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FAQs about Marine Substrates 4

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 3, 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,

Different substrates for different organisms: Botrylloides sp. A gorgeous Ascidian. Here in N. Sulawesi.

Make A Sand Decision Hi Bob, I wanted to get your opinion on the great sand debate. <Actually, Scott F. here today> I have read dozens of opinions on using normal play box sand from HD (by Paragon), all negative.  However, not one of these people admits to ever having tried it, they just all "know" it's bad.  Do you have direct experience with this or a similar product?  It seems ridiculous not to use it if it's actually OK and only "folklore" is stopping us.  What do you think? <Well, there may be some merit to the opinions. I personally have not used this product, but I have used the infamous "Southdown" play sand, and it works quite well. It is an Aragonitic product, and provides a lot of good benefits (calcium supplementation, proper grain size for denitrification, etc). I have heard that many regular play sand products contain a lot of impurities, ranging from metals to silicates, so what appears to be a great "bargain", could actually be an expensive mistake! Do check with the manufacturer, if possible, as they may be able to give you some idea as to the composition of the sand. Hope this helps! Scott F>

Re: seeding substrate Hi Guys! We have a 75 gal reef that we are in the process of moving to our (new) 225 gal.  The 75 has a substrate of crushed coral and Carib Sea seafloor grade (larger diameter) aragonite. We plan on using 5" of Home Depot's play sand in the new tank. My question is:  can (should) we put the old substrate under the new sand in order to seed the new sand? <Or amongst> How about putting the old substrate in the sump (which now has about 3 - 4" miracle mud). <Okay> The old tank has been set up for a long time, and I hate to lose all that "good stuff" that is in the old substrate. Thank you kindly for your assistance! <A few places you should peruse on WWM. Please start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and read the Related FAQs (linked above, in blue) and: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the Related FAQs... and: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm and... Bob Fenner>

The Sands of Time...(Sandbed Dissolution Rate) Hi guys, <Hey there! ScottF. with you today!> Have a question regarding substrates.  Starting my tank and have a 4.5" DSB with pure Caribbean aragonite.  I have been reading that aragonite dissolves quickly.  My question is how quickly? <To be quite frank- I don't know of any study that has been done that revealed specific rates of sandbed dissolution in closed systems. There are a lot of factors that come into play, such as the ph, alkalinity, etc. Suffice it to say that Aragonitic sand beds will "passively supplement" (as Anthony would say) your calcium level over time with this dissolution process. However, I'd suspect that this will occur over the course of a year or so...Try making a mark at the top of your sandbed (in a location where it is unlikely to be disturbed by digging fishes, currents, or maintenance activity), and then glance at it on a regular (like every few months) basis to see if the sandbed depth has decreased. this is, admittedly a crude, unscientific method, but it may give you some idea> I have a 75 gallon tank.  I was doing some reading in Anthony's book and he suggests a DSB of 5-6" b/c of this.  Also, when and how should this be replaced to keep at a 4-6" depth?    <Again, I'd "mark and measure" periodically to determine when you need to add more sand...I'd simply add it on top, and spread it around carefully...Nothing to fancy! Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F>

Just a little sand? - 3/10/2003 Hi - a really quick question: <Ok.  Scott V. here with a quick answer> I have a 75 gallon set-up with 75lbs of live rock (Fiji and Bali), running a Remora Pro, carbon, power heads, etc.  I have a percula and a three stripe damsel (some hermit crabs), and am still stocking the tank.  I want to add a Tang, maybe Gobies.  I would also like to add some inverts down the road. My question is, I received some advice and have about 3/4" of Tahitian Moon Black Sand as substrate.  Now, this is not aragonite - do I need to add live sand, or an aragonite based substrate?   <I would replace entirely, but in this case is more dependent on what you desire as the end result> Will the Tahitian Moon cause any problems in my tank? <Not directly.  I believe that sand is silicate free so it should not directly cause any problems.  However, with ?" you are adding no benefit either, while detritus can accumulate in the sand resulting in nitrate problems.  The higher nitrates will result in having to scrape algae much more frequently, which is something we all enjoy so much.  There is also no benefit in maintaining the Ph and calcium levels.  I would remove as much as you possibly can and replace it with aragonite, as either a deep sand bed or plenum.  In http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm , under "Gear/Components" you will find links to FAQ's on both Deep Sand Bed and plenum set ups.> Thanks for the help, <No problem, and enjoy!   Scott V.   > Jason

DSB or Crush Coral in a Reef tank Howdy Guys, <Hi Annette, Don here tonight. > I have searched your website for a clear cut answer to whether I should convert my 75 gallon cc substrate to a sb or DSB.   <Wow, if you find any clear cut answers in the hobby/obsession, let me know will ya? > My plans is to have reef/fish system.  The bioload will be at it's limit with fish.  This is the plan for fish; 1 fire goby, 1 yellow tang, 1 flame angel, 1 regal tang, 1-2 common clowns, 1 royal Gramma, 1 algae blenny.  As for corals and such I don't plan on having any real delicate specimens.  Starfish, mushrooms, anemones, maybe an open brain coral are some possibilities. <Hmm, the tangs will need a lot of territory and may become aggressive with each other and other inhabitants> This is my problem I cannot decide if I should convert to a sb or DSB with these specimens.  I read somewhere that a DSB has a tendency to accumulate wastes but also heard that it helps with nitrates unless a high fish bioload is present.  I am very religious with cleaning about every 8-10 days with a 10 gallon water change.  Currently we have an Eheim filter, lg. protein skimmer, power heads, and will be purchasing a UV sterilizer and about 75 lbs of live rock. <All sounds good!> Any direction on what to do would be very helpful. <I believe that with the addition of corals the DSB advantages will outweigh the disadvantages. You may need some additional cleanup, burrowing snails will help with this. I am having good luck with Nassarius and Cerith. At least in the sugar fine sand, the matter 'sits' and doesn't get trapped in the substrate. If you decide not to go with the DSB, a sugar fine bed of less than 1" would be the other option. The CC (crushed coral) traps a lot of 'gunk' Hope this helps, Don> Thanks, Annette

DSB or Crush Coral in a Reef tank Hey Don, Thanks for the quick reply.   <No problem> Hopefully I will have good luck with the Tangs, what you mentioned has been a concern of mine too.  I am still waiting for the availability of a good regal tang specimen, hard to find.  We saw one today at the LFS and it was badly beaten up and was constantly running into things, plus it had very bad color (Ick maybe).  Could you believe he would sell it for $45, normally $90, I wouldn't even pay $5 for a fish that looked that bad. <Very wise, too many folks buy a fish that looks 'healthy' even though others in the same tank are obviously diseased. Or, believe they can nurse it back to health. I your case, it would have been silly. Kudos>         Just to let you know for people who are looking for good fish at a good cost tell them to check out Saltwaterfish.com.  I have had outstanding luck with them.  The fish arrive healthy with gorgeous colors and no nipped fins plus they have a 6 day guaranty. and free shipping on orders over $75. The draw back is some fish are not constantly stocked like my Regal Tang. They also carry corals and invert. plus live sand and rock with free shipping. <Stay the course, buy healthy livestock and you are on your way to a lot of fun! Don> Thanks Annette

Substrate A real quick ? The dude at the fishy store told me the best substrate is sand with perhaps a small amount of live sand in my 75 gallon tank.  Right now I have 1/2 crushed coral and 1/2 crushed Aruba Puka shell.  He said that this may cause a problem with Nitrites...is this true?  Should I go with sand?  If so - how deep? Thanks for your help! Jeff Wagner <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked pages (in blue, above) re your questions. Bob Fenner>

Ick & new tank, should I replace gravel? Hello !           I am in the process of replacing my 80 FOWLR w/ the built in filter in the back ( pain ! ) to a 100 gal w/ sump below & a Aqua C EV-120 skimmer. In my 80 gal I had Ick & moved my Des Jar tang to QT w/ copper & fresh water dips. It has been 2 weeks since I moved him. When I receive my new tank I was going to use the old crushed coral & live rock to put back in the new tank & then allow another 4 weeks till ( 6-7 wks total ) I put my tang back. Should I use the old crushed coral, and will this amount of time allow for the Ick to be gone? <Could, and should> I replace the gravel completely, I was thinking of going to sand if I should? <Can and yes, better> If I do replace the gravel do I need to let the tank cycle over again even though I will be using the existing bio-balls & LR ( 65 lbs. )from the old tank? <The system should not take long to (re)cycle if at all> Any other thought would be appreciated !          Thank you so much for your help once again !              Darrin PS - do you know if there is special cement for acrylic that is used in a aquarium ? <Look for the "Weld-On" brand... folks use a few different "numbers" depending on flow characteristics, cure time... Bob Fenner>

REEF HELP Hello Mr. Fenner, <Craig here tonight> I hope you will reply, I need help. <We always reply!> I have a 30 gallon reef with a magnum 350 pro, a BakPak 2r skimmer, 1 PowerSweep zoomed 228, JBJ lightning, no sump or plenum, and an 1" crushed coral gravel. Parameters are; ammonia= 0, nitrite=0, nitrate=10ppm, phosphate is high. I have a couple of mushrooms , 1 button polyp, 3 peppermint shrimp, 1 maroon clownfish, and lots of snails[ Ceriths, Astrea, Nassarius]. All my other corals died summer 2002-too hot, no chiller. In about 2 weeks I'll be getting some corals and fish from a friend, and I want to get the system running well before that.  I'm also getting a little extra algae, I guess due to the nitrate and phosphate. I recently put a denitrator-carbon-PhosGuard mix to canister to lower the numbers. <Check source water, increase water changes, change filter media in canister before it produces nitrates. Re-evaluate feeding in addition to testing source water for phosphates.> I don't think there is any denitrification going on in the gravel cause it looks dirty below with algae and red brownish stuff. <No, exactly the opposite, it is going wild with all the waste trapped in the crushed coral producing nitrates. Trapping food and phosphates as well.  This isn't the best substrate.> I know its probably because of the 1 inch that's not enough. <And too coarse, allowing food/wastes to be trapped. Needs regular maintenance.> My friend also offered me some live sand, can I add the sand on top of the gravel or should I remove all gravel altogether. <Remove the crushed coral all-together.> I would like to just add about 2 inches of live sand on top of the gravel, but don't know if this is beneficial for the tank. <Nope, you entrap the problem wastes.> Please help, eventually I would like to get rid of canister filter. Any advice. Thanks, Andre <No need to get rid of it, it is useful for carbon and chemical filtration like you are using now. Best of luck!  Craig>

Re: Substrate? Sorry bob, love your book by the way. I sent an email asking why I would have to remove my crushed coral if I wanted to add live sand to my tank I plan I  adding 20-30 pounds <Mmm, you wouldn't necessarily have to remove the one for the other... they can be mixed. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the related FAQs (in blue, above) beyond. Bob Fenner>

Substrate, canister filter removal <Greetings, JasonC here...> I hope you can give me some advice. <So do I...> I have a 30 gallon reef setup with a magnum 350 with bio or pro-wheels, BakPak 2r skimmer, 2 zoomed powerheads and JBJ 144 watt white-blue lighting. Also about 1" coral gravel substrate. The tank uses no sump, and  no plenum; It has been running for about a year. Ammonia =0, nitrite=o, nitrate=10 ppm. Right now all I have is a couple of mushrooms, an orange polyp, 3 peppermint shrimp (great Aiptasia eaters), and a small maroon clown. All other corals died last summer, too hot-no chiller {learned lesson - bought a chiller}. I am concerned with the nitrates and the fact that I think the coral substrate is becoming stagnant {no denitrification going on here}. <Well... it's not deep enough to promote denitrification. You need a true deep sand bed for that - at least four inches, five to six would be better.> In about 2 I'll be adding several corals and fishes from a friend, so  the nitrates will skyrocket. I want to get things ready so I already added some SeaChem combination carbon - PhosGuard + denitrator media. I should have used sand instead [I know], Can I know add some live sand on top of the gravel { my friend is also offering some live sand} or should I remove all crush coral. <I think you can mix, but you really need a good deal of sand, and I'd get started on this now rather than later.> I've also thought about removing canister filter and going with just a sump, but I have no clue how to do this. <Well, start by making sure you've got other filtration and circulation that will speak for the loss of the canister - then, simply remove it.> For now I would really like to add some live sand but don't know if I can, and in the future would like remove canister altogether. <You can do both.> Please help me with my immediate problem and also advice on how to build a sump. <For sump building, please read our FAQs on the subject: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sumprffiltfaqs.htm > thanks Andr?br><Cheers, J -- >

Substrate depth on new tank Hi guys, <Hi Greg, Don here today> I have a quick question regarding Marine Substrate? I've got a 55 gallon tank with about 45lbs. of live rock and about a 2" layer of Aragonite across the bottom. Is this too much? Is it too late to remove some of the sand? The tank has been cycling for about 2 weeks now. Also, would it be beneficial to place the live rocks on some eggcrate? Thanks in advance. <Well the recommendation is for less than 1" or more that 4". You do not say what the end game is here so some assumptions have been made. Since the tank is brand new, I think I would remove some substrate and try to sell it to a fish buddy, or save it to replace your substrate down the road (store dry and as air tight as possible). This may add a week or so to the cycle process, but remember: good things are worth waiting for. I do not believe it is necessary to put the rock on eggcrate for long term. Don> Regards, Greg

Crushed Coral Depth? I have had my SW tank for 9 months and have been adding live rock (now 52lbs in a 55 gal tank). Reading your web site and others this past week I became concerned that my 55 lbs (Carib Sea, Florida, 5-10 mm) crushed coral substrate was too thick (approx 1.5 - 2 inches) - I am not using an UGF and the articles mentioned to keep the substrate to 0.5 - 0.75 inches in this case as it mentioned a couple of gases that can develop that are toxic to the inhabitants (fish and corals).  This morning I read an article on your site that encouraged a thick bed (see excerpt below): Substrate question I have about a 2.5 inch bed of crush coral in my 55 gallon tank. I want to add another inch of Flamingo Pink on top of the crush coral, is this OK or will it kill a lot of my biological in my crushed coral? Also would the Flamingo Pink be ok with gobies (stirrers). Thanks, Jim >> Should be okay... density, size wise of the new/old substrates... with the gobies as well... but will the two mixing together be okay with you looks wise? They will. Bob Fenner QUESTION: Can you please tell me what the best approach is as I am very confused on how thick the substrate should be. <Well, there are lots of different opinions here. The prevailing thought is that sand beds (or gravel beds) under 3 inches in depth are too deep to be fully aerobic, and too shallow to foster complete denitrification processes. With coarse substrates, such as crushed coral, there is the added concern of detritus accumulation. With proper substrate maintenance, and the possible inclusion of sandbed "stirring" animals, this type of bed can be successful...just keep an eye on things> I am also sharing the rest of my setup for any general comments/feedback: 55 gallon 52 lbs live rock and crushed coral substrate Magnum 350 Canister with 2 BioWheels (2) MaxiJet 1200 and (1) PowerSweep 228 Coralife Power Compacts 260W (Actinic and Daylight) Skimmer - Prizm Supplements: SeaChem - Calcium +3 (Saturday), Buff (Sunday), Trace (Tuesday), and Vita (Thursday) Feed only frozen foods (varied) QUESTION: SeaChem Reef Success Calcium +3 is easy to add, but is this a Calcium Chloride rather than Calcium Hydroxide?  Should this concern me enough to change this to something else (Kalkwasser, B-Ionic, Kalk, etc.)? What do you recommend? <Not familiar with this particular product, although I think SeaChem makes some excellent ones. You may want to contact them regarding the specifics of the product's application> Livestock: Rabbitfish, 2-Percula Clown, 1-Purple Firefish, and 1-4 stripe Damsel Janitors: Serpent Star, 2-Emerald and 2-Red leg Crabs, 11-Snails (Astrea, Bumble Bee, Turbo, Margarita) I will start to add coral over next few months and a Mandarin Goby in another 3- 6 months. <I'd avoid the mandarin altogether in this tank, to be perfectly honest. To many competitive feeders. Although I commend you on holding back on adding the fish until your tank is further established, I think that it's really a fish that needs a setup dedicated to its specific needs and dietary preferences (like amphipods and copepods)...> QUESTION: Any feedback you have on this setup and the direction I am going in will be greatly appreciated. <Sounds okay so far. You didn't mention anything about maintenance procedures...I'd utilize smaller (5% twice weekly) water changes in this tank, to really get to nutrients before they have the chance to accumulate and degrade the water quality. Also, you may question yourself on the use of the vitamin and trace element additions...If you are conducting regular water changes, you are usually replenishing these substances in the process. If misused, these products can lead to nuisance algae blooms. Finally, make sure that the skimmer is cranking out at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky stuff a week> Thanks for all your help - both with the questions above as well as your extremely informative web site - it is a tremendous service to the hobby! <So glad you find it useful! It's our pleasure to be here for you! Keep reading and learning, and enjoy your tank! Regards, Scott F>

Pure Aragonite Sand - 2/23/03 I have read Dr. Shimek and 1300+ Southdown posts. <Makes a man out of ya> Do you have any experience with  "Pure Caribbean Aragonite from Petroglyph"? "Grain sizes vary from 0.18 to 1.2mm, perfect for reef systems." Allegedly oolitic. <Actually, I use Nature's Ocean oolitic in my 30g Indo Pacific lagoon tank. A little expensive but I really like the results.> They sponsor some web sites. <Yes, very good about supporting the industry.> I would be having it shipped in and need about 280lbs. <are you doing a 4 to 5 inch deep sand bed?> I have Googled your site with no luck. <Hmmm.......you're right don't see it anywhere........in any event I am sure it is a fine product. Check out the many aquarium forums and see if anyone is using it in their tanks. Get some opinions/reviews. In any event, I like their aquarium calculator tool for finding the pounds needed for sand bed depth in an aquarium. Good site overall. Thanks for the link. Paul> http://www.purearagonite.com/facts.html

Southdown sand - 2/20/03 One last thing on this,<sure> I see that people are buying sand from Home Depot? <Southdown play sand> What is the name of the product that their getting? <do a search here on WetWebMedia with Southdown as the keyword for more information. Paul - out> Southdown follow-up 2/20/03 and here I am looking at the bags at the shop for $15 $16 lol thanks guys! <No problem. Do read through the search results regarding the Southdown sand. Have fun. Paul>

Re: sand or gravel hello I would like to know if there is a preference between using sand or gravel in the bottom of a freshwater fish tank. and if so what is the benefit of the preferred. I am going to set up a new tank and am considering using sand. I live on the coast and was wondering if it would be safe to take sand from the local beach or river and put it in the bottom of the tank.  If I boiled the water would it purify the sand? <These issues are covered in various places on our root web. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and on to the linked files (in blue, at top) for complete information. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Shane

Southdown vs. other sands - 2/21/03 Sorry to bother you again <no problem.> I've got a local ace hardware mere blocks from my house and my question is this IS there a difference or something special about the Southdown play sand that makes it preferable to other "play sands" the ace near my house carries their own brand of play sand, could this be used just the same? <Not the same type of sand by a long shot. Please look through the WetWeb Google search tool as this topic has been covered many times here. Use Southdown as the keyword. There is some really great information there. I would not use the Ace Hardware over the counter play sand, if it were me.>  It's $2.99 per bag, not that that's relevant LOL.<Yeah......it's just money! Who cares about that?!? Paul>

Re: Southdown vs. other sands - 2/21/03 ok thanks, <my pleasure> I will have to get some from the shop then, as the home depot near me doesn't carry the Southdown. <yeah, same here. Are you on the West Coast? This stuff is mined in Florida and seems to only be distributed on the East Coast for the most part. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Sorry to hear that Southdown is not available in your area. Check out the links from the search. Interesting stuff there. You can always see if someone can freight it for you. Check around the forums here and at other sites as sometimes it is offered there. Good luck! Paul>

Aragonite sand  - 2/15/03 HI Bob , <Anthony Calfo in your service> Is Southdown sand considered fine sand? <yes... sugar-fine oolitic/aragonite> and is it good to use for a DSB. <the best in my opinion at 4-6" or more> I have a fifty five gallon tank with about 3 inches of Southdown sand. <That would be the minimum for efficient denitrification IMO> Some corner areas are turning black . Is this normal ? <Yes, likely... unless you notice a sulfur smell (rotten eggs) which often indicates a lack of good water flow and/or stirring in the tank> .Tank has been running for 4 months.    <Ahhh... no worries, the tank is too young to go anaerobic without extreme neglect (not likely here). The coloration between the glass in sand is limited to that thin film/area and is from indirect light causing dark algae> I was going to raise this to 5 inches this weekend . Do you think this is a good idea or should I leave it the way it is and get more sand sifters? <Both if the sand sifters are hardy (like bullet/dragon gobies or blue-spotted yellow watchman gobies> Thanks  Chris <best regards, Anthony>

Substrate depth/marine Hello Mr. Fenner, One last question, Hehehehe..... Flying Fish Express suggests that I purchase about 90lbs (3") of substrate for a 55 gallon tank, preferably Aragonite (or 60% Aragonite and 40% live sand). I think I remember reading on your site that a 1" of substrate will do fine (that's if you don't have a UGF). What do you recommend? thanks, Greg <The one inch will be fine. Bob Fenner>

Adding more sand Hi guys awesome site!!!!!!!! I have a 125ga reef with about 200lb of assorted live rock, It currently has about a 2" Florida live sand bed (when started it was for looks) I would now like to change it to a 4-5" sand bed can I put the new sand right over the top of the existing sand or should I move the current sand ? I plan to add bag sand to what I already have <Check here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm Basically if you go slow, 1/2" at a time then wait a week or two for the new top layer to establish life and then add more> I am also in the process of building a 450ga aquarium (fish only) in which I will be using a sand bed, how long do I need to wait to pull sand from the tank above with the newly added sand to get a good amount of critter to spike the new tank? <If you follow the plan above, then the sand should be populated a few weeks after the last layer has been added> thanks in advance            Bill

Depth of CC   Hello Everyone:              I currently have a 90 ga. FOWLR tank. I recently rearranged all my live rock and cleaned my cc substrate (filters went into overtime).  How deep should the cc be?  I am thinking that I overdid the depth due to the results seen by my filters.  Tank has been up and running for approx. 1 1/2 yrs. No problems so far with my parameters. Thanks for your assistance on this matter.           Regards,                                                                                             Mendy1220 <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked FAQs and articles (in blue, above) files. Bob Fenner>

Sandbed Stuff Hello, how is your Monday afternoon? <Not as good as say, my Friday afternoon! Scott F. with you!> Mine is full of questions.  Yesterday I did a major reef tank overhaul after reading your thoughts on marine substrates and all of the FAQ's.  I pulled out a 1.5". crushed coral bed over a plenum (recipe for disaster) and replaced it with a 1/2"-1" super fine sand bed. I'm still waiting for the "milkiness" to go away. I read in a FAQ answered by Anthony that it will "disappear". Does it really dissolve in the water (disappear), or just settle? <I think that it just settles...eventually!> Surprisingly, I never had any problems with water quality before due to frequent/small water changes. <That's my kind of technique!> Should I expect any changes in water quality with this new sand bed? <Actually, you should see lower nitrate levels once the sandbed really gets going, assuming that you're shooting for a "deep" sand bed (like 4-6 inches). A 1/2 inch sand bed won't assist with denitrification to any great extent. However, if you're just looking to cover the tank bottom- 1/2 inch will do the trick. There may be some negative effects initially, as you are removing an active biological bed and replacing it with a "dead" one...just monitor water quality carefully> I also read that vacuuming is unnecessary and that sand sifting stars, brittle stars and hermit crabs (I have all of these) will do the sand bed cleaning/disturbing. <I would avoid siphoning deep into the sand bed (assuming you construct a deeper one), as you will end up disrupting the very processes that you are trying to foster. You could use some purposeful creatures, like brittle stars and cucumbers, to assist you in the "maintenance" process.> Thank you for all of your help in the past and in advance for this query.  Have a great Monday. <And you a better Tuesday! Regards, Scott F>

Piggy the Lionfish Hi Guys and Gals << Don in tonight. (or is it Dawn.....)>> I am thinking about putting a DSB in my 55 FO tank with my lion fish Piggy.  I have seen several methods on your site and came up with my own.  I want to place a 2.5 gal rectangular fish tank inside my current fish tank, fill it with sand with a PVC pipe and then let it sit for a couple of weeks.  After the waiting period is over I will remove all the crushed shells and spread the sand around and remove the small tank.  Then a couple of weeks later I will add the remaining sand to bring it to 4" deep.  Sound like a plan? or am I just being anal about letting the sand and shells mix.  <<Hmmm, haven't tried/heard this, but am wondering if the sand simply won't 'scatter' when you empty the tank. But hey, experimentation is the mother of invention, or something like that (never was good with cliché?) Let us know how it goes.>> Thanks as always for your expertise. <<Yup, and your welcome Bryan (and Piggy)>> Bryan Flanigan

Playing In The Sand! Bob: <Scott F. here tonight> 55g FOWLR, 2 Tangs, 2 Perculas I am going to convert my crushed coral substrate floor to a nice white sand (can you recommend a type/brand?) <I'd recommend any of the Carib Sea oolithic aragonite products, like the "Aragamax Sugar Fine Reef Sand".> My procedure will be to move my LR to one end of the tank, then scoop out the CC by hand until half of it is gone, then add the sand, move all the LR back on the sand floor and repeat the process at the other end; how does this sound to you? <Sounds okay- but if you're replacing "live" sand with dry, "dead" sand, I'd do it in thirds, changing out 1/3 per week, to allow some time for bacteria to colonize the new material. If you do it all at once- there is a good chance that you'll experience an ammonia strike due to a high percentage of your tanks biological filtration processes being disrupted> If that's ok, how would I go about actually placing the sand?  I mean do I dip the bag down to the bottom and slowly pour it out or what? <The classic, "clean" way to do this is to pour the sand through a wide diameter (like 3- 4 inches) piece of PVC pipe, cut slightly taller than the depth of the tank. Easy!> My purpose for doing this (to make sure I'm not off base) is stop the detritus accumulations in the substrate and also for nitrate control) <Then you're gonna want to go for at least 3, and as much as 5 inches of sand. You'll notice a great difference in nitrate once the sandbed gets established!> Many thanks for your help! <Our pleasure! Good luck with this project! Regards, Scott F> David

Playing In The Sand (Pt. 2) Scott: <At your service!> PVC idea worked great!  Easy as pie!  Boy that sand looks a million times better than the coral rubble... course it looks a little weird at the moment as only half the tank is done - kinda like a beachfront almost <Hey- nothing wrong with that! LOL> - I went somewhere between 4 and 5 inches in depth... Looking forward to next week! <Yep- take it slow...You'll appreciate the results of being patient> (One week is enough time to allow the sand to become "live"?) <I think a week between "additions" of sand should be okay. You may want to "juice it up" a bit by adding some healthy live sand from a reliable LFS> Thanks heaps! <My pleasure! Good luck with your new sand bed!>

Substrate Replacement Clarification Hey folks: I was reading the dailies, and Don wrote: "You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached."  1) what is a horizontal bed run?  2)Why such a small area at a time?  If my math is close, your talking over a year of substrate replacement! <<Hi Rich, while I don't disagree that it will take time, the size of the tank/amount of substrate change/addition will dictate how much sand to add/replace at one time. The bottom line becomes, you don't want to cover up so much of the existing substrate that the beneficial bacteria/live forms are destroyed with a resulting ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike. (Unless you are prepared to re-cycle the tank) Maybe a better over all response would be to go slow (as always) test water quality often. Your (or someone else's) mileage may vary Don>> Thanks, Rich

Substrate for FOWLR I plan on starting a 150 gal FOWLR and would like to know what the best substrate might be.  there will be a dogface puffer and a clown trigger.  no plans for any other fish.  I'm not sure if I should put a thin layer of something down or a DSB.  if I go with DSB I already have the sand, just not sure if there would be any downfalls to it. thanks Jesse <Mornin Jesse, it is really up to you, with big messy fish I would go with a thin layer of substrate that is easy to vacuum and keep clean, a DSB may become overwhelmed by these fish and their eating habits.  I like sand over the more coarse substrates because it is easier to keep clean.  If nitrates are a problem  maybe add a fishless DSB to the sump?  Maybe more LR? Take a browse through our DSB FAQs for some inspiration. Best Regards, Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm >

Substrate size/replacement? Hello Crew, hope you're not too busy ;) <<sure beats work!>> I've had my 55g tank running for about 7 months with just a 1/2'' substrate. <<Reef or FO>> I've decided to add more and go with a 3-4'' DSB <<4-6 is recommended>>. I'm wondering if it's a problem to go with all sugar fine sized aragonite sand? <<exactly what you should do>> I was thinking of 3 30Lb bags of this sand. Would it be better if I went with 2 bags of this and 1 bag of slightly larger granules? <<Mixing size has been done, but not recommended. For the sugar fine I used, it took about 80# to get 1 cubic foot. Don't think 90# is going to do it for you>> Another option available is that I have 1/3 of a 20Lb bag of slightly larger (but not by much) sand left over from before. Is that enough to mix with the sugar sized sand? <<see above>>One more thing...after rinsing, should I just add it all in at once? <<most recommend not rinsing sugar fine. You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached. You might use a 4" pvc pipe as a 'funnel' to get the sand to the bottom without covering all the landscape with silt. Go slow and you will be OK. Thanks again guys, you guys are lifesavers ;) <<Hmmm, I know CPR but that is about it ;) Don>>

Marble chips Hi Jason, <Hi.> Thanks for all the info today, you guys do a fantastic job.  I just looked up Marble Chips on the net and everything I have read from scientific papers says that Marble, is calcium carbonate. <I'd be willing to bet that if you entered the words "calcium carbonate" in a search engine, you'd have pages of material. It's a very common compound - but marble is very different from coral skeletons in solubility - the speed and/or willingness at which that calcium carbonate is released into solution.> Here is a little extract: Limestone chips (i.e. a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate) or marble chips (i.e. also a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate). http://www.ucc.ie/ucc/depts/chem/dolchem/html/comp/cacl2.html A sample of marble chips is massed on an analytical balance. The chips, calcium carbonate, will be allowed to react with nitric acid to form carbon dioxide, water, and soluble calcium nitrate. This will result in a noticeable loss of mass. http://jchemed.chem.wisc.edu/JCESoft/CCA/CCA1/R1MAIN/CD1R1210.HTM Just thought this might be of interest to you. <Honestly, it doesn't - I've had my share of organic and inorganic chemistry. But the fact that your little quote explains the use of nitric acid, should reveal to you the nature of marble - it doesn't want to give up it's calcium that easily. Marine aquaria are essentially 'basic' environments on the pH scale - between 8.2 and 8.4 - certainly not as acidic as nitric acid. Marble will not dissolve in a timely manner under the conditions of a marine tank. I don't know how else to say that marble chips are not appropriate substrate for a marine aquarium. They 'will work' as a covering for the bottom of the tank, but will add little to creating a natural marine environment. Cheers, J -- >

Crushed Coral versus sand Hi <<Good Day to You!>> I am new at marine set ups.  I have a 65 gallon marine aquarium.  I have 80 lbs of crushed coral in the tank.  However, on reading most articles including your FAQ I notice that sand seems to be the choice of all of you.  I plan to get the live rock soon and am just trying to get the salinity and ph working first.  My question is, is there a difference in using the crushed coral and if so, will it work for the reef tank that I eventually want to have running? KC. << As you have read, a deep, sugar fine, sand bed is the recommended solution at this time. This does not have to be in the main tank. You can setup a deep sand bed (DSB) in a sump or in a refugium, both of which will make your life easier in the long run. If you don't have a sump/refuge then 4-6 inches in the main tank would be recommended by most. The reason for this are many, but the crushed coral is at least going to be a detritus (fish gunk) trap and you don't want to go there! Don >>

- Re: FOWLR Setup - Hi Jason, <Good evening...> Thanks for speedy reply.  I just pulled this off my LFS website.  Can you comment on the suitability of shell grit at all?? <Is one of the main components of crushed coral and the like - all calcareous [containing calcium] materials.> However, it is highly recommended to use a carbonate based substrate in marine aquaria, as this helps keep the pH stable. Marble is the most readily available option. Coral sand is also a good substrate, but it can no longer be imported into Australia so is difficult to get hold of. Shell grit can also be used, but you should ensure it is very clean. <I'm not a geologist, so I can't comment on the calcium content of marble, but I'd be very dubious about the solubility of the stuff. Calcium-based sands and crushed coral readily break down over time via natural processes in a marine system, supplying trace amounts of calcium. I'd bet that the same can't be said of marble.> Thanks mate Glen <Cheers, J -- >

4" is too much Hi All! <cheers> Hope your night is going well!  Freezing over here in SC.   <please... <G>. I'm in Pittsburgh. The low tonight is 1 F. Literally. And that is without factoring in wind chill. :) Take the skirt off... SC chilly. Ha!> Once again, I have to say, your site the greatest.   <Whoops... so sorry for harassing you. Ahem... Thanks kindly, dear friend <G>> I sometimes wonder how many more dead fish there would be floating in tanks around the world, if it weren't for the advice you all so generously dispense! <rather smelly to think of it. I suppose I might never eat sushi again if I gave it due consideration> I've read every word I can on substrate, but I still have a bit of a problem.   <just one problem? :) > ok., o.k., I want to stray slightly from the norm (and know it), I just want to know if there's anything I can do to make up for it somewhere else.  Here's the deal: What I will have: >- 75G Reef w/ 20 gallon sump. >- total of 1250 GPH of circ. >- 100 lbs of Fiji LR. >- AquaC EV120 skimmer (running full time) >- using RO/DI water to mix >- should wind up being light on fish, but eventually heavy on corals. >- fine sand for substrate (how much? that's the rub. see below) >- 15-20% water changes/month Here's the question.  I have even gone so far as to tape strips of paper to the bottom of my tank to visualize what it will look like, and I'm sorry, but I just can't take the look of 4" of substrate!   <OK... if you seek natural nitrate reduction, how about a refugium with 6"+ under the tank (downstream)?> I really want to stick to 3", if at all possible. (BTW- less than 1" would look even weirder IMO) Is this really going to be a big problem, given my above setup? <yes... if your goal is 3", and you seek NNR... it will be precarious. I'd recommend less than 1" instead just for aesthetics if you like> And if I had to sum up my question in 1 sentence?  Is the above with 3" of sand going to be good enough, and if not, is there ANYTHING I can do to make up for the lack of depth?   <as per above good sir> I know, I know, I really should have a deeper bed, but I really don't like to 4"+ or less than 1" look. <not necessary to have a DSB if you don't need NNR and don't want/don't need plankton> Thanks you again for generously supplying endless advice!  I, and I'm sure others, greatly appreciate it. Eric <our great pleasure :) Anthony>

Substrate WWM Crew, First I would like to thank you for answering all of my questions quickly and efficiently. My 120gal. fish only tank is recently undergoing changes to become a reef tank as they are much more challenging and rewarding.  So far I have added more live rock, (approximately 90 total lbs. and will hopefully end up around 130lbs.when another shipment arrives.)330 watts of actinic lighting and 110 watts of daylight lighting, Amiracle wet/dry filter with Mag return pump, (I forgot the model but it pushes about 400gal/h.) and one Maxi-Jet 1200 powerhead but I'm waiting for the other one to arrive.  I am also trying to put money aside for a high volume protein skimmer but a firefighter's salary isn't exactly luxurious. <I'm a teacher by day. HA!> I currently have an undergravel filter plate with approximately 1 1/2" of crushed coral on top (recipe for disaster). <Yep> I want to add a fine grain live sand but I don't know if I should put it on top of the plenum and coral or remove all of it and only have sand. <If you're going shallow, go very shallow. Like 1/2 inch with no UGF or gravel underneath. Just a 1/2" sand bed> Now for my second question: Deep sand bed or a Berlin style "sprinkling"? <If I were redoing my sand bed, I would build and install a plenum system and I wouldn't use UGF filter plates for this purpose. Author Bob Goemans offers convincing evidence of plenum effectiveness> Do fine grain sand beds require vacuuming or only a simple water change? <Always vacuum out any obvious detritus that is sitting on any sand bed> I know I cheated and asked three questions instead of one but it would be greatly appreciated if you could help me out. <You got my ideas! Hope that I've helped. David Dowless> Thank you.

Bare bottom vs. sand Hey guys how are you doing? I really don't want to sound like very one else that writes you, but WWM is probably one of the best websites on the net.  I won't even mention how addictive it is. <I know what you mean, but it is the only healthy addiction I have.> Anyway my question is regarding substrate in a reef tank.  Every local store that I look at recommends running bare bottom.  Their argument is that it will be more successful that way and it's easier to clean up. <I don't know about more successful, but it would be easier to keep clean.> Personally I really don't like the way it looks.  I would really like to know how much of maintenance will it require to have sand? <not much, siphon it every once in a while.> Also should I just stick with live sand or will it make no difference if I mix it with regular substrate? <Not sure what is considered regular, but if you want sand I would stick with sand, if you want crushed coral, go with crushed coral.  Any substrate will eventually become live, starting with live sand is just a jumpstart for the biofiltration.> What is your opinion on this? <If you are going to go with sand use either less than 1in, or more than 4in.  And check out these FAQs on DSBs -Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm > Thanks you very much for your time Pavel S

Sand beds Hi, I wonder if you could refer this email to Anthony.  Hi Anthony, how have you been?   <keeping busy my friend> I just moved my 90G FOWLR to the basement and will be moving my 125G Reef this weekend.  I belong to MAST and MASK (Marine aquarium society of Toronto and Kitchener respectively).  At our meeting last night, a good friend who has recently been introduced to your book, advised me that my 3" sand bed is not a good idea and I should change this during the move.  He referred me to page 94, and sure enough you recommendation is 1/2" or 5-6", nothing really in between.   <the meat of the matter is that the advice given is geared to the masses. Actually, sand can be maintained successfully at any depth. Most aquarists though have inadequate water flow, overfed or overstocked systems and need denitrification. As such, a deep sand bed (DSB) will support this inevitable reality or... the shallow bed will not amplify it problematically. The concern with in between (1-3" depth) is that it is neither deep enough for adequate anoxic faculties nor shallow enough for efficacy aerobic faculties. You still make in into the recommended range of 3" or more that the industry commonly cites as a bare minimum for NNR (natural nitrate reduction). My advice for the extra sand prevents the need for you to add sand frequently to stay above 3" for NNR> My reef is 5 1/2 years old and I can't say I have had any issues (probably luck?).   <not luck at all my friend... if your nitrates are near zero, I'd say it has simply been good husbandry on your part> So my question, should I either remove the Aragonite to 1/2" levels or increase to the 5-6"?   <May be very fine as it is. If you have any concern about present or future nitrate accumulation (desire for more fishes, extra feeding, growing corals, adding corals, etc), then perhaps extra sand will be helpful to you> As the tank will have to be emptied this is the ideal time to make a change. <agreed> Thanks for all your help in the past, BTW tank parameters are all fine!  Larry <excellent to hear! Best regards, Anthony>

Substrate Questions? Hello WWM Crew! First, I saw one of the post that made some negative comments about WWM. I totally disagree.  Your dedication to the hobby is fantastic.  You have always responded quickly and accurately.  Please keep up the good work!  Thank You.   <Hi Tracy, Thank you for the support!  It's much appreciated.> Now a little history - I have a 55 gallon saltwater tank.  I want to move towards a reef tank.  It has about 80 lbs of live rock, CPR protein skimmer ,and about a 15 gallon sump.  It has been running almost a year with no problems.  Recently, (I had sent a question about this)  I have lost some fish and I do not know why.  I lost a yellow tang, and a couple of green Chromis.  I also lost several snails.  What I have left in the tank is a Maroon Clown, a yellow Coris wrasse, and Banggai Cardinal and a small yellow tail damsel.  The Banggai Cardinal is not eating and has not for all of a week.  I tested almost all parameters and all are good except kH is a little high.  (With a Hagen test kit.)  I have ordered Salifert  test kit.  It should be here Monday.  From what I read this should be a better kit.  I still do not exactly what happened, but I have a question.  When I set the tank up, I asked a lot questions at a local fish store.  Since then I have realized that not all their advice is good.  (I was told that a domino damsels is a peaceful fish and would be compatible with most fish.)  When I set up the tank, the LFS recommended a 2 inch layer of extremely fine sand on the bottom of the tank and then another 2 inch layer of a courser aragonite substrate.  The bottom layer is much finer then sugar.  It is very compressed or compacted. Could this create a problem and if so what would the symptoms be?   Thank You Again. <What was your nitrates like? Your feeling about the sand my be accurate in that it may be trapping contaminants and detritus and not have a good structure to provide denitrification and releasing wastes and their byproducts into the water. My own reaction would be to vacuum the upper levels of the course substrate, perhaps then occasionally mixing/stirring the top layers with a powerhead (over time so as not to release too much waste into the water) until this has been done to the entire substrate, break up the lower level of fine substrate.  This will by necessity incorporate some of the course material into the finer material increasing some water circulation. The courser particles should help resist compacting and to make this a deep sand bed with denitrifying capacity which won't trap and release wastes and their by-products. There is much more on this topic regarding particle size, texture, etc. at WetWebMedia.com in the live sand pages of the marine section.  Hope this resolves your problems!  Craig>

Playing With Sand And Moving Water! Hi guys, <Scott F. your guy today!> I have a live sand question.  Talking to the rep from Pure Caribbean and he had mentioned seeding my DSB with 10% of total percentage of tank substrate with a live sand. <Good idea, IMO> My question is this.  He said, "do not get that bagged/packaged stuff", make sure it is good quality."  What does this exactly mean?  I have never dealt w/ live sand and not sure where you get good sand from. The online merchants I looked at never did tell how it came (Premium Aquatics, Marine Depot etc...). <Well, I think what the rep was referring to is the so-called "live" sand that comes in the bags. These products are essentially inert sand enriched with a bacterial solution. Live, yes- but not filled with a diversity of life that you want from "true" live sand. Many etailers offer "live sand" that has been collected from, say, Fiji, or cultured in their own facilities. Most of these places offer sand that has a variety of worms and other desirable life residing in the sand. Alternatively, you can use "dead" sand, and get a "starter kit" from a place like Indo Pacific Sea Farms (my personal favorite) containing some of the desired infauna to "kick start" the sandbed.> Quick question about pvc plumbing.  I believe the Dolphin Amp master web site says not to use a flex pvc or sweep fittings (what are sweep fittings?) why is this? <To be perfectly honest, I'd consult the manufacturer on this one. I would not deviate from the suggested plumbing arrangements!> The dolphin site gave specs on figuring head pressure according how many feet to add if using 90, 45 degree angles etc.. but it never said anything about "T"'s.  And last (sorry long winded).  I have been researching different ways to return water to main tank w/o the use of powerheads. Possibly going with manifold return.  IYE what are some different ways you have seen that are affective at good returns?  Thanks Bryan. <Well, Bryan, I've seen some neat manifold returns that worked great! They were placed above the tank, and plumbed to a line that ran in a loop around the tank's inside perimeter, with lots of outlets along the way. Amazing water movement if done right! Also, I've seen closed lop systems plumbed to Sea Swirl return devices that are wonderfully effective, too. Lots of neat ways to accomplish this. Check out the do-it-yourself site OzReef for lots of neat ideas, or pick up Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation" for other possible setups. Good luck, and have fun! Regards, Scott F>

Southdown Sand While researching the availability of Southdown Play Sand I discovered this piece of information on the Southdown/YardRight web site. "Helpful Tip. Since YardRight™ Tropical Play Sand has been purified at high temperatures before packaging, be sure to add some moisture to return it to its natural state. Moist sand makes for better sandcastles. Not suitable for aquarium systems and traction purposes." Should I be concerned about this disclaimer?  Has anyone heard of problems using this in the aquarium? The link below is where my search started. http://products.crabstreetjournal.com/southdowntropicalplaysand.html <Thanks for the note, Rex.  Each one of the 60 or so bags my friends and have used in our aquariums, have this same statement printed clearly on the front of bag. Nobody I know has ever had any problems (over the course of at least two years) with the Southdown sand. -Zo> Regards, Rex Merrill

Southdown sand use? I was wondering what you folks think of south down sand for the marine aquarium. There has been a lot of raving about it on the net and in some forums. I would like to know what you thinks about it cause I am about set up a new tank and can get a real deal on 40lb. bags of it.  Happy new year, James Wesley <It's a winner! Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm, the FAQs linked (at blue, on top), or just insert the term "Southdown" in the search tool on the homepage, index... Bob Fenner>

Discoloration through glass of sand bed Hey guys, Happy New Year!!! <and to you as well> I have anywhere from 1" to 2.5" of live sand in my 90gallon tank.  In some spots along the length of the tank I can see, from a side view, that there is red or green algae growing in the sand. <it is natural algae growth from the indirect light received through the glass... and it is not throughout the sand bed> However, none of this algae is apparent from looking at the top of the sand.  \ <understood> Is this something to be worried about?   <harmless> Water tests are still fine, etc... From an earlier conversation with you guys, you mentioned that I should have a half inch or 3+ inches of sand.   <agreed to have least amount of work maintaining this bed of sand. Not necessary to change though if you stir sand, keep strong flow and don't overstock or overfeed the tank> What is the reasoning behind this and should I be worried?   <this topic is covered extensively in the archives my friend. Do browse on wetwebmedia.com and navigate the FAQs on the subject. The gist of it is that the bed is too shallow to be fully anoxic and too deep to be fully aerobic. There is potential of it becoming a nutrient sink> Is there anything I have to do? Dave <besides navigate the archives from the index page <G>? Kind regards, Anthony>

PVC. SUBSTRATE ?????????? Hey Guys...I can't get this thought out of my head, so hopefully you can lend your opinion...I love the appearance of coralline algae in my system...Since coralline really likes PVC, and PVC is aquarium friendly, could I mix some ground PVC (1/8" in size) to my existing crushed coral substrate, (of similar size), to foster the growth of such...My goal is to add some "character, if you will" to the ugly bottom of my aquarium, and as an anticipated result, inhibit the future growth of undesirable algae...Please let me know what you think... <Worth experimenting. I suggest you place the bits of PVC in a plastic or glass tray to see if you really like the look... easier to remove if not. Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance, McKenna

Re: Sand and Tank Setup Question Well Anthony, I would not say "spare me from buying my book", since I have it, #3143!  It is well worth the money, my thanks to you for all the great information in it!   <Yikes! Thank you :)  > I have seen the drawing you speak of and I would like to go that route...I am wondering if the guys at SeaClear will make me an overflow like that?   <perhaps... but if you have the slightest DIY inclination you can build the interior dam yourself and save a lot of money. Just have the tank drilled in advance... bulleted with as many holes as you like/need up as high as is safe (mfg choice)> Regardless, what would be the measurements for it for a 90 gallon 48x18x24?   <the length is really up to you. The longer you make it for the same X number of holes, then the thinner you will be stretching (and improving/concentrating) the overflowing water. It can literally be a long shallow damn the length of the back wall (almost 48")> How far down should the shelf be placed ( just enough for the bulkhead size or more)?   <exactly my friend... just wide and deep enough to house the bulkheads and for you to get a fist in comfortably for cleaning/servicing. Some people like to extend the floor beyond the vertical wall to make a short shelf upon which to grow corals that will encrust and hide the overflow wall> How far out from the back wall does the small vertical wall need to be?   <roughly 4 to 6 " wide and deep... then as long as you can afford to make it.> Does it have groves/teeth cut into it (can't think of the proper term at the moment!) or is it just a wall that water flows over. <more the latter... a spillway. Nothing else needed if the bulkheads will have their course screen inserts in to prevent snails and fishes from sailing. Else, simply use coarse mesh (like rain gutter guard-plastic) on the overflow edge> Do I go with the 4 1" holes or 2 2" holes?  The plan (based on all I have been reading so far ) is to have the from 2 or 4 bulkheads drop into a chamber in a DIY 30 gallon sump <likely 4 to play it safe and for flow volume and noise> (should the 2 or 4 pipes coming from the bulkheads connect to each other or just have 2 or 4 pipes all drop into the same chamber in the sump).   <aieee! Never join together... always drop freely and separately> A baffle will divide the first section of the sump where all the water enters from the next section which will have a protein skimmer in it ( Euro Reef, Aqua C, Turboflotor (still deciding) ) <my preference is in the literal order you have listed... and the skimmer should definitely be placed in the first chamber with raw water and a standing overflow level into the next section that is your variable (evaporating) sump> which will have its return in the same chamber, then a final baffle to a third chamber to the return pump which will probably be a Iwaki MD30RLXT (960 gph).  Does this seem fine?   <as per above... no need for three chambers... just a first chamber reservoir overflowing into the sump proper. You may have a baffle just before the pump to diffuse bubbles> I have decided to go with two 3/4 Sea Swirls for the return, <awesome> drilled in from the top corners.  For the overflow box, the drawing shows 90 degree elbows. Will air get trapped in here, <little or no worry at all here if you have enough holes. Simple to modify if not (tapped hard airline to off gas)> and am I getting much less flow since it is not a straight drop down?   <not at all... no different than the inevitable bends, turns and impedances of run of most any other application, and certainly with less noise than a straight drop> Could you use a t here with a cap and a hole in it, like the Durso concept, or does it have to be elbows?   <you are correct on the modification> Also, I guess I can put the bulkhead for the closed loop in the overflow as well, avoiding the problem of sucking in any adventurous critters ( I guess they could still get it, but it will be tougher at least ).   <agreed and yes, possible. But do have a low water shut off switch in the overflow box for the closed loop pump intake in case a hiccup or failure of the sump pump runs the overflow dry (fear of burning out the closed loop pump)> I would put two more holes in the top (opposite from the sea swirls ) for the closed loop, but I will have 4 outlets on the top, nothing on the bottom, even thought they can all be pointed downward and towards the center. I suppose I can drill the back bottom corners and add some more outlets for the closed loop, there should be no danger of overflow with the closed loop.  I might need bigger pump than the one be used for the return though.... Does this all seem to be a workable plan, <agreed and yes> I am almost ready to make my purchases here, just have to make sure my plan is sound.  And finally, that dang Southdown/Yardright Tropical Play Sand seems impossible to get here in California.   <very sorry my friend. We pay about 7 cents per pound out here. I wonder if your local aquarium club couldn't make a big enough order that is would be worth the consolidated freight? I can't imagine that it would cost much. When I got the sand for my coral farm (48,000lbs... full dump freight) the freight was only $500 from New Jersey to Pennsylvania (8-10 hour drive). Extrapolating and all things considered, I can't see a single pallet coming from the Midwest to Cali costing much if you are willing to wait a few days for it> Home Depots don't seem to be able to order it, something about diff. vendors than the Home Depots on the east coast... <then look into the freight on a  big order from an East coast HD! Heck... maybe buy the whole pallet yourself and resell it :)  > oh well, I might have to pay the premium for the same product with a fancier name from a LFS! <indeed, it would be easier just the same> Thanks for your time, your help ( book and website ) is greatly appreciated! Paul T <my great pleasure. Kindly, Anthony>

DSB or CC To Whom It May Concern, <Greetings, JasonC here...> I have a 75 gallon saltwater aquarium.  Currently it has crushed coral for the substrate.  Eventually I want to have a complete reef system when I have all the LR I need.        Here is a little history on the system...It has been up and running since October of 2002.  Currently using an Eheim wet/dry filter, Protein Skimmer, Wave Maker, and Air stones.  Inhabitants are as follows; 1 yellowtail damsel, 2 four striped damsels, 1 sea urchin, 1 choc. chip starfish, 1 arrow crab, 2 very small leather mushrooms, 5 turbo/Astrea snails, and 8 blue legged hermit crabs. Most of the specimens are present only to get the tank on the right track. Approx. 10-20% water change is performed every 8-10 days, with cleaning of algae on front and sides of tank.   I have two questions for you, first one, In order to have a fully functional reef system should I switch to a DSB or is the CC OK? <The deep sand bed is very practical for de-nitrification, and so for a reef tank makes a lot of sense. But no matter what depth the sand bed is, most all sands/gravels for marine aquaria are made from crushed coral, just different grades.> I have a 29 gallon tank that will eventually be available for use when needed.  I will move all inhabitants into that tank when doing the switch if needed. <Will be a good time to eliminate those damsels.> Second question, Since October I went through a series of algae blooms, it would be brown then green and I would see the purple coralline algae begin on the back glass.  This would cont. to thrive for a couple of days and then the purple algae would fall off the glass and with in a day or two the algae cycle would start over.  After a water change the algae would take about a day to two days to reappear.  About a week ago is when I purchased the snails and hermits and they both appear to be thriving and very active, so I don't think it is from them. <It rarely if ever comes from this source.> I had plans to purchase more of both but after reading about hermits on your site I decided not to.  Could this algae be recycling because of adding new LR? <There are a number of reasons that algae shows up, and it is very common for new tanks to go through these cycles. For the pest algae, make sure you don't feed your fish too much. For the coralline, make sure you are adding calcium either via a two part additive or a calcium reactor.> I would add a new piece of LR about once a week. <Sounds good.> I still only have about half the rock on need for the tank. Thanks for your time, Annette <Cheers, J -- >

Sand: Aragonite vs. Silica I just setup my 65gal saltwater tank yesterday, planning for a reef setup. Nothing is in my tank but water and sand. The sand I bought was from Home Depot but it's not the Southdown sand like people have mentioned in your faq's. I tried looking for it in the garden section but I couldn't find it, so I bought 100 lbs of some other sand. What worries me is that it is silica based. I didn't notice this till everything was done. Is this going to cause me troubles with a reef setup, or should it be ok?   <I prefer and recommend aragonite sand because it does dissolve over time and add beneficial things (calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, etc.) to your water. Although, it has been thought by many (including myself) that with silica sand you may fuel diatoms, I no longer believe this to be the case. I have recently read some very convincing articles by Dr. Rob Toonen, Dr. Ron Shimek, and James Fatherree disputing this. So relax. Your silica sand will not dissolve and create a problem, though it will not have all the benefits of aragonite material.> Thanks, Jason <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

He Digs Fish That Don't Dig! This will be a SPS tank with strong lighting and brisk water flow. what I don't want is sand sifters in this tank. My 55 still has my first fish in it and I am fed up with this relocation of what ever they see fit. These are damsels that like to dig. I just want things to stay put . Most of my rock in my 125 are large pieces to give me a more open sand look but still achieve a reef. I assume a little sifting is good??? <Well, some people even siphon the upper 1/2 inch or so of their DSB's, or employ animals like brittle stars and sea cucumbers to do the work. Either way, many of the beneficial "infauna" that reside in the sand are destroyed or disrupted.> But digging like an inch or two is not. <Correct, digging deep into the substrate can cause a major disruption to the nitrification process occurring in the sand bed> Can you give me an idea? Best tang? Yellow, Purple, or the Copper? <Well, it all depends on what you want the tang for (i.e.; algae control, or just plain enjoyment, or both..), and what his/her companions will be. My all-around choice of the species that you listed (BTW- I don't know what a "Copper" Tang is...?) is the Yellow Tang-Generally hardy, adaptable, easy to feed, sociable, and peaceful.> What about blennies? I would like to occupy all levels-mid, upper, and lower levels of the water column. <Well- there is a huge variety of blennies to choose from. You can include the Meiacanthus ("fang blennies"), which are mid water swimmers, the "Sailfin" blennies, which tend to swim throughout the water column, and the "grazing" type blennies, such as the "lawnmower" blennies, which tend to stick to the bottom of the tank. All can do very well, provide reasonable variety, color, and interest, and most stay smaller (less than 4 inches). And the ones I mentioned don't dig! Really good choices for reef tanks, IMO> Thank you <And thank YOU- for stopping by! Regards,  Scott F.>

Filter, Substrate, and Live Rock confusion Thanks to all of the "Crew" for helping us poor inexperienced marketing victims.   <I assure you...We are all in this thing together. WWM Crew sometimes has trouble separating fact from fiction as well. No one is immune> I am extremely grateful for your help and without it would probably have little chance of being successful in this challenging and rewarding hobby. <Thanks for the compliment! Helping others is why we're here!> I apologize for the lengthy e-mail, but would rather give you all the data at once rather than ask you to invest your time over and over again. <Thanks for this consideration>   When I initially set up my 29G tank I succumbed to much misleading information from a LFS and the evil marketing geniuses - (I have since found a much better LFS). <Good!> I have received several suggestions from the "Crew" but unfortunately am somewhat confused about how I should prioritize the implementation. <I'll do what I can to clarify> Husbandry history (slightly embarrassing):  filled tank with substrate and water (Crystal Sea synthetic) then aerated and filtered for one week with no livestock.  Took advice of LFS and added 6 damsels.  Measured Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and Ph every two days.  Changed 10% of water weekly and vacuumed substrate.  Never detected the ammonia spike (lost 4 damsels).  The complete Nitrogen cycle was very long (about 8 weeks for Nitrites to fall to zero).  Diatom bloom lasted about one week.  After much aggravation over ammonia readings that did not make sense I discovered the test kit was outdated and have purchased new reagents.   <Ha! I was going to suggest that something was amiss...> Currently feeding flake food once or twice daily and frozen brine shrimp once or twice weekly.  All inhabitants appear to be healthy; however, the damsels are "twitching and dashing" at different times of the day. <Egads! It's possible the stress of the ammonia has incited an ich flare-up.> Current inhabitants:  two 1.5 in three-stripe damsels, one 1.5 in percula clown, one cleaner shrimp, five turbo snails.  Current tank issues (after thirteen weeks): ammonia still detectable (0.016 ppm), consistent diatom growth (how much is too much?), Phosphate at .02ppm (Phosphate in make up water is .01ppm). <Do not add anything else living to the tank until ammonia and nitrite is flat out zero. At the least a low level is very stressful to the inhabitants. This will increase their chances of becoming infected with ich and other parasites. Ammonia also burns their gills, etc. > Current tank set-up:  29G, tank is aerated, 150watt heater, Penguin 170 power filter with bio-wheel, 22watt fluorescent hood, 2 inches of substrate that is 50/50 crushed coral/gravel, miscellaneous decorations for cover, one piece of Tufa (spelling?) <Close enough. I know what you're tanking about!> rock approximately 14in X 6in X 6in with three large cavities resulting in lots of surface area (will this rock "magically" become live?).   <No...But in the coming years it will grow Cyanobacteria and hair algae like you won't believe. A! I've personally had the experience> Make-up water is from tap (Phosphate 0.01ppm) that is aerated and heated to 76 deg F 24/7. <Is 76 degrees the same as the tank temperature? It should be whatever the tank temp is...> Any advice on prioritizing the following changes or making better selections would be greatly appreciated:  Add an Eheim ECCO 2233 (rated for a 55g tank), add a CPR protein skimmer (should this be a BakPak 2 or BakPak 2R?), change substrate to 1 inch deep aragonite (CaribSea product? size?), reduce lighting cycle to 8 hours (no direct sunlight on tank), add a hermit crab (no Sea Cuke?) <With a 29 gallon...I'd probably leave the Cuke out> to stir substrate and scavenge <Get a brittle star> will changing the bulb in the light fixture have any effect on diatoms? <Unlikely...I have 420 watts of VHO over a 5' tank and I still get diatoms...and the tank is more than a year old!> add power head (or recirculating pump with one pickup and multiple discharges, is live rock an absolute requirement to achieve good water quality? <Absolute requirement? No. But it sure helps. As a side benefit the fish will appreciate the critters and algae that will grow on the rock. In my tank, I have 100 lbs. of LR and a protein skimmer for filtration. That's it. You only need like 30-50lbs for your tank. If you decide to do this, please read at WWM to learn how to add LR to an up-and-running tank. Order on line...Even with shipping it will beat the heck out of LFS prices> is "Crystal Sea" synthetic salt a good product or simply marketed very well?. <I use Instant Ocean because of its outstanding reputation among professional and research oriented aquarists> Again I apologize for the lengthy e-mail, but thought this would be preferable and more accurate and concise than sending three or four different emails. This seems to be a lot like owning a boat - its never large enough, there are more gadgets than useful tools, and experience comes only after wasting large sums of money. <Bodda Boom Bodda Bing! Ladies and gentlemen...We have a winner! You are absolutely correct my friend. Then recoup some of that lost money by selling those gadgets on EBay! HAHAHAHAHAHA! David Dowless>

Bare Bottoms and Live Rock! Good Morning Bob-- <Scott F. here today!> I am going to setup a 110-gallon acrylic corals only tank and thinking to  go with live rock only without any sand at the bottom - is this advisable? I already have 150 lbs. live cured rock waiting to put in the new tank. Please advise. Many thanks in advance for your help. Michael <Well, Michael- I have seen numerous systems operating with just live rock and no substrate. This was a major part of the "Berlin System" that arose in the eighties. Some people feel that the bare bottom enables you to siphon accumulations of detritus, making maintenance easier. On the other hand, many hobbyists who have run bare bottomed tanks have noted that maintaining alkalinity and pH levels is somewhat trickier, and this may be due in part to the lack of buffering that a substrate, such as aragonite, or even crushed coral offers. Personally, I feel that most hobbyists will be better off running a deep sand bed (of at least 4 inches) in their reef systems. Deep sand beds have proven to be highly effective at processing nitrate. There are some hobbyists who have run bare-bottomed aquariums with remote sand beds in a sump, so as to get the best of both worlds. Do a little more reading on the topic of substrates and deep sand beds on the wetwebmedia.com site. You'll get a better understanding of the dynamics of sand in closed systems, and maybe you'll reconsider employing a sand bed. Good luck!>

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

Removing Crushed Coral & UG I have a 75 gallon tank with 3 inch bed of crush coral. The undergravel filter is still installed under the gravel but the tubes and powerheads have been removed some time ago. <Houston, we have a problem!> Recently I have been adding Fiji live rock (15 pounds) with the intentions of adding more. So far, I'm liking the bugs and all the other bacteria that comes with it. The tank is equipped with a wet/dry (5 gallons of bioballs), Berlin skimmer and a Magnum 350 with black diamond carbon. My question to you is, I'd like to remove the crushed coral and install some home depot (play sand) for live sand, but how should I go about this? <I would just yank out the gravel and install the sand all in one day.> Should I remove the undergravel filter or leave it? <Remove> Should I remove some crushed coral and add some sand slowly. <You could do half and half if you wish.> Like when water changes are performed. Will this big change kill my fish? <It should not. The only thing the crushed coral is doing is trapping detritus. It is not performing as a biological filter. Your W/D is taking care of that.> (2 inch blue angel, purple tang, blue spotted puffer, 2 porcelain clowns). Is there any long term effects that will come about with not removing the filter, even if I stay with the cc? <Yes, trapped detritus and depressed pH.> I read an article on how to change over from cc to sand in one long day of work, but I'm will to do if necessary. The article said to make new salt water beforehand and move all live rock into a bucket. Then remove some water, 20 gallons or so. <Do this before you remove the liverock. That way the water is clean. When you start removing the liverock, it is going to mess up the water. You need some clean water to fill your tank back up and to store the fish in while you complete the change.> Then scoop out the crushed coral, with the fish in the tank. <You can probably catch and remove the fish once the liverock is out. Then remove the rest of the water and crushed coral.> At this time I would remove filter and any muck that is setting there. Then you take some of the crushed coral and put it in some nylon, in ball forms. Store the nylon ball in the tank for bacteria and critter purposes for a couple of weeks. Add all the sand to the tank, followed by the newly made saltwater, and turn the system on. Please help me decide which fork in the road I should tack. <Make a bunch of new water, remove clean old water, then remove liverock, catch fish and place in with clean old water, remove crushed coral, add sand, replace liverock, add old water and fish, top off with new water, turn everything on.> P.S. I have a 110 fish only tank set up in my TV room with a 3.5 inch Huma trigger. Should I transfer the fish during the sand swap? <Sure, that would give you even more time and allow sometime for the sand to settle/cloudiness to disappear.> Thank you <What a way to spend your holiday vacation! -Steven Pro>

Sand Beds... Since I need a QT tank I am moving everything from my 29 gallon to a 37 gallon that has been drilled for an overflow and in the process will install a 10 gallon sump.  The 29 has about 30 lbs of live rock and about 1 ?" of Carib Sea Aragonite crushed coral.  Since the tank is much taller, I would like to make the sand bed 3"-4" for de-nitrification. Should I use fine Aragonite sand mixed with the coarser sand already in the tank or stick with the same size crushed coral that is already there? The tank has been up and running for about 5 months.  Also, do you see any advantage to installing a Rubbermaid tray into the sump and making into a small refugium? <Wow! Your intentions are great- everyone should have a quarantine tank. In regard to the 37 gallon system, I'd recommend that you use all of the same grade of sand. It's possible, but not recommended, to mix drastically different grades of sand IMO. Usually, a 3-4 inch sand bed is best constructed of finer grades of sand (oolithic aragonite, like CaribSea's "Aragamax Sugar Fine Sand". Coarser grades, including crushed coral, can create detritus traps in your main tank. Also, many of the beneficial infauna, such as worms, can actually be shredded by the coarse stuff! Why not use the coarse stuff in your planned refugium? In a Rubbermaid "refugium", you'd probably be able to have a gnarly copepod population with that coarse stuff! Good luck! Scott F.>

Playing In The Sand...? At the moment in my 125g FOWLR setup (live rock isn't very live at the moment and the tank is in the process of going fallow, thx ich) I have about half an inch or so of crushed coral.  I hate vacuuming this 125g tank and I hate the fact that gravel gets under my live rock etc, its quite a pain....Would you advise removing the 1/2" of crushed coral and replacing it with 4" of sand? If I were to do this I wouldn't have to mess with substrate much in the way of maintenance right? Thanks as always, Mark <Well, Mark- if it were me- and I'm totally sold on the benefits of a deep sand bed- I'd go for the 4" plus bed of fine Aragonitic sand. As far as maintenance- well- no system is "maintenance free"-but you really only need to clean the top 1/2 inch of a deep sand bed, if you must (and quite Frankly- I don't even mess with mine). Now- I'm not saying that you NEVER have to clean the sand...but I am saying that, in a deep sand bed system, you really don't want to disturb it much. Lots of people employ "purposeful" animals, such as brittle stars, to help maintain the top layer of sand in good condition. Obviously, if you see tons of detritus and yucky stuff accumulating in the top 1/2 or so- remove what you can...But I wouldn't go crazy. Considerations: The types of fish you have (fish that dig and rearrange your sand are a problem with this setup- so if you keep big old triggers and such, I'd keep the 1/2 that you have now.) Also, if you don't like the "ant farm" look of a deep sand bed- then it's not for you, either. Do read the FAQ's on the wetwebmedia.com site about deep sand beds for more information. Have fun! Scott F.>

Playing In The Sand (Pt.2) Thanks for the quick reply again!  Yah I'm not trying to totally skimp on maintenance, just make it a bit easier.  Not sure what fish yet, the only current resident is a porcupine puffer, probably a juv. Emperor angel, no triggers, the sand would count out any wrasses, not sure what else I'd be adding but the sand should be ok with the angel and puffer, although it will limit critter I can put in there to stir the sand...a wrasse would probably burry himself under all 4" lol.... <Well, the puffer would probably snack on any inverts, snails, etc, that reside in the sand bed...But I think a DSB will still work for you...Give it a try and let us know how it works out! Good Luck- Scott F.> Playing In The Sand- Continued! Does a deep sand bed typically do ok with no 'critters'?   I'd be concerned about most fish in a fish only tank picking at and eating them, and I really don't want to have to buy a new 12 critters every other week or what have you, will the sand be ok with nothing to pick through it? <I think so. Besides, lots of infauna will come off the live rock and populate the sand bed over time> Yes of course I would keep an eye on it and not let it get to messy...Is there any way to speed up the break down of detritus on the sand? <Just let mother nature do her thing!> IE in a fresh water plant tank, The detritus and plant sediment can be broken down faster when a UG Heater is used...Also, any idea how many pounds of sand for a 72x18" tank for a nice 4-5" bed? Mark <Multiply the width of the tank by its length, then by the depth of sand, and multiply by 0.0579. This will put you right in the ballpark (around 300 lbs if you're looking at 4 inches). Hope this helps! Good luck! Scott F.>

Sand Bottom How important is a sand / gravel bottom? Details please. <A sand bed can be a great assistance in providing a stable, biologically sound system. Live sand should be utilized in a "deep sand bed", three inches or greater for best results. Deep sand beds help process nitrates and essentially act as a "living filter", which will greatly benefit many systems. Do research on the wetwebmedia.com site for much, much more info. on construction and use of deep sand beds> I'm curious as I want to set up a small reef tank, using live rock, but don't want to have to move the rock to vacuum the bottom. Can I leave the tank with no sand? What if I have the sand and don't vacuum it when I do the water changes? Any and all help would be appreciated. Sincerely, Craig <Well, Craig, you certainly can run a tank with no sand bed (the "Berlin" method embraces this philosophy), but I think that you'll enjoy greater stability in a system with a sand bed. Quite frankly, it is really not necessary to vacuum a deep sand bed, save for the top 1/2 inch, if you'd like, as it can seriously disrupt the biological processes that you are trying to cultivate. The use of purposeful animals, such as brittle stars, can help maintain the top layer of sand. Have fun researching and constructing your sand bed- your reef will love you for it! Regards, Scott F.> Sand Bottom (Pt. II) What type of sand would you recommend to set this up? Can I use sand from my local Ventura beach (just north of San Diego)? <I live near the coast myself, and  have contemplated using the local sand at various times, but decided not to. I think that there is too much risk of possible pollution, potentially toxic materials, etc. Also, with the state's coastlines facing erosion, I don't think it's an environmentally sound practice. Much better to use the bagged Aragonitic materials offered for sale to hobbyists for just this purpose, or perhaps even the famous "Southdown" play sand, if you can find it.> >Will a DSB be beneficial in a 180G FO tank that already has sump, commercial BioWheel, Berlin protein skimmer, Ocean Clear filter, & UV sterilizer? <I have ran very successful large FOWLR systems with deep sand beds. With good maintenance and attention to feeding and water quality, you can achieve very significant nitrate reduction using a DSB. Definitively worth looking into, IMO. Have fun with this! Regards,  Scott F.>

Changing Substrate Hey Crew, hope things are well for all. <Fabulous. Life is good!!> I've spent the last few weeks planning to change a friend of mine's 29g tank from crushed coral over to a deep sand bed and wanted to run my ideas by you guys for whoever would like to toss their opinion on it. He is looking for something with less maintenance believe it or not he had paid for service on this small tank....I told him I'd take it over for just the cost of supplies...I thus decided to change it over to a 5" deep sand bed.  I figured now was great time to do so because the tank only has one inhabitant anyway, a tomato clownfish (and a few misc. snails). <Yep! That will make things easier.> Here's my plan: ---I'm going to drain a large portion of the tank into a large Rubbermaid container and place the live rock (only one very large piece) in it.  In a 10g I will place the clown and snails, including a small powerhead and heater. <I'm agreeing so far...> --If all the water doesn't fit from displacement, I will drain the rest into buckets. I will also have about 25-30% new water, premixed, in case of accidents---daydreaming, bad aim, butterfingers, etc.. <So far so good...> --I'm gonna remove the crushed coral to a separate container and add the DSB.  I will then start to refill the tank with the bulk saved in the large container (I like to use plastic wrap to keep the sandbed surface disturbance to a minimum, has worked like a charm on other tanks).   <I think I'm following you on this last point. I like to add the live rock to the tank first and then put the sand in to anchor the live rock. Then add water by placing a bowl or similar item into the tank on top of the new sand and pour the water directly into this bowl. After the water gets to a certain height, the bowl will no longer matter.> I'll place the crushed coral in nylon or filter bags and place as many as possible in the tank to help seed the sandbed and help hopefully save the tank from having a major cycle. <Sounds like a winner to me! Very well thought out. I have one suggestion...I am assuming that the DSB is new sand not live sand. In order to keep the sand from clouding the tank, wash the sand and let it soak in water two or three days. Then pour off all of the water and add the wet sand to the tank. You should probably use fresh salt water for the soak. It's no messier than adding it dry and you will avoid the dust storm. The dust cloud produced will only last a few hours at the most. If the DSB will be made of live sand there's no reason to do this.>   --Finally, I plan to top off with any needed extra water, ensure parameters, and introduce the livestock back into the aquarium followed hopefully by a "happy ever after" moment. <Hey-hey-hey! Sounds like a workable plan. Naturally you'll want to test the water for a few days but I really don't think the tank will cycle. Add new stock slooooooowly.> Thanks for taking the time to read and critique, Ryan A. <The pleasure was all mine. I'm glad to see you've taken the time to think this through. Experienced aquarists know that's the best way to avoid unexpected problems/complications. Good luck! David.>

Moving sand bed Hi All <cheers> I'm moving an established 1" sandbed (and everything else) into a new and bigger reef tank. It's approx. 60 pounds of aragonite and I'll add another 50 to it in the new tank. <I personally don't subscribe to methodologies that employ 1-3" of sand. I prefer over 3" or less than 1/2". In between is too much work... requiring very strong water movement and regular siphoning which limit growth of infauna. The problem with intermediate sand depth in my opinion is that it is neither deep enough for optimal denitrification, nor shallow enough to be optimally aerobic. Hence the tendency for such sand beds to become nutrient sinks after just one or two years of use. Still... it can work... I'm just disinclined to recommend it> Is a good vacuuming before moving precaution enough, <shouldn't be necessary> or will I get a dreaded nutrient cloud/ammonia spike? <if the tank had adequate water movement before the move, I wouldn't expect many solids to be here... else, you are experiencing my above outlined complaint for lack of a true deep sand bed of over 3" (go close to 5-6")> Unfortunately all fish and corals must also be moved in on the same day. <no worries here. Make your skimmer work superbly for the next 2 weeks and be prepared for a couple good sized water changes to play it safe> Any suggestions about moving sand? <yep... all of this old sand needs to go on top of the new uncolonized sand> I thought about rinsing it before putting it into the new tank, but it seems like such a waste of beneficial critters. <very much agreed!> Thank you so much. Can't wait for the new book. Adam <thanks kindly, my friend. Best regards, Anthony>

Got hammer, will travel: No to Grunge, Yes to DIY Aragonitic material I am in the process of adding additional live sand to my reef tank.  Any thoughts on the "GARF grunge " I had  heard about.  Also I am currently using reef crystals and thinking about perhaps Tropic Marin. Any preference on that as well.  Thanks in advance and for your prior quick responses. <I can't say I recommend GARF Grunge, regular aragonite sand, perhaps from a friend, local aquarium society sand exchange or LFS is more than adequate.  Reef Crystals and Tropic Marin are both quality products. There are some formulation differences that may make a difference for you and your reef.   Have fun!  Craig>  

Using sand from freshwater source in saltwater tank Hi, I have a quick question for you.   I'm about to setup a 125 gallon tank, and would like to save some money on live sand (since I live in Fargo, ND), and I was thinking that I could just take some from our local lake, and then allow it to dry for a few days/weeks?  I've read that it's ok to go with 90% dead sand, and just seed it w/ 10% live.  Just wondering what your opinions/suggestions are?  Thanks so much.  I will probably have many more questions in the coming months, and will definitely be donating to the site.  Thanks again. <Thank You for writing Tim! Please go to: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm there is much info there on marine substrates. I understand the cost issues, but aragonite sand offers so many benefits it's almost not worth considering anything else.  The problem with any unknown source is whether some contaminant will accompany the sand. Contaminants like free silica, phosphates or even chemical pollutants could cause you problems down the line. I suggest you buy dry dead aragonite and culture it with live rock and sand.  Best wishes!  Craig>

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