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FAQs about Live Sand Bed Biota

Related Articles: Live Sand, Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Deep Sand Beds, Reef Systems, Refugiums

Related FAQs: Live Sand 1, Live Sand 2, Live Sand 3, Identification, Selection/DIY, Systems/Placement, Maintenance, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 5, DSBs 6, DSBs 7,  & FAQs on: Deep Sand Beds Rationale/Use, Dangers, Physical Make-Up, Biological Make-Up, Size, Location, Depth, Conversion to/from, Maintenance/ Replacing/Adding To, & Sumps, Refugiums, Live Rock Calcium, FAQs 1

What constitutes LS anywho? Answer: Much more than microbial populations...

Circles of Ribbon-Like Sand: Likely Egg Collar - 9/8/08 <Hi Gerry, Lynn here this morning.> Over the last couple of months these circles of ribbon-like sand appear in my tank. They appear in different locations each time. The last time they appeared was 3 weeks ago there were 2 of them. I removed them when they appeared and took these pictures. Today I have noticed a new one in my tank. Any idea what is making this? <They look very much like what's commonly called a sand or egg collar, a combination of mucus, sand grains, and eggs produced by snails in the family Naticidae (commonly known as Moon snails). Do you have any of these in your system? Here are some examples of these egg masses for comparison: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2288/2250226721_f350b8a92a_o.jpg http://jellyfishinthesea.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/img_4401.jpg http://www.manandmollusc.net/Mystery_shell_pages/mystery_shell_steve.html> Thanks, Gerry
<You're very welcome, Gerry. Take care, -Lynn>

California collecting detritivores/plankton 6/25/08 Hello, <Jim> I've been reading your site for about a year and have found a lot of good info. I just started a DSB in my 10 gallon sump/refugium which services a 50 gal saltwater tank. There seem to be some detritivore kits out there to seed the sand but they are quite $$$. From reading your site I can see that collecting your own live sand is a bad idea. <Usually... but there are exceptions... IF one lives near a suitable area, part. if it's some sort of confluent biotope...> I live in Ventura, ca, which is southern California, and I wanted to get your thoughts on sifting out some sand animals from my local beach to use in my sump. <Mmm, really not a good idea unless this is a cool/cold-water sys.> I have dug up some bristle worms, sand fleas and sand crabs for fishing off the beach and I'm sure there are quite a few other animals that could be sifted out and quarantined. I know they are probably more cold water species but wonder if they could be acclimated to a tropical tank. Also, I've thought about making a plankton net and collecting some plankton for corals etc. I've scoured the web trying to find a specific answer to this but have been unable to. Thanks for the help. Jim <Enough of such life will come out of any decent live rock exposure... I'd rely on this to seed your DSB... perhaps with a bit of purchased tropical macro-algae... Not worth the die-off, chance of pest introduction to use local... Bob Fenner, south of your in still-too-cold San Diego>

Smoke on the water... Love in the sand  2/17/08 Hi, <Jane... was this responded to? Will do so again even if so> This morning the actinics kicked on over 56g, I fed the fish, washed my hands and came back to check that all are eating. Brown, dirt colored, "smoke"--rather dense-- is coming out from under a piece of live rock near the top of the pile for approximately 2 minutes. All corals, inverts and fish accounted for--not guilty of producing the smoke. The water is completely clouded almost immediately. I lifted the live rock for inspection--no obvious culprit, but cracks and holes could be hiding something. I am running Remora Pro w/mag 3 & Filstar xp2 (plus multiple power-heads @ 270 gph w/pre-filters). I added carbon to canister, observed for app. 5 minutes then left for classes. Any suggestions on what type of life form to look for and, were the release toxic, would LPSs and sps have reacted immediately by retracting etc? Presently I am freaking out as I am on campus for 9 hours and fear a total meltdown before returning home. I am not asking you to identify something you can't see but to share any suggestions you may have. Thank you! <This is very likely a reproductive event... of/by some sort of invertebrate (MANY possibilities) and nothing to be worried about in your system... "This too shall be filtered out"... as food by many other filter feeding organisms here. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Not So Live Sand...  9/10/07 Hello, <Hi there, Mich here.> First off, thank you for running such an informative site. <On behalf of Bob and the rest of the crew, we thank you.> I have learned much from reading the articles on here. <This is wonderful to hear.> I recently purchased a 125-gallon tank, which I am setting up as FOWLR. I am employing two sump tanks. A 30 gallon refugium with a 4 inch live DSB, LR, macro algae, & snails. Water from the refugium will then drain into a 20 gallon with a protein skimmer, phosphorus reactor, and the return pump. A friend of mine gave me 200 lbs of previously live Southdown sand, which I am using for a DSB in the main tank. The sand had been removed from his tank and stored in buckets for several weeks in the Arizona heat before I picked it up. <Peeyeeww! I bet that was pretty ripe!> I rinsed the sand before I placed it in the tank, but it is still covered with a thick layer of dead organisms. My questions are, a) should I remove this layer? <I would.> b) if so, what would be the best method? <Hard to tell without seeing it, but, likely siphoning is the best option.> Thank you for your help and <You are welcome.> I apologize for the long-winded question. <No worries. Mich>

Seeding Live Sand/Figuring Out Overflows -- 08/06/07 Hello Crew, <<Greetings Adam>> Thanks for your continued effort in this incredible hobby. Without your help, I really don't think I would have had the same confidence I have now going into this new adventure. <<Were pleased to be here to assist>> I just received my 30lbs of Fiji, and 10lbs of Tonga live rock on Saturday (yesterday morning!) and I put it in the tank. So, right now, I've got about 105lbs of sand (Sugar-fine, and I've also made a little "lake" of crushed coral) and 40 lbs of Live rock. (I have a 30 gallon tank, btw). <<Hmm, any room left for the livestock? Sounds awfully crowded...>> The sand creates a bed from 3.5" - 5" all around. I've noticed, 24 hours later, that some life is starting to "sprout" on my live rock, i.e. some of the vegetative(?) matter has started to stand upright and it appears as though some small stem-like things are growing out of the rock. <<Ah yes...an interesting time>> I've read so many stories of hitch-hikers and all kinds of fascinating creatures living in the sand and rock. <<Indeed... Most quite good/nice to have...some, not so much>> However, I have not noticed any yet. <<Give it some time>> Typically, how long does it take for creatures to start appearing and seeding the sand? (i.e. worms, shrimps, small invertebrates, etc.) <<It has already begun I assure you...and will become more evident with time/as populations reproduce/increase...assuming you give these critters time to do so (leaving the tank 'fishless' for 6-12 months does wonders here)>> Second, is it possible to receive live rock and "live sand" (CaribSea stuff... I'm finding it incredibly difficult to find actual live sand that is able to be shipped to Canada, with the abundance of US suppliers, they are all not interested in shipping livestock across the border) that is NOT inhabited with all sorts of critters? <<Honestly mate, save your money... With live rock in the tank 'any' sand will soon become 'live'>> In this case, would a detritivore kit of some kind help increase the diversity? <<Very possibly>> Aaand, thirdly (Thanks, again), I've seen a few "overflow filters" for sale on various sites - I'm not sure how they get water out of the tank and how reliable they are. <<Mmm...are you referring to 'siphon' overflows? The name describes the function...>> I'm interested in setting up a refugium in the near future, and I can't drill any holes in the tank to create a bulkhead, and I also will only be able to place the refugium beneath the main tank, so - what options does that leave me for getting water back and forth? <<Ah, okay...a siphon overflow (two for redundancy/safety is preferable) to gravity feed (siphon) water to the refugium, and a small pump to return water to the display. It is very important to size the pump correctly so not to exceed the capacity of the overflow. Please start reading here and among the links in blue...much more information to be gained than can be passed here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plumbingmarart.htm >> I understand that running dual pumps for return and feed is asking for trouble, <<Indeed>> so I was looking at the overflow filters. It seems to me as though they just work using gravity, is that correct? <<Yes>> Does that mean every time the water fluctuates and breaks the "gravity flow" that I may risk overflowing the main tank with the return pump? <<It does...and reason enough to employ 'two' siphon overflow boxes and using a return pump with a flow rate sufficient for 'one'>> Thanks for all your knowledge and patience, things appear to be going really great with my tank so far! So exciting! --Adam <<Exciting for sure... EricR>>

Seeding A "Dry" Marine Substrate - 01/19/07 First off thanks for all the great information, I have steered away from potential pitfalls because of all the reading I have done. <<Tis good to know>> Your info here at WWM is incredible and the 'Crew' make it fun to read. <<Ahh, we do have our moments>> I am currently looking at getting my 72 gallon bow front up and running. <<Ok>> I am planning on creating a 4-6" DSB. <<Excellent...am a big fan of this methodology>> My questions are simple. <<Mmm, like I haven't heard that before [grin]>> I have found a 100# bag of silicate free sand at a local hardware store and it was the correct size so I purchased it. <<A thrifty buy>> Is it possible to seed this sand with say 2 bags of aragonite (40#) and a few scoops of live sand from my 12 gallon tank that is well established? <<Indeed it is!  And do try to obtain a cup or two of substrate from fellow hobbyists you know as well, for the increased bio-diversity>> Also I plan on getting 90#'s of LR from Dr's Foster and Smith, would that nix the need for the 40#'s of aragonite? <<I would keep/add the aragonite sand for its more readily soluble alkaline/bio-mineral content>> Thanks for all the great info! Keep up the good work. Rick <<Will try to do so.  Regards, EricR>>

Do you have a suggestion on how to get worms and small crustaceans to populate my substrate?     1/20/06 I've got nothing evidently moving in there.  Started with 30# aragonite and 10# "live sand".  The live sand seems like a waste of cash considering that nothing macroscopic grew out. Thanks Dan <A couple of standard approaches include stocking "relatively fresh" live rock and seeing what develops... and buying/seeding the established system with a "critter kit"... the last from folks like Inland Aquatics, Indo-Pacific Sea Farm... .coms. Bob Fenner> Live Sand in a Bag? Hello all, Pam here. Would someone be so kind as to tell me what you think about the new product on the market called "Natures Ocean"? It claims to be "100% natural from the ocean to you". I just bought 4 bags of it at $33.45 a pop! Each bag contains 20 lbs of aragonite. My questions about the product is this: How does the product stay alive sealed in plastic, without O2 and without heat? <It all depends on what they are calling the live component. Just about anything that could be in the sand should be able to survive at the room temperature of any LFS. The low to no O2 environment should be ok for most bacteria, but I would not be surprised to find very few worms or crustaceans have made it. Besides the O2 problem they would also have to contend with the abrasion of the sand due to rough handling.> I just dumped nearly 100 lbs of live sand onto my compost pile <I would be concerned about the salt content.> because I had no place to store it while I set up another tank. I decided it would never stay alive stored in buckets 10 inches deep and without heat. <You would have experienced some loss from the changing around of the various layers. There is no way to shovel/scoop the stuff out of your tank and maintain the layers.> Then, this product comes along and totally blows my decision to pieces! Did I dispose of this sand prematurely? <I would have discarded, too, but that is because I have access to Southdown sand. It is so cheap, I would have merely seeded the new dead sand with some live sand from friends and high quality fresh live rock.> Thank for the info! Pam <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Live Sand becoming Anthony how long will take dead sand to become live if it is 4"  to 5" deep . The sand is South down.         RGibson <great question, Ralph. Amazingly (I have tested this repeatedly) it can become live in as little as two weeks! No joke or gimmick here. Of course, "live" is subjective: I look to a deep sand bed for denitrification. As such, I have seen numerous tanks go from sky high nitrates to near zero within 2-4 weeks of adding a deep bed of dead/dry sand that became live. Now as far as macroorganisms... worms, pods, etc developing... that will depend on how patient one is to keep the tank fishless while these creatures develop. If one places a planktivorous fish in too early (first 4-6 months) like pseudochromids, damsels, clowns, wrasses, etc... you can forget about the sand ever becoming rich with natural infauna of any substantial measure. It will simply be biologically sound. Hence the reason for having fishless upstream, refugium instead... most of us are not patient enough to go fishless in a display for 6-12 months while live rock and live sand matures. Many of the Europeans do though... and they have some pretty sweet displays for it :) Best regards, Anthony>

Re: how many powerheads and change to live sand? Hi. I have 2 questions in which hopefully you can steer me into the right direction. 1st, in my FOWLR tank w/125 of l/r I currently use 2 powerheads for circulation at the opposite top ends.  Would adding 2 more rated at 250gph be beneficial or would this be overkill? <Could only help> It currently houses a clown wrasse, a tomato clown and the guy who seems to enjoy the movement the most, a palette tang. Second, in about 4 months I'm going to move the tank (60 ft) which currently has c/coral.  This would be the time to switch to live sand if better.  I always find myself after a w/change saving 1 or 2 creatures from the tub (usually brittle stars and worms) and tossing them back into the tank. If I see them I save them.  If I switch over to sand these little guys are destined for the big "flush".   <You gotta flush 'em? Why? No...just add them to the new tank> Is this unusual behavior? <Flushing useful, living, beneficial critters down the toilet? I hope it's unusual. I wouldn't do it and I hope that you'll reconsider this practice! David Dowless>

Re: Live sand clarification Hi Bob, here is the paragraph: "Live Sand: Is the latest and not-so greatest sub-specialty in "reef" keeping. Though this stuff has lots of microbes, it also presence many potential problems. Introduction of pests, parasites and pollutants not the least of them. Unless you're utilizing very little (a few grains thick) of this stuff, be wary of it going anaerobic. Keep your eye on it for dark spots... " <Man, talk about a "dated" opinion. Maybe I can/will change/amend to state it's better to "make ones own" with either just the addition of some "fresh" live rock or a detritivore "kit" from an etailer> Maybe it is a matter of interpretation of "the latest and not-so greatest" and "presence (presents?) many potential problems" that is in question.?? My understanding of this is to use a little sand as seed and not the entire substrate??? I am trying to form an answer to the email that will make sense. <I understand (I think...). I am a big/ger fan of "just some" LS added to not-so-live for ostensibly the same reasons as stated above. BTW some folks in the trade do "collect" the beach and ship this as LS, but many others "make their own" for sale with... dead, washed substrate... and live rock! Bob Fenner> Thanks Don

Re: Live rock and sand for a new tank Hey Don, Thanks so much for responding to the below.  Is it even worth spending the extra money on the live sand at 30#'s?  Per your instruction I guess it should fall within the 1" range but is 30 #'s going to supply any real benefit to the tank or do I need to go with the 4+ inches?  Should I just stay with the original crushed coral substrate I have and forgo the live sand since cost is an issue?  I can do the 30# but no more right now. <Personally, I would stay away from the crushed coral as it is a detritus trap that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis which destroys any bacterial benefit. I would go with the live sand if possible. You do not need to buy all live sand. You can buy fine aragonite 'dead' sand and then get a cup or two of live sand from an established system. The 'dead' sand will quickly become 'live' and this will help seed the pod populations as well> As for the skimmer, well I screwed that one up already and purchased a Seaclone style skimmer.  Was before finding WetWebMedia and all the info out here.  It will have to suffice for the time being. <Been there, done that. I had the SeaClone skimmer and found that it is extremely sensitive to the depth of the pump inlet below the surface. As little as 1/4" could stop production. Once I found the sweet spot and kept that dialed in, I was able to get regular production, just not as much as we would like to see. Experiment with the depth, keep the thing spotless and you may get some decent production> I will also take your advice and forgo the biomedia and use the wet/dry box as a sump. <That is the way I would go, Don> Thanks <You are very welcome, keep in touch> Louis Rizzo

Small worms in sand 1/19/04 Hello! Thanks for being here for us! I have a JBL 12 Nano cube running for about 3 months now. I have 2 damsels, 1 clown, 1 anemone and several hermit crabs and emerald crabs...  It has been great!  Picture attached! 2 questions: <Hi Roberto!  Adam here.  Glad to hear you are having fun!> First question: It has been great! I have about 1 inch of sand... looking into the sand just by the edge of the glass you can see something like little caverns that go vertically/diagonally like if they were made from bubbles rising. But some days ago I discovered something moving along that little hole like a worm with two very small  black dots at the edge like eyes! It suddenly moved away down and  vanished. It has never appeared on the surface of the sand so I believe  is living under the sand... is this something to worry about? It is  amazing how many little things are inside our tanks. <Yes it is amazing, and some of the best fun that this hobby has to offer.  Such critters are very common and quite beneficial as scavengers.> Second question: sometimes if I'm looking at the tank from an edge I  can see like red film on the inside part of the glass (like powder) but  if I look straight forward there is nothing. You can only see it in an  angle. Should I attempt to clean the glass anyway or this is good stuff  that it can stay there... Thank you always, you are all the best... Roberto <I have no idea what this might be, but I have seen it in my tanks too.  Nothing to worry about.  Best Regards!  Adam> Sand Activation (1/6/2004)  thanks for the quick reply! <Steve Allen pitching in this time. Scott has certainly helped me in the past too.>deeply appreciated. when you suggested a activator for my dead oolitic sand did you mean the (Surfzone live sand activator by indo-pacific sea farms)? to kick start.  <I have personally ordered from IPSF and Inland Aquatics. Both excellent companies. IPSF has a great deal for a hundred bucks where you can pick nine items with free FedEx Priority shipping. Their Wonder Mud, Live Sand Activator and Liquid N-Reducer worked Great for me. You can also order some 'pods and Nerites and Strombus Grazers as part of the package. If you're doing a refugium with lighting, try some of their Tang Heaven Red (Gracilaria parvispora). Grows great for me. Their bristle worms are useful too. I separately ordered mini brittlestars that are reproducing in my system. If your DSB is to be in the main tank, do allow plenty of time for it to establish (beyond just cycling) before adding predatory fish. Inland Aquatics refugium fauna kit and macroalgae (including Chaetomorpha) are also excellent.> 

Live Sand Starter Hello, I was wondering if you think it would be ok to add 1 quart of "live sand booster" to a new setup for a seahorse only fish tank?  I will get my seahorses from Oceanrider, they are all tank raised and eating fortified frozen Mysis.  This kick start quart comes from CULTUREDAQUARIA.COM.  It is supposed to be full of "critters" like copepods, small sand stars, bi-valves, and sand worms and stuff.  I was just wondering if it might help with getting my tank ready for my new seahorses.  I want to make it as perfect as possible for them.  It is a 29 gallon aquarium, and it will have 30 pounds of live rock, Carib sea Indo-Pacific black live sand, protein skimmer rated for a 75 gallon tank, with a hang on the back filter (170 gal hr) with bio wheels for good bacteria to grow on.  My clean up crew will be the first thing in after cycling though.  The sand already has lots of good bacteria, I thought this other stuff would give everything else a head start.  What do you think?  Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.  By the way, I was referred to you by Oceanrider.  The person I talked to was not familiar with the stuff in question.  Thank you.                                                                     Jerry Cranford   ***Hello Jerry, The live rock and sand make the BioWheel in your filter superfluous at best. As far as the sand booster goes, if you have the money to burn, go for it. I've never heard of this, but there are similar kits offered from other vendors. Myself, I've never bothered as I've found them over priced for what you get. WAY over priced. I just go to my LFS and grab a few handfuls of the gunk from the bottom of the live rock bin. I've found I get plenty of critters that way. It certainly will enhance the variety of life in your tank, but you have other avenues available to you, including sand from other reef keepers. Bottom line, if the $$$ aspect doesn't hurt, give it a try. Jim*** Growing Live Sand?  Hello my name is James and I am starting my first 55 gallon marine aquarium. What I would like to know is can live sand grow into other sand and make it live also? <Yes, absolutely it will just take some time.>  Such as, can I take Florida crushed coral sand and mix it  with a small amount of live sand from the LFS and it grow onto the coral sand?  You have a wonderful and very informative site and I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. James, <James, Thanks for your patience.  Live sand will seed regular sand.  It will take approximately 2 to 4 weeks depending on how much live sand you start with.  Good Luck.  MikeB.>      ?'s on seeding manufactured rock w/live rock... Hello Bob,  Love your site & FAQ. Very informative. I would also like to compliment you on the way you handle & answer the questions you get. I know some people may disagree that LR is the best method of biological filtration, and some people get downright nasty. I like how you (unlike many people) don't take it personally, and answer the questions objectively.  <Thank you.> I wish more people (including myself) were better at that. Anyway, on to my ?'s I have been very happy with my existing tanks filled with LR from FFExpress, however I am trying something different. I have acquired a 300g acrylic tank which I can't afford to stock completely with LR. So I have been making my own rock (oyster shell aragonite/Portland white cement mix) & curing it. <Should work just fine... simply takes a while to populate.> I am getting closer to being ready to put them in the tank. They are still leaching a little KW, and consequently the pH is still around 8.6. I have been told that with really good circulation & aeration the added co2 will bring the pH down adequately. <Hmm, the CO2 ala carbonic acid in solution won't do much... but dilution, time going by period will help... and if it were me, I'd stoop to adding an inorganic acid (simple 3M HCl... aka Muriatic will do... or even vinegar as an organic (Acetic, CH3COOH)... to bring all about right in a couple of days...> I think that by the time I order my rock the water will have stabilized. And now my questions. - How much LR would you add to "seed" the (dead) manufactured rock w/ coralline & good bacteria?)  <A box or two... whatever's on sale, that you can afford.> the water will have stabilized. Any special concerns that you would address?  <Not much more than assuring that most all the leaching was over... as gauged by pH...> Would live sand speed the growth of nitro somonas/Nitrobacters much? <Not worthwhile in my opinion... The live rock will make your substrate live as much as any added live sand will> Would you crush a few small pieces of rock & spread them around? Turn off the protein skimmer to speed the spread of coralline? >> <Definitely no to turning the skimmer off period, and nah to the need to break the rock... organisms will make their way down into and through the sand on their own... almost immediately. For boosting the corallines, keep your alkalinity and biomineral levels up... and be patient. Your friend in fish, Bob Fenner>

Live Sand for a FO System Quick question for you, if you don't mind, regarding live sand. In reading your articles and FAQs on LR and LS, you repeatedly suggest placing LS remotely in the sump. I understand your reasoning, and it makes sense to me. You also suggest "making your own" LS rather than purchasing LS from the LFS. <Yes... in general this is "enough"... often "the exact same" as the "made sand" that is sold in the trade> Reminder: My tank is a 100G FOWLR with a 40G sump. I'm planning on making a plenum/refugium setup in the sump. I have "messy" triggers and puffers. <Okay> What exactly do you recommend then for substrate in the main tank? How thick? I have "messy" triggers and puffers. <An inch of substrate of whatever type... just on the tank bottom... and plenty of larger pieces of live rock> I like the look of fine live sand, but do agree it would be easier to take care of if it were more easily accessible in the sump. <I would have some in both... likely a plenum set-up in the sump... with two grades, a plastic mesh between, a "dead" hypoxic space under... as detailed on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Thanks as always, Eugene

LR/LS and other questions Hi again, Some more questions for you: 1) Is 20 lbs. of LR enough for a 40 gallon aquarium? <For? For functions sake you could have more... for looks sake, ditto... though beauty is in the eye, mind, pocketbook...> 2) I was planning on using a mixture of live and non-live sand as a substrate but I was wondering if I should just use 30 lbs. of non-live sand and buy some more live rock? Is there any advantages to using the live sand as opposed to "seeding" it with live rock? <Virtually, actually, none> 3) Is there any reason why I can't remove all of the fish from my brackish tank, do a 20% water change, increase the salinity to about 34 ppt, and add the cured live rock and the substrate to this? Or do I need to drain and clean out the tank, then add water and let the system settle out for weeks (start all over)? <Umm, what are you going to do with the brackish livestock? Should be fine if they're being moved elsewhere> 4) What is a good level for dissolved oxygen in a reef tank (my brackish aquarium is about 4 mg/L right now)? <For almost all set-ups, about 7 ppm... harder to get this much in warmer tanks... but 4 mg/l, ppm is a bit low. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Kevin

Re: sandbed question Hello and thank you for the quick response, I read the links that you sent to me. They actually confused me even more. <Yikes... sorry, the intent is of course the opposite> The one on types of filtration you say that the use of live sand is not that great of an idea and in the one on plenums there is a diagram showing live sand. Can you explain why you think the use of live sand is not good.  <Hmm, don't know specifically what we're referring to here... but "live sands" are a good idea in general... and all substrates become "live" to an extent in use/exposure in biological systems> One last question (maybe): If you were to set up and aquarium for yourself with all your experience, would you use a plenum or a deep sand bed. <The latter perhaps... only in a separate sump though, NOT in a main/display system> I have limited space under my aquarium so whatever I do has to be within the tank itself. Thanks again. <Then I would skip on this technology for now... just using "some"... a couple of inches, of substrate, live rock... NOT a plenum or DSB... until you have a bit more experience, room for a sump to add one of these tools. Bob Fenner> Brett

Reef tank (mainly substrate biofiltration concerns) Dear Mr. Fenner, Allow me to start by saying I love your website, it is very informative and helpful!!! <Ah, good to hear/read> I have a 30 gal reef tank, age about 10 weeks old. So far everything looks great. The tank specifications are: ~ 10 weeks old 36" x 12" x 15" Icecap VHO 2 x 95 watt (50/50 & 03) open to air, until I build the hood, due to increase in water temp 79 F, 1.024 sg very small external filter w/ carbon 1 PowerSweep (160 gph) 1 grotto ph (300 gph) plenum w/ 1" void space, 1" crushed coral, 2" aragonite special grade. I added the live sand activator from IPSF within a few days of setting it up. So far the organisms that are visible to the eye are multiplying much to the delight of my longnosed hawkfish) The tank inhabitants are: micro hermits, red & blue legged hermits (~20) turbo, Astrea, Strombus, Trochus snails (25 or 30) anthelia polyps green mushrooms Sarcophyton green button polyps grape Caulerpa 1 tomato clown 1 longnosed hawkfish 1 green serpent star (very small, about 2-2.5" diameter) 1 tunicate (purple) numerous fanworms, flatworms, spaghetti worms, and bristleworms (which have bored holes through my Aragocrete which I like, but have not harmed any corals) I add 20 ml reef restore Alk & Calcium each morning Anyway my questions are: 1) Have you heard/ do you have any experience with the LS activator from IPSF? <Know of the product... don't use it or anything like it... rely on live rock "inoculation"> 2) How long should it take for the denitrification to occur in the plenum? I have about 9 lbs LR, along with Aragocrete ( instructions from GARF.org) but these do not seem to break down nitrates <Sometimes takes a few months for "stability" to set in nitrification/denitrification... with a "steady state" of nitrate at whatever reading... are you accumulating at this point?> 3) As yet I have not added a protein skimmer. Because I am a college student, I am on a limited budget. I have been looking into a Skilter 250 or 400, are these any good, and if so which is better? <Both are fine products... but not very powerful/efficient as skimmers... you can modify them by placing a fine-air bubble (like a wood type... needs frequent changing...), down the middle of the contact chamber/collector cup... Another alternative would be a Prizm or SeaClone for your thirty... or a small sump or hang on type...> If I purchase on <Ah, a wise idea> I plan on looking into Tom Walsh's modifications. 4) There are animals growing on the glass. I saw a picture of them at www.atlantisaquatic.com calling them as "curlies" ( under images) Do you have any idea what these things are? <Hmm, found them... look like reddish polychaetes in a gel type tube... they're likely just that: segmented/bristle worms...> They are growing all over the rocks, glass, and the snails shells.  <No worries... they will mostly cycle out... and soon enough...> Thanks for all your help. Sincerely, <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

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