> it takes like maybe a cup a month or so, <oh, my... with a good skimmer you can get this every 2 days!!! In some cases more. Your skimmer needs cleaned (distilled water and vinegar) at the very least> it use to do lots more, now even with the air venturi opened all the way it still does not overskim at all, even if I hook up a air pump the venturi it still does not over skim, it doesn't even skim properly at all, and I can tell I am having my dissolved pollutants build up because I am getting my tank covered with Cyano Bacteria, <correct my friend.. the a good skimmer is crucial for success in most tanks> so I am having to do extra water changing to try to fix it, I checked  the flow rate coming out of the skimmer and with the 700gph pump  and the skimmer being submerged about 8" in the sump the output of the skimmer is only 90gph, that seems very low to me, would replacing the pump (its about 1.5 yrs old) help the skimmer perform like it use to? <there a bigger flaw here... the skimmer shouldn't be sitting in he sump proper with a fluctuating water level (sump to evaporation. Moreover... it needs to catch all raw water from the overflow first. Even the best skimmer would not perform well as you have it here my friend. Do build a skimmer partition in the tank to catch all raw water in a standing overflow that runs over to the open sump. Then give the skimmer  good cleaning and lets see if that helps. Frankly, having talked to so many aquarists that would not take this brand of skimmer for free (no kidding) because of its design/reliability and difficulty of getting consistent skimmate... I am wondering if you just should not look at upgrading here. Kind regards, Anthony>

Deep Sand Bed Height - 1/26/04 Hello there, <Hi> I am constructing a 15 gallon sump for my 29 Tall aquarium. The sump will have three compartments, the first will be for the run-off / skimmer, the second will be a 10" Wide x 12" Deep (or 120 Square Inch) live sand area, and the third will be for the return pump. I have heard that 6" was a good depth for a DSB. <Yeah, but not exactly the rule of thumb> Can you tell me what you recommend for my set-up.<4-6 inches is fine. Be sure to add some quality live sand from some other aquarist's tank or from a trusted LFS. The bag stuff just wont quite do it. Not that it is not a good product, but not as full of various inverts that are beneficial to the sand bed> If I didn't have to go 6" deep, instead using a 4 to even 5" deep DSB, that would help my design much better. <Then go for it. No worries. I think you will find the benefits somewhat the same. Quality over quantity> I want to make sure that I will get the same benefits from a 6" DSB though. <You will be fine. Happy reefing! ~Paul> Thanks a bunch! Aaron

Deep Sand bed questions - 1/23/04 Thank you for your great web site and great book! <Thanks for purchasing the book and reading here> My question is, if I use 8 inches of Carib sea Tahitian moon black sand in my main tank will I get the benefits of a live DSB, or is the sand just too coarse to get an NNR effect? <Nope. Will be fine> Will I end up with a big mess because of trapped detritus in this sand? <Just use a baster to put the detritus in circulation before a water change> I don't have to use the sand if it is going to cause problems, I just really like the look of a dark substrate. <No worries> I also have a refugium that has the capacity to put as much as 1ft of Carib sea Aragamax sugar fine sand in it. The refugium is 4ftL  2ft wide and 20 inches tall. Is there a point of diminishing returns when it comes to sand beds? <Possible but not much scientific evidence to prove such as of yet. I hear Bob Toonen is working on some science and sandbed stuff. Look for it soon> Is it best to have the sand base as deep as possible or is there a limit where you start going in the wrong direction. <As stated above but you could look/see here for all kinds of information on DSBs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> Also, before this tank there is another tank that will hold a mud/algae refugium that is the same dimensions. How deep should the mud be? <3-5 inches> Is there a point of diminishing returns with mud as well? I believe same as above> I am also going to be using live rock, protein skimming, a calcium reactor, a sump sponge that I rinse out daily, and a canister carbon filter that I turn on from time to time when needed. The water will flow through the sump in this order, first to the protein skimmer, then through a sump sponge to a chamber with the carbon filter, then into the mud/algae refugium, then into the deep sand bed refugium, then into a tank with the calcium reactor, then back to the main tank. I put the carbon and sump sponge before the refugiums because I don't want to filter out any beneficial organisms. <Exactly> I figure If I am cycling all the water in my tank 10 times an hour they should still be able to have an effect on water clarity where they are. Let me know if I am wrong in this thinking. A Final question, my tank is a 140 gallon 48.5 x 24.5 x 28.5., My lighting is 2 250 watt halide bulbs, one 10,000k one 65,000k <You mean to say 6500K> and 4 95 watt compact florescent 03 actinics. Given that I will have a 8 inch DSB the light penetration of the water will now be 20.5in instead of 27in. The lights are suspended 1ft above the open air tank. <Too high. I would keep them around 6-8 inches if possible> In this tank I will want to keep anemones, corals, clams etc.. I would list the species but I haven't decided just yet. <Then I would go with two 400W MH's if possible or some mixture if it is financially possible> Should I go with the 250 watt halides or the 175 watt. The fixtures are very expensive so I want to go with the choice that offers the greatest latitude. <then 250s it is> The substrate will be black as well as the back of the aquarium, which I know absorbs allot of light. <~Paul> Thank You, Greg Kirton       O Where, O Where Should a DSB Be? (1/21/04)    Hi!, Hope everyone is doing well. <Thanks. Steve Allen here. I certainly am. Just went snorkeling for the first time in my life with Bob F here in Kailua-Kona. It is amazing what's right there in the water that most people are oblivious to.>    My question has several parts, I will try to be brief. I am going from a 90 gal. to a 180 gal. aquarium. <Great> I am try to decide between these options. A 55 gal. sump or larger? <As big as you can fit where you plan to put it.> Also should I put a deep sand bed in the sump or in the tank? <Either or both would work. I have mine in a pair of refugiums plumbed to my 180G.> In the 90 gal. I was using a deep sand bed in the tank and macro algae in the sump. Also I have about 150 lbs. of live rock that I will be transferring over. If the sand in in sump is preferred, can I still put a thin layer of sand in the tank, like an inch or so? (1/2 to 1 inch to cover the bottom is nice. If you want a wrasse that buries itself at night, you'll need a DSB in the main tank. Hope this helps.>

DSB vs. Plenum (1/14/2004) Steve (or whichever highly-appreciated crew member is answering today), <me again> Thank you for the response.  To follow-up on a few of your questions/comments...    <Why put a plenum in your refugium? A simple DSB should work fine.>:  I have read many postings on this trying to determine the best approach.  GARF.org swears by the use of plenums on all of their "bulletproof" systems. <IMO, no system is fully "bulletproof" either literally or figuratively. Some are surely less likely to fail than others, though. The real key is good maintenance habits.> Even in one of the WetWebMedia postings where someone asked the question "Should I use a DSB or a plenum in my sump/refugium?", the answer was "Why not have the benefits of both?  You can include a DSB over a plenum..." <True> I have read having a plenum can be disastrous but it seems that this happens when a plenum is poorly designed/maintained. <Agreed. Anything can be disastrous if mismanaged.> Of course I want to use what is the best NNR method but I have not found agreement on this. <And you will not find it. Put 3 aquarists in a room and you'll get at least 2 differing opinions.> Do you foresee problems with using a plenum or advantages of a DSB rather than a DSB over a plenum? <I think you can do fine with any of these. The key is for you to be willing/able to keep up proper maintenance. You should consider getting Bob & Anthony's "Reef Invertebrates" book and reading the DSB/Refugium/Algae chapters. Very helpful. The rest of the book is great too. You may also want to read some of Bob Goeman's writings on the subject.> <Can you make the refugium any bigger?>:  I might be able to make the refugium slightly bigger but it needs to it inside my stand and I would like to maintain *some* room inside the stand to store food, chemicals, etc.  I also already have a spare 20 gal high aquarium, so this is just a convenient fit.  Are you concerned that a 20 gal refugium will have little beneficial effect on a 180 gal aquarium? <Bigger is always better, but 20G is sure to be valuable. Convenient fit is very important.> Regarding the 100-150 gph flow rate, I should have mentioned that this is the pump's rating.  The refugium will be located about 1 - 1 ? feet above my sump so the actual flow rate will be reduced.  I do want the flow to be low enough to give the refugium time to react with the water so, I will be restricting this flow if it appears to be too high.  I had read that a flow rate of 3-10 times the refugium volume is recommended.  Do you agree with this? <Yes, but not so much as to disturb the sand bed. I like to be on the lower end myself. 10X flow in a 20G will likely be too turbulent for the sand and the 'pods>

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

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

Getting In Deep! (Deep Sand Bed Implementation) Love your web site. Talk about a plethora of useful information! <Glad to hear that! Scott F. with you today!> I'm setting up a 180 gallon marine fish/reef aquarium and am thinking about using a 4" depth DSB/1 or 2" plenum (are my numbers correct?) filtration system in a 55 gallon aquarium I'll be using for the DSB and sump.  I'm concerned whether other filtration is required.  I'm also considering skipping the sump and may set up the 180 as a self contained DSB system unless you can tell me why I should use a sump). <Well, in addition to adding water volume to your system, a sump will provide you a "nerve center" to process system water, by utilizing chemical filtration media, mechanical media (such as pads or filter bags), macroalgae for nutrient export (in a lighted section of the sump, etc. You can also house equipment there, such as protein skimmers, probes, heaters, etc.> In either case, once the DSB is functioning, will I need any kind of filters, such as a particulate prefilter, protein skimmer, bio ball-type filter, etc? <Yes, in my opinion, you will. A protein skimmer is an absolutely essential piece of equipment, providing a "first line of defense" against the accumulation of organics. I would not use bioballs in your filtration system, as they will actually accumulate the very substance (nitrate) that a DSB excels at removing.> I'm also wondering how much water flow (throughput) I should plan for the DSB sump or standalone 180 gallon DSB tank? <Well, in the main tank, it really depends on the types of animals you intend to keep. If you are looking at a hardcore SPS setup, 10-20 turnovers per hour is minimum. You can tee off some of the flow to your remote DSB, or use any number of different configurations. Do check out the DIY site ozreef.org for lots of ideas on sump systems and designs...> Can the DSB sump pump be used as the only circulation source for the main tank in a reef setup, or is the DSB meant to be a trickle type, meaning an additional pump is required for main tank circulation? <Again- no hard and fast rule here. Ideally, it would be cool if you could have the remote DSB as a "supplement" to your main sump, in order to get the best of both worlds.> Is detritus vacuuming required in the main tank in either case? Thanks, Dan Kelley <I would not do any vacuuming other than the first half an inch or so, which will avoid disrupting the processes occurring in the DSB. You can read a lot about the many options that you have right here on the WWM site! Have fun with the research, and enjoy setting up your system! Good luck! Regards, Scott F> System set up 1/1/04 Hello <Hi Martin.  Happy New Year!> I am currently setting up a marine system and intend to use a DSB, the display tank is 60"x24" highx19" deep with a sump 48"x15"x15". I intend to make the DSB 5-6" deep <Sounds like a nice system and an appropriately deep bed.> my questions are can I seed and mature the DSB before connection in to the main tank. then add live rock to the main tank. <IMO, the best way to seed the bed is with the live rock itself.  A lot of critters will migrate from the rock to the sand.  This is especially true if you get good quality rock that has not been overly processed.  Another reason to add the live rock first is that without it, the system will be too "sterile" and there will not be any food or diversity of habitat for the critters to exploit.> i have not seen anywhere a detailed procedure for setting up a system with a DBS. can you please help ? <Generally, it is simplest and most effective to add the sand, fill the tank with salt water and then add the rock and some water movement devices (can be through the sump, or just powerheads).  Once cycling is complete and things have stabilized, add additional critters to "seed" the bed.  It is also ideal to let the tank go fish free for a couple more weeks while adding small amounts of food to feed all of the critters that you want to grow.  When adding rock, do be sure that it is placed so that it won't topple of the sand shifts.  Also, I put as little rock in to or in contact with the sand as possible, even going so far as using PVC pipe sections as "legs" to support the rock.  This prevents "dead spots" of no water movement, leaves more sand area exposed and gives you more for your money on live rock.  Also ask around in your local aquarium club or other aquarists and see what folks are happy with and unhappy with to help guide your set up.> best regards. Martin <Good luck, and let us know if you have any other questions.  Adam>

Sulfurous Odor In Sand 2 (12/23/2003) Ahh, I'm sorry for bugging you guys <no problem>, as I have figured out that this is not a  bad thing.  After a bit of thought, I have realized that this smell is inevitable and it means I have a achieved an anaerobic sand depth.  Right?  Hehe. <Some sulfurous smells from the sand when you mess with it go along with the process, but you would not want your tank emitting a sulfurous odor from th3e water. The good DSB practices mentioned in my last posting, on WWM or in Bob & Anthony's Reef Invertebrate book should help maintain a healthy, functioning DSB. Good luck, Steve Allen.>

DSB and Tank Water Emergency  SOS Hi Crew:  this SOS is directed to Anthony, and if he is not there, the deep sand bed specialists in the group. <cheers, Connie> My husband installed a new Rio 1100 powerhead at one end of our 60 gallon tank last night.  It fell off a couple of times as he can't seem to get those black round things to hold it.  It did a lot of damage to the sand bed at that end of the tank.  He then tied it up in some way  to the canopy to hold it there "temporarily". <those suction cups for all such pumps are really weak. Its always best to use the clamps provided. If you must use the cups... then drop the water level in the tank temporarily and silicone the suctions in place.> Meantime, he moved the powerhead at the other end of the tank and it fell off during the night and has blown the sand bed away to within 1" of the bottom of the tank.  Now he tied that one up too. He tells me he has searched your website for these answers: 1.  The sand bed is a one-year old fully stocked 5-6" deep sand bed.  Has this opened up dead areas in the sand bed and are poisonous gasses leaking into the tank? <nope... the poisonous gas fear is a boogey man. It rarely occurs and only exists in truly neglected tanks> 2.  We had just done a water change and are low on RO water with very little reserve.  What will happen to the water?  It has tested okay for nitrates, ammonia, etc.  so far   What has happened to my seeded sand bed?  Has this killed all the critters?   <none of the above... little or no harm was done I assure you. Test to verify and do another water change in days/week(s) if needed> 3.  I have four small fish in the tank, should I removed them to my 30 gallon which has 3 small fish in it until everything dies down in the tank and I smooth out the sand bed? <Yikes... not needed as per above> 4.  We can buy seawater at LFS and replace water if we have to.  I am also worried about all my live rock and the critters that dwell therein.  If I blow off the sand it will pollute the water, that is, can all these fish survive another sandstorm from cleaning off the rock?  The water has just started to clear now. <do siphon or blow the sand off the rocks... and think of it exactly like a storm in the ocean. These creatures are largely used to it> I am in the middle of a bad situation here and don't know what to do. <have a beer. You'll feel better. At least, I know I'd feel better. OK... play some Moody Blues or Pink Floyd too to play it safe> Also, isn't there SOME WAY we can glue these black rubber things onto acrylic tanks so that this doesn't happen.  My husband, the perpetrator, says he searched your website high and low for answers. <no worries... do silicone them if the clamps are not an option. Its also really not tough to make a clamp with plastic stock sheet or even PVC pipe and some cable ties to fix the power head at any depth you might like> Many thanks for your help on this one. Connie <happy holidays, my friend... Anthony>

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

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

- Sand Bed for 125 - Hi, I am setting up a 125 gallon FOWLR. I intend to have some burrowing gobies and other things that like sand. I am wondering how deep to make my sand bed and if you know how much sand (in lbs) would it take to cover a standard 125 (6'X18") in the recommended bed depth.  Thanks a ton, Kevin <Hmm... good question. First the burrowing fish... you'll probably need a substrate that isn't too fine, but isn't too coarse either. A mix of three quarters fine substrate - 1/16 to 1/4" particles and one quarter slightly more coarse 1/4 to 3/4" substrate will make for something worth building a burrow in. Then, in total you'll need about three pounds per gallon for a six inch sand bed... give or take... you can always add more later if you need to. Cheers, J -- >

DSB questions 12/20/03 Thank you greatly for your reply. I will be purchasing your book as recommended. I also look forward to having you back to a future meeting of the Atlanta Reef Club. <Thanks kindly. I really had a wonderful time with the Atlanta club. A great gang! I'm looking forward to returning.> I will add circulation per your recommendations, however with the amount of water actually in the sump, this seems very high. <it has been common (and flawed) in recent years to hear recommendations for low flow in refugiums. The correct water flow wholly depends on the need of what it being kept in the refugium. Just like lighting in the display (we should buy lights only after deciding what corals will be kept). And so... a 'fuge with Chaetomorpha, Gracilaria, macroalgae etc. will need moderate to high water flow to keep the macro tumbling for optimal light, health, growth. A 'fuge used as an unlit settling chamber on the other hand will indeed need slow flow. Address your critters needs first then we'll finesse water flow... but 10X is a minimum in my book, with closer to 20X needed to avoid slime algae growth if nothing else for most aquarists)> It being a sump, it is only about 2/3 full, and with the 6" bed i feel there is at most 15 gallons of water in there that is already being turned over 20+ times per hour. If you believe it will help i will ad the obligatory MJ 1200 to add 300gph. <actually, your 20X sounds fine then... I missed or did not read/notice the exact specs in the last e-mail> I do have some concern for the macros I have in there at this flow rate. <generally more the better for growth my friend. The ocean is a very dynamic environment> Also, i do have a medium size brittle star in there to catch detritus as much as he can. This current version of the DSB has only been in about one week. Previously it lacked the top level of sugar fine. My nitrates prior to its introduction were about 30. I executed a 30% water change and one week later my nitrates are at about 8. Seems to be working to some degree? <yes... and it will be better in time> Thank you again for your attention and continued service to the hobby. JL <best regards, Anthony>  

DSB questions 12/19/03 I have a couple questions about deep sand beds and one about media placement. I read and read but couldn't seem to find the answer to my particular situation. <if you are interested, we have the most up to date and comprehensive coverage on the subject in our book "Reef Invertebrates" by Calfo and Fenner. About 100 pages dedicated to live sand, refugiums plants and algae.> I'm running a 150g mixed reef with a medium fish load. The tank has very little substrate in the main tank, has about 200 pounds of LR, and is skimmed by an AquaC ev120. There is no mechanical filtration. I have been fighting nitrate as an issue and have installed a DSB in one of my sumps. It is a 29g standard aquarium sump, and has approximately 6" of substrate. I have read your articles and see that you don't recommend semi coarse material of 2-4mm size, but that it is more of a problem if the bed isn't deep enough. <correct... coarse sand requires deeper beds, better water flow and some stirring likely to succeed. Sugar fine sand is far more effective and less maintenance. Most folks see nitrates drop in as little as 2 weeks with fine sand> My sand bed is 6" deep. The bottom 2.5" is the larger 2-4 mm size, the upper 3.5" is composed of 50% medium grade 1-2mm size, 40% sugar fine .2-1mm size, and 10% miracle mud. <I frankly feel that mixing media is a handicap... none get a chance to excel with biological faculties best suited for their grade for the modest amount of each> At this depth and composition should I achieve significant denitrification without risk of creating the nutrient sink you speak of? <I cannot say. It depends on many factors. Your lack of mechanical filtration will hurt you here... especially if the water flow is not strong over the bed or if the bed is not sifted or stirred by you> The circulation through that sump is approximately half of the main pump capacity which is about 750gph, so 375 through that sump. <not bad... but not strong flow either. I'd increase this by 2X> Should I add additional circulation to this area or should that be sufficient? <yes, as per above... and I'd be prepared to perhaps convert this to fine sand if you do not see a drop in nitrates in 4 weeks. Fine beds of sand can pull system nitrates to near zero in less than one month if deep enough (over 5" sugar fine grade)> I'm also curious about media placement. I don't have any canister filters or such, so getting good flow through my media is not easy. I have an oceanic reef ready type aquarium and I place the media in bags, then tie the bags to the slots in the overflow so that the overflow water spills through the bags on its way down. Have you seen this done and do you think it is adequate? <its not ideal, my friend. Exposing chemical media like carbon to raw water coats it quickly with organics and reduces its lifespan and efficacy. you really need prefiltered water here. It could be done with a simple HOB power filter like a Hagen Aquaclear (one foam block and one satchel of your desired chemical media and voila)> Sorry for the long write, I hope I didn't leave anything out. Thanks, JL <best of luck, Anthony>

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