Please visit our Sponsors
FAQs about Live Sand Bed Maintenance, Moving 

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, Biota, 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, & Deep Sand BedsSumps, Refugiums, Live Rock Calcium, FAQs 1

"Stirred, not stored for Mr. Bond... "
"You do the hokey pokey..."
"Go ahead..., add to my substrate"

Using old live sand 1/11/12
Hi again,
<Hello Jess>
I am really confused, I have spent the last 2 hours reading through your live sand articles and I think I am just as confused, if not more... :)
Information overload I think! I am going to pick up a 220 gallon tank Saturday, the guy that owns it has drained the water down to just cover the sand and it has been this way for a few months. The tank is four years old.
I have a 75 gallon tank with live sand and rock that I plan to add to the 220 once I get it here.
My goal is to not have much cycling time since I do have livestock that needs to be moved over within a week or two.
<Your rock and sand from the 75 will provide the nitrifying bacteria provided it isn't out of the water too long.>
I read in your forum that live sand loses its "liveness" so to speak over the years....should I just replace the used sand with new live sand along with my sand in my 75 gal. or should I use the old live sand that is coming with the 220 gal tank?
<The sand is likely going to need a good rinsing before using.  The choice is yours.  I'd likely go with new sand to make up the difference.  Put the new sand in first, then layer the top with the sand from the 75.>
I worry that since there has been only a small amount of water covering the sand with no other filtration for a few months that the sand may be polluted and in that case would not want to add it to my tank....I am SO confused!!
<I'd use new sand.>
I also do not want to have to do huge amounts of water changes to get rid of nitrates in a tank this size....should I start 20% water changes as soon as I see nitrates?
<Nitrates or not, it's best to do regular water changes, say 10% weekly.>
You have been very helpful so far, can't thank you enough....Thanks Bob :)
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Reusing Some Old Live Sand -- 12/23/11
So about 9-10 months ago I tore down my 125 gal saltwater setup in order to get my house ready for sale. For my small house, it just took up too much room so the realtor said it had to go. When I tore it down, I placed all of my live sand in a HD 25 gallon tote and placed enough of the saltwater in it to keep the sand submerged. The tote, which has a lid, was then placed on my back porch for storage, where it has resided until now. My question is this...I am setting up a new system now and am wondering if I need to rinse out this old sand, which when I checked it last night was still completely submerged.
<<The water wasn't necessary/did nothing really re 'preserving' this sand or the life in/upon it during storage'¦if that was the intent>>
The temperatures it has been exposed to have ranged anywhere from the mid-30s to the high 90's with some exposure to direct sunlight, but it has been covered the whole time. The tote is black with a yellow lid, so minimal light would have reached the sand...just the temperature may have gotten into the low 100's with it being in the sun.
<<The lack of oxygen and wild temperature swings will certainly have 'done in' by now any infauna that was collected/stored with the sand.  I would suggest giving this substrate a rinse before reusing.  Put a few pounds at a time in a old salt bucket'¦give it a blast from the hose to swirl loose any dead and decaying organic matter'¦decant the water and detritus'¦dump the rinsed sand in another container'¦repeat>>
Thanks for your advice. I use it often.
Chris Holman
<<We are happy to share'¦  Eric Russell>>

LS Bed Vacuuming/Algae Control 1/4/10
I apologize for my inexperience and I have read so much info on WWM that my brain is actually hurting. Even still I am digesting as much as I can and I am sure I am missing some key elements.
<No need to apologize, no one is born with experience.>
I will start off with a simple question I believe, and not sure I have read/found the correct answer yet.
I have seen numerous references on your site to vacuuming the substrate but unsure if it is possible to vacuum a LS bed without sucking all the sand in.
And is it advisable for fear of sucking away beneficial organisms?
<It may be necessary at times if the bed is lacking enough organisms to keep it clean.>
What is the recommended way to vacuum a sand only (actually Aragonite) bed if there is one?
<My method is to use a smaller size gravel vacuum and pinch the hose enough while vacuuming to prevent the sand from getting siphoned out. I vacuum my bed this way during every water change.>
I am having a SERIOUS outbreak of red hair algae now (along with brown algae) growing on both the LS and LR. I have plucked as much as I can off the LR. I have began steps to reduce nutrients by feeding less (from 3-4
small feedings to only 2 times/day), thawing then rinsing frozen food prior to introducing into the tank, using Ocean Nutrition Formula One and Two pellets and occasionally an Omega One food with Garlic flake offering. All fish generally ignore the pellets and the flake. I do try to remove uneaten food but am sure I am missing some of it. Hopefully the Nassarius will take care of those.
<May want to hire more Blue Legged Crabs.>
Some information about tank and livestock:
55 Gallon wide (about 2.5 months of age)
Small Refugium (made from an HOT AquaClear 70 Power filter) with macroalgae (recently added x7 days ago).
<Will help some in reducing nutrients.>
~40 lbs. LR (more to be steadily added as budget allows and have another 5 pound rock curing at moment)
Jebo 304 canister with 2 Eheim fine pads, Eheim sponge (course) pad, ceramic Bio-ring and 2 bags of activated charcoal (one under each fine pad)
<The pads will act as nutrient sinks if not cleaned on a weekly basis. You may want to try Chemi Pure Elite in place of the charcoal, a combination of phosphate remover, ion exchange resins, and a very good grade of carbon. This media is relatively inexpensive at etailer shops.
One example here. http://www.premiumaquatics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=CHEMI-ELITE&Category_Code=Americanmarine>
AquaTech 40-60 HOT Power filters with bio screens. Media is a simple filter media with Activated Charcoal in both.
<Be careful in choosing activated carbon as many of the cheaper brands will release phosphates into the water.>
RedSea Prizm Skimmer
<Not really enough skimmer for your tank in my opinion. An AquaC HOT Remora would be a very efficient skimmer for a 55.>
Last H2O change was 23 Dec. 09 and was 20 gallons
Hydor Koralia 4 Powerheads (x2)
Ocellaris Clown (x1)
McCosker's Flasher Wrasse (x2)
Mexican Turbo Snail (x2) (one added 48 hours ago)
Nassarius Snails (x2)
<I would increase the snail population to about 8.>
Porcelain Anemone Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculosus) (x1) (added 48 hours ago)
<Will not do well in this system. It feeds on planktonic food and mucus from their host anemone and is difficult to acclimate to prepared foods.>
Small Zoanthus colony
Small Star Polyp frag
Various hitchhikers to include spaghetti worms.
(Recently lost a Royal Gramma due to Ich)
LATEST TESTING RESULTS (1/3/10) All testing using API reagents newly purchased.
Ammonia (NH3/NH4) = 0
Nitrite (NO2) = 0
Nitrate(NO3) = 20
Phosphates (PO3- / 4) = 0.5 Ã
Alkaline (dKH) = >214.8mEq/L
<Alkalinity on the high side.>
pH (High Range) = 8.3
Salinity = 1.023
Temperature = Bottom: 76.1 °F / Middle: 78.0 °F
My one and only larger Feather duster (dime sized, hitchhiker) recently disappeared (maybe hiding in rock less his feathers) right after using Aiptasia X for Aiptasia removal near it but trying to be careful not get any on it (all filter, water movement stagnant 5 minutes prior to use and about 15 minutes after use before restart). Did the Aiptasia X hurt it?
I need to advise the porcelain anemone crab was not yet in the tank. I did see some remnants of its feathers after use of the Aiptasia X but now I see nothing.
Did it possibly move?
Red hair algae blossoming at a very fast rate and within last few days.
Brown Algae still predominate on glass and LS. Added a 2nd Mexican Turbo Snail to hopefully get that under control. As stated above I have reduced feeding. Rinsing frozen foods (Mysis and Brine Shrimp) to remove thawed
water, recently added the macroalgae refugium (about 2 weeks ago) to help reduce nitrates. Continuing to add a cleaner crew as budget allows (any immediate recommendations in this area?).
<As mentioned above.>
What can I use or do to bring Phosphates down?
<As above, Chemi Pure Elite or a product called Rowaphos.>
I have not yet changed Canister filter pads as am awaiting them to arrive via mail order since no LFS has Eheim products on the shelf. I have, however, lightly rinsed these twice to get rid of heavy debris.
How can I drop down my dKH ? I am doing water changes (~15 gallons at a time) bi-weekly.
<Will come down in time, do not use any buffers until.>
Any help would be appreciated.
<Do read here and associated linked files.
James (Salty Dog)>
Respectfully submitted:

Re: Bioactive sand turning brown, Water Changes 4/8/09
Okay - last question - I think - I have emailed you before about my bioactive sand turning brown, so I got a few snails and we have done pretty good.
I had a bright idea and moved my damsels out of the big tank (55 gal) and moved them to the smaller tank - the brown stuff in the bigger tank has now got a grassy brown growth so I am going to clean out the tank - get rid of the growth and change the sand out - when I change the water what kind of water do I use - I do not use our tap water because it comes from a well - originally when I put water in the tanks I used distilled water. Any other ideas on type of water???
<Probably worth investing in a decent RO/DI unit, otherwise you could see if your local aquarium store sells filtered water.>
Also - when we filled the 55 gal tank with the bottled water - it did not take 55 gals of water just 39 how and why is a 55 gal tank called a 55 gal tank when it does not take that much??? Just a question that crossed my mind..
<The rock and sand can eat up much of the tank volume. 16 gallons does not surprise me at all.>
<<Mmm, often called "model 55's"... do the math... inside dimensions in inches... L X W X H... divide by 231 (cubic inches per gallon)... Most only hold 45ish gallons empty. RMF>>
Have a great day!
Cecilia Lester
Paris Texas
<You too.>

Tank Breakdown... re-establishing SW cycling with dead live sand    11/11/07 Hi there, <David> I recently broke down a 72 gallon tank and stored the live sand in buckets. After s few weeks, <... stinky...> I set up a tank solely for the purpose of preparing replacement water for my water changes on a smaller tank that I have. I put in this sand after I washed it many times. <Oh, good> As expected, the readings were off the charts. I know all the fauna perished - however, I want to - at some point - reuse the sand. I am weekly changing 50% of the water in this tank - yet the readings have not dropped - am I not being realistic here? What should I expect? Should I just start fresh and throw this out? <Mmm, I would just add a bit... a few pounds, of live rock... and let this re-seed the sand> I am confused. <Mmm, more impatient...> Your advice is valued....and as always - many thanks for maintaining this invaluable source of info for a hobby that I love. Cheers, David <It is for you we endeavour to share. Ten deep breaths, long walks... let time go by here... with some LR added. Bob Fenner> Bubbles in my sand bed I have recently upgraded to a 75 gallon FOWLR from a 37 gallon. I have an Eheim wet/dry canister 2227, <Mmm, I'd be reading re switching to something more appropriate: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm> a Bio-wheel, and an Aqua C Remora on it. My lighting is now at 4 watts per gallon as I am going to try my hand at coral. <Do study re...> My new tank has been setup now for about 3 weeks and all things have stabilized but my Nitrates. At this point they are at 15ppm but they never went below 10ppm. <I would not be concerned with these numbers> I know that it takes time to cycle but it doesn't seem right that they are going back up. I have consulted my LFS about doing a water change but they advised me not to, that I should just leave the tank alone. <I agree> In addition to my Nitrate problem I have noticed over the past 2 weeks little bubbles in my sandbed (3 inches thick sand bed). I was told that I should stir up the sand manually and purchased sand sifters to get them out, which I did, but with-in two days they are back. Could this be part of my Nitrate problem or is something else happening here? Are the bubbles actually a bad thing? <Not to be concerned here either... there are chemical, biochemical, hopefully macro-life goings on here that result in such bubbles... all will settle in/out in time> I appreciate your time and effort to help educate those of us willing to learn. Thank you. <I urge two doses of patience, and one of wonder here. Read for now. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Live Sand Storage and Passer Angel... sel., dis.   8/3/07 Hi Crew, I just set up a 125 a few weeks ago for a Passer Angel I bought that is 10 inches. <Needs a world of more than twice this size... and large angels (for the species) are indeed not often good-adaptors to captive conditions... Best to start with a "medium size"...> I first saw him when I went to look for a Marine Betta that he was housed with and he bit off the Bettas tail right before I bought him. I still bought the Betta and his tail grew back plus the clerk cut 10.00 bucks off the price. He will not be having a rematch since they will be in separate tanks. I have the Passer in a QT tank of 50 gallons and he came down with velvet? <...> The pet store held him for a month for me and I bring him home and he gets velvet in a week? <Maybe... where is the parasite coming from?> This has happened in the past with all Angels I have bought? None of the other fish ever get it? <???> Yesterday I freshwater dipped him and today it was coming back and freshwater dipped him again and put him in another QT tank or hospital tank for his 15 day copper treatment. 125 should be done cycling by then. He looks healed after the freshwater dip and Im shocked how fast it comes back. In my QT tank I understand the copper will kill my bio filtration. How much of a water change should I do to keep water decent and how often? <As much as necessary. See WWM re> Also would I be better off using cycled water or premixed water for the water change? <The former... if you can be assured that it is parasite-free> One last question and Im sorry for be long winded. I bought a used 90 gallon just for the filtration because it was to good to pass up. The live sand I don't need right now and was wondering how I should store it? <Yes... but not as such. That is, it won't be very live with time going by in storage... and will need good rinsing, perhaps bleaching and dechlorinating ahead of future use> I see it in bags in stores but not sure if that's the right way. Thanks for taking the time to read this and I thank all you guys for making this complicated hobby make since! Rick <A bit of a definition difference. There are sand products that tout being "live"... but this is a bit of a misnomer... They may be primed for bacterial population growth, but definitely lack higher phyla presence. Bob Fenner>

Re: Initial Setup Questions... and Answers, Part 2   1/11/07 Thanks for your reply.   <Welcome!> One more question.   <Yep.> I accidentally left my bagged and sealed live sand in the car overnight, and it was quite cold. <Oops> Everything was still liquid when I brought it in, but it definitely wasn't tropical in my trunk.   <Yep.> Is the live sand still "live" after that? <Questionable how much "life" was there to start out with.> Or do I need to replace it? <I would just use it.> <Cheers!  -Mich>

Live sand question 7/21/05 Hello, Do you know what could cause the sand to turn a rust brown color. <Mmm, usually diatom profusion... sometimes BGA, at times both... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/maralgid.htm and the linked files...> We stirred the top layer up, and the next day it was back. Maybe even worse. We have a 50 gallon, with live sand, and 2 clown fish. We are trying to get started, but are waiting to find out why our sand is turning orange. Any more info that you would need from me? <Mmm, what sort of source water, what do you do to treat it, salt brand, methods for its mixing, storage... tank set-up, history...> I am not sure what else to tell you. I know it s a salt water tank and all the levels look good! Thank you! Kristi Pekar <Take the long read, please, and learn to use the tool, collective experience which is WWM. Bob Fenner> 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!:)> How long can I store live sand?   5/27/06 I have searched your site and have not found an exact answer to my query.  Recently I obtained approximately 100 lbs of aragonite live sand from an existing reef that the owner broke down.  I'm not quite ready to tear down my tank but will be doing so in order to swap out my system for a reef ready tank in about six months.  I'd like to keep the sand "living" in storage if at all possible.  I was considering placing it in several 5 gallon buckets with water and a lid to seal it from most of the air. <Mmm, not this...>   The reason I thought of doing it this way was to mimic the bags of live sand for sale at just about every fish store.  Is this the right thing to do or should I just let it dry out completely?   <Neither> Also how long will live sand remain active if in aquarium water but outside of the original system? <With proper care a few to several months...>   Any assistance that you could provide with respect to this mater would be greatly appreciated and keep up the great work on the site!   Thanks, Dave <Best to "store" this in "aquarium type settings"... with some water atop the sand, it being recirculated, adding a bit of food every few days... A heater if there's a chance of cold... But the live components need oxygen, gas exchange, nutrients, stable water quality. Bob Fenner>

Do you have to replace live sand every so often? Yep  7/19/06 I have a 4 year old 55 gal saltwater tank with 75 lbs of live rock, 3" of Arag-live Special grade sand and varies corals and anemones. <... plural?> I have been having a problem with my nitrate levels and noticed there is a lot of tube like worms in the sand. The tubes are thin and covered with sand and they have little worms that come out from the sand. When you move the sand you can see there tubes that are heavily embedded into the sand. <Beneficial mostly> I talked with my local fish guy and he said you should replace your substrate ever 4 years? Is this true? <Mmm, better to add to, replace a part after a year and a quarter or so... Ten, twenty percent every six months... to provide soluble components, volume...> I read the back of the Arag-live sand and it said it never needs replacement. <Mmm, better to replace, add to on a regular basis... Most captive systems become overly "unbalanced" chemically, stagnant in terms of bio-diversity, abundance... the changing, adding of substrates helps forestall these tendencies> I was thinking about moving the live rock around and filtering the sand underneath it to clean it up a little. What do you suggest? <Reading: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> Donovan Flores

Disaster ! (Oh oh... tank on the floor) << Hi Pam....I don't like the look of this already....>> The word "leak" is not a word a fish owner wants to hear, but today it happened to me. Not my 55gal reef, but the 30 gallon Rubbermaid bucket next to it! And God only knows how long it's been leaking onto my brand new wall to wall carpeting! I noticed during a water change the carpet felt wet well beyond the tank. And upon further inspection, well, you know the rest. I just finished tearing down the tank. All that's left is about 60 pounds of LIVE sand!!! Living now anyways, that's my dilemma. The fish and inverts are okay for the time being, (I hope). I transported them to a 30 gallon tank with all the rock, about 70 lbs of it. I hope they can handle this cramped home while I rip out my carpet, ugh!! So, what , or should I say," how" do I keep my sand alive? If I pile it into a couple buckets, I would think it will smother and die. Please advise me! Thank you Pam <<Ah, how about the new Rubbermaid container or larger more durable container you will be replacing the old leaky POG with? It needs the same conditions as all the other stuff so maybe a larger Rubbermaid container? It needs a heater and circulation, maybe transfer some of the LR in there to give the fish some room or combine it all in a larger container. That's the best I can do from here! Sorry for sure to hear about your leak. Craig>>

Re: disaster ! Dahhhhhh, why didn't I think of that! Tell me this, how long will the sand survive sitting in 3 buckets? I can pick up a new Rubbermaid tomorrow, till then, the sand sits and waits. Thank you Craig, Pam <<Oh yes, I miss the forest for the trees all the time! You aren't alone! You want to do this ASAP before the bottom layer goes anaerobic if it hasn't already. Maybe get another bucket and transfer from one to another to aerate a bit until tomorrow. Your sand will be alive, but it won't be in top notch shape, so do monitor it in the new Rubbermaid and make sure it tests alright before adding to your tank. Hang in there Pam! Craig>> 

Re: Live Sand Hi, <HELLLLLLLLO!>    I have a question about live sand.  I have a 58 gallon tank with 80lbs. of live rock and about a 2" sand bed in my tank. In the deeper lighted areas of the sand, it has started to produce large amounts of bubbles.  It doesn't appear to do this in the shaded areas.  Is this normal? <Yep...Just the natural processes going on in the sand> Is this the nitrogen given off by denitrification processes? <With a bed this shallow your are unlikely to get denitrification> I was always under the assumption that nitrogen gas given off would be dissolved in the water.  All the water parameters are good: NH4 = 0ppm, NO2 = 0ppm, NO3 = <10ppm, etc.  The fish and inverts appear healthy and happy. <Nothing to worry about> As a side question, is this tank big enough for either a Kole Tang or a Purple Tang?  I currently have the following:  Cirrhilabrus luteovittatus (Fairy Wrasse), Stonogobiops nematodes (Striped Shrimp Goby) with Alpheus randalli (Pistol shrimp), Opistognathus aurifrons (Yellowhead Jawfish), (incidentally, and not to get off topic, should I be worried about this pairing of the Jawfish and goby/shrimp pair?), Amphiprion ocellaris (False Percula Clown), Gobiodon oceanops (Neon Goby), Nemateleotris decora (Purple Firefish). <I think your tank is at capacity. Besides...tangs, especially the purple (Zebrasoma xanthurum)...are very aggressive. This tendency is even worse when you have them confined in small tanks (like a 55) with lots of little fish. The tangs will terrorize this peaceful tank. Leave it out...Pleeeeeeease?> Thank you for all your help, <You're welcome! I'm glad to see that you are researching before spending a $100 or more on a fish. This habit WILL save you a lot of money and aggravation. David Dowless> Erik Jorvig

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>

Moving Live Rock and Sand Hey crew...real quickie here.  Was wondering how long it my live sand and rock will remain "live" for in 5gall buckets?? There will be enough water in the buckets to submerge everything. I think it would probably be about hr and a half before it was all put back into a tank full of water. Thanks! Rick <Hey Rick, your live rock and sand should remain live in the buckets for the trip, I would not worry too much about 1.5 hours.  Try to avoid any major temperature swings, do not crank up the A/C.  If a temperature drop is going to be a problem in your area you might consider heat pads.  Best Regards, Gage>

- Cleaning Live Sand - If I have a reef aquarium with a live sand bed of 1.5-1.75" deep is it best to siphon it or just stir it up. <Depends how fine the particles are... siphoning larger particles makes sense because you won't vacuum too many out of the aquarium. Smaller/finer particles will likely get sucked out of the aquarium during such an operation, so stirring it would make much more sense.> How deep through the sand should I stir? <All the way to the bottomed.> Should it all be stirred at once or a little at each water change? <A little at each water change is more practical.> What is the best thing to stir the sand with? <A plastic rod or dowel.> I am doing water changes every week to two weeks, normally about 10%.  That would be considered a pretty good percentage, correct? <Sure - is exactly what I do, 10% every two weeks.> Is it also true that if you stir real deep in the sand bed and do not directly siphon that water out, that it contains a bad bacteria that can kill your fish? <More prevalent in deeper sand beds - Sulphur dioxide is what I think you are referring to, but it takes a long time to build this up and your sand bed probably isn't deep enough to create too much of this stuff.> You guys always are extremely helpful and quick with responses.  Thank you very much!! <Cheers, J -- >

Playing In The Sand (Keeping Sandbed Clean) Hi-Just to give ya a little background. I am running a 20 gal (first time) saltwater tank, and I have live rock and very fine live sand. As for fish, I got two damsels, a clown, a sixline wrasse, and a turbo snail. My snail has taken care of my algae growing on my rock, but it is the sand I am worried about. My tank is fairly new and doing well, but my question is this...is there an easy to care for fish or sea star that will help me clean my sand w/o devastating the natural balance of the tank (I don't have detritus just yet, just algae on the surface of the sand). <Well, there are a lot of fishes and animals that can fit the bill. I am partial to some of the snails that can do the job, such as Nassarius and others.> My goal is to have my tank run pretty much as self sufficient as possible (cleaning wise). Or is there a way to clean the sand w/o stirring it up? <Well, you can use a slow siphon and disturb just the very top layers of the sand. Unfortunately, and siphoning of the sand or use of "sand sifting" creatures will result in some level of disturbance to the resident fauna. On the other hand, if you are not too aggressive, it probably won't be too big a problem. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

STORING LIVE SAND Hi Folks-I've got 2500#'s of live sand that I have to move (along w/all the livestock). << That is a lot of sand!  Were talking some serious Rubbermaid containers for this. >> Some of the sand is going to have to be stored. Can this be done? << Yes, but it's difficult.  I wouldn't store it long without light, heaters, and powerheads. >> Can I reuse it at some point?  << Yes, but I don't think this is a good idea.  I think you would be better selling the sand, and buying new down the road.  Keeping it alive and in a running tank is going to be very difficult, but certainly possible. >> Please, please help me. Lynne Bennett << Adam B. >>

Sticky stuff in substrate Hi there, << Hi. >> I have a 75 gallon reef tank that is about 9 months old with about 4 inches of crushed coral substrate. While I was scraping the algae off of my glass today I shook up some of my substrate and noticed that there was like a rug on the bottom. << Hmmm, could be Cyano holding it together, or "glue" from worms>>  Do you have any idea what this might be? It looks like a bunch of worms colonizing sticking straight in the air.<< Yep you got it.  That is what does it, worms.  It isn't bad, just their way of making a home in the sand. >> They are about 1mm in dia. and about 1/4 of an inch tall. They look the same height all over. Could they be harmful? << Nope, not bad, don't worry. >> Thanks,    Josh Breeds <<  Blundell  >>

Substrate/Sand beds confusion 1/19/04 Dear Bob, Anthony & Staff, <cheers... Moe in the middle> After getting advice from my LFS. I started to take out all of my substrate which was live sand about an inch thick. They told me to have either 4" or nothing at all. <any sand depth can be made to work, my friend, with adequate water flow above it and sand stirring. Now I'm down to about a 1/4" in the tank but it starting to clump up and has that dirty look to it. I have a lot of current in the tank and when I tried adding more it looks like I'm going to blow my corals off the rock. <the problem is not that you have too much flow, but rather that it is not diffused adequately (you have limited laminar outputs from a water pump or your powerheads). Do a keyword search for "Goodbye Powerheads" to make a closed loop manifold to better distribute water flow> My problem is at this point I'm frustrated and am not sure if I did the right thing by taking all that sand out. I would like to add sand to the tank to make a deep sand bed but I think the right way to it would be to remove all the rock first. It has taken me a year to get things really going and I'm worried that if I take that rock out and add the DSB how my fish and corals would hold up? I was also thinking if I can leave the rock in and pour from 4" in the front to nothing in the back? I'm confused on what type of sand to use after reading this statement. "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" <the above statement is remarkably ignorant (as in uninformed) and incorrect> I have made many improvements to my tank with the help from your web site. Thanks again! <all good my friend... and please do consider reading our coverage on DSBs, living substrates, etc. in "Reef Invertebrates" - it is comprehensive if I may say so. Anthony>

Burrowing Baby Brittles << I am attempting to increase my sandbed from 2 1/2" to 4". I have some
baby brittle stars and other goodies in my current sand bed. Do I need to worry about burying them too deep if I add the new sand all at once? Do I have to add the new sand in stages? I would rather do it all at once, but I fear I will bury much of my live detritivores by adding all of the sand at once. >> Good question... I share your concern. If it were me, I would add the sand (washed) a bit at a time (like ten pounds, or a gallon or so) each water change... There's much to be gained by going slower here... and nothing to be lost by taking your time. Bob Fenner

Sand stirring First I must Comment about how much I enjoy your column. I'm setting up a 29 gal. reef as I write I am using a live sand bed. I would like to know what the best fish/invert is for keeping the sand stirred. Thanks, Charles Willis >> It is an honor and a privilege to serve the folks and their livestock through and with this forum... and very much a fun and educational "job" for me... For this size system, I would use something in the way of a small species of goby... Maybe a Phalaena or Amblygobius... after it's been up a good three months... I would have to skip some of my favorite Valenciennea spp. due to the likelihood of starvation, and the same for Seastar species that might do well in a bigger system... As well as my favorite over-achievers in the way of bottom searching, the Goatfishes (family Mullidae). Bob Fenner

Reef Tank Hi Bob, I'm having a problem in my tank and I do not know what's going on. In the left side of my tank, I have a very bad problem with the sand. It seems orange-brown and every time I recycle the sand to get rid of it, it comes back a few hours later. It seems to subside at night when the lights are off and gets very vivid when the lights go on. I have a 72 gallon bow front with 4 X 96 power compact lights that are on timers. The blue lights go on for 10 hours a day, 1 hour before and 1 hour after the regular lights. I have a UV sterilizer. I tested the water and everything was fine. Originally the store where I buy my reef items from said maybe it was being caused by the flow, so I moved it over a bit and we still had a problem. Than someone else at the store said it was red slime and gave us a treatment. We put the treatment in Friday night and it seems the same to worse. The treatment says we can put another treatment in, 48 hours from the first. But it didn't seem to help the first time.  Please help! Sincerely, Steve Rubin  <Hmm, coloring might be mainly bacterial or even abiotic but still organic in origin... at any length if it bothers you, I would first endeavor to enhance water movement there (redirect a powerhead, small pump, place an "air wand" along it...), or mix in some more coarse substrate, scoot the substrate away from the vicinity... And in the longer term, perhaps mix in some more/better (Hawaiian?) sand stirring type organisms... a bunch detailed in places on our site (where else?): Home Page  Bob Fenner

Live Rocks & Live Sands Hi! your website is really a big help for those people who want to start up a marine aquarium like me. My question is 1) Can LR & LS be one of the reasons of diseases (Amyloodinium, cryptocaryon etc.) or possibly contribute to the downfall of a marine aquarium.  <Rarely, but yes... if the LR or LS starts to go sidewise... it/they can hurt water quality... and consequently fish health... but have no firm evidence of a parasite having been introduced by these materials.> 2) Does it have any negative or positive effect on the water quality. <Many positive effects... see the piece, FAQs... on Live Rock, Sand on the site> 3) Is there a way/process you can do to kill/sterilize or condition the LR & LS before putting them to your marine aquarium so you can minimize the diseases. <Just a standard break in, curing period... really> I'll appreciate any help, my email is Thanks in advance. Bing

Live Sand - Bubbles Thanks in advance - this site is great! I have a 100g. tank with about 3 inches of live sand (actually half live/half regular). I have three white burrowing starfish and 5 horseshoe crabs to stir the sand. I also have a Banded Goby. However, in the front of the tank there are bubbles in the sand. When I stir it seems to only be next to the glass. Do I need more sand sifters? <Not in my opinion... the gasses are likely no problem... likely indicative of vigorous activity itself... no blackness, sulfur smell? I wouldn't add more sand sifters> It seems like they just don't get right up next to the glass. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Cathy <You're doing fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand Hey Bob how are you? My clown passed away on Saturday I was really disappointed that I let that happen I have never had a fish die on me before... it's a big let down. I wanted to thank you for all your help and you speedy response. <Sorry to hear of the loss> I must move on I have live sand and I have trouble cleaning it. I use a python and when I try to siphon the dirt the sand comes along with it. Is their any other method of cleaning? <Hmm, either just gently stirring it with a wood or plastic dowel and/or letting "sand stirring" organisms do this and/or having an outside power filter of some sort with mechanical sieving remove the particulates...> I was thinking of slowly adding crushed coral and removing the live sand is that a good idea or is that just dumb.  <Either one works... what do you hope to gain by the change?> I was also thinking about just adding crushed coral over the live sand but do not know if their are any ramifications in doing that.  <Most likely the two will simply get mixed together over time> One more thing what is the most accurate test kit you have come across. <Practically speaking? Either Hach or LaMotte... but Salifert is accurate AND precise enough. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand I was hoping that I would be able us the python and clean the tank better. <You can... but "cleanliness is not sterility"... you don't want to "clean" the substrate too well> I was thinking of just stirring the sand and with a fine net removing the particles that come up out of the sand but I was told that would kill bacteria and produce more nitrate is this true? <No... consider the alternatives... and their results. Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand... Water Change? > I was hoping that I would be able us the python and clean the tank better. > <You can... but "cleanliness is not sterility"... you don't want to "clean" the substrate too well> > I was thinking of just stirring the sand and with a fine net removing the particles that come up out of the sand but I was told that would kill bacteria and produce more nitrate is this true? I was thinking about doing a water change today the last time I did one was last week. My numbers are Nitrite - .20 Ammonia - .50 PH - 8.6 (I Can't get the ph down what can I do) Nitrate - 80 I won't be able to do one next week because I am going away should I wait or do it now. <Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/waterchg.htm Bob Fenner>

Live Sand Hello and good evening to you! <And you> I wrote to you not so long ago about creating a refugium in my sump. All is going well and I now have my sand & rock placed in the refugiums. I have a quick question. I have about 5lbs of live sand left over. I would add it to the main system but I am happy with it's depth and stability. Can I store the sand that I have left over? <Mmm, not really... at least not as very live... best to place it> If it were to be kept in a sealed container and left could it last a few months? <No... if you want to store it, may as well rinse it thoroughly in freshwater... store as "dead"> It would be at that time that I think it would be a good idea to replace some from my main DSB. No rush for a response. <The organisms in the sand can't wait. Bob Fenner>

Re: Good Sand Cleaners hey, I was wondering if you could tell me of a good animal that would clean my sand in my tank. I am using silica sand that I bought from home depot that seems to be working fine. I have noticed however that when it gets stirred up there is a cloud that develops. so I am taking great strides to keep my hands and siphons out of the sand. any kind of live rock safe animal whether it be fish, crab, shrimp whatever. that can do the job I would like to know what it is:) - Thanks a lot. Brandon Meador <My preference for sand stirring duty is the use of the tiny critters; worms, limpets, copepods, amphipods, etc. If you are looking for larger, more visible animals, Nassarius snails, Scarlet Reef Hermit Crabs, Serpent and Brittle Starfish are all good choices. -Steven Pro>

Anaerobic sand Dear Bob Anthony Steven <we three are now melded into one being... unfortunately, two of us didn't know about the severity of the problem with flatulence that the third one has...ahem. Nonetheless, Anthony Calfo in your service> I have two issues for you today if you will. Anthony, I took your advice about six weeks or so and began emptying out the cup in my Remora skimmer daily. Output kicked up immediately. Coincidentally, the Rio pump on it died about the same time, and I replaced it with a MJ1200. I am truly pumping slime now!  <outstanding> As yet I have seen no improvement in the underlying problem, however. That is a "blanket" of algae on top of the DSB, mostly surrounding my (thriving 18-month) Heteractis malu.  <yes...many times the dissolved nutrient level without a daily performing skimmer concentrates to great levels after months or even years. Especially then, it will take more than few weeks with a weaker skimmer to catch up. Increased water flow in the tank will help too> Now other real algae issues in the tank. I clean some of the same golden jelly-like algae off my glass twice a week. At the advice of my usually-reliable LFS, I added about 48 (yeah, 4 dozen) Nassarius (sp?) snails about a month ago.  <For cleaning diatoms off of glass?!?> (Some reading has since disclosed that this is two or three times what my 55 gal tank with 65 lb LR should sustain, but so far they seem to be doing all right. A-a-r-g-h!) Scum blanket is unchanged. <sure...its like putting a platter full of filet mignon in a room full of vegetarians> The second issue flows from two black areas in the DSB.. The larger is about 4 square inches and growing. Both start about one inch below the sand surface. A few days ago I got a whiff of sulfur off the water surface. My LFS says this is just evidence that the DSB is doing its denitrification thing properly, but I have my doubts.  <You are right to trust your doubts> The tank is 2 years old, but I only put in the DSB about 6 months ago. Basic parameters have always been excellent - - zero NOx's and phosphates, pH 8.3. Calcium and alkalinity have always been a struggle (currently 310 and 8.0).  <Is the sand deep enough? over 3" is minimum necessary... over 5" would be ideal. If you are under three inches, then I'm not surprised. Aerobic pockets are rare in tanks with adequate circulation, but this combines with the presence of blanket algae on the substrate is prime evidence that there are dead spots of water flow at the bottom of the aquarium. Sounds like you need to add or adjust water flow> The tank is lightly populated, with only 4 smallish fish and 6 modest-sized soft corals. Everybody is healthy, although I think my hammer coral would like more calcium. How much trouble am I in with the black spots? <very little risk...it bubbles off easily. But do correct and prevent from more occurring> Best regards and thanks for all your help. Newt <always welcome. Anthony>

Live Sand Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I begin by saying thanks for the amazing service that you and the WWM provide. A wonderful and invaluable resource that borders on information overload!  <yes... we have been told that we are really full of it many times<G>> I have been able to research numerous topics with your FAQ's and your added Google search engine! Thank you. <excellent to hear> My question is about live sand. I am seeing "clumps" of sand -- I tried that in the search feature -- and have noticed that the grains seem to be sticking together. <yes, I understand and can explain it> Tank info: 58 Gallon + Wet Dry Ceramic Media)/skimmer + HOT Magnum Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate >10ppm pH 8.1 dKH 10 Calcium 400 I add the Kent CB as the tests warrant and had been using Aragamilk. <bingo... misapplication as part of the problem> My sand "crew" includes: <this has nothing to do with detritivore activity> Sand sifting star, Over-achieving Dragon Goby, <yes... Amblygobius phalaena: this goby is one of the very best and most hardy!!! for sand sifting. I love them> 10 Blue-legged hermits, and a Blue Damsel that has taken to re-arranging the sand in three of the four corners of the tank! What do these clumps indicate about my water chemistry?  <it is exactly precipitated (literally) by wildly fluctuating chemistry. Perhaps unnoticed by you if you test your pH at the same time every day. Some folks get it by pouring in Kalkwasser solutions too much or too fast which causes a temporary spike in pH locally. It may occur from the misapplication of other Ca or Alk products (like your Aragamilk product.. of which I am dubious about its benefits in the big picture) when used too much or too quickly (smaller more frequent dosing is better than large weekly doses. And finally it can happen in tanks (receiving such products or not) that have wild "natural" swings in pH between night and day. I see that you report a pH of 8.1. If this is accurate and a reading taken by day as I suspect (when pH in aquaria is highest by far)... then you have a borderline serious problem with pH. You may actually be dipping down to 7.8 or lower at night (tank respiration). And this is all assuming that your test kit read accurately! What if the kit read high? And your day night readings are actually 7.9/7.6...yikes! No wonder then aragonite in your bed is fusing.> Or is this supposed to happen?  <nope... an indication of a minor flaw in the system that could turn into something bigger. Still not much to worry about> Everything looks fabulous but I am noticing more of these little sand "balls" every day.  <yes... do examine your dosing system and day night pH swings (take a test reading after a long dark night before the lights come on and not after a fresh dose of ca/ALK)> I really did try to find this mentioned in the FAQ section and under LS but I may have been looking for the wrong thing. <appreciate you taking the time to look... hopefully you found other interesting things> Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing your expertise. Have a wonderful day. Lee <best regards, Anthony>

What are those bubbles? Live sand query! Bob, Thank you for such an informative look at aquarium keeping. I am returning to the hobby after a four year "break" and have set up a 58 gallon reef tank. After much time at your site I have learned that so much has changed in the hobby. <Ah, welcome back "to the fold"> We just passed the two week point. The tank is running great and levels are superb for the moment -- no ammonia, no nitrite, and less than 10ppm nitrate. I am using about 60 lbs of live sand, 35 lbs of live rock, and 30 pounds of limestone base rock. After much fussing with air hoses and pumps, the skimmer is producing some great nasty-looking junk! Filtration consists of a HOT Magnum and a Sealife Systems Pro Series 300 wet/dry. We have even made it past the ugly diatom stage. More live rock will be added at a rate of 10lbs a week until I am happy with the look of the mini reef! <Sounds good> Fish include: Long-nosed Hawk, Watchman Goby, Fire Fish, and a Blue Damsel. Clean-up crew includes: 10 blue legged Hermits, 5 Turbo Snails, Sally Lightfoot Crab, Serpent Star Small) and a Sand Sifting Star. <Do keep your Hawkfish well-fed... it may well ingest your crustaceans> After time at your site I know that I need to reconsider the wet/dry or replace the bio-balls! Advice here? <Watch your nitrates, pest-algae growth... pull the plastic media as it makes sense to you> The Substrate is where my question lies: The sand bed ranges in depth from 1-3 inches. I know that I need to add to that for de-nitrification and I will do so within the week. <Okay> I am seeing tiny bubbles in the sand. What gas makes up these bubbles? Good or bad? <Life, more good than bad. If they don't "smell bad", don't be concerned. Can, will be vacuumed, stirred out over time... eventually other processes will discount their production to being unnoticeable.> Also, in creating a DSB am I trying to create anaerobic zone? <Intentionally to an extent, yes> I always heard that this was trouble but like I said, so much has changed in the past four years. Any additional thoughts would be very helpful and very much appreciated. <Please do take a read through WetWebMedia.com, starting with the search tool at the bottom of the homepage... putting in terms like anaerobic, DSB...> Thanks for your time and consideration. I know that you guys are very busy and any info you can share will be helpful. <We all have exactly the same amount of time my friend. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> Best regards, Lee Kirgan

Livesand and Frozen Foods Hello again, <Hello> Two questions that I've been wondering about for a while: First, is it okay to occasionally stir up the top layer of live sand? Some gets stirred up when I clean algae off the glass, and other times I give a small area a stir on the surface to kick up debris. If it's okay, is the resulting temporary white cloud harmful to my fish? <Do not go too deep. I will occasionally lightly dust the top 1/4" to get rid of diatoms.> Secondly, my puffers love frozen shell-on shrimp. Is it a problem to actually feed it to them frozen -- as in, not thawed? In addition to the shell I thought that it being frozen would also help to wear down their teeth, but if it is a bad practice then I will thaw from now on. <Interesting, I would think you would be ok, but perhaps just thaw the food anyway. It will give you sometime to let the food soak in vitamins/supplements. I like Boyd's Vita-Chem and American Marine Selcon.> Thanks so much, Karen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Sulfur in the Sand Bed (12/22/2003) Ahhhh.  I have a 20H nano set-up, with app. 3 inches of fine oolithic sand in the display tank and a 5" DSB in a 10 gallon refugium (also fine grain size).  This evening I decided to move a shaving brush from my display into my refugium, and when I pulled out the root ball, the sand on the roots smelled fairly strongly of Sulphur. <"sulfur" as in sulfur dioxide or "rotten egg" as in hydrogen sulfide?>  I know this is obviously not a good thing, as it must be poisonous to marine life.  I change 3 gallons weekly, run PolyFilter and a bit of carbon, and employ macroalgae in the refugium as a means of nutrient export.  <Admirable husbandry practices.>   I am skimmer-less at this point, and I plan on getting one soon, but that is besides the point at hand.  I am a bit confused here, as I did all the research for months before I set this up, and I have had success thus far as far as inhabitants are concerned.  It is a fairly young set up, roughly 4 months now, and this is the first time I have noticed this.  I took a pipette and sampled the sand in my DSB as well, and I also noticed a slight scent on Sulphur.   I am very worried now, I am not quite sure what is happening here, and I  can't find much info on it anywhere.  I am assuming the sand beds are turning into nutrient sinks, but of that I am not certain.  Any suggestions would be appreciated, as I am a little shocked at the moment and I would love to hear what you fine folks think I should do here.  I am assuming the sand bed is not being stirred enough and it is too static, but I'm not sure how to remedy it.  I hope that I do not have to break this down and begin again, but if I do, so be it.  Thanks again guys, I really need some advice on this one. <I really don't think you need to be too concerned about this. Some sulfurous gasses are a natural product of the anaerobic processes in the DSB. They seldom rise to toxic levels. If you have good circulation and are doing some careful superficial stirring (manual or with critters that stir) and ill gasses produced will be released so gradually as to not be toxic. Your use of carbon, PolyFilter and water changes will help a great deal. There is some more information scattered around WWM. Search on sulfur, Sulphur and sulfide for info.>

LIVE SAND PROBLEMS <<Hello, JasonC here at your service... has anyone ever mentioned that when you type with the caps-lock on, people think YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM! No worries, it's just a little hard on the eyes.>> HI I HAVE A 75 GALLON TANK I HAVE LITTLE STALKS GROWING OUT OF THE LIVE SAND BED LOOKS LIKE STALAGMITES IN A CAVE I THINK THAT'S THE ONE THAT START ON THE FLOOR AND GROWS TO THE CEILING <<It is indeed.>> I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS <<Neither do I... are these actually like stalagmites or are they more tube like?>> SPEC IN THE TANK 8.0 TO 8/2 ALK 3.0/4.0 MEG/LTR CALC 350 400 NITRATE LESS THAN 5 AND PHOS LESS THAN.1 EVS PROTEIN SKIMMER24 INCHES HIGH TWO WHITES AND TWO BLUES URI ACTINICS MED LOAD OF SOFT CORALS AND FIVE SMALL FISH ABOUT 85LBS LIVE FIJI ROCK AND TEMP 77 PLEAS HELP IF YOU CAN A TON OF CRITTER CLEANUP THANKS <<Well... just based on your description I have no clue. You might try browsing this page: http://www.tcnj.edu/~maughme2/faq.htm which is a "Hitchhiker and Critter ID" page - has photos and really good descriptions. You may have better luck there than you did with me. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: LIVE SAND PROBLEMS <<Hello, JasonC again...>> if you touch them they fall over and just lay there its like there are some type of minute bugs or something building them but you can see anything at all moving about <<I agree with your proposal that some type of minute bug is building these, although it could also be a worm of some type. If you haven't seen anything crawling around, perhaps try sneaking a peek when the tank lights are off, using a flashlight to spot them - I think you might see something running around then. In any case, no worries, these things are likely helping keep the place more tidy than without them, and is a good sign of life.>> like you said beats me I will keep trying <<Good luck.>> thanks for your help <<You are welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

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: