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FAQs about Marine Substrates 6

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 5, 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,

Suitable sand? 2/24/04 Anthony, I must first say thanks for all the recent help, <always welcome my friend> I wish I knew as much as you about tank keeping!  I was reading in your book that you can use a 5 gallon bucket full of sand with tank water flowing over it for extra  denitrification.   <yes... this is very safe and easy to employ> (My tank is set up and I don't want 5-12 inches of sand in my main tank.)  Can I use KENT Biosediment to fill the bucket instead of sugar sized sand?   <perhaps... but I've never tried it> Which would be more beneficial to reduce nitrate?   <I cannot say. I simply know that fine oolitic/aragonite works very well and is so inexpensive. I also have very little personal regard or respect for Kent products/brand> They claim it will also release trace elements slowly into the tank.  This is good, right? <I cannot confirm this> (I do know that over time I will lose some sediment due to it dissolving) Also you said it is not recommended to go more than 12 inches deep with sand, but in a 5 gallon bucket the sand will be about 16 inches, this is ok? <Hmmm... the 12" max is not set in stone, but a practical limit for illuminated displays. The bucket is not illuminated and not limited here> I really appreciate all the help you and your book have given me and I'm trying to lessen the amount of my questions by researching first. <its a better way to go my friend> Thanks and  have a great day PS what size tank do you have? <I wide range of tanks here at home and over at another family members house (for when I travel/am away). About 2,000 gallons total in saltwater at present> What kind of corals do you stock? <I prefer rare soft corals and odd invertebrates (cephalopods, Nudibranchs> Favorite fish or coral? <too hard to pick just one <G>. So many beauties in the sea. Kindly, Anthony>

Sand from Home Depot Thanks,      Was also wondering if using the play sand from Home Depot is ok for my reef if I mix in some live sand, and is the white Caribbean better than the tan colored play sand, and should I stay away from silica, I notice the white Caribbean they sell says "silica free" Again, Louie <The sand that you are looking for is Aragonite sand, some Home Depots carry a type of sand called south down.  I think the white Caribbean sand may be the same stuff, but I am not sure.  I hijacked the following info from a different response on our site "There are several versions from Southdown of Caribbean aragonite sand. Some is labeled "Southdown Plays sand" and some "Playwright play sand". You are looking for Caribbean aragonite, "mined" from the Caribbean. Also, look in the Garden Dept, not the concrete dept where they will send you for sand. If the bag is from Southdown (on the back label) you can confirm the contents by calling Southdown at (800) 526-1753." We cannot get the good sand at our Home Depots out here on the west coast.  Once you get your sand you can mix in live sand to seed your sand bed, it would be best if you could get a few scoops from a friends sand bed, the addition of live rock will seed your sand bed as well.  I do not buy into the whole live sand in a bag thing.  Best Regards, Gage>

Sand Bed Prep Thanks, that was an awesome response, helped a lot. Do I have to rinse this stuff before I use it, and why does it say not recommended for aquariums on the bag?  Thanks, Louie <Hey Louie, I would not rinse it, I did that once, ended up losing about half my sand, then I learned from Anthony that you should not rinse the sand because all the extra little particles are great for the bacteria to live on.  The most likely reason for them to say it is not recommended for aquarium use is because they do not want to be held liable if something goes wrong.  -Gage><<RMF would definitely rinse any/all dry sand products before using/placing. BobF>> Sand for a sandbed - 2/23/04 Hi guys! <Hello> I can't find aragonite over here <Where is that? Can't have it shipped in via internet purchase??> and the white sand being sold at LFS are of silica variety. <really?> So I just decided to get two bags of sand from the local beach (legally of course). <Oh yeah. Legally? What does that mean? Also. I don't think that is such a good idea myself. Usually beach sand has lots of "pollution particles" for lack of a better word. The least of which is likely some silicates as well> Typical gray sand. Had them rinsed well and will let them stand for a week. <Won't help much, in my opinion> Anyway, while rinsing them, I included cleaning my powerhead and found black filings from the sand stick to the magnet impeller part. <Probably lead or some obvious metal> Is this anything to be concerned about? <I think so. Not totally sure, but I don't like this idea of local beach collection at all. Too many unknowns. I would do a test run first. Set up a tank and add the sand, then test the water over the course of a few months. Also, see if someone (maybe a College or High School) can't do a breakdown of the elements found in the sand. You really should know what you're dealing with. Could end up being a very costly "experiment" for you and your animals if you don't know the chemical makeup of the sand you are adding to your environment> I remember playing with these filings from beach sand ever since I was a kid and know for sure that this beach isn't a man made one. <That doesn't matter, really. Stuff is dumped in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans all the time. It is bound to wash up on shore. As a matter of fact, the shore is THE repository for all that "pollution" Also, are you sure the sand wasn't added though? Lots of beaches have sand moved to them from other areas of the state (or other states) I hope it's ok though as I'm left with no more choices. <Really?? Are you sure?? Well, if you have no choice then go with a bare bottom. What do you plan to keep? This makes a big difference too. Good luck ~Pahulio> TIA! Ken

Mainly marine Sandbeds Just bought Anthony and Bob's Reef Invertebrates book while traveling in Michigan. Got it from Preuss's Animal House...Rick Preuss says its a great book...He should know...his name is in the credits :) <Ahhh... Rick is a great guy, and truly a lifetime industry friend. He's done much good for the pet fish biz> ....It is a great book though.. and here I always thought that John Tullock was the only one worth looking at...Great Job!!!! <wow... that's one heck of a compliment. Not taken lightly by me either. Thanks kindly. I think John's "Reef Tank Owners Manual" is so underrated as having changed the face of the hobby in the early days>    Question is - I'm setting up a 125 reef to replace my outgrown 55 reef tank. I bought a bunch of Southdown sand to use for the substrate and have found it to be very fine grain (power heads blow it into little sand dunes). <Hmmm.. the problem is not the sand, but rather the powerheads. I often go into rants about how much I hate powerheads. I'll spare you here and ask you instead to look up my article here on wetwebmedia.com about "closed loop manifold"> I have always used a plenum before but wanted to do just a DSB on this tank. <Frankly... I have experimented for years with and without plenums and chatted with many others, consensus IMO is that they are useless in private aquarium sized systems. They neither help nor hurt... don't bother> If I go with the original plan of 3 to 4 inches of sand....Is this too deep for such a fine sand? <actually... its barely deep enough to even work as a DSB. Do read the chapter in our book you mention above regarding live sand and DSBs... explains all in detail> Will it pack down like concrete or get gas bubbles? How deep should I go? <5-6" minimum without a plenum is my recommendation here> Also ..This stuff is VERY milky...is this milk the same stuff they sell at the LFS called Arag-milk? <all the same, yes> Is it any good for anything like a buffer solution? <yes... excellent, and the reason why it should not be rinsed. Just wet it in advance to dampen/saturate it... put it in an empty tank... fill slowly... distribute water flow effectively, and never worry abut a milky tank :)> Thanks and the worst part of your book is the fact that I will eventually finish it :) . Thanks, Brian <be chatting soon... and have another volume of that book series later this year for you! Anthony>

- Calculating Sand Weight vs. Volume - hi Bob <JasonC here in his stead...> do you happen to know if there is formula that calculates how much sand is in an enclosed area - say a sump.. <None that I am aware of but feel this problem is suspiciously similar to the age old, guess how many widgets are in this container and win a free widget. Really all boils down to volume and particle size, which would not be an absolute constant when dealing with sand.> i.e.....5 inch sand bed -  tank is 36 inch x 20 inch..  is there a way to tell how many pounds of sand are in there.?? <Best way to do this would be to take a sample of the sand you used... weigh out exactly one pound, and then see how much volume it takes up in any given container. Could work backwards from there.> appreciated... :) Reenie <Cheers, J -- >

Switching my substrate 2/16/04 I am upgrading tanks this weekend from a 50 US Gal to a UK400L (Juwel Rio 400)(US 110?), and wanted to know if I would do more harm then good for my fish by changing my substrate to L/S, from tiny rocks. <many benefits I am sure. We have written about the use of live sand and sand beds (shallow to deep) in "Reef Invertebrates". Tim Hayes of Midland Reefs in the UK is one of our distributors if interested :)> I wish to use the Berlin method to go about doing this. <Hmmm... this speaks to the issue of different folks interpretation of various methods. Conventionally, the Berlin methods is known for bare bottomed tanks, no substrate and heavy skimming. You wish to modify the methods here and add sand at depth? If so, I agree and feel that his is a fine system/style> I know that moving my current substrate will mess with my water readings because of the disruption of beneficial bacteria that rests within the layers, but would it have the same symptoms of a new start by switching to L/S? <not necessarily... assumedly, the majority of your nitrifying bacteria are not in your thin sand bed but in other areas of filtration (filter media, live rock, etc)> Also, if I use some of the old rocks under the sand but above the egg carton foam (and U/G filter) will this help to culture the sand a little better? <not... in fact, do resist the use of the UG/plenum entirely. It has no need or benefit here. A simple static bed of fine sand at 4-6" (10-15 cm) depth minimum will be all that is required> I only have about 3kg of live rock... I know that is not enough... <yikes! yes... frightfully sparse. And indeed an issue regarding the removal of gravel which is perhaps a significant part of your filtration. Let me recommend that you add some foam blocks to a hang on power filter and run them for a month or more before you make this switch so that they accept a large part of the nitrifying load/burden to be carried to the new tank after the gravel is out. You can even slip a foam block on the intake of the filter for extra filtration (great for extending media life in hang on filters)> but I am getting more, and I have at present a Fluval 304 and an Aquapro-1 for filters, (over kill) they will transfer to the new tank for a while, until the built-in filter is established, Plus a 150gal fluidized bed filter, Berlin air-lift 60 skimmer (I have a 150 SeaClone in the mail!) and a 150 gal UV sterilizer. <The fluidized bed filter is arguably more harm than good. It is/will be a nitrate producing machine. Unless you will have a very heavy fish load, this will not be helpful (the fluidized filter). Please also take the time to read through or archives on wetwebmedia.com regarding the SeaClone skimmer and others. Alas, this is a very challenging model to get to work consistently or reliably. And a skimmer is one of the single most important pieces of equipment on a marine aquarium> My fish are as follows- Mated pair of percula clowns, 1 yellow tang, 2 small (half inch at most) 3 stripe humbug damsels, 5 hermit crabs, 6 small/med clear shrimp, and a Silverstreak Anthias (pink). Thanks for your time! Amanda <best regards, Anthony>

Sand or Rock First? Hi guys and girls. <Howdy!> Have one quick question for ya, I was wondering what I should do first for my new tank. Some of  the books I have say to add the sand to your tank first and then the live rock, and some of the books that I have say to add the live rock first and then the sand.<The reason that you would add sand after the rock is to better stabilize you rock work.  You should be just fine either way.  Cody>

Sand By The Pallet? I live in Wisconsin near Madison and my local home depot doesn't have south down. Is there and other cheap alternative that I can look for. I'd rather not pay the high prices at a LFS. Please help.. Oh and Home Depot won't transfer any to their store unless I want a whole pallet. I want a DSB in my 55gal..Please Help.   ~Don~   <Well, to be honest with you, Don- I'm not sure that there is a similar alternative to Southdown. You may have to do a little checking among local reef hobbyists. The last thing you want to do is get a product that has lots of silica and other algae-inducing stuff in it. Perhaps you could hook up with some local reefers to see if anyone wants to put in a group order...Maybe not a pallet, but if enough people chip in, maybe the store would be willing to get some? Worth a shot! Regards, Scott F>

Upgrade tank setup and move + water movement Hello, <Hiya! Scott F. here today!> Your site is extremely helpful and a virtual Great Library of Babylon of information.  I am only 6 months into the hobby and the recent find of your site has inspired me to expand. <We're glad to be here for you!> My question is about filtration concerning my new tank.  I currently have a 37 gallon eclipse and recently acquired a roughly 55 gallon tank (50x16x17).  I have been reading on your site that live sand should not be more than 1/2 inches or less than 3-4 inches.  All my LFS have told me that 1 to 1.5 inches is optimal so that the sand does not compact and that it would be adequate.  Can you explain in a bit more detail (I read on your site, something about not deep enough to fully denitrify) why this is not a good amount of sand?  If I had a good amount of live rock (1.25 - 1.5 pounds per gallon) would having the 1.5 inches of sand not matter or would it end up hurting the tank? <Well, this is the conventional wisdom...A shallow sand bed may not be deep enough to foster complete denitrification, but too deep to be fully aerobic...A Potential problem. On the other hand, there are some studies that I've read recently that indicated that the denitrification processes occur in nature in the first inch or so of sand, implying that you get some of the same benefits from a shallow sand bed as you do from a deep sand bed...This warrants further review from the hobby before this controversy is resolved.> I have also set up a 20 gallon sump/refugium under the tank that will be only about half full (so making the aquarium actually about 65-67 gallons).  The refugium part is 15x12x11 area (roughly 8 gallons?).  I plan to grow plants (recommendations on plants?) in here and/or macro algae to help with filtration, should I put live sand in there or mud?  If live sand is acceptable for the plants, should I just make this area 4 inches or so? <I'd go with Chaetomorpha, which does not need to be "planted"> If 3-4 inches is minimum in the main tank, that only leaves 13-14 inches of water depth.  I also have a Fluval 404 on the way but I'm wondering if even need it or would it hurt the tank? <Would not be harmful...Just replace the media regularly and keep prefilters clean...> I was planning to send it back but I realize that I only really have a 6x6" area for mechanical filtration from the overflow and some chemical filtration via carbon.  I do not yet have a protein skimmer (any suggestions on which one to get for my tank, preferably one that fits in a 6x6" square area or that sits out of the water and can be plumbed in by going over the top edge of the sump?) <Try an Aqua C Remora Pro...> I don't plan on going full reef for at least another 5-6 months after I move my livestock over next month (as I plan to be out of the country for about a month over the summer plus I want to make sure the tank is better established and stable).  I just want to keep fish and some inverts for the time being but no coral till later. I will begin cycling the tank this week (in which I plan to start cultivating live sand as well if I need a lot more) and plan to slowly move live rock over from my smaller tank after 2 weeks and begin moving  livestock over sometime in mid-late march (depending on ammonia levels etc.).  I will be using some of my old tank water (just by taking the water from my old tank as I do water changes to add into the new one.)  and live sand along with uncured live rock to help cycle as well as cultivate more live sand over the next month.  Is this a good idea? <Sounds fine to me!> One other topic, water movement: My return line will be pumping out water at about 400-500 gph (I think, including head) from the back corner of the tank facing the opposite corner.  I also plan to use a PowerSweep 228 (270 gph) on the opposite side facing laterally a few inches below the surface.  This is for the lateral and turbulent flows. I will also be using a smaller PowerSweep 214 on the return side (or the opposite side?  any suggestions?) as low as it can go (without sucking things up) to help blow detritus and debris around off the bottom of the tank.  This PowerSweep will be connected to a timer to go on every 15 min. for 15 min. (ever 30 min at night) in an attempt to create a surge effect (best I could think of without buying a wave maker or setting up some big bulky noisy contraption).  Is this a good idea?  Too much <Seems like you can never have too much flow! I would avoid timers on the powerheads, as most of them don't take kindly to being turned on and off repeatedly! Just run 'em 24/7> little?  Baby Bear's just right? <Sounds fine to me!> Thank you so much for your help to beginners to the hobby such as myself! P.S. How important are water chillers?  I live in Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area slightly above sea level. Temperatures average around 95 to the hundreds in mid-summer days but also drop back down to he 60s at night. <I live in LA, and I wouldn't be without my chiller...'Nuff said! BTW- what not check out the two excellent clubs we have in the So Cal area- Marine Aquarium Society of Los Angeles County (www.maslac.org) or Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (www.scmas.org)...Enjoy! Regards, Scott F> "It is in vain to expect our prayers to be heard, if we do not strive as well as pray." - Aesop

- Suitable Substrate -  To whom it may concern,  Hi my name is Shane and I have a question about DSB substrates. I stay in a coastal town in South Africa and was wandering if it is possible to use naturally occurring sea sand in a DSB. <I don't see why not... is better than many of the alternatives.> I have seen on the net that people use Southdown play sand for DSB's, from what I can see the Southdown play sand looks the same as play sand. <It looks similar, but is calcium-based, not silica which is more typical of play-sands.> I have been told that it is possible but I need to collect the sand below the tide line. I used to have crushed coral in my 6ft marine tank but was not having any luck with it. <The finer the particle size, the better - below the tide line sand will be somewhat 'live' and will need curing time before you add it to your system.>  Many thanks  Shane  <Cheers, J -- >

IT'S ONLY BLACK IN THE BAG. . . Hi Gang: <Chuck> Not a question, just a comment that may save someone a lot of grief. A fellow reefer told me about the CaribSea Tahitian Moon jet black sand. He wanted to redo his 150 gal tank substrate with it. . . I did some inquiry, and found out it's aragonite (I was even more excited at this point; thinking how cool a reef would look and how well the colors would 'pop' with a black DSB). . . then experimented by using some in a 12 gal nanoreef cube. Bottom line? The slightest bit of detritus (the kind you get in any well-maintained tank) makes the substrate look awful. [Sort of reminds me why I didn't order a black car. . . once I realized I could see fingerprints on the door at the dealership showroom.] Bottom line, this stuff is absolutely beautiful. . . inside the bag at the LFS. Which, IMO, is where it should stay. Chuck <Thank you for sending this along. Bob Fenner, who's cars are white>

Filtration Options (1/24/04) Hello all.. <Steve Allen again, stuck in Oakland, courtesy of Southwest> I asked a question yesterday regarding replacing my crushed coral with LS.  Upon reading Steve's advice, I bought a 20 lb package of live sand and mixed it with 30 lbs of aragonite.  Does this sound right for a 55gal? <Depth is what maters for a DSB--4 to 6 inches.> This was the advice from my LFS.  They (the LFS) also told me not to put the sand directly on the bottom of the tank, but to cover a plastic grate with nylon screen and set that on top of PVC pieces, then add the sand. <This is called a plenum. If you have not already set it up, search WWM for the pros/cons of this arrangement.> I also took your advice and bought a penguin 300 bio filter which has 2 bio wheels.  After scouring your site for info on this, I see a lot of advice for people to pull the wheels from the filter.  Is this a good idea in my case? <Up to you. Very efficient at converting ammonia/nitrite to nitrate. The DSB takes it all the way to nitrogen gas. The BioWheels will be fin in fish-only systems. With corals, it can be a little harder to keep nitrates down if you leave the wheels.> Why I was wondering is because I just switched from an undergravel to the LS and the tank has only been up for 3 weeks.  Sorry, I am trying to answer all of my own questions by researching and I don't want to be one of these people who email daily.  I just want to do  the right thing now so I don't compound problems.  Your site is a Godsend and I have stayed up till wee hours of the morning educating myself.  Thank you, thank you, thank you. <A pleasure> Rick

Going Deep- Or Staying Shallow? (Sand Bed Depth) Hi guys! <Hey There! Scott F. at your service!> With all this talk of 4" plus sugar fine sand for a proper DSB, I was just curious about my own quasi-DSB. I have 1.5" of oolitic sand under 1.5" of 0.2-0.5mm sand. There appears to be a lot of brown matter and bubbles all the way from the surface to about 0.75" of sand depth, getting darker as you go deeper and then the sand is clean and bubble free under this -there is a clear boundary visible. My nitrates are zero for a 7 month old fish and shrimp tank, filtered by a nitrate factory! <Excellent! And a bit unusual in a shallow bed, although particle size can make a difference.> Is my test kit high on something -it's a Red Sea Nitrate test kit for salt/fresh water. <Well, the Red Sea uses liquid reagents, which can expire over time, skewing readings. I'd use a Sea Test kit, which uses dry reagents. And it is quite possible that some denitrification is occurring. Although I am an advocate of deeper (4-6 inches) beds, there is some anecdotal evidence that I've seen cited recently which appears to indicate that denitrification can occur in more shallow beds. Keep monitoring your nitrate, maintaining good husbandry practices, and adjust as needed. Good luck! Regards, Scott F> I have good upper and mid water circulation, but gentle circulation near the bottom so the food will settle down for the shrimp. <Nice concept> Thanks, Narayan Calcium Carbonate What's the difference between aragonite, Caribbean beach sand and limestone sand? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked files (at top, in blue) beyond. Bob Fenner>

Southdown/Yardright sand Can anyone tell me if it's possible to buy Southdown sand in Florida ? Please send any info in regards to this Southdown in Florida.    Thanks Seth <Should be available... as it's collected in your State... Check with Home Depot (the re-seller). Bob Fenner> Re: Southdown/Yardright sand I've checked every Home Depot in my area, no luck. Any suggestions? <Yes, contact other HD's in the area... they make this product... it's a house brand. Contact or have them contact their distribution center re. Bob Fenner>

Going from Coral to Sand 1/19/03 I recently went to Lowe's and purchased "Kiddy Play Sand".  It had no  warnings on the bag and just says that it has been washed and cleaned.  Is this ok to use as a sand bed for a reef tank?  I have always heard  Southdown sand is ok to use?  Is there any ingredients I should watch  out for? <Southdown is calcium carbonate sand.  The sand you got is likely silica based.  There is a great deal of debate about weather this is a problem or not, but I would not use it.  If you aren't sure if the sand you got is calcium carbonate or silica, you can confirm it by dissolving a pinch in some white vinegar.  Calcium Carbonate sand will dissolve, silica will not.  HTH.  Adam>

- Diatomaceous Earth for DSB - Is there a down side to using diatomaceous earth as a marine substrate or for a DSB? <It's all down side as I see it. These are the same diatoms that promote Cyanobacteria... likewise it is so powder-fine that you'd be hard pressed to keep it out of the water column, creating a cloudy mess. Also, because it's not calcium-based, it won't contribute anything to the alkalinity of the system. I'd stick with fine-grade aragonite.> Thanks <Cheers, J -- >

- Substrate Time, Follow-up - Me again <Hi, Me.> Thanks for the fast response. Now does your recommendation you gave me with your last reply pertain to a shallow bed or a deep bed? ,Nassarius snails will work well in either depth, but for the sake of your system, you'd be better off with a deep sand bed.>    Thanks <Cheers, J -- >

Sand/DSB issues 1/13/04 Joe bought the sand from  Nippon in San Francisco and they told him it was fine sand, all under the size you describe.  We will take some pics and bring them with us on Sunday.  Thanks loads. <excellent!> We live in Marin at least 75 miles from your destination.    <wow... a good drive indeed> we are already arguing about a new sandbed as I write.  Would we need to remove it all at once or 1/2 and 1/2.?   <hmmm... tough to say, but likely all at once for cleaning or replacement is best to export trapped nutrients> I have $$$$ invested in worms and god-knows-what that inhabits this sandbed, would I be able to save these critters by filtering the old sand?   <sure... would be fine. You could do some aggressive stirring, a large water change and then a good polishing filter (1-3 micron pleated cartridges)> Joe thinks you are right about the nutrient sink but he thinks we are getting most of it out; <hmmm... good to hear if true. That means it is easily salvageable> however, the sand is getting low in some areas so we are getting into the sandbed.   <Ahhh, yes... could be the crux of the problem indeed. It is my personal belief that when the bed dips down near 3" and under that it is severely compromised> Joe said he did the sandbed according Toomey's article, but the fact is he hates working on the tank with me. I Connie <if the reference is to Rob Toonen, then great... a knowledgeable chap. As to your diagnosis, yes... could just be that hubby is less than thrilled with the duties <G>. No worries, we really can get the system to be very low maintenance. Ultimately though, if you do not need nitrate control... then you may not need a large DSB but rather just keep a small one in a refugium. Anthony>

- Substrate Time - Hello crew! Many thanks for past issues. I am at the stage with my new 120 gal tank where I have to add substrate. I am torn between going 4" or 1-2" with oolitic sugar sized Aragamax by CaribSea. I have a 25 gal sump with in-house Aqua C ev-180 skimmer and a Iwaki 70rlt as return and 2 maxi jet 1200 power heads. I plan on jump starting the sand with Surfzone live sand activator from inland aquatics. I would like to keep the sand as clean as possible. Which is a good depth? <The shallower sand beds are easier to keep clean although I would add the proviso that sterile-clean tanks are not really in your interest. Much better to let things go a little in the sand bed to promote the various microfauna that will develop there.> And what type of sand sifters should I use with what depth? <The only sand sifters that I like to promote are Nassarius snails... they don't actually sift sand, but do spend most of their time under the substrate moving around - would provide some cleaning of the substrate but also a vital movement of the same.> I hear some sifters will eat the little critters in the sand. And can they be introduced all at once? <Just half a dozen Nassarius snails would be worth while - could all be placed at the same time.> I plan on having live rock about 100-120 lbs. a few soft corals but mainly fish. Any recommendations would be deeply appreciated and would get my next step going. thanks again and sorry this was long. <Cheers, J -- >

Calcium source 1/14/03 What's the difference between Caribbean beach sand, aragonite and limestone? <Caribbean beach sand is probably mostly calcium carbonate that is produced from the breakdown of calcareous algae, coral rubble and the eating habits of parrotfish.  Aragonite is calcium carbonate formed by precipitation in the ocean.  Limestone is calcium carbonate (often one of the above sources originally) that has been compressed and hardened by geologic action.  The ever popular Southdown "Caribbean play sand" is probably aragonite.  Real beach sand would likely contain a whole host of contaminants.> If different, is the limestone sand dangerous to the marine aquarium inhabitants (caustic)?  I want to use a DSB, but can't find an affordable source of calcium based substrate. <Limestone sand would indeed be quite caustic, but it can be "cured" by repeatedly soaking and rinsing with plain fresh water.  Once the pH of the soak water is no longer higher than about 9.0, it should be safe to use.  If you can find a source of Aragonitic play sand (Southdown or Yardright), it is probably a better option.  HTH.  Adam>

Re: Limestone as a substrate 1/15/04 Adam,  By water solubility, he was referring to the fact that many chemical compounds don't necessarily leech into water in consequential amounts--some compounds are inert, although they may contain elements that, if in non-inert, soluble compounds, could be lethal.  Notice that the breakdown didn't include chemical compounds, but only elements.  Dan <Dan, that is what I figured and speaks to my point...  If only the relative concentrations of elements are known and not the compounds they are in, there is no way to guess what their relative solubilities are.  The copper in this limestone could be held in very insoluble compounds and therefore little risk, or it could be in very soluble ones and very high risk.  The only data that I could find for substrate assays was for calcium reactor media, but one of the reports used a quarried limestone product.  All had lower copper than the product you are considering.  I certainly would not use your limestone as a calcium reactor media, where the point is to dissolve it, and I would also think twice about using it as substrate.  Just too much finger crossing for my taste.  HTH  Adam.>

Re: Limestone as a substrate 1/16/03 I'm thinking about soaking it in water and changing the water often as you advised.  Once it gets to the "clean" stage I'll have the salt water checked for contaminants.  If it checks out then I'll have saved $hundreds in substrate. <How are you going to have it "checked for contaminants"?  Standard hobby test kits may not be available, and lab analysis is costly.  A standard test kit may work for Copper, which is the biggest concern, but there are other metals present that may be of concern.  Also, rinsing in plain water will not duplicate the low pH environment of a DSB.  I share and support your desire to make this hobby more cost effective, but you may be putting thousands of dollars in livestock on the line for a few hundred in sand.  I don't want to discourage you, only to encourage you to be sure before you proceed.  Best Regards.  Adam>  

Re: Calcium source If I could find Southdown or Yardright play sand in Colorado, I'd be a rich man.  I can't even get them to return my e-mail inquiries.  Do you have their phone number perhaps?  I'll bug them until they send an 18 wheeler out loaded with it.  :) <The parent company is Cemex.  The rumor around the hobby is that they will not respond (at least not favorably) to inquiries from aquarists since they supply aquarium industry companies.  I am quite sure that if you are determined and get the right person on the phone (just asking for "calcium carbonate play sand") you could arrange for a truck load to be delivered!  Be prepared for the sand to be shockingly cheap and for the trucking to cost more than the sand.  Adam>

- Substrate Headache! - Hi, I'm currently setting up marine tank. I wish to use a DSB and I could not find any info on using 'brown' play sand.  I am having a hard job finding Aragonite here in the UK that is within my budget.  Would it be ok to use a mix of 3:1 (brown and Aragonite)? <Hmm... as tempting as it would be, I'd save my shillings for the aragonite. Typical play-sands are silicate and not a useful shape for the adherence of various useful bacteria vital for biological filtration. Using the brown sand would likely end up a big mistake.> Just to give you an idea of my setup: I have a 400 liter tank, Aquamedic T1000, and 3 power heads. I understand that the Brown (likely sedimentary) sand will not have the buffering capacity of Aragonite, but provided it has no chemical nasties in it, will it do the same job as far as bacteria/critter support goes? <Can't say for certain, but I will say this: probably not.> It is sugar grain size. <Size is good, but shape and composition may be another issue... try to find out as much as you can about this sand before you use it.> Thank you for your time and thanks for the mind melting pile of information this site provides! Cheers, Duncan. <Cheers, J -- >

Source of Caribbean Play Sand 1/6/03 I've read that Southdown Play Sand is an excellent, cheap source of aragonite sand for my new 180 gallon aquarium and DSB refugium.  I have been unable to locate any at Home Depot and Lowe's, the two large home improvement chains in Colorado. <Some folks have successfully arranged special orders through Home Depot, but since the sand is distributed out of the east coast, shipping out west is prohibitive (but worth paying compared to aquarium brand prices!).  Do also try to find Yardright brand, which is reported to be the same product in different packaging, often distributed through Agway and other farm and feed type stores.> Both have only locally produced granite play sand. <Local being the key word.  It just doesn't make sense to pay $5 to ship a $3 bag of sand across the country (Unless you are an aquarist!)>. The local marine fish stores have aragonite sand, but at $35 a bag.  I would need to spend several hundred dollars to meet my sand needs, vice the $30 for the play sand.  Do you know of any distributors of aragonite sand in Colorado? <None specifically in CO, but do try http://www.purearagonite.com as a last resort.  Also, just as a disclaimer...  I am generally very strongly in favor of supporting you local fish store, but in a case like this I will suggest that you support them in other ways.  Best regards.  Adam>

To Have or to Have Not?--Substrate That Is. (12/28/2003) Hello WWM <Steve Allen tonight> I have read several articles on WWM on  the use of substrate in a reef system and still not certain which way to turn <there's always some dilemma>  --- I am setting up a reef tank from a previous FOWLR tank. It is a 75 gallon tank with a protein skimmer and two over the back filters rated for 125 gallon tanks. <Have you considered a sump with refugium?>  My live rock is full of coralline and based on my last reef tank I plan on getting plenty more to aid in nitrification.  With what I described would you recommend a substrate or not to use one at all <I don't' personally like bare-bottomed tanks for purely aesthetic reasons. If you don't want a DSB, then 1" of substrate would be sufficient. If you want the benefits of DSB, then 4-6". Some species of fish need a DSB for burrowing and some (certain Wrasses) need to bury themselves at night. I'd suggest you read more about the issues on WWM or the WetWebFotos forum. Bob & Anthony's Reef Invertebrates book has an excellent chapter on this issue.>  --- also would you run carbon or Poly Filters in this system. <Opinions vary. It is good to use these at least periodically. Do search WWM.> I will be using ozonized/distilled water for top off.  My ultimate objectives with this system as I think it is for most is healthy organisms and as little headaches with brown diatoms and red slime algae as possible. <Keep the nutrients down.> Thanks in advance <you're welcome.>

Collect Your Own Gravel-Or Buy A Bag? Dear Scott, <Hi there!> I have recently collected some black rocks which are about 0.5 to 1 cm in size which I intend to you as gravel for my 55 l tank. Should I put these rocks as my gravel or should I use sand? Appreciate your reply. <Well, as much as I like to use natural materials in aquascaping, I would err on the side of caution. A number of factors come into play here: First- are you contemplating using the rocks in a freshwater or saltwater system? The type of rock is, of course, extremely important. Any old "black rock" could be anything from largely inert obsidian to rock containing (and capable of leaching) many potentially toxic compounds, such as Sulphur, arsenic, lead, or who knows what! In a closed system, this could be disastrous! The old technique of testing a collected rock with some "expendable" fishes before placing it in the display tank is both inhumane and inconclusive. In modern reef and other systems, with aggressive water chemistry and seemingly constant environmental manipulations being enacted by even the most casual aquarist, the potential long-term problems are too many. Bottom line- unless you are absolutely certain as to the composition of the rock, and are positive that it came from a pure source, I'd (regretfully) fork down the bucks and buy aquarium-safe material. Rock on! Regards, Scott F>

Mystery Sand 12/16/03 Hola all.  love the book reef inverts guys.   <thanks kindly> hopefully a quick answered question for you.  did not see the answer to my question in FAQ so here we go. I live in Florida and can't put my hands on Southdown, yard right, or Oldcastle.  Oldcastle (sand operations in Penn, I believe) supposedly only sells their packaged tropical play sand far south as Virginia. <ironic too as it is pulled from the Atlantic and docked in two places in FL as well as Georgia before barging up to New Jersey for PA> found some leveling sand the other day packaged under a different name (but packaged by Oldcastle stone products).  thought maybe I am being blessed by God for being such a good steward, not paying $1.00/lb. for sand. Question: How does one test for sand composition? silica/aragonite. it is difficult to tell whether each particle is more round or more angled as outlined in FAQs.  a similar question was posted but the response left me guessing: > 3. Since aragonite and crushed coral look so much > alike, how can we tell one from the other by their > appearances? Is aragonite crushed SPS coral? <We aquarists cannot tell visually. It is a molecular difference. The notable advantage is that it dissolves easily and at a higher pH. Calcite is tough to dissolve. We must trust the word and reputation of the vendor along with the experience of fellow aquarists. Many of my friends swear by the bulk media at Champion.> > Sorry to bother you. Thank you for your time. <No bother my friend, always a pleasure.> > Sincerely Samuel so can I run a test for dissolution rates? just wanted to start the 6" DSB. thank you <there should be some indication on the package as to its origin my friend (saying "silica" or "Caribbean" indicating calcite or aragonite).. if not, its fairly easy to tell to some extent. At least, you can narrow it to calcareous (Arag/calcite) versus silica. Silica is sharp/irregular in shape and translucent in color (often tan in off color)... aragonite instead is clean white in color and very round in shape (hence the name/definition "oolitic"). Perhaps more simply... how about just track down the seller and e-mail/ask them. Seriously, my friend :) Best regards, Anthony>

- Substrate Clumping - Hi guys, Thanks for all your help in the past with my many questions. I'm having a problem with my 150 gallon reef where the substrate in the tank and the 30 gallon refugee is clumping or turning to a concrete type material. It is easily broken up by stirring, but I've read that you recommend not doing this. <Actually, I do recommend doing this.> I use a calcium reactor and keep my calcium level at around 470. My alkalinity is in the 3.5 - 4.0 range. <3.5 to 4.0 what? mEq/L?> Water flow seems good and is approximately 15x. I currently don't have any critters to stir the media as the tank has only been running for about 1 1/2 months. All other water parameters seem fine. Is this normal and do I just need to plan on stirring every few days? <Actually, I think you need to take your foot off the gas so to speak... I wouldn't let your calcium get much higher, is probably too high right now. I think you're better off closer to the 400 ppm range than over 450 ppm. Probably would be much higher except it's precipitating in your sand bed and turning it to cement.> Thanks in advance for you help. Dave. <Cheers, J -- >

Question on using sea sand Hi everybody sorry that I am bombarding you with all these questions - I absolutely love your site please can you answer the following questions for me. I currently have a medium depth sand bed with crushed coral & shells etc - I am going down to our coast this Christmas (South Africa) and am thinking of bringing back some sea sand to help fertilize my existing bed. The sand found in rock pools in SA is of fine to medium size but mostly consists of crushed shells and normal sea sand. Will this be ok to use? <after a quarantine period of 2-4 weeks, it will be safe and useful> Also can I just put it into a packet and keep it slightly moist on the flight back? <yes, indeed... will be fine for 18-24 hours easily> * Would you recommend that I vacuum my sand bed when I do monthly water changes? <yes, it is critical with medium and coarse substrates at any depth> * As money is a bit tight at this point in my life - what would be the best alternative in using a RO/DI unit to make up tap water, I have read on your site to store my water at least for a week with an airstone to help purify the water. Is this the best bet? <it is helpful but not comparable to RO/DI> Thank you so much for all your assistance!!!! Have a fantastic Christmas!!! Werner Schoeman <best regards, Anthony>

Alternative to a DSB and BB <hello> I'm in the process of setting up a 75gallon FOWLR (reef safe fish only) to be slowly converted over to more of a reef setting over time.  I've searched all over the place for this, but I get so many diverse and inconsistent answers that I just wanted to ask someone directly. If one does not want to do a DSB or a bare bottom tank (for lack of space in the tank or aesthetic reason, whatever), how many inches of substrate should one use, <1-1.5 inches> what type of substrate would be most recommended and what size grain? <I like live Fiji white sand (to save money you can mix with a dry sand)>   And then with a more shallow bed, how should one go about maintaining it properly?  Would siphoning out this more shallow bed more regularly lead to pulling out a great deal of the sand as well as the detritus? <yes once in a while vacuumed the sand lightly. After you vacuumed the sand into a bucket rinse with fresh water to remove any dirt/detritus and the add the cleaned sand back into your tank. You can also buy some dry sand to add in after water changes. Should additional sand be added after every few cleaning to keep the shallow bed intact. <yes MikeH> thanks for any info.

Re: alternative to a DSB and BB A quick follow up please. <sure> Is live Fiji sand an aragonite sand?  The live Fiji sand is very expensive.  I'm not sure if this is because it is live, or for some other reason.  I would prefer to use some dry sand and allow it to go live via the rock which I add.  Is there a different sand which can be added that would work well?  Can a very fine grain oolite sand (sugar grain size) do well as a simple shallow sand bed? <Using dry sand is fine. Ask the LFS or a fellow hobbyist to give or sell a cup of there sand to get some of the critters that live in the sand and not rock. I would go with a little bigger than sugar grain size. There are many different dry sands on the market today to choose from. Go bigger than sugar size but smaller than crushed coral. It is really a personal preference. They all will work fine. MikeH>

- Sand Bed Depth - Hi.  Need more advice.  For my 26G tank, I purchased a 40lbs bag of Nature's Ocean Fine Reef Live Sand.  It's about 2.5-3 inch from the bottom.  Now that I read from the LS emails, is it okay to keep this this height of san in my tank?? <If you have really good circulation over this bed, I think it will be alright. If you could add another inch or two, you'd be styling.> Currently I have 1 clown, 1 blenny, 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 fan worm, a rock anemone, and 4 small hermits.  I'm not planning to add anymore.  The sand has been there for about a month already.  So far no problem.  Everything in my tank is doing fine.  Should I remove some of these sand to make the sand bed to 1-1.5 inch?? And how should I go about doing this?  <Again, good circulation in the tank as a whole is the key - as long as detritus isn't able to build up in the sand bed, you should be ok. An occasional stir might be necessary to get some built up detritus back into the water column and then into the filters.> Thanks for the advice. -Donnie <Cheers, J -- >

Sorting Out A Sandbed Situation... My current tank is a 55 gallon reef. The tank is about 1 1/2 yrs. old and is experiencing a major algae/ red slime outbreak. I am about 99% sure this is due to the nutrient sink I have created with my 2 - 2.5 inch mixed size sand bed. As luck would have it I will be flooring the room that it sits in and replacing it with a new tank, stand and larger sump/ refugium. I have plenty of new Southdown( real cheap here in NJ) as well as the Florida live sand and (mixed sizes) and aragonite from the existing tank. I was going to use a DSB but after talking to Jason at AquaC and reading a lot of posts, it seems as though they are starting to fall out of favor. <Well, there has been a lot of talk on the hobbyist boards of late regarding the alleged downsides of deep sand beds. While much research remains to be done on this topic, I think the benefits of DSBs outweigh any negatives. I get the feeling that a lot of the negative stuff is put out by people who have had bad experiences due to lapses in husbandry, improper installation of the sand bed, and other potential miscues...The DSB concept is quite valid, IMO> The way I see it I have several choices: A) 1" Southdown in display with 1" existing live sand in dedicated 8g 'fuge. B) 4" Southdown in display with 1" existing live sand in dedicated 8g fuge. C) 1" existing sand in both display and fuge. D) 1" Southdown in display with 4-5" existing live sand in dedicated 8g fuge. I am leaning towards C since I like the look of Southdown Sand and the flexibility of taking the fuge offline if I want to change to shallow bed, or mud at a later time. I am starting to think that the most important thing is macro for nutrient export regardless what bed I use. <Well, one thing that I feel pretty strongly about is that you need to go 1/2 inch or less, or 3 inches or more. My thinking is that 1 inch is too shallow to foster denitrification, but too deep to be fully aerobic, which is a potential recipe for long term problems. If you're inclined to go this route, better to use a sprinkling of sand in the display, and a 3 inch plus bed in the sump...Modified Plan "D"> I am looking for any thoughts or suggestions you guys might have. I would just like to get it right this time around. <You're on the right track!> Thanks as always, Ken <My pleasure Ken...It's good to get feedback from lots of sources here. I would take anyone's suggestions (including mine) with a grain of salt, taking into account basic husbandry concepts, an plan your system in a manner that works best for you! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Sandbed Stuff Thanks Scott F. <You're welcome!> I meant to say option D. Anyways, what about 3-4" Southdown in the display with 4-5" of the existing mixed size live sand /cc for the fuge. <Ahh...sounds good to me> Denitrification in the main tank with pod production in the refugium. Would I need to clean/rinse the existing sand before adding it to the fuge. Would I need to add a specific detritivore kit? I currently have 3 brittle stars. <Personally, I would not "clean" the sand, for fear of eliminating more potentially beneficial life forms. I'd limit additions of detritivores to the existing brittle stars, and maybe some worms. Again- I'd be hesitant to add any creatures that could be too disruptive. Possibly contrary to popular thought, but I don't think that lots of "sand stirring" is either necessary or desirable, especially in a well-maintained tank> The existing sand bed is loaded with spaghetti worms and bristle worms that I can salvage. I was thinking of adding 2 small Cukes, about a dozen Nassarius snails and about 2 dozen of the smaller red leg Mexican hermits to new Southdown in the display. <That seems fine to me...Again, I wouldn't disrupt the bed too much, even in the display> Also saving some of the existing sand in nylon bags and using it to seed the display, or is just adding it to the fuge sufficient for biological activity? Any thought or comments are greatly appreciated. Thanks, ken <Well, Ken, I'd be inclined to just place it in the refugium. Sure, you can seed the refugium by keeping it in bags, but in my experience, such procedures don't seem to be necessary. Just dump it in! BTW, for a lot of killer information on DSBs and refugia, trust me and get a copy of Anthony and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" book- exactly what you're looking for...Makes a great holiday gift! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cloudy water from the addition of substrate - 11/19/03 I just put my crushed coral or substrate <Thanks for the clarification.... Heheheh>in a new startup tank its been 48 hours & water is still cloudy 72 gal bow front, when will it clear up and anything to make it faster? pump, power heads & protein skimmer are all running <Well, depending on the pump, try putting some filter floss and or some sort of mechanical filtration in the water path in your pump or sump to hold particulate. Hopefully you have some means to do so. In any event, please peruse our site as this information is covered quite extensible throughout. Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaqs.htm also check through the search tool at the bottom of our main page. No worries as over time, it will dissipate. -Paul > Dale Fleming

-Moving a sandbed- Dear WetWeb Crew, Just a quick question if I may.  I have a 20 gal tall tank (24"x12"x16.5")that has a deep (3.5-4") sand bed, made of CaribSea Special Grade Reef Sand. It has been set up for about 1.5 years, and as of now there are now inhabitants.  I plan on adding a 15 gal tank (24"x12"x12.5") below the main tank to act as a sump and wish to install a DSB in the sump, and remove the one from the main tank.  The skimmer and heater will be moved to the sump, with the idea of less clutter in the main tank.  The sump tank will have 2 baffles (one on either end) siliconed in it for the skimmer pump and return pump.  No sand in these areas, so the DSB area will be about 17" long. Originally, I was going to leave just a shallow layer (0.5") layer of the reef sand in the main tank and dispose of the rest of it. <A much better idea to save it!> The DSB in the sump would utilize SouthDown play sand (the fine stuff).  But, there are healthy populations of worms and bacteria in the current DSB, and I would hate to lose them by throwing that sand away.  My question is:  would moving the sand bed I have now into the sump work as effectively as starting a new one made from scratch of the fine grain sand ? <Many species of the critters that are living in your sediments are grain size dependant, so you do run the risk of crashing out a few different populations. It has been shown recently that finer grained sand (like Southdown) are the best ways to go for a DSB. I would still introduce several cups of the stuff from your old sandbed.> I have some of the Special Grade sand that is dry so can make the new sand bed deeper than 4". <I'd go w/ 90%+ Southdown, maybe pick up a few cups of sand from someone already running this particle size. I hope this helps! -Kevin>  Sincerely, Jason

- Marine Setup - Hello I know you have probably answered this many times bit I can't find it on the frequently asked questions so I hope you can help. I have just acquired a 40 gallon tank and which I intend to run as a fish only with the use of like Fiji rock as a biological filter plus a skimmer and the internal filter (1500 lh pump) that comes with tank (its a Juwel). I have done lots of research and have got it in straight in my head what I'm doing. The only worries I have are about the initial setting up of the tank. Do I add water then substrate then rock or rock and substrate first? <I like to put in the substrate dry, and then add water - usually by putting a bowl in the bottom of the tank so that the water additions don't disturb the substrate too much. Doing things the other way around usually makes for a very cloudy tank for the first day or so. Once the tank is full enough to cover the rock with water, I add the rock.> Also, am I right to think that I will not go through the cycle as the rock will have the required bacteria already. <This does happen sometimes... really depends on how well cured the rock is. Still a wise thing to test and be certain what is going on.> How much rock should I use, I'm thinking about ten kilos? <Hmm... that's probably good enough by half - typically we recommend one pound per gallon - even with the difference in Imperial and US gallons, I'd still think you could almost double that amount of live rock and do quite well - perhaps 18 or 19 kilo.> If you can help with any of this it would be greatly appreciated as it can be a little daunting along with the excitement. <No worries.> Kind regards David Bond <Cheers, J -- >

Ditching The Sand! Hi all. <Scott F. here today!> My 1 inch sand bed is looking tired and I wanted to remove it all and put in a new 1cm or less of fine live sand. Is this dangerous to do with the sand being toxic at the bottom layers, especially to move the live rock and suck up the sand from underneath?? <Well, there very well may be some anaerobic activity occurring under the rock/sand, so when you disturb the bed, there might be some substances that are released into the water column. My advise is to change some of the water at the same time, and to make liberal use of chemical filtration media, such as activated carbon or Poly Filter. Aggressive protein skimming is also advised.> Also I have noticed since the calcium reactor has been running bubbles being trapped at the glass under the sand, can you advise what these are from?? Cheers Stu <Well, Stu- it might be that the bubbles seem to be appearing when the calcium reactor kicked in, but they are probably the result of some sort of chemical activity...Perhaps a sign that denitrification was occurring in the sandbed. I would not be too concerned, although you may see a temporary nitrite or ammonia spike after the sandbed is removed. Just take things slow and careful, and you should be fine in the end. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

- Changing Substrate - Hi all, It has been forever since I've been here and that is what my fish have thought too time to get back into enjoying them not just taking care of them.  Right now I have crushed coral in the bottom of my 75gal FOWLR tank.  I only have one clown and one damsel due to the demise of my lion fish at the end of my power head.  Anyway the question is, I want to change over to sand instead of coral would it be feasible to start at one side of the tank and do in in sections so that the bacteria can build up or what would be the best way to start this procedure? <I think your plan to add gradually will work fine.> Thanks for your time.  Steven Pro you moved my tank from one place in Mars PA to another so you know which one I'm talking about if you have time to answer or can even remember it was in March that you came out to make the fishes transition easier.  Or at least mine easier.  Thanks.   Colleen <Cheers, J -- >

Going from Coral to Sand In my 90 gallon tank, I have a puffer, lion, trigger, and eel, with about 130 pounds of live rock.....right now it has crushed coral in the bottom.  I would like to replace the coral with sand....can I do this without hurting the cycle? < more than likely no> Aren't there many organisms that live in the coral now that help the tank...bristle worms, copepods, amp pods? <yes> If it is ok to change it?  How should I go about it?  I was thinking of doing the following: Buying the sand Putting the sand in a 60 gallon plastic container I have and filling it with water...letting it sit there for about a week or two (to get it good and saturated). once it has been in there for a while....siphoning the water out of my tank into a container, housing the fish in the same container. take the live rock out....empty the coral out of the tank, then putting the sand in the tank, live rock, and fish.... would this work?  is this a good idea? < well if you must change it I would do sections of it at a time. Take out a 1/4 of the crushed coral use a piece of glass or acrylic to keep sand and coral separated. wait a week do another 1/4 and so on. this way it give the critter a chance to settle down in the new substrate and will not affect balance as much. hope this helps Mike H.>

Can there be too much sand?? - 11/6/03  I just added more live sand to my tank last night for a total of 3-4" on average.
<That is just about the right depth for a deep sand bed>
Can you over do it, did I??
<Nope...you could even afford to add more over time if you would like>
This is a 90 gal tank with about 80 lbs of live rock ( most rock is on top of the sand bed ). <Very good> I did this trying to reduce the nitrates ( 30-40 ) and it looks a bit odd. <Read about Deep Sand Beds here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and look through the other links on this page. Sounds like you are on your way to being a Conscientious Marine Aquarist -Paul>  Thanks .......Mike 

Goin' Deep (Sand Bed Depth)  Scott: (If you're out there). . .  <Just back from "somewhere..."!>  Thanks for your answers to my questions concerning macroalgae. The only thing preventing me from already having a copy of Anthony's 'Reef Invertebrates' on hand is it's rather prominent position on my Christmas 'wish list'.  <Makes a great stocking stuffer...>  One last question: I remember seeing a bag of aragonite which contained a formula for how many pounds of gravel was necessary to fill a tank to a given depth given its length/width/desired depth of substrate (with all measurements in inches). Naturally, like all good absent-minded individuals, I threw out the bag when I was done with it. . . and haven't been able to locate the formula on the net or in the WWM database (although the latter may be due to my less-than-stellar research skills). Are you  familiar with the formula?. . . Chuck  <Well, Chuck- here's the formula that I've used in the past: Multiply (in inches) the aquarium width by its length, then by the desired depth, and then multiply that by 0.0579 to obtain the number of pounds you need. This should do the trick. Rock on! Regards, Scott F>

Silica and the use of it in aquariums 11/05/03  Hi there, my name is Mohammed.  <howdy>  I have had numerous discussions with friends and users on the WetWebMedia forum about sand and substrates, and my impression was always to stay away from silica sands. I am setting up my 80gal tank right now (curing rock at the moment) and I just received this article from a friend of mine and wanted to get your input on the matter. Thank you very much in advance Mohammed.  < I agree that silica sand compositionally poses little or no harm. The problem, rather seems to be that its angular shapes (in contrast to spherical oolitic matter) is somewhat more conducive to the settlement of diatoms. Anthony> 

Silica and the use of it in aquariums III 11/11/03 Thank you very much for all your help. You are a greater resource. <always welcome, mate> Can I use the silica sand for a DSB? <yes... if you compensate otherwise in the system (dosing) for the lack of buffering/ALK support> I don't see why I wouldn't be able to, or why it would act any different than aragonite sand in a DSB, but I thought I should ask just to be in the safe side. <the aragonite is an excellent buffer and source of calcium... silica offers none> Also, Is there a link that you can refer me to for DSB's. I just needed to know how the DSB process works. thanks Mohammed. <please do a keyword search for "DSB" and "aragonite sand", etc on the Google search tool on our home page at wetwebmedia.com for many links to information on this topic. Anthony>

Bubbling Trouble- Or A Good Sign?  Hello WWM crew,  <Hi there! Scott F. at your service!>  I have 360 litres reef tank, 7 months old and now I have lot of bubbles every where in the coral sand and on the live rock, is this because of the denitrification, or is there something else going on ?? Ph is 8.35 Temp. 26 C. Nitrite and Nitrate is almost 0. ( with Salifert tests only hint of colour). Ammonia is 0.  <Sounds like evidence of denitrification processes occurring within the sand bed. Very good sign!>  Also the leather coral (colt coral ??), is not opened like it was before.  <Well, this could be due to many factors...In the absence of obvious water chemistry problems, it could simply be the coral sloughing off period accumulations of mucus. Do continuously monitor water chemistry parameters to assure that everything is nice and stable in the system>  Things look quite same but there is something happening I just cant find out what.  <As above- keep testing and observing...>  I have 3 fish at the moment, and I feed them once in a day. So I think it is not too cloudy.  <Keep doing regular frequent water changes, and exercise good common-sense husbandry, and you'll be fine!>  Well that all for now, Thank you and best regards, John Hyttinen  <Hang in there, John! Let us know if we can assist you further! Regards, Scott F> 

Nitrates, Crushed Coral, and DSBs. Hi, I am a 14-year-old fishkeeper, and I just saved up enough money to buy a complete setup from a guy. The tank is a 90 gallon show tank (6 feet long by 1 foot wide by 2 feet tall).<nice> It came with absolutely everything. Lighting (6 x 40-watt), Prizm Pro Deluxe protein skimmer, Rena XP3 Canistar Filter, at least 100-120 pounds of live rock, and a 1-2 inch bed of crushed coral.<sounds nice> The creature list is: 1 Blue/Hippo Tang, 1 Scopas Tang, 1 Koran Angel, 2 Percula Clownfish, 1 Tomato Clownfish, 2 fire cleaner shrimp. 1 banded coral shrimp, 1 large green brittle star, an African Red Knobbed Sea Star, 15+ snails, 3 crabs, 1 bubble anemone, 1 carpet anemone, 1 tube anemone, frogspawn, torch coral, numerous mushrooms and Ricordea, and I think that's about it. I bought the setup 3-4 weeks ago, and obviously the crushed coral was stirred up pretty well during the move. I think it's the detritus in the crushed coral causing the nitrates.<yea and the loss of some denitrifying bacteria.. but expected> I want to remove them, but there is so much live rock I don't want to stress the fish again (they are still getting over the stress of the move).<agreed> I've been doing weekly 30% water changes with thorough gravel vacuums. The previous owner never had a nitrate problem. Chemistry is: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, pH at 8.2, and the nitrate is at 80 ppm. <just continue performing water changes>The fish and inverts are all fine at the moment, but the tank seems like a ticking time bomb if I don't get a DSB or something in there. How can I switch the crushed coral to a DSB with as little stress to the fish as possible, how much sand will I need, and where can I get sugar grain sized aragonite sand for a reasonable price? <You don't need a DSB...the crushed coral is fine. It would be too much of a hassle for you to replace the gravel, especially with a large bioload which you already have, just keep performing water changes until you get the nitrates under 30ppm. Your aquarium will eventually "balance" and you should be fine. Don't take your gravel out and replace it with fresh gravel because you will loose a great deal of the denitrifying bacteria which lives and reproduces in the sand bed and then you will have a HUGE problem, Good luck, IanB> Thanks so much for your help, Zack

Sand Trap! (Keeping Fine Sand Bed In Place) Dear Crew <Scott F. your Crew member tonight!> Let me start by saying a BIG thank-you for providing this superb website to the aquarium hobby.  I have gained so much knowledge reading literally thousands of pages of articles and FAQ's. <Thanks for the "props"! We're thrilled to hear that you enjoy the site! I get to work with some pretty talented and dedicated hobbyists here, and we all learn something new every day!> I am planning a larger reef system than the Berlin/Ecosystem that I have now.  I am planning a new 90g display with a 75g DSB refugium. <Nice display/refugium size ratio! Should be cool!> I am planning on using 4+" of Southdown sand in the refugium.  I would like to set up the tank so that I have no internal power heads and would like to flow about 1200gph through the system.  I have read on the FAQ's that a heavier layer of substrate should be placed over this very fine sand to keep it in place. Is this going to be a problem? <I don't automatically think it will be a problem, but you'll need to consider the flow in your tank, of course; where returns are directed, their angle, etc. are important considerations. I've seen plenty of high-flow reef systems that did not need something on top of the fine sand to keep it in place.> If so what types of substrate do you recommend and how thick should it be? <Well, I'm a big fan of a uniform fine substrate when employing a DSB, but I suppose that a sprinkling of heavier material on the top couldn't hurt. If you are going to go this route, I'd use a grade of sand like CaribSea's "Seafloor Special Grade", which is larger and heavier than the oolitic aragonite substrates generally used in DSBs. And, it's not too course, so it is less likely to trap detritus. I'd keep the layer shallow, if possible-but just deep enough to do the trick...Good luck with your new system! Regards, Scott F.>

- Going Grunge - In a statement by Bob Fenner on the page FAQs on Tank Troubleshooting 1 "Hard to state what the root cause is/was of the trouble. I would get some "real" live rock, I don't trust the "grunge."  Why don't you trust the grunge and where do I find safe Live rock that is not going to have little enemies on it. <It's hard to know for sure, because I'm not Bob... I didn't write those words. My guess would be that one has no guarantees what the origins/composition of GARF Grunge is... supposed to be mostly smashed up live rock, but again... no one really knows but the Headlee's. More importantly, GARF Grunge is supposed to be more of a substrate, than a substitute for live rock. But back to the live rock issue, for the most part, well cured live rock has had most of the bad critters identified and removed. It is a rare occurrence that something like a "little enemy" shows up.> I don't want and I am not experienced enough to detect them. <Then re-cure the rock in a separate container... would likely do the trick.> Bruce <Cheers, J -- >

Silica and the use of it in aquariums II 11/7/03  But the article does talk about diatoms and silica sands, and says that there is no obvious diatoms inhibitor shall we say in using silica over aragonite sands. And that is exactly what I wanted to get your input on!<I think one of us is missing the point here, my friend... not sure who though <G>. I am not commenting on the anecdotal concerns of silica sand as a source of elemental silica for the growth of diatoms (composed of silica), but rather that the structural shape of the grains (angular versus oolitic) is the reason for algae like diatoms to settle faster (more conducive on sharp sand)>  So is it or is it not (silica) a diatoms conductor?  <I believe the question is moot... neither. I say this because any minor favor of grain size to diatom growth is minutia compared to the much bigger issues of nutrient control in an organically rich aquarium. Again, it is moot because your/our aquarium husbandry including nutrient export processes (skimming, water changes, carbon/ozone, etc) should be easily good enough to handle any small disadvantage or not to using silica sand. I cannot be any clearer than that, mate. Use silica sand confidently if you like. Most folks will benefit from the more natural media of aragonite instead (shape and composition, buffering ability, etc)>  thank you Mohammed  <wishing you the best. Anthony> 

Aragonite by any Other Name... 10/28/03 Anthony,  I was at the Atlanta seminar all thanks I picked up a lot from you. <very good to hear, my friend> There was one point I caught half of and was wondering if you could give me a short recap about Sand. Types, where it comes from, Basically what you informed us at the seminar. Thank You <very well... essentially all aragonite (oolitic) sand comes from the same source. By composition (versus calcite), aragonite is very limited. So... if you buy such sand from a DIY lumberyard as play sand... or if you buy sexy packaged aquarium sand... they are still the same product. It can be sifted, sorted, graded, rinsed, etc... but its still the same aragonite. I prefer the DIY source sand not only because its inexpensive, but because it is unwashed. Rinsed sands often have more (yes, more!) impurities in them for having been processed in/on metal aspects (trucks, conveyors, under dryers, etc). Chemical assays of the media reveal this to most folks amazement. The chalky silt from unwashed sand is also a great benefit to water quality as it dissolves easy. You simply have to tolerate a few extra days of cloudiness to the water. No worries :) Anthony>

Substrate Question >Hi, >>Hello. >I have a 55 gallon tank with a built in DAS internal filter/skimmer (model H99 I believe). Anyways, the housing that the unit is in is one inch above the bottom of the tank (the housing itself is about 6 inches by 14 inches).  I always thought that this was strange and I don't really know the purpose of leaving that 1 inch gap.   >>Hm, me either.  Manufacturing issue? >Anyways, I put 2 inches of CaribSea aragonite reef floor stuff in the tank and I also filled the space below the housing with the aragonite. >>Ok. >Having read through some of your FAQs, I'm a bit concerned that this might trap and cause anaerobic pockets.  Do you think this is possible? >>I think it's certainly possible that it could trap detritus.  If you don't have any animals that sift this substrate, then you may want to do one of two things. >If so, what should I do?  Don't put any aragonite there?  I decided to put it there because I was concern about food getting stuck there. >>You can either place some crushed coral in a bit of old pantyhose, creating a dam of sorts, or you can direct some flow to that area so that it would blow most bits out.  Or, if you have something like sandsifting stars, let them do their job as chances are they'd go under there as they would anywhere.  You could also get a serpent star (Ophioderma spp. - I like O. squamosissimum - say THAT three times fast!), whose activities will keep the area fairly clear.  Marina >Thanks. Thien

- Swapping Bioballs for a Sandbed - Several months ago I walked into my LFS and bought a SW tank. I knew nothing and just blindly bought and set up the system to their specifications. I got lucky for the most part however I have been since spent many hours researching trying to rectify  my lack of knowledge.  I have this massive wet dry sump that is rated for a 200 gal tank( mine is 58 gals) probably overkill. I have read that bio - balls will not allow you to reach the really low nitrate levels that are optimal for corals which I do want to keep once the tank matures.  In my tank I have a 2" sand bed with a sand sifting sea star and a horse shoe crab both of which I now know have probably rendered my sand bed lifeless. 85 lbs of live rock a protein skimmer in the sump and loads of bio balls and filter pad.  I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to slowly pull out my bio balls and put in a deep sand bed on the bottom of the sump and then above that in the compartment where my bio - balls now resides base rock with a piece or two of live rock. <That would work, but the design of your sump really isn't optimal for the sand bed. Water pouring in from the tank will likely disturb the sandbed which will rob you of any potential benefit. If I were you, I'd work with the store you bought it from to see if you can trade it in and hopefully get into something more useful.> In your valued opinion would this be better then the bio balls? <In the ideal world, yes - is how I run my tank [DSB in the sump] but my sump was designed for that purpose. I don't think a DSB will work well in the sump you sent the picture for, unless you can address the incoming water's ability to wreck the DSB.> I have approx 40 lbs of base rock just sitting in my back room so I thought I could put it to use this way. I have included a pic of the sump I have. <Cheers, J -- >

- Substrate Reactor - I bought a reef ready aquarium from a friend and it came with a Marine Technical Concepts BIO-PRO 1600 Biological filter and a PRO SR14 substrate reactor. The problem is I have no idea how to use them. <I'm not sure I do either... perhaps convert it to a martini shaker.> I contacted Marine Technical Concepts inc., but have heard nothing. Can you help? <I'm not sure that I can as I'm baffled as to the 'purpose' of these devices. Given the current state of the art [whatever that means] in the aquarium hobby... I'd just get a hold of some live rock and a skimmer and give the substrate reactors the boot.> I'd just like to know how to plumb it and what media to use. <Again, I think I'd just skip it.> I am attaching a photo of the setups. <Would be curious to hear what the company has to say about these devices, but in the absence of such information, I'd rather stick with what I know. Live rock and a skimmer will do wonders for a reef tank. Cheers, J -- >

Product Support query 10/16/03 I bought a reef ready aquarium from a friend and it came with a Marine Technical Concepts BIO-PRO 1600 Biological filter and a PRO SR14 substrate reactor. The problem is I have no idea how to use them. I contacted Marine Technical Concepts inc., but have heard nothing. Can you help? I'd just like to know how to plumb it and what media to use. I am attaching a photo of the setups. <a description of the application of these products at length really cannot be done easily/well in the format of an e-mail. One of the many benefits of a local aquarium club is the support of fellow aquarists for such queries you might have - getting a hands on education and being able to talk at length. There is also the outlet of Internet instant messaging where you and another aquarist can interact in real time with your products and pc.s in front of you. Please do seek such counsel on the forums. Also, let me know what big city you are near/in and I will direct you to a club if possible. Best regards, Anthony>

Integrating additional sand - 10/08/03 I am purchasing a lot of live sand and rock from a fellow reefer who is moving and tearing down his aquarium. <very well> I only have 2.5" of live sand and I would like to add his to mine to make it a deep sand bed (DSB). <Start here if you haven't already: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and read the FAQs> When adding this sand to my tank is there a proper procedure for doing so? 1/2" per day? <In my opinion more like a half inch per week> Is there any chemical risk associated with the addition of his "stirred up" sand? <Always. I would set this sand up in a separate tank with a heater and powerhead (quarantine it in a way) and add it very slowly.> His tank is about 3 years old. I have already accepted the bio risk of adding his system to my own, but I'm more concerned with the toxins that accumulate in the bottom of an old sand bed. <Agreed> How about aeration? <of the sand bed I assume?...... I would be as careful as possible about mixing it all together> Will that drive any "bad" stuff out of it? <Possible. -Paul>

Anaerobic Sand? >To whomever can help: >>Wondering if it might be me... >We have 2 saltwater tanks (110 gal and 75 gal) with beach sand and crushed coral mix as well as some base rock and have added live sand starter stuff.  The substrate depth is approximately 1 1/2 inches.  Here is the setup: 75 gallon has (2) 350 Mag. canisters and a 330 BioWheel wet/dry (2 wheels):  110 gallon has (2) 350 Mag. canisters, (2) 330 BioWheel wet/dry (4 wheels) and (2) 1140 powerheads.  The salinity reading is right on the money as is the pH; the ammonia is at .025 and holding for about 2 months now (the tanks have been set up since the last week of June).   >>Pray tell, what does "right on the money" mean, exactly? >The livestock in the tanks are several Nerite snails, clams, turbo snails, many hermit crabs (some micro the rest are the red striped..."common what you see on the beach) >>On whose beach? >...and 4 damsels in each tank.  Now that the basics are covered.... here is the question..... Our sand is becoming anaerobic on a daily basis and we find that we are having to manually sift the sand and replace approximately 20 gallons of water afterwards every other day.   >>Curious as to how you've determined its anaerobic status.  Also curious as to what you mean by "beach sand", is this something you simply went out and collected yourself?  Do you know its constituent components (silicate, calcareous, volcanic--which may mean ferrous with other compounds, etc.)? >We have gotten the snail and crabs and clams hoping that they would be able to sift the sand for us...apparently the job is too big for them.   >>Too big.. or something they aren't cut out for with the set up you've provided them, yes? >So, what can we do???  We find the Aragonite to not be as aesthetically pleasing as the sand, yet we don't want to constantly have to put our hands in the tanks and traumatize the fish and other critters in there.  We are thinking about getting a Decorator Goby for each tank to help out, but are hesitant because we are afraid to toxify any more live critters than we are already possibly doing. >>I'm quite suspicious of both your "beach sand" and your "common hermits". >We have searched far and wide across the vast Internet and have not been able to find any information that makes sense and/or is applicable for us other than stirring the sand ourselves.  It is beginning to feel as though there is no end to this dilemma; hence we have turned ourselves over to beseeching the wisdom from y'all at Wet Web Media. Please, hear our plea!  Thank you for your time, Cat >>Not actually knowing many things about the make up of your substrate, my thoughts are this--your substrate could be of a sort that is not conducive to whatever sand sifter critters you *may* have in there doing so, assuming this is what they *actually* do.  I think this may actually be an incorrect assumption, as well.  I also believe that 1 1/2" is not deep enough to give you anaerobic areas, so if the sand is compacting that tightly so quickly, again, I am quite suspicious of it as a suitable substrate in this application.  If you were my customer I would make the following suggestions:  Reassess whether or not you really want this particular sand as a substrate.  If so, then remove enough sand to JUST cover the bottom of the tank.  Set up a refugium.  Determine the exact species of the hermit crabs you collected.  Set up a foam fractionator to remove excess nutrients (especially if you don't set up a refugium).  You either have a real issue with your nitrifying bacteria, or you're using a test kit that uses Nessler's reagent and your dechlorinator is causing a false reading, this needs to be sorted out.  Also, ammonia isn't the only nitrogenous waste that needs to be monitored, you also need to know your nitrite and nitrate readings.  Until you get these issues sorted, don't add any other fish.  Also, absolutely quarantine all new additions, for a minimum of 30 days.  Best of luck, Marina

Sump design spec.s, heater, sand Hi, Am building a 125 gal. reef with 55 gal sump below, will divide sump into 3 chambers, first area for water to drain into and skim, 2nd area for my live sand bed, 3rd for return pump and heater. What height should my baffles be, 1/2 of tank height ?<As tall as you can make them, and still leaving enough room in the sump to hold all of the H2O if the power fails,  Should they be different heights? Remember some skimmers (Euro Reefs) require a certain set height on the baffle to maintain a perfect running height in the skimmer> I'm assuming the distance apart should be #1- wide enough to accommodate skimmer and pipe coming in, #2 As wide as possible for sand area, # 3 wide enough for the heater and the return pump.<Correct> What wattage heater can you recommend?<depends on how cold your ambient winter temp will be in the house and how fast your water is moving, 200 watt should be more than enough> Should my thermometer be in heater <Separate is better> (#3) chamber <In the last chamber> or in display tank? <no> The main tank will have a 1/2 live/1/2 regular sand bed with live rock, can I do the 1/2 and 1/2 sand for sump or does it need to be all live sand? <1/2 & 1/2 will be fine for both. Eric>  Thanks,  Louie

DSB, Substrate (9/26) Hi Crew, <Whasssup?> Just a quick question today. I have read the DSB articles and FAQ. The only substrate that I can get locally in 40lb bags is Carib Sea Seaflor Special grade which is 1.25-1.95mm in size. I know you recommend super fine, but as that is not available locally, will this grade be OK for a 4" DSB?. <yes... but it needs to be/stay deep)er) than fine sand to work effectively at NNR (natural nitrate reduction). 4" would be a bare minimum IMO. Slightly more would be better. You will need stronger water flow in this aquarium to compromise with less fine media. Aim for 20X turnover in the tank as a minimum> If I went a shallow 1" bed of superfine would that have the same denitrification properties of a 4"DSB of coarser grade? (sure would be easier and less $$) <not a prayer...and I would not recommend a 1-3" range of sand to most folks (requires stirring/extra labor). 1/2" or less... or more than 3" is my advice> Thanks for the great service you all provide! <best regards, Anthony>

Mixed grain sand beds? 9/29/03 Quick question for you guys.  I have a 20 gallon Nano reef with a 3" sandbed, this sandbed consisting of fine grade black sand and a coarser gray calcite sand (actually, a significantly larger size-1 to 6 mm) mixed together (about a 70/30 split).   <hmmm... the mixed grain bed is not a good habit IMO... but this tank is small enough to provide good strong water flow enough to allay any concerns> The more I read about sand beds and the problems with mismanaged ones, the more scared I become about this setup.   <no worries here> However, I do have a 10 gallon sump-fugium that I could put a DSB in, and I'm hoping this will solve the problem I may encounter down the road with the current display tank set-up.   <no necessary... but will be a benefit nonetheless> It is full of macroalgae now, with only an inch or so of sand for the roots to grow in (the ref.). The tank is doing wonderful now, but I fear in a few months (the system is about 6 months old) it may begin to accumulate unwanted deposits because of the improper depth of the sandbed (the micro-fauna need at least 4 inches to turn the bed into a stable NRR source, right?).   <IMO, yes... deeper works best> I have a lot of Cerith/Nassarius snails, which I suppose will help a bit, <yes... excellent critters> but I know this will not suffice.  Am I correct in thinking a DSB placed in my refugium will suffice for this system?   <yes> I have a light bio-load, a skimmer running full-tilt, and a ton of macro in the refugium, all of which are doing their job well, but I'd like to add the DSB to aid in NRR and the overall health and future of the system.  Do you agree that this will do the trick?   <yep <G>> The thought of having to dismantle my system and re-do the display sandbed almost brings tears to my eyes, <no need/worries> as I have finally reached a point where the tank is looking full and well  "landscaped."  :D Thank you for your time, and have a nice night. <continue to enjoy, my friend. :) Anthony>

Substrate & Sand Bed Question Good  Afternoon Mr. Fenner, <Hello Jimmy> Let me say "Thanks" in advance.  My question is, Can I add Live Sand 'aragonite find sand' in my tank that already have 3-4 inches of crushed coral??? <Yes> Will I have to remove all the crushed coral, half of them, or just add on top?? <Can just be added "on top"> Should I take half of the crushed coral out and mix with the Live Sand?? <I wouldn't. I would just "sprinkle" the new over the top if it's only a few (less than five) pounds in a given two week period> I have a 26 Gallon tank. Planning to buy the 20lbs Live Sand Aragonite from Petco.  This sand claim to "Instant Cycle"  your tank, Is this possible. <Possible, yes> Is this a good idea?  My tank is FOWLR.  Been reading on the DSB, but do I need That Much sand?? I thought 1-2inches of Live Sand is enough, Right?? <A total of 3,4 in this size, shape system is best. Some can be the existing substrate.> Well, be Well.   Thanks. Sincerely, Jimmy <Thank you my friend. Life to you. Bob Fenner>

Substrate & Sand Bed Question Thank you for the reply Mr. Fenner.  Jimmy here asking question again.   Yesterday I read on your site that mixing two substrate will cause problems in the future sooner or later. <Mmm, not necessarily. Mixing different grades presents a bit more maintenance... one needs to more regularly, thoroughly mix, siphon the bed> Putting live sand on top of semi fine crushed coral was the advice you gave me.  I don't want to question your expert advice but are you Sure??? <Yes> Will I have to stir the sand once in a while or clean them, vacuuming them like the coral substrate?? <Yes... not too vigorously, and not all at once. Perhaps half "a side" of the tank once a month or so> I also have a question about the "Instant Cycle" labeled Live Sand.  Should I remove 50%-100% of the water w/ new age water when I put in the live "instant cycle" sand?  I have reading of NH3 and NO3. I'm guessing my tank is still cycling.  Will the Live Sand reduce or clear my tank of these reading of Nh3 and No3?? <It will help (in time) with NH3 and NO2 (ammonia and nitrite), possibly overall with NO3 (nitrate) accumulation> Thanks again Mr. Fenner.  Your book arrived today from. Half.com.   Heard so much about it while reading your Site. Till then, Be Well. Sincerely,  Jimmy T <Thank you my friend. You as well. Bob Fenner>

Changing Sand Beds - 9/25/03 I have a 2 and half year old tank that has a 2 inch Crushed Coral bed. Time to get rid of the nitrate bed, me thinks. <intermediate beds (1-3") are indeed much more difficult to manage... as you know, I prefer DSB at 4" + or just a fine layer (1/2" or less... and no in between... too much work (needs scary water flow and good stirring... I'm too lazy <G>)> I have like, nine bags of sugar fine, baby! <rock on my brother...> I have no fish and all soft corals except an open brain. (my oldest inhabitant). <I've heard that about your brain <G>> Can I just remove the corals and live rock to a bucket of salty fun jinx, then siphon out the crushed coral. Then place the new sand bed 4" (rinsed)  then just add water slowly, then my live rock and corals back to the tank all in the same couple of hours? Sound like a plan? <sort of... do not rinse the sand (wastes a lot of fine and easily dissolved/useful matter... messy/laborious too... simply soak the sand in FW or SW for a few days in advance. Get some barrels/buckets, etc... and drain all water after your have removed the inhabitants... put the soaked sand into a dry tank (never pour even rinsed sand into water... a recipe for milk(.. then fill the tank back up slowly using the old bowl/bucket to overflow incoming aqua gently> I guess I will have to just kill everything in the crushed coral bed and inoculate with some other source of live sand. <keep a handful or two to seed with> Anywho - Are you still doing the ICRS in Okinawa even if with the prospects of Germany looming so close to the dates for the Coral Conference? <Germany is a sure shot... Japan is dependant on funds... and I (Bob too I think) will also be at IMAC speaking the days before Japan... will have to fly to ICRS from Chicago if we go> If Bob is still offering, I think I will end up in the Red Sea (if he still has plans on going on that leg of his tour) If he doesn't then I will be at ICRS. <that depends on how much volunteer work we get out of you by then ;) Er... I mean, how the funds are running :) > Got me paper work the other day. If I don't see ya here, then I'll see ya there, ya hear? <excellent... be seeing you soon! Sooner than you think too, perhaps... SF at Seabay in Jan I think. Anthony>

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