Please visit our Sponsors
FAQs about Deep Sand Beds, Maintenance/Replacing/Moving/Addition To

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

Related FAQs: DSBs 1, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 5, DSBs 6,  & 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,

Some animals you've got to be careful re adding dust... Tridacna crocea Lamarck 1819, the Crocus Giant or Burrowing Clam. 

DSB Transition      12/5/16
Aloha Bob, I followed your tip and remove all the black cinders from the first stage of my sump.
Together with installing a GFO reactor I have gotten the phosphates down from 5 to <.25. Here's a pic of my DT, which I may keep shallow and vacuumed then install a DSB remotely.
<Very good>
Do you like the idea of a giant Rubbermaid tub DSB\Refugium as part of this system.
<Yes I do. These are MIGHTY fine products... sturdy, easy to modify, chemically inert... and cheap per volume>
Looks like Cyano keeps creeping in .
<Time going by here... Patience!>
Still no coralline with 12KDH. Using RI water now with lots of water changes. Only has come down from 14- high KDH is still a mystery.
<Time here as well>
I plan to add a few inches to my sump, regardless. In the next image you can see my current second chamber of my outdoor sump. There are some layers of cinders in there and lots of life.
<I see>
My main question is do I remove all that sand pictures in my sump, since it may have trapped phosphates- then leave a little bit to re-seed the coral sand? Or do you feel it's safe to just place new sand atop this and not stir things up too much?
<The latter is the route I'd go>
Keep in mind I have plenty of room outside to plumb in a new sump or remote DSB. Would you replace the 20gal sump with a 36-90 since I have the room?
My DT is 100g. Mahaloz!
<I would ALWAYS make sumps, refugiums, DSBs... As LARGE as possible>
Sky Kubby
<Bob Kubby>

Too view of sump.      12/5/16
This goes with my last two emails for perspective....
Sky Kubby

DSB replacement cont...      12/5/16
Here's a couple more follow up pics show the close up of the layer of black cinders in the sand bed. Remove or safe to cover with more sand?
<Safe to cover>
Also note the precarious positioning of my sump on the ledge. This is why I'm thinking of replacing it with a long larger sup against the back with a proper base. Do you agree or think this will suffice? Thanks!
<I'd replace w/ larger w/ proper base for sure. BK>
Sky Kubby

Re: DSB Transition      12/5/16
Perfect, thanks! Since I’m solar powered I’m going to gravity drain from this sump into the RubberMaid via a 2” pipe, or something, so as not to add an extra pump and possible failing system.
<You are wise here>
Or better yet, use this sump inside the (250g?) RubberMaid, as a pump return chamber! ;-)
By the way I see you replied Bob Kubby. Is this a typo, or a long-lost relative!? LOL!
<Just pulling your fins, BobF>
In Radiant Health,
Sky Kubby

Please help.. have a question concerning deep sand beds      4/11/16
I have a sumpless 50 gallon breeder about 3 years up and running. live
stock one pair bonded onyx ocellaris, one royal gr. 3 hermits (phasing them out of my system )blood shrimp, a mix of snails . Hob refugium w/Chaeto, ReefOct protein skimmer, now I'm thinking back to 3 years ago so approx 40 lbs Pukani on shelf made of pvc/egg create n aquarium sealant thought it would help with water circulation and also detritus build up and easily removing it. 2inch sugar fine sand bed,
<Mmm; must have a screen twixt this and the eggcrate>
also have 60 lbs of sugar fine dry sand unused on hand my perimeters in check besides nitrate about
<Much too high>

seems to be sand bed my method of reason is the 2+2=4 methodology. i want to go back to reef keeping softies again but want to go dsb,
<Yes; I would>
now my 2+2=4 methodology is failing me,becuase I do see life in the sand bed also small bubbles in the front of the class not sure if I should vacuum in small portions the 2-inch sand bed that I have and remove the Shelf
make sure my nitrates come down,
<Yes; I'd remove the shelf; after removing the present sand... add the new (washed) that you've saved out thus far along w/ replacing the old in the tank... Putting all in here>
I'm not even sure if they can hit 0 or if they even need to come down all the way just trying to get the Trapped
detritus out of the bed or at least most of it . Than slowly start to add a half an inch of dry sand mixed in to the top layer and maybe add week by week until I reach my 4-inch Sand Depth, or if I should just try to remove the hole sand bed and start again I'm not I don't know I'm kind of at a loss now.
<As stated above. mix, add altogether and put in sans the eggcrate and screen>
Now what I was told by someone else is to go ahead and just add 2 inches on top of the existing sand bed which my 2+2=4 tells me that that wouldn't be a good idea because reality is that I would be Trapping all the detritus and that last two inches along with all the life. This scenario I have partially arisen because of poor, husbandry do to illness.
Am trying to fix problem.
Thank you so much in advance....jay
<IF you have time, interest, search and READ on WWM re DSBs, Plenums,  Nitrate Control. All search-able.
Bob Fenner>
re: Please help.. have a question concerning deep sand beds      4/11/16

Yes thank you very much again yes I was already reading for the past few days , but I couldn't find the scenario remotely similar to mine or maybe I didn't go down far enough I know that a lot of readings where from 06. I
have no screen the only thing that I have is egg crate on top of PVC stilts
I guess you would say thin pipes ,
and the 60 pounds of sand that's dry is just what I didn't use after my initial setup for years ago basically from
what I understand from my email back is to go ahead and scrap da 3 year old sand bed what I have inside of the tank,
<Or rinse it very well before re-using>

that means that I would have to get and least 2- 30 lbs possibly 3 bags of dry aragonite sugar fine sand, after I have siphoned all of the sand out then I can just put that sand directly in there I'm assuming that I'm keeping  at least maybe a half an inch of my existence and or not to be able to put that on top the dry dead sand,
<.... READ HERE: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbdangers.htm >
I really thought that I could save my existing sand, maybe I can get a screen,
<You can....>
I have some that I purchased years ago but I don't remember what I purchased I know it's black .. maybe it was black fiberglass
<This or plastic screen door material will do/work>
I don't know how they come I'll find out maybe it would be good to add ask got to go too deep into the layers as far as fish speaking of that what I have to take the fish out and put them in a 5 gallon bucket, and at what time could
they be added back to the dt, because I really don't know how or if the tank cycles and how that's going to affect livestock cuz I have never went this route of adding stuff back to the tank especially at that quantity..
you again
<Welcome. BobF>
re: Please help.. have a question concerning deep sand beds... the fifth time      4/11/16

And this is assuming that I understood exactly what you said, my apologies I'm not technically a writer and I try to proofread as best as I could so I hope that I didn't say something that may be confusing situation
<Is, was... I'd just re-wash and add to your current sand... removing the support. Clear? B>
re: Please help.. have a question concerning deep sand beds      4/11/16

Basically take the two inches that I currently have out of DT because I can reuse it to top off the 60 dry dead sand..so just basically I am reusing it but just rinsing the sand getting the detritus out ,presumably with saltwater so I can still retain some of the life that's in the sand, then install the new 60 pounds of dry dead sugar fine aragonite, then with the other 2 inches that I already rinsed top off which should get me around 4 inches or so if not 4 inches then I'll probably have to buy some more mix it in at the top and then from there it should be smooth sailing ,also ditch the rock lifts and just put the live rock directly on the same bed..than I should be able to add at my livestock.lol I think I've got it if this is what you're saying. I hope I don't come off as sounding slow...trust me am not slow..lol this is just a newer thing I have never encounter during a setup normally I would never have done this in the middle of a setup that's already been established and if I were I would start from scratch...sorry...bout this I truly value the information.. so if this is basically the steps.... then I just need to make a plan to be able to execute at all and one shot.. thank you for the very fast reply especially on a Sunday.... and I will continue to browse the web site
<Good. B>

Remote Deep Sand Bed Problems     10/2/15
Hello Mr., How are you?
<Fine; thank you Andrei>
It has been a while since I wrote, so greetings from Romania.
<Salutations from California>
Everything has been all right aquarium wise. I am glad to tell you that my Zanclus is doing fine after 2 and a half years in my tank, and so are the rest of the inhabitants. I now have a question about my remote deep sand bed that I have in the basement. It is a 1.5 meters long, 50 cm wide and 25 cm of 1 mm fine sand. It is in function for more than a year now, it
has Chaetomorpha growing on top and 2 Centropyge living in there. There are 3-4 large live rock pieces on top of the sand. The water movement is consisting of a gravitational feed from the sump above and an overflow on the other end that goes to another sump filled with liverock, maybe 4-5000 liters /hour. The thing is that I have always tried to never disturb the
DSB. Now, I see a lot of worms when the lights go on (reverse lighting for the Chaeto ), also from lateral side I see many channels that worms must have digged, a lot of pods and small crustaceans but nothing really big enough ( I think ) that could stir the sand.
<I would periodically do this.... to part; let's say half of the bed.>
I avoided putting sandstars or gobies in there so they don't eat the benefic fauna. But today, I have tried to stir the surface of the sand to see how clean is it and I can tell you that a cloud of detritus come out. A big one! Now, what do you think I should do?
<Vacuum part of it each maintenance period/interval>
Keep stirring it little by little? Or siphon it?
<A bit of both>
And what should I do for the future?
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbmaint.htm
should I put some powerheads to increase the water movement? Should I add some more critters , and if yes, what is in your opinion the best crew for a remote DSB. Any other advices on this ?Thank you very much, Andrei from Romania
<The reading. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

DSB for new 150gal setup     1/13/15
Hello. I am starting a new 150gal FOWLR aquarium and want to do a DSB of 4".
<Sounds good>
I was able to secure 120lbs of Carib sea special grade sand 1-2mm at next to nothing from a friend (he aborted his set up 3 mo.s ago and had it sitting in his basement). Would it be a bad idea to get 2" worth of live sand, of a smaller grain size, put that down first and then put the Carib special grade on top to make up the sand bed?
<I'd just get more fine sand as you have already, and have some (a few ten lb.s) of good Live Rock seed all. IF instead you decide to buy some Live Sand, DO place it/this on top of the new/non-live; NOT under>
Or given the 120lbs of special grade that I have, would you recommend doing something else?
<Yes; as stated>
Thanks, I LOVE this forum.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: DSB for new 150gal setup. Rdg     1/13/15

Thanks for the quick reply! Just a quick follow-up, I thought the 1-2mm size of the special grade was too big for the anaerobic portion of the DSB(hence my first thought of putting finer sand below it). Is the 1-2mm size that I have acceptable for the entire DSB? thanks again.
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/marsetupindex1.htm
scroll down to.... B>

Trickle filters; and CMA     11/3/14
Much has been written about these being a nitrate factory and not to use them in a reef setup.
<Mmm; they have their place, applications. The excess nitrate trend/ing can be addressed in a few ways effectively>
I've read Bob Fenner's book and for a fish only system he states it is fine. I recently tore down my 125 and getting ready to move into a 220 gallon. The old system was a deep sand bed
<This is one of those ways>
and lots of live rock with metal halides and compact fluorescents and skimmer with refugium filled with live rock and macro algae.
<These help as well to take up and convert NO3>
Seemed to work well as it was set up for 7-8 years but I had a light bio load and admittedly lazy on my water changes. Turning over a new leaf now and not going to over engineer this setup but I like the fact there is a
great increase in oxygen flow with a trickle filter although everyone says it is a nitrate factory. So the conversion happens faster with a trickle filter going from Nitrite to Nitrate... so?
<Indeed; so?>
The Nitrate is less toxic but it still needs to be converted. If there is plenty of live rock and skimming with a light bio load why would it not be a good idea to include in a reef system?
<Just as you state>
I'm not a novice. I've been keeping marine fish since the 70's who took 10 years off in the 80's and 90's to find a much improved hobby.
<Me too>
Seems to me that a combination of live rock, deep sand bed, refugium, skimmer and a trickle filter could exist in a single reef system with a light to medium bio load on fishes. Comments are welcome but looking for
answers not just opinions without facts.
Mike Murphy
<Just have anecdotal accounts (but several) to bolster the above opinions.
Bob Fenner>
Re: Trickle filters; and DSB maint.     11/3/14

Thanks for the quick response.
Did not expect to hear from the man himself. So should I go out and buy the new updated book or can I pretty much still rely on my old copy which I think was the second printing with the Flame Angle?
<Heeee! CMA is the only work I've ever penned that went beyond one edition.
The Second has a true Lemonpeel on the cover>
Read it cover to cover many times. So has my son who is now an avid hobbyist.
Forgot to mention when I broke down my deep sand bed in the 125 none of it had a hydrogen sulfide smell it was all sweet smelling from top to bottom.
Had a plenum and 200lbs of live rock. Was that normal?
<Mmm; yes; well-designed, properly maintained DSBs don't go anaerobic>
Thinking of washing the aragonite and reusing maybe adding some new also before recycling the tank again but some warn of Phosphate bonding and release.
<Small concern really. You could try "acid washing" a sample (any dilute, low concentration organic, inorganic acid will work); see by testing if there's any HPO4 released... More of a concern is the loss of easier solubility in such recycled substrates. Adding a modicum of new is a very good idea>
My son has done this without issues but his tank was not setup as long as mine. Keep up the good work and information.
<And you; BobF>
Re: Trickle filters    11/3/14

Probably hard to improve on the success of the first printing when it comes to basics.. About the only really new thing that has improved is lighting.
<And some types of filters secondly...>
The halides are on the way out with the introduction led's however even they wear out over time but the savings in electricity and less heat generated is the upside. It is pretty amazing the strides the hobby has
made in 30 years or more. If I have learned anything you can really over engineer the filtration setup with every gadget on the market the basics still hold true.
<Oh yes>
Funny how a lot we have learned over the years has been by accident when it comes to biological filtration and the like. If you ever get out to Indiana let me know we have an active Marine Aquarium Society that would love to have you as a guest.
<Do ask them when/then and have them contact me. I do get out about a dozen times a year speaking to hobby groups>
You could sign autographs like celebrities do!
All joking aside I have not read a more enjoyable book that is put together as well as yours. Thanks for the contribution to the hobby.
Mike Murphy
<A pleasure to share. Bob Fenner>

maintaining my Deep Sand Bed, H2S concern        5/30/14
Hi Bob
I've been running my 100g Mixed Reef tank for almost a year, All going well.
Corals have been growing very good have been giving many frags to my friends every now and then (just to give an Idea that tank is healthy and really thriving at good speed)
<Ah good>
I have placed 4" of sand in my tank which creates a very good DSB Now my question is, So far I have been observing that some times few black spots tend to happen in the sand which is Hydrogen sulphide caused due to the death of some critter or worm in side DSB,
<Mmm; not necessarily worms; and I would not be overly concerned if only "a few spots"... I would endeavour to vacuum about these, stir the sand otherwise when doing water changes>
but those black spots used to vanish after some time and my sand used to look very clean.
<Very well>
Now for sometime I have seen one big black spot in the right hand corner which is growing bigger and bigger guess it is getting a big reserve pocket of H2S and my critter and worms doesn't seem to shuffle this corner of sand to release the blocked H2S, Now can slowly disturb this corner of DSB to release the gas cause I'm afraid that is this sudden big h2s will absorb in the water column kill all my life in the system or it will escape out of it because I once read in some article related to Denitrator stating that H2S tends dissolves in water in temp below 20deg Celsius. or 68 For I just let this black spot like this let it grow.
<Again; don't let the black spot/s grow; and don't fear them... Simply vacuum the area with a gravel vac while doing your regular, frequent partial water changes. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

DSB... moving, adding to...     3/18/13
Hello all,
Thanks for all of your help through the years. I rarely miss the daily postings. I have a 46 gallon reef with live rock and a DSB. Good fortune is smiling down on me because I will be moving up to a 75 gallon system next weekend. I found the totally complete system used for $300.00! Sump, fuge, tank, stank and much more all together from someone who gave up on the hobby. I am still pinching myself. I have been reading practically all day about moving my fish, corals and rock. My concerns are about the DSB. I have done little to it in 5 years. No stirring, etc. It still has worms, etc. visible next to the glass. Should I just move all of it and add some new to it or completely replace it?
<Umm, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbmaint.htm
I'd move at least a good part of the existing...>
 This move is going to be tough because the new tank will be in the same place, so everything has to be moved for the new system to be set up. I have two empty tanks to hold the livestock during the move. Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
<Read on! Bob Fenner>

How to check the DSB    11/19/12
Dear Bob
Hi am Srinivas from Nagpur India.
Would seek a pardon for not regularly following the updates on your fantastic sites, but back of the mind, know that your expertise would be of great help as it always had been in past.
I have a 240 Gallon FOWLR. The sump is about 35-40 gallons which currently hosts my DSB and a skimmer.
The dsb chamber is aprox  10" x 18" x 12" ) ( L X B x H)
The DSB initially built had about 4.5" of sand. Some time back ( about 6 months ago) I added 1.5" of same quality sand to see if i can get some more benefit. This was done by adding small layers above the old bed in 3 installments ranging over a month and half in total.
<Okay; should be all right>
Currently I am still able to see quite a bit of crawlies population which were there before. A few observations has raised a concern in my mind, which I hope  you'll be able to clarify.
<Let's see>
The additional layer (1.5") is still clean on the sides and no trace/ trail marks of any movement and is visibly cleaner that the below portion which had changed color too. Also there was a sizeable population of bristleworms ( which were easily seen a month post addition) which are now not visible at all
Needed to know
1) whether the population that existed before the addition would be still alive or had the additional weight of sand had some effect on their movement.
<Shouldn't be harmful>
2) How do i check the DSB health ( though here is no Improvement/ worsening  in water parameters post addition of additional layer)
<Water quality tests... but I might well gently stir, mix the substrate here... w/ the pump/s turned off temporarily, using a plastic bowl to scoop...>
3) How much water flow ( directly fro display tank) would be ideal for the DSB size mentioned above
<3-5, up to ten turnovers of volume per hour>
4) Whether I need to do something else to rectify any error I committed earlier
<Nothing to do... really. Just time going by. Bob Fenner>

Switching Media... DSB failure      8/26/12
Hello Crew! I hope you have had a great summer.
<Fab so far, thanks>
You folks have always been a great help and I have another quandary I'd like your opinion on. I have 2 reef tanks currently. My main display tank is a 54 gallon bow-front corner aquarium. When I set it up I set it up using the Special Grade Reef substrate as a DSB (about 5" deep). I really did this to deal with the nitrates. Well, I have had it running about 2 years and my nitrates are super high (80+).
<Boing! What happened? Something is up... foods/feeding wise? Your test kit/s?>
 I even added a refugium almost a year ago which has plenty of macro algae growing in it. It made no difference in the nitrate level.
<Mmm, do you have high soluble phosphate? Perhaps you're a candidate for goosing pH a bit (to 8.6 or so) w/ Kalk... to insolubilize... Is your RedOx low?>
I have become very frustrated by this and I think I am having difficulty with some of my fauna because of it. My understanding is also that a DSB can actually cause increased nitrates due to trapped organics. So with this in mind, I am seriously considering removing the DSB and just sticking with 1-2" of the substrate I can clean.
What are your thoughts on this and what would be the best way to do it if I do? A little at a time or all at once?
<I'd try vacuuming what you have during water changes first... is your KH okay?>
For the second part of my problem, I have a standard 55 gallon aquarium with just a couple of fish in it and a few soft corals. My daughter talked me into trying to breed my Maroon Clowns (amazing what the pleading eyes of a six year old can get you to do!). I have no intention of going crazy about this but I thought it would be fun to try it and see if I can get them to breed and raise some fry just once or twice. So that was the original intent for this tank, to breed these two clowns and is still my major intent. I got a great deal on Fiji Pink Live Sand which looks beautiful in this tank and is great and I really  like the look of the fine grain sand bottom. The problem is that apparently, my clowns, especially the female does not appear to share my fondness for this sand anywhere in her territory. She has dug it out from different places in the tank to bare glass and piled it up on one side.
<What they do>
Aesthetically this is not great but to be honest the fish's happiness is more important, especially if I want her to breed. The real issue is that now in places I have sand that is 7-8" deep and when she does this because the sand is so fine and there is good flow in the tank the sand gets blown on to all the soft corals and everywhere including into the powerheads and pumps.
<I suggest the ongoing regular re leveling during the aforementioned gravel vacuuming/water changes. DO watch your hands as a good size Clown/Premnas can really bite... draw blood>
I think, unfortunately, the sand has to go in favor of a heavier substrate that won't blow around.
I figure since this is not a DSB I can just remove a bunch at a time and replace it with a more coarse substrate like the Special Grade I have in my other tank. So my question here is if I do take down the DSB from the 54 (based on your advice above), can I just wash that substrate with clean salt water to wash out the debris and use it in the 55 to create a 1-2" bed?
<I'd do a solubility test... even w/ simple Acetic/Vinegar... what you have may be too hard... not soluble... not functional as a DSB substrate>
This may all sound crazy but such is life! LOL
Thanks for all you do and the time you put into answering all these questions!
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Saltwater chemistry and sand beds 5/29/12
Hi crew!
<Hi Jen>
I've got a couple of questions for you.  I mixed up a new batch of saltwater yesterday and tested it this morning.  I tested: pH 7.97 (using a Hanna meter), calcium 520 (using new kit bottle says it expires 2014) and alkalinity 9 dKH.  Notes of interest: made the RO/DI water last Thursday. 
It has been aerating for 3 days in a 32 gal Rubbermaid container. I added the Coralife salt directly to the water while mixing it and continuing aeration (using powerhead and airstone) to a salinity of 1.025.  I would like to increase the pH and the alkalinity using SeaChem Reef Buffer. Will that help to drive down the calcium?
<Most reef blend salts do have elevated calcium levels which should drop within a few days as long as calcium loving animals are present.  Reef Buffer is not going to drive the calcium level down.
As to raising your pH, yes, Reef Buffer should raise it to 8.3 when properly dosed.>
I read water makeup FAQs and I saw where other people have had the same problem with Coralife.  Also I was thinking about adding more sand to my 55 gallon. The tank has been running for 6 years and some of the sand has been lost to cleaning.
<And also will slowly dissolve.>
 I thought I read somewhere on your website that the benefits the sand provides diminishes significantly after 2 years.
<For reasons above and in six years, quite a bit of detritus will accumulate in the sand bed which diminishes the buffering effects of the sand due to the acids present.>
Thank you for all of your expert advice!  It is truly appreciated!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Re Saltwater Chemistry and Sand Beds 5/30/12

Hi James! Thanks for getting back to me.
I do vacuum the sandbed when I do water changes.
The current sandbed is really shallow, in some places I can see glass so I want to add/change over to Aragonite. I read where you can't add it on top but it can be slowly added and combined with the current substrate. Is it possible to do that and slowly increase the amount of Aragonite to make a DSB?
<Yes, providing the grain size is the same.>
Currently I have, at the most, 2 inches of substrate. Thanks James!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
DSB in spotless sump, problematic display, DSB adding sand f'   1/23/11
Dear Bob
If, as part of the regrettable expediencies of moving house, you use an old and filthy substrate as the bottom 1.5 inches of a new sump-resident DSB, which you then cover over with dry sand in one go, are you asking for trouble?  Is this what you would term as incorrect installation?
<Mmm, I'd give the two, old and new substrates a good stir... together>
If you take a 'core sample' of this DSB 5 months later, and find that the bottom inch is black, and the water extruded is like a badly stinking dark grey milk, should you at most consider removing the DSB and starting over, or at least vacuuming it until it clears?
<At least>
If, during the first two sessions of going about vacuuming this DSB, the next day some of your fish (Chromis cyanea to be precise, all three of them) have ragged and strangely diminished pectoral fins, and this happens more than once, should you take this as a clue that your DSB is some sort of bacterial liability?
If you have some long-suffering gorgonian corals, that refuse to extend their polyps, except for the times when the sump is disconnected from the display, should you take this as another clue that the DSB is ailing?
But if you look into your sump, and see nothing but pure white sand on the surface, and spotless, healthy Chaetomorpha above it, while further above in the display it seems ablaze with spectacular wafting clumps of diatom algae, and less than happy corals, despite the 30x flow and water tests that consistently indicate zero nitrates and phosphates, are you right to believe that your sump and display tank have somehow switched roles, and that the sump is happily leaching fuels to the display, while the display returns the favour with (relatively) cleaner water?
<Too likely Si>
If the sump was the display, and vice versa, I would not be writing this missive - but why is my system upside down?  Could it all be down to the aforementioned incorrect installation of the dirty sand?
<You're likely correct>
A few facts and figures:
180L display, 30x flow, LED lighting 10.5 hours daily
65L sump, 1000lph flow through, Tunze 9006, 18w compact fluorescent 15 hours
Happy campers:
Cherub angel, 2 x royal grammas, 1 x chalk bass, 3 x blue Chromis, Lysmata cleaner shrimp, Stenopus cleaner shrimps (pair), red smooth serpent star Muricea coral, Cladiella coral, mushroom polyps, Sarcophyton coral, Halimeda algae
Not so happy campers:
3 x blue Chromis (after previous vacuumings)
Purple gorgonians, cream gorgonians
Thanks Bob
<Welcome. Bob>

Adding for DSB   12/13/11
Hello Everyone!
First -- I just can't thank you enough for your dedication and help to probably a few hundred thousand people(probably much more) including myself.
<All are welcome. It is to help others that we endeavour to build this site>
I have held off asking a question, until now, thanks to your vast bank of information but now I need to add additional sand to my 120g 6' FOWLR tank.  It is a 6 week old system with 1.5' of sand seeded with 1 bag of live agro, 65lbs of live rock(will continue to build to about 100lbs), 3 Damsels, 1 Fire Shrimp, a Foxface (just added'¦and cleaned up all remaining algae!), 15 Turbo Snails, 4 Hermits and some incidental worms & coral which seems to be doing well and some Coralline spots appearing already. I also have this weird thing shaped like a pencil eraser that looks like a mini volcano spitting out what looks to be like spider webs! Sponge of some sort?
<More likely a worm... look up "Featherdusters"... as in Sedentariate Polychaetes... there are many types/species>
The tank went through the red algae stage then the green hair algae stage. I cleaned all the rocks with a toothbrush in a bucket of changed out water and removed most of the algae a week ago -- yeah it stank. Have since added a 15 pound cured piece of volcanic rock which seemed to raise my Ph to 8.4 from 7.8 or it could have been the 20g water change out?
<Both, either>
 The water is now crystal clear! I do have a Super Reef 2000 skimmer (shipped & used after hair algae was removed from tank) and a sock on the return to the 30g sump -- that's all.  My plan is to have a non-aggressive reef tank with some sort of macro-algae in the sump (to also be used to feed the Foxface and future Gobies & Blennies).  Anyway, you guys always push for a DSB and I wanted to know the best way to add sand at this point and how much and any other suggestions about my tank.
<Mmm, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/substrepl2.htm
 Thanks again for all your help! YOU GUYS ROCK!
Nitrates, Nitrites and Ammonia all 0.   
Ph = 8.4 this is good?
(2) 48" 54W Actinic
(2) 48" 54W 10,000°K
(2) 700gpm power heads
(1) 7 Mag return pump
Tank is drilled once near top for drain to sump - should've drilled 2!
 <Ah yes. Cheers, BobF>

Re: DSB maintenance
Thanks for your advice Bob.
<Welcome Sal>
Do I really need to gravel vacuum the DSB if I have good water flow?
<Mmm, I do think "some" vacuuming is a good idea. Certainly not vigorous or complete... nor all the bed on any given one occasion. Please peruse here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/dsbmaint.htm
I have no fish in the display at the moment. Basically, I just feed my chalice corals and Dendrophyllias every other night. I would plan on raising the LR off the substrate with egg crate. Do you think losing 6" of water space to use a DSB in this display is not justified.
<I think it is... better by far though to remote, place/use DSBs in sumps, refugiums rather than in main displays>
I'm looking to get the most growth possible out of my corals for the next couple of years so the aesthetics aren't a concern. I know this is a little vague but these are my thoughts/concerns. Thank you.
90 Gallon
Precision Marine redline 150 protein skimmer
Carbon In Canister Changed weekly 1 Cup
Daily iodine dosing
80 Lbs LR
C: 420 PH: 8.24 ALK: 4 meg/l Temp: 78 ORP: 390
<Welcome again, BobF>

Replacing a DSB   6/14/10
Hello to all the crew at WWM. Here is a little background on my marine system as well as my dilemma with my deep sand bed.
I have a 90G Oceanic Tech Tank with 30 gallon sump. On the main display, I have a 4" DSB that has been on this system for a little over 2 1/2 years.
My system is over stocked with about 16 fish and 20 + corals, but I more than make up when it comes to filtration. Filtration consists of an AquaC EV 240 skimmer with Mag 18, a 7" DSB in the refugium stage, along with Chaetomorpha and Caulerpa prolifera,
<Mmm, this genus is out of favour... I would pull it entirely>
120 pounds of live rock, 25 watt UV sterilizer, 2 Phosban reactors one containing Rowaphos and the other containing Chemipure carbon. Oh, and for water movement I have 2 Vortech MP40's.
Here is my problem. Recently for the past 3 months or so, I have been getting cyanobacteria growing on the sand bed in patches here and there.
Initially I suspected it was my Spectra pure Max cap 5 stage RO/DI filter that needed the cartridges and RO membrane replaced, so I went ahead and did that. My water parameters are all great with nitrate and phosphates reading zero, calcium and alkalinity are on the money, and my PH is stable at 8.1 to 8.2. My water changes are 20 gallons a week.
I suspect the cyanobacteria is growing because I had been recently disturbing a small section of the sand bed in the front of the glass to eliminate the algae growing on the front glass beneath the sand bed. last night, I moved it a bit again and I began to smell rotten egg coming from the tank. All the corals are fine and the fish as well, but I am concerned about the sand bed and have thought to completely replace it in one shot.
By the way, there are no signs of black areas beneath the sand bed, at least not that I can see on the front or sides of the tank.
Has my sand bed gone bad due to the rotten egg smell and is it a good approach to replace it all in one shot?
<I would try deep cleaning, vacuuming it first... half the front let's say>
How would you all suggest about doing this if it is necessary to do so?
The sand I have in there now is Natures Ocean Bio-Active live sand that is .05mm to 1.7mm in grain size. I plan on replacing it with the same brand of sand, only sugar fine with grain size from .01mm to .05mm. Please help! Any and all suggestions are welcome.
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/dsbmaint.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Deep Sand Bed relocation advice please 5/29/2010
I wonder if I can steal some of you knowledge again please?
<No stealing; sharing>
Two weeks ago I was given a 'tear down' tanks DBS media (crushed marble chip) to help start my new system.
This was transported in two batches. The first being the bottom half and the second being the top area. I hoped this would keep some of the anaerobic bacteria where it belonged.
Anyway, I placed it a temporary tank with running water and a heater to try and keep some life in it. Boy it sure stank when stirred up a bit.
<I'll bet>
I now have natural salt water in my new display and have moved the sand to its new permanent home in my sump. It stank a whole lot more this time as I guess a large part of it is now dead. I believe its sulphur dioxide as it smells like rotten eggs...
<Could well be>
When placed in the sump DSB, the water went black (the water was limited to the DSB only at that stage) so I sucked that out and replaced it by running salt water through it to the drain until it ran clear.
The sand is distinctly grey looking at the moment.
Question is 'is this ok' or should I flush the sand out and start again?
<W/o stock present it's fine>
Currently the sump and DSB is inline with the display and I'm trying to start a cycle.
Appreciate your comments before I head off down the wrong road.
<Not my choice in media, but can/will work... Please read here:
and the files of interest to you linked above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Deep Sand Bed relocation advice please 5/29/2010
Thank you.
The crushed marble is very common here in Australia.
<I see>
Aragonite etc is prohibitively expensive although I do have enough Aragonite to deepen the DSB to 7-8" once the tank has cycled.
I assume that by the time the tank has cycled, the DSB would have sorted itself out?
<And you. BobF>

Re: Substrate Follow-Up Questions, EricR input 9/1/2009
Thanks for the additional info. Actually, I've become an old pro at searching your indices, articles and FAQs
<Ahh! You may be ready to respond to queries soon...>
-- pretty much addicted (it's a wealth of information). In fact, the link you provided below is where I found the FAQ responses from EricR that I referred to. While there's a lot of great information on how to maintain a sand bed (much of which I restated/summarized below), most of it recommends vacuuming. The EricR responses were the ones that recommended not vacuuming, and those didn't get into a lot of details about requirements as to what to do for a shallow or deep bed if not vacuuming was your goal, especially if you are limited in your maintenance crew due to a sharpnosed puffer.
<I'll send this along to Eric Russell for his elaboration as well>
<<Hello Sean'¦Eric here. My apologies for any lack of clarity in previous queries. My reasons for not advocating vacuuming of your deep substrate relate to the massive disturbance of the bacteria layers as well as the loss of much of the other biota within as a result of such action. But, this assumes sand beds of very small grain size, and heavy flow rates/water movement, to preclude gross accumulation of detritus within the substrate. I my experience, with proper setup/consideration of these factors a DSB will function just fine and the substrate biota will prosper>>
Unfortunately, some of the info contradicts. Even below, you mention that you'd go with the DSB but then you later mention that you prefer to remote the DSB.
<Yes and yes>
But, as I'm learning, and as you note below, it's almost never a yes or no answer in this hobby, SO... I think I will first try lowering the sand bed to about 1", adding some new critter seeder kits to refresh the bed, adding some Cerith snails and at the same time removing the puffer (who has recently decided to start nipping at fins quite a bit, so he's lost his good citizen standing). If that doesn't work, I might try temporarily increasing the circulation a bit more, especially near the bottom, to see if that helps. If I still need to vacuum, then I'll switch to the DSB by gradually adding sugar fine (moving the current gravel to the side so that the existing critters can help populate the new sugar fine) until I eventually have replaced all of the current gravel and get to 4"+ DSB. With the DSB, I'll add Nassarius snails to the equation as well and may even add a few more seeder kits at that time to ensure that the deeper bed is fully and diversely seeded after all the transition. I'll revisit the circulation then as well to be sure that I have as much as possible without causing a sand storm. Info I've found on other sites (e.g., Reeflands, Inland Aquatics, etc.) suggest that you really need a DSB to avoid vacuuming (and that appears to be EricR's preference),
<<Eric here again'¦ Even a 'shallow' bed can avoid the rigors of vacuuming with consideration to sand grain size and water flow'¦as stated previously. Any time spent 'vacuuming' is likely better spent removing accumulated detritus from the bottom of your sump on a periodic basis>>
so this is probably where I'll end up, but I'll try the lower sand bed first.
<Sounds like a plan... or series of good plans>
I will admit that I have probably been over-thinking this issue and making a big deal out of eliminating the vacuuming. But for a large tank, the difference between vacuuming and not vacuuming is not an insignificant amount of time and effort. (Because my sumps are in the basement, under the tank, next to the house plumbing, I can do a 10% water change in under 5 minutes with no heavy lifting or mess -- as long as I don't need to vacuum.) So, I'll keep plugging away until I get this thing nailed. Thanks again for helping those poor confused individuals like me.
<Thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

Re: Substrate Follow-Up Questions, EricR input 9/1/2009
I'm definitely not ready to respond to queries... Seems the more I read, the more I realize how much I don't know... Thanks again.
<Ahh Sean! You are on the border of wisdom! B>

Re-Aquascaping & DSB Concerns Regarding Mature Tank
Old Aquarium-New Aquascape! (Concerns over disrupting DSB and Established Rockwork)  7/24/09

Dear WWM Crew:
<Scott F. in today!>
I really appreciate all of your great expertise and advice you give.
<We're thrilled to help!>
My 92 gallon reef tank is now 9 years old. I have a low bioload with 4 smaller fish that I have had for 7+ years. I have about a 4 inch DSB, Euroreef protein skimmer, and circulation that turns over the water by at least 10 times. I practice good husbandry (test water, RODI top-off, routine water changes, do not overfeed, etc.).
<Sounds great!>
My DSB is about 5 years old now. Recently, I had a BAD Cyano outbreak (haven't had one since establishing the tank) for about 2 months that I finally had to defeat with "Chemi-Clean" after trying all other suggested methods. I used this, too, because some of my LPS corals were suffering. I have been concerned that my DSB was "going toxic" and that I needed to change the substrate out completely. However, after reading all of your DSB information and because my tank has been doing great for the last few months, I am going to keep the DSB and add sand to it to reach your suggested 4+ inch level.
My questions:
1. Are you with me on my DSB ideas and reasoning?
<I am a fan of deep sand beds if good husbandry is maintained. I do not share some people's view that DSB's a re a "ticking time bomb" waiting to swallow up your aquarium. I think that, like in any system, over time things get out of balance in a system and need "rebalancing". I think it's sort of a natural thing, really. In nature, you have storms and other events that "shake things up" once in a while, so similar changes in a closed system can help, IMO.>
2. Do you think the DSB is still probably O.K. and there should not be issues with adding sand at about 1/2 inch every week or so?
<I've done this without incident many times over the years.>
3. I want to re-aquascape and create more flow and open space by creating live rock pillars supported with acrylic rods (drilling holes in rock to put the rods into and for coral mounting). *Do I need to be concerned with phosphate/ammonia/nitrate release after drilling the rock and putting back into my tank?
<Good way to change aquascaping. I have never noticed such issues, which is not to say that they could not occur. There are natural biological processes going on inside the rocks, but I have not seen nor heard of a big nitrate/phosphate "hit" as a result of drilling rock. Sure, a certain amount of organics trapped within the rock could leach out over time, but I would not be overly concerned. Be sure to "dunk and swish" your newly drilled rock in a bucket of system water before reinstalling, to help get some of the debris, etc from the rock out.>
Thank you VERY much.
<Best of luck to you, John..Change is good! TEAR DOWN TEH WALL! Looking forward to hearing about /seeing your new aquascape. Regards, Scott F.>

Dark spots in newly expanded DSB 6/13/09
Hello DSB Experts!
Thank you very much for your time! I've been reading through your DSB section and it convinced me to add to my existing 3" SB.
I have a 125g tank that's been running for less than two months but some of the liverock etc is from my smaller tank so cycle has been short and uneventful.
I used all new sand. Some Special Reef Grade and some Fine sand.
Then I read about DSBs and added more fine sand on top.
I was trying for only 1/2" but it got so cloudy and in a few areas I got more than 1/2" at a time.
Now it's only been a few days since I completed this and I can see a dark line forming underneath the new sand layer and also see dark patches/circles in places.
<Probably die-off from buried sand dwellers. If you are only seeing this along the glass it may just be algae.>
Some people say that the black/dark patches are an indication of dangerous gas build-up.
Is that true?
<Can be an indication of areas where there is an overabundance of decaying matter and the creation of hydrogen sulfide pockets. However in your case I would give it some time before really worrying about it, will most likely dissipate as long as good husbandry techniques are used. Increased circulation and water changes will help. On a side note more often than not hydrogen sulfide is blamed for tank crashes when the more likely culprit is just poor maintenance.>
Can it really go bad that fast?
<Could if there was a lot of biological material built up in the substrate, which in a new tank is not likely.>
What should I do?
<Water changes and increased circulation should help immensely.>
Thanks for your time!

Re: Dark spots in newly expanded DSB, 6/15/09
Thanks so much. The die off of buried sand dwellers seems like a likely explanation.
I will give it some time.

Re: Moving Tanks: (4/6/2009) Follow up: 4/24/2009
<Hello again Matt.>
Thanks for all the help; I plan on switching out the tanks this weekend.
<Good - I hope you recruited assistants.>
I have purchased the One and Only by Dr Tim's Aquatics and have made all the final adjustment to the sump and piping. I have one question for you today which involves the substrate.
My plan was to use the old substrate in the new tank, but after reading and doing more research would it be
better to just replace the substrate with new?
<I would use a mix of old and new.>
And should it be the so called live sand or just clean sand.
<Store bought "live sand" is just sand with the necessary bacteria. It isn't really "live" Certainly not as live as your existing substrate is..
I would use new clean "dead" sand mixed in with your old..
With the live sand do you get a lot of die off when adding to the tank?
<Really depends on how long the sand has been in the bag and sitting on the shelf.>
I really do not want to make this move really nervous about losing everything.
Please let me know your opinion.
<I would mix your old with some new. This will be a perfect time to set up a deep sand bed (DSB).>
<One other thing I neglected to mention the first time you wrote that another reader pointed out; was to make sure you have adequate heaters for your livestock in their containers.>
Thanks again, for the help
<My pleasure>

Re: snail shell discoloring amongst other queries, now moving/replacing sand bed/DSB substrate  1/7/08 Hello again Mr. Fenner. After doing some research I have decided that I definitely need to replace my sand bed. I have decided to go with a sugar fine DSB in my 29 gallon seeing as how later I would like to add some zoos and mushrooms and this option seemed better than the thin layer of substrate. I have read that mixing substrate sizes is a bad idea so I will not be doing that, however, I only want to do half of my tank at a time and the substrate I have now is pretty coarse looking. If I were to simply do 1/2 the tank, then wait a few weeks or so for the good stuff to spread, then remove the rest of the old substrate would that work since the different substrates aren't truly being mixed together? <Can be done... maybe with a plastic strip partition to squash the old over to one side... Do set aside some time to rinse the new, let it "settle" a bit before placing...> Also, when I add the new sand am I correct in assuming that I can just put in all 4 or so inches at once? <You can> It seems that would be fine seeing as how all the bugs and such will be mostly moving over from the other side and not smashed below a new layer. Also, are there any conferences or the like being held in or around Utah in the near future? <Utah... Mmm, none that I'm aware of... but I'd contact the fish clubs there re, particularly Wasatch: www.utahreefs.com> Thanks for all you do. Chris <Glad to share. BobF>

Substrate & Maintenance Questions, DSB des., maint.  12/02/08 Crew Thanks for all the great FAQs and help you've already provided. I had some additional questions regarding my 220g FOWLER that I am setting up as an upgrade to my current 120g. Setup includes: * 72*24*30 island display tank with viewing and swim lanes on all four sides with LR in the middle * 300lbs of LR * RO/DI water * 30g skimmer sump and AquaC EV240 Skimmer with Mag 18 pump * 35g refugium with 5" sugar fine DSB, Chaetomorpha, LR rubble, alternate light cycle, 4-5 times flow * 60g overflow sump that includes the heaters, return pumps and some of the LR (water flows from tank to either the fuge or the skimmer sump and then into overflow sump before return to tank) * 30g weekly water changes * T5 lighting (2 strips of white and 2 strips of blue) * Aiming for 10-20 times flow in display by augmenting overflow returns with a closed loop manifold * Heavy fish load, including tangs, dwarf angels, B/Fs, mated clown pair, Anthias trio, a Sixline wrasse and a mystery wrasse Questions: LR maintenance crew -- Will rely on skunk cleaner shrimps, fire shrimps, emerald crabs and serpent stars for detritivores. Will rely on fish and emerald crabs to eat algae. Planning to add Nerite snails if/as needed to control algae. Does this all sound optimal? <"Optimal?" Who knows? It all depends on what starts growing in your system. This is seriously one way to go... but your needs/strategy might change as time goes on, as the tank matures, etc.> Am I correct that the Nerite snails can "right" themselves if they fall on their backs? <They do seem a bit more adept at not getting stuck on their backs, but there's no snail that is completely incapable of doing itself in by falling into the wrong crack.> If not, what would be your recommendation as an algae eater that won't fall over and die? Display tank sand & sand maintenance crew -- Because I will have a DSB in the fuge and a heavy fish load in the display, I am not planning to use a DSB in the display. In the FAQs, I see that it's best to keep the sand bed no higher than 1/2 inch if not a DSB. However, I also want to make sure that I have a maintenance crew to keep the display sand bed stirred, algae free and clean looking. From what I can tell, sugar fine or something close to that would be the ideal size, right? <For anything other than a DSB, it doesn't really matter... so, yes, sugar fine sand should "work."> It also looks like a combination of Cerith and Nassarius snails would be the best choices for my sand maintenance goals. <Oh, where to begin? ::sigh:: It's all a bit more complicated than this. Yes, you do need a few of these such animals to do the first phase of "digestion" of debris/left overs/etc. But they're only the first in a long line of animals that process such "waste." The best things to keep a sand bed (of any depth) "stirred" and "clean" are the little guys... copepods, worms, seed shrimp, etc. Mini brittle stars can also be very helpful (and delightful!).> However, from what I've read, they both need "deep" sand beds (though my sources didn't indicate exactly what that meant). How deep would the sand bed need to be in order to employ these snails? Would you recommend a spider or fighting conch in addition to, or in place of, the Nassarius and/or Cerith snails? <Again, I might be focusing a bit too much on snails. Get yourself some spaghetti and bristle worms, pods, mini brittle stars... and any variety of "bugs" and worms too small to even see with the naked eye (i.e. the kind you get in "live sand" seeder kits).> Also, would you recommend a pair of bullet gobies? <Recommend them for...? Sand bed maintenance? No.> If so, what depth would they need? And how deep does the bed need to be for the wrasses? <likely at least 2 to 3 in> I am assuming that I should not use a sand star unless I actually use a DSB in the display, correct. <No sand sifting stars! Please... large, carnivorous echinoderms are no friend to any sand bed.> Boiling all this down...to keep the bed as low as possible, while keeping it stirred, algae free and clean looking, what combination of sand depth and crew would be your recommendation here? <Personally, I would either commit to a "proper" DSB of at least 4in in the display or just go bare bottom (or rubble bottom)... there's really no sense in a "shallow" sand bed. I know a lot of people really want at least a little sand for aesthetic reasons, but if you don't make sure it's well populated and maintained, it's likely going to end up being more of a hassle than it's worth.> Fuge maintenance -- Only planning on Nassarius snails here. Does that sound right? <Ok, yes, just a few Nassarius snails are good to have (especially in the beginning)... but this is certainly not the end of the story. You need much more than just them... think small, squirmy, crawling... worms, pods, maybe some mini brittle stars. If you want snails in the display too, try Trochus, Strombus, etc.> Should they be the large ones or the small/vibex ones? <The smaller ones are preferred. Btw, if you have the time, interest and commitment... this is a great list of very helpful and informative articles by Dr. Ron Shimek: http://www.ronshimek.com/online_works.html> Thanks much for all the help. Sean <De nada and happy reefing, Sara M.>

Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions 12/03/08 Crew, I forgot to mention one other option I was considering... Some of your FAQs suggested using both a DSB sump and an EcoSystem miracle mud (MM) sump for larger tanks. I was thinking about adding a Caulerpa/MM sump to the below setup. On the EcoSystem web site, they recommend 1200-1500 gph through the MM sump for a 220g tank. However, that would use just about all of the flow that I can get out of my tank's 2 overflows (700 gph max each). Their recommended setup has the skimmer placed in the MM sump in the first chamber before the mud chamber. Doing this robs the mud and Caulerpa of nutrients, so I imagine that's why they only recommend skimming a couple of hours each day. I was wondering if it might make sense to have three sumps running in parallel. In other words, overflow water from the tank would be diverted 650 gph to the skimmer sump, 650 gph to the Caulerpa/MM sump and 100 gph to the DSB/Chaeto sump. The output from all three sumps would flow by gravity into the overflow sump for return to the main tank. (I have room for all of this, since the filtration system is in the basement below the display tank. Does all this make sense? <I don't see why not... if you have the room, it makes sense to me.> My reasoning is that I would be getting the benefits of both the Berlin and the EcoSystem approaches by splitting the filtration duty in half. Or would this be worse than just going with one approach? <Typically, when it comes to filtration for reef tanks, variety is a good thing.> Also, would 650 gph be enough flow going past the EV240 skimmer? <I would think so. If not, you could always just leave the skimmer on longer.> If you think this combo approach makes sense, would you recommend any changes to the proposed gph flows? <Look good to me.> I haven't heard back on my earlier email, <Really?! I did reply... I wonder what happened! I'll resend.> so I'd appreciate your thoughts on my earlier questions as well as these new questions whenever you get a moment. Thanks much. Sean <De nada, Sara M.>

Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions 12/04/08 Sara, Thank you SO much for this info, and for the info on my follow-up email. <My pleasure.> Turns out that your messages got caught in my spam filter, <Oh, yes, this happens to some people... > so that's why I didn't get them initially. I've added you to my safe sender list so that it won't happen again. You've given me some great insight. I will definitely go with both a DSB/Chaeto fuge and a Mud/Caulerpa fuge in addition to my skimmer. <cool> Regarding all the little critters you mentioned (worms, pods, etc.), I was kind of just "assuming" them. Until your email, I hadn't really focused on the fact that they were such an import part of the equation. <Indeed... they are the most important. Yes, you can assume *some* of them. Eventually, you'll almost inevitably introduce many of these things without even trying. However, the people who have the best and most successful (and useful) sand beds make an actual effort to accumulate them (and to make sure they have the diversity needed for a healthy DSB). Also, waiting to "accidently" acquire them will take a lot longer than if you get seeder sand and seeder populations.> And thanks for the link to Shimek's works. I haven't read all yet, but I've already learned a ton there. <Hehe, well, I haven't read them *all* either... but many.> I think I understand now that I need to focus on the critters, and doing that means staying away from the sand stars and gobies. I will definitely look into a sand seeder kit. From your email and from what I've read so far from Shimek, it sounds like a DSB in the main tank is the best way to go. However... I just don't like the look. This will be one area where I won't go "optimal." <Well, a remote DSB is "almost" as good (and in some ways has its advantages)... again, it's more a matter of properly caring for (setting up and populating) the sand bed more than where you put it.> But I don't like the bare or rubble bottom look either. Sooo... Below you suggest that if I want "at least a little sand for aesthetic reasons" that I should "make sure it's well populated and maintained" or "it's likely going to end up being more of a hassle than it's worth." I'm willing to put in the effort/investment to get the aesthetic benefit of a shallow bed; therefore, I have 2 main follow-up questions: * Could I "get by" with a 1" or lower sand bed, given the 2 wrasses, or should I go to 2" and plan to do more manual stirring? <Go with 2"... but don't manually stir it. You can siphon the top of it lightly. And, you can try to keep it populated by occasionally switching some of it out with the sand in your fuge.> * What's the best way to make sure that my shallow bed is "well populated and maintained"? A sand seeder kit should get it started, and hopefully the 2 refugiums will help keep it populated with little critters, especially if I avoid the gobies and sand star who would gobble them up. <Yes, the refuges will help. Also, as stated above... you can occasionally switch out sand between the fug and the display.> Could I still use Cerith, small Nassarius and/or conch snails to assist the critters in a shallow bed? <Yes, but don't over do it! Don't get more than one conch or more than 2 Nassarius per 40g or so...> Beyond that, would regular manual stirring help enough? Any other recommendations? <You shouldn't have to do any manual stirring.> Thanks again! Sean <De nada! Sara M.> Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions Thanks for the speedy reply! And even more so, thanks for the great advice. I feel like I have a game plan now. Time to finish the setup and get this thing cycling. Can't wait to see the new tank in action. Thanks again. And Happy Holidays! You are most welcome... and good "luck"! :-) --Sara M. (Happy Holidays to you as well)

DSB relocation 11/24/08 Good Afternoon Friends, <Hey there Eric.> I currently have a 110g reef aquarium with 55g sump and 40g remote refugium. Refugium has 6" DSB of sugar fine sand, Chaeto, LR. I am contemplating upgrading to a 180 G tank and considering moving my DSB into the display. I am thinking of doing this to increase the capacity of the DSB and also to reduce the overall depth of the tank from 24" down to 19" so it is easier to reach the bottom to work in. As I have read through the FAQ regarding relocation of DSB's it seems there are two options. One, use the first couple inches of the existing sand bed but replace the rest with new sand OR, move all sand and let it cycle. My question is, can I move all the sand to another container, let it cycle and then move to the display? <You put yourself in the same boat again.> The timing of moving all of the livestock doesn't lend itself to having the new display tied up for such a long period of time allowing the DSB to cycle. I just don't know if the double move defeats the purpose of letting it cycle, that is to say, when I move it the second time would it need to re-cycle again anyway? <Yes, it would. You will have some die-off doing this. I would just scoop out the upper inch or two, rinse the lower portions. Then you can place the rinsed sand in the display, with the original upper section on top.> Thanks, Russell <Welcome, Scott V.>

DSB almost ready.. 11/13/08 Hi Bob, <Dave> I hope all has been well with you. I have a quick question for you. I have the 55g tank set up for the DSB in the clown house for the grow out system. A club member is giving me approx 200-250lbs of live sand tonight from his 2 tanks. Both tanks have been up and running for over 2 years so the sand should be well cycled. He is tearing both tanks down because he is moving and may not set them back up right away. The sand beds are approximately 2-3 inches deep now in both tanks. My question is can I just put all the sand into the 55g tank and start water flowing over it immediately or do I need to let it settle? <Depending on how much "loose material" there is between, amongst the sand it may be a good idea to rinse, let settle for an hour or two> I wasn't sure if going from 2"-3" as they are now to a 8"-9" DSB will cause any harm to my current system. Is there anything special I should do? <Mmm, a general statement: "If" there is a good deal of apparent "sediment", biological and/or not, I would mix in made up seawater/stir, pour off this material to an extent before placing... "If" there is a large amount of such material I might even rinse all in just tap/mains water to remove the bulk of it (and yes, kill off, remove much of the bio-matter) before using... "If" there is but a small amount of such material, I'd just add/place the used substrate and use as is> I am very happy to have found this sand as it is established now and was free. Thanks again, Dave Durr <Bob Fenner>

Re: DSB almost ready..  11/14/08 Good Morning Bob, <Big D> Thank you for the info. I picked up 3 buckets of sand last night from Casey's 75g & 120g tanks. I would say that there is quite a bit of sediment/loose material. I had an extra 29g tank that I put all the sand into and added some fresh salt water and a power head to keep the water circulating. I think that rinsing this sand is going to be necessary so I am glad I had an extra tank available. Should I be concerned about any cycling after adding this sand? <Mmm... possibly... if it were me, mine, I'd either rinse all thoroughly, effectively killing, or opt to more lightly rinse, move/place just a few inches (3-4) at a time (every few days), effectively building up over time> One thing that I did not realize is that he also has a 200g & 300g tanks that are being taken down also. He has offered me all the sand that I may want out of those tanks also. I am going to need more sand to get the desired depth in the 55g refugium for the grow out system so I will go get some more sand this weekend. <I would not fill the 55 (I take it this is a standard/show of 24" height) much more than sixteen inches or so... to leave room for water/transit volume... even if there is an accompanying tank/area for overflow> I just had a friend give me a 90g tank that I am thinking about using for a sump/refugium for the broodstock system. The sump for that system has always been a little small. Now that I have all this live sand available for free I think that I need to make that change as soon as possible also. <Good, I would> Once I get this up and running is it safe to start adding some macroalgaes right away? <Yes> I have a bottle of live copepods from Reed Mariculture that I was going to add also. You had recommended Gracilaria and Chaetomorpha as macroalgaes to add to the refugium for Nitrate & Phosphate removal, are there any others that would be beneficial? <There are many, but these are the better, available genera currently> As always thank you for your time, Dave <BobF>

DSB, hang-on, maint.  -- 09/08/08 Hello WWM crew, I have a question. I have a DSB in my HOB refugium for about 3 months now, I got it b/c I had nitrate problems and I read in your site about it, did alot <...> of research and finally decided to go for it + add the macro algae. All my levels seemed to get better, my algae outbreak receded also, The DSB is about 5 inches deep. Lately I have noticed that in the corners of the refugium there are black patches. I now this is not good, but I'm not sure what to do about it. Should I stir all the sand? <Mmm, I would likely vacuum this area... remove the discoloration, along with the water...> Will it be toxic to the DT? <Perhaps> Please help. Thank you so much, Erika <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Deep Sand Bed... still NO3  6/27/08 I started a new deep sand bed after being tested with a fish only tank for several months. I got bored with the previous setup and was ready to take on a challenging setup towards a reef tank. <Hee! Hang on, get ready to experience the next stage of addiction...> Old water along with established filters remained in tank while crushed coral was removed and Aragamax added. <Good> I also cured and added 80 pounds of live rock. After a week of stable parameters and coralline regrowth, I returned my fishes to the tank and added a detritivore pack from IPSF consisting of worms, Amphi and copes. The deep sand bed is terraced to give an aesthetic look. <Will limit effectiveness> The high end consists of 6 inches of sand and 1 inch on the lower portion. The old rocks from the previous tank was used to hold back the deep sand bed and live rock was placed on top throughout the tank. After a month of reefkeeping along with 5% weekly water changes, my nitrates will not go below 15-20 ppm. Why is this the case even though aggressive skimming and 15X water circulation, cleaning sponge filters every few days to clear out organic matter, has been employed. Is there continued die-off from live-rock even though ammonia and nitrates are 0? Have been using a turkey baster everyday and quite a bit of mulm or detritus comes out of the pores. Should I continue this process of live rock cleaning? How long should the sand bed take to mature before noticing natural nitrate reduction? <With that terrace you may not even have suitable areas for anaerobic bacteria to live- these zones of growth must be at least 3-4" from the edge of the sandbed, which means a lot of your terrace won't work effectively. If you want to have some lower areas in the tank, I would recommend they be very small, and 1" or less. Anything above 1" and under 4" will tend to produce nitrate and other funk without performing any denitrifying activity.> My parameters are Ammonia-0 Nitrites-0 Nitrates 15-20 Calcium 460 Alkalinity 4.5 mEq/l 2 Clownfishes 1 striped damsel 1 powder brown tang Thanks, Ryan Hongosh <I'd deepen that bed and wait- establishment of these bacteria takes time, perhaps introduction of some good LR direct from an aquaculturist would speed things a bit. Otherwise, you should be on your way to a healthy reef environment. Benjamin>

Will sand turn white again 04/17/2008 Hi, <<Craig>> I was hoping for a bit of advice. I have just had to move house and in the process I store all my lovely live sand in bins - 60 litres of the stuff. <<Ok>> As I removed t from the tank I separated it into layers. The top in one bin, the lower in another and so on. The lower levels were quite black but still full of massive worms. The tank was flourishing. <<Yes, i can imagine they would be black>> The top layer i was able to put into a small aquarium and it is still full of life and a nice white colour. The rest however, over the last few days it has all turned dark grey/black. I know it has become black due to low oxygen levels and hydrogen sulphide, my question is this. If I place it in the new aquarium and allow it to cycle will the top layers turn white again? Is it better to start fresh or to reuse the old sand and change the water until it becomes healthy again? <<I would no re-use this sand. Replace sandbed with new sand, and use some of the top sand that you saved and housed in a running system, and mix in with the new sandbed to seed life>> Many thanks, Craig <<Thanks for the question, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

DSB Addition 4/1/08 Hello Crew!!! <Hi> I have a quick DSB question. I currently have a 55 gallon tank with some mushroom coral, polyps, zoos, and leather. I also have some Astrea snails and Cerith snails along with 2 tank raised clowns. I also have about 70 lbs of live rock. I currently have about a 1" sand bed and would like to upgrade to a DSB. The sand I have now is CaribSea aragonite. <Ok> Can I just go add all of it at once, or do I have to do it gradually? <Gradually would be better, gives the existing life in the sand a chance to migrate to the new top, helping to minimize the die-off in the sand and maintain water quality.> My tank is only about 3-4 months old also. P.S. I have a sand sifting star that I am going to take back to the LFS also because of all the bad things I have read. <Good> Thanks for any suggestions you can give me. Matt <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: substrate fears and missing Ceriths... add Nassarius pic from Morg.s   3/14/08 "<Why? I mean, towards what ends the gastropods?>" Hmmm: I'm interested in keeping them specifically (more interested in them than fish), I suppose, and I wanted a small diversity of species (since they all specialize in any case) rather than a large bunch of the same species. I'm not a huge fan of the "clean up crew" philosophy in the sense of hoping that some perfect horde of critters will do all your husbandry for you, but they do play their part. <I see... and want to share. Was out visiting last week with Morgan Lidster at Inland Aquatics in Terre Haute, IA... and he has some really neat small Nassarius Snails (will make them the pic of the day on WWM... and post a smaller version with your email resp. there... That were very productive, attractive... out and about. I would like to make a further comment/emphasis vis a vis your prev. email... I would be adding a good deal of fine coral sand to your existing substrate> Since last writing, at least one Cerith did show up again, though it didn't move very far on the surface for two days, and vanished again the next day. I moved a little sand during a water change near where I had last seen it, and found it's shell, but though I never saw it move, it clearly crawled deeper into the sand because it was gone by the time I came back to it. I'm still pretty sure that otherwise none of the 4 have come above sand in months now, unless I've been ridiculously unlucky (I really do look in at pretty much all hours of the day, since my work schedule is so variable). Is it possible for some Cerith to simply stay down in the substrate for extremely long periods of time, eating the gunk under the sand exclusively? <Mmm, yes... particularly in coarse material as you have> Could they be perfectly fine, just eating enough that they don't need to be particularly mobile? Should I still be worried about them dying and rotting, or are they too small to do serious chemical damage, even dead? <I would not be overly concerned... if they should perish, this will not "spoil" the water, your system here> If you'll indulge me, I also have another question or three about three strange hitchhiker critters in my tank. First, I recently discovered something on my LR (never ceases to amaze me how many different creatures I've never seen in tank before, and never put in, can just show up suddenly after presumably hiding in the LR for so long) that's white, about the size of a penny, and clearly some sort of bivalve (two ridged shells, characteristic "lips" just inside the shells, some sort of siphon sticking out like a curious white worm). My understanding from reading is that most regular bivalves tend to starve quickly in your average reef tank, but somehow this tiny guy has managed to survive as a hitchhiker for quite some time so far (perhaps even the three years the LR has been in the tank, since I don't know how it would have gotten in otherwise). I haven't been feeding phyto regularly up until now, since there really isn't much in my system to use it (a few tiny Featherduster hitchhikers). In the interests of possibly keeping it happy/alive, will just adding small particle phyto to the water as if I had a small clam help it at all? <Perhaps... it won't hurt. Very likely there is "resident" material present... a great deal of production occurs, and reproduction... in our captive environments... Sufficient to support many such filter feeders> If it moves around the tank, it's so tiny (smaller than a penny) that I doubt I'll be able to find it to reliably spot feed, and I know most of the phyto will end up in the skimmer. Should I bother? <Mmm, up to you. Again, adding unicellular green algae is not deleterious...> Second, I have little white trees growing all over my LR, and I can't seem to find anyone that knows what they are. <... very likely Hydroids... See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/hydrozoans.htm and the linked files above...> All the usual suspects don't seem to fit: they aren't verm. snails (no stringy webs). They don't seem to be hydroids of any sort. <Oh!> I can't get a picture of them without a macro lens, because the branches are white and too small/fine to resolve. <A "side" flash (off-shoe) can often be of help here... Perhaps a larger file size that is cropped down if you lack the macro...> But they really do look almost exactly like leafless trees: longer branches dividing into smaller ones until the branches are too tiny to make out, though not quite as dense as feathers or anything. <Perhaps some form of algae...> In the few places I have a good angle on their base, they seem to grow out from a little white arc/tube that is flat against the rock. The do not move except with the water motion. They do not retract or extend. They sometimes catch particles on their branches, and but the particles just get blown off later as far as I can tell. They do grow, albeit very very slowly. The only thing I can find in your archives that looks anything like it are Bryozoans, <Could be as well> though this seems unlikely given how fragile those are, and nothing I've seen of them quite matches the fine branching patterns with different size branches. They are also pretty omnipresent in my tank, a few scattered randomly all over nearly every chunk of rock. Finally, I have a small, fluorescent-purple thing with several knobs that each have a clump of white whiskers on the end. It looks almost like a tiny purple cactus, again, smaller than a penny. The only real suggestion anyone has had is that it's some sort of sponge, but I've never heard of a sponge with "whiskers." <Some do... or could easily be two organisms...> It also never moves on its own, though I recently found a super teensy version of it growing elsewhere in the tank, so it's reproducing somehow. Thanks for your expertise. <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Deep Sand Bed Maintenance'¦Is Simple, Really! -- 02/19/08 Good Morning Crew! <<Hey there Sebastian!>> Hello Eric! Hope you are still there, this is Sebastian, it has been a while since I wrote. <<Indeed it has been a while'¦and yes, Bob hasn't given me the boot yet>> Thank you for taking the time to address an issue I am battling at the moment. <<No worries , mate'¦is what we do>> To give you a recap, I have 90 Gallon tank with a 20 Gallon sump. I have about 40 lbs of live rock in the sump, a skimmer and a carbon basket. I have been running this system as a bare bottom tank, however, I have been dealing with inconsistent Alk, Ca, and I honestly have grown to dislike the bare look. <<As do I'¦ Not natural at all'¦both to my eye, and certainly not to the animals we keep>> I have added 40 lbs of CaribSea "Seafloor grade" sand, about 1-1.7mm. <<Mmm, might need a bit more>> I had originally purchased this for a remote sand bed that was not successful. <<'¦?>> This sand was added over the weekend and today I purchased enough of the same sand to have a depth of 4". <<Ah! Good'¦>> My purpose in doing so is to have denitrification within the DSB as well as an alternate habitat for other sand dwelling critters such as worms, Jawfish, etc. <<Okay>> This is all aragonite sand and I like the appearance of the tank with it, so much more appealing than a bare bottom! <<Yes>> I have been missing out! <<Is my opinion too>> Anyway, I have been keeping mostly SPS corals, and a couple of LPS, teal brain and a candy cane coral. Does this sound like a good idea to you? <<Indeed it does'¦both the deep sand substrate AND the mix of corals you mention>> I guess I could have asked this before I actually purchased all that sand, however, after reading through lots of your postings I see very favorable opinions towards a DSB of 4", with grain size of 1-1.7mm. <<This is so'¦and the reason the info is posted for all to see>> Any input? <<I think you have made a fine decision/addition/improvement to your system. Might I add that you could also benefit from a cup or two of sand/mud substrate from fellow hobbyists or willing store owners to give a little 'kick-start' to your new substrate'¦though your live rock will also do this in time. You might also want to look in to a detritivore kit from an online source'¦preferably something geared toward substrate fauna>> I currently have a 5 fish only, and I plan to add 1 more this summer, a Jawfish, <<Mmm, can be done'¦but best kept in a species specific tank. The Jawfish will also likely need a bit more depth to the substrate, as well as a mix of larger aggregate and broken shells with which to build and fortify its burrow>> and perhaps a seastar that is friendly to my corals and my clam. <<Have a look at the genus Fromia for this'¦much more suitable to aquarium life than Linckia species>> I had to remove one of the Koralia #3 pumps I previously had on the bottom, I relocated another to be on the back glass, pointing up and towards the back of the rocks, I have open aquascaping, so there is a lot of random current around. <<Very good'¦this is important to the health and function of the DSB>> My main concern is to maintain this DSB properly and do it correctly to avoid problems. Please advise. <<Is quite simple and much as you have probably already read about. Start with a small aggregate (my preference is 'sugar-fine' but what you have will do fine too), keep up with strong and vigorous water flow, avoid 'too much' disturbance of the substrate such as that imposed by large digging Gobies, and add some small bio-turbators like Nassarius and Cerith snails'¦and yes, even Bristle Worms'¦>> Thanks for your help in the matter. Sebastian Nunez <<Always a pleasure, Sebastian. Eric Russell>>

DSB Questions'¦ Do I Need More? How To Maintain? -- 01/14/08 Dear Wet Web, <<Hello, mystery person>> I've been reading a lot of FAQ's on the web and browsing your site religiously unfortunately I find a lot of contradictory material. <<Indeed>> I realize this will happen since everyone has their own opinions. <<Yes'¦differences in perceptions/experiences>> With that said I would like your opinion on a DSB question. <<Okay'¦am happy to proffer one>> Currently I have a 50 gallon tank with a 20 gallon sump. The sand bed in my display is around 3". I know this doesn't technically constitute as a DSB so my question is would adding a 5-6" sand bed in my refugium section in my sump compensate for the lack of sand in the display? <<It can't 'compensate' if the square footage is not equal to that of the tank'¦but it will 'help'>> If not would you recommend adding more sand to the display? <<I am a 'big' fan of the DSB'¦ Even just another inch of sugar-fine Aragonite could make a difference>> If so what would be the best technique to minimize damage to the DSB/avoid nuisance algae? <<Mmm, not sure if this is what you're asking here but'¦ Along with a fine substrate grain-size and strong water flow'¦for a small bed such as yours, avoid large 'digging' organisms such as Engineer Gobies. Instead, utilize small 'stirrers' and detritus scavengers like Cerith and/or Nassarius snails'¦>> Thanks. <<Happy to share. EricR>>

DSB and Jawfish  11/07/07 Hello and thank you for the opportunity to ask you a question about deep sand beds and how they relate to my set up. I have a 28g tank with 30lbs of live rock and about 45lbs of sugar sized oolite sand (4"), and 3lbs of mixed rocks and shells for construction materials all with the intent to have a Jawfish. I have 33 x turnover in my tank in flow, a skimmer, and carbon. I do not have the sand bed for the NNR purpose but more for my Jawfish. Is it possible to stir my entire sand bed once a week with water changes (of course staying clear of my Jawfish den, unreachable areas near the rock) just to prevent any issues with gas formation in the lower levels, discoloration near the glass due to algae? <Yes... though I would do just "Half"... one side or the other every interval. To preserve some of the microbial and macro- life there> Is that actually too counterproductive? Any other suggestions? Thank you as always for your help. I really enjoy your site. Amber <I think you will be fine here with your stirring... though you will find the "Jaws" don't appreciate too much movement near their burrows. Bob Fenner>

My Tank Is Going To Put Me In An Asylum... Yikes! pH anomalies... large system, DSB maint.   10/2/07 Cheers guys, thanks for everything you do! <Welcome> Here's my question: I have a large system (1000 gallons), rock has been established for years (part of a tank move), when setting up the system 3 months ago I started to run into psychotic Ph issues, I thought it was CO2 (air conditioning induced), my reactor was tuned in and everything, I finally gave up, removed my $800 Deltec reactor, replaced it with a dual chamber model I built from $40 worth of Lowe's parts and boom, no ph issues (I found out later other people have had issues with Rowalith as well). <Yes> Anyway, I have several DSBs (my prop tanks have light coating of oolitic sand), and I planned on using Nassarius but IDIOT me forgot to get them as I was distracted by the ph issue. In the end all my param.s check out, no trates, no phosphate (haven't checked silicate yet but I use DI), mg 1250, Alk 10.5 dKH, ca 425, and I drip Kalk. All of my SPS has great polyp extension but they aren't coloring to the level I know that they can achieve (they lost color from the ph issues and stress). Everybody was dipped in TMPCC and there are no pests to speak of. I have a good amount of snails (true Vibex, Trochus, Mithrax crabs) on the way. <Watch these last... I would exclude Mithraculus here> I noticed some of the sand has a black layer below the top layer, the question is I ASSUME (we all know what happens when we assume that's why I am asking you guys) that once the clean up crew is in it should allieve and ultimately fix the DSBs and light sanded beds, and that I should not move to replace the sand, correct? <If so, only a bit at a time, any given day... and "gingerly"... best to take that part of the system off line... dump, rinse, even bleach, FW rinse, air-dry that batch of sand... replace it some days later...> I don't see hydrogen sulfide bubbles yet. <You may not... and yet this could be a/the source of pH anomaly, worse troubles...> I am also going to start monitoring ORP and from there will consider ozone. <I would... For a system of this size, Ozone... and a dryer in conjunction would definitely be on my have list> Thanks again Tom <Bob Fenner>

DSB move?  10/20/07 Hello gang, <Chad> I have a question that I did not see answered on the website. I currently have a 29 gal. refugium w/ a DBS hooked up to a 46 gal. SPS frag tank. I'm moving soon and want to transfer the DBS to another tank. I would like to know of any special considerations I may need to figure into this move. The DBS is very healthy with large amounts of life in it. When moving/scooping out this sand do I need to do it in lavers or can I just scoop it out and mix up the different. This sand bed has been in this tank for 3 or 4 years now. My main concern is that I will kill off the different types of bacteria by mixing the top and bottom layers. What do you think? <Mmm, if it were mine, and you can get a strong friend or two to help you lift the entire tank onto a stout support (boards?) I would move it enmasse, as one piece, sans most of the water of course> I also have an unrelated question. For a long time I wanted a culture of Mysid shrimp for my refugium and to my surprise I now have one. The only change I have made to this tank is feeding the main display freeze dried and frozen Mysid shrimp. Do you think that there could have been viable fertilized eggs in these products that hatched under the right conditions in my tank? <Yes> Thanks so much for your input and vast website, Chad Schuder <We're very glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Re: DSB move? Mysid culture   10/22/07 Hello again, <Chad> I need to clarify my DSB move question. I want to move this DSB into another tank. What is the best way of doing this? <Mmm, just to "do it"> Also on the Mysid shrimp question, which way would be better to boost my chances of hatching these shrimp in other tanks or increasing the current population? Should I buy freeze dried or frozen (possibly gamma radiated) Mysid shrimp to feed my fish/coral. <Likely frozen are more nutritious, cost-effective> I have bought both in the past and I'm not sure what product type would have a better chance of having viable fertilized eggs after being processed. Thanks, Chad <Mmm, neither... I'd order, raise some from live... they are available. Bob Fenner> DSB Life Span and Replacement 10/10/07 Hi guys, Is there a life span for a DSB? <Not if the tank is properly maintained.> I understand that they do shrink with time, but is there a point in time that the DSB needs too be replaced? <Not really, only add some sand back to replace what dissolves.> For example: too much gunk from heavy bio-load. I'm trying to answer a question for someone who is considering replacing their DSB because they are having a nitrate problem, and is wondering if the DSB itself is the problem. Thanks, Pat <A failed DSB is more an indicator of lack of maintenance and improper / inadequate filtration, rather than something that happens to all DSBs. With proper maintenance a DSB should last indefinitely.> <Chris>

DSB Regrets-sand storms  9/20/07 Good evening. I have a DSB in my 2 month old 65g sumpless mixed reef. I run an Aqua C Remora, Aquaclear 70 w/activated carbon & 2 Maxi Jet 1200's. My problem? Detritus and Dead spots. I went with 4-5" of fine sand for the sake of NNR. The problem is I can't get good enough flow towards the bottom of the tank without blowing the sand all around, and ultimately into piles. <Yes, it can take some time and effort to figure out just how to arrange the rock and powerheads so that you don't get sand storms and dead spots. However, I assure you it can be done. I have Tunze and a 12000 MaxiJet in my 65g tank. It just takes some tinkering around with.> Consequently, I have some areas of brown n'fuzzy detritus and hair algae worse then I ever had with my crushed coral substrate systems--which obviously lent themselves to moderate flow and vacuuming. <You can lightly vacuum the surface of a sand bed too. You just have to be delicate about it.> I feed as sparingly as humanly possible 3 fish--maroon clown, royal Gramma & scooter blenny). Anyway, If I had to do it all over again, I'd fore go the DSB (unless I had a sump). But for now, I want to know how best to deal with this issue. <Patience. Give your tank some time to adjust to the changes you've made.> Also, I'm a bit disappointed in the performance of the Remora, as it only produces a wet skimmate, at a rate of perhaps a 1/4 cup per day. I've tried raising and lowering the collection cup, in addition to contacting Aqua C (very attentive at least) to no avail. <It might not be the skimmer. It's quite possible that you just don't have much to skim.> Additionally, I change 8g of R/O water every week. Is there anything you can recommend here? My cleaning crew may be a bit on the light side--7 or so blue leg hermits, 3 turbo snails and 4 Astreas... <Just give it all some time. And read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbconvtofrom.htm Best, Sara M.>

Remove and wash 1/2 of the DSB? -- 08/31/07 Dear crew, <Mark> My reef tank has a bad infestation of some type of Trachelomonas (or some other motile protist). Since this condition is usually the result of high nitrates and/or phosphates <Mmm... and/or lack of competition, predation... circumstances fostering the same> I tested the water column and a sample of water a couple inches within the substrate. I found that the nitrates were undetectable in both the water column and the substrate. The phosphates were undetectable in the water column, but were 1-2ppm from the water within the substrate. <Not atypical... and was this PO3? Or PO4 or a combo.? And what of the test type... did it involve acidification? The reading could be spurious... for sure> Obviously this is what is feeding my unwanted guests. <Nah...> Should I take out all the substrate I can without moving the rockwork (roughly half) and rinse it with running tap water? <Not if it were me/mine, no> I realize this will upset the biological filtration but I'm afraid something drastic has to be done! Thanks, Mark <Again... nah! Unless you consider more reading, research as being drastic. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbmaint.htm and the linked files above... and let time go by. Bob Fenner>

Re: remove and wash 1/2 of the DSB?  9/1/07 Sorry about that, I used the wrong search (washing DBS instead of phosphate leaching from DSB). Had I used this search I would have seen by your response on 10/26/06 that phosphate leaching from the substrate or being used by pest algae would be unlikely. <Ah, no worries> The phosphate test kit I am using is Aquarium Pharm. and the first step is acidification. I guess that explains why the color never really matched. <Mmm, yes... but also the common case... folks should know that such a process often releases insoluble phosphate, PO3, resulting in a higher than real measure for soluble, PO4, phosphate> What would the best predators be for these protists? Fan worms? Clams? <A broad mix of filter feeders... best really an addition of several pounds of very fresh (though "cured") live rock... and a "healthy" DSB/live sand> Copepods? Thanks, Mark <A blend, big populations of filter feeding organisms period. BobF>

Moving a DSB    8/25/07 Hi Guys! I'm setting up my FOWLR (no corals for now) and I want a DSB for nitrate reduction. Problem is, I will be moving this thing from Virginia to Colorado in 3 years when I graduate from vet school. I already have started planning for the move (I'll adopt out my fish to my parents whose salt tank I'm managing and I'll move the live rock and re-cycle upon arrival). <...sounds like a good plan.> I'm simplifying my life with no coral until after the move, but I just can't let go of the DSB. It's a 23-27 hour drive and I was wondering if you had any advice on the feasibility of moving a DSB. I can leave it in the tank (it's only a 29 gallon), so in theory I'd be able to move without exposing too much of the anaerobic areas. <Even a DSB in a 29g tank can be extremely heavy! (Trust me. I know, I have one.) That said, if you're personal friends with the Incredible Hulk and can manage to get it in your car and to its new location without breaking the tank; go for it. Of course, you should keep just enough water in the tank to keep it submerged. And you'll have to be careful to keep it from getting too hot/cold during the trip. Also, you might want to let it "cycle" for a few weeks at the new place. Even if you're really careful, you'll inevitably stir up some bacteria poo.> So, attempt to move the DSB or chuck it and start again (groan!)? <Even if you decide not to move it, don't pitch all of it. Carefully take out a chunk of it to use as seeder sand for your sand bed at the new place. And you could share the rest with local aquarists looking to seed or refresh their sand beds.> Thanks a bunch, and if you ever need the advice of a then-seasoned salt keeper with a DVM and an interest in fish, call me in 20 or 30 years! <You're going to make us wait that long?!> Casey <My pleasure, Sara M.>

DSB causing nitrites? - 7/20/07 Hello again WWM crew! Thanks for a wonderful site full of info and all the past the info you have given me. My setup is a 125 g with about 200# LR and 125# LS in the display. I started it about 3 years ago. I set up a closed loop circulating system about a year and a half ago, thanks to your site, and my corals all love it. This pumps about 3600 gph total through six nozzles directed at each other, creating a more turbulent flow. About a year ago, I upgraded my sump to a 55 gallon tank that I converted with guidance from the WWM site (thank you!). The first baffle holds my protein skimmer. From there, the water goes to the 5" DSB (added 6 months ago) and Chaetomorpha. The last compartment pumps 1200 gph (before head pressure) back to the tank. I designed the first and last compartments to be just large enough to comfortably hold their respective pumps and the rest is the DSB (26"x13" surface area). I have a mix of fish including a three stripe damsel, 4 blue/green chromis, a pair of false perc clowns, 2 Bartlett's anthias, a green mandarin, 6 engineer gobies, <Will get MUCH larger> a Lamarck's angel and a blue regal tang. For corals/inverts I have a mix of about 10 different soft corals and another 10 SPS as well as a few sponges, a BTA that my clowns love and 2 cucumbers. Also present are some Mexican turbo snails and a hearty mix of red reef hermits and blue leg hermits as well as a duster cluster. Everyone gets along well and seems to be doing great. My corals are all growing and have good polyp extension throughout the day (except my orange sun coral, which extends at night). Some have even reproduced and spread (wood polyps, cloves, buttons, snake polyps and xenia have probably doubled in the past few months). Before I added the DSB, all parameters tested fine except nitrates, which ran consistently very high (around 100!!!) Despite this, all my corals seemed to thrive (at the time, they were all soft corals). When I added the DSB, there was a minor spike of ammonia and nitrite and a simultaneous decrease in nitrates down to 20. Water changes seemed to have no effect on nitrates and I assumed that this was possibly because the LR and LS were leaching nitrates back into solution with water changes. <Mmm, no... aerobic metabolic activity by the life there, yes> Now, six months after adding the DSB, my nitrites never seemed to completely cycle and my nitrates never go below 40. <Increase the DSB size/depth, add more macroalgae, light for same> Even with water changes of about 30 gal per week, my nitrites are consistently around 1.0. <Mmm, likely spurious. I'd try another test kit> Still, my corals and fish seem to thrive despite what should be toxic conditions for them. My thoughts on this are that my DSB is possibly too small for my bio-load, which I realize is quite high. I have also contributing to the nitrate issue by my feeding schedule and am currently weaning down my feedings ( I was feeding 2 small meals per day and have cut back to one per day with plans to wean even further). I have confirmed my test results with other test kits and have ran the same test kits on my other tanks with different readings but still consistent results on those tanks, so I don't think it is a false reading. <I see...> Based on what I have read, I suspect that the DSB may be causing the nitrites to read high by not being large enough to completely denitrify the water. <Possibly... but not the only reason> Is this a logical thought process or am I way off base here? Also, without putting the DSB in the display, I have no more space to increase the surface area of my current DSB in my sump, although I could increase the depth to as deep as 15" in my current sump configuration. Would a deeper DSB be of benefit or do I need to increase the surface area and keep the 5-6" depth? <This latter would be better> I would prefer not to have the DSB in the display but if necessary, I can do that. Also, I have been considering the addition of a coil denitrator and/or a fluidized bed filter. <Worth trying> I understand that an FBF is better for systems with a high bio-load, but do you think my overcrowded 125 would benefit? <Mmm, yes... but perhaps to the detriment of increased nitrate> I also understand that denitrators are often touchy and difficult to run properly, but the DIY coil denitrator sounds like it may bypass some of the difficulties inherent in the commercially available denitrators in which you have to feed sugar to the anaerobics. I also understand that a denitrator probably will not eliminate my nitrate problem significantly without me also adjusting my feeding to a more reasonable schedule. I found the plans for the coil denitrator on saltaquarium.about.com and the design is apparently by Don Carner. Are you familiar with this denitrator? If so, what are your thoughts about that? <Can be made to work... the source of "free" carbon is almost always a/the issue with such contrivances... Newer, modern commercial units have dosing pumps...> Basically, I am concerned about my nitrites not cycling and my nitrates being too high. I am amazed that my livestock are displaying no ill effects but concerned that long-term effects will be negative. Any suggestions you could give would be much appreciated because I LOVE my tank and every inhabitant. I am continuously trying to improve their captive lives and have already done much toward that thanks to the WWM crew and all the information on the site. Keep up the great work and thanks again. Sincerely, Rob Watson <The simplest, long-term, no-holds-barred solution here is the addition of a new/extra sump/refugium... Bob Fenner>

Confused about moving a DSB 6/4/07 Hello, <Hi> Best site for advice but I need to clarify some of my questions? <Ok> I live outside of Buffalo, NY, last year October we had that terrible snow storm that caused so much damage. One thing that was damaged was our hard wood floor where my 75 gallon salt water tank sits. Our insurance is paying to repair and refinish the floors, therefore the tank needs to be moved along with everything else. <Not fun.> My problem will be that this is going to take at least 4 days. I plan on (from reading other questions) to save all the water in new garbage cans (after rinsing well), moving the fish/pets to a 39 gallon tank. With heater, power heads and hopefully my coral. I have a Yellow tang, 3 clowns, brittle star, very, very large goby, some snails, and other assorted little critters. My DSB is anywhere between 3"- to 8" depending on where my goby is digging. I have read that you can remove the DSB in layers, and replace back in that order. <Really tough to do, and the exposure to air/O2 makes this kind of pointless.> Then I have read that churning up established sand beds causes bad situations. <Can, but not in this case, usually worried about hydrogen sulfide.> I image that this is going to be pretty murky, as the top layers are white, but become grayer as you get deeper. Can I keep my DSB in layers, or only keep some of it and add new? <Personally, I would keep the very top where most of the critters live and replace the rest.> I have about 200 lbs of sand in this tank, and the tank has been with me for 3 years now. I would hate to have to replace this sand, as it was not too cheap to buy. <That is definitely the downside.> Also, will my sand digging goby which is about 8 inches be ok with no sand for hiding or digging for 4 days. <Should be ok.> What about lighting? <I would keep it muted.> Brittle star hides, so does the goby. I will have as much of my live rock as possible, but I am moving them into a much smaller tank. I plan on using what lights I have on the smaller tank (hubby is going to put together something to hang the lights over the tank). With the smaller tank, will I need to lower my lighting? I have mushrooms, cup corral, Xenia, and sea mat. Xenia had started to die out, which allowed me to have other coral, but the Xenia is making a come back which my clowns love. The garbage cans that I am going to store my water in, I have seen that it is suggested to have a heater, power head and air stones or air pump, yes? <Yes.> I also intend to have additional "new" salt water in another can. I, as always, appreciate the advice and humor from this great site. Thanks Kris <It's an added expense but I would definitely replace most of the sand. Otherwise it seems like you have a good plan. Good luck with the (temporary) move.> <Chris>

My DSB...Can It Be "Reused?" - 05/04/07 Dear Crew, <<Hello Chris>> I think my first attempt at sending this failed (sorry if this is a repeat). <<No worries mate>> I have a 150-gallon tank with a 5-inch deep sand bed, 220-pounds of live rock, 6 small fish, and various invertebrates. <<Ok>> The tank drains into a 30-gallon refugium.  At least it used to, until the refugium inexplicably cracked and drained its contents onto my basement floor (my 3 year old son is the leading suspect). <<Mmm...I see>> I plan to move the live rock and animals into 65- and 20-gallon tanks temporarily, so I can replace the carpet and install a new refugium (with padlock). <<Hee-hee!  And maybe a proximity alarm...>> My question is whether I can use any or all of the sand from my deep sand bed, or if I need to start from scratch? <<You "can" use/reuse the existing sand bed but...you will need to allow time to cycle and carefully monitor the system as disturbing/removing/replacing and "re-zoning" the bed layers will cause a massive die-off of the infauna.  If this is unacceptable, then do consider using "new" sand which can then be seeded heavily from the old bed to give it a kick start>> I'm pretty sure I'll need to remove the sand in order to lift the tank off of the stand. <<Agreed>> I added the DSB about 10 months ago.  Your input would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Chris <<Cheers, EricR>>

DSBs...Stir?  Vacuum?  Both?  Neither? -- 05/02/07 Crew, <<Chris>> I've gotten several different opinions from different employees, at each of my 4 LFS. <<Well Chris...this hobby 'is' much about opinions>> My 55-gallon tank has a 4-inch DSB. <<Cool>> This tank has been set up for going on 4 years now.  My question is, should I vacuum the sand bed? <<I think Bob/many would disagree with me but, as a general rule, I say 'no' as long as the DSB has been employed correctly.  If you have utilized an appropriate substrate particle size (sugar-fine...in my opinion), are providing adequate water flow (using the 'guideline' of 10x the tank's volume as a minimum), and have detritivores present (Bristleworms, Nassarius Snails, Brittle Stars, etc.) ...then I see no need to vacuum the sand bed.  I have a 6' -- 8' DSB in my 375g display that has never been vacuumed in the almost four years it has been established>> Should I stir it before water changes? <<Not necessary>> Life is thriving, but the sand tends to develop a "dingy" tint to it. <<I have found that a Dragon Goby (Amblygobius phalaena) keeps the bed 'disturbed' just enough to keep it looking good without digging too deep like many of the 'Sleeper' Gobies seem to do>> When I put the sand in, it was bright white, but over the years, it's not so bright. <<Indeed>> All tests are perfect.  VHO lighting, nothing has changed in years, except for the vibrancy of the sand.  Please advise. <<Do consider A. phalaena as a possible solution>> I'm thinking it may just be from the years of detritus particles mixing in with it, and that by stirring, or vacuuming, that it will return the luster. <<Stirring the upper layer (1/4' -- ½') of sand is fine if you wish to do so...but instead of siphoning this away, let the liberated bacteria/detritus/et al mix in to the water flow to be captured/consumed/utilized by your corals and/or other sessile fauna (e.g.-sponges)>> Thanks, Chris <<Happy to assist.  EricR>>

Re: DSBs...Stir?  Vacuum?  Both?  Neither? - 05/02/07 Thanks. <<Welcome>> I'll leave as is then, and look into the Goby. <<Very good>> I have plenty of the snails, worms, etc. you mentioned above. <<Excellent>> My sand bed is sugar fine. <<Very good again>> I started it with a bag of live sand, and brought back the rest from the beach in Panama City, Florida. <<Mmm, don't usually recommend folks get sand from the beach as there is a real possibility for introducing parasites/toxins/pollutants>> I brought back several buckets that I got from at least waste deep water so it wouldn't have shell pieces in it.  I then put it in an old tank on my porch for about a month so anything in it that may be harmful would die off.  I then added some RO water and rinsed it.  I then let it dry again, and sifted through it as I added it to my tank. <<Ah, ok...you put the time/effort to thoroughly clean it first.  But...I would still have misgivings as I don't believe this sand to be Aragonite but more likely Calcite or even Silica in nature.  Not that these latter two are bad/can't be used in a marine/reef system, they just don't offer the benefits of Aragonite>> It's a lot cheaper than buying that much at the LFS, and by seeding it with one bag of live sand, it all became live. <<Indeed, though this "seeding" would also have been accomplished with the addition of the live rock>> And Panama City is home to the world's most beautiful beaches, so it's like a vacation all over again each time I see that sugar fine, bright white, sand in my tank. <<There's no disputing the beauty of Florida's sandy beaches (and the huge draw for visitors re), but when it comes to what is "below" the waves...I'm happy to negotiate the maybe somewhat less "user-friendly" yet no-less beautiful shoreline of the Kona Coast.  EricR>> <Hope to see you there soon! B>

DSB -- To Stir or Not -- 4/29/07 Hello. <Hi Eric> I am sold on the deep sand bed methodology. I have read here and in books that occasional stirring can have positive effects by providing food for corals, and reducing detritus buildup. My question is that others say anoxic areas in DSBs form, and gases that can be released from these areas when stirred, or with downed power-head, that can be fatal to the aquarium inhabitants. <Hydrogen sulfide, see more on this at WWM.> Can you help me clear this up, and if stirring is indeed recommended, should the entire depth be stirred, only the surface layers, and how frequently? <Occasional stirring of the top ½' to 1' is fine. Going deeper than that puts at risk the beneficial bacteria helpful in denitrification. As for frequency, I'd say that in the absence of any natural sand stirrers, about once a week or so should do. It all depends on whether/how fast detritus collects on the sand bed. You could also lightly vacuum any areas where excess detritus builds up (ideally, increase flow in those areas to eliminate/reduce future deposits). Definitely consider employing some natural help by way of Nassarius snails, and perhaps a brittle star (depending on the size of the system and its inhabitants): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm . Much more regarding sand stirring, cleaning, etc starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsiftfaqs.htm .> Thanks, Erik <You're very welcome, Eric, and good luck! --Lynn>

Deep Sand Bed 1/5/07 Hello Crew: <Hi> I currently have a 55 gallon reef that I am trying to add a DSB to.  I am slowly adding the sugar fine sand and I am now up to about 4 inches.  The problem that I am having is that my four Maxi Jet 1200's are blowing the sand like CRAZY.  <I bet, big powerheads.>  I don't want to change them because my corals are doing very well with them.  I was wondering if I could use different substrate as the top 2 inches for the DSB.  I was thinking crushed coral.  <Not really, will trap debris and cause nitrate problems.>  If I can use crushed coral do you have any recommendations on how to avoid the milky water that crushed coral always causes? <Wouldn't use.> I know you can rinse it for ever and still get the cloudy water.  I do not use a filter just an Aqua C Remora and am concerned that the cloudy water would last forever.  Thank you so much for your help. <Best bet is to try to rearrange the powerheads.  Maybe find a configuration that works better.  Crushed Coral will only add problems long term.> <Chris> DSB worries  - 10/28/06 Hello Crew. I have a question that I would like to run by you. Currently I am using a remote refugium that also contains a 6 inch DSB. I can honestly say that I have seen a reduction in nitrates after getting the fuge/DSB established and running. Lately I have heard some concern over DSBs leaching phosphates Back into the system. Is there any truth in this theory? <Not much... the conditions that would return insolubilized phosphate back to solution are very rare in aquarium settings> Should I be changing my DSB on a yearly or semi yearly basis??   Thanks in advance. <I stand by my general "rule of thumb" encouraging the (likely) addition (rather than partial removal/replacement) of some part of the substrate here after a year or so... every half year. There are other inputs re this issue posted on WWM... under DSB Maint. FAQs. Bob Fenner> DSB's, depth, gasses  10/20/05 Crew- <Craig> I was doing some follow up on your FAQ's about substrates and DSB's and I noticed that Steve Allen said that DSB's denitrify all the way to nitrogen gas. <Mmm, can...> In my 30 gallon reef's DSB, I have noticed that small pockets of air can be seen through the glass all around the edge of the sand bed. I assume these pockets of air are the end product of denitrification. <This is possible... but other reactions result in gasses produced here as well> If they are, it would be significant to note that the air pockets only occur within the top 1-2" of sand. Would this support those of the opinion that deeper DSB's offer no advantage over more shallow beds? <Mmm... no... the gas may be simply coalescing... floating up to this level> Or is it just as likely that the visible air pockets are the accumulation of nitrogen gas that has risen to the top of the bed after being created in the deeper parts of the bed? <Bingo> Since there is a lack of consensus on the virtue of DSB's, I thought I would pass my observations along. Craig <Appreciate this. It may well be that some studies have been done, published on the make-up of these gas accumulations... not easily found, indexed in the pet-fish literature, but... there are college/university libraries with computer-based search systems... Bob Fenner> Deep Sand Bed Maintenance - 11/15/2005 If I go with deep sand beds instead of crushed coral how do I clean the sand since you can't gravel vacuum? <Various sand sifters are available. Most important however is strong water flow, regular water changes, not over feeding and effective skimming. Read this link, and follow the links above, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm . Oh yes, and I forgot to mention earlier that your Tuskfish does need live rock, or at least some suitable hiding spaces. - Josh>  Thanks Tony 

Moving A DSB...No Party - 12/06/05 WWM DSB Guru: Hello, <<Howdy>> I'd like any advice you have on moving a DSB. <<Generally not worth the bother/mess to try to move the entire bed...is up to you...but I would place new sand in the new tank and just seed it generously with sand from the old tank.>> Currently, I have about a 3-4" sugar-fine Oolitic DSB in a 100 gal. reef that's been happily gobbling nitrates for 2.5 years. <<Very good!>> I'm moving all of the livestock to a larger tank. I plan to move the LR and the fish first, then slowly scoop out sections of the DSB, rinse it gently in remaining tank water, and replant it in the new tank at about 10 lbs per day (I think I have about 150 lbs total to move.). <<Mmm...see my previous comment. Do be aware that relocating the old sand bed will cause a die-off of micro-/macro-life within the bed as the different levels/layers become mixed together.>> DSB critters like my sand sifting starfish will move after the bulk of the sand gets moved into the new tank. I'm planning on avoiding moving the whole thing at once to avoid any noxious sulfur based gases getting dumped into the new tank, or any other nasties that might be released upon disturbing the bed. <<Of little concern.>> I'll disturb quite a bit of the anaerobic bacteria, <<Among other things...>> obviously, and might require months of maturation before the newly transplanted DSB is working at full throttle again, I assume. <<Not much difference here between this or heavily seeding a new bed eh?>> Is this the correct approach, or do I need not worry and can move all at once? <<I don't recommend moving the entire bed unless the tank will sit fallow until it cycles. Whichever method you choose, consider placing the fish/livestock elsewhere until you can test/confirm the safety/stability of the new setup. EricR>> Cheers, SLC 

Replacing Sand, Building Depth Back Up - 01/05/2006 Hello, <Hi there Anne.> I've looked through the questions but haven't come across one that answers mine........ <Ok.> I have been taking out small amounts of sand during my weekly water changes (the last three times) that seem to have Cyanobacteria growing on it. <Hate it when that happens. You can try a smaller diameter tube, should help.> I'm starting to notice my DSB isn't so deep anymore. Is it ok to add sand back into the tank a little at a time to build this back up? <Yes, and you're right, a little at a time. When adding try moving small portions, add the new, smooth the old back over. Don't bury the existing bed.> Thank you <Gladly. - Josh> Anne Canfield Staff Research Associate II California National Primate Research Center <Awesome. I love 'em!:)>

DSB maintenance   2/24/06 <Hi Steven - Tim answering your question today!> I have a question regarding the maintenance of my DSB.  First I should describe my system.  The tank in question is a 55g FOWLR containing a 5" bed of fine aragonite with about 80lbs of rock.  Its inhabitants are a pair of Clarkiis and a cleanup crew consisting of a few large Turbos, some Nassarius snails, blue-legged hermits, and a diadema urchin.  This tank flows down to a 10g dark refugium (used for plankton generation) and then into a 29g illuminated sump housing various soft corals.  Filtration is largely natural with the except of small amounts of carbon (changed weekly) and a Seaclone 150 skimmer. <Is the skimmer working for you? I have read mixed reviews.>      Now for the DSB question.  My concern is that I have not been properly maintaining the sand bed.  I have heard a lot of mixed opinions regarding the cleaning of DSBs.  Some say to occasionally stir the top inch, others say to stir the whole sand bed, and some say to vacuum the sand.  I have been doing none of these.  Instead I was assuming that the Nassarius snails would adequately stir the top inch as well as remove detritus.  Do you think that this is sufficient? <Review the information at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and the related links with regard to proper maintenance of a DSB. In terms of the Nassarius, their adequacy will depend on the number in your tank; the blue hermits will also help.> Or should I begin a cleaning regimen? <Always a good idea - especially in terms of vacuuming the surface of the substrate.> If I do start cleaning the sand now am I putting the system in danger by releasing excess nutrients and/or hydrogen sulfide? <This should not be a problem, though will depend on the age of the sand bed and the extent to which your cleaning crew have been keeping things tidy.> I guess I was thinking about starting to vacuum the sand and starting by doing only a small fraction every few days so that if there is hydrogen sulfide release it will be on a smaller scale. <Always better to be safe, I agree.>      And one more question regarding the tank's set-up.  When I set up this tank I first laid down the sand bed, and then placed the rock on top.  The rock covers approximately half of the DSB surface area.  Was this a mistake?  Recent reading suggested to me that it is a mistake because the area underneath the rocks will not be reached well enough by the detritivores and can't be stirred by myself without removing the rock, so it will end up being a large nutrient sink.  I guess my thoughts during the set-up were that rock on top of the sand would be fine because uneaten food/waste would not settle under the rocks and so this area would relatively nutrient-free with the except of small amounts of organics seeping in from neighboring uncovered portions of the bed.  Furthermore, the rock placed atop the DSB should aid in creating the hypoxic conditions necessary for natural denitrification, correct?  Your opinions are much appreciated!  And huge thanks to the entire WWM crew for taking the time to make us all better aquarists!

Re: QT screw up, oh and DSB sand  - 05/13/2006 Thanks again for your reply Bob. The weirdest thing has happened - the ich (or at least what I thought was ich) disappeared from Regal tang in less than a day. Is that possible? <Umm, yes... is not really gone... is/has cycled off... your system is infested... and like that not-so-popular ex-Austrian Gov of the Sunshine State, it'll be "baaaaack"> - I guess it could have been micro bubbles but I don't think so  since all I have is small hang on filter and power head as filtration- maybe some sand particles in the QT ( there is no sand bed in the QT)?. <I suspect you're right here. This was Crypt> In my other QT, my yellow eye tang has regained its color and the fish seem happy. I am doing a 10% water change in QT every 2-3 days to help the stress levels. Can a FW dip with methylene blue remove ich immediately? <Not generally...> That's all I did!! Any ideas ?- Oh well. On an unrelated matter I have a refugium with a DSB that I had taken offline for a couple of months. I have decided to give more space to the Chaeto so I began to remove my 7 inch sugar fine sand  (to use in my new system) when I noticed some black streaks in the sand and smelled an odor . Can I still reuse the sand and if so do I need to rinse or recycle  it with salt water? <Best to give this a vigorous rinse at least... the hydrogen sulfide smell should be "all gone" before re-using... though the black stain may well persist. Bob Fenner> Many thanks again

- DSB and Nitrate Equilibrium - Crew! Please help me... On August 8th of this year, I "retrofitted" my 45G FOWLR aquarium with a 6" DSB composed of 1-2mm aragonite substrate, and some oolitic material as well.  Since then my nitrates have consistently remained in the 29-31ppm range (as measured with a colorimeter for accuracy.) Partial water changes do reduce the amount of nitrates present, however, after the water change, the nitrate concentration slowly rises again (about 4ppm a week) until it reaches that 29-31ppm mark.  I have heard of the concept of Nitrate equilibrium, do you think that this scenario is probable in my case? <Could be, but seems more likely to me is that your DSB just hasn't matured enough to provide any real benefit at this point. They are not plug and play, per se... they need to time develop the various levels of fauna that will at some point help consume the nitrate. Is akin to cycling your tank.> Given that the Deep Sand bed is only 4 weeks old, is it possible that it hasn't had enough time to establish enough anaerobic bacteria yet? <Exactly.> How many weeks should it take, and if this equilibrium continues, when should I look at other methods of nitrate reduction. <I'd give it a month or two.> I simply don't believe that 5 small fish (1 ocellaris clown, 1 Pseudo Fridmani, 1 Firefish goby, 1 sixline Wrasse, and 1 yellowtailed Blue damsel) could create that much nitrate. <Small amount of total water... makes sense to me.> They are fed very sparingly, I have a skimmer installed, (although not a good one, it's a Red-Sea Prizm.)  The 30 lbs of live rock are providing my biological filtration for me....  I don't understand the problem...  Is part of the problem that I'm not being patient enough? <Yes.> Richard    <Cheers, J -- > DSBs, Sand stirring and nutrients 3/16/05 Thanks for your reply. I thought I had been feeding pretty sparsely. <It could be fine feeding, but a lack of adequate water flow which allows the fecal pellets to linger. Or... bad feeding habits like allowing the thawed pack juice from frozen foods into the system> As follows: Fish: 2.5" yellow tang, ocellaris, purple firefish, 2" pajama cardinalfish. Every other day, or 2 out of 3 days, 6 or so drops of "Marine Plankton", one at a time; 1/4 to 1/3 of a thawed cube of "Prime Reef" or 2-3 large flakes of Formula 2, being careful to not feed more than they will eat in 5 min.s. I have relied on the 10 or so hermits, and 20 or so snails, to eat the leftovers. <All reasonable... easy on the hermits though - really not that "reef-safe" in the long run> My nitrates are at 0 (as are ammonia and nitrites). From that assay, I had been assuming that I wasn't having a problem with excess nutrients. <There's no mention of water changes or skimmer output. Two important issues> Here's something that's different in the last 4 or so months (tank has been operating for better part of a year total). After deciding to get into the coral business (have now had a mushroom and a Kenya tree for about 3 months--appear happy and healthy and growing, as well as a crocea for about a month after a month in QT), I no longer [move] the LR around and don't aggressively vacuum the sand bed every couple of weeks as I had been doing before I decided to add corals.  <You have no need to sand stir or vacuum as long as you have strong water movement throughout the tank (20-30X would be nice)> So, for the last 4 mo.s, I have only been able to agitate and vacuum the sand around the periphery of the tank--the LR occupies most of the footprint of the tank, except for the approx 2" space I left to get my hand in between the LR and the tank to clean the tank walls. I have a sand bed depth of 3-4 inches of med grain sand--around 2mm.  <Hmm... a bit coarse on the sand too... if the water flow is too low, this becomes a nutrient sink :(> I know from the article on DSB that is borderline, <not really... the critics of DSB neglect to emphasize that water flow makes or breaks them> but from 0 nitrates I have assumed it is working OK. <I enjoy using and recommend DSBs very much> Bottom line: is there a need, and if so how, to stir and vacuum the sand under the LR? Thanks! <No worries. Anthony>

DEEP Sand Bed- Deep Problems? I have a 100 gallon reef setup with about 300+ lbs of live rock, 2 Maroon Clowns (paired) 1 Blue Tang, 2 Blue-lined Gobies and 1 Orange Shouldered Tang. They are all about 2 to 3 inches in size. sand in Tank is about 4 years old and has been filtered by a wet dry and a Euroreef rated at about 200gal. Everything has been fine and stable except for nitrates which have stayed at about 10 to 20ppm. For 4 years, I have been doing 10%weekly water changes until I decided to get rid of the wet/dry and go with a DSB setup. So about 2 months ago I bought a 32 gallon Rubbermaid tall (used for garbage) and put it in a another Rubbermaid low container and filled the 32gallon with sugar fine Southdown sand almost to the top, creating a DSB of 19 inches. Basically, I have a refugium containing 19 inches of Southdown. <WOW!! That is a REALLY deep sand bed! You really have to believe in the value of DSBs with that kind of depth!> Do I need to add stirrers or will the live rock provide them? <Well, I would add some stirring creatures if that is your goal.> I also added Southdown into the main tank(3 inches now) and 2 months later can see little air bubbles forming in the sand. (Nitrate being reduced? sulfur?) <Nothing to worry about...That's evidence of denitrification occurring.> I am also starting to get some Cyano growth, despite the numerous power heads I have in the tank and sufficient circulation. <There are a number of factors which contribute to Cyanobacteria growth; insufficient flow is only one of the possibilities. Read up on Cyanobacteria here on the WWM FAQs.> Did not add any stirrers and only siphon the top of the sand during water changes. Should I disturb/stir the sand or not? Some say not to touch the DSB. Others say it must be stirred. <I would not disturb anything but the very top 1/2" or so of the sand.> This is confusing. I feed 1 once daily very little enough for a 1 to 2 minute feeding. What can be causing the Cyano? I didn't have this problem before the DSB. Thanks for any help. Rico <Well, Rico- deep sand beds are efficient at denitrification, but they are not a guarantee of trouble-free systems. Nutrients can still accumulate, which can contribute to problems. Before you draw any quick conclusions about the merits or problems of the DSB, see how it works in your system. Continue good husbandry and overall water quality management, and I'm sure that the Cyanobacteria will vanish in due time. Hang in there! Regards, Scott F.>

Transferring my DSB Hey Crew. Will here from Ireland. I searched your FAQ's with no joy, so here goes. I want to transfer my DSB of oolitic aragonite that is 7" deep in my sump to my new inline refugium that has twice the volume. I was wondering should I remove the first half inch of my existing bed to inoculate my new bed and discard the rest or is there a better way? Cheers Will <Mmmm, I wouldn't toss any of it... but it might be a good idea to quickly scoop out the top half as you state, and quickly remove the lower half (scoop or siphon), rinse, place it in the new tank, then place the original upper half on top of this. Bob Fenner> DSB Sand Storm From Flow? - 06/03/05 Hi,  I've been reading through lots of the FAQs on your site, but haven't found my answer. <<Ok>> I'm planning on setting up my first reef aquarium with a sugar fine DSB of about 4-5inches in a 125gal tank. <<Great!  Use DSBs in my systems too.>> I also plan on running a Mag 7 for my sump and a Iwaki MD20RLXT on a closed loop for circulation. <<Not enough flow in my opinion...do consider increasing...maybe double?.>> My concern is, will the circulation pump with a PVC manifold create too much flow that it will stir up the DSB and shoot sand all over the place?  How do I avoid it? <<If the outlets point directly at the sand bed, yes.  Expect some movement of the sand, but you can play with/adjust the flow to keep much of the bed in place.  One trick is to add a very shallow layer of larger gravel in high turbulence areas.  The bed will also stabilize some as it ages/binds with bacteria.  I have 11,000 gph of flow in a 375g tank with a 6" sand bed...so I know it can be done <G>.>> Thanks. <<Welcome, Eric R.>>

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 - 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>

- 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) för 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 -- >

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>

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>

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>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSB and mandarin for a 45. (10-29-03) Dear Crew: <Howdy, Cody here today.> First off, thanks for all the incredible info you have been giving myself, and anyone willing to learn and ask!  I am now about 6 months into my 45 Gallon FOWLR setup.  I have about 45 Lbs. of live rock, 3 inches of LS, 2 False Perculas, 2 Yellowtail Damsels, 2 Chocolate Chip stars, 1 Peppermint Shrimp, many cleanup crew members including a reef tune up kit from IPSF.  I have 2 questions.  First off, what would be the best way to make my live sand bed deeper without triggering another cycle?  My second question is actually a situation/question.  When I purchased the Reef Tune-up kit from Indo-Pacific, I also purchased an Amphipod breeding kit, and set it up in it's own 10 gallon tank.  My plan was to let them breed for a few months, while slowly placing them in my 45Gal show tank...with the hopes that I will be ready for a Mandarin in a few months.  I have already placed a few Amphipod in the tank... and the Damsels seem to like them as a snack while they fall to the sand...Would they actively search them out for dinner.  I already feed them Formula 1 & 2, and flake...Everyone in the tank seems to love this combo. I know the Chocolate Chips have allowed me to rule out any Corals, So I was thinking about a couple feather dusters until I can move the stars to another tank and bump up to some beautiful coral.  Will the Peppermint Shrimp eat these?  I have read that some become interested in feather dusters when the lights go out!<I would just add the sand gradually over a extended period of time, maybe like ¾ in. at a time.  If you have a lot of LR in the tank you may just be better off just adding it all at once and testing your water quality lots.  As far as the mandarin I would not add one to this tank unless you have the amphipod setup to where you can feed 2-3 times a day with a lot them being constantly produced.  It would be even better to feed 5-6 times per day.  The feather dusters should be ok but there is always some degree of risk.  Cody> Thanks a million in advance, Steve

Building Up a New Deep Sand Bed Hi guys hope you are well mailing you from South Africa.. Feeling somewhat depressed after our knock out of the cricket world cup (That's if it even exists in the States) <I can totally sympathize with you. We're no threat in the cricket world, but my friend from Cape Town is in serious depression over this, too...Chin up! Scott F., hoping to cheer you up today!> Quick Q I currently have a 100g Reef tank with +- 2inches of medium to large crushed coral that has been my sand bed for over a year and is full of nice little critters. I'm purchasing a 125 G tank and am planning on using your deep sand bed method. Should I put my existing sand at the bottom and then my 3 inches of fine sand on top or vice versa and will this size still be ok to use ? <Well, the "deep sand bed" concept seems to favor a uniform bed of aragonite in the "sugar fine" sand grain size. The uniformity is supposed to foster proper dissolution of nutrient within the sand bed. If I were doing what you're doing, I'd probably distribute some of the existing sandbed material into the new sand bed, to help "kick start" it. The majority of the sand bed should be the fine grained variety to take advantage of the beneficial processes a sandbed is capable. Obviously, you don't want to waste the beneficial life forms that are in your current sand bed, so just try to utilize what you can> Also my local pet shop has told me of fine sand that is very rich in Calcium and gives off Ca for about 5 years. What is your experience with this and do I still need to add Kalk? <Well, this sounds like they are describing the Aragonitic sands that are available, like CaribSea's "Aragamax" products. It's true-one of the benefits of a deep sand bed of fine aragonite is that it will provide some dissolution of calcium and other minerals over time. However, I would not consider a deep sand bed a substitute for other methods of calcium supplementation, such as Kalkwasser and/or a calcium reactor> Thanks guys. Werner Schoeman <Any time, Werner! Have fun building up that new sand bed...Regards, Scott F>

Deeper DSB - 3/12/2003 Hey Guys, <Hey!  Scott V. here.>   I have really been fortunate to find this site.  Just a quick question:  I recently changed to a DSB, and almost immediately saw my nitrates drop form 10-15 to trace. <Great !!!>  I have it at approximately 3-1/2 inches.  I would like to add another inch to my system. <Yep, good idea.>  I have approximately 80 lbs. in my 55.  I would like to add another 10 lbs of live sand total over time.  What the safest way?  <First, I would rinse it more than you would otherwise, although it does settle pretty quick anyway.  But just start feeding it in one handful at a time so you can make sure most of it goes where you want it to, instead of all over your rock.  It will take a little more time to get it level because you may not be able to see it well enough by then.  Just work at getting it leveled when you can, and don't worry if you can't get it exactly perfect.  It will continue to level itself over time.  Have fun!! Scott V.>

Moving a DSB >Hi there.   Greetings, Ana.  Marina here to help you today. >I tried searching on your moving pages but I did not find reference to this particular question.  My understanding of DSBs is that they become very toxic which is why they should never be disturbed, other than the very top 1/2" or so.   >>True.  This has to do, in large part, with the reason for having a Deep Sand Bed--denitrification.  This part of the cycle can only be achieved by culturing anaerobic bacteria.  Once these creatures have been cultured, disturbing them can cause the release of toxic gaseous substances. >If I am moving to a larger system, can I salvage my sand?   >>Yes. >Should I stir it up after I've moved out the livestock and rock and then siphon out and toss that last really bad water and keep the sand? >>You're completely on the right track.  Be gentle with the top layers of sand and you'll shorten the process of regaining the desirable creatures.  After that, it should take a relatively short period of time for the sand bed to become fully active again. >Thanks, Ana M. Saavedra >>You're quite welcome, and good luck.  Marina

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

Moving my DSB - A labor of love, lots of labor <Hi J., PF here> Hello, I hope this finds you doing well. <It's Monday after a nice weekend off, as well as can be expected. > You know, this whole DSB thing has got me concerned. I have used a DSB for the past 3+ years, and am totally hooked. They really work, and mine is particularly well populated with critters. <Good to hear, I love mine too>.  Now comes my situation.   I'm moving my tank. Actually, I'm moving to a new home, and moving into a bigger tank. <A bigger tank is always a good thing, but oh the move... >I really wanted to reuse all of my sand, and also add to it but everyone seems to say I should only use the top inch, or totally start the new tank with all new sand. <I would say use the top 1", unfortunately, the rest will become polluted from the dead and dying life when it's pulled out. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. I've known people who try to rinse the sand off and reuse it, that goes about as well as Sisyphus and the boulder > What is the benefit of this? <Not spiking your nitrates, ammonia, and other nastiness>  I'm in California, and Southdown is not available/cheap out here <Well, if you're in the bay area check out: Home Depot Colma II #639,2 Colma Blvd Colma, CA 94014 (650)755-9600 - a local reefer talked them into ordering some> . I planned on adding some silica sand to the sandbed to increase the depth. Obviously I could just do a new bed with silica, but I really want the beneficial critters from my sand. What should I do? <Ok, when I moved my sandbed from my 29g to my 75g I used some of those disposable Ziploc containers. I think you could upscale the system I used. First though, have your new tank all setup and ready to go. The faster you do the move, the less life you lose. You would need enough plastic storage containers to approximate the area of sand you are moving (I was only moving 12'). Cut the end off one of the containers so it looks like [_] from head on. Use that as a scoop and take the top 1" off the bed. Then slide it into one of the containers you will be using to move the sandbed. Cover it with approximately 1" of water. Use a small container, and place the old sand on top of the new. Hopefully this will work as well for you as it did for me.> Also, I don't have the option of setting up two tanks when I get to the new house. I was planning to set up the new tank with the new sand and water, then the next day, break down the old tank, dig out my old sand and package/move all sand/coral/fish/LR to the new tank. I was planning on adding sand, LR, old tank water, and critters etc. then topping off with new water as needed. What do you think? <Sounds good to me, just make the transition as quick and painless as possible.> Would it be better to do a totally new DSB, and then use LR/old tank water to cycle. <That's another option, and in all honesty, less work and hassle than moving the DSB. The choice is yours to make.> I'd need to put fish etc. in within a day or so, because there is nowhere to save them. Decisions, decisions.... Also, some people mention just saving the top 1" or so, to recycle beneficial critters.  Would this be advisable? <See above.> Thank you. <Hopefully, I've answered your question. Good luck with the move, hopefully I'll be repeating your experience in the not to distant future.>

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

DSB Color Hi, I've got a 55-gallon FOWLR tank with 5 inches of live sand, about 60 pounds of live rock, a protein skimmer and 3 power heads. The system has been up and running for about 8 months and I've noticed an increasing amount of color against the glass in the DSB. It's very colorful (green, purple, black) but not very pleasing to the eye. Is this something to be concerned about and should I do something to correct this, or is this natural? <Yes, this is very natural. I put a strip of wood trim to match the stand around the bottom of my tank. Hope this helps, Don> Tim

Goin' Deep (DSB Questions) Wow Scott, asking that substrate question just opened a larger can of worms. <Rinse them thoroughly before feeding them to your fish...LOL> I've been reading over the FAQs re: sand beds all morning and am thoroughly confused. <Welcome to my world, man!> First let me tell you more about my setup if I may.  I have a 125g tank with an Ocean Clear Canister filter supplied by a Blueline 1100 gph pump.  I didn't know any better at the time and followed the advice of the LFS to have the tank drilled through the bottom for the intakes and returns (two of each). <Doesn't sound too bad to me...Can be modified (?) to work with a sump, maybe? Lot's of potential here...> This is what's making the planning of live rock so difficult.  Trying to figure out how to arrange it and not block the returns.  Both returns are aimed at the surface for surface agitation.  I have also installed two air stones in the back corners for more water movement.  I have a Remora Pro skimmer that produces a couple of cups of dark stinky stuff every couple of days. <Excellent- dark, stinky skimmate is a thing of beauty!> I also have an Emperor 400 that I keep carbon and Polyfilter in.. <Polyfilter rocks! Best sure to rotate out the carbon and Poly Filter regularly> I cut the carbon out of the filter pads and rotate in new clean ones (bleached and dried) with water changes.  I believe I have at least 10 times water turnover per hour.  I have 120 pounds of crushed coral substrate that is probably close to 2 inches in depth. I think I finally figured out why I had such persistent algae. < Me, too! You're on to something here...keep going> Now, I was reading in the DSB FAQs that in FO tanks there can be a lot of detritus accumulation in the sand bed which would fuel algae. <Well, there certainly can be. However, a well managed deep sand bed (with occasional light stirring/siphoning of only the top 1/2" of sand can avoid any potential problems...You don't want to disturb a DSB> What would be my best bet? Bleach and reduce the amount of my existing crushed coral, or go with sand.  If I go with sand, since it is fish only, should it be around 1/2 inch deep or go ahead with the 4 inches? <Well, either would work. I have kept many tanks successfully both ways. Take also into account the kinds of fishes that you are keeping. If you are a Goatfish or Dragon Wrasse fan, or keep other fishes which dig  deeply into the sand bed, this may not be such a good idea. I kind of like the DSB look, some people don't like the aesthetics of the "ant farm" effect that a DSB can show. Frankly, I would go with the DSB. When used in conjunction with regular water changes, filter media replacement (really important in a system designed around largely mechanical filter systems), and overall good husbandry techniques, you should be fine. Sorry to keep bothering you on this holiday weekend. <Believe me, man- not a problem! Your talking to a guy who gets excited about making twice weekly water changes and cleaning his skimmer regularly...Glad to be of service!> Thanks again for all of you help. Vince <Any time, Vince! Have fun, whichever route you choose! Regards, Scott F>

Re: Where to put DSB, need help with skimmer adjustment. >Hi - Thanks for all the help.   >>Hello, and you're welcome.  Marina tonight. >I'm setting up a 180 Gal reef tank, and moving very slowly.  I'm currently in the process of curing 250 lbs of live rock.  I plan on getting 50 to 100 lbs more.  I'm curing the rock in a 70gal Rubbermaid trough and my 140 gal sump using a Fluval 404 filter and my Aqua-C EV240 skimmer. (All the filtration setup is in my basement - the tank is above the basement and I'll cut two holes in the floor for water moving between the basement and upstairs.) I'm having a little trouble getting the skimmer adjusted.   I always seem to be turning the outflow value one way or the other.  But I'm starting to get some good dark skimmate. So far - that's all good. >I also just got 400 lbs of Southdown sand (I live on the west coast - Seattle) but found someone on a newsgroup that had purchased a skid.  My question is about the DSB.  I'm a little concerned about putting the DSB in the tank (60x30 - x 24 high).  I'm thinking about putting the DSB in a Rubbermaid trough that's a 50 gal - about 28 inches wide and 48 inches long.  So I would have slightly less area (and consequently slightly less surface) but I could make a slightly deeper bed with the same amount of sand.   >>I've seen it done, and it works great. >My concern is detritus getting into the sand.  At some point it seems that the sand is going to be filled with gunk and have to be churned/cleaned.  It will be easier to do that in a trough that in the tank.   >>No, you do NOT want to do this with a DSB.  Please see here (and follow other links for more information, also, see the setup section of our marine aquarium articles on the home page at http://www.wetwebmedia.com   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >So if I have the room and ability to locate the DSB outside of the tank, is that preferable to being in the tank itself? >>That's a matter of personal preference.  You would do better to use animals like sandsifting sea stars and cucumbers to handle the detritus and stirring issues, but part of the *reason* for having a DSB is to gain the anaerobic area that will allow natural denitrification.  If you stir the bed up on a regular basis, you have just defeated its purpose.  The tubs, a refugium, or within the sump and/or tank will all work just fine.  FYI, the system in which I saw the tubs being used (within the sump) was on a 150gal, and the sump is UNDER the house (no basements in Cali, mate).  This guy has an AWESOME system, and he uses the DSB tubs to put his frags and/or the corals that are not doing well.  They tend to come back in there.  Also, he has much macroalgae in this section of the system.  Hope this helps!  Marina >Thanks for answering all my questions so quickly and thoroughly!

Deep (dry?) sandbed >Good morning O-fish-al advisors! >>And a good afternoon to you, Richard!  Marina here. >I have been wondering about my DSB. My 55 gallon reef tank has been set up for about 6 months now. The bed varies from about 4 to 7 inches. The bottom 3/4 or so is very fine play sand and the top quarter is sugar fine aragonite.  When the tank was set up , I put the sand in first and then poured water in on top of a plate to allow the least amount of sand to go flying around. My question is: with such fine sand, did water ever get to the lower reaches of the bed? Is this necessary and should I have made sure that all of the sand was wet to begin with? >>No worries, you can be fairly certain that the water was wet enough and of proper viscosity to saturate throughout. >It's difficult to tell what's wet from the front glass, though I do seem to remember seeing what I'll call some internal condensation at the lower reaches of the tank for the first few months after it was set up. I don't think that this still exists. My nitrates were at zero for quite some time. I haven't checked them lately. I just figured that between my protein skimmer, live rock and DSB, my de-nitrification was going along well. Opinions? Thanks! >>I think that if your DSB is well-established, and sufficiently fine, then you should actually be seeing gas pockets.  Also, consider nixing the skimming, this can remove many of the planktonic/microbial critters that you are growing in your DSB.  Most folks I know who go sans foam fractionation are utilizing a full-on refugium, if you have a sump that you can baffle (no, not confuse) to create areas of low flow then you should be able to convert it.  Just go to the home page and look up the set up section of the marine aquarium articles for lots of information on refugia.  Best of luck!  Marina

Nano No-No's? Scott, <Hi there!> That was quick!  :)  Thank you very much for the quick reply.  I have some questions for clarification... <Sure- ask away, my friend> It seems you place more importance on DSB than live rock in this setup.  Does DSB serve dual functions (nitrification on upper layer and denitrification on lower layer)?  If that is true, then is 3" sand (instead of 4" for water volume issue) and 5 lb of live rock good combination (again water volume issue)? <That's my take on it...In fact, make it over 3 inches for best results...> I read 1 - 1.25 lb live rock per gallon of water as rule of thumb.  But if DSB can help in nitrification too, above combination maybe best considering the water volume issue or do I still need at least 7lb of live rock (after DSB, it would definitely hold less than 12 gal of water) in addition to 3" DSB?  Or would still you go for 4" sand and 5lb or 7lb live rock? <I'd go for 4 inches of sand, and whatever amount of rock you choose...remembering, of course, the displacement that these materials will cause> Grain size: I saw CaribSea aragonite.  The bag said 1 -2 mm grain size but it definitely looked more coarse than that and was not uniform size.  Grain size similar to sugar powder is the best size for DSB? <I like the so-called "sugar fine" grade, which is from 0.2 mm-1.0 mm> Critters:  You mentioned just a couple of snails.  You would not trust hermit crabs in the small set up (may try to eat shrimp or bother clowns)?  I think snails and shrimp will help with detritus (and some sand sifting with Nassarius or Bumble bee snails) <I'd go for the Nassarius and maybe some Trochus or Strombus - Bumble Bees are cool to look at, but t hey don't do much for your system, IMO> and was considering hermit crab for sand sifting, but if they will likely bother other creatures like Banded Coral Shrimp, I will forget about them.  I remember reading red legged ones are nicer than blue one or the opposite. <Well, I love those little crabs, but they sometimes snack on the snails! Counterproductive in a small tank, if you ask me!> Should I stir sand manually once a week?  Both upper and lower layers? <If you are running 3 inches or less, you may want to stir the top layer once in a while. Personally, in a 4 inch bed, I just let it be> Dumb question: The water inlet strainer for Eclipse pump.  I currently have it come as close to the bottom as possible.  I should do the same with DSB (as close as possible to surface of sand) for better water circulation and allow it to suck in detritus? <Actually, I'd probably trim the intake to get it just a bit farther off of the sand. In a tank this small, manual extraction (i.e. siphoning during H20 changes) of detritus is still the best way...> Thanks, Kevin <My pleasure, Kevin...Good luck with your efforts. You might want to check out this site dedicated to nano-nuts: http://www.nano-reefs.com/    Regards, Scott F.>

Bubbles in sand Yeah, that was strange. My tank is back on track since the big water change. I'm having a minor diatom bloom that I think may be a result of some previous die-off from the alk spike, skimmer's working overtime. Anyway, here's my question... I'm seeing a lot of gas bubbles trapped in the upper inch of my substrate.  <visible through the front pane of glass only (normal...oxygen from light entering the glass there) or throughout the entire sandbed?> I've got 5-6",  <excellent> but bubbles are only in the top inch. it looks like they're being trapped by the diatoms settling through and on the surface layer of the substrate to about an inch where the bubbles stop. is this nitrogen?  <just as likely O2... but still... one should have enough water movement, detritivores, aggressive skimming, etc so that nuisance or mat alga do not form or stay long on the sand... if this is not corrected within a week or so do consider what could allow the continued growth> is it ok?  <either way, likely yes... and not at all uncommon. All assuming and starting with you having very string water movement above the sand> should I add more sand sifters to stir it up and release the bubbles?  <possible yes... starfish are very fine by me. A single "white Linckia" (sand-burrowing star) might easily do the trick> I'm only concerned cause I've heard bad stories about DSB and hydrogen sulfide. <all bunk stories... flawed designs. Well maintained DSB can go for years untold. All depends on above proper maintenance of good sand depth, strong water flow to keep detritus in suspension and a good skimmer to take it out... just like in the sea. Dynamic niches have beautiful white sand... stagnant lagoons have algae cess pools> thanks so much for your help. <best regards, Anthony>

Goin' Deep! (Sandbed) Greetings Crew, <Scott F. here today!> After much online research including WWM's DSB FAQ's I decided to go for a DSB in my 55g FOWLR tank. I purchased 90lbs of Carib-Sea sugar sized aragonite, drained 40g and placed the 60lbs of LR and livestock into the 50g Rubbermaid tub I use for water changes. I rinsed the sand and placed it in the tank only to find out that I only ended up with 3" depth. <A good start> I really don't want to put my livestock through the shock they just went through again. What's the best way to add another 1" or more without yanking everything out again? I'm figuring since I have to add more I might as well go for another 60lbs and go for 5". <What I did was to just add it gradually with regular water changes. There's probably no one "best" way to add more sand to an established system, but, in my experience, adding it gradually has been the least disruptive method> Tank has been up and running for about 5 months now. I believe most would consider it a high bio-load, but nitrates have been dropping in the past month to undetectable levels and everyone seems very healthy and happy. <Those deep sand beds really work!> Specs: 55g, 60lbs LR, 3"+ fine aragonite bed (as of today) Red Sea Berlin HOT w/ Rio 2500(i know...I know...will upgrade when I add a refugium, although it does produce daily skimmate. <If its producing daily- I wouldn't knock that!> But I will ask about the tiny shrimp(?) I found living in it at a later date) <Maybe Mysis? That's a good thing!> Emperor 400 with 1 bio-wheel and both media containers modified to hold bulk mechanical filter material and TMC carbon (the Emperor will also go away after refugium is up and running for a month), 2 Rio 800's for water movement, Pro-Heat 2 titanium 150w heater, and 260w of CSL PowerCompact lighting(2 8800K and 2 Actinic) Livestock: 1 Flame Angel, 1 Cinnamon Clown, 1 Royal Gramma Basslet, 3 Firefish Gobys, a peppermint and skunk cleaner shrimp, Blue Tuxedo Urchin, Long tentacle Anemone, sand sifting star and a number of Astreas and hermits. <A nice mix of fish, but I think you should not add any more at this time, as you surmised> Water: sg 1.023, ph 8.3-8.4, temp 79-80, dKH 11, ammonia and nitrites 0 and nitrates are between undetectable to under 5ppm with both my test kits (down from a high of 20 a few months ago), phosphates nearly undetectable with Hagen kit. I know the tank specs are probably not needed for a DSB question, but always looking for pointers to perfect my setup. <Sounds nice- just keep up regular maintenance and you'll enjoy a lively tank for a long time!> Thanks for the help, Emo <Any time, Emo!> btw: once I get a decent picture I will bug you guys about some strange growths in my Emperor and skimmer. They are elongated yellow growths that can grow up to 1/2" and sometimes end up on the bio-wheel. Didn't notice them until I took the skimmer apart for cleaning and noticed them plus a bunch of tiny shrimps(?) in the bottom of the skimmer. Now I found a load in my Emperor last night while doing monthly maintenance. Just a heads up:) <We'll be here!>

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

Re: DSB Crash Yes I did - and I could have missed it I guess, but I was attempting to address the SPECIFIC issue of the lifespan of a DSB being 2-3 years and then it crashes, killing everything in the tank.  Is this true? <Not in my experience. I am a fan of monthly "stirring", annual replenishment (including upper layer disruption) of such substrate arrangements though> I mean it does kind of makes sense I guess sense all that waste has to go somewhere... is there some method of cleaning it to extend the lifespan? <Oh! Yes... as stated, though I would not thoroughly gravel vacuum the substrate, I would stir it with a dowel (wood or plastic) on a regular basis, and add more material to it every year (you'll find it "goes away" as in dissolves over time).> Sorry for the trouble  :o) <Me too. No worries. Just trying to get to an answer. Bob Fenner>

Nitrates reduced by Deep Sand Beds (DSB) - 2/11/03 Wow!  I didn't expect it to work that quick!   <yep... literally 2 weeks for most proper deep sand  beds (4" or more)> My nitrates were 80ppm for months no matter what I did (FO tank) and I converted from CC to DSB last week, and they're already down to 20ppm... how very cool! <good to hear, my friend!> Thanks for the great website and advice! <our pleasure> Now I just have to remember to keep it stirred!  (Not shaken  heh heh) <or seek active detritivores> David <best regards, Anthony>

Deep Sand Bed Bob: What are your thoughts on the type of sand(s) to be used to create an optimal deep sand bed? I have heard of the 10/30/60 theory utilizing larger-to fine-to very fine coral sand mixture. What can I do if I currently have a 2 and 1/2 inch medium sized grade sand bed and am concerned about disrupting the ecological balance in my existing 92 gallon reef tank. Thank you. <Have heard of this formula... and many others... all to some degree workable... For all, with existing substrate, my approach is to scoot over a good part of the current material and augment, mix in the new in half, third, quarter batches once per week (let's say the left side in a small system, like a fifty five, then the right next week) till all is relatively blended. Bob Fenner

Substrate depth... really short Hey Bob, I have 3 inches (max 4 in some places) of crushed coral for my substrate. It is on the bare bottom of the tank. I have read the site but would like you to quickly confirm what you believe I should do to maintain it in this situation. 108 gallon reef making 108 gallon refugium to go with it. (i.e 50 gallons of water or so) <Nice> I have Hermits, Purple Tank, Yellow Tank, Kole Tang, Naso Tang, Clown and Six Line Wrasse. Of course inverts and soft corals. I have taken a few pictures of my work in progress... I will send them soon. I have not written you in months and have been busy adding to the environment. I attribute my success to this point to you and your site WWM... Kind regards, Robert <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words.... mean much. Don't know what you're exactly looking for... maintenance of this substrate? I would occasionally "stir it" with a wood dowel or good-sized diameter acrylic rod... lightly vacuum about half (left or right side let's say) once a month or so... and on occasion (every few to several months) scoot around, move the live rock and move the sand about under it...  Bob Fenner>

Re: substrate depth... really short that was fast :) Well pretty much what I learned from your site.... I guess I should have asked a more precise question :) My bad.... Is this too deep? <3-4 inches of substrate should be no problem> I am getting purple and green formations that look like stains where the substrate meets the glass. <Yes... a mix of algae, microbes, protozoans... I'd just gingerly swipe along between the viewing panel and this area during routine cleaning periods> Darn just got a call from home.... looks like Kole tang is resting on his side quite often now. He was shipped to the LFS just a few days ago and I got him about 12 hours after that. <Hmm, you likely know my opinions on "just out of the bag" purchases... if not, please re-read through our site (www.WetWebMedia.com)> Had been lucky up until now... Looks like that luck MIGHT be over. He still has not eaten with the other tangs.... just picks at the rocks... <This is about what they do for feeding> DOH!!! back to topic. sand bed too deep? will it get toxic? should I get a sifter (cucumber or something) Tanks, Rob <Sifters can be a good idea... generally not necessary though... plenty of "recruits" from live rock... Bob Fenner>

DSB questions Hey Anthony, Steven, Bob (in absence)... <Hi ho, hi ho, answering FAQ's I go (everybody whistle). Steven still here.> So, I've got this 55 gal flatback hex tank, set up as follows... 3-3 1/2" DSB, CPR Bak-Pak II (using a tiny bit of BioBale for bubbles), 1 802 PH, 1 402 PH, 4X55W PC lighting. 3 colt coral, 1 bubble, 1 frogspawn, 1 recently fragged Sinularia sp. (finger), asst. 'shrooms, pulsing xenia, 7 month old sebae anemone 1 yellow tang, 1 tomato clown, 1 small grey Poma angel, 1 soon-to-be-gone-if-I-can-catch-it striped damsel, 1 coral banded shrimp, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 sand sifting starfish OK, now to the questions....My tomato clown loves to dig. He has managed to dig an area near the anemone that comes w/in about 1" of the tank bottom. If I leave this alone, he doesn't dig anymore, but is this a dangerous situation due to the thinness of the substrate in that area? If I try to level the area, he just digs it out again, with a swirling cloud of sand...Whoosh.......By continuing with the smooth and dig method, am I doing more harm than good? I was thinking that I may be releasing wastes, etc. into my system that were being broken down in the DSB. <I have the same problem with my maroon clownfish and I think Anthony did, too. It all depends on how annoyed you are by it. Anthony was considerably more determined to smooth the sand than I was and did it everyday. I think he eventually gave the fish away to his brother-in-law out of frustration. I let my maroon do what he wants. This hobby is supposed to be relaxing.> Next...I was thinking about adding a bit more sand to my system, preferably some from other systems (diversity and all). If I were to add an additional 1" or so on top of my current DSB would that be harmful to the current critters, or likely OK? Currently my NO3=0, NO2=0, PH=8.4, Amm=0, Alk=13dKh, Cal=375. Maybe I don't really need to add the sand, just do some LS swaps for diversity? What 'chu think? <Swapping some LS could be dangerous for your tank. You would want to be fairly confident that the tank you were getting sand from was well maintained and disease free. You may want to purchase some critters from one of the various online e-tailers that sell these clean up crews.> Have a blessed day guys, and keep reefing! Jason Harris

DSB Mr. Fenner <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have a 30gal tank with approx 45-50lbs of LR and a little LS covering the bottom. Until recently the LS was 4-5" deep, but I was having a problem with relentless hair algae. No matter how many H2O changes or LR cleanings, the hair would be back in a couple of days. Then with the last H2O change I noticed that the sand was just full of detritus so I removed the majority of it. Alas absolutely no more hair algae! I cleaned the sand thoroughly so that maybe it can be added back in the future. Is this something that you would recommend, or should I just leave well enough alone?  <the sand was not your problem, my friend, as you know... it was the detritus. With enough water movement and sand sifters to keep the detritus in suspension, you would not have had the problem (nutrient export processes like a good skimmer would keep the churned nutrients from accumulating. So if you put the sand back in , be sure to have better water flow and sand stirrers. I'd recommends the DSB if you have a specific need for denitrification...wonderful> Livestock: 1 False Percula, 2 Banggai's, 1 Emerald crab,1 Peppermint shrimp, asst hermits and snails. Would sand sifting stars <yes> and perhaps Nassarius (sp?) snails  <modest...need many> be enough to keep the DSB clean since I don't want any more fish at this time?  <just better water flow then to help the skimmer capture the organics> Thank you very much for all the help that you provide! Nathan <kindly, Anthony>

Retrofit of a DSB and Protein Skimming Hello there... it's been a while since my last question, and once again, I would like to thank you in advance for taking the time. <You are welcome.> My nitrates are at around 100, which isn't too bad because it's a FOWLR, but nonetheless, I want them controlled for the happiness of my fish. <Good, it would be better for their overall health to have the nitrates lower.> My 100G tank has a 40G Rubbermaid sump that holds a TF1000 protein skimmer. The main tank has about 90lbs of LR and only a 1" layer of fine LS. My family of fish include: Naso lituratus - Naso Tang - 5.5" Rhinecanthus aculeatus - Picasso Trigger - 3.5" Balistoides conspicillum - Clown Trigger - 3.5" Premnas biaculeatus - Maroon Clown - 1.5" Diodon holocanthus Linnaeus - Porcupine Puffer - 3.5" Here are my questions: 1) Can I simply add in more LS to turn my floor into a DSB? I was thinking about 3". I'm thinking of moving all the LR to one side of the tank, and adding the 3" of sand to one side of the tank, then moving the LR over on top of the new 3" DSB and repeating the process on the other side of the tank. Then I'd also eventually like to add in another 50lbs. of LR. <I would add the additional LR but not sand. I do not like DSB with FO tanks. The sand bed can too easily become overwhelmed by the influx of nutrients from such greedy eaters as your fish.> 2) Do you recommend (I forget the brand name) that sand that comes in the sealed packaging "wet" and "live" or should I just get some fine aragonite and wait for it to become live? <I always use dry sand and seed it with live sand from another tank I trust or with good quality live rock.> 3) I've never quite understood this... does a protein skimmer actually lower nitrates or does it just remove the dissolved organic compounds that eventually become nitrate (basically slowing the production of new nitrate)? <The second answer, removes dissolved organics.> Thanks again!!! - Eugene <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Deep Sand Bed Cheers, Samuel! > Hi, Mr. Calfo, > > Your book is great. Mine is a bit worn now because > it > has been read a lot. Wow! Now that's a compliment. I thank you kindly and I am delighted to hear it! > > I am thinking of having a deep sand bed (6 inches) > in > my aquarium. Yes...6+ inches is my preference. What do you think of the idea of adding sand in an aquarium one layer (about two inches) at a time so as to allow the previous layer to mature and to be populated by the desired organisms and bacteria before adding the next layer? Definitely a problem as the intermediate stage of 1-3 inches in particular will struggle as a zone too deep to be sufficiently aerobic and not deep enough for anoxic activity. This is the root cause for many critics complaint about DSB methodologies... they don't put a deep enough sand bed for either strategy to succeed and the sand bed (at 1-3") becomes a dead zone and nutrient sink. > > I wonder if a one-time addition of 6 inches of sand bed will cause the lower portion of the bed to be too  much anaerobic and thus it will create hydrogen sulfate. Rest assured, a well maintained aquarium will have no such problem. I have moved many displays in the last decade that never ceased to amaze me... after years of being set up, the sand shoveled out of the aquarium looked like it was brand new! Sulfides occur from neglect of husbandry (poor water circulation in display, a skimmer that doesn't produce daily, overfed or overstocked with fish, lack of detritivores, etc). Some keys to success: all fine/sugar fine sand grains (never mix grades especially with course sand), always have very good water flow in display with minimal dead spots, over 4" must be maintained everywhere at all times, resist too many hermit crabs and rely on more gentle detritivores (White sand stars, sea cucumbers, etc). Gentle stirring of the sand on occasion is optional but may help some coral species (like Nephtheids). > > Thank you very much for your time. > > Cheers, Samuel Best regards, my friend. Anthony

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

Deep Sand Beds Bryan here, you will be hearing a lot from me as I am researching for my tank setup. I want to learn and research as much as possible so I don't make some of the mistakes I made b/f ( B/F I found your site). Last night I read up on DSB, I want you to clarify a few things and to see if I understand. You need at least 4"-5", (could use a joke here) <I think I will refrain and let the readers insert their own.> more towards 5" of a fine reef sand. This depth will harbor anaerobic bacteria beneficial for denitrification and in between depth can be dangerous. Again no coarse substrate so as not to allow detritus accumulation. Very beneficial to have a strong flow/current over the DSB, and no heavy bioload as will defeat the purpose or ability of DSB b/c of accumulation of waste. Now some questions, a DSB w/ LR in a reef set up is all the biological filtration needed right? <Yes> Then add a skimmer and mechanical filtration. <You may not even want or need the mechanical filtration. I prefer to use a sump design that incorporates a settling chamber instead. It allows detritus to accumulate in a small area where it is easily siphoned out.> I read that you can lightly stir the sand every month or so, and not to vigorous to disturb the bacteria. I also read some people were vacuuming the DSB, which would you prefer? <Slight disturbance of top 1/4 to 1/2" to get rid of diatoms. If you use the right amount of critters (worms, pods, etc.) you may not need to do this that often.> How much of the DSB at a time and how deep would you go? <I do all the visible parts, but no more than 1/2" deep.> Also what do suggest as far as sand sifters? <The tiny hitchhiking critters that come with your liverock or livesand.> Last question, what is the process of replenishing the DSB, say after a few years. Do you want to tank 1/3 of sand out and add new? <After a few years, your DSB will no longer be as deep due to dissolving. You can lightly add a little at a time to the top. Again, not too much, less than 1/2" at a time so that you do not smother anything.> Thank you for the advice, Bryan <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

DSB & Sump Hello to whomever is on call at this hour... <Steven Pro up with the birds.> My question is this, I am getting ready to deepen my sandbed to around 5" or so, but as I was reading your FAQs, I noticed that there is a mentioning of a DSB in the sump and not necessarily in the main tank, so would it be better to only make a nice deep bed for critters in the sump and not in the main tank? <I would do both. That is what I am planning on my new tank.> I have mostly fish with a carpet and a few mushrooms, so a shallow bed isn't ideal for my carpet. Also, how would I get edible critters from the sump to the main tank since the sump is under it? <Their larvae would reach the main tank by way of the return pump.> Maybe leave some rock in the sump to accumulate live stuff and rotate rocks out adding edibles to the main tank? <You could do this, particularly for algae if your main display is over eaten by Tangs.> Also, I don't have a light on the sump, are there animals that I could leave in the sump DSB, like cucumbers, sifting stars, murex, conchs, or anything not caring if there is light? <I would just add a few really nice pieces of new rock and see what develops.> Thanks in advance for your response. Kim <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Live Sand Bed 7/4/03 Hello at WetWeb, <Cheers> Just reading the live sand bed section in Anthony and Bob's new book, and I have a couple questions.  Let me preface them by saying I recently had to remove the aragonite bed from my 180-gallon reef due to what I believe was phosphate precipitation. <Yes... does occur... but usually is not a problem unless the bed is stirred or agitated. Else it is neutrally bound> The bed was like concrete and I was having algae problems, so I opted to remove it.   <Hmmm... that actually sounds like a water chemistry problem. Adding calcium/Kalk too quick or too much and/or spiking the pH is what causes that. Subsequently, the compromised sand bed can feed nuisance algae or at least not deter it. Point being... the problem was not your sand bed... but the advice you got on how to maintain it> Removal of the substrate and large water changes seem to have greatly assisted in alleviating the nuisance algae.  I suspect the problem arose from playing the see saw game with alkalinity/calcium, etc., and using additives to try to balance it and instead made it worse.   <Exactly, my friend> Out with the old.  I now want to add a new live sand bed and am considering using the Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand for starters, which is what I had in the original bed that I removed after it became so compact.  There is no specific grain size indicated on the bag of the Carib Sea, so I can't give you that specific information.  If you are familiar with this particular grade, would you opine as to how deep a bed you recommend, and how much live sand and sand stirrers you would add to it to seed the bed?   <No worries... simply seek sugar-fine grains at a depth of 3" minimum... 4-6" better still.> I'd like to add a few Holothuria cukes, etc., once its established to keep things clean, and perhaps some critters from IndoPacific SeaFarms to improve the life and stirring of the bed.  This system is old and the buffering capabilities, etc., have greatly reduced, and I would like very much to get it in balance again with a good sand bed.   <No troubles at all... can be had> I must admit I'm a bit paranoid after all the work I went through to remove the substrate and alleviate the algae problem.   <Understood... but easily prevented. Do focus on excellent water flow (10-20X tank volume) and due diligence with dosing supplements (starting with 2-part mixes in a balanced tank, mixing said liquids vigorously before every use (else see-saw occurs), etc)> Sorry for blathering.  Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  BTW, I never give up.  Just want to do it right this time. Many thanks, Peggy <Excellent to hear! Best regards, Anthony>

Cyanobacteria and DSB Hi, I have a question about Cyanobacteria in my tank (120gal, ~5" Southdown play sand DSB, ~70lbs or rock, close loop circulation Anthony's design powered by Dolphin AquaSea pump ~2,100 gal/hour, built-in glass overflow Anthony's design with a sump and Iwaki 20RLT pump, 2x 250W MH Ushio 10,000K + 2x 65W Actinic PC, TurboFlotor 1000 skimmer, home made CO2 calcium reactor using Knop Korallith).  Currently I have what I believe a very low bio-load in the tank (one juvenile Six Line Wrasse, one juvenile Banggai Cardinal, Cleaner Shrimp, Cerith snails (a lot), a few blue legged hermit crabs, ~10 SPS frags and some softies).  I should also mention that I use RO/DI water (membrane, sediment filters and GAC replaced around X-mass) for water changes 5gal/week (it sits for a few days in a bucket with a powerhead and then I add the salt and after it sits for another day or so then I use it for water changes) <All good thus far...> and that I do check the specific gravity, temperature and pH before I use it.  I run activated carbon 24x7 and I've been always using Black Diamond. In the recent month it was somewhat difficult to obtain and so I've used other brands as well (Pro-Carb & Kent Reef Carbon).  I have been changing about a half of the carbon every other week and cleaning the sump about once a month. Over past two month I've been observing small patches of Cyano spreading over the sand bed. <Happens> My lights (bulbs are less than 6 month old) go on at 12:30pm and go off at 11:30pm in the evening.  Early in the morning I can't almost see any Cyano but as the day goes on it is more and more visible. <Well stated> When the lights are turned on the Cyano starts slowly disappearing with the exception of the places that are brightly illuminated.  By the time the lights go off a lot of it disappears.  I've started being VERY careful about how much I feed the fish (once a day with a turkey baster trying to feed as fast as they can catch the food to minimize any food being uneaten).  I'm feeding a home made frozen food containing some Nori, scallops, shrimp, krill, brine shrimp and Selcon. Since the Cyano appeared I started executing water changes more frequently (about 5 gallons 3 times per week) and cleaning the skimmer collection cup 2 times a week.  While checking all the equipment trying to identify the culprit I noticed that the hose that feeds the skimmer with the raw water was partially blocked by the calcium deposits that accumulated on its walls and subsequently got loose.  I guess this can explain why the water quality deteriorated and DOC concentration increased. <... would think it would decrease> I have noticed that about a month ago, cleaned up the skimmer and the hoses immediately and have been checking it once a week since.  I had also some issues with the calcium reactor and the pump re-circulating the water within the reactor.  This lead so drop in the alkalinity and Ca levels, which I have tried to correct for a short period of time with dosing both Seachem's Reef Advantage Calcium (calcium oxide) and Kalk shots (as advocated by Anthony in his book).  Once I got the necessary equipment, I fixed the Ca reactor and phased out any other dosing.  Now the alkalinity is around 3.77 meq/L (Salifert), Ca 360ppm (Seachem), Total NO3 Nitrate ion concentration is below 12.5mg/L (Tetra), Phosphate is not detectable (Seachem) and the pH is between 8.1 (morning) and 8.2 (evening) (Seachem). <Again, all sounds good> I tried to vacuum some of the Cyano from the surface of the sand bed with as little of the sand as possible and noticed that about ¼ inch thick top layer of the sand is bound (not fused) together.  It can be broken up easily with the hose I used to vacuum the Cyano or with the scraper.   I acknowledge that my water quality has not always been perfect (I used to have a yellow tang and used to feed more heavily) but I think that it has improved a lot in the last two month.  However, it seems that my effort is not stopping the slow progress of the Cyano.  I have been reading various articles on the net about DSB lately and notice a few that talk about so called "crash" of DSBs and how Cyano problem is indicative of such crash.  Is my DSB crashing? <Doubtful, no>   Can I recover from this problem or is the DSB doomed to be completely replaced? I will be looking forward to your reply. Regards, Petr <Mmm, well, you really don't have a "problem" as far as I can see, evaluate from the above... transient Cyano/BGA is common... to nearly unavoidable, given the make-up, maintenance you list... There are a few things you can do to speed up the "centering" of the system (that will occur in time...). You might convert part or all of the sump to a lighted refugium, with purposeful macroalgae... You could upgrade your skimmer... You might add an ozonizer... Or "just relax" and not sweat this small, likely transient occurrence. Bob Fenner> DSB, Corals and Fish - 06/27/05 Hello! (again) <<Howdy!>> I had emailed you earlier and had gotten a speedy response to my questions--thank you very much!  But, I am back again with more questions.  I do not have a tank yet, but it will be a 29 gallon tank with a DSB (5") and live rock.  The inhabitants will be some of the following, I haven't made a final decision yet--I know all of them will not fit in the tank--can you advise me which would be best inhabitants for my tank? <<Will give you my opinions, yes <G>.>> -pair of clownfish percula, false percula, or Clarkii <<In a 29 gal. these will likely become the "bullies" of the tank.  Many folks don't realize just how aggressive (and mean) clownfish can be.>> -pajama cardinal -mandarin fish--my favorite! he will be added at least six months later after my reef is ready <<Mandarins are NOT recommended at any point in time with this size tank...just not big enough to support a large enough colony of micro-crustaceans to feed/keep it alive.  The mandarin will slowly starve to death.>> -long nosed hawkfish--I am concerned that he will eat the shrimp. <<Yes, a possibility.>> -jawfish--another favorite -Banggai cardinal <<About the neatest "black and white" fish you'll find.  A bit more aggressive than the pajama cardinal, and as such maybe a better choice to house with the clowns.>> -pair of scarlet cleaner shrimp <<Beautiful crustaceans.>> -blue-legged hermits <<Hmm...if you must...>> -blue Linckia starfish---six months later <<Do look to the hardier Fromia species...Linckia starfish never seem to fare well/long in captive systems.>> -and a fish/invertebrate that will stir up my DSB <<With a sugar-fine sand bed this isn't really necessary...or even desired.  Bio-turbators such as the worms and micro-crustaceans that will naturally inhabit the sand bed will "stir" it enough.  Spend the money on ensuring adequate water movement (for betterment of ALL life in the tank) instead.>> I believe that the jawfish will not stir the DSB and from research that I need to stir the DSB in order to have a healthy bed--is this true? <<The jawfish will likely find a spot to its liking and dig/stay there.  In my experience you do not need to stir the sand bed.  Use a fine substrate that won't allow detritus to settle in and provide lots of water flow and all will be good.>> I am worried that those fish/invertebrate such as sand-sifting gobies and starfish will eat the beneficial organisms and those organisms are my only source of filtration! <<Not filtration so much, but VERY beneficial nonetheless.  And yes, gobies and especially a sand-sifting star, can decimate the fauna in a sand bed in a hurry.>> Is there an animal that will stir up the sand without eating my filter? --If such an organism is necessary. <<Not necessary re my earlier comments.>> I also am interested in adding soft corals such as: pulsing Xenia, Tubastrea, frogspawn, anthelia, and an anemone or hammer coral for my clowns--I think the Hammer coral might be a better choice because it will not eat my mandarin fish, but I like the look of an anemone. <<Anemones really do require specialized/specie specific tanks and expert care.  Please do restrain yourself from purchasing one.>> I think  that the Tubastrea may not be happy in my tank because it lacks the ability to produce zooxanthellae and prefers weaker lights in comparison to other corals. <<Another coral requiring specialized care.  Most starve to death from inadequate feeding.>> I am more confident that the other corals will be happy in my tank as long as they don't overcrowd and fight with each other for territory. <<They WILL fight...tis a fact of nature.  But as you already are aware, not overcrowding, along with proper filtration (skimming) and frequent partial water changes can mitigate the dangers.>> Will two 55 watt PC be enough for those corals? <<For what you have listed (excluding an anemone), yes, I would say so.>> The dimensions of the tank will be 30" long, 12" wide, and 18" deep.  I read in a book that this is the minimum requirement, and with my small budget I am hoping this will be suitable for those corals. <<Lighting is only part of the equation...proper feeding and water flow are just as important to coral health/color/survival.  Don't get too hung up on the lighting.>> But, if they need more light I will gladly purchase it for them. Of course, the corals won't be added to my tank for at least four months, and I will add them one at a time. <<Very good.>> Do you advise installing PC when I first get my tank, even though there won't be corals right away?  There will be live rock and fish- This is expensive, but changing from NO to PC may be more expensive then initially using PC. My concern is that the fish may not like such high wattage and that there will be more algae blooms. <<The fish won't mind the light at all...and algae will be controlled by not stocking the tank too fast, along with diligent husbandry/frequent water changes.  But most importantly, be sure to cycle the tank properly through the natural algae succession before adding ANY livestock.>> One last question...When I put the 10 pounds of live sand that Bob recommended for my tank, should I place it on the bottom layer of sand and the rest of the sand on top of it? Or should the LS go on top and the regular sand on the bottom? <<I would place the "live sand" on top.>> I also think that perhaps a mixture of crushed coral and "sugar sand" will not be as beneficial for filtration as a DSB of only sugar sand would be. <<Agreed>> But, won't the jawfish need substrate of different sizes? <<You can add a small amount (handful or two) of crushed coral/broken shells for the fishes benefit.>> Thank you very much for your time! I appreciate all your help as I am trying to learn from mistakes before I make them. Thank you very much again! <<Thank you for taking the initiative to ask BEFORE getting in to trouble.  Do have a search/read through our archives...much more "learning" to be had than what I can share here.>> Jennifer <<Eric R.>> Red/purple patch cementing sand together... 7/4/05 Hi! A "skin" is forming at the surface of my fine Arag DSB, but only in the fuge. Those spots are purple/red. The sand sticks together like a soft skin not like a layer if concrete. <Likely Cyanobacteria... BGA> When you look at it it just looks like the sand is colored or powdered with it, nothing grows really out of it. Is it coralline algae invading the sand? <Mmm, not if it's soft> For sure it doesn't feel healthy to have a skin at the surface of a DSB. What is it and what should I do about it? Thanks! Dominique <Read... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Red/purple patch cementing sand together... 7/5/05 Thanks Mr. Fenner! I didn't think about BGA because of the pretty pink-purple color... <Yes... if it were solid... likely coralline, and/or a precipitating incident with mineral, alkalinity...> If I vacuum the invaded sand, is there something I can do to treat it naturally and put it back in the tank (like boiling it 10 minutes maybe?) ? Dominique <Ah, no... read my friend. Bob Fenner>

Moving a deep sand bed 7/19/05 I have a 90  gallon tank with a 6 inch DSB, composed of Southdown aragonite. I am moving next month and would like any advice on moving this bed. This is a lot of sand but there is a lot of life within it (pods, snails, worms, etc). How much can I safely remove in order to preserve the maximum amount of sandbed critters? I was thinking the easiest way to move this would be to take off the top "x" inches from the sand bed and place this over a new batch of sand at the new locale. How many inches can I remove without getting into layers that may contain harmful sulfides etc? <Maybe an inch or two... I'd try moving (scooping) out the rest, see if it's "stinky"... at the worst, rinsing this and replacing it on the bottom> It doesn't seem practical or healthy to try to move the entire bed, but I may be wrong. Thanks. Steve <Only way to tell is to get in there and scoop. Bob Fenner>

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: