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FAQs about Live Sand Bed Selection & DIY, Collection

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, Systems/Placement, Biota, 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

Getting Your Own: Check legality, have lots of buckets and speedy vehicle to move, storage possibility to assure cleanliness, screening/sieving...

New Live Sand?    7/22/19
We have spent almost 1.5 years battling Ostreopsis. The tank is only 2.5 years old. We have finally reached balance with the dinos, now Cyano and diatoms invaded.
Scooping out sand and chemi-clean is straightening that out.
<Good product>
A Large amount of the sand has solidified, I’m breaking it up as I go. (Whew)
I need more live sand. I’m seriously thinking about removing as much as possible and adding new sand. Am I asking for trouble? I have to add some any way.
Any brand or type you like. Would the biota be a better choice over CaribSea?
300g, mixed reef aquarium.
<Personally, I prefer CaribSea but there are other good/reliable brands worth trying.>
Thanks, William
<Welcome. Wil.>

New live sand      2/1/16
I am building a refugium and just bought several bags of live oolite.
<Mmm; see WWM re... I'd just buy (or stick with if you already have) some live rock... this will inoculate sand soon enough and better>
Years ago I had a HUGE Aiptasia problem that was only eradicated by killing all of my rock. I Bought some reef saver to add to the refugium so not worried about that. Can Aiptasia be introduced with new bags of live sand
<Don't think this is likely at all; no>
or should I hunt down some dead sand. I do not want to battle those things again! Thanks in advance.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Hi Bob,

My question is regarding live sand. It is obviously much more expensive than normal aquarium sand and I don't really know how it can be called 'live'. Great care is taken with live rock such as keeping it at the correct temperature and providing circulation by powerheads etc, whereas live sand just seems to be bagged up and left. How can the bacteria in the live sand be alive when it gets to the aquarist after it has spent weeks at the wrong temperature in a tiny amount of water in the sealed bag?

If it is just as beneficial waiting for non-live sand to become live after it has been in the aquarium for a while? Why should we pay four or five times as much for the 'live' equivalent?

Many thanks

Peter O'Brien via email

Mmm, you ask good questions Peter. First off, I do agree with you re just what is meant by 'live' in live sand? Substrates in the world's oceans and beaches are made up of disparate materials, of biological and non-live origins, of differing preponderances of composition, and similarly 'live' components are tremendously varied in their presence and abundance. Almost every Phylum and Division of organismal groups can be accounted for if one looks thoroughly.

                For aquarium considerations, the lowest common denominator of 'live' sand is likely the bacteria you allude to'¦ And the question as to their viability in bagged products'¦ apropos to all consumers. I have had occasion to speak directly with the owners of two of the largest providers of such, and additionally from second

hand experience, I am assured that indeed, these sealed bags of substrate do contain viable microbes. Above this level of sophistication and size, not much of anything can or should be expected from dried or wet-bagged sand.

                Any general response to live sand questions should include mention of 'making one's own'. In point of fact, live sand is easily 'made' or inoculated with a host of micro- and macro-organisms by being placed/exposed to healthy/fresh live rock. Actually, some friends in the marine wholesale trade do make theirs this way.

                Additionally, I'd like to state that one doesn't need to buy or use 100% live sand product, but only a modest amount (10-15% or so) can serve to establish a new system by sprinkling the live product on top of the non-live once a tank is filled and stable; let's say a few days after being set-up.

Live Sand vs. Dead Sand   8/25/11
Hey there,
<Hi James>
I'm finally in a place where I can restart my aquarium.
I was going to attempt to use a DSB (6 inches) to filter the nitrates in this tank. I read that using sugar grain sand is best for this, but had concerns that this might lead to cloudy water in a FOWLR tank.
<Mmm, no, unless you are talking about big currents whipping the sand up. I would not worry.>
My thoughts were to use the sugar grain to make up the lower 5 inches or so and cover it with a slightly heavier grain.
<Can do>
Am I worrying over nothing concerning the grain?
<Yes, just go for the fine grained Aragonite>
Also I'm seeing a lot of debate between using live sand and dead sand, with little clarity on the best way to go.
<Packaged 'live sand' is sand with some bacterial populations included. It is not true live sand as it does not contain any animals.
These same populations of bacteria will develop in your aquarium anyway, and plenty are to be found on live rock>
The base of the aquarium is 8 square feet which calculates out to about 300lb of sand to get a depth of 6 inches.
Should I get all dead sand and use something like bio-Spira to jump start it, mix it with live sand (if so what ratio and should I put the live sand on top or bottom or in-between), or will live rock be sufficient to jumpstart the sand?
I'm trying to avoid my rookie mistakes last time and not buy just to buy.
<The advantage to using the live sand is not that it is live at all, but that it is far easier to rinse/ clean before you lay the DSB. Trust me, rinsing 10-20 bags of sand through is one hell of a chore, so anything that makes it easier is a bonus. Plus, sometimes it comes finer grained than the dry sand, so, the choice is yours. But, I would not let the 'live' element of it sway your thinking at all>
Thanks in advance for the advice.
<No problem>
-James Williams

Re-Using Live Sand (this sand is not so 'live' anymore) -- 10/20/10
Hi crew.
I was wondering if it is ok to just dump in live sand that I have had in my aquarium over a year ago.
<<You 'had' this in your tank more than a year ago? Unless this sand has been kept in a 'running' system somewhere, it is no longer 'live.' If this is the case, it will need a good rinse to remove any lingering (and decayed) organic material before re-adding it to your system>>
I went through different phases of to Deep Sand Bed or not DSB.
<<I employ/am a big fan of DSB methodology>>
I guess I'm still going through that phase. I have a 125 gallon tank. Current depth averages about 3". I would like to bump it back up to 5-6" for improved nitrate reduction.
I previously had about 7" in there and I thought it looked more like I was displaying sand rather than anything else.
<<I do know what you mean>>
I removed a few inches and stored them in an Instant Ocean bucket (Two buckets full). Covered it tight, I'm sure it's still wet.
<<But most any/all organisms will still have died off by now>>
Is that sand going to be rancid and harmful to re-introduce or is it ok?
<<Give it a 'sniff' and see. But either way, I would rinse this material before use>>
I have a well established tank, over 2 years old with no corals, 4 very small fish and plenty of green algae.
Thank you,
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>

Live Rock, and LS coll., use in Crete    2/8/10
My name is Maria and I live in the beautiful island of Crete in Greece.
My home is in the village Drapanos of Chania(attachment 1).
<I see>
I have been an aquarium freshwater hobbyist for about 14 year, but my real love was always for a reef aquarium.
I have decided that its time for me to start my first saltwater tank by changing my 120L tank(Juwel Rekord 800 Black) in to one.
The first thing that I would like to ask you is about the equipment that I have chosen.
This is what I chose for my tank(note that these are all from eBay):
<A heater, thermostat>
<Internal water pump>
<Int. small power filter/sponge type>
<Small int. skimmer>
Are they OK? Do I need anything else?
<Mmm, yes... the filtration here is going to be insufficient>
The other thing is about Live Rock.
I would like to get some from my local sea area. It is 10min. from my house and I can choose either Souda bay(attachment 2)or the other side looking at Rethimno sea(attachment 3) both clean sea areas.
Is that a good idea?
<I do think this will work, yes>
If yes, is it easy to collect the rock(example: rock areas around the bay) or do I have to dive to get it?
<The shallow area should be fine>
How about Live sand? Can I use the bay sand?
<If it too is clean, yes... IF you have concerns about bringing in unwanted life with these materials, you might want to sterilize them ahead of use... You can read re this and the filtration issues by perusing the articles and FAQs files archived on this Subweb:
I read on your site that I can use the ocean water, so that question has been answered for me.
<Ah, good>
Thank you for your patients and I hope to get my answer soon.
Regards, Maria
<Thank you for writing, sharing Maria. Bob Fenner>

Live sand... SW substrate sel.   9-12-09
Hi - I have a pretty simple question for u
marine geniuses but believe it or not its confusing to me. I just put down a 4" inch bed of oolitic size aragonite sand in my new marine tank. Im wondering if the water circulation is going to blow this sand all over the place. Should i add a 1/4" layer of 1-2 mm sand on top of the oolitic sand.
Im trying to encourage small crustacean life for pipefish and dragonets.
<Much depends on the orientation of the discharges of your circulating mechanisms (pumps, powerheads...). I'd wait and see>
Will the oolitic sand be just fine as far as water flow is concerned? I like the look of the finer sand but i was wondering what your experience has been regarding this matter.
Thank you very much!
<Please learn to/use a spellchecker.... Again, I wouldn't mix other substrate on top (it won't stay there anyway). Bob Fenner>

Re: live sand, subst. sel. f'  9/13/09
Hi Bob,
Thank you for your reply. I do apologize for the grammar, or lack there of.
<No worries>
I'm going to add another inch of the oolitic sand ( 5 inches total ) and be done with it. It seems that my best bet would be to aim all powerheads in an upward manner and toward each other. Does this sound optimal?
<It does to me! Would also like to mention that such fine sand does generally "settle down" with time, soaking. BobF>
re: live sand
Thank you Bob. Have a great weekend!
<And you Sal. B>

Reef tank starting over
Creating "Version 2.0" of a Reef System (Starting Over) 9/10/09

<Hey there! Scott F. on the road, but in today...>
I have had a 50 gallon bow reef tank for around 10-12 years.
The tank after all these years has some problems such as red slime, green hair algae and worst of all are the dozens and dozens of Aiptasia anemones that I fight constantly.
<Sounds like some of the typical problems that arise during the lifespan of a reef system. Of course, these things can get out of hand for one reason or another!>
Now -- I am remodeling the room and I am getting a new 65 gallon tank.
<Good to hear!>
Basically want to know how can I 'clean' the live rock. The live rock has a bunch of green hair algae but that is also where I see many brittle stars and critters.
<Do you really want to "clean" it, or simply remove the undesired life forms? If it is the former, then you may want to simply let it sit in a container of conditioned saltwater with minimal light and aggressive protein skimming. Make consistent small water changes during this process, which can take weeks. If you really just want to save the rock but are willing to sacrifice the life forms living on it (a pity, really), you could simply remove them from water and let them sit outside for a few weeks, then rinse and clean them carefully with freshwater before re-using them. The potential danger to this technique is that you may still have a lot of dead material in the rock that can leach for some time. and, you will essentially have "dead" rock that you will have to "re-cure" and colonize with desirable life forms over time. Curing in a separate system is always advised. See the sources on this site for techniques.>
(I have heard of taking a blow torch to the live rock to burn off Aiptasia lol )
<Removing Aiptasia can be problematic and difficult! I have heard of such extreme techniques as the blowtorch, but they are a bit radical for my taste! f you're not into barbecuing the Aiptasia, it may be best to manually remove them with a sharp cutting blade (be careful, of course). There are, of course, chemical means of eradicating them (see online sources for a variety of successful "remedies"), some of which may carry the risk of "collateral damage" to desired life forms. Perhaps you can simply chisel away at the rock around the Aiptasia, place the resulting Aiptasia-infested rubble in a refugium and put the little anemones to work as a natural nutrient export vehicle! An "Aiptasia scrubber" of sorts. They arise and multiply in nutrient rich environments, so they would be perfect to utilize in this manner!>
Also, the sand has A LOT of critters within it, do I just start with new sand and put a few cups of old sand in? Thanks, mark
<That's what I would probably do. I would seed your system with some freshly cured live rock as well, for greater diversity, and for the opportunity to re-colonize your existing rocks (which will now be "clean").
Let me know if you have any tips on 'starting over' but trying to keep the 'good' stuff and keep out the bad stuff.
<Well, Mark, I'd look at some of the things outlined above. I'm a big proponent off trying to salvage the existing stuff whenever possible, and to tweak your new system to encourage greater nutrient export capabilities in its new configuration. The old expression, "The best defense is a good offense" is highly applicable, in the case of nutrient management! Your continued consistent good husbandry and keen observation will always pay off in a healthy system! Best of luck on the "reboot"! Regards, Scott F.>

What are my critters telling me, Sm. SW substrate sel.  8/3/09
Hi Crew,
<Hi Jessy here>
I upgraded from a 10 gallon to an Aquapod 24 gallon and moved my coral and fish from old tank to new without any problems.
The new tank had new rock that was cured by an individual for 3 months in a container. I did not see any life on it but it was cured.
I also bought 'live' sand on line. It is like sugar and is about 2 inches deep. I had a problem with the sand because the Aquapod water flow is very strong and the sand was always blowing around. I finally was able to direct the flow high enough so that the sand hardly moved and the water did not shoot out of the tank. Eventually the sand seemed to bind together and stopped blowing until last week. Now it is blowing again and I have decided to replace it.
I had a few Astrea snails from my old tank and decided to add more snails so I got some more Astrea plus Cerith, both large and small, and Nassarius snails. None lasted too long so I assumed I just did not have a mature enough environment for them. I tried it again 2 months later.
The Astrea are doing fine. One large Cerith is still around (out of 6) after 6 weeks as are a few dwarf Cerith. None of the Nassarius made it past a week.
Is this type of sand not good for these snails or do I have some other issue?
The other issue I have is I see no life in the sand. No worms of any kind.
So for whatever reason it seems the cured rock did nothing to help seed my sand.
My plan at this time would be to get rid of my sand and replace it with a calcium carbonate based sand at the 3-4mm size (based on an article of Mr. Fenner).
This would eliminate the blowing sand problem. Then the question is how to get it some life. Does cured rock from an LFS have enough life to seed the sand.
And is it safe to put it into a tank with fish.
<Before I can answer any questions about sand I would need to know your water quality and parameters. Also there are many types of sand that are called "live", so to tell you if your current sandbed is bad or good I'd need more information than that. Generally, if you're having an issue with sand blowing, increasing the size of the granule to something larger is the best advice, or just putting a small layer of heavy sand on top of what you already have. Also 'cured' rock could be dead rock that has cured or live rock that has cured... if the rock is covered in purple coralline algae or similar it can be considered 'live'. If it is white, it is most likely base rock with no life in it. You can seed your tank with a piece or two of live rock and a cup of live sand from someone's tank you trust to not have any pests. Regards, Jessy>

Shelf Life For Mineral Mud/Substrates/Live Sand 8/3/09
To whomever,
<James here, Mike.>
Great site!
<Thank you, glad you enjoy.>
Many a night have I sat and read (after realizing that a successful marine aquarium could not be realized via LFS advice and intuition) until it felt like my eyeballs were on the verge of melting. However, I can't find
anything on the shelf life of mineral mud and live sand.
I ask because I have a five gallon pale 3/4 full with mineral mud, live sand, and non live sugar fine sand with the water level about an inch above the substrate (it is a long and boring story as to how it ended up in the
bucket). It has been sitting in my basement for about 3 months with no pumps, filters, or heaters, attached (basement stays at about 70-72 degrees).
Will I be able to use this as a substrate for my 30 gal refugium (for a 75 gallon, soon to be, reef tank) and if I will be able to, how long do I have (approx) to utilize it?
<If you stir up the sand and cannot detect any noxious odors, i.e. rotten egg smell, then it should be safe to use. I would filter with carbon for a week or so after moving this to your new tank. If odors are detected, you will need to wash/rinse the sand/mud in fresh water before using. There really is no defined shelf life, but the longer it sits, the less live it will become, eventually needing to be re-seeded. Have you read here?
Thanks in advance,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Live Rock/Live Sand Query -- 05/25/09
First of all let me say that your site has been irreplaceable in information (second only to personal experience)
<<Mmm, yes 'and much here is based on same>>
and I thoroughly want to say Thank You for all the information and help you offer to the hobby.
<<Most welcome 'we are all happy to assist>>
My question is I am currently curing LR in a tank (it is new) and am considering purchasing some live sand,
<<Not necessary 'the new rock itself will be sufficient to 'inoculate and populate' any sand you might add. It's up to you, but you can save a few bucks here by simply purchasing dry sand and adding this to the tank>>
however I am wondering at what time should I add the live sand?
<<Sooner the better in my opinion 'let the inoculation begin!!!>>
Before the curing?
Or After?
Your information on this would be greatly appreciated.
<<As you may have surmised, you can add the sand whenever it is convenient for you. But as I stated 'the sooner the better in my opinion>>
Regards, Brandon
<<Cheers'¦ EricR>>

Re: Yellow Coris Dies/Tank Panel Deflection... Now: Circ. plan for a 125    2/23/09 Hello Scott V., <Hello again Matthew.> I am about to plumb a 125 gallon softie tank 60x20x24high, 2 internal overflow towers 1.5" bulkhead drains each. I was curious to know how you would go about plumbing this tank and what kind of main pumps you would use. It will be housing all soft corals maybe a capricornis or 2, some clams, 2x400 watt lights + 1/3hp chiller. I was just curious to see what idea you would come up with to create enough flow in the tank without having to add unsightly powerheads. <Well if you are asking for a specific model, my go to for this size tank is the Eheim 1262'¦.but don't plan on all the flow through your sump. It becomes too much to manage at a point, noisy and uses more power. You have to pump the water up! If you do not want powerheads do consider a closed loop too.> I have a good idea with what I want to do but your input may help me here. The main thing is, i don't want to go above 1500 gph in the refugium as i have discovered any flow less than that works well for Caulerpas...anything higher disturbs them a lot. <1500 gph will be your total limit through two 1.5' bulkheads anyhow.> Another question, I will be adding sand to the tank. In my experience I've had some troubles getting truly "living" sand...i used bagged and shelf stored "live" sand with poor results, the fine sand would get extremely packed with detritus and never stay clean like I've seen in some other tanks. I'm looking for the sand you can turn over and over and hardly unsettles at all....the stuff that is pure and healthy and active most importantly... not some claimed preservative biolive crap. <Heee, most of the 'live sand' sold out there is just the junk you mention'¦..I really would not worry about it. Just used cheapo dry sand. The little critters in the sand will populate off your live rock.> Anyhow.. maybe the guys at SDC might have some or know where to get some... Thanks again for your time, Matthew
<Welcome, Scott V.>

Live Sand vs. Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand, 8/7/08 Hello: <Hi> When creating a DSB so far what I have read on WWM is to use 4-6 inches of Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand. Is this considered Live Sand? <Usually not, live sand has life in it, microfauna and flora, which is not present in bagged, dry bags.> If not when would you use live sand? <I would just use a little to seed the dead sand.> After all I have read here and all the questions asked and answered I am planning to change my 46 gallon tank from 1/2 - 1" crushed coral to 4+ inches of sugar size sand. <Ok> I plan to remove the crushed coral and add the sand. Or should I mix the 2 together? <Remove and replace.> Is it necessary or preferred to remove the live rock to add the new sand? <Is best too.> Is it ok to lay the live rock on top of the new sand or should I suspend the live using egg crate or similar. <Egg crate, PVC framework, or placing on the glass and adding the sand around it is best. If placing on glass the tank should be empty of water to prevent a sandstorm.> Thanks for taking the time to read. Regards, Tom <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Live Sand vs. Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand, 8/8/08 Hello: <Hi> Is below the preferred order once I remove my live rock & crushed coral: Add the 4-6 inch DSB Lay the egg crate on top of DSB where ever live rock will go Put live rock on top of egg crate Thanks, Tom <Ideally the egg crate would extend all the way to the glass to provide support for the rocks, but as long as it makes a study base that will not move (fill in the eggcrate with sand) you should be fine.> <Chris>

Live sand mess! 4/8/08 HI, <Hello> Help!! We are in the process of changing our 75 gallon tank over to a 180. We were told by our LFS to save money we could use half live sand and half regular sand, what a MISTAKE! We had 120 lbs of sand in our tank and it looked like mud (last Night) it just was a mess, so we took all the sand out (NIGHTMARE) and bought all live sand and put that in the tank, this sand came with a Clarifier to mix in that clears the tank in a few hours. <Whether the sand is live or not should make no difference, its about particle size.> It cleared it up, but it is still hazy. I also have a lot of thick foam on the top of the tank, I have used a net to get most of it off. The question I have is , how long will it take for this problem to go away, I did not have this with our last tank set up. <Few days to a week most likely.> I just went to try and even out the sand, and again a cloud of white is all in the tank. I wanted to transfer my fish into the new tank, as I have half of the tank taken apart, but I am afraid that this haze will harm them I can not get a straight answer form our LFS here, everyone tells something different. <Its just small sand particles, should not really effect your fish, putting them in an uncycled tank may be a problem however.> Can we transfer the fish with this haze present, and is there anything we can do to try and clear this up, or is this going to take a while to go away and my tank is going to look awful for a while. <Some mechanical filtration should help pull out some of the suspended material.> I have a few fish that like to dig the sand. As always thanks for your help. <Will likely be a problem for a while then, once those fish start digging they will kick up more sand particles.> DEB <Chris>

Re: live sand mess! 4/8/08 Hi Chris, <Hello> Thanks for your help. We will be using water and filtration from our other tank, bio wheel etc.. We were told that by doing this it is ok to put our fish right into the tank since we are using our old filtration and this has all the Bacteria we should need. <It will help but you will most likely still see a ammonia/nitrite spike. The bacteria you are trying to culture lives in more places than just the filters.> We also put some bag bacteria in the tank to run thru the new additional filter we will be using. Do you disagree with this process and should our fish be OK? <Try to space out the addition of fish to the new tank as much as possible and watch the water quality very closely and be ready for water changes if necessary.> Thanks Deb <Welcome> <Chris>

Dry Live Sand 4/5/08 Hi I have a question regarding DSB's I currently have two inches of aragonite sand and want to seed it with live sand, my LFS told me to use pink live sand (not really pink just called that) which is the type they claim to use on their tanks which look great. <OK> My only problem with this is that the sand is shipped like aragonite sand in that it is dry in a plastic bag. I was wondering if dry live sand is just a scam or if the microfauna is able to live dry? <There will be absolutely no seeding benefit from this sand, and for that matter very little from water packed sand in a bag. The best thing you can do to seed your system is to talk someone with an existing tank into a cup of their sand or to simply add live rock to the system. Regards, Scott V. >

Re: Dry Live Sand 4/7/08 This question is for Scott V. <Hello, with you.> I Recently asked if dry live sand is at all reliable as a live sand and upon further research found a company that sells wet live sand by the pound which is perfect for me because I only need about 7 pounds to seed my aragonite sand. They claim that there live sand has lots off little pods, worms and such but I wanted to ask if these beneficial beasties would survive the collection/shipping process and make it to my tank. Thanks and I will try to procure a cup of live sand from an aged tank! <True wet live sand will be of some benefit, much of the life in it will survive shipping. Although simply seeding from another tank or live rock is the easiest and most cost effective. Welcome, enjoy the new tank, Scott V.>

Using "Live Sand" From a Bag...   5/8/06 Thank you for all of your assistance you have provided to me in the past and the future. <We're thrilled to be here for you! Scott F. here today!> I have a quick question that I cannot find an answer for on the FAQ pages. <Ask away.> I just bought CaribSea Aragamax Oolitic Select Reef Sand with "Arag Alive" and it states that I can place the whole content of the bag into the tank, but I am a little hesitant to follow these instructions. As you guys and gals have not steered me wrong, should I follow these instructions or what are your recommendations for the placement of the sand? Thank you for your informative response. Scot <Well, I have actually used this product before, and I have done just that- added the entire contents. I've had no problems with this practice. Obviously, the inert products need a good rinse, but the "live" products are good to go. HTH. Regards, Scott F.> Live Rock/Live Sand, Collecting Your Own - 03/14/2006 Hello, <Hi Matt.> I have been reading postings on the importance of curing live rock. Are there any methods (e.g. limiting exposure to air, container selection, collection protocols) to employ in order to avoid the need for curing the live rock; that is, if you are collecting your own? <Well, all of the above really. Some die off to be expected regardless. For minimum, I suppose you could try duplicating the ocean during transit (flow, water conditions, etc.), not cleaving organisms in two. Perhaps best to just keep moist, preventing waste material build up in the shipping water. Aside from this, are you sure collection is legal in your area?> I live close to the ocean and can make the transition from the sea to the display tank/refugium in minutes. <Would be nice, though I would still plan some wait and see time.> The water in the tank will also be natural, collected from the sea. <Not advised, see WWM re.> I would like to make the transition of Live Sand and Live Rock as seamless as possible. <Not advised for the sand either...also posted on WWM.> As I have only just finished plumbing the system, I am now ready to add water, LS, and LR to my display tank and refugium. Since it is an initial startup, do you recommend adding all of the LS and LR to the display tank and refugium all at once (125 gallon display/20 gallon refugium -- not sure how many pounds of LS/LR I will be adding yet)? <For typical start up plans, yes, best to start all at once.> Also can hermits/other sand sifters and macro algae be added immediately to the refugium at startup? <Not until a cycle is established.> My other question is this: What type of a maturation cycle should I expect knowing that all the contents within the tank have been taken directly from the sea (nothing is synthetic)? About how long (understanding approximately 1 month for most systems), if any at all, should the cycle take? <Hard to say, may experience minor or major issues. I'd expect major if you use the water and sand.> Anything I should watch out for? <Just the usual suspects.> I understand my situation is somewhat unique. One last question --Haven't seen a lot of info on critter stocking schedule/protocol. <No? All posted on WWM.> Once the tank has matured appropriately (this timeframe still questionable to me in my situation), how much can you stock for the first time (this being a local fish and invertebrate tank). I have read the rule is fish first, then invertebrates. <Hmmm...covered also. Not always the case.> The intertidal species I will be adding are pretty hardy to begin with. How long should you wait after the first stocking before adding more? <Depends how much you add at once, generally a month or so.> What should that amount be, the same as the first stock? <One - two fish at a time (first and thereafter).> I just would like to have the initial startup go as smoothly as possible.   <In this case, ditch the water/sand idea. Make your water, purchase your sand. Start all up and let the cycle work out. Stock from there.> Thanks, Matt <Hope that helps. Do check on the legality of your collections first. - Josh> Adding live sand  - 05/29/06 Hi crew, <Hi> I have a 90 gallon FOWLR with crushed coral at the moment. I'm interested in housing Jawfish (Yellowhead) and wrasses (red Coris) and realize that they need a sandy substrate. My CC depth is ~1.5" now, and my plan was to add sugar-fine LS to a depth of 2.5" or 3". This results in a couple of questions. 1. Would these guys be ok in a mixed CC/LS setup and this depth, or do they need a complete sand substrate? <The problem is that the CC does not stay at the bottom, it will rise to the top of the sand, making problems for the Jawfish especially.> 2. I've read up on your site about the LS depths recommended (1" or less for decorative purposes, 4"+ for DSB). I'm very diligent about regular water changes (~15% a week w/ vacuum) and monitoring nitrates, so I'm more concerned fish happiness than nitrate reduction. <Jawfish make mostly vertical burrows, so 3+ inches of sand is best.> 3. Tied to question 2, are there additional drawbacks to this combination and depth I should investigate further? <I would remove the CC, and replace with sand.  A pain but really the best long term solution.> Thanks for all of your help and support. Ian <Chris> Redoing Substrates 9/13/06 To All: <Hi> I'm getting ready to redo my substrates in my 90 gal reef tank. I have had problems in the past with nitrates sometimes high but can be controlled with water changes. <Best method> Currently I have a 5 inch crushed coral bed with underwater filter powered by one 110 and a 70 aqua clear power head on each corner. along with a canister filter and skimmer). <What we call a nitrate factory.>  UG filters are not used much anymore for this reason, among others.> After reading endless amount of info on your site I just wanted your opinion on what would be the best substrates for me to use. I would like to stick with a substrates for some of the goby's and other creatures that enjoy digging. <I like using substrates in the main tank.> I was thinking of going with 3 to 4 inches of live sand. <Good, sugar fine is best.> I have 75lbs of live rock that I use for my reef too. Should I use underwater filter or just place the sand on the bottom?? <Sand on the bottom, the UG filter will not work with sand.> And should it be mixed with crushed coral or something else?? <Nope, just sand.> This seems to be the most difficult question to come up with an answer for. There is so many ways to setup a substrates. <Many different ideas out there, I like a simple 3-4 inch thick layer of sugar fine sand.> I'm sticking with mostly soft corals since I currently don't have a metal halide light. <Sounds good.> Thanks, J.R. <Anytime> <Chris> Quarantine For Live Sand? - 8/10/2006 Hello WWM Crew, <Scott F. here today!>    With the help of an extraordinary amount of excellent input from your website, I am nearly done putting together a new 135 gallon system to upgrade my old 40 gallon hex tank. <Sounds exciting>    A quick summary of the new system is as follows, 135 gallon (72x18x24") with two 100% overflows and Ecosystem 3616 mud sump.   EuroReef CS 135 Protein Skimmer   Four 160 W AquaSun VHO's (with provisions to add three 14K 150 W HQI pendants later).   Recirculation rate is roughly 2600 GPH (half through mud sump and half through separate closed loop).    <Nice equipment/system>      My plan for the tank is to move over current inhabitants of the 40 gallon (Flametail Blenny, Fourline Wrasse, Neon Goby, Purple Firefish, Diadema, two Cleaner Shrimp, Peppermint Shrimp, some Zoanthids and Star Polyps) along with its live rock (about 60 lbs) then gradually add fresh (cured) live rock over time as additional critters - soft corals, fish and invertebrates - are added to the system. <This is a good way to stock...do it gradually.>    I don't plan to move the existing coral gravel substrate (roughly 5 mm dia.), as I have now learned that a finer sand (say 1-2 mm) is a better choice. My current thinking is to keep the sand bed to less than 1" thick (I'll consider adding a DSB later if the tank "grows" into a full blown SPS reef tank over the next few years). <No problem. Just keep the shallow sandbed clean.>    My question is about the risk/rewards of using "live sand" (say from Fiji through Blue Zoo Aquatics) versus a sterile aragonite mix "off the shelf". It would appear that the "pro's" of using the live sand would be the additional microfauna that would inoculate the system and provide a more natural system and food source. But my main concern is for the health of my fish (vis-a-vis the potential pathogens that may exist in the live sand mix). <Well, there certainly is a risk involved in using anything "live" in your tank. If it's live sand collected from a reef, I suppose I might actually be more comfortable than if it was from a store or other established aquarium. On the other hand, if you do get some live sand, you don't need all that much to inoculate your system.>    Would you kindly advise your opinion - is there a significant risk of Ich/Velvet infection with live sand? <Again, I feel a greater risk of exposure to potential pathogens exists in a system using live sand from an aquarium with fishes.> Would the sand/mud develop a healthy level of microfauna over time anyway (by the addition of cured live rock) with the sterile mix? <Absolutely.> Would there be any benefit to putting live sand in quarantine (for say 6 weeks) before introducing to an existing display? <If you could do that, this would be the best way to assure as pathogen-free an environment as possible.>    I have dealt with "the heartbreak of Ich" in the past and want to do everything possible to avoid it during this upcoming transition - your thoughts are sincerely appreciated. Scott <I certainly think that you're on the right track, Scott! Best of luck with your new system! Regards, Scott F.> Live sand procurement   10/8/06 Hello all, let me first say thanks for all of the info and help you have given me in the proper set up, stocking and maintenance of my marine aquarium, I couldn't have done it without you! I read approx 2-3 hrs each day on WWM, and I enjoy every minute. I have a question regarding live sand in which I hope you can be of assistance. I live in San Antonio, TX, and am very close to the Texas gulf coast. Both of my marine tanks (55 and a 30 gal) have been set up with live rock and aragonite substrate (consisting of crushed Florida coral in the 55, and aragonite sand -not "sugar fine" in the 30). The 30 gal is just cycled at approx 6 weeks, the 55 about 4 months old. Parameters in the tanks are all normal (0ppm of ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and phosphates, calcium levels are strong at 450-500, and ph is a constant 8.2), the 55 has only 1 maroon clown, 1 yellow tang and 1 lawnmower blenny with a small clean up crew consisting of snails and such, the 30 is not stocked with anything just yet. Both tanks run Emperor hang on filters with protein skimmers that achieve a good amount of skimmate every day, water turnover is approx. 15 times per hour, both run MH lighting of about 5w per gallon. I would eventually like to put some corals, clams etc... in both tanks. I am considering replacing some of the substrate with live sand, and I am considering harvesting it myself from the gulf coast. My question is.... Is the sand at the coast actually considered live sand? Can this be used? It is much cheaper and also more enjoyable for me to drive a couple of hours to collect enough sand, than it is to purchase 100lbs and have it shipped. What are the pros and cons to my idea, and should I even consider it given my current tank parameters? Also, if I do replace the substrate with live sand, what potential damage might occur in my ecosystem? I have read that it could be a disaster (fish kill off from anaerobic activity?) Any suggestions would be helpful.....Erick. <<Erick: Anytime you disturb a sandbed in a move, you run a high risk of transferring sickness and disease to the fish (I found out the hard way when I moved a tank that had been established over 2 years).  Assuming you could find a legal place to collect the sand, introducing it to your tanks would likely cause a new cycle and could introduce harmful critters, and pollutants, to your system.  While sugar fine aragonite is the current gold standard for deep sand beds, there are many people who do not use it and have successful tanks.  For example, I once was so freaked about crushed coral causing my nitrates to go up that I pulled it out of an established tank and replaced it with brand new sand.  I was shocked to find out after all that trouble that the nitrate level stayed the same!  Before that experience, I would have never expected those results based on everything I've read.  At this point, I think pulling sand from the coast will be more trouble for you than it's worth.  If you want more diversity you can ask for a cup of sand from a fellow reefer.  Best of luck, Roy>>

CC vs. LS I recently had a 72 gallon reef-ready bowfront FO tank set up last week. I am cycling it with 9 damsels that have been in for about 6 days. Here are my questions: I currently have a substrate consisting of crushed coral. I have heard several people say that sand is a better substrate. Is this true?  <It all depends on what purpose you hope the substrate will serve. If you want the substrate to look good and help buffer the water, crushed coral will be fine.  I would caution against having a deep bed of CC because it will become a nutrient sink in short order. Use a thin layer only. In a reef tank, sugar sized sand will slowly release natural calcium, help to buffer the PH, and if the bed is 4 inches+, it will aid in nitrate reduction.>  Is it better than CC?  <IMO not for your situation.  For a reef tank?  Yes.>  Also, I have heard people say that you don't have to vacuum sand. Is this true?  <We don't vacuum sand the same way we vacuum CC, that's for sure! The sand will quite literally vacuum right out of the tank. But you will need to very gently vacuum the surface of any obvious debris when cleaning the tank. If using sand be sure to either have a thin bed (one inch or less) or a thick bed (4+inches) of sugar fine sand. Otherwise you will create a nutrient sink>  If I decide to change the substrate, should I wait until the tank has cycled?  <Either way you're going to interrupt the biological process happening in the tank if you remove all the substrate at one time. I suggest taking a little out at a time over a period of a few weeks.  Slowly add the new substrate as the old is being removed.>  What is the best procedure for doing this?  <See above> Thanks for our help. Jerome <My pleasure Jerome.  If you haven't perused the wetwebmedia.com website, please do so.  The site contains thousands of articles and facts and issues relevant to the keeping of saltwater and freshwater fish. Have a nice evening! David D.>

Live Sand Aloha WWM Crew, <Aloha to you as well!> Thanks again for the wonderful service you provide.   <You're welcome!> I am an Oahu resident with a 55 gallon fish only tank.  The tank has been up and running for about three months.  Two weeks ago I had a bad outbreak of ick and lost my dogface puffer.  As soon as I noticed the ick, I moved my puffer and blue tang to a QTank for treatment.  I lost the puffer, but the blue tang is responding well to the treatment (formalin dips, hyposalinity, increased temperature).  I am going to let the main tank go fallow for about a month before I move the tang back. Last week I went down to Lanikai beach on the Windward side of the island and found that the beaches there have a fine white sand that seems to be perfect for a DSB.  I want to replace the crushed coral that is currently in the main tank.   My questions:   Is the sand okay to use in my tank (pollution)?   <No...I wouldn't do it...> If I were to add the sand would I have to cycle the sand for a month to prevent another ick breakout?   <God only knows what you could introduce to your tank...metals, ich, velvet...a host of things I'd rather not think about> If so, should I cycle the sand in a trash can instead of the main fallow tank? <I refuse to recommend adding fresh sand from any beach. As if the threat of aquarium pollution isn't enough...I think it's illegal to collect the sand on your beaches. No?> Thank you for all your help and if there is anything I could do help you guys out, please e-mail me. <Thanks for the offer. In fact, my wife and are coming to your area this spring.  Can you recommend a nice inexpensive hotel right on the beach that will have an ocean view, a pool, maybe diving, and a spa? If you return this email, write "To David" in the subject line. Thanks> Mahalo Nui Loa, Jeff <My pleasure! David Dowless>

Sand from the beach Hi there, I am in the process of converting my 46 gallon fresh water tank to a marine environment, and so far I have every thing but sand and LR. My Question is, can I add sand from the beach to my aquarium with out it disturbing the cycling of the tank? And If cant add the sand from the beach, what type of substrate can I use?           Thank you for your time.  S.B <Sand is a type of substrate. For the information you need, go to WetWebMedia.com and look up marine substrates in the marine section. More there than can be covered in e-mail on the benefits and deficiencies of each. Please read about marine set-ups while you are there!  Craig>

Collecting Your Own Live Sand Question Sorry I keep harassing y'all but I am so excited to have found your website and finally are receiving some clear, good advice about saltwater aquarium keeping! In case you're a different person than the last who responded to my previous inquiry, I am preparing to move from fresh to saltwater and I will be using live rock, but I have a question about the sand I will be using.  I live in Manhattan Beach, California and have access to enormous quantities of sand and I am wondering......could I use sand from our beach IF I clean it thoroughly?  If I can, what is the best way to clean it? Thank you! <I would not do this for the reasons stated here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lsfaqs.htm and the linked FAQs beyond. Bob Fenner>

Coldwater livestock for Tropical Tanks... no way! Hi Is there any reason that i can't get live rock and live sand off the coast of Maine to start my reef aquarium? need some answers. Thanks for your help. Gerald F. Dewey <its only suitable if you are setting up a coldwater aquarium... else, you will kill most all of the desirable fauna on and in these substrates by prolonged exposure to tropical water temperatures. Not recommended from a practical or conscientious perspective. Best regards, Anthony>

Playing With Sand! Hi Guys and girls, <Scott F. your guy today!> I have been looking into getting some live sand for my micro reef and came across a supplier called Aquacon. their website is www.aquacon.com  I cannot get live sand where I live (Canberra, Australia) and would live to find some good live sand at reasonable price.  Could you recommend a good supplier.  Would the live sand be ok after a trip to Australia. <Many good etailers on the web. Our sponsors, such as Marine Center and Dr. Fosters and Smith, offer live sand. You can also check out places like Inland Aquatics, Flying Fish Express, etc., which all offer live sand...I'm not sure what the shipping costs would be to Australia, but I', sure that these places could give you a good idea. Alternatively, you could use inert sand, and "seed" it with live sand from a healthy, established tank, and you'll get the same result in a few months...> Also, how do you add the sand?  Won't it cloud the water when I pour it in?   <I usually just pour it in carefully. And, surprisingly, there is very little cloudiness that accompanies the addition of live sand in aquariums, so I wouldn't worry about it too much> I have a built in trickle filter on top of the tank and the pump sits near the top of the water.  The inlet has a pipe running vertically down with a plastic grill intake right near the bottom.  If I trim the extension pipe so that the intake sits off the bottom about 2&1/2 inches will the filter still have the same effect.   <I think it will. To be honest, I think it's even better if you could configure the intake to draw from the surface. The surface is where most active organics accumulate, which will help with gas exchange and protein skimmer efficiency> The grill has gaps about 3mm wide.  Will I need to get finer mesh so that sand doesn't get sucked up or should I just shorten the inlet enough so that it is far enough above the sand bed so as not to suck any sand up (whoa that's a tongue twister ). <I's consider shortening the pipe, if you're going to draw from near the bottom of the tank> Will 2 inches be enough for a 21 gallon tank because if I put much more it will take up to much room and would look funny I think.  I could possibly have 2&1/2  inches but would prefer 2. <I hear ya, but I'd urge you to go with 3 inches- or more, or 1/2 inch or less! More than 1/2 inch, but less than 3 inches is too shallow to foster complete full denitrification, yet too deep to be fully aerobic. A recipe for long-term problems, IMO. I know it may look weird, but you'll be soo much more successful if you incorporate a deeper sand bed> Thanks in advance Amon Masters <My pleasure, Amon. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Adding Live Sand - 6/20/03 Hello, I was reading on your site that before adding live sand to an existing tank, the sand should be cured and/or washed. How do I go about curing or rinsing live sand? <Well if it is live when you buy it, then I would not worry much about the need to cure it, IMO. Rinsing is another matter entirely. I would keep the skimmer on for sure, but maybe turn off the circulation for an hour or two just to let things settle.> When I first set up my system (55g), I had two 20lb bags of "live" sand and a little bit of live rock that was already cured. Now my livestock is all happily installed and I want to add some more of the bagged "live" sand b/c my pistol shrimp has been moving all the sand to his corner of the tank, leaving the other side very bare. <Ahhh> I was thinking I could make up a batch of water and then pour the bagged sand into the bucket, stirring it around a bit. Is that what is meant by rinsing "thoroughly with system-useable aged water"? <Yes it is. I like that you have done your research. I am impressed!=)> Also, in your FAQs I read that it would be best to add sand gradually with each water change. After the live sand is rinsed or cured, I will probably add a pound or so with each water change. Does this seem like a good course of action? < Well it gives time for the "living/live" aspect to catch up to the current tank conditions without smothering what is already there. It sounds like a good course of action to me. You could do a few pounds though. Maybe even 4-5 at a time and do it over the course of a few days. So many methods to the madness. It is not unheard of to just dump and stir into the display tank if the grain size and consistency of the sand is the same> Thank you for your help. I read the live sand article, the FAQs and some of the forum, but I wasn't able to find a specific answer on how to wash/cure live sand. <No worries. Look here for some more reading on the substrates. Just because it is not about live sand doesn't mean it couldn't be helpful. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm. This link has a great deal of links to various substrate articles and FAQs. Go for it. You are well on your way to becoming a Conscientious Marine Aquarist! Pablo outta here!>

Live sand 08/04/03 <Hello from sunny Eugene> Hello from partly sunny Florida, I have a 220g fish only tank. My nitrates are on the high side of normal. I have be reading the questions from others on this website. I'm still uncertain as to the fix on this problem. I have crushed coral about 4 inches along the bottom. I am currently running an undergravel filter with 2 - 700 gph powerheads, a bioball system and a canister filter. My question is this if I reverse the flow on the UGF would this help my situation? Keep in mind I have done three 50g water changes in a one week span. Now I've heard that crushed coral can trap waste that won't   be pulled through and filtered. But by reversing the flow this problem can be lessened. Also, I want to set up another tank but use sand from the Gulf. I have a 35g tank I use to grow tang heaven and used nothing but sand from the Gulf. I have had great success in water quality. What are the pros & cons on using that type of sand in a fish only tank? Any info would greatly be appreciated. Thank you <Well, running the UGF in reverse will help, but you still need to vacuum the tank out regularly. Crushed coral can and will trap debris, but bioballs and canisters are both notorious sources of nitrates as well (if you're running the bioballs as a wet/dry, submerged, they're more like low grade live rock). The canister should be cleaned out weekly, if not daily to prevent the build up of crud (for lack of a better word). Have you thought about switching over to a FOWLR? (Fish only with Live Rock?) There are a number of live rock dealers in FL, so you could always drive to their stores and cherry pick your own (and be the envy of a lot of other aquarists). I didn't see mention of a skimmer, I hope you are using one. As for a sand bed, I'm in favor of it. The con would be that if you have fish that dig, your tank can get cloudy. The pro would be that you have a nitrate reducer built right in, and the animals from freshly harvested live sand would be a food population for your fish. A refugium wouldn't be a bad idea either (plumbing your tang heaven tank into the tank would help reduce nitrates and give your macroalgae fertilizer to boot. Here's some stuff for you to read up on: www.wetwebmedia.com/skimmerfaqs.htm www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm www.wetwebmedia.com/fishonsetup.htm www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm Of the dealers in FL that I'm aware, both have good reputations: Tampa Bay Saltwater (Tbsaltwater.com) and Gulf view (www.gulf-view.com). I would recommend quarantining anything you buy though, that's the best way to avoid unwelcome hitchhikers such as mantis shrimp (though that depends on your point of view), various kinds of crabs, etc. Hope this helps, have a nice night, PF>

- Collecting Live Sand - Hi People, I'm just setting up a refugium... and LS is not readily available from the LFS and hence when I went to the Maldives two weeks ago, I collected about 1 kg of Live Sand from the reef. I've kept it in a container with Saltwater on my balcony, and now I find a sewage kind of smell... is this sand still usable or should it be thrown out? <Whatever was live in that sand is now likely dead - it's not useless but would need to be rinsed out and potentially run through a clean tank with some of your makeup water for a couple of weeks before putting it into an existing system.> Thank You... do you have any info regarding collection of LS? <If you already have live rock, your substrate will become live in time. Sand collected from the wild can be used, but your best bet is to collect it on your last day on location and then get it into a running system as quickly as possible.> Regards Lyndon <Cheers, J -- >

Real Live Beach Sand (12/24/2003) I have a question and hope you might have an answer. <I'll try. Steve Allen tonight.> I'm starting up a 60 gallon Marine Tank and would like to save a little $. <Just don't be penny-wise and pound foolish. Every time I've bought something cheap to save money, it didn't cut it and I had to go back and buy the more expensive, better product. There is some truth in the cliché© "you get what you pay for."> Instead of going to the local pet store and buying crushed coral I was wondering if taking sand from the beach would work just as well if not better. I'd be taking sand from a place called Bodega which is in Northern California. What are your thoughts? <My thoughts: 1. Is it legal to take sand from the beach in question? In some places it's not. 2. Nor Cal ocean water is cold and the organisms in it may not survive at tropical temps. 3. Are you certain there are no pollutants in this sand. Where's the nearest sewage outlet, Superfund site, nuclear power plant, etc? 4. What about parasites or other noxious organisms? 5. See if your local Home Depot carries Southdown Tropical Play Sand. It's aragonite and fine for aquariums and much cheaper than LFS products. Seed with some live sand from another aquarist or LFS. 6. Search WWM under terms like "beach sand" to find more info.  Hope this helps.>

Sand bed/live sand questions 9/20/04 Hello.  This is my 6th marine system. Had fish only and corals of many kinds, all very successful. read many many books. my current system is about 2500 liters.  Read your articles on live sand. once, twice and thrice. I have no substrate at all right now and thought of putting LS. from what I understood a lack of oxygen may occur in lower levels of my LS system if not stirred well and frequently and if it is too deep. I intend to go for no more than 2-3 inches deep. <Old thinking is that anoxic/anaerobic zones are dangerous and to be avoided.  Newer thinking has recognized that very effective denitrification occurs in these areas.  There is the added benefit that fine grained sands support a fantastic range of detritivorous critters including an array of worms, various 'pods, etc.  My suggestion for fine sands is to use an inch or less (aesthetic and prevents nutrient accumulation, but supports less life) or a minimum of 3-4" (some risk of nutrient accumulation, but supports more life that better processes these nutrients, also better denitrification).  In either case, I would avoid any stirring or major disturbance of fine grained substrates.  Such action can cause major disturbances in water quality.  Instead, use sea cucumbers and burrowing snails to do this work for you in a very controlled manner (Avoid the white "sand sifting" starfish... they are predators on the worms and pods that you want to encourage).> I'm really sick of the look of grainy substrate ("crushed corals" etc.) and want to go for a  the "tropical island sand" look with dusty white sand.  <I totally agree with the aesthetic consideration, and also believe that finer sands perform functionally better.> should I use LS ? how deep should it be ? what kind ? (Fiji sand, the sand on my beach ?) anything else I should know ? <The answers to these questions depend a lot on where you live and how deep your pockets are.  Live sand is very expensive, often of questionable quality, and if you know other local aquarists with established live sand beds, it is unnecessary. (you can "borrow" a few cups of live sand from other to "seed" your new sand).  Live sand should be collected from reef areas, not the beach. Beach sand won't contain the desired critters and carries a high risk of pollution.  Any living animal, live rock or live sand must also come from tropical areas.  Temperate life will not survive tropical temperatures.  See above for comments about depth.> thank you very much for your time. Mr. Asaf Gur.<Always a pleasure!  AdamC>

Why Live Sand? >Quick question.   >>With concurrent quick answer, greetings my friend. >People are always talking about adding "live sand" to a tank.   >>Indeed they are!  What's up with that? >Is it really beneficial... you're sand is going to come alive anyway if the proper amount of live rock is in the tank?   >>HA!  A man after my own frugal heart!  It's beneficial if you're in a hurry (a hurry to spend money!  j/k, but only slightly). >Wouldn't it be better and cheaper just to purchase Southdown sand or aragonite sand, put your live rock in the tank, then, maybe, seed that sand with a few cups of live sand?  Am I missing something? >>Keith, no, you're NOT missing anything (except a reason to spend money on sand), you don't even need to worry about seeding with other live sand if you've already got live rock, especially if it's righteous.  I'm with YOU!  Marina

Panamanian Live Sand - Is It The Best Stuff? >Hello I have a question. >>Hello.  Let's hope I have an answer Alejandro. >I am setting up a 155 gal reef, and would like to know if I could use live sand directly from the ocean. >>Generally, as long as it's NOT outside any river mouth or sewer runoff, sources of human/agricultural pollution are the issue here.  Also, be aware that you do stand a chance of introducing parasitic organisms, and as such the sand should be quarantined as one would any other living organism going into a closed system. >I live down in Panama in Central America, I could go and dive for the sand, could I just put it directly into my aquarium? >>Again, I would quarantine with heavy filtration and foam fractionation FIRST.  30 days is the bare minimum on this.  Don't forget you'll need to feed it to keep it live, a few bits of fish food, shrimp (keep it to invertebrate flesh), etc.   >Thank you much, Alejandro >>You're very welcome, and best of luck.  Marina

Collecting LS Hello all at WWM, <Hi there Matt... please don't write/send HTML...> Superb site, spent hours and hours looking around over the past 6 mos. <Glad to find you find it useful> I live in Charleston SC, and have access to tons of sand (not beach sand). Last fall I collected about 20 pounds of the coarsest sand I could find (which is much finer than sugar). Cured it in a 20L tank for two months (just for caution), and that tank is now a refugium for a 15g Nano (and odd mix, I know). Grows TONS AND TONS small invertebrate life (well, until I put a gravid native sailfin molly in it, and the babies wiped out the infauna). Pretty Sailfins, though. <Ah, good> Anyhow, it grows infauna like nothing I've ever seen. But the 1-inch depth doesn't seem to do a lot of denitrifying. My tank has 6 fish in the 1 to 1.5 inch range, nitrates hang around 15. <Likely not deep enough mainly... could make a DSB if you have a sump/refugium you can tie in> Would adding another inch of cured sand run a major risk of hydrogen sulfide? Or would you just add some normal store-variety LS and have a two beds run side by side for nitrate removal? Other than the moderate nitrates, the tank has been a fantastic experience, my first "reef". <Likely not a problem/risk> Again, great site, great job! Matt, Cha'son SC <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

Second annual coast to coast sand trade - diversity, anyone? More diversity the better! Just make sure to quarantine. M. Maddox <Actually, am not so sure re this idea... I suspect there is tremendously more diversity in all systems taken separately, but that mixing them will do very little to enhance their individual mix, mass of biota... such systems are established, built-of competing communities that are niche-saturated, and the prevailing conditions in each system will dictate whether new life becomes established... Am suspicious that simply introducing more substrate to such dynamics with a different mix will do much other than to feed the present communities. Would very much like to see actual data from experiments like this... measuring before/after species, numbers...  Shannon-Weiner Species Diversity Index numbers...  Am asking Ron Shimek and Anthony Calfo for comment.  Bob F>

Would there be anything wrong with using Florida beach sand in my 55 gal FO + Invert tank? Current substrate is a thin layer of crushed coral. Will there be an ammonia or nitrate spike if I replace all at once?  Thank you for a wonderful column! Scott >> Nothing probably wrong, given careful screening of the raw material for bits of metal... and a brisk rinse (freshwater is fine) to remove fine material and "excess" living things... And yes to the likelihood of having something in the way of a break in period/incident... as with live rock, other live sand... monitor for this and hold off on stocking till all settles in. Bob Fenner

Live Sand Question Would there be anything wrong with using Florida beach sand in my 55 gal FO + Invert tank? Current substrate is a thin layer of crushed coral. Will there be an ammonia or nitrate spike if I replace all at once?  Thank you for a wonderful column! Scott >> Likely there will be some problems... but these can be minimized by doing a bit of work: After collecting the new sand, screening/sifting it with two grades of material: one larger the lower smaller... to yield all about the same grain size... and then thoroughly checking through the sand for "tramp" metal and other contaminants... sort of like sieving through a natural dried bean product to look for sticks, stones... And then placing the sand where it will be used, without livestock present and curing it by running your filtration and checking aspects of nitrogen cycling...  There are many specifics left out here for brevity... questions, concerns, suggestions... please write back. Bob Fenner

Live Sand I was wondering about adding live sand to our 300 gallon reef tank. We have a DAS key hole tank. We have added PVC pipe with holes and a pump to the back of the tank (on the bottom). It is not feasible for us to reset the rock on top of a framework of PVC pipe. I was wondering if we could just add the live sand to the front of our tank. I believe we would still have the good forward water flow from the back of the tank.  <Yes, this is a workable plan> Could we add the live sand a little at a time, or is it best to add what we would need all at once. <Best all at once, or in layers... the larger grade on bottom, a layer of plastic screen door material, then the finer, upper layer... More can be added, seeded to the top...later> We have anemones, corals, 2 Kole tangs, mandarin goby, two red striped blennies, two lawn mover gobies, cardinals, hawks, star fish and a very nice clean up crew from FFExpress that has really cleaned up our algae problem. If you need more inf., I will respond after your reply. Thanks >> Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Live Sand I was wanting to purchase an 80 gallon tank...I have a 55 right now and I am very pleased with how the tank is right now with crushed coral on the bottom...I was interested in using Live Sand in my 80 gallon tank that I am going to buy next week. My question is: Are their any benefits to using the Live Sand in a tank or is it mainly for the looks? Thanks in advance for your time and help. Brandon >> Many benefits to utilizing the live sand in marine tanks... in addition to aesthetics. Food, filtration, stirring action, enhanced buffering, biomineral addition... making the system overall more viable, stable...optimized... Bob Fenner, whose "live sand" input is further stored at www.wetwebmedia.com under that name.

Free Live Sand? I live on the gulf coast of Texas. Would the sand I can collect here be beneficial to my reef aquarium? Thank you for your time >> It's possible... I would screen it for removing most of the undesirables (possible metal, glass)... and store it ahead of use... rinse it in seawater and cure it in a system without livestock ahead of use... Bob Fenner 

Live mud, sand, algae, and sponges from P.I. Hi Bob, I occasionally have the opportunity to visit the Philippines, usually north Palawan and would like to collect a small amount of mud ,sand, algae, and maybe sponges or tunicates. Is this legal or feasible ?  <Think so... legal wise would check with the airlines... and remember the term, "for my personal consumption"... i.e. not commercial... Feasible wise? Please read over my sections on Collecting Marines posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> Transit time from El Ned to Michigan is 3-4 days. Also are there any outstanding reef display tanks within an hour or so of LAX ?  <Gosh, a bunch I've seen on "tank tours" with the L.A. and Orange Country marine clubs... and lots of organisms at the wholesalers... Do look up "Piece of the Reef"... others in the phone books at your local large public library... and use the Net to develop a "travel strategy" for when you hit town...> Thank you for your efforts to preserve the reefs ,the hobby, and the animals under our care. Ray  <Thank you for the acknowledgement my friend. Salamat. Bob Fenner>

Re: Using FRESH seawater for water changes (and FRESH substrates) Thanks for the reply. Another question along the same lines: What about live sand/substrate? I believe it's legal to collect substrate in Florida (not LR) so what's the difference between spending $100-$200 on LS imported from somewhere else and collecting my own as long as I rinse it in aquarium water prior to introduction? Is there something else the LS distributors do to "condition" the LS to be free of bad critters? <Hmm, either by storing for longish periods of time (weeks) to making their own from "dead" sand/substrate exposed to live rock... these makers avoid pests, parasites and pollution... you can/could collect, store and do requisite water changes, searching amongst particles for pop tops, etc.... would it be worth it? Bob Fenner> Thanks for your time, Brad

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

Re: Collecting Live Sand Thank you very much for your fast reply. Your info is very appreciated. I promise to send you some pics when it is finished. We are going on our holiday - at last - to Eilat in Israel, do u think it would be possible/legal to collect our own live sand as a souvenir for my reef tank - and also live rock? <Have been to this town in the upper Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea... would ask re the legality, practicality of such extraction while there. Bob Fenner> Eden Maddocks

Live Sand Source Hi Jason, I'm looking to build up my sand bed. I don't have any local fish supplier who carries live sand. I'm looking for a internet supplier who carries a good quality (high fauna) sand. Any recommendations. <<For actual vendors, I would check the WWM Forum - many there have experience with these online dealers. On the other hand, if you can get a hold of some aragonite sand and some live rock you can make your own - this is what I do. Place sand and rock in tank and wait a month or two - oh, and run the lights and pumps... by then end of two months, your sand will be quite live. This is a really good/cheap way to go; builds a good foundation. Cheers, J -- >>

Collection and Reefs Bob: <Hello> Hugo again. Thanks for your patience and all your help. I have gone and come back from the site that I had talked about collecting sand from. I have several observations and questions. Here we go: 1. The sand is a brown color, sort of clay-ish looking. Upon closer examination the composition appears to be shell bits, coral fragments, and bits of something that appears to be dull and translucent, sort of like really dull glass. I also noted a lot of limestone in the entire area. Large boulders all over the place. <A very good description. the dull-glass bits may be silicate in nature> Underwater examination of this sand revealed something very curious. I have noticed in almost all the places in which I snorkeled (over 1/4 of a mile) that in several places there are mounds of sand which are gray in color. Just every so much space, there are these mounds of sand, completely gray about 3 ~5" in circumference. What could this be? <Areas where the local animals have dug up and mounded deeper, different sand types... that haven't gotten mixed in with the general more homogeneous substrate... Worms of many sorts, mollusks, crustaceans, others and together create these "mounds"> 2. Observing the fish fauna, I noticed things like spiders, a lot of fan worms, and even 2 stingrays. I also saw a great deal of sea urchins. The later had black thorns and very bright red bodies. Are these urchins something I should worry about? <Worry about? I would avoid touching them, and not use them in your system unless you're sure they will "go with" the rest of life you intend to keep> I did try to avoid them, as I am sure that meeting those spikes would not be pleasant. What about the stingray, would it be dangerous if I accidentally stepped on it? <Likely yes> 3. The location of which I am talking about is a rock barrier, about 1/2 mile long, with the waves breaking on one side, and a shallow and calm pool on the other side for about 70 feet, until it goes extremely deep. I did encounter a fish that looked exactly like a yellow tank ( round body, short snout) but it was light blue in color, with a yellow tail. I know it couldn't be a purple tang, because it was light blue, not purple. I have never seen one this color, but I know it wasn't a surgeon even an infant one) because it was round. What could this be? It was behaving like a tang (gracing on algae constantly). <Does sound like a juvenile Acanthurus coeruleus. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acanthurTngs.htm> I also saw something that looked like a coral beauty, but it was black with tones in red. These guys were observed alone, one per cave, and seemed rather territorial. One nipped my finger to let me know I was too close for his comfort (hehehe). Are these in fact coral beauties? <Not Coral Beauties. That Dwarf Angel species is not found in the Atlantic. Please read through our root web: www.WetWebMedia.com re the Fishwatcher's Guide to the Tropical West Atlantic, Marine Angels... maybe Urchins as well> All in all I was happy to be there, and I can even say that I did not wish to take any of those guys home, as looking at them in their environment was satisfying enough. <Yes> I was a bit sad to see several beer cans at the bottom of some areas. What pigs we are!!! It is amazing to see how nature thrives in spite of us... Well, I am sure that I'll be back there again. This is all I ask for now. Thanks!!! <Perhaps you would enjoy photography, writing stories about your experiences, reflections... videography? Bob Fenner> Hugo S
Re: Collection and Reefs
Bob: First. What is the ISBN of your book... I can't seem to find it. <Please take a look on Amazon.com under title, or my name> Second. I live in Puerto Rico, and thus have access to unlimited amounts of some of the most beautiful reefs (my opinion) in the Caribbean... I would like to collect some "live" sand myself. My big idea was to go somewhere somewhat deep and with a weighted bucket and a rope (I know, kinda unsophisticated) drag that baby and pull up the results. <Yes> Several questions come to mind, and I cannot find anything this specific in the archives... 1. This will actually be the same or even better than packaged stuff right? I mean, I can go from the reefs to my house in under 30 minutes... <Maybe... a good idea to at least rinse lightly (in seawater), decant, and store in an aquarium setting for a good two weeks before using > 2. Parasites come to mind. Any way to kill the little suckers before using the sand? <All sorts. Please read through WetWebMedia.com re Live Sand: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the associated FAQs file> 3. If the commercial sand being sold is reef sand, why would the sand in the reef down here have silicates? Do they not come from the same place? <Yes, about a third or so silicon dioxide based. Don't come from same places specifically (collected, sorted on beaches for the most part)> 4. I also think that I would like to collect some fish... I did get a permit for this from the local Natural Resources dept, that you know of in my area, what are good specimens to catch? <In Puerto Rico? All sorts of areas... again, please read through the WWM site... "Collection", Quarantine...> 5. What foreseeable dangers do you see in collecting fish by snorkeling in a reef? (sharks, Scorpionfish, jellyfish) <Other divers, yourself... perhaps Fire Coral, Sea Urchins... really> Is scuba a must? What kind of fish can I expect to catch this way? Realistically? <Practice and study makes perfect my friend.... many and enough organisms can be easily gathered by snorkeling. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help! Hugo S. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Re: Collection and Reefs
Bob: Tank you for your prompt response, I can't imagine how many e-mails you must read a day! <Am sure you can... a couple hundred...> I found the ISBN in Amazon.com... Thanks. <Very good> You said that about a third of sand comes from here, maybe I didn't understand quite what you meant. <Sorry for the lack of clarity. I meant to state that about a third of the sand you're likely to find is silicate-based... only about another third is calcium carbonate-based. Alternatively, the various companies (e.g. CaribSea) try to collect, clean and bag almost 100% carbonate-based materials> Did you mean that a third of the wrong type of sand comes from the Caribbean/Puerto Rico? <Actually, about this amount comes from "sandy bottoms" in most places off coastlines... some more than others. You'd be better off looking for a beach area, at accumulations of hard materials and screening/sieving out the small "silica" (shiny, flat, angular) materials in an attempt to collect just the "shell and coral skeleton based" ones. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the FAQs beyond> By Silicon Dioxide did that mean that it has silicates?  <Yes> Also, where does aragonite come from usually? Specifically? <Mined, crushed, sorted, cleaned calcium carbonate material from "ancient" reefs. The coarser material is extracted from a few places in the world, the finer (oolithic) from areas of the ocean where it forms spontaneously, accumulates. Please read: http://www.soils.wisc.edu/virtual_museum/aragonite/> If I let the sand dry and then sift it for the correct size (sugar sized), then this would kill the whole "live" concept right? <The "macro" parts, yes. The "micro" (e.g. bacteria, funguses, viruses...) would likely persist to some degree> Would this reef sand be small enough for a 4" DSB? How much sand would you say in pounds or gallons it would take for a 4" DSB? <Please read over WetWebMedia.com re Deep Sand Beds. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Hugo S

Live sand (collecting your own) Hey Guys, As I was sitting on the beach fishing with my son last night, a thought struck me - Why should I pay for live sand when I live on the beach here on the VA/NC border?! Here before me were acres of sugar sized white/cream colored sand just there for the taking!! But then I started thinking there has got to be some problem with this sand or EVERYBODY would be using it for their aquariums!! So I decided that I better drop you boys an email and get ya'lls opinion on this matter. There is plenty of dried sand & "live sand" under the water. Well, as I eye my shovel &pail, I await your reply..... Thanking you in advance, Joshua Scialdone <You were/are right to be suspect of this "free live sand"... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the associated FAQs files. Only in a few places in the U.S. is such material suitable for hobbyist marine systems. Bob Fenner>

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