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FAQs about Marine Substrates 5

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 4, 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,

Asthenosoma varium Grube 1866, the Pinhead Sea Urchin. Family Echinothuriidae.

Substrate Please advise what substrate arrangement you would recommend for my aquarium, i.e. size of substrate (grain size), depth, and any other relevant details.  I would like to have a live substrate set-up in a FO aquarium. <It's obvious you have not perused our site. Please see here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked files (at top, in blue) as well as the sections on Marine Set-Up, FO systems...> Aquarium details: 37 gallon, skimmer, canister filter, live rocks. Fish details: snowflake moray and dwarf lion. Also, I have read conflicting advise about maintenance of a live substrate.  Please advise on any care instructions. <Please take the time (and not waste ours) to use the tools, information archived on WWM. Bob Fenner> Many Thanks, Arnold

Not-So-Smooth Move... Hello, <Good Evening! Scott F. here tonight> I recently moved to a new house and brought my 55 gallon tank with me.  Unfortunately,  the movers were late getting to the new house and it was a total disaster. <Sounds like fun...LOL> My question is, can I keep my sand which spent 30 hours under about 2" of water and my bio filtration which spent the same amount of time out of water? <Yep...Think of how this stuff ships from the South Pacific...It makes it though in good shape...> I know I need to re-cycle the tank, but do I need to replace the sand and live rock? <No, it will need cycling, though, as you surmised> Should I treat all of it as brand new? Cycle the tank and do water changes before I introduce fish? <That's the way I'd play it. Add the rock and sand and treat the system as if it were brand new...Just do regular water tests and stay on top of things...> I'm lost and I could really use your help.  Would adding live sand or live rock speed up the process?  Thanks, Dru <Well, Dru- you pretty much have it...Not a complicated process...You just need to be patient, and test the water regularly to follow the tank's process...You have the right idea! Good luck in your new home! Regards, Scott F>

-Live sand bed for a 35g FOWLR- Thanks Kevin,  I am going to actively seek out the remora. <Cool> I have another question non-skimmer related. I am reading everything I possibly can on the substrate topic in you FAQ's and articles but it's still a little unclear. Lots of different answers for the similar substrate questions. <As there will likely always be> It's either 1.5" or 3-4 DSB. I would like to go with Carib sea Fiji Pink Reef Sand with aragonite because I like the way it looks with that slightly pinkish tinge. How much Aragonite do I put in for substrate for 35 gallon FOWLR tank? <If you want to reap the denitrifying benefits and all that other jazz of deep sand beds, I'd suggest sugar-fine sand. If you like the pink color, Natures Ocean makes a pre-packaged "live" sand (total BS, but already packaged in nice clean water! think no clouding!) that is a nice pink color and a nice particle size. It's a little more expensive, but worth it for being dust-free. I'd suggest a 4" base of this mixed in with as much true live sand as the budget allows for.> I am going to go with about 35 Lbs Fiji live rock. Does it matter if I go Live sand or not? <Yes it does, if you're planning on constructing a deep live sand bed, you need to get them critters in!> One last thing, Would I be okay to use a few small pieces of Tufa rock as a base rock to lift the live rock up above the substrate slightly? <Sure, but a much better idea would be to cut several pieces of 1" or so PVC pipe cut as deep as your sandbed is. You can bottom-out the pieces in the sand where the rock will go. This way, the rock will have a solid base, and it will be hard to collapse the rockwork. Good luck! -Kevin> Cheers, Mike

Sand and filtration - 9/3/03 Hi to the Crew on call, <Hello> I have a few questions in setting up a 75 gal reef. <OK. Shoot!!......> I have read the related articles and FAQ as well as advise from 2 LFS. Needless to say, very confused at this point! Can I be successful with a non drilled 75 gal tank without a sump? <Well, maybe without fish but in my experience I believe a sump is more than necessary for oxygenation, a reservoir to hide skimmer and heater etc.> Using just a skimmer and hang on back power filters and internal power heads? <Could be done as I am sure someone out there is having some success, but I think you should always set out on the best course for success. In this case, a sump is probably the consensus view for success.> Is the use of a canister filter without the bio media ok or not recommended? <I don't see why not, but again, you might have to get into it once in awhile to remove chemical media and can be a pain over time. Also, not sure if there is enough water movement to connect skimmers etc to them. Worth a look, though!> Your site seems to be in favor of DSB's while my LFS only uses 1-2 inches and relies mainly on the LR, sump and skimmer. <Go with a deep sand bed 4 inches or more or you can go with under 1 inch. Check around our site for our views on deep sand beds as well as the benefits of using such> I plan on LR and was going to use a plenum <No plenum necessary> with DSB but again the LFS states "useless, nutrient sink" <As if!!!!!> They do have some awesome display tanks with the shallow sand. <Well, I use deep sand beds in my tanks, and have seen many others with some very awesome displays utilizing deep sand beds!!! But I am also one that advocates gaining advice from someone who's tank you respect and enjoy. Nice to get all sides though, and go with what functions best in your situation. Check this out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm check the blue links to the FAQs as well!!> I wish to have as high a bio load as possible without stress to the inhabitants. <Don't we all? -P> Any suggestions will be much appreciated. Thank you.

Sand and Filtration  9/3/03 Hi to the Crew, I apologize if you have already replied, but I have not checked for a few days due to the Holiday and don't know if was taken off the daily FAQ)<its ok> I have a few questions in setting up a 75 gal reef.<alright> I have read the related articles and FAQ as well as advise from 2 LFS. Needless to say, very confused at this point! Can I be successful with a non drilled 75 gal tank without a sump?<I don't advise this, I would setup a sump and use it as a refugium.. especially when setting up a reef aquarium> Using just a skimmer and hang on back power filters and internal power heads?<will not be effective enough> Is the use of a canister filter without the bio media ok or not recommended?<honestly the refugium is the way to go!!!> Your site seems to be in favor of DSB's while my LFS only uses 1-2 inches and relies mainly on the LR, sump and skimmer.<this also works but not as good as the DSB method> I plan on LR and was going to use a plenum with DSB but again the LFS states "useless, nutrient sink" They do have some awesome display tanks with the shallow sand.<yes, it is all personal preference. Honestly the aquarium will probably look the same to the naked eye. but if you looked under a microscope at all the creatures living within the DSB you would be amazed with the difference in the amount of life between the 1-2" SB and the DSB.> I wish to have as high a bio load as possible without stress to the inhabitants.<I would only add a handful of small 1-3" fish at the maximum for this aquarium> Any suggestions will be much appreciated. Thank you.<good luck, IanB>

Sand and Filtration//follow-up Thank you for the fast reply!<your welcome> I guess I am "sold" on the DSB and sump/refugium.<as we all are> As I can't afford a drilled tank can I use the hang on back bulkhead/siphon unit to get the water down to the sump or are there problems with these?<these work fine as long as you keep the water level of the sump/refugium in the middle>(like floods!)<good luck, and make sure the power doesn't go out!!!!!! IanB>

Playing In The Sand! (Moving/Adding To Sandbed) Hola wet ones, question on moving my 90G tank. <Scott F. your Wet One tonight!> In a few months the tank will be changing locations in the home, so I will temporarily move the inhabitants so it can be lifted. <Always fun...LOL> I have about 4" of fine grained aragonite in tank and I was thinking of adding another inch since it is a good time to do so.  Once the tank is drained, can I just add the extra sand on top of the existing wet 4 inches of sand?  I have read about 1/2" if I recall, maybe the 1" is too much?   <I'd go for it, myself. Lots of opinions on this, but this technique has worked for me many times without incident...> Its just that I would like to add it all now instead of some now, some later, but I don't want to destroy the sand bed either. <Valid concern> Also, how long can the sand be left without being submerged in water? <Probably a few days, if kept moist. Think about the bags of Fiji "live sand" that are shipped to us: They may be in transit a few days before arriving at the LFS...> That will be the case at the point when I eventually have to lift the tank.  I might do some drilling on the tank as well (another bulkhead or two), so if it is a problem leaving the sand exposed, I can add a little bit of water to submerge it and then stick a powerhead in there to aerate the water.  Will this be necessary? <It will work, but I don't think that it will be necessary if it's just for a few days. Keep in mind that there is the possibility that the thank may cycle again briefly after refilling it...> And finally, I would like to add some supports for my live rock, made up of a grid of acrylic rods.  Will it cause any problems jamming this framework of rods into the sand, too much disturbance to the bed, etc.? Thank you Paul <Good question. In my experience. minor disturbances to parts of the sandbed do not result in any significant problems. However, if you're going to be turning over the entire sandbed, that's a different story! I would not be overly concerned about what you're trying to do. Do monitor water parameters very carefully after the tank is refilled, and before it is fully stocked with your prized specimens...Better to be safe than sorry here! Good luck with the move! Regards, Scott F>

Screen and CopperSafe, etc. Hello Mr. Fenner <Hello Daniel> I apparently wasted my time separating my sand bed into halves (upper and lower) w/ a nylon screen, based on a return email from someone you work with. Comments? <Wasted your time? The screen didn't "work"? Didn't stay in place?> Anyway, on to the copper safe question. I don't want any Ick, velvet, or the like in my reef tank. <Good idea> I use a hospital tank and use Kent Marine RxP <This is a waste of time product IMO/E> for a couple of weeks with Maracyn 1/2, and needed other fungal agents as needed, and then follow that up w/ Mardel Copper Safe. It (the copper safe) agrees w/ the fish I get, and the crabs (It will kill snails in a about 2 minutes, though). Will it be okay with shrimp (peppermint, banded, etc.)? <No> Any Ideas on other ways to keep unwanted organisms out of the reef tank (when I get Plants or corals)? <My ideas, steps to completion, action plans for doing this (for the last three plus decades) are detailed in articles, book sections and posted FAQs on wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner> Thanks, Daniel

Re: screen and CopperSafe, etc. Hello Mr. Fenner, <Howdy> On the subject of the screen between the halves of my sand bed - I sent in a query to WWM and got a response that it was a waste of time. I originally saw the idea on a post on WWM, and figured it would be a good idea. It totally makes sense to restrict access to the denitrifying bed. <To me too> I used a nylon mosquito screen, small enough holes to not let the critters through, but water passes through easily. (I used the smallest screen I could find, it doesn't let much of any sand through.) <I generally suggest the "fiberglass screen-door material" one can buy to re-screen windows... at large and small hardware outlets> Let me know if you think it is a good idea. <I do think it's a good idea... to isolate smaller/larger beds/layers of substrate and restrict burrowing fishes and invertebrates from mixing them. Bob Fenner> Thank You, Daniel P.S. Thank You for the ever so swift and honest replies. Very much appreciated. <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Substrate and beginner questions - 8/26/03 Hi All... Love your site. I'm learning a lot. <Fantastic to hear> This is my first saltwater tank. <very well> I have a 29 gallon fish only so far tank with live rock and live aragonite sand for the substrate. When I was doing the initial set-up one LFS told me I would need 30 to 40 lbs live sand for substrate and around a pound of live rock per gallon.  I went out and bought about 40 lbs live cured rock for the tank and then added 40 lbs sand. My question: is this too much substrate? <It is best to look at it in inches. I (we) recommend about 4-5 inches in substrate depth. Check this out: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and check out all of the blue links as well. Lots of good reasons to have a deep sand bed.> I've seen many forums that say only 1 or 2 inches of substrate should be in the tank. <HIGHLY disagree>  If it's not too much, what should I do in terms of keeping it healthy? <Every six months to a year add a scoop of live sand from either another reefer or a local fish store. Many places online also sell live sand like www.ipsf.com>  I currently have 1 red fire shrimp, a cleaner shrimp, a peppermint shrimp, 4 hermit crabs, 2 clowns, 1 purple Dottyback, 1 yellow tang and a yellowtail damsel. <A very high fish load for such a small tank.....> Ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites are all zero. <For now.....Keep up your water changes> We would like to have a sea star and maybe an urchin but don't know what kind to get. <Be sure to research before adding any animal. Urchins and starfish tend to have a varied diet. Be sure to research your choices very thoroughly before purchase. It is a moral imperative.> We see those chocolate chip stars in the LFS around here a lot but I would like to have a red one if possible. <There are beautiful red serpent stars and brittle stars that are quite beneficial to the aquarium as they tend to eat the fallen and uneaten food leftover or missed by your fish. They tend to be a little hardier and forgiving. -Paul> Thanks so much for your input. Carla

Moving Sand Bed <Hey Steve.  If you get between 1 and 3 of the same response I apologize, the mail system is getting wacky on me.> I have been reading your website for about 5 months now and this is my second question I have sent you guys. <I hope you have been sleeping and eating too, if not, take a nap.>  I hate to ask questions because I know you guys get SO many e-mails that were already answered in the FAQs part.  So I search for hours on end looking for my answers.  Normally I find them! <No problem, that is what we are here for, but looking through the FAQs first is much appreciated.> In this case I need your opinion.  I have a 29 gallon saltwater tank with 10 gallon sump.  About 30-35 pounds of LR and about 2 1/2" - 3" of sand/LS. <ok>  I have a Flame Angel, Sleeper Gold Head Goby, and a Percula Clownfish.  I have no corals.  My tank is about 7 months old and everything is fine (for now, knock on wood). <consider it knocked> I am going to be moving out of my parents house and into an apartment that is a 1 1/2 hour drive away.<Woo hooo, party time! BTW fish do not like loud music or drugs of any nature poured into their tanks.>  I will be taking the aquarium with me.  I will be taking all of the water with me as well.  I have more than enough containers to do this.  I am going to use a large cooler that can hold around 15-25 gallons of water and fill it 3/4 of the way up with my water.  I will then put my fish into the cooler. <I would pick up a battery powered pump, I have seen them at my LFS, but have not priced them, they look like they would be reasonably priced.> I have water tight buckets for the rest of the water and I will also put my LR into those.  I am also going to bring 5 gallons of new pre-mixed saltwater to add when I re-setup the tank.  Here is my question...  My LFS says that because my tank is only 29 gallons, I should keep the sand in it so it doesn't release nitrates into the water (I believe that's what they said would be released).<I'd siphon out as much water as possible before disturbing the bed.>  They said that if it was larger to of course remove the sand, but my 29 gallon tank should be able to take the weight just fine. <Well, you could leave it in and hope the seal does not bust next time you fill it up, if it does you will be extremely angry with yourself.  You are the disturbing your tank anyway, I would remove the sand in a couple layers, move everything and put the sand back in the order that it was removed.  Much better chance of not busting the tank when it is moved.  OR... you could take the sand out, move the tank, and tell people you moved it with the sand and it caused the seal to break and you have no choice but to get a new, much larger tank, and use the 29 as a sump, and the 10 as a refugium? I know, I am sick.>  Does this sound ok to you or should I remove the sand.  If you think I should remove it, how should it be stored during the move. <Rubber maid containers work well.  I think I will name my next fish rubber maid, or Rough Tote, or maybe Brute.>  Also, is the rest of my moving plan sound good to you? <Yup, sounds good, drive careful so no one is sloshing around.  If you are buddy buddy with the local fish store you could convince them to bag your fish in big bags in some O2, but the cooler method should work.  I would definitely get a portable pump.>  Thanks SO much for all the help!  Keep up the good work! <Thanks, will do, Gage> Steve

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

Clumping Sand - 8/16/03 Hello and thanks for all your help and a great site!  I just got Anthony and Bob's new book and it's awesome! <thanks kindly... and I see you are a fellow Pittsburgher. Go Steelers!!! Its NFL season <G>. BTW... have you looked into the local marine aquarium club? www.PMAS.org> Here is my problem: before I came to the realization that a too fast spike in the pH when adding calcium will cause the sand to clump, <correcto> I had been using Tropic Marin BioCalcium regularly to add calcium.  The product worked well: kept my Alk and calcium up nicely and my corals flourished.  I was dumping quit a bit in at a time (before I had my pinpoint PH monitor).  During one cleaning, I noticed the aragonite bed had become rock hard and after searching your site, realized why.  Once I installed the Pinpoint Monitor I realized that I was causing big PH moves dosing as fast and as much as I was.  I also learned about Anthony's Slurry method and decided to use that instead of the BioCalcium...and it works well with my monitoring the dosage and ph swing. <all very good to hear> I tried to get the old sand out but it was rock solid- I broke up some spots and removed them but I cannot get under the rocks and I don't want to bang the stuff too hard for fear of cracking the tank.   <not a biggie> I then added new aragonite to fill in the areas I was able to move but there is still a lot of solid stuff.  Is this going to be a big problem and will this eventually dissolve over time and break apart if I now dose correctly?   <no worries... there will be natural dissolution in time> Without completely taking apart my tank and hammering this stuff out I have no idea how to get rid of it.  Should I dump new sand on top of it? and if so, how high?   <That depends on what you are trying to achieve. If seeking natural nitrate reduction (NNR) from a deep sand bed (DSB), You will need 4-6" minimum. For this, you can leave the hard sand under the founding rocks of the reef, and then simply fill in around it> Please advise on a suitable next step. Thanks very much in advance -Vince in Pittsburgh, PA <best regards! Anthony>

Substrate Hi Crew!!! I have been reading through all your articles and FAQs on substrates and am still a little confused as to which one would suit my budding system. I have a 650l (180 gallon) with around 90kgs (200lbs?) of live rock, wet/dry sump and venturi skimmer under tank (+lots of powerheads for circulation). I plan on stocking the tank with a Volitans lionfish, snowflake moray, blue/regal tang and maybe an angle down the track (I plan on adding them in that order, a couple of months between each of course). My LFS recommends that I go with a very thin layer of crushed coral for the substrate but I've heard mixed reports on this. I'm not to keen for a DSB because of availability and cost but will go ahead if necessary (without the DSB will the live rock be enough natural filtration?) <Yes, should be fine.> I was thinking of a thin 1/2 layer of sand or the CC for aesthetic value? thanks for your thoughts and recommendations. <Hi Joel, Don here. All sounds good to me. The crushed coral will need a bit more maintenance though. Hope this helps.> Joel  -  Australia

Tropical Play Sand - Southdown or Oldcastle - 8/14/03 Hello once again, <cheers> I've been searching for Southdown Tropical Play Sand to no avail.  I've been to HOME DEPOT and they look at me like I'm nuts!  Tried to special order but they can't even find a reference.  However, I did notice they carry a Tropical Play Sand (from the Caribbean) that is distributed by Oldcastle Stone Products in Easton, PA.  Could this be the same product?  Nowhere is the word "Southdown" on the bag.  It comes in a 50lb. plastic bag and is touted as "soft, sterile, and silica free", although the bag states it is "not recommended for traction or aquarium use".  Hope you have an answer. Thanks Much! Eric <they are one in the same. Very few places dredge for aragonite... AES Ocean Key is one of the very few suppliers as I understand it (distributing to DIY store, aquarium, industrial interests, etc). Thus... the 4 cent/lb sand for a sandbox is the same raw material as the processed and marketed aquarium products. Oldcastle will likely be fine for you my friend. Anthony>

Doing It The Right Way! (Planning A New System w/DSB) G'day Bob, Scott and the rest of the wondrous wet web wizards of the watery depths! This is Rob here from Down Under. <Hey there, Rob! Glad to hear from you again! Scott F. with you again tonight!> I e-mailed you guys a few weeks back looking for advice on my plans for my FIRST marine tank setup. Scott was kind enough to reply and let me know that I was basically on the right track. He then suggested I go back and do MORE RESEARCH!!!!!!! And perhaps revise my plans. I have. I also have many new questions, queries and doubts! <Oh, man- I sent another fellow hobbyist back to the books! Part of the fun, though! > So, here goes..... I am planning on adopting the following species: 1 DWARF lionfish (max5"), 2 LARGE tomato clowns and 1 bubble tip anemone as a start, I'll take my time with these introducing the lion first, then the clowns and eventually if all goes well the bubble tip. <Glad you're "easing" into the anemone...No need to rush> All are available (reasonably) locally and all are caught with nets by people I know well. <Outstanding!> Current plans are for a 150 gal (570litre) tank 48"L X 36"W X 20"H nice and wide, good surface area (see I do read your articles!) I will also be using an under tank sump of 56gal (215litres) I am really hooked on the idea of natural filtration so this tank will get about 200lb's (90kgs) of live rock. <Terrific! It will be a very stable system!> Skimming will be by a locally made (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie OY, OY, OY) venturi unit running from the sump and powered by a 650 g/h (2500lph) pump. These units are made by a bloke in Western Australia who started building his own DIY setups years ago. They have a brilliant reputation and are much, much cheaper than the units imported from your neck of the woods. < Awesome- DO support your "local talent" whenever possible! A good skimmer is such an important investment- well worth it!> Heating will be from 2 - 300W quality units. Lighting will be by fluoro's,  160W of HO and 80W of Actinic (still some doubts as to whether this is sufficient, especially with the anemone in mind.....Your views?). <May not be enough...Even though your tank is relatively shallow, you might want to add a couple more tubes...You simply cannot have "too much" light for anemones, in most cases...> All fluoros are very well reflected and powered by remote, electronic ballasts and will be housed in a custom made (by me!) hood. <The best kind, IMO!> Circulation will be provided mainly from a closed loop running on the inside top of the tank with various injectors placed at strategic locations and depths. This will be powered by the 1050g/h(4000l/h) return pump from the sump. I will have to run some test's to see if this is sufficient, if not extra powerheads will be employed. <Sounds nice. If you intend to keep SPS or other high-current loving corals at some later time, you may want to consider a pump or pumps that can push 10-20 tank volumes an hour through the system...Like lighting- you can rarely have too much circulation> O.K. I hear you thinking, this guy's got it together! <Yep! Very much so!> Well that's what I thought too! Until I walked into my LFS (600kms away!). <I've heard of "walkabouts" before- but 600kms...? You're seriously dedicated! I'll never complain about the 20 minute drives to good LFS in my area!> You see, I had initially intended to use a wet/dry filter in my sump to back up the live rock and skimmer. However on looking closely at the shops fish and invert display tank (120gal) all they had was lots of rock and a protein skimmer! Nothing else! This was a good looking tank with all inhabitants looking bright, cheerful and full of life. I was stunned and intrigued. On talking to the shop crew (Seth and Kath, they make a good team!) they told me that the secret was all in the substrate. Sure enough there it was, 5-6" of good looking fine coral sand with plenty of activity going on. <A deep sand bed certainly serves as an excellent nitrate reducing "filter"...a nice thing to have> Anyway I checked it out on the web and found out all about plenum bed construction, Jaubert's method, anoxic bacteria and 0 nitrate levels. After much research I am planning on this stage of using a deep substrate level (5") in my main tank and constructing a plenum system in the sump. The main reason for not using a plenum in both is that I want to aquascape the main tank to resemble a section of reef I know well from diving and having to minimize the rock's 'footprint' would be difficult. I really need your advise on this! Is the full biological filtration method just a pipe dream and is it beyond a beginner like myself? <No- it isn't! Embracing natural methods is probably the most simple and effective thing you can do as a beginner, or as an advanced hobbyist! Your idea of using a plenum in the sump is certainly workable. I personally prefer "static" ("plenum-less") deep sand beds, as they seem to work as well as plenum-equipped systems (although there is plenty of debate on this topic among hobbyists). If you are going to go the plenum route, it's absolutely vital that you follow the "standardized" recommendations concerning sand bed composition, depth, plenum height, etc. These configurations were arrived at after enormous amounts of testing by researchers like Jaubert, Goemans, Gamble, etc., and are not just random numbers. Most of the people who claim that plenums don't work are the ones who "modify" the parameters of their plenum. You may want to check out Plenum guru Bob Goemans http://www. saltcorner.com site for a lot of good information on plenums...> I am aiming eventually to 'get into' corals so the idea of continuing the biological filtration cycle with the break down of NO3 to NO2 to NO and eventually to pure N is highly desirable. I await your advice with baited breath oh wise and all knowing denizens of the deep! Sorry this is so long winded, got carried away, as usual, if I mention the word "fish tank" one more time I might find myself without a house keeper, bed warmer and long suffering friend! Thanks for your help guys and gals!  Rob <Ahh Rob- I think that you're doing great! It's so cool that you're doing the "modifications" and "tweaking" to your system before the system is actually set up! The time that you take now to research the various concepts will repay you many times over with a successful tank! I think a well constructed sand bed (with or without plenum), protein skimmer, and sump, fortified with aggressive maintenance procedures (water changes, etc.) will greatly enhance your chances of success. Keep in touch, and best of luck to you! Regards, Scott F.>  

Adding more Sand Hello Crew~ First off, thanks for all the help!  I have had my SW system up and running for about 2 months now... 45Gallon all-glass, SW, 35Lbs LS (NOW 45Lbs.), 30Lbs LR, 2 False Perculas, 2 Chocolate Chip Stars,    1Peppermint  Shrimp (lost 1), ~15 blue and scarlet leg crabs, 3 Bumble Bee snails, 1 Nassarius snail, ~2     Queen Conchs, Equip: AquaC Remora Skimmer w/ MaxiJet 1200, Magnum 350 Canister, ZooMed PowerSweep powerhead, Coralife 96W 36" 50/50 10,000 Kelvin/Actinic Blue VHO lights. ...The LS in my tank is only about 3/4"-1" in any given spot...and I was thinking about making it a little bit deeper.  I purchased 15 more Pd.s of CaribSea's Aragonite Aragamax Select.  The question I have is...Can I safely put this into my system without starting some new cycle again?  If this stuff isn't a good idea...what would be? <You may very well see a fresh, small cycle. I would personally keep the sand shallow and vacuum it periodically Best, Chris>

- Sand Source - Hi Crew!, <Hello, JasonC here...> In an attempt to keep things natural and even save a buck, my question is this: I live in SW Florida near beautiful Sanibel Island (about 150 miles north as the fish swim from the Keys) <Am very familiar with Sanibel - been there many times and own time-share property there.> In setting up my 75 gal reef tank, can I use beach sand (cleaned)? <I think so... just rinse it very well, allow it to dry out, rinse again, let dry and it should be good to go.> It is a fine to very fine grain size. I do not know if it has silica or if it is mostly shell based. <My guess would be more to the shell side of things, although you could probably get a definitive test over at USF Ft. Myers.> Also, with the torrential rainfall we have each day, can I use collected rainwater instead of RO water from the LFS? <Is a possibility but I would test this water and potentially supplement before the addition of the salts.> Thank you for your great site <Cheers, J -- >

-Southdown?- I am setting up a 125 saltwater aquarium for the first time and wanted to use Southdown for a substrate.  I went to the local Lowe's and they have Southdown "Pulverized Limestone."  It looked a little gray and had the consistency of Powered Sugar not regular sugar.  Can I use this for substrate or is it to fine????? <I believe that's the stuff. It's calcium based and really fine, I'd go for it. Try a bag (cant be much more than 4 bucks) and toss some in a bucket, you'll be able to tell if it's just dust once it settles down. If it's way too fine it should be more like clumpy mud.> Also, I went to Home Depot and they didn't have and Southdown but had crushed limestone sand used for a base to place stone pavers on.  This sand was very white but was much coarser than the Lowe's Pulverized limestone.  Any thought on which I can use or should I keep looking for Southdown limestone sand? <The Southdown you're looking for is Southdown tropical play sand, but this still may be the stuff. I'd try my earlier suggestion. Good luck! -Kevin> Dave from Indianapolis

-Trying out a mystery Southdown- Kevin - Great thanks for the help I'll try that, the cost is only $2.50. <I hope it works out for ya! Sheesh, we pay a whopping 4.27 in MA. Talk about a rip off! ;) -Kevin> Dave

Sand Bed Solutions Hey there, <Hey! Ryan with you today> I would to start off by saying how much I respect you guys for offering such great advice at such a great price.  Keep up the excellent work.  You have helped me to understand my hobby in much greater detail and as such I am a lot happier with my tank.  Thank you so much. <That's why I'm here!  It's great to help the hobby.> My question is, I have tried to locate a sand supplier that stocks aragonite sand but have been unsuccessful as I live in Canberra, Australia which is far from the ocean (well, 2 and 1/2 hours). <I see>  What types of sand can I use, can it be any sort of calcareous sand? <Yes, as long as you are very observant of your pH.   Keep grain size between 1.0mm-2.0mm to avoid trapping detritus.> If it's not,  How much live sand should I get to 'seed' the substrate? <A good starter kit or a few handfuls from a HEALTHY sand bed will be fine.>  I have a micro reef 2ft bow front x 15 wide x 16 high. If I am using sand as my substrate will I have to stir the sand occasionally or leave it as is once it is in? <I don't stir- but many do.  You'll have to make your own choice http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm>  I will be utilizing a DSB, probably 4 inches. <4-6 is a little safer.> I have one clown fish in there will he be alright during the sand addition. <I would quarantine him if possible.  Let things settle in your tank before adding new factors!  Good luck! Ryan> Thank in advance Amon and Sally

Laterite addition to marine substrate for Caulerpa sump (07/25/03) Dear Reefers, <Hi! Ananda here today....> Can someone please tell me if it is safe to add aquarium grade laterite to the substrate in a marine sump? <You are considering adding this for the iron content of the laterite, I presume....> Why would one want to? - Well, the Miracle Mud substrate, which appears to work so well in a 24 hour illuminated sump with Caulerpa growth, when analyzed shows the same mineral composition as a mixture of silica sand and laterite. <When I helped a friend tear down her tank prior to a move, we took a look at the Miracle Mud from her refugium. It seemed to have flecks of gold in it -- or iron pyrite.> I am setting up an experimental reef system sump with a mixture of aragonite sand and laterite instead. However, there is evidence of adverse effects from an increased concentration of aluminum in reef systems, and laterite of course contains aluminum bound up in the clay particles. <Yup, definitely something to be concerned about. Another item you might try instead of the laterite is Seachem's planted tank substrate, called Fluorite. If you write to Seachem, they should be able to tell you if there is any aluminum in it. I believe it is primarily clay-based, but it does contain quantities of iron. If you have a friend with a planted tank, ask to get the dust that comes off of the stuff when it is sifted. You can get several cups of the dust from a single bag of the stuff, especially if you rinse it.> Hence the appeal to see if anyone else has tried this before I subject living creatures to the test. <I have not. I would suggest two things: first, post on the WetWeb chat boards at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk to see if anyone has thought about this. Second, if you decide to try it, set up a small, isolated system for it. I would try a system with only your substrate and Caulerpa initially. You might consider adding some live rock later. When you have enough algae, add a snail. Another good test critter would be ghost shrimp. They are sold as freshwater feeders, but can be acclimated (slowly!) to full saltwater. Assuming those fare well, the next creature I would try is a mushroom coral. Do keep us posted on the progress of your experiment!> Thanks and best regards, Eric Brightwell FZSL <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

-Reoccurring Aragamax cloud?- Hi to all at WetWeb, <Hi there! Kevin here.> One more question about the new sand bed I'm putting in my 72 bow front:  because the Aragamax is sugar-fine and I suspect will cloud the tank with any minimal activity <Not so much once the tank is established. Most of the dust will settle down into the bed, no worries.>, would it be ok to put an inch or two of Seaflor on top of the Aragamax to try to prevent the sand cloud from happening all the time? <Never layer, just use all Aragamax or mix in some aragonite and make sure that they are combined well. You'll have no clouding problem after the initial one is fixed! -Kevin> Thanks, Peg

-Adding sand to an established tank- Hello again and thanks for your fast reply to my Qs. I have some more. <Don't we all! Kevin here.> In my 75 gal I have a 2-2 1/2" Sand bed, per what I have been getting and reading is that this is in the "middle". This is a FOWLR. All my aquascaping is done and my parameters are all good except for my high nitrate. So if the thing to do is to add sand to make a 4" DSB, these are my questions: Can I add "live sand" (the one sold in bags as live) to the existing tank? <Ahhh, those pre-bagged "live" sands... The whole purpose of buying live sand is to obtain the worms and crustaceans needed to keep the bed functioning properly. This stuff only contains a few obscure types of nitrifying bacteria which will simply appear regardless. There's more, but we need not go any further!>  is this going to re-start the cycle? <Likely not>My aquascaping is done in two "islands", can I add the sand around these and in the center of the tank trying no to "bury" the rocks I have now? <Well, some will get buried that way. A better way would be to remove the rock, add the sand, stir things up a bit, then place pvc pipe under the rocks to keep them from sinking down into the sand.> Or do I have to take everything out add the sand and re-aquascape?!! This will leave some areas deeper than others? By adding the sand on top of existing sand which it probably has some "stuff" on it, would this create any problems by burying these particles. <Some things will die, just mix it up a bit, since it's shallow its unlikely it's gone anaerobic> Now, I currently have a diamond goby which it goes around swallowing sand and putting it out, I have two Strombus snails who bury themselves for some time and then re-appear. Are these okay with the DSB?? <The Strombus are ok, but the goby will have to go!> I am kind of losing it here because even with inverting about $3,000 on a 75 gal, I am not getting good results, my LFS has misled me and did not appreciate them not giving proper guidance so my system works well. Sorry but it's frustrating. Please provide as much details as possible. <I hear ya, just keep on reading! -Kevin> Much appreciated.

Size Doesn't Matter? (Mixing Sand Grains...) Hi, been a long time reader and a great fan. I figured I'd ask all my questions at once and get them out of the way. First off, do I need mechanical filtration in a reef tank if I have a large amount of live rock, and good skimming? Can I get away with Vacuuming and water changes? <It's not necessary, particularly if you embrace good husbandry practices. However, you may want to use "passive" mechanical filtration, such as micron "filter socks", etc. to help trap gross particulate matter, etc. Just clean and/or replace them regularly.> I have a fair amount of micro bubbles in my display tank ... after much searching, I realized that I may have two much water flow? <You can almost never have too much water flow! However, you may have some air getting in somewhere, or something anomalous in the return plumbing causing the microbubbles...> I have a 125 gallon AGE tank with built in overflows in each corner, being serviced by two Mag 12 pumps... I noticed that when I turned one off, the bubbles went away almost completely. I have one powerhead in the tank right now, Hagen 802 I think... and I plan on adding another this week. My question is, could I just use one pump for the tank, or should I get two smaller pumps. <Well, it's really up to you. Of course, the electrical consumption and heat are factors to take into account. I suppose I would rather use one larger pump and bled it off into several outlets...> How long is too long for quick filters for the Hagen power head? <As far as how long between media replacement? These things can accumulate detritus and other stuff that can degrade water quality over time. I'd consider changing or servicing them every two weeks...Or more often, if needed> I've read that mixing types of sand substrates can be bad? How bad? I have small grain sand bed (step up from sugar fine) about maybe 1-2 inches deep, with another 1/2 -1 inch of medium course sand (little less than sesame seed sized) on top. I also have a few sporadic rubble and shells about. <There is a lot of difference in opinions out there regarding uniformity of substrate materials. In my humble opinion, and experience- as long as you're maintaining good conditions in the system, and as long as the depth of your substrate is 3 inches or more with relatively fine grain size, you can mix different, yet similarly-sized sands without much concern. Depth is a more crucial factor than uniform grain size, IMO.> Tank is 125 gallon AGA 30 gallon sump w/refugium 120 lbs of live rock small fish load (2 clowns, 1 Dottyback, 1 Firefish, 2 gobies) a bunch of hermits and cleaner shrimps. 2 Mag 12 pumps, with a massive aqua -c skimmer powered by another Mag 7 <I like the massive skimmer concept!> Thanks! Miguel <My pleasure, Miguel! Regards, Scott F.>

Substrate - Reef System Hello to All at WetWeb, <Hi Peggy, Don here tonight> Am adding a 6" sand bed (Aragamax sugar-fine) to my existing 72-gallon reef.  Is it necessary to remove all rock before adding the substrate?  I have a ribbon worm residing in a big piece of base rock, and I hate to mess with it if not absolutely necessary--hard on him for sure and on me because he's quite large and creeps me out when he slithers throughout the rock, especially if the rock's in my hand during removal!!:)  Also, any ideas on the best way to add new sugar-fine substrate to an existing system without having one massive cloud in the tank--especially considering it'll be about 140 lbs of sand to get a deep bed? <I would not remove the rock as it is more stable sitting on the hard bottom than atop 6" of sand that is 'dynamic' and always changing/moving. Get a high flow pump and a couple trash cans/tubs that are food safe. Pump the water into the cans removing the inhabitants along the way. Then pour in the new sand and pump the water back in. Viola! All done with no cloud.> Many tanks (bet you haven't' heard that one before, uh??), <tee hee, good one.> Peggy P.S.  Love the new book--I'm wearing it out already!!!!!!!! <Yes, another invaluable resource, eh? Will pass along. Don>

Deep Sand Beds >Hi Guys, >>And a gal, Marina here. >I just discovered your great web site. I'm upgrading from a 50 to 110 gal. reef tank. I plan on having a 5-6" deep sand bed. I've read about South Down play sand in your forums and none of the Home Depots on the west coast sell it. I've discovered at our local hardware supply a white sterilized play sand from San Juan Capistrano, CA. >>Home of the famous swallows, and my favorite mission. >The sand is the sugar type which measures .2 to 1 mm in diameter. It's not from the Caribbean, but it's still from the ocean. Can you give me your pros and cons about using this type of sand? Thanks in advance,  Dick >>Well, not knowing what it's comprised of will make it a little difficult to give you best/worst case scenarios.  The reason we like Southdown is because it is quite similar in composition to Aragonite (calcareous, and IIRC oolitic as well).  Assuming it's been *very* well washed/cleaned, also calcareous in nature, and has no pollutants, then I would think that you should be able to use it as well.  Otherwise, your biggest concerns are those listed above.  Calcium content is another concern, not as great, but it is a terrific benefit garnered from using the other sands.  One way you might be able to determine very quickly if it's NOT calcareous is to pour a bit of vinegar on it.  If it fizzles, you know it's base/alkaline.  If it does nothing then you can eliminate the possibility that it's calcareous.  I do hope this helps, and best of luck.  Marina

Southdown tropical play sand WetWebMedia Crew: <Hi Nathan, Don here today> I've seen in your FAQs that you endorse the use of Southdown tropical play sand for a DSB.  I ran across a statement on this site: http://www.crabstreetjournal.com/products/southdowntropicalplaysand.html in which the manufacturer says that it is not suitable for aquarium systems.  The authors of the site, however, say that it is well sought after by aquarists. Do you know what's up with this?  I'd love to save a bunch of money by getting this stuff, but I don't want to destroy my aquarium before I even get started! <No worries, tons and tons of Southdown being used in marine aquariums. I have heard that this was placed on the bag to 'sooth' the manufacturers of the more costly products. But that is just hearsay. If I could find it in my area, I would not have any hesitation using it.> I have 75 gallon tank.  I'm planning on 1" of sand in the display tank and a DSB in a 20 gallon sump.  I have 75 lbs. Fiji live rock and no livestock yet (except for 2 false Percs waiting eagerly in my 20 gallon...) <You are starting with good techniques Nathan. QT all fish  before they go into the main tank. Thanks for your amazing website and great book! <Will pass along, Don> Nathan

Avoiding A Sandstorm! FIRST I WANT TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS SITE. IT HAS HELPED ME SO MUCH IN THE PLANNING PHASE OF MY SYSTEM. <Glad to hear that! We are really happy to bring it to you!> OK,  WHAT I UNDERSTAND FROM SOME OF THE READING I'VE DONE ON WWM ABOUT SOUTHDOWN IS THAT YOU SHOULD POUR THE SAND INTO THE TANK AND EITHER COVER IT WITH PLASTIC OR POUR THE WATER ON A BUCKET TO AVOID A "SAND STORM". MY QUESTION IS THAT I HAVE ALSO READ THAT YOU SHOULD BUILD YOUR REEF ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TANK TO AVOID ANY DEAD SPOTS AND FUTURE SHIFTS THAT COULD CAUSE THE POSSIBLE DESTRUCTION OF YOUR REEF. SO, HOW SHOULD I GO ABOUT ADDING A 5" DSB WHILE BUILDING MY ROCK STRUCTURE? THANKS, NICK <Well, Nick- I'd keep it simple: Place the rock in the bare tank the way you like it, then pour the sand directly onto the bottom. Unfortunately, the "sand storm" is usually inevitable, regardless of the precautions that you take! However, the cloud will clear rather quickly, and you'll b in good shape with your new DSB! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Don or WWM crew - thanks for response. I'm at around 1.2 lbs of LR & LS, and I will start with this ratio. <Live sand is a bit of a different issue. You want less than 1" or more than 4-6". The depths in between are likely to cause problems. Search for 'live sand' on WetWebMedia.com to find discussions of substrate depths.> I think I'll carefully monitor the nitrogen cycle of the tank as I add livestock to see what's happening to see a plateau in the amount of the nitrogen the tank can cycle. If I do, and I'm under stocked (not necessarily a bad thing), <Yes indeed, as the fish are going to grow to their maximum size regardless. A 2" fish today may be 10" in a few years. Some are messy eaters, others not. All this will factor into your equation.> then I'll need to add more live something (but no bioballs or other nitrate factories, thank you.) <Agreed> If I don't see a plateau then I'll stick with the 1.2. <As always, a rule of thumb is exactly that. A starting point. I think your logical approach and problem solving skills are going to benefit you in this endeavor. <G> > Really, math is fun :) <Mmmmmm-hmmmmmm, give me a quadratic to solve any day!> SLC

Substrate for pearly Jawfish How are you guys today? Can you tell me what type of substrate is good for a pearly Jawfish and blennies? Fine sand or something more coarse? For Jawfishes,  a mix of some fine (a few millimeters) and larger (several millimeters) and some rubble (shells, coral bits) is best... to allow for digging, tunneling. There are too many types of blennies of too many different modes of life to be overall general re their needs... sifting types are best with fine (1,2 mm.) sand. Bob Fenner>

Sandbed looks nasty Hey Craig, <Sorry Jun, your stuck with Don today. Sorry for the delay in this reply> How's life? <FanStinkingTastic as I just returned from 4 days of fun and frivolity in Niagara Falls, Canada> I have not bothered you for a while because everything is doing great with my 90 gal reef (thanks to you). <Hey, how did you talk Craig into coming to your house to take care of your tank? I gotta get in on that!> Here is my current situation. I have 2 inches of LS in my tank. The sides of my tank (between the LS and glass) looks nasty with colorful stuff (mainly red and black stuff). I'm guessing they're Cyano. Now the question is, should I go ahead and scrape those stuff (between glass and sand)? Am I going to release a lot of toxic gas if I disturb my sandbed? Any suggestions? <This is below the surface of the substrate and between the sand and glass right? I would leave it alone, as this is a very natural occurrence. Messing with the sand bed to those depths will release nasties as well as damaging the bacterial goodies in the top layer. Maybe you could cover the lower couple inches of the tank with a thin wood trim that is color matched to your tank trim to hide this stuff. Hope this helps.> Thanks again. <No problem, type at you next time, Don> Jun

- Substrates - Hello Crew <And hello to you, JasonC here...> Just starting an 80 gal fish only (or mostly) and want to use live rock.  Have been reading wet web intensively and find it tremendously informative. <I'm glad you find it useful.> Its actually amazing!!!  Well have read a lot of stuff re DSBs.  The LFS from whom I bought the tank etc. from sold me some stuff called Bed Rock for substrate.  Insisted it was the next best thing to sliced bread.  I have an inch and half in the tank and am wondering if I can add sand to this stuff. <I would think so...> I have had no luck finding out anything about the stuff.  The box it came in merely said it was mined in an environmentally safe manner and was wet mined and an asset to maintaining pH.  Its not granular, looks like grayish white chips or flakes. <Sounds like it's probably just flaked limestone.> I am not trusting of LFS after asking some questions re protein skimming and being told that protein skimming was not necessary in the set up I want to do. <You're right there... fish-only tank would benefit greatly from protein skimmers. Tell you what - tell the guy at the store that if he drinks your skimmate, you'll buy the skimmer from him.> Wondering if any of you have heard of this stuff and if it is any good. <It's probably not bad, but I would consider getting some fine-grain sand in there as well. Deep sand beds are quite effective.> Appreciate any input you may have. <Cheers, J -- >

Fusing Aragonite Sand Question 6/13/03 Hola all, <Hola> this is a question for Anthony if possible.   <all is possible in the Land of WetWebMedia... just audibly click your pharyngeal... errr, never mind. Howdy!> I have a DSB, 4-5" of REALLY fine aragonite ( pureAragonite.com ), almost like flour size.   <very good for DSB with NNR... my preference in fact> I had emailed last week about your slurry method and that I was having trouble raising my calcium.  My DKH is now around 9/10, and my calcium is around 330 or so.   <not bad at all... in fact, you can use just a little bit (temporary) of calcium chloride to get that Ca 350-400, then carry on with Kalk and keep the ALK 8-10dKH and it all sounds good to me. Recall to keep Mg levels about 3X Ca too> I have been adding about 1/2 teaspoon or so of Kalk using the slurry method in the morning.  The PH in the evening is about 8.19 to 8.2.  In the morning, I add the teaspoon of Kalk to get the PH to about 8.3? to 8.4 tops!   <all good> So to the question, I have sections of sand that seem fused together.   <the problem in this case is not that you added too much or too fast... but rather that the aquarium lacks adequate water flow to disperse the concentrated slurry. Seek 10-20X turnover for most reef aquaria proper. In the meantime, just ameliorate (add water) to your slurry and/or dose a little slower. This will prevent the local spike in chemistry and the clumping of aragonite sand> Little ones smaller than a dime to some bigger patches like the size of a quarter.  They are here and there throughout the bottom of the tank. A few, not a whole bunch.  They are flat and thin, really resembling a coin.  Pods and other critters seem to be hiding under them.   <heehee... cool> Is this actually fusing because of a calcium/Alk reaction which I had read in another FAQ?  The PH doesn't seem to indicate there is a problem ( new pinpoint PH monitor ).   <agreed> Could some creatures be doing this?  Is it actually a problem? <yes... a bit dangerous/precarious. The slurry needs dispersed better for many reasons> Thanks for your time.  By the way, I ordered the new book about a week ago, nice that I still got the pre-order price even thought it was beyond the date shown on the site...so when is it coming!!!! Best wishes, Paul <very good to hear, mate :) The door on the pre-order pricing did finally close. The trucks are rolling next week to start to move the texts for fulfillment. Kind regards, Anthony>

- Quikrete Play Sand - Hi, <Hello, JasonC here...> I have searched the site and have not found anything relevant to my question, so I guess I will go ahead and ask... I am finding it very difficult to find anything but the Quikrete brand play sand (no Southdown/old castle) in my area.  I have dug around looking for an elemental analysis of this product, and all I can turn up is "this is a specially graded, washed and dried sand suitable for sand boxes and other household applications."  Basically it is supposed to be sterile with all organic matter removed.  My goal is to make a DSB for a new s.w tank w/o spending $27.00 a bag for the CaribSea stuff.  In your experience, is the Quikrete sand safe to use? <It is most likely pure silicate, and less than ideal to use in a marine aquarium... if CaribSea is what is available, I'd use it, in spite of the price. Pound for pound, it would be cheaper than live rock.> It seems it is not carbonaceous like the Southdown. <All the more reason not to use it.> Thanks for your help! Nick <Cheers, J -- >

Sand and skimmer questions... Dear Bob, <Kevin here today> Thanks for the feedback... In continuing with my query, I have managed to find a sand factory that sells plain calcium carbonate sand which is white in colour size ranging from 0.5 mm to 1.5mm. This sand is made by grinding calcium carbonate blocks. <That size should be fine for a deep live sand bed> Will this work out fine for me ? <Sure, just make sure you buy some true live sand (not that stuff that's pre-bagged) to seed your sandbed.> I'm looking to buy a skimmer for my 55G....Would you recommend the AquaC Remora or the Red Sea Prizm Pro ? <I'd recommend the Remora (or preferably the remora pro) after using all of these skimmers.> Please Help <Good luck! -Kevin> Cheers Lyndon

Adding more sand. great site but I cant seem to find the answer to my question. I have 220 FOWLR, 220lbs live rock, assortment of snails, crabs, hermits and brittle starts. I plan on a heavy fish load of tangs, butterflies, and angels. I have a large EuroReef cs12-1 skimmer, wet/dry sump, and about two inches or aragonite sand.  well my first fish have died (ich) and am about to take out the live rock to catch the two remaining tangs so I can quarantine them. <Yes, please please please QT all future additions for a minimum of 4 disease free weeks. I would recommend you get the infected fish out of the main display and allow the main tank to fallow for 4-6 weeks to break the parasite cycle.> I was wondering if while am redoing my system should I add a couple more inches of sand, so that I would have a DSB. if so 5in right? and right on top of the current sand? <Yes, this all would be good. Using sugar fine sand as well. If you can, pump the water into containers, add the sand, and refill the tank. From experience, I can tell you that trying to add the sand while there is water in the tank will cause a sand storm that will cover much the rock with a fine layer of sand. Very ugly and frustrating.> if not what should I do to remove nitrates in the future? <You don't mention a sump. If you have one could you build the DSB in it? Or, could you add an upstream refugium with a DSB in it? If so, then you could actually reduce the main tank substrate to 1" or less. Hope your changes go smoothly, Don> thanks any info is helpful.

Bad Gravel hi again, I have a new client that has a 55 gallon aquarium that has been in his garage for 6 months,  it has crushed coral about 6 inches deep and has been sitting in about 6 inches of salt water. the top 1 inches is thick green algae. my question is : do I have to get all new crushed coral for this aquarium or what should I do? thanks forever,<If you washed this gravel out very thoroughly you should be OK, If you don't feel like going through this time consuming process I would just purchase more gravel-not too expensive for a 55gallon aquarium, IanB> Le Roy @ Aquascaping

S.O.S. Cloudy water from sand 5/31/03 Dear Crew - Anthony if you are there, please. <here, my friend> I have a DSB about 3 months old, and today I had to almost drain the tank to 3" and remove some of the LR,  I had to catch a fish and all else failed.   <no worries... this is actually my first course of action with fast pumps on hand> Got the fish, but when I refilled the tank it was milky and not from the sand.  I did a 50% water change and it looked  okay for a while, now it is milky again.  I'm afraid something from the DSB is releasing into the tank.   <no worries again... nothing being released. Just was not refilled gently (sand got blasted). Tank will be milky for days. Consider buying or renting a diatom cartridge (not powder) filter like the HOT Magnum> My husband is out buying more RO water, but in the meantime, I have three fish in there, one a newbie from my hospital tank. What is wrong and should I remove the fish pronto???? <not at all... relax, my friend. Check you water chemistry daily for the nest 3 days to confirm biological stability... polish the water with the diatom filter if you like... or just be patient. All will clear in time> Thanks Anthony and anyone else who is there today. Connie <best regards, Anthony>

Adding sand to an existing system. Thanks but maybe you could not see original email. Currently have 90 gal with 90lbs Kaelini rock and 2-3" fine sand bed. Inhabitants: 1 coral beauty and asst of Turbos, hermit and scarlet crabs. I want to increase sb to 4+". What would the procedure be in my situation? Thanks <Sorry for the misunderstanding. To preserve the life you already have, add about 1/2" a week - two weeks till you get to the desired depth. You want to give the organism time to dig out from the new substrate. As for adding the sand, I've seen a couple of different methods. One was to use an oil change funnel (new and washed in vinegar of course). It works for some, but didn't work so well for me. I would say try to use a small pitcher (once again, new and washed with a vinegar solution) and pour the sand directly onto the sand bed, by submerging the pitcher. You want to be right down against it. If you pour from the surface, it will be a royal mess. Be sure and turn off all the pumps in the tank first. Adding the sand will cloud up the water. After adding the sand, let it settle for a few hours, then turn the pumps back on one at a time. It will take a few days for the clouding to settle down. This won't harm your animals, this kind of thing happens in the ocean too, and is nothing compared to a hurricane. Once the sand storm has settled, use a turkey baster (say it with me now, a new one cleaned with vinegar (unless you have one already dedicated for aquarium use) to clean the dust off the LR. Good luck, PF>

Was 'pods, now sand Thanks for the help! Do I have to qt aragonite sand before putting in tank? <No, don't wash it either. Assuming you haven't put water in your tank first, here's a handy dandy way to put the sand in your tank. Layer it down how you want it, then cover it in plastic sheeting, the cheap clear plastic drop clothes for painting work well for this. Weigh them down with something inert, say PVC pipe. Place a wide, shallow bowl on the sand and pour the water on that. Remove the weights and plastic when you're done. The water and sand get much less stirred up that way. Now, there will be some dust and clouding in the tank, but not as much as if you poured the sand or the water directly together. The reason you don't want to rinse the sand is the fine, dust like particles make a good water buffer, and they have the highest surface area for bacteria to colonize. The dust will settle in a day or so, and you would waste a lot of sand rinsing it off. Well, I hope that isn't information overload. Have a good night, PF>

Spring Sand Cleaning   5/27/03 Good Afternoon,<Afternoon to you too.  Crew member Phil reporting for duty.> We have a 55G FOWLR tank that has been up for about 8 months.  In February, we lost all but 3 of our green Chromis to ich.<I'm sorry, its never easy to lose fish.>  The tank was left fallow for 2 months and we just reintroduced 5 Chromis as well as 3 peppermint and a cleaner shrimp.<Good job on leaving the tank fallow!> A number of snails inhabit the tank as well. The current substrate is a crushed coral/sand mixture that I would like to replace with a nice fine sand.  Here was my proposed plan: 1)Move fish and shrimp back to 20L QT tank,<Ok, I'm guessing that your Chromis aren't all that big, if they are a 20g tank won't be big enough> 2)Put live rock and snails in heated/pre-pared make up water,<Ok, remember that snails need to be adjusted before being added, if added too quickly they will die.> 3) shut down filters/protein skimmers/powerheads and siphon tank water to another container<Sounds good> 4) change tank stands<OK> 5)replace substrate<Good so far> 6)return live rock and tank water to tank.....here is where I get perplexed.  Will it be better to use fresh aged seawater instead of returning the original tank water back to the tank?<I'd do a 75/25 mix.  Use 75% old water with 25% new saltwater.  How long should I wait before I reintroduce Chromis?<Wait till everything clears up and all water levels are normal.>  Did I miss anything?<I didn't see anything... sounds like a plan.  Good luck!> I appreciate your help.  I looked everywhere and can't seem to find the answer to my questions.<Hope this helps!  Let me know how it turns out!> Melissa<Phil>

Re: Coarse substrate Would you recommend I change to another type substrate, and if so, which one? <You don't HAVE to change the substrate, just be diligent about keeping the coarse substrate clean. If you want to change substrate, sugar fine aragonite is recommended. Either less than an inch or more than 4 inches> Sorry, but how does smaller diameter equal more surface area? <Take a cube that is 3"x3"x3". In that box you can place 1 sphere that has a 3" diameter which has a surface area of 18.5 square inches. Now fill that box with 1/2" diameter spheres. Minimally you can get 216 spheres in the box (6x6x6). While the smaller spheres have a surface area of 3.2 square inches, multiply that by 216 and you have a total of 678.6 square inches. Smaller diameter spheres have more surface area than larger spheres in the same volume of space. Hope this helps, Don> Thanks again

Substrate Hi crew, My fish only saltwater tank substrate is a mixture of crushed coral and Puka shell.  The average depth is between 2 and 3 inches with no UG filter.  Now that it is in place and filled with water I have been told that I have too much and I am going to have problems later with "dead spots" which can kill the fish.  What is your opinion on this?  <That is correct, I would go with under 1".> Also, how often should I clean the substrate and to what depth?  Should I only do half each time?  <Just clean the top layer and yes it would be a good idea to only do half at a time.  Cody>  Thanks, James

Replacing Crushed Coral with Sand Substrate I currently have a mixture of Puka shell and crushed coral in my 75 gallon tank.  Not until I started reading some of the q and a's here did I realize the problem I may have with keeping it clean (constant vacuuming).  Could I leave that in the tank and cover it with sand?  If so, how deep and what kind?  Thank you. <Personally, I would remove it and replace it with a deep aragonite bed, some of which would be either a live product or one cultured beforehand to handle the existing bio-load.  The existing substrate *could* be used depending on how coarse and porous it is and how much waste it will trap in the sand bed (or how clean you can get it. The problem is: you want the coarse material closer to the top of the substrate and the fine material deeper in the substrate. Hard to do when you already have the coarse stuff in there! Read more about Deep Sand Beds at WetWebMedia.com before you get too far.  Good luck! Craig>

BARE BOTTOM REEF? Hey WWM, <IanB on call tonight> A question about substrates for marine tanks.  I would prefer to have no substrate to eliminate the greatest amount of trapped particulate matter as possible,<Bad idea> yet am not sure about the negative impacts on marine life.<do read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> < http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm> I understand the question is still contestable, but considering I wish to keep anemones, polyps, Amphiprion ocellaris and tube worms, is it advisable to go with the "bare bottom" approach,<definitely NO> or will a light scattering of aragonite sand really improve the hospitality factor of the tank to its inmates ???<again read through http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> Thank you in advance for your time Andrew Hough <your welcome, IanB>

Crushed coral? Hi Bob,<IanB on duty> I'm just amazed with your wide knowledge on marine/reef scenarios. Since I'm starting (newbie) on my saltwater aquarium (65 gal., pentagon-corner, ocean clear canister, 600 gph pressure pump and Prizm protein skimmer) which I'm planning to put fish and a few corals and a anemones. I'm on my fifth day of my cycling period which I have about 50 lbs. of live rocks (Walt Smith) and 5 damsels. I have a few questions for you: 1. Is it ok to just use (non-live) crushed corals for substrates,<yes, will become "Live Crushed Coral" in time> 'cause I was told that it will create nitrites that will kill my livestock in the future? <No, As long as you practice good husbandry you should be fine> 2) Looks like everyday one damsel dies and I have one damsel left that's alive, is this common during the cycling period or did they die because I've been rearranging my rocks (3 times).<moving rocks can be stressful for the fish, but during a cycle its not rare for many of the damsels to die> And shall I just leave the dead damsels in to generate more ammonia?<I would remove the dead fish> 3) What do you think about Algone products for cycling and maintenance?<Have never used them before> I really appreciate all the other great info I've learn so far. Thanks, Bob.<keep reading my friend, IanB> Felix D.

Saltwater substrate adventure in Dubai Hello People, <Hello Lyndon> Hope you are all well. I am considering adding a sand bed to my 60G Tank. But... 1.) There is only one Marine LFS in Dubai (Where I live)...People say that Saltwater is very demanding according to the LFS guy...We brave ones know that ! 2.) He does not sell Live Sand or Live Rock 3.) No online store will ship here...and even if they do...I cant afford it right away as I'm saving to buy an Aqua C skimmer.... I HAVE to collect this from the excellent reefs on the East coast...there is no prohibition as there are obviously few or no collectors from here... <I see> I am trying to figure out what kind of sand to collect.. colour... particle size.. how deep I can dig up... what to be wary of etc.... <Collect in a few feet of depth, one millimeter or larger diameter, from the surface down to an inch or so... likely need to rinse (in seawater, on site) to remove much of the life for transit (else will die, take longer to "cure")>   And when I pick some LR rubble....what do I look out for... <Sponges, larger macro-algae... leave them in the sea... often die in transit otherwise> Can you give me some advice on this please ???? Thank You...as always your help is much appreciated. Regards Lyndon <Enjoy the anticipation, task, and do make it known what you experienced. Bob Fenner>

Re: Gravel, Change or Not? Thanks for the response.  A follow-up question, if you will: since the Eclipse system is supposed to be superior because it houses beneficial bacteria on the Bio-Wheel, wouldn't that make it less likely the tank would be disturbed by replacing the gravel with sand? <Good Evening, All biological filters have Bio-Media where bacteria is grown to breakdown ammonia, nitrites. Your gravel has carries a good portion of your aquariums beneficial bacteria population. About 3 years ago I had a 45gal tank with parrotfish changed the gravel and I had to large bio-wheel filters and my fish died because I had nitrites and ammonia in my aquarium water due to the removal of some of the bio-media (which was the gravel). Gravel can be changed but I would make it a gradual one (maybe take 1/4 of the old out and put 1/4 of the new in) just make sure if you decide to change the gravel feed the fish very sparingly and get the water tested often, I don't want you to loose fish like I did three years ago. IanB>

The Shifting Sands...(Increasing/Decreasing Sand Bed Depth) Hey Crew!! <Hi! Scott F. with you today!> I have an 8 month old, lightly populated, (damsel, Firefish goby, scooter blenny, pep. shrimp, cleaner shrimp, basic cleanup crew), in a 30 long with ~25# LR and about 2.5" Sand bed.  I have seen many suggestions that the sand bed needs to be 1" or 4". <Actually, 1/2 inch or less, or 3 inches plus!> So what would the best plan to correct this situation, add a couple inches or remove a couple? <Your call here. If you don't desire the look or utility of the DSB, then go for 1/2 inch or less...> I am destined for cycling problems if I try to adjust this? <Well, you could see a slight nitrite or ammonia spike...it's possible. However, I have not encountered this problem, myself> My thinking was add a little at a time until I reach the ~4" mark, or remove a little at a time until I get down to the 1" mark.   Thanks, Bill <Well, Bill, if you're gonna go for the 1/2 inch or less, I'd do it gradually. If you're gonna go for the 3 inches plus- I'd go for it all at once, myself. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Thanks for the great advice, you've put my mind at rest!. One final question, re. the DSB (or not so D in my case). I was lead to believe 3-5 inches would be fine - so I kept adding until I got to 3 inches!<Many people say three is fine and is in many cases.  I just like to go with four to be safe.> If I need an inch more I have no problem doing that. Is it Ok to just add the clean substrate straight into the tank with fish, snail, hermits and LR present? <yes>I'd have thought I should remove the fish first and let the dust settle before putting them back. I simply don't have any experience on whether the fish will tolerate the addition of sand. Also what about the detritus and a few feather dusters popping out of the existing surface of the sand - can I just add straight on top? <Just make sure they're heads are sticking out of the sand and you should be fine.>  Sorry if the question is dumb, but the dumbest question is the one left un-asked!  <Never a dumb question, many people ask it!  Cody> Many thanks in advance again, and keep up the fabulous work! Mark

Crushed coral, hermit heaven? Good morning! I have a few quick questions about my substrate. Like a ton of people I read about their LFS suggested they buy crushed coral substrate for their aquariums. Well, me too. They said I needed it to house hermits. <That's a new one to me.> I hate the way it looks dirty and the green algae build up around the bottom of the glass. I have a 75 gallon reef tank (6 months) with 2 inches of cc and about 45 lbs of live rock (10 more currently in my qt). I was wondering if getting rid of about an inch of it would be alright or I was wondering a good trick to replacing in with sand. <I'm a big fan of DSB's, read here to find out more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm > I read on your site about Southdown (at Home Depot). How do I do this with out disturbing my fish, corals and inverts? <Well, you'd have to take out your LR, fish and corals to do this. The water would be cloudy (don't rinse the sand first, lots of good things about the dust), the dust just bothers us, not the animals.> I'd hate to give my fish ich. <Replacing your sand bed shouldn't give your fish ich.> The cc is causing my nitrate levels to stay around 10. Also I read on your site about using a magnet scrapper to clean the glass. Where can I find one and what is it? <They're 2 pieces: 1 side with a Velcro (the "sticky" plastic side) pad and soft pad. The sticky side goes inside the tank, the soft outside (there's special pads for acrylic tanks). Prices range from cheap, to not-so-cheap. Like everything else, you get what you pay for. I'm use an algae free magnet right now, it takes off everything: green algae, coralline, etc. PDQ. Convenient and easy to use.> What about a credit card? <As long as you don't mind sticking your hand in the tank, sure. But, it is a good idea to keep your hand (and any possible contaminants on it) out of the tank.> Thank you <You're welcome, have a good day, PF>

Cloudy after adding sand normal? Hi! I added aragonite sand to my new tank and it is extremely cloudy.  I added it yesterday, will this eventually go down? It says on the bag minimal washing, which I did. Weird? Thanks JM <Totally normal, will settle down in a few days.  Craig>

Substrates <Hi Ron, PF here tonight> I am starting a fish only tank- I had a question about sand vs. gravel- I want to use a product from CaribSea called Tahitian moon sand but was told it is too light & I would not be able to siphon it- <I have oolitic aragonite in my tank, and their is very little sand loss when I do my water change [I use a siphon tube].> I was told to use Indo Pacific Black sand because it is little heavier but after I ordered it , I realize it was a Arag-Alive product which I assume is Live Sand. Would this cause a problem in a fish only tank or could I just rinse in out real good? <No problem, and don't rinse it. Such "live sands" [a brief aside, Live Sand includes worms, micro stars, etc. Bagged live sands in stores have bacterial populations, and that's it] won't hurt, and don't rinse it, what is left of the bacterial population will help establish your biological filter.> My other question is revolving around Dried coral as decor. I realize I don't want  coralline growth in a fish only tank. <Why not? Coralline algae is harmless, annoying on the glass yes because it's so hard to get off, but harmless nonetheless.> Does these dried coral stay clean or do they need to be cleaned every six months or so? <I imagine there would be hair algae, or some such on them since it sounds like your tank will lack animals to control that. Have you thought about going with a FOWLR instead? The biological filtration provided by the live rock would be a big benefit for your animals, plus it provides a food source (as well as eating the stuff you would be siphoning out. Just my opinion.> thanks Ron <Your welcome, PF>

Southdown, Liverock, and Egg Crates Good Morning from the East coast and thank you for all the great information.  <Good evening from Montana!  You got Cody today!> I am just about ready to setup my first marine tank. It is a 55 gallon and I plan on using 75lbs Kaelini LR and 4" of Southdown for a DSB. Filtration will be a Remora Pro protein skimmer and an Emperor 400 power filter. For water movement, I have two MaxiJet 900's.     From what I have read in the FAQ's, the Southdown will leave the tank cloudy for a few days. Should I let the tank run with the power filter and skimmer for about week before adding the LR to minimize sand settling on it?  <That would be a good idea and when it does clear blow all the sand off the LR with a powerhead.> Also, I have read about placing egg crate about 1" into the DSB to provide some stability for the LR aquascaping.  Will the egg crate cause any problems for the DSB?  <I wouldn't do this, especially if you ever wanted to get any burrowing fish.  If you place the LR before you add sand then fill in around it you should be fine.  Cody> Thanks in advance; David

Adding substrate to an existing tank that has no substrate. Hello, [Hi Lee, PF here tonight, on this side of the world anyway.] I have finally tracked down a supplier here in Oz for Aragonite substrate. [Be sure and post where on any local boards you visit elsewhere on the web, maybe you can save someone else the headaches you went through.] I have ordered 4 bags of Super fine aragonite sand. 1mm - 1.5 mm white and 4 bags of Super fine aragonite sand. 0.5 - 1.0 mm white. Each bag is 20kg at $47.50 Aus each ($28.00 US) a real bargain [That is nice, cheaper than here, most places sell 30lbs bags for $30, at least in my neck of the woods.] so I ordered more than I need, as you just never know ! :) My tank is set up with the Berlin system, and I will be removing the water, livestock and all corals, LR and br. Once that is done I shall give the bottom of the tank a good clean <is that best to do?> [I'd vacuum up the detritus, but I wouldn't go nuts with it.] Now do I add all the substrate I need or just 1" or 2" first? [Do you have enough to manage a DSB? Otherwise, go with just 1"] <I am not sure> I want to add a little sand that place the br etc whilst trying to maintain the smallest footprint as possible. If I can only add a couple of inches of sand, how long do I need to wait before I can add the rest? [Do it all at once, save yourself a lot of headaches that way. Don't rinse the sand either, the fine particles are good for the tank.] I am going to use 1mm to 1.5mm for the first 2" then the 0.5 to 1mm for the next 2" and a 1" layer of live sand on top <Is the right?> [The LR will seed your bed and make it live, but a few kg's of live sand wouldn't hurt either] Any advise would be most appreciated as everything is planned down to the last detail for this Saturday, so I need to know if I can add all the sand or not. [Well... IMO you might want to get more sand and do a DSB.] A most loyal servant to the water gods....... [Ahhh... minions... ; )  If you like mantis shrimp, you're in, in my book at least.] Regards Lee [Hope this helps Lee, if you're not familiar with DSB's, go to http://www.wetwebmedia.com and there's a Google link on the bottom of the page. Use that to search the site for DSB info.] From Down under. [From Up above?]

Adding substrate to an existing tank that has no substrate. Hello, <Hi, Don here today> I have finally tracked down a supplier here in Oz for Aragonite substrate. I have ordered 4 bags of Super fine aragonite sand. 1mm - 1.5 mm white and 4 bags of Super fine aragonite sand. 0.5 - 1.0 mm white. Each bag is 20kg at $47.50 Aus each ($28.00 US) a real bargain so I ordered more than I need, as you just never know ! :) <Very good!> My tank is set up with the Berlin system, and I will be removing the water, livestock and all corals, LR and br. Once that is done I shall give the bottom of the tank a good clean <is that best to do?> <Couldn't hurt> Now do I add all the substrate I need or just 1" or 2" first? <I am not sure> I want to add a little sand that place the br etc whilst trying to maintain the smallest footprint as possible. If I can only add a couple of inches of sand, how long do I need to wait before I can add the rest? I am going to use 1mm to 1.5mm for the first 2" then the 0.5 to 1mm for the next 2" and a 1" layer of live sand on top <Is the right?> Any advise would be most appreciated as everything is planned down to the last detail for this Saturday, so I need to know if I can add all the sand or not <I would add all the sand at one time. Otherwise, you will be tearing it down and going through this stress again. Keep in touch and let me know how this goes. Don>

Substrate silt I have a 150 and I have 180lbs of crushed coral in it.  I cleaned the crushed coral before putting it in the tank but there still is a lot of dust build up in the water.  How do I get rid of this dust? <Patience and filtration. Make sure you keep filters and skimmers clean and let time do it's thing. May take several days. Don>

Re: My Acrylic Aquarium Bob, Thank you for the quick reply. I have noticed in the FAQs that there are differing opinions about pre-rinsing Southdown sand, with the majority stating 'no rinsing necessary'.  Do you hold a contrary view?   <Evidently so... I would definitely wash the sand... in aliquots/portions in a "plastic pickle bucket"... about ten pounds at a time, "swishing around" with my hand, pouring off... till it ran clean/er. Try some and see.> With respect to lighting, it is my intention to initially maintain a fish only system.  I would like to provide enough light to grow/maintain the coralline algaes on the live rock.  I understood your response to say that 250w MH pendants would be adequate for this purpose. <Yes... even 175's> There are three cut-outs in the top, would you recommend one pendant over each, or attempt to spread 4-5 pendants over the 112" length of the tank? <Try three and see what you think> Your advice regarding additional external mechanical filtration is well-taken, but I am unsure how to deploy this strategy while minimizing maintenance efforts.  I understand that weekly cleaning of mechanical filters is key if meaningful nutrient export is to occur. For a system this large, a mechanical pool filter w/large pleated insert seems to be the logical choice, but would seem to introduce a cumbersome weekly cleaning ritual.  Are there better/easier options I should consider? <Yes. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marmechf.htm and the "Related FAQs" at top, in blue> Again, thank you.  Your advice is greatly appreciated. <Glad to offer it> It will be mid 70s and sunny in Minneapolis, today.  Think I'll sit outside and pretend I'm in San Diego....if I had this new book I'd ordered by Calfo & Fenner in my hands to read, it would be a perfect day...... <Wish you (and I) had it in hand. Bob Fenner> Steve

A little loose silicone sealant and very fine sand Howdy Crew, two quick questions today. 1. I used 100% silicone to add some baffles in my acrylic sump, but I am no master with the silicone tube, so a little smudged here and there.  I rubbed off as much of the extra as I could, but there might be a few very TINY little pieces of silicone that get in the water.  Can this hurt any of the animals, or the pumps for that matter? <No problems here> 2. Has anyone used substrate from pureAragonite.com?  I got the sugar fine, and it is REALLY fine, like flour in some cases.  Is this too fine? <Doubtful, though it may take a few days to clear, settle in your system. Bob Fenner> Thank you. Paul

Southdown Alternatives >Are there other economical sands other than Southdown that are safe?   >>Yes, clean play sand, but those are usually silicate in nature, therefore you don't experience the beneficial buffering capacity of a product such as Southdown (which is the economical alternate to Aragonite). >What is it about Southdown that makes it so special? >>The fact that it is a calcareous substrate, which therefore affords you both a source of calcium for the fauna that utilizes such, as well as good alkalinity (buffering) experienced with the utilization of calcareous substrata.  Marina Ana M. Saavedra

Southdown Alternatives >Are there calcareous substrates other than aragonite? >>Yes, crushed coral being one of them. Ana M. Saavedra

Crushed Coral to Live Sand Kind Crew, <my cats might argue otherwise, especially on their fasting night ;) PF here> If I can, run my current plan past you. Currently my tank is a FOWLR 30 gal, penguin 160 bio wheel, (wheel removed) Visi-jet skimmer (yes I know), 20 lbs. live rock, Crushed coral UG filter. 4 gallon water changes every two weeks. Inhabitants consist of a male and female ocellaris clown, (paired up), a yellow damsel, cleaner shrimp, 3 hermits, and 3 snails. The plan is to upgrade to a 75 gal this summer w/refugium, upgrade skimmer to a aqua c urchin sump skimmer w/maxi-jet 1200 pump or possible the Aqua C remora pro <fine units both, I use the Remora Pro on my 75g>. Within the next month (going in with a friend) I'll be getting a hold of 15 lbs. <150?> of Kaelini live rock, (uncured). <I would advise getting the skimmer now and using that on your curing tank. Be sure and read up on curing LR, there's lots of good info here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm and that link points you to even more info > Before adding the LR to the tank (after curing in a separate tank) I want to change the substrate form crushed coral to sand. < A good thing.> 1.   Today, adding the wheel back to the bio-wheel, figure I need bacteria growth, prior to removing the crushed coral? <No, not really, but you could use the bio-wheel filter on the curing tank to help accelerate the curing process, anyone else have any thoughts on this?> 2.   Two weeks? break down the tank and replace the crushed coral with sand. <That's long time ahead, were are your fish going to live in the interim?>  I plan on purchasing around 50 lbs. of south down, home depot, and also a few bags of LS from the LFS< My advice, skip the LS. Instead, get some mesh bags (like the kind you get onions and potatoes in) and put a good measure of your crushed coral in there. You can set this on your new sandbed and let the life migrate over. After a few weeks you can pull the bag out and do with it what you will. You don't want to mix the CC back in though.>. To seed?  Think the calculator roughed out about 68 lbs. Of sand required for a 3" depth. <I think you'll want more. A DSB needs to be over 4" from all the research I've seen. If you don't want a DSB, just use 1". Sandbeds under 4" and over 1" don't really work from all the research I've done.> 3.   Can I change out the substrate and put the fish back in same day? <Well, it'll be a might cloudy, but I don't think that would be a problem. Btw, don't rinse the sand before hand. That fine dust works well as a buffer, in addition it also has a higher surface area and makes a dandy bacteria growing area.> The plan is to have this sand and LR seed the sand in the 75, purchase more rock, and slowly convert the 75 over to the beginnings of a reef <You are better off adding all the rock at once, the system will be more stable that way.>, need to re-read coral propagation. I'm sure I'll have many more question but looking to safely convert to sand at the moment. I'm sure I read an article or FAQ on this before, I searched the site and skimmed Bob's book, but it seems to be elusive at the moment. <try this link: www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm  > Thanks for you time, DaveK <No problem Dave, happy to help! PF> <Another idea would be to keep the CC (make sure you keep it wet, filtered, and heated) and use it in a refugium. Some organisms like that size substrate, especially copepods. I've also grown a lot of worms using CC. Just a thought, good luck!>

New Sand Bed Hi everyone, >Hello, Connie.  Marina here today. It's Connie again with another sand bed question.  I put the gravel I had been using into two mesh bags and placed them on top of my new sand bed to "seed" it.  I know at the very least I had a lot of arthropods.   >Arthropods and copepods and many other "pods", maybe? Anyway, after about three days the new sand started to turn brown, and I realized I had transferred some old brown algae as well. >Nutrient export, and possibly excessive lighting.   Question:  should I vacuum off the brown algae or what?  I have my first shipment of "critters" in the sand, but they are awfully small. >Yes, always a good idea to remove fouling algae (by doing so you also remove the nutrients they've fixed).  I'll also advise you to get a good quality skimmer if you haven't got one, or crank up the one you have.  Water changes (small, frequent) are another good way to remove excess nutrients as well.  It seems you're on top of things (btw, be sure to test for nitrates and phosphates if the algal blooms are persistent), and should be on your way.  Also, my own little tip--don't spend money on buying mesh bags when we ladies have so much hosiery from which to choose!  Not the prettiest thing to use, but they can even hold finely grained sand, and I can't tell you how many times that hosiery drawer has saved me LOTS of trouble! Thanks, as always, for your help.  Connie >You're quite welcome, and good luck.  Marina

Playing In The Sand! Hey there- <Hi! Scott F. with you today!> Would it be ok if I replaced the miracle mud with a DSB in the sump? <Well, they are designed to accomplish two different things, really. Deep sand beds are really designed for nutrient processing and nitrate reduction. The mud products are really designed to help foster growth of macroalgae and provide passive mineral supplementation. Sure, you can have a remote sand bed, plumbed to the main tank...lots of hobbyists do this with great results!> Maybe 50% Carib sea aragonite oolitic sand and 50% live sand? <That's a fine mix...In fact, you could really get away with a lot less "live" sand- the inert sand will become "live" in short order> How many inches deep?  4-5? <That would be fine! Six inched would be really sweet, if you could do it> Thanks, Josh <Have fun with this project! Regards, Scott F>

Quartz Sand, Silicon dioxide   4/10/03 hey Phil, how's it going?<All good here, hope your doing well too!> I just got my 80 gal tank 5 days ago its pretty nice not as big as I wanted but more in my price range.<That's great!  An 80g tank is still "up there" in size.>I have a question about sand. Can you use Quarts based sand it looks just like Southdown sand but its from the desert. It's for reptile habitats I was wondering if I could use this.<To be honest I can't be 100% sure unless I were to read what's in it.  OK we know its quartz based... but what else is in there?  Anything that could cause problems?  To be safe I would go with Southdown or something of the like.>  Thanks for your help!<As always it's my pleasure.  Phil> Tyler

Rockin' In The Rubble! (Creating a Rubble Zone For Centropyge) Crew: Current setup: 55gal FOWLR w/inverts (snails and hermits), 39lbs. LR, 4-6" DSB, 800gph flow, 10gal QT. I am interested in two Centropyge Angels: loricula and flavissima.  I have formed the opinion that they could both work in my aquarium (feel free to insert rebuttal here). <Rebuttal: It can work in a large tank, but in a tank less than 5-6 feet in length, it could be a constant battle between the two fishes...I'd be hesitant to try this in a 55> On your Centropyge pages it is written: "Habitat: Consists of coral and rock rubble, with lots of caves and crannies."  I would like to add some rubble to benefit these fish (if not for the sheer joy of saying "rubble" every time I show someone my tank ;D). <Dude- you're speaking my language! I always refer to one of my tanks as a "simulated rubble zone" (yep- I'm a fish geek...)> Should I: a) buy it packaged? <Nah!> b) "hammer" out my own from live or base rock? <That's what I'd do, or get smaller pieces of LR from your LFS- they'll love you for it when you buy 10lbs of 2-3 inch pieces of rubble...you'd be surprised at how much rubble it takes to get a pound of live rock rubble) c) use crushed coral that I already have? d) don't bother, it's a waste of time/nothing but trouble? e) none of the above? <Again, I'd either buy some smaller rubble-sized pieces, or take out a hammer and smash out some on your own> Also, what is a good "rule of thumb" (not that again!) for number of "caves and crannies" for my aquatic animals?  Is 1 or 2 hiding places per fish good enough?  Thanks a million, Rich. <I'd create as many nooks and crannies as you can to offer numerous territories and hiding places for your fishes, even if you're just going to keep one Centropyge (I'd go for the Flame Angel myself..). And I DO encourage you to keep just one in this tank...but you could add some cool blennies and other small fishes for an interesting rubble setup. Rock on (I couldn't resist that one)! Regards, Scott F>

Crushed Coral Vs Sand Hi, <Hey Damon> I'm sure this topic has been covered back and forth and I've searched a little but I'm running out of time here. <Yup, covered somewhere around here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm  > A friend of mine is going to use Southdown sand in his 80 gallon tank for substrate.  The closest Home Depot that has it is an hour away and he is just about to go get it.  He was wanting to know if I wanted any.  My question is this....I have just set up my 29 gallon marine tank and I'm ready to add some live rock or something to start the cycle.  Well, I have 1" - 1 1/2" of crushed coral now (CaribSea Inc.s' Seafloor "Aruba Puka Shell") and was wondering if you recommend changing it out for Southdown sand (now while I have the chance!) <If you want to make the switch now is an excellent time.> I plan on having 25-30 lbs of LR with assorted crabs and shrimps and one Flame Angel fish when it's all said and done.  Not a real big load in other words.  I kind of like the look of sand better.  It seems to look more realistic.  If you do recommend me change it out, does the 4" of depth apply to all sand beds? <You want to shoot for 4" or above, or less than 1".  If you like the look of the coral bring it down to less than 1".> and will the Bak-Pak2 alone serve me well for skimming/filtering this setup I have planned out? <I do not have much experience with this skimmer, you could search our skimmer FAQs for others opinions, or use the Google search tool to search for Bak-Pak 2, I just did it and pulled up tons of related pages.  I would like to see some sort of mechanical filtration on the tank as well, canister filter, or one of the hang on the back models, these are a great place for adding carbon and things of that nature. > Thanks in advance. This website rocks! <No my friend, YOU ROCK!!> Damon  

Silty sand - 3/26/03 Greetings, <Howdy do! Pablo in the line fire today> In an effort to include a DSB in my system for nitrate reduction, I built myself a sump out of a 10 gal tank for my 40 gal display tank.  The center section of the sump has an area for 6" of Yardright sand <I do not have experience with this sand but likely fine> to provide the DSB that I desired. <Beautiful> My understanding (which is totally wrong at this point) from reading through WetWebMedia and CMA was that the sand did not need to be rinsed and could be put directly in the sump. <Well, I think a lot of people out there have included sand rinsed and unrinsed.>  I added about three inches of sand and waited about 15 minutes for it to settle. <Ooooh.....not enough time but no worries>  I fired up my Mag 5 return pump and to my horror the sand had produced enough "cloudiness" to completely obscure the display tank! <Yeah. Been there done that. My issue happened even after I thought I had rinsed it thoroughly enough.> Heart pounding, I quickly assessed the fish.  All of them (2 clowns, 1 Kole tang, 1 royal Gramma, and 1 neon goby) appeared to be fine. <Yeah. This happens. Do a water change in the display tank maybe 10-20 percent and be sure to keep on skimming'> Of course now I cannot see them since they may be more that ONE INCH from the front glass behind a tremendous cloud! <Sounds like Monterey Bay dive conditions. Try doing a fish count in that soup. Sheesh!> I've seen two snails that appeared to be functioning normally along with the emerald crab which was continuing to scavenge against the front glass. <No problems. They are all used to it as rough seas easily kick up a massive amount of sand and silt in the reef environment. In over 45 minutes, the cloudiness seems to be about the same. <Give it time can take up to four days and sometimes more depending on the grain size. Keep an eye on the fish but don't worry> At this point I see three options: 1.  Relax. Let it circulate.  All will be well tomorrow.  Have no worries little camper. <I like this option with a water change> 2.  YIKES - mix up 20 gallons of water in the hospital tank, get it to 78 deg. ASAP and yank those fish! <No. I don't think you need to do that> 3.  Somewhere in between. <Do a water change and wait it out.> Thanks always for the advice.  I'm going with option #1 for now. <Very well. Let me know how it turns out> Kinzie

Stressed over nothing - 3/27/03 Thanks Pablo for the fast reply! <Me aim to please mon!> I managed to stay calm and convince my wife that letting things settle (no pun intended) was the best option. <Yep, yep, yep>  By morning, eight hours later,  everything is nearly back to normal.<Very good> Emptied the skimmer (AquaC Urchin) and checked everybody in the tank.  All critters are fine. <Great to hear> Huh.....all that stress for nothing ;-] <I have been there myself =)> Thanks again, <Thank you for contributing. It was truly my pleasure. Paul> Kinzie

Aragocrete?? 3/19/03 Hi, Thank you for all of the valuable information that you are providing! <thanks kindly> My question regarding Aragocrete is as follows:  Does Aragocrete release any chemicals/substances into the aquarium water?   <somewhat caustic when first made... can be leached quickly with a good soak and rinse> Do you foresee me having a problem with frags mounted to Aragocrete?   <not likely> I have a great reef setup and definitely do not want to take any chances! Thanks in advance for your reply. Cheri <somewhat a matter of personal preference. I like to use live rock rubble instead (available from the bottom of LFS live rock shipment boxes weekly and cheap/free/natural). Anthony>

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