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FAQs about Marine Substrates 3

Related Articles: Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biofiltration, Denitrification, Live Sand, Live RockBiominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Marine Substrates 1, Marine Substrates 2Marine Substrates 4, Marine Substrates 5, Marine Substrates 6, Marine Substrates 7, Marine Substrates 8, Marine Substrates 9, Rationale, Selection, Reef  Substrates, By Type: Aragonite/s, Coral Sands, Silicates, Dolomites/TapAShell, Southdown & Such, Collecting Your Own, & Physical Make-up, Size/Grade, Location, Depth, Marine Substrate Cleaning 1, Marine Substrate Cleaning 2, Moving/Replacing/Adding To, Marine Substrate Moving/Replacing/Adding To 2, Substrate Anomalies/Trouble-Fixing,

Home Depot Sand Response Previously posted:I thought I read on one of the responses that it is ok to buy play sand from Home Depot to use in your aquarium and to seed it with some live sand or live rock. Is this still ok or has it been found not be safe now or anything? <I would not use it because of the high amount of silica present, additional algae food source, and it will do nothing to help keep your pH up.> ***************** I would like to respectfully disagree with this response. The Home Depot sand that is referred to here, [which] used to be the 'SouthDown" brand, is not silica based sand. It will indeed help with keeping your pH stable. It dissolves in vinegar, silica- based sand will not do this. I used around 300 pounds of it for my tank and it has been doing wonderful for nearly 2 years now. I believe the Southdown name changed to Yardright, but I'm not sure.  You can always test it by dumping some vinegar on it.  <Thanks, Bill, but you did not mention Southdown sand, and if you were using it for nearly two years, and doing wonderful, why are you asking about it? Seems to me you've done your own homework. James (Salty Dog)><James... this gentleman was chiming in on your previous day's post... FWIW, I do agree with him... the Southdown product is almost entirely carbonaceous, very little silicate content... RMF>>

Southdown Sand James, I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. It wasn't my question originally. I just read it on the FAQ's yesterday and thought I'd pipe in, and share my experience with this fellow and other readers. Home Depot is the only place that carried the Southdown brand that I'm aware of. So when I read Home Depot sand, I assumed he was talking about Southdown. Sorry for the confusion.  <Bill, yes it was confusing. Apology accepted. James (Salty Dog)> <<Sheesh. RMF>>

Sand bed Hello All: <Scott> I am considering changing my sand bed from a plenum to a sugar grain DSB. I would like to just add the sugar grain size sand to the existing bed but I am worried about an anoxic situation that will produce sulfur dioxide?  <Maybe... but not if the system is otherwise managed properly> I am worried about a nutrient sink with the grain size specific to a plenum. Maybe I should leave well enough alone! Thanks Scott <Maybe. Plenty on plenums, substrates archived on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ Bob Fenner> 

Substrate Selection Hi WetWeb crew, I looked over your other answers about live sand and well my question is pretty stupid and basic compared to everyone else's but I'm really new at this. Anyhow I am starting with a 50 gallon tank (48x12), aquatic ProClear pro wet/dry filter, and I'm trying to decide the best substrate to start with. I plan on getting live rock, but with the live sand I'm not really sure what is best. I like the look of the crushed coral aragonite stuff, but my bf who just recently got into marine aquatics 7 months ago told me that the crushed coral might not be compatible with some life forms?  Like if I want to get star fish or gobies or other types of sand sifters. I have looked but I haven't seen anything that says sand particle size affects which critters you can get, except for an ad for this really fine particle sand saying it was more gentle on gobies' gills. Would it be ok to get the crushed coral and still be able to get sand sifters or would the large size of the substrate harm them when they try to sift through it? I also read that the crushed coral is better than regular sand because it buffers your system more, so would that be the best to use or do you guys feel that regular small grain sand is better?  Sorry for being so long winded in my question and thanks a bunch!! <Shawn, I suggest you read through this link. It will inform you better on your choice of substrate, more so than I can do here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm. James (Salty Dog)> 

Live Concrete? (Live Sandbed Going Solid) What would turn live sand into cement? Cindy <Well, I've seen this happen in systems where lots of Kalkwasser or calcium additives were used with little circulation and no sandbed surface agitation. Not exactly concrete, but hard just the same! Hence, one reason that a little bit of stirring at the surface is not a bad thing. Regards, Scott F.> 

SW substrate dust... new... in the tank Hey guys, I'm starting a reef tank, and I ordered some aragonite sand on the internet. It didn't say anything about washing, and after I put it in and filled my tank, I found out you are supposed to wash it. <What a mess!> My tank is 29 gals and I have an Aqua C protein skimmer with a maxi jet 1200. I just started running the skimmer a couple hours ago and the tank is still really cloudy. What should I do? Will this clear up over time? Thanks for all your help Sincerely, Devin O'Dea <Mmm, if it were me, my system... only twenty some gallons of water... I'd dump it all out, rinse the substrate in clean bucket increments (about ten pounds at a go) and start again... you will lose at least this amount of water trying to gravel vacuum out the dust... and the time waiting... Bob Fenner>

Answer to Vacuuming Sandy Substrata de Marina Also how would I gravel vacuum a fine sand substrate? I have the Oolite Aragalive so if I vacuum the bottom the sand comes out also.  <I didn't know you had a fine sand bed. You probably should add (if you don't have) some sand stirring critters. I guess the AquaClear 110 would probably work to a degree, but with a 4" sand bed in the filter I'm thinking that the water flow through the sand won't keep up with the 400+gph pump on the filter.  James (Salty Dog)> >>James, I happen to have more experience vacuuming sandy substrates than I care to, and if you'd like to place an addendum to this, please let's.  These substrates CAN be vacuumed quite effectively, but it requires a VERY LONG (and I do mean very long) vacuum tube.  An equally outrageously long section of flexible tubing is also necessary, this length seems to help "drive" or power the siphon better.  When I worked at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, one of my regular "chores" (ha! As if it could actually be called a chore!) was to feed and care for the baby bamboo sharks in the coral lab (public display area). They are grown out on sandy substrate, in what for all intents and purposes is essentially a large cat-litter pan.  Filtration and water changes are, of course, quite important, but more so with these little ones. They left quite a bit of uneaten food (even with hand feeding), so I had to vacuum the sand very regularly. The tube was about 3' (three feet) long, with about a 2" diameter. That, along with keeping a kink in the hose (hand-controlled) allowed me good control. There were those who tried to use ball valves in the line, but you just can't get the same control as when you "hand kink" it.  Marina<<

Calcified substrate Greetings. First off, I want to thank Bob, Anthony and everyone else on the crew who helped me attain such respect and pleasure in this fascinating hobby. I have a 75G reef set-up that has been growing strong for a little over a year now, with everything flourishing beyond my expectations.  Today, while vacuuming the substrate, I noticed a couple of areas that seem to have calcified. I'm assuming that I'm probably overdoing the Kalk drip. <Yes, very common> In trying to maintain a calcium level at the 500-520 range, I began dripping Kalk 24 hours a day as make-up water. Too much? <Yes... rare that conditions, desires would dictate wanting to elevate calcium beyond 450 ppm...> Would it be prudent to remove the calcified areas of substrate? <Yes...> Upon removal, should I attempt to break it up, rinse it and re-use it or just discard it? <Likely simply discard... hard to practically get the materials back into solution... and there may well be other solutes you'd rather discard> What other method would you suggest in order to maintain the 500-520 range I am after. I have been using Kent Kalk mix. Can these levels be attained and/or maintained using a liquid supplement? Thanks again, guys (and gals)! Greg <Mmm, might I ask what it is you're seeking to do with so much free calcium concentration? Hard to maintain alkaline reserve, and many important chemical reactions are driven aside in this pursuit... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm  and the MANY files linked above. Bob Fenner>  The best sand bed situation? I've been reading your site for days. I cannot find a definite answer on sand beds. <Welcome to the club. Sand beds have to be one of the most debated facets of the marine aquarium community. Everybody has their own opinions and methods, so there really is no "definitive" method of keeping a sand bed.> I have a new 125 gallon all saltwater fish tank. I have 50 pounds of Aruba crushed shells (Puka shells). is this the best way to layer the bottom of my tank. <As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Out of the many ways to go with a sand bed, not any one method is decidedly better, or decidedly worse than the next. You should check out the following wealth of informative links and make an educated decision as to what course to take. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaqs.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq2.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq3.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq4.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq5.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq6.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaq7.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm > Do I go an 1" or 4"? Can I, should I mix it with a sand base? Overall what is the depth you suggest I should lay down? <Once again, it is a matter of what you think will work best in your situation.> Thank you so much for your time and response. <Glad I could be of assistance. Good luck, Mike G> Thomas Duffy

Local sand I was wondering if sand from a local freshwater sandpit could be used for substrate. I would seed with some live sand. It is in a 1000gal tidal pool/fuge I am constructing. Time is not an issue and I can wait for it to become live sand. Also wanting to use some local stones as rock, porous limestone type. plan to seed the rock with pods etc. will this work. it would cost a small fortune to buy from LFS or online pre- cured, etc. <If these materials are indeed calcium carbonate based you'll be fine. I would ask the folks who run the sandpit the composition of the material there... if it is more than a few percent silicate based, you would be better off seeking out another source... for reasons stated here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm Bob Fenner>

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>

- DSB, Sand Selection, and DIY LR Questions - Hello, WWM Member! It's so nice to have such a great resource to help those of us without a lot of hobby experience.  I'm still in the planning stages for a 70-90g peaceful reef tank, and I'm confused on certain points.  I have done TONS of reading on WWM regarding these questions, and I haven't found consistent answers... perhaps some of my questions have no conclusive answers! First, regarding DSBs.  I know that optimally, 6"+ is best.  Is 6" optimal? <Six inches is the minimum, not optimal. Eight to ten inches would probably be optimal, if not always practical.> If not, what's the optimal depth?  (I know that making it too deep can cause hydrogen sulfide problems; at what depth do problems develop?) <Not sure this is empirical. I have a 12" DSB sump that's been running for a year and have had no problems with hydrogen sulphide. Think sulphide problem may result from sub-optimal depths, where the proper bacteria that would make use of this stuff do not exist.> I've done a lot of reading regarding substrates, and I'm confused.  I've read that Jawfish and other burrowers are best kept in fine sand with some coarse material to aid their burrowing, and that these fish move around the bigger pieces to their liking; I've also read that coarser material mixed in won't harm anyone.  However, I've also frequently read that you shouldn't mix substrate sizes so channeling/packing is minimized. <I mix substrate sizes all the time - especially in the fish tank - seems to allow for better fauna development in the substrate.> So, the question: if I'm keeping Jawfishes, gobies, and the like, what should I do?  Should I stick with pure sugar-fine aragonite sand, or add some crushed coral, or add even coarser material like crushed shell? <I'd do all three.> If I should have coarse material, what ratio is best? <Perhaps 1/3 of each.> I just want to make sure they have the best substrate possible. Also, I'd like to make some GARF Aragocrete "Reef Tables" and a couple caves for my tank (I'll have plenty of "real" live rock, of course).  I've heard some people have no problems, and others make claims that the cement adversely affects tank chemistry.  What's the truth? <The truth is that anything cementacious would need to be cured for a while - months - in a weak acid solution (vinegar would do) to help bring down the highly alkaline nature of cement products.> Would I be foolish to use Aragocrete, or will I be fine? <No... this has been done for decades in public aquariums and the like - is perfectly viable as long as you take the appropriate precautions.> Oh, one last thing, if I may.  I plan on principally keeping quiet fishes, like gobies, Banggai Cardinals, blennies, and perhaps a Jawfish or eventually a mandarin (with a refugium, of course).  But... I (and my wife) would love to have a yellow tang (Zebrasoma flavescens).  Would it be too boisterous or aggressive a feeder to mix in this type of tank? <Would be fine.> I'm worried that the other fish wouldn't get enough food... Also, is there any species of clownfish that could coexist peacefully, as well, or are they too aggressive? <My favorite are the true and false percula clowns - they seems to be the most docile of all the clowns and seem to get along with just about anyone that won't eat them.> Thanks so much for your time and help; I truly appreciate your advice. Scott <Cheers, J -- >

Marine substrate Hello All I want to first say thank you for all the great info on this site.  :)  Done much research into my nitrate problem and have formulated a solution due to all the great help already posted.  Only could not find one last answer.   For my deep sand bed is it ok to use sand from an home improvement store?   <Yes... if carbonate based... steer away from silicates. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and on to the links at the top, till you're satisfied> Oh yeah one last one... My current substrate is of the big variety, yes I know one of the reasons for my nitrates anyway when I create my DSB can I pour the new sand over the existing substrate?  Thanks again for all your help, this site rocks Cheers Fargo <Keep reading the links... Bob Fenner>

Live Sand? - 06/20/05 Thanks for that.  When you say sugar-fine sand bed you are not referring to live sand? <<Nope.  You can use any sugar-fine sand...even silica sand (I can hear you gasp <G>.)...though I confess I prefer to use aragonite when available.  Just seed the "dry" sand with a bit of sand from your mates tanks or from the LFS and it will become "live" in short order.>> Also I should put some critters in the refugium as well correct? <<Depends on what you mean by "critters."  If you mean amphipods, Mysis shrimp, copepods, bristle worms, and the like...then the answer is yes...if you mean shrimp, crabs, small fish, etc. ...then the answer is no.  The latter defeats the purpose of the refugium.>> Thanks for the info you guys rock. <<From this old rocker...Regards, Eric R.>>

LIVE SAND SWITCH Hi, <Howdy> I have a 55 gal tank that was originally set up the "old fashion" way with coarse coral and an undergravel filter system.  We have since become  "smarter" and have completely removed the undergravel system and added roughly  45 lbs of live rock.  I really want to get rid of the course coral  substrate and replace it with live sand.  Is there any way to do this  without taking apart the entire system, or can you just add live sand with the  coral??? <Can, could do either..>   Also,  it's mostly a fish tank with some inverts and 1  coral.  It has a Remora protein skimmer and UV light. Thanks, Heidi <The easiest way to switch all out is to use a large diameter siphon... a length of one or more inch diameter plastic tubing to "suck out" the existing substrate, let it settle in a large (lined or new) trash can (non-toxic of course) and pour the water itself back into the tank... until all the old gravel is out... then pour in the (washed) new substrate. Bob Fenner>

Tank Setup - 06/11/05 Hello there, my name is Cody and I'm going to buy a 35 gal. salt water tank from a friend. <<Hello Cody...Eric Here.>> It's been running for about a year, it has fish in it.  The question is, when I get it I would like to take out the gravel that’s in it and replace it with sand. (white sand). So... I would drain the water out, BUT I won't dump it. I will pour it back in.  Would it mess with the water condition or not? <<This is actually a very good idea Cody as you will be placing "matured" water back in the system.  Be sure to keep the water aerated.>> And plus what about the UGF I would like to get that out of there also. <<I would do this too.>> How would I vacuum the gravel when I do water changes? <<With a fine sand substrate and proper water flow, siphoning may not be necessary.  Do some reading here and at the associated links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/>> Please help me before I go out and spend money that I would be wasting. Thanks <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Mystery Sand... Dear Crew, <Scott F. your Crew member tonight!> I know this topic has been covered extensively on your site and throughout the net. BUT... A fellow aquarist and I just ran into a pallet of "Yardright White Play Sand" at a local store. We've been HUNTING for Southdown substitutes all around but of course we cant find it. The bag says that it its made from marble, and we brought our "Vinegar" test kit with us and it bubbles.. so we bought some.... We both want DSBs in our new tanks. I've seen Aragamax, and its not near as white as this stuff.  Is this the right stuff????? THANKS! <Hmm...since this stuff is not aragonite based, I wonder about its buffering capabilities and level of purity, despite its apparent solubility. I'd be more inclined to pass on it for this very reason. Do check with other hobbyists to see if they have used this stuff with success, but proceed with caution. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Questions Regarding sand bed and fish compatibility Let me start off by saying sorry for such a long post here. <No worries> Hi, Bob this is my first question to you and I am sure will not be the last. I have been reefing for about 2 years and I have to say on a skill bar I would give myself a 3.5 out of 10. That being said here is my tank info. I am setting up (transferring from a 46 bow with crushed coral 3.5 to 4" in depth to a 75 drilled and I am going with sand "SouthDown" I am going to go with a 1.5" depth. Equipment is as follows: Lighting 2ea 250watt MH 10K 4ea 24" VHO 2 Actinic White and 2 Super Actinic Filtration Wet-dry (I will probably not use this or just use it as a remote power head for water movement) Canister (for carbon and nitrate sponge). Chiller AquaLogic Drop in 1/4hp 29 Gallon sump Mag 18 as a return CPR HOB Fuge (I am planning on a DSB with macro and LR Rubble). Water movement Tunze 6060 Live Rock 80-90 lbs. Skimmer Euro Reef 5-2 Calcium Reactor Still shopping for one Controller Medusa <Lots of nice gear> My 46 was/is over stocked and nitrates were higher than I like. I am pretty sure the crushed coral has something to do with this as it traps a lot of detritus and even though I have a huge clean up crew and do regular water changes and vacuum it is still higher that normal and I want to go over to sand. Livestock Purple fire fish, 2 Maroon clowns, Yellow tang (probably going to give/sell him) Coral beauty and Flame angel, Scooter Blenny and Lawnmower blenny. All the fish are under 2.5 and as they get bigger I will probably need to replace them with smaller ones. Two clams and 2 BTA's (1 red 1 green) along with the clean up crew I wrote of above. I keep pretty much just hard corals and 1 or 2 softies. I am going to also get 3-4 Shaving brush plants for not only looks but also function in the main tank.  I will be adding two of my favorite fish down the road they are Laboutei Fairy Wrasse & a Geometric Pygmy Hawk.  My questions:  #1) I cannot put a deep sand bed inside my sump due to my skimmer, chiller, and return pump will be in there and I am not sure if they would be harmed by sucking up sand and there is really no way to separate the sump. So would the HOB Fuge with DSB and macro be enough along with the Shaving plants in the main tank? <Should be> Or not enough to even bother with? <Well worth bothering with> My goal with the fuge is for nitrate control and also a place for critters (pods and such to grow and reproduce)  <Will indeed help with all these> #2) Do you see any problems with the 2 fish I plan on adding down the road with the current livestock I have now. <No... but will about "top off" this volume system> All the fish I have now have been in the tank for about 1.5 years with no problems getting along or nipping corals or my clams. Thanks for you time and if you see anything that I am missing or need to correct please let me know. Thank you  Bruce <Do set up the two systems in parallel for a while if you can, be careful re new additions, quarantine incoming livestock... you should do fine... I foresee a much larger upgrade in your future... perhaps some dive, adventure travel... Bob Fenner> 

- DSB or BBT - Hi Helpful Guru(s), With your help, I have claimed some success with my fish keeping for the past year & you people are the "gold" in our hobby. Thanks!! There has been a debate among my reefer friends on DSB (deep sand bed) vs. BBT (bare bottom tank). The DSB has been blamed as nutrient sink & BBT is the new & better way of doin it, if you are into SPS.  <Nothing new about bare bottomed tanks.>  With better skimmer technology, there are claims that one should do away the DSB & just do BBT.  <Not sure what the skimmer would have to do with this.>  With BBT, you can blow the power heads any way you like & not afraid of creating a sand storm etc... What is your view on this issue?  <Both have their uses, although it's my observation that fish definitely don't like bare bottomed tanks - or at least, reflective glass - they get bugged out by their reflection underneath them. Obviously, this can be remedied by painting the bottom of the tank. Otherwise, I think it's six of one, half a dozen of the other and really personal preference. What I do think is that many folks who implement a DSB don't actually have one deep enough, so they blame their problems on the DSB, when in fact the problem was one of improper implementation.>  I understand that DSB helps mainly in Nitrate Reduction. Right?  <Correct.>  Even with a powerful skimmer only without DSB, can one get zero nitrate?  <Skimmers don't remove nitrates - they can remove compounds that may become nitrates, but they don't remove nitrates directly and shouldn't be figured into a nitrate reduction scheme.>  Or, the reason that BBT works in SPS tank since minimum feeding is required & hence minimum NO 3 generated? <Hmm... I think you're putting anecdotes together here where no relation exists. You could feed a DSB tank just as minimally... you could over feed a bare bottom tank... these are husbandry issues, and not relevant to a discussion of which is better, DSB or BBT.> I have a DSB tank housing SPS. thinking of upgrading to bigger tank. How do I move the existing sand in DSB to the new tank so that all my bio filtration is intact & I need not go through the cycle of new tank?  <It's actually not all that easy - disruption of the sand bed will cause your system to recycle - it may not take months, but for certain your tank won't be in the same shape on day one, and if you try to move everything at once, you will lose some livestock.>  If I move the sand just like that, I am disturbing it & may experience nutrient leach & toxic tank, right?  <Correct.>  Does it look like my only viable way is to cycle a new tank with new DSB until it is completely cycled (i.e. 2-3 months minimum); then I can move my live rocks & my SPSs over to the new tank?  <You could move some of your live rock ahead of time - would speed the cycle.>  Gee, now you can understand why I am tempted to go bare bottom tank, no such problem in future; just move live rocks & live stocks. May I have your honest view on this matter? <You have it - there is nothing wrong with either method, and one is not better than the other. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. If you decide to go with a deep sand bed, it needs to be deep - at least six inches. I've been running a 200g sump for almost a year now with 12" sand bed and don't have any problems with it being a nutrient sink. The sand is well populated with a variety of fauna which keeps things clean and healthy.>  I would appreciate it. thanks in advance. <Cheers, J -- > 

Marine sand source Hello to all, My quest for sand continues.  As the company that produces Southdown sand is no longer in business and the only place in the United States that still has some is in the central states I have found another possible source for sand and would like your help. :)  There is a company in Monterey that dredges up sand from the bay.  They sift it and kiln dry it and package it for sale.   The lady I spoke with today says it passes a through a 20 ?? sieve.  <A physical sizing... twenty average grains lined up end to end would equal an inch... about this size will fall through openings in such a strainer> Is this something that would work in a reef tank?? Thank you, David <Mmm, likely not... probably is largely silicate based... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and on to where you lead yourself through the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>

A Million Grains Of Sand...Free For The Taking? Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> We are heading to Jacksonville, Florida for a week this summer.  We are staying at a family friend's house on the beach.  Is it possible to use the beach sand in our aquarium? Brian <Well, Brian, this is a pretty common thought for us crazy hobbyists...I mean- why not? It's right there...it's free, it's...well- actually- it's probably a really bad idea! Besides the fact that beach sand is a fairly precious natural resource (in my area, the sand at local beaches helps prevent erosion, and this is really important!), sand collected near or on shore could contain all sorts of potential pollutants, ranging from simple organic silts to possibly toxic chemicals or agricultural runoff. Most of the packaged sand that we buy at the LFS is not beach collected, so it is generally free of these potential pollutants. Personally, I'd resist the temptation and fork out the bucks for pre-packaged sand. Enjoy your vacation! Regards, Scott F.>

Sand Hello and thank you for all you do :) <You're welcome> I have been reading about Southdown sand and what I have found is this.   Their supplier went out of business so they don't have the tropical play sand anymore.  I tried Quikrete and Basalite and their products are not aragonite.  Do you have any idea if there is anyone selling sand at decent prices.  I just spent $200 putting sand in my 100 gal refugium and now have to sand my 150 gallon tank. <David, I've been hearing the sand Home Depot sells is Southdown sand.  I'm sure Mr. Fenner will see this and maybe he can confirm. James (Salty Dog)> Help, David

DSB & BBT - 05/06/05 Hi Helpful Guru(s), <Greetings> With your help, I have claimed some success with my fish keeping for the past year & you people are the "gold" in our hobby. Thanks!! <Thanks for the kind words.> There has been a debate among my reefer friends on DSB (deep sand bed) vs. BBT (bare bottom tank). The DSB has been blamed as nutrient sink & BBT is the new & better way of doing it, if you are into SPS. With better skimmer technology, there are claims that one should do away with the DSB & just do BBT. <If the DSB is working for you, why would you do this? Doesn't it make more sense to enjoy/reap the benefits of both?> With BBT, you can blow the power heads any way you like & not be afraid of creating a sand storm etc... <Won't argue that...> What is your view on this issue? <I like/prefer the DSB myself. Both can/do work, But it comes down to proper husbandry and proper application of the chosen methodology. I'll grant you that a DSB may become problematic, but ANY methodology will end in disappointment if you don't bother to research and apply it properly.> I understand that DSB helps mainly in Nitrate Reduction. Right? <A primary consideration, yes, but other benefits to be had as well.> Even with a powerful skimmer only without DSB, can one get zero nitrate? <One can get zero nitrate without a skimmer OR a DSB. It becomes a matter of adjusting stocking levels, feeding, water changes, manual detritus removal, etc.> Or, the reason that BBT works in SPS tank since minimum feeding is required & hence minimum NO3 generated? <Faulty logic/information my friend. Feeding and water flow rate above lighting in my opinion (and others here) for success with SPS and indeed all type reef tanks. The idea is to find and correctly apply a methodology where you DON'T have to starve your tank.> I have a DSB tank housing SPS. Thinking of upgrading to bigger tank. How do I move the existing sand in DSB to the new tank so that all my bio filtration is intact & I need not go through the cycle of new tank? <So, you want your cake and eat it too eh? <G>.  You must understand, the sand bed is made up of layers of micro- and macro-organisms. The organisms develop and function, indeed survive at differing depths within the sand bed. It's not reasonable in my opinion to expect to move a sand bed without experiencing some mortality of these organisms.> If I move the sand just like that, I am disturbing it & may experience nutrient leach & toxic tank, right? <You may, yes, maybe.... But your biggest hazard is a brief infusion of nutrients to feed nuisance algae, the so called "toxic tank" is more myth than reality. In my experience, any "toxic gas pockets" that are released exit the water column very rapidly, facilitated by good/proper water flow, with virtually no effect on the tank inhabitants.> Does it look like my only viable way is to cycle a new tank with new DSB until it is completely cycled (i.e. 2-3 months minimum); then I can move my live rocks & my SPS over to the new tank? <Not at all. You will have mortalities within the sand bed as stated previously, but not everything will die, thus providing a "kick start" to the cycle process. You will need to monitor water parameters to be sure, but I believe it's reasonable to expect the relocated sand bed to cycle within a couple weeks or less. You might even reduce that time by using a portion of the sand to infuse life in to a new sand bed if you like. Consider the fact that you will be also adding cured/mature live rock to the system.> Gee, now you can understand why I am tempted to go bare bottom tank, no such problem in future; just move live rocks & live stocks. May I have your honest view on this matter. I would appreciate it. <Have tried to do so. Relocating a sand bed is an arduous task. I would recommend seeding a new sand bed with a sizeable portion of the old bed, move your rock and livestock, along with most of the "old" water to the new tank, and go back to enjoying the hobby my friend.> Thanks in advance. <Regards, Eric R.>

Tank question Good Afternoon, I looked on your site but didn't find the answer to this question. I am trying to decide on a substrate to use for my 40 gallon breeder tank for saltwater. I currently have a 20 gallon high saltwater tank that is doing really well. I have dolomite as a substrate, no live rock, 2 external aqua clear filters and an air supply. All of my levels are stable in this tank and the fish are doing quite well but I am going to a little bigger tank.  <I am glad this system has worked well for you, but I do have some suggestions. Dolomite is a poor buffer because it only dissolves at very low pH. Aragonite or coral based substrates work much better. Also, if dolomite does dissolve, it is very high in magnesium which can be a problem. Also, I always strongly recommend live rock, even for fish only systems. Power, trickle and canister filters are expensive, maintenance intensive and don't control nitrate. Live rock is also expensive, but requires little or no maintenance and controls nitrate. Also, unlike artificial or non-living decor', live rock never needs to be cleaned!> I'm seeing all of this talk about crushed coral and sand (DSB). The dolomite in my tank is working well but a lot of dirt accumulates in it. I do regular water changes once a week and siphon the gravel. I would like to possibly add sand to the tank, <My rule of thumb for sand in tanks is to use one of three options: No sand, coarse and shallow (4-5mm or larger grain size, not more than 3/4" deep), or fine and deep (1mm or smaller grain size and 3" minimum deep). All sand will trap detritus, so the idea is to be able to get it out or for the critters living in the substrate to process it. Larger grain sizes allow easy siphoning and critters to live between the grains. Fine sands allow critters to burrow and don't let detritus penetrate, giving large animals time to eat it. Deep, fine beds of sand also are capable of processing huge amounts of nitrate. Grain sizes from about 1-4mm are the worst of all worlds... they are hard to vacuum and very few critters are able to live in it. Whatever you choose, I would recommend that you use at least 50% aragonite or coral based substrate.> but I am not interested in having live rock in my tank. I had a 55 gallon before and all of the bugs were horrible and overrunning my tank with live rock, especially the bristle worms. They were everywhere and even in my filters. Once we broke down that tank and sold it, I found a bristle worm that was close to 6 inches long. I can only imagine how long it would have been stretched out. NICE!!!!! NOT!!!! That freaking sucker hurts when they get you!!!!!!  <I understand some peoples aversion to bugs and worms, but I am such a fan of these animals, I feel like you just insulted my mother! All of these "bugs and worms" were cleaning your aquarium for you! Bristleworms are generally harmless, and only occur in large numbers when the system is overfed and/or allows detritus to accumulate. Properly fed systems with strong water movement and an occasional "rock dusting" rarely have large numbers of bristle worms. I strongly encourage you to consider live rock and the free labor force that comes with it!><<Mmm, RMF disagrees, as will anyone who has been stuck but good by some of these Fireworms... their notopodia can have very sharp elements indeed>> Anyway, could I still have sand in my 40 gallon tank without the creepy crawly things? I just want fish and a nice looking tank. Would I be able to go into the tank for the water changes and stir up the sand a bit to clean it???? What would you suggest??? Or should I just go with the crushed coral and stick to my weekly water changes and siphoning for the new tank????  <My suggestion is to welcome the creepy crawly things! However, if you just can't do it, I would suggest a thin layer of coarse Aragonite or crushed coral substrate that gets vacuumed often. This will give you the aesthetics and allow you to remove wastes.> I know that live rock is a good thing, or so they say, but after my bug experience, I want no parts of it ever again. Thank you very much for your time. Your website is terrific!!!! Jennifer  <Best Regards, and I hope you will give live rock another chance! AdamC.> 

Crushed Coral Morning crew...  <Good morning AJ> Quick question. I'm reconfiguring a friends reef tank. He currently has only 2" of crushed coral substrate. Phosphates and Nitrates are really high, of course lots of algae. His calcium levels are also way high.. like 700ppm. He has been using pretty crappy well water for a while now.. Anyway I'm going to redo everything add a DSB rearrange the live rock add more current etc. Do you think its ok to keep his crushed coral and integrate it into the new DSB, which will be "special grade" aragonite or should I take it all out?  <Being his nitrates and phosphates are up, I would not use the cc. It is probably loaded with detritus. I'd start clean. James (Salty Dog)> 

Just How Small Is This Place!? II - 04/28/05 Thanks Eric.  < Most welcome. > Also, I recently got rid of my sand substrate because it just seemed to give me problems with making parasites linger in my tank. I want to get a fine gravel type substrate. Would dolomite and crushed coral be comparable? Do they have similar benefits or is one better than the other?  < Crushed coral is the better choice, aragonite even better. > Couldn't find anything about dolomite in the FAQ'S. < I assure you this subject is well covered...a simple Google search on the words "dolomite", "crushed coral", or even "marine substrate" will yield many hits. > Thanks again. < Regards, Eric R. >

Re: Removing/Installing new overflow Thanks Bob. Sorry if I confused you. What I basically want to do is remove the center overflow and install another smaller one in its place. The one that is in there now is way too big, its taking up lots of valuable room. And yes its takes away from the depth effect of the tank, this thing is almost 30" long, and the tank is 54" long, so you see why I want to do it. <Yes> Would it be a bad thing to remove my sand and put it in really wide/long/shallow Rubbermaid containers , with just a couple inches of water to cover it ? <Nope... should work out fine... just more work> I have 3 of these storage bins that would hold all the sand, and I would only have a few inches of sand in each , so that way it won't starve for oxygen. What do you think of that? Versus leaving it in... Cause if I leave it in won't it have die off ? Also what is the minimum time for the silicone to be in there before I put the water back in ? Thanks Bob. <Some small amount of die-off to be expected in either case... but acceptable. Bob Fenner>

Sea Sand Bed - South Africa 3/30/05 Hi guys & girls fantastic site!! I have a question: in about a month's time I am going on holiday to our eastern coast of South Africa (Durban). I currently have a 400litre tank with a medium depth sand bed consisting of crushed coral and aragonite. I was wondering if I can bring back some sea sand back from the coast to give my live sand a boost. The sand by our coast consists mostly of just plain sea sand and crushed shells. Can I use this, isn't it too fine in size ? What do you recommend? Thanking you in advance. Werner Schoeman  <There are many caveats to this. Temperate animals will not survive long in your tropical tank. Also, temperate sands may not be coralline in origin, so they won't add to buffering capacity and may contain undesirable elements. Pollution is also a concern. "Live sand" is (or should be) collected off shore in tropical regions near reefs. Best Regards. AdamC.>

Sand bed and Ich concerns 3/28/05 Hi again Anthony and thanks for your reply. In regards to these statements: "Am I missing something here? " <Yes... over-reacting on the substrate issue my friend> The reason I am changing out my sand bed is because a year ago I bought a pre existing tank in Dallas. I hired someone to break it down and move it 130 miles to Tyler, TX. Someone on the forum warned me not to use the old sand bed (which was almost 2 years old at the time) and replace it with new or else I would have problems with the tank. <OK, my friend... but please understand in the limited medium of text messaging, I had no way/reason to know or presume any of this... and the chaps advice/warning that the sand would cause problems was... well, wrong. If the sand was nutrient laden when you got it, it was a problem whether or not it was going to be moved. And if the sand bed was healthy (not polluted) then the move was no big deal. 130 miles may seem like a "long" distance... but the distance from which live rock, sand, etc travels to your from far away lands is much greater, and more severe... and yet your live rock is not a "problem" for having been moved :) The dude's advise sounds was unqualified at best.> The guy moving the tank assured me he had done this many, many times and reusing the sand bed had never been an issue. <I agree with that chap instead <G>> Since he was pretty convincing and we were running short on time I agreed to go along with using the old sand bed. The previous owner kept a journal and was very meticulous. His parameters always looked good for the most part. However, once the tank was moved to my home and the sand was dumped back into the tank and all of the LR, corals and fish were put in. My chemistry numbers were a bit out of whack and with a couple of water changes NH3 was 0 but nitrates and phosphates were off the chart. <This could be from the sand stirring indeed, but it's par for the course... and does not make the sand bad. Big water changes after any move are necessary>.> I was warned this would happen. I was doing weekly water changes that did not do any good and then started doing even larger water changes. The numbers came down some but were still very high. For almost a year I've been doing 35-40 gall water changes (120 gal tank) every one -two weeks. Sometimes a third or fourth week will slip by. <Wow... there is no way that sand could be the source alone after so many and such large water changes. If so, you would have noticed the sand was foul and polluted from the start. You need to look to another (real) reason for these nitrates.> I had gotten the nitrates down to 80 and phosphates were between 2-3. Using the Salifert test kits. I added 2xTunze 6000 streams and the numbers have gone up higher again. I've been told that the problem is with my sandbed, and that is why I am changing out my sandbed and figured I would QT at the same time. <If this gives you peace of mind... it may be worth it> I don't over feed, I use and Aqua C ev180 Skimmer and it appears to be skimming very well and I use Chaeto in my fuge. I have 16 fish and I know it's more than I should have but those are what came with the tank. (originally there were 24 fish) <Yikes! Stop wondering about where your nitrates are coming from <G>. Even without overfeeding... it is still overstocked. And the food that goes into these fishes, must come out. And the food that goes in already often has nitrate/phosphate in it> Again, the original owner never had any problems according to his journal. <Ahhh... OK.> Marc Levenson has built me about a 45 gal sump/fuge which I will have installed when I change out the sand bed. <Marc is a very good aquarist> I'm hoping that having an increased water volume and a larger area for macro algae will also help out a bit. So if this was your tank would you still just QT the hippo tang and not the rest of the fish? <The Ich issue is unrelated to the sand bed, of course... and putting all fish in QT will be more harm than good and still not eradicate your active Ich problem> I want to do whatever needs to be done, but I don't want to go overboard with it if that is what you think I am doing. I'm just going by what many people have told me to do and it does get quite confusing since this is the first tank I have ever had. Thanks again, Cindy <While its very good to always get a consensus, that only helps when you understand the science/reasons behind it. Otherwise you just get confused because you cannot discern the bad advice from the good info. My strong advice is for you to pick one local source of information that appears to be successful: like Marc (really savvy chap). And follow one school of thought until you get stabilized and gain a better understanding for what's going on. Best of luck, Anthony>

Sand in Clouds Makes Rain First I would like to thank you for the knowledge that you have provided me. I have searched your site for the answer to my questions. I have found excerpts that I think will help but when I go to the thread I cannot find the FAQ that I was looking for so I'm writing you. I bought Southdown sand, placed it in my tank un-rinsed and filled my tank with water as recommended. After about 24hrs it was clear. I then turned on my pump and the tank instantly clouded. It has been 1 week since and the cloud has not dissipated. Should I have rinsed the sand? How can I lose the cloud that I have currently? Thank you in advance for your recommendations. <Jeffrey, you should have definitely rinsed it. A diatom filter would/should take care of the problem if you want to spend the money. Otherwise, it will take some time. Definitely use carbon, but initially you will probably have to change it daily. James (Salty Dog)> 

Cleaning Crushed Coral Hi crew, >>Hello you. Marina tonight. >I love your site, I go cross-eyed reading all the information you have here. I have a question regarding cleaning my substrate when I do water changes. I have about 2" of Florida crushed coral in my 29g tank. I gently vacuum the bottom when doing water changes. Should I vacuum more vigorously or just lightly. >>Only as "vigorously" as is necessary to remove detritus. You cannot, and don't want to, vacuum it completely clean, as this is where your nitrifying bacteria live in their largest numbers. If you do want to be more vigorous about it, limit the area to no more than one third to one half the substrate. >I plan on changing substrates later when I change to a bigger tank (200g in about a year). Thanks for your help and keep up the good work. Larry. >>You're welcome, Marina - who loves alliterations!

Live sand question Hi James the salty dog or whoever reads this,  <Hi Shawn> I looked over the link and asked my local fish places about it and have decided to just go with sand only. I have one last question regarding the live sand. I remember reading one response, I could've sworn it was on page one of the live sand questions and I've re-read both FAQs twice now but I can't seem to find it again. I thought I read on one of the responses that it is ok to buy play sand from home depot to use in your aquarium and to seed it with some live sand or live rock. Is this still ok or has it been found not be safe now or anything. <I would not use it because of the high amount of silica present, additional algae food source, and it will do nothing to help keep your pH up.>  Sorry one more question, the live rock I'll be getting for my tank is most likely going to be uncured and since I'll have an empty tank and I plan to cure it in the tank would it be ok to just add the sand while it's curing or should I wait till it's done curing and then add the sand?  <Problem with that is with all the die- off from the rock, it will be harder to vac the crud up with the sand being in there. James (Salty Dog)><<RMF would like to throw in a point here... HD sells both a near-pure silicate "Play Sand"  and a "Southdown" product that is almost entirely carbonaceous... there is very little silicate content in the Home Depot Southdown product... this last should work fine.>>

DSB, etc. Hello again: <Greetings!> So, I read info on your site about LS and DSB's until I was bleary-eyed (and still have not finished). <I know that feeling as well!> I then went out and bought some Southdown Tropical Play Sand that I saw mentioned. Then I realized after putting some in, that 4" is a whopping 20% of my 55gal tank depth. WOW! <It is a trade off for everyone.> I was surprised it was so DEEEEEP. I already suffer from tank envy, and the thought of losing that much height pains me.  I read on your site that someone had a 29gal, and your crew said that they probably would not need it so deep because of the lack of size.  Is there a more accurate sand-to-depth percentage to use as a general rule that may be better? <Not that I am aware of...either very thin, like less than an inch Or deep with 3 inches on the shallow end of DSB and 4 inches + even better> maybe a surface-area-to-depth? <I've personally never heard of anything like that. DSB's are somewhat controversial, therefore opinions differ. Compare the DSB idea to the concept of a Berlin tank. They are the exact opposites yet many experts believe DSB's are the only way to go...just as many think they are just a nutrient sink. You must read/learn and decide for yourself. I had to make the same decision for my tank.> I did not catch any info on that on your site (yet).  If AQ <AQ=Aquarium?> husbandry success is truly on a case by case basis (isn't it?), <Quite frankly, people that are serious enough to read/learn about water management, disease, stocking, etc. and buy a few books will be successful in this hobby. It is the people that buy a tank, put in salt water, and start throwing in critters that leave this hobby with their wallets lighter and a chip on their shoulder. You are well on your way to being a success. Keeping learning.> How would I know without trying lesser depths that it is working or not?   <The differences will be subtle either way.> Also, I read you can siphon out your old CC substrate instead of the messy way. <Not if the CC is really big pieces. Small pieces the size of  freshwater gravel will siphon out easily. Just get a cheap gravel vacuum and hose from any good fish store. Buy the largest size you can find.> Is this by using gravity alone? <Yes!> What thickness of tubing would I need?  <See above.>   Thanks for your helping "the new guy". <Don't worry my friend. All of us were new once! There a lots of differing opinions in this hobby. You need to read everything available and then decide what makes since for your aquarium. You're on the right track! Knowledge is power! David D.>

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.>

LR/BioWheels, and Substrate Hello: <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I have a 55gal FOWLR, soon to have hearty invertebrates, 40lbs. crushed coral, BakPak2R Skimmer and Emperor 400 HOT filter with dual BioWheels.  Should I remove the BioWheels, or can I keep them running?  Is it redundant with LR?  Is my filter too small to worry about them? <If I were using this type of setup- I'd keep 'em> Also, my crushed coral is a little deep in some spots (up to 4").  I am reading this can be bad.  True?  Should I remove some?  While I am at it, can I have one side of the tank crushed coral and one side LS  (for purposes of different inhabitants?)  Thanks a bunch! <All good questions. First, crushed coral can sometimes be problematic if it's too deep. Because of its larger grain size, it tends to function as a detritus trap and pack down hard over time. As far as the 50%/50% plan is concerned, I'd just go with one substrate. If it were me- I'd go with a 4" plus live sand bed. Do read about the benefits of live sand in the FAQs on wetwebmedia.com  Enjoy!>

Lava rock for marine Hi Bob, I'll start over as I goofed up the first mail. Mark Hull here, (new FAMA author). In setting up my new 75g aquarium that I am chronicling, I am going to try some new (to me anyway) things. The tank will start as a FOWLR style with coral added after the tank matures for some time. Lighting will be Icecap 660 with 4 URI VHO (2 aqua sun/ 2 actinic). A 250 Watt MH will be added before corals. Filtration will be based on the "ECO-System style with minimal skimming. <Okay> My question deals with the base rock. I am using the "GARF" method Aragocrete along with some other calcareous/carbonate based terrestrial rock. I have a bag of natural lava rock that was mined in New Mexico. It has a lot of iron in it. Will adding some of this to the aquascape have any detrimental effects? <Likely yes... I would NOT go this route... some ferrous material is "necessary" in all living systems... but too likely not the amount you may get... have you tested this rock for such likelihood? and... The cement-DIY substrate is already problematical... If you have the room, I'd set up replicates of this system... w/ and w/o the igneous material> I am thinking the Macro algae will like it. Don't plan on adding much. Just some for effect. Comments??? P.S. Enjoy your website. <Much to discuss here... do encourage you to make small rep.s (maybe one gallon jars with foam filters)... and test these hypotheses... w/, w/o different rock material, macro-algae... and test for at least alkalinity, pH (trouble with cement)... Take a few minutes and insert the words "lava rock" in the Google Search tool at the bottom of the WWM homepage or indices. Bob Fenner>

Lava rock for marine Hi Bob, Will do some additional tests. I know already that there will be some PH problems with Aragocrete. However have well aged this in some water with "PH down", and have seemed to stabilized this. <In making "plugs" for coral propagation with such materials, we found a rather strong (pH of about 3 to start) of Muriatic (3M Hydrochloric) to be expedient... to rinse out/neutralize initial alkalinity... cheap, readily available inorganic acid... used/available through swimming pool supply outlets, tile install, and concrete businesses...> Not using too much anyway. Believe that when the "organic" coating covers the rock, it should also help stabilize this.  <Yes, agreed> Watch for my up-coming articles on this and please feel free to comment. Have really enjoyed your work, and will give you mention in future articles. P.S. Glad we finally got paid. <Thank you for all of this. Morgan.L of Inland Aquatics was kind enough to send your note along. Bob Fenner>

Basaltic cinders Bob FYI, Here is the chemical breakdown of that New Mexico lava rock. Mark. Dear Mr. Hull: Susie Welch forwarded your enquiry to me. From your description, it sounds like your rocks are basaltic cinders. Without knowing exactly where in the state those cinders were mined, I can't give you an exact composition. However, the attached spreadsheet contains chemical analyses of basalts from a few different sites around the state. Your cinders are probably somewhere within the range of compositions shown in the spreadsheet. The analyses are as weight percent of the major elements, reported as oxides. Nelia <Similar to my current understanding... this rock is used in BBQs, landscapes, and we used to go back and forth through the years utilizing it as a filter medium for biological ponds... No longer for the reasons stated in places/articles posted. Bob Fenner>

Dolomite I am not using live rock so please help. I had seen your web site. Can I put dolomite chips size 3mm instead of coral sand? Please give download. <<Greetings friend from afar. To illuminate the topic a little further, you can use dolomite as a substrate but it should be stated that it does have its limitations. Compositionally, it is calcite and does not really offer much of any support as a buffering media (until at or below a pH of 7.6 which is too low for most marine species anyway. Coral sand of aragonite composition is a much better buffer. Still, you can use the dolomite by paying slightly better attention to water quality and specifically pH parameters. There are also some minor concerns about contamination from dolomite depending on how close to the fringe of the deposit it is mined from. If you are not using a substrate filter, only use enough to barely cover the glass bottom of the tank 10-15mm. Best regards, Anthony>

Substrate for big Australian tank and Seagrasses Hi Anthony <cheers, mate!> I'd like your advice on suitable substrate/s for our 600,000L display tank,  <glad to share an opinion> remembering that the water depth will be six meters and the habitats we're to show are sand, coral, seagrass and rock. In Shark Bay there is a small bivalve (Fragum erugatum) which proliferates in the hypersaline areas to the extent where its empty shells are harvested and sold in large quantities. The processed shells are typically 8mm diameter, hard, white and I assume composed of calcium carbonate. <yes... some form of calcite> Recently the processors have been crushing this shell to a 1mm to 2mm grain size and selling it as an aquarium substrate. I was thinking of using the same crushed substrate in our tank for the "sand" and some of the "coral" sections. How thick should I make it here?  <that depends on your intent and to some extent the livestock. If you have no other means of denitrification and will consider a deep sand bed methodology in the display proper, then we need 15-30 cm bare minimum. And in such a large display... I really must say that 30-60 cm would be quite nice. The advantage is that it will provide natural plankton (nanoplankton, bacteria etc) and naturally denitrify will little support. The disadvantage is that it could be a liability with inadequate water flow and become a nutrient sick and support dreadful nuisance algae. Nuisance algae could be further mitigated if the material is rich in silica, which as a mollusk it is quite possibly so. My advice is to get a assay of the materials composition and compare it to a known "safe" substrate commonly used by aquarists or public aquaria. That will tell us first if we can even continue to consider these crushed shell as a candidate> Do you think this substrate would also suit the "seagrass" section, or would it need to be finer than this?  <I must admit... I am somewhat concerned that this is a little too course for seagrasses and good denitrification (if the bed is shallow). Here in America, we commonly culture Thalassia and Syringodium (some Zostera too) in muddy fine substrates ranging from .2 to .5 mm> I would like to grow local species of seagrass and notice that the natural substrate is a lot finer than this, and more silicon-based rather than CaCO3.  <interesting about the silica. I'm not sure if it is utilized or simply tolerated by the grasses though. Still... if the course media is to work at all... I am sure the grasses will need to be planted rather deep... 8cm minimum.> Would I be better off using the same substrate as found in the bay, or would this silicon-sand be likely to encourage diatom blooms?  <indeed... I'm concerned about excess silica in a closed system where large water changes are not convenient if necessary> Perhaps I could have some of the shell substrate crushed a bit finer if this is important for seagrass.  <if possible that might be ideal. Do know too that the dry substrate will need to age for some months before it can support the seagrasses. When you collect the grasses, you will need to collect them like plugs (large cored berths) if you are to have any chance of successfully transplanting them. Perhaps you can just take a little extra natural substrate with you and seed the dry crushed shell in those few spots where grasses are planted early while we are waiting for the rest of the bed to mature and the grasses to spread>  I notice many seagrass species have roots that penetrate at least 300mm into the sand. Should I make our substrate in the "seagrass" section this deep?  <it does not have to be quite this deep in my opinion... but they do need deep beds and anoxic conditions. Hence the need for deeper substrates if you use courser media (the course media allows better/unwanted penetration of oxygen rich water)> Is it possible to have the substrate too deep? <not likely at all... if you said you wanted it 90cm deep, I would have no complaints!> One other thing I have noticed is that the sand in the bay seems to be quite nutrient-rich - when you dig down 100mm or so it becomes a grey color rather than white and smells rather organic. Do seagrass species use nutrients in the soil for growth, or are the nutrients obtained from the water as for other marine plants?  <they derive nutrients from roots, stems and leaves... but a rich substrate is quite important> If the soil is a major source of nutrients, do I have to enrich my substrate before it will support seagrass? <yes... recommended here as per above with this soil buried in little pockets where you first transplant seagrass plugs> Our construction is still going forward, although rather slowly.  <all in good time... like fine Australian wine :) Ahhh... if only I were sipping Shiraz/Sirah right now!> At least six months until we can put water in it. Gives me plenty of time to learn all these important things :) I'll send more photos when the tank is at full height. <excellent, my friend. I'm looking forward to it!> Thanks again Pete McKenzie <Pete, do look over these links for advise on transplanting seagrasses. Some very good information on harvesting and transplanting techniques. http://chl.wes.army.mil/library/publications/chetn/pdf/cetn-v19.pdf and here: http://chl.wes.army.mil/library/publications/chetn/pdf/cetn-v11.pdf With kind regards, Anthony>

Aragamax Troubles Does CaribSea very fine (sugar or smaller) Aragamax always make the tank so very cloudy?  <Yes> I used 30 lbs of it (made live at LFS) in my new aquarium (I read and investigated thoroughly and determined that a more shallow LS bed with this very fine LS would function better than deep very fine sand - less chance of dead zones - this stuff is very fine indeed) and I had milky gray white scum everywhere.  <"Dead zones" are the anaerobic areas needed for denitrification. They aren't dead, they are by necessity, without oxygen.> The cloudy water cleared up overnight but if you disturb the sand it goes cloudy again. Also - the filter media (sponges and sheets of filter material from LFS) are hard to remove without white gray residue sliding right off and back into aquarium. Any suggestions?  Try slipping them into a plastic bag or baggie to get them out with the most gunk. Keep rinsing your sponges in *used tank water* (to keep them bio-active).> Is it always like this? Does this stuff eventually precipitate out or get removed via filters and skimming leaving only clean sugar sand that can be disturbed without major clouding?  <Yes, in time, not to worry.> I get the feeling the LFS should advise customers to rinse the stuff thoroughly with distilled or RO water until it is clear - before adding to tank.  <Then you wouldn't get the benefit of this product, which includes all of the fine material as well as the larger sand particles.> I am thinking about this now to clean filter media and water: turn off pumps to sump, remove media, then run a filter like Magnum or something on sump water only until clear. Then start pumps again. That would remove milky gunk from system. Any other ideas??? It is a real mess. <The magnum idea works great for the stuff in the water itself, run your pumps and powerheads to help get it settled while the magnum is running. It will clear overnight (mine did). Think of it this way, you just added a long time good dose of Aragamilk. It clears up! Craig>

DSB substrate question Good morning (or maybe noon, if you're east coast), <It is now the afternoon here.> I'm building a DIY refugium with a DSB. I've seen you recommend Home Depot Southdown sand before. I went to my local Home Depot and they did not have anything by that label, but they did have "playground sand." It was sugar-fine, composed of crushed marble, taken from calcite ore. <You do not want calcite. It does not dissolve nearly as well as aragonite. There was a very good article in the October 2002 issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist by James Fatherree discussing the differences.> It was labeled as over 99% silicate free. Is this essentially the same thing as Southdown? <It does not sound like it.> Would this work for a DSB or should I consign myself to the high prices of my LFS? <I would continue to search for a better product. There are several online vendors now selling Southdown like sand. I would also ask a local marine aquarium society. They could probably direct you to someone that sells Southdown or a similar product.> Thanks for your counsel, John <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

DSB substrate question Good morning (or maybe noon, if you're east coast), <Ahh Hi John, West Coast, a fine sunny morning!> I'm building a DIY refugium with a DSB. I've seen you recommend Home Depot Southdown sand before. I went to my local Home Depot and they did not have anything by that label...but they did have "playground sand." It was sugar-fine, composed of crushed marble, taken from calcite ore. It was labeled as over 99% silicate free. Is this essentially the same thing as Southdown?  <Hmm, don't know if this is crushed marble or coral? There are several versions from Southdown of Caribbean aragonite sand. Some is labeled "Southdown Plays and" and some "Playwright play sand". You are looking for Caribbean aragonite, "mined" from the Caribbean. Also, look in the Garden Dept, not the concrete dept where they will send you for sand. If the bag is from Southdown (on the back label) you can confirm the contents by calling Southdown at (800) 526-1753.>  Would this work for a DSB or should I consign myself to the high prices of my LFS? Thanks for your counsel, John <Yes. It will work fine. You may also seed it with "live" sand from your LFS or LR. Go for it, we can't get it out here! Craig>

Sandy water... <<Hi Rachael>> Hi there! I just bought a huge amount of aragonite sand and placed it in my tank. My problem is that the sand gets kicked up very easily because it is so fine. Most of it settles right away but some very very fine particles float in the water for the entire day, making it cloudy. I was just wondering if the sand that is still suspended could harm my fish at all? I was concerned about how it might damage their gills....if there's something I should do to prevent the sand from kicking up I would appreciate your advice! thank you! Rachael <<It will settle out soon. Run the skimmer if you have one and perhaps a canister filter if you have that. Otherwise not to worry too much, it settles out. As long as it isn't too thick fish should do alright. Sounds more like very fine particulate. It will dissipate.  Don't worry, be happy! Craig>>

Setting Up Live Sand How do I put my live sand in my new tank? The water is already in and circulating in tank and sump. I am concerned that it will get suspended in water and get in sump and skimmer and filters. <<Not to worry, turn off circulation, release sand at bottom. Turn it on and let er' rip! Only very fine particulates will be suspended and be skimmed/filtered out or settle. If settling in sump bothers you (most are designed to trap particulates) then vacuum that out. Remove any vegetative matter etc. from screens, filters, powerheads. Be happy! Craig>> 

South Down Sand Dear Steven Pro, Thank you for your quick response! One Last question, today I purchased 8 bags of the Home Depot Southdown sand and once home, I noticed the following changes as underscored. Soft Texture Sterilized Silica Free Not recommended to traction or aquarium use Everything else is identical including the SKU. Are you aware of this change and should I be concerned about the statement saying that it's not recommended for aquarium use. <I have eight bags myself sitting in the garage, so I went out and looked them over for the disclaimers you have seen. Mine only say that the sand has been sterilized. The silica free statement is a good thing. I have no idea what soft texture is, but the "not for aquarium use" sounds to me like a legal disclaimer or something they added to appease the other companies that sell/market their sand. I would not worry about it. I do not remember if I mentioned it previously, but I would sift the sand. I have found pieces of quartz rock in the sand. Southdown packages a lot of other materials for landscape use and there is a possibility of other things slipping in. Again, nothing to be too worried about. The stuff is so cheap, any potential risk is far outweighed, IMO.> Thanks again, Ron Allard <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Cloudy tank from fine sand hello, I just added a refugium to my reef tank today.  <excellent> I put 4.5 in of Southdown in it.  <totally excellent... DSB> my entire tank is cloudy now, which I expected,  <yep...> but it doesn't seem to be getting better.  <after how long...> I was just wondering if I could turn off the return pump for the night and just let the powerheads. will this help at all or should I just let it go? <eh... it clears within days at any rate. Run your skimmer aggressively if you like. Or keep the refugium offline until it clears while skimming the main tank aggressively. Overall it is little matter unless the tank is heavily stocked with coral and the cloudiness lasts longer than four days. Borrow a micron (Diatom) filter if necessary> thanks Jesse Lancaster <kindly, Anthony>

I was born to Rubble What a great crew. You have one of the best jobs in the world. <Yes, agreed... does not feel like a job at all> You didn't drive to/from Dallas did you? Damn, if you did and I had known, I  would have asked you to pick up my fish tank I have in storage there. :) <Ha! Did drive... and would have picked up (was some 400 pounds lighter on the return> Sigh. What did you leave in Dallas? <Four hundred pounds of Korallith, some calcium reactors and books mainly> When you have time, if you can dig around for pictures that show the Firefish  environment I would love to see them! <Mmm, good question... maybe I can use your request as a springboard for a column...> Oooh, a rubble zone article -- yes, yes, yes!!! <Call me Barney (Rubble!)> Okay, here are some questions: How deep should the rubble be? Should it be just a single layer, or towards the back of the tank should rubble be put on top of each other for several layers? <Large, chunky bits on top... finer materials down first> Do different soft corals grow near each other there or is it rather sparse? <Mixed... some species near, most are spaced a width of a colony apart or more> If only one softie should be included, should it be only one coral that is allowed to grow huge, or should it get fragged and put in several different spots in the tank? <Depends... on what you want to do (culture, cuttings), but do start all smallish, spaced apart> Should the softie (colt, finger, toad stool, whichever it is) be on a bigger piece of live rock, or should it be on the very bottom of the tank, getting a foot hold in the rubble? <Species dependent as well as what you want to look at.> Okay, if I read correctly last night, you think an inch or two of sand covered with rubble would not cause Cyano or algae. Wouldn't it be a nutrient trap because debris would get caught and then decay in the sand rubble? <Not much... in a vivacious growing system, there is little nutrient to uptake> You could always try staying up all night and then all day... <Too old... have memories that used to be able to when I was a pup... but  probably just dreamed that bit up. Bob F> I know I could do that ten years ago! MM <Ha! Make that your age back for me. Bob>

Rubble Zone Tank Hi Bob, <Hello Madison> How was your Indo trip and MACNA? <Fabulous on the first, and just back and shaky from driving to and fro to/from MACNA... it was very nice> I've been thinking about the rubble zone tank... I'm not sure if it can work. <Why not?> If I take 1" of sand and then throw in rubble found in dealers tanks and hammer live rock into little pieces to create rubble over the bottom of the aquarium, what would be my biological filter. <Yes...> Not the sand, it will not be a DSB. A DSB would not work with rubble everywhere, it needs to be open. There would not be as much live rock as in most other tanks, so the rock isn't going to do it. If I did it this way, would I just be creating a great environment for algae blooms and Cyanobacteria to thrive in? <Not likely> If I didn't put the rubble in and went with a 4 - 6" DSB, well, it  wouldn't be a rubble zone anymore. Any thoughts on making a rubble zone work? <As they say in the Nike ads, "just do it"... am sure the rubble by itself and likely with deep sand would be fine> Do you still have jet lag? <You are like myself... "para" sympathetic, yes... still not "caught up"... and suffering for it. BF> MM

Old Substrate Hi Bob & Experts, It me again. I shifting to a new tank soon. 1) Should I put my old sand substrate into my new tank? <You can answer this question better than I. Is there some beneficial quality to this old substrate, a lot of life?? (The nitrate level in my old tank is very high) 2) If place old tank sand substrate into my new tank, will it have any harmful effect? <Again, is it full of detritus and devoid of critters?> 3) Where should the sand be place? Top, middle or bottom? <Bottom> 4) There are lot of debris in the old sand, should I remove it before putting into new tank ? <I would not want to recycle dirty sand unless I could remove the dirt and also save the critters.> Thanks again, Danny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Milky water question not answered here... Hey guys. <<And hello to you, JasonC here...>> This site is the coolest thing I've ever seen. <<Glad you enjoy it.>> Anyway, my problem. I am starting up a 125 (sold as a 125, but if you do the math, it actually only holds 110....how about that?) So I am doing what I am supposed to do and then some, or so I thought. I am fairly sure I have the same problem as another writer who didn't wash his substrate and got "milk." I didn't wash mine very well...120 lbs, and I only spent an hour total on the rinse and add procedure. So, my bad. <<Rather than rub it in, I'll quickly mention that some substrates, like the popular Southdown sand really can't be rinsed - the particles are too fine. But if your substrate is 1-2mm granules or larger... then, well...>> My problem now is what to do with it. If I have all my filters and skimmer and heads and all that jazz going, how will the dust ever settle? <<So don't run all the jazz, just enough to get water circulating and perhaps the skimmer as well. I would also consider running a magnum canister filter or similar device which would allow you to filter out the fine particulates.>> Oh, and do I need more than 2x36 inch Coralife 20000K fluorescents to have LR? <<The live rock should be fine with this.>> The tank is 20 inches deep. Thanks for all you do. Matt Kraick <<Cheers, J -- >>

Adding more substrate Hello all! I will be adding some more sand to my bed soon to increase the depth from approximately 3" to around 5-6". Is there any recommendations you can give me on the procedure? <Sure> I remember reading something along the lines of putting the "dead" (new) sand on the bottom and the "live" (old) on top. <Having done this myself several times for client's tanks, I can tell you that if you could somehow magically lift the existing sand, maintain the layers, and place the new sand underneath, that would be the best way. But, there is no way you can remove the existing sand without mixing the different layers. Generally, I remove the water, liverock, and fish and then push all the sand to one side, add new sand on the bottom, move all the sand to the other side, add more sand to the opposite side, and then level it out.> Can I mix it instead? <Somewhat like I outlined above.> Do think it would be better if I removed my livestock before doing this since there might be some silt? <Oh yes!> Also, I am fighting a battle with my rocks, of which I am losing. First my carpet decided to move to a different side of the tank when I upgraded my pumps, but along the way he decided to knock over all my rocks with his foot! Since then, my balancing act has failed. I have tried using epoxy to cement the rocks together, but it doesn't hold. <Yes, epoxy is not really a glue. It merely fills in the pore spaces and attempt to hold things in place.> I am beginning to think that I should have cleaned off the rocks with a toothbrush before using the epoxy. <It would have had little effect.> My rocks have a plethora (Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of pitas? Yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora. Jefe, what is a plethora?) of feather dusters, so when I take the rocks out to clean and cement, how long would be a safe amount of time so they won't die? <A couple of hours if kept damp. They did survive many hours in shipping, but you do not want to replicate that.> Please Help in Houston, Kim (One month till MACNA! Whoopee!) <Do be sure to come by the WWM table and say hi! -Steven Pro>

Southdown Sand Which Home Depots have Southdown sand. Home Depot near me do not. RGibson <<Greetings Ralph... Home Depot has a ridiculous number of stores around the country and there's just no way for us here at WetWebMedia to keep a tally of who keeps Southdown sand in stock. Your best bet would be to either ask this question of Home Depot directly or perhaps pose this question on our forum, http://wetwebfotos.com/talk where you can get a diverse set of opinions. Cheers, J -- >>

Lava Rock and other stuff. Hello guys, how are you today? <very well, my friend... I hope you are well too!> I'm setting up a 60 Gallon Marine Tank. It will measure 123 Cm. x 51 Cm. x 36 Cm. I will put two 40 watt bulbs (1 actinic and 1 daylight) and I'm planning on making my own sump instead of buying a Tidepool 2. The pump I will be using is a MagDrive 1250GPH. ( I think this will be enough) <indeed enough water flow but perhaps add more daylight tubes in the future for light> I found two bags of lava rocks in my house, you know, those used for the charbroilers? I already boiled them in water and now I have them in a plastic box with salt water, an air diffuser and some Stress Zyme each day, to colonize the bacteria on them. <whoa!... don't put them in the tank and don't bother buying such enzyme products at all... rather a waster of money for most> Today, a friend told me that lava rocks are the worst for marine aquariums, because they have heavy metals and toxins. Is this true?  <yes... it may very well be true. Indeed some risk involved here since lava is volcanically formed. I would never recommend it. Carbonate material is always better> I even have a very good book that tells me that they are the best.  <I wouldn't be surprised if it is the CIG series... a poor and inaccurate reference> I'm only planning to put them in one of the media bays in the sump, because in the aquarium I'm planning to put normal live rock. What should I do? What is the best biological filter for the sump? <if you use it... I don't think it is likely to kill animals, but may impart nutrients for a terrible nuisance algae bloom> What can you tell me about the bed? What kind of sand should I use and how deep? <less than 1/2" if just for aesthetics, 4+inches of sugar fine aragonite sand if you want denitrification> Is the SEACLONE skimmer good?  <it has a BAD reputation with aquarists> I live in Venezuela, and stuff here is very expensive. This skimmer that in the US costs $99, here costs $230.  <my goodness! Many folks here wouldn't even take it for free let alone pay good money for it! What other brands are available to you?> Is it possible to put it in the sump? <there are many models that can go in the sump> My LFS tells me that keeping the salinity at 1.019 will keep the Ich off and other parasites and the fish live happy. Is this OK???  <it is OK but not exactly true... the lower salinity is more favorable to the fishes and less favorable to the parasites, but there is no guarantee that it will prevent Ich. My friend, you really must have a small quarantine tank to all new fish, rock and invertebrates in first. Please read through our WetWebMedia site for advice on QT protocol... it is critical to success. Please never put a new animal directly into your tank from a LFS or anywhere!> what are your suggestions? Thank you very much for your time. Julio Grossmann <with kind regards, Anthony>

Substrate/Alkalinity Q's Cheers, Anthony or Steven. I'm sure Bob is having a great time in Cozumel, I have snorkeled there myself a few times, I would live to go diving there but when I go more then a few feet under water it feels like my head is going to explode. <I feel the same way about Alk questions... now what was your question.. Oh, riiiiiight <G> Anyways I was hoping to get your guys opinion on the substrate I was planning to change. Currently I have about 3 inches of crushed coral (mistake # 1),  <oh, ya... detritus pit> I see what you guys mean by detritus trap. So before placing my live rock, I siphoned really well and removed about 2 1/2 inches of the cc where I placed the rock, so there's about 1/2 inch or less under/around the rock.  <Very good!> The rock was placed last Sunday and I did a water change last night and the cc around the rock was almost as dirty as the 3 inch section of the tank.  <hmmm... shouldn't be that bad> I fed the fishes very little during this time period, my water flow isn't great but I don't think it to be that terrible either.  <Ahh... most people drastically underestimate the need for current. In a fish only tank 6-10X is minimum... with reef and live rock displays you need MUCH more. I have about 1500gph in my 50 gall reef and is barely looks like I have moderate flow!> After I minus the head pressure, flow is approx. 1500 gph on a 125 gal FOWLR.  <yes... not bad at all... may just need to be more strategically adjusted> I just want to get this substrate/depth thing correct because I have another 45lbs curing right now and am going to order another 90lbs in the next few weeks and don't want to have to disassemble the rockwork every week to siphon the cc. I have since gotten 100lbs of fine oolitic sand by E.S.V. I couldn't even guess on the grain size but I would definitely say it is finer than sugar.  <excellent... I like the grain and brand just fine> This is where I am totally stumped, it seems like everyone is in agreement here in not having a DSB in a heavily stocked tank with messy eaters as mine.  <is it more challenging as much as I love DSB> The label on the sand states it can provide denitrification in as little as 1.5 inch depth  <I disagree that this happens in many tanks... more often than not no> but I fear this depth is too much for my tank. BTW tank mates are vol. lion, wolf eel/Dottyback-not sure witch is the proper name, niger trigger, yellow tang, Naso tang.  <the eel is the only one that will stir the pot too much> Do you agree with removing the cc and going with the fine sand at a depth of a 1/2 inch or less?  <the 1/2 of sand is fine once you get the water flow adjusted or upgraded. You should have enough flow so that detritus stays suspended and is carried to the skimmer(s)> If you guys agree with the sand should I first place the rock on bare bottom and then pour sand around the rock or sand first then rock on top?  <that's how it would be done> I currently have 90lbs Fiji rock, is it ok to add another 90lbs Kaelini rock or just stick with another 90 lbs of Fiji?  <your call> One more thing if I may? I have currently seen my ph rise from the 8.1/8.15 to the 8.25 range or better just from aerating over night and mixing salt for a day or two in advance.  <excellent> Currently using the Kold Sterile system and then I aerate the new water overnight, it then reaches a ph of 8.35 and Alk of 4.9DKH,  <very low Alk> I then add salt, no buffer and 24hrs later readings are ph 8.22-8.25, Alk 16.8DKH.  I have the Kold Sterile plumbed so that it could precede the tap water purifier/DI to lower my alkalinity, could I just mix up 20 gal of the Kold Sterile water and then 20 gal of the Kold Sterile water followed by the tap water purifier DI and then I should be able to reconstitute the water to more appropriate values? <more appropriate for what?> I have yet to use the twp with the Kold Sterile but when I used just the twp I was lucky to get 30 gallons and got sick of replacing them. I still have a cartridge left over from about six months ago that was only used for about 5 gallons and it is still damp inside, is it safe to reuse this cartridge?  <yes> Calcium after a water change is about 380 but I refuse to use any calcium supplements until it reaches 350 for fear of this snow storming event I seen a lot about since my Alk is on the high side. I really value your guys advice, thanks so much. Mike <the Alk is a bit high if it lingers long... but the Ca under 400 and the Alk slightly over 12dKH is fine and can continue if consistent through regular water changes. Both levels should not me max high but one at a time is safe. best regards, Anthony>

Re: Sand & Stars Hi, thanks for your prompt answer. <<Hello, you are quite welcome.>> In your mail you said that "perhaps it's time to put a little more sand..." but Anthony says "5 inches or more or 1" or less... right now I have a 1/2" - 1 1/4" from the front to the back of my tank... <<I had to call Anthony on the phone to make sure we both sing the same song. To clarify without putting words in his mouth, it is his observation that an inch or less is a zero-sum; no harm, no benefit. In between one and three inches is certain disaster - the sand bed will be neither anoxic or anaerobic. Something between 3 and 6 inches is best advised - three is great, four is better, five even better and so on.>> So I think I will run for a Brittle star... (one? two? <<depending on the size, one, perhaps two, no more.>> my tank is a 200 ltr with sump) My actual animal inventory is: 1 damsel yellow tail, 1 damsel blue devil, 1 tang, 4-5 blue legged hermits, 4 Turbo snails, 2 little peppermint shrimp, 1 banded shrimp. nothing will fight with the Brittlestar?? <<There aren't many things that 'fight' with brittle stars, the Seastar would bail out rather than fight.>> Thanks again. Carlos <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Crushed coral to sand Hi Bob and thanks for your info on my copper problem...here's another one for you. I just decided today that since I'm going to have to get rid of my copper filled crushed coral,  <very wise> to upgrade some and I have a question for ya. I purchased a Amiracle wet/dry filter and am going to get rid of my under gravel filter and go with a sand bed. How thick should I go with the Arag-alive sand.  <IMO the so-called "live" bagged sand is quite unnecessary if for no other reason than price. At best it has bacteria in it... does that mean the sand simply wasn't washed before it was bagged? It certainly doesn't have zooplankton, Polychaete worms and most of the things that aquarists regard as desirable components of live sand. For that you can get a handful (literally) of live sand from an established aquarium (LFS, aquarium society member, friend, etc) to inoculate a bed of cheap dry sand and all will become live very well in as little as two weeks for a lot less money (and not supporting a misleading practice)> I have two tanks I'm going to do this with...the first being a 110 gal and the other a 55 gal. Thanks Robert <the depth of the sand depends on your purpose and the livestock kept. Small fishes and reef aquaria where denitrification is desired will want more than 3 inches (ideally 5+) of sugar fine media (like Southdown sand from Home Depot... see message boards). For large fishes, messy fish or frisky foraging/burrowing animals the sand bed may need to be rather shallow (1/2 inch) and denitrification accomplished through other means including extra water changes. Best regards, Anthony>

Marine Substrate Dear Anthony, Steve, or Bob: I have a 65 gallon reef tank with approximately 100 lbs LR and has about 3" of crushed coral substrate on the bottom. The tank dimension is 48"L x 24"T x 12"W. As you can see the tank is quite narrow. Only ? of the substrate is exposed, the rest is under the rock. All the information I got from your website suggests a substrate of crushed coral just not the way to go due to its tendency to trap debris. Based on the suggestion, last week I went out got few bags of tropical play sand by Southdown. <Lucky you to live in an area with Southdown.> I know the best way to go is to replace all crushed corals with sand however, it just too much hassle with all the LR, coral, and fishes. <And the preferred way.> The easiest way is to vacuum the ? exposed crashed corals trying to get out as mush debris as possible then gradually add about 2" of sand on top of the crushed corals let it filled the gap. <A bad idea.> The more difficult way is to take out the ? exposed crashed corals (by vacuum?) and replace with 5" of sand. <Better, but you might as well bite the bullet and do it all.> I like to have your opinion as which ways is more beneficial without put too much stress on the inhabitants. <If done right, removing everything and adding a new DSB should not be too stressful for you or your fish. First, mix up some new water, maybe 20 gallons. Then, siphon off clean water into a bunch of buckets. Then remove the liverock into more buckets. Catch the fish as you can and place them into the buckets of clean, old water. Scoop out all the crushed coral. Add the new sand and then liverock. Next, slowly pour the old water back into the tank, taking care not to disturb the sand too much. Add your fish and then top off with as much new water as needed.> As always appreciate your expertise. Thank you. Wayne <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Aragonite's Impact on pH and Nitrates Steven, I just went to the LFS and purchased 20 lbs. of the 'Natural Ocean Bio-Active Live Aragonite Reef Sand'. Is this a good product, how does it rate? <I have never used the product myself. We have Southdown in such abundance in Pittsburgh that I have little experience with anything else. As long as it is sugar fine grain size, it should be ok. FYI, I do not put much faith in any live sand that comes prepackaged in a bag and sits on a dry goods shelf.> I am hoping this will reduce the nitrates and maintain pH in my 180 gallon fish only setup. <Twenty pounds is going to be hard pressed to do anything in a 180 gallon tank.> I have 2 connected sumps, the second sump has the return pump and skimmer. <If you can, the skimmer would operate far better if you had it receive raw tank water, pre-W/D filtered.> The first sump is the Wet/Dry with about 12 X 12 inches extra space. Where's the best place for me to lay down a sandbed and how thick should I make the substrate? <Wherever you can place it and 4-6" thick.> I have Caulerpa in there just sitting in the water but it has not grown much. Any help would be great! <Having the Caulerpa attach to grow would help.> Thanks again, Chris <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Set-up (See you in the Louvre... section) The Louvre was mentioned on your website http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reef2.htm in the FAQ section under the subtitle "Is Plexiglas OK in saltwater? <<Ahhh, ok. I see now.>> It is also referred to as egg crate <<and this is the term I am familiar with.>> - was wondering whether it should be level with the sand, above the sand or have a space between it and the sand for the critters to clean under and for me to blow the detritus out from under. <<Hmmm, I am personally not a fan of this type of aquaria management... better to get some Nassarius snails and their ilk to help keep the substrate clean. But... you can use eggcrate if you please, and I would place it in small pieces on top of the substrate - the goal here being to elevate the live rock for easy cleaning.>> By the way - I have been to the Paris "Louvre" - neat place - didn't have enough time though to see it all. - <<Don't I know that one... it's hard to soak something like that in all in one day.>> Thanks <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

How much live sand? Great incredibly informative website. <Thank you from all of us.> I'm setting up my tank (reef) for the first time since the great Northridge Earthquake with the following parameters: 60 gallon Aquasystem with built in wet dry <You may want to consider removing the W/D media.> Fluval 304 canister filter (ceramic media removed) 90lbs live Fiji rock (in 2nd week of curing) Remora Pro protein skimmer One Powerhead Lighting ?? (2 fluorescent and 2 Blue actinic) I can't remember the name but I purchased from Marks Tropical Fish in Studio City. My question is this: How much live sand should I have? 1.5"? 3"? <For reef tanks, I prefer to use a 4-6" deep sand bed, DSB.> Is live sand better than Aragamite? <Live sand is generally seeded aragonite sand. I usually use almost all dry sand which I seed with liverock and/or some live sand. I would purchase the live sand that is not already prepackaged.> Which would you prefer? <See above notes.> Darrin from Sherman Oaks, California <Good luck to you. -Steven Pro>

Sand bed  I have a question regarding my newly set up aquarium. I put about 60# of aragonite sand in my 75gal. Well its all clear and nice but if you move anything like when I try to clean the glass with one of them magnet cleaner the sand lifts off the ground and makes that area cloudy for a little bit before it settles back. I have a dry/wet filter going power hears going....and I rinse the sand some when I first threw it in there. I don't have anything in there just the sand as of now. I am waiting for my live rock. Thanks for your help Jose <fine aragonite will commonly do this... it is not harmful at all... rather beneficial to stir on occasion for the sand bed health as well as liberating detritus for the skimmer to extract>

Re: Marine Fish only & sand beds Anthony, Just a quick thanks. That cleared up a lot of questions.  <very welcome> The fiberglass casting for rock sounds very interesting. I've seen it used in public aquariums in walking areas, but didn't realize it could be used inside the tanks. I would have expected it to fade or release small fibers or particles.  <many colorfast dyes and colored epoxies to detail/seal/color the product nowadays> I will search the net for more info on this method. If you know any resources for learning this method, please send it to me. If not, don't worry about it and thanks.  <I'll have to ask around for current info on techniques. I know that some artists are using mask making F/X methods to add flexible and moving features to the structures!!! Very cool and realistic> Seriously! You guys have been a huge help. My fish are almost smiling from the recent improvements in living conditions the Wet Web Media education system has brought them. Rich <it is a pleasure to hear it my friend. Best of luck and long life. Anthony>

Substrate Hi Bob, Steve, and Anthony, I've been looking over the FAQ's on substrate and somewhat confused still. I am building a reef tank. I'll eventually be getting live rock among fish and corals. I just recently bought and placed CaribSea Aragonite Special Grade Reef Sand (1-2mm in size ) inside the tank about 2" deep (44 gal corner...no water yet inside). I did read from Steve(?) that he had this substrate and was not happy. <Yes, it was I that wrote I have that sand and am not happy with it.> My question is this, just short of buying something else, how deep should this be exactly. I've read from 1/2" up to 4". I'm worried about the toxic pockets that may be produced if there is too little or not enough of aragonite. I also read about placing a screen mesh over a portion with another layer on top. <This is probably your best option. Use fiberglass screen for windows from a hardware store. On top of that, I would add another 2" of very fine grade sand.> Not too familiar with that nor what that does exactly. <The fine grade of sand is better for critters to live. Having inoculated my sand over a half dozen times, this particular grain size does not seem to encourage worms or much of anything else. The other benefit of the fine sand is it stops detritus from settling between the grains of sand.> Also, is it necessary to place a small amount of live sand on top of the aragonite. <It is nice for inoculation, but you could also use your liverock.> Thanks for all the help. Mike from Cleveland <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Replacing Crushed Coral <<Greetings, Mike. JasonC here... >> I want to take out my UGF and replace my CC with sand. <<A good plan.>> When I do this is it going to wipe out the bacteria that I currently have. <<If this is the only media housing the bacteria, then yes, you could either lose your biological filter or at the very least set it back a notch. Would you not just pour the new gravel over the old once the UG filter plates are removed? This would likely work fine as long as you have good water flow within the tank.>> I also have fish in my tank. Can I do this with them in there? This is a 55gallon tank FOWLR. <<Well, the UGF removal and gravel addition is going to cloud up the water for at least a day or more. If you have the facilities to house the fish elsewhere while you do the work, then do it. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Cheers, J -- >>

Bob, (or Steven) <Do not forget about Antoine.> I am using a 3 inch sand bed of crushed coral. The only form of filtration I have is 173lbs of live rock (Fiji) with a junky protein skimmer (hang on by Instant Ocean) and the DSB. I will upgrade tanks when I move to a 72x24x24 from 60x24x18. I would like to use my 160lbs of substrate to save money but I don't want to lose my corals and fish either.... I have about a dozen coral from colt poly's to an Anemone (which has tripled in size) I have a few tangs too (yellow, purple, blond Naso, hippo) a clown, 6 line wrasse, 2 lawnmowers and a Goby .... about 60 snails and 50 hermit and one emerald green... So what should I do about the substrate situation? <I stand behind my original suggestion. If it is in UG, keep it damp and keep it. If it is a static bed, I would toss it in a heart beat. From a maintenance point of view, I would not want to have to gravel vacuum such a large tank, so I would be looking to spend the extra money and save myself tons of work later. -Steven Pro>

Substrate Hi guys, Bryan here, it has been awhile. I have a few questions. First is regarding substrate. Setting up a 75 gallon FOWLR. In the main tank am going to add 1/2"-1" of Carib sea Arag. sand. Adding a 20 gal tank under the stand for a DSB w/ more LR. Is it alright to use the sand for a DSB or better to use s/t like special grade reef? <Better to use the fine grade of sand. I have the Special Reef Grade and do not like it/do not recommend it.> Also I read on the F&Q that I can set up the 20 gal refugium w/ DSB and LR w/o any lighting. Is this fine if I decide to go this route? <Yes, is fine for cryptic animals (sponges, etc.) but adding lighting would diversify the refugium.> Last question. I am looking for egg crate to go into my sump and can't seem to find any. If you have any suggestions please let me know. <Most any hardware store. It is used for overhead fluorescent lighting fixtures.>

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