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FAQs about Marine Substrates 7

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 6, 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,

Marine Substrate - 09/09/05 Thanks for your web site.  I discovered it a few months ago and have learned more than I have in the last two years! <<Excellent...glad you find it useful!>> I have a two and a half year old 105 gallon reef tank with a wet/dry and built in skimmer. <<Hmm...if you've been reading our site you've probably discovered some of us don't think "reef tank" and "wet/dry" should be used in the same sentence <G>.>> I am just starting to get into corals and am trying to upgrade my tank a bit. <<ok>> I have started taking the bio-balls out to lower my nitrates (my LFS suggested leaving 2 layers submerged?? <<should be fine but not necessary IMO>>) and am trying to find a skimmer that will fit into or around my wet/dry that will be more efficient. <<A very good move...>> Should I leave the drip tray in the wet dry, also? <<Up to you, may be less noisy than without...can also serve as a shelf to lay a media bag of carbon, etc.>> I have 70 pounds of live rock, nice coralline  algae, a button polyp, yellow polyps, green star polyps, a xenia, and a  small mushroom rock.  I also have 11 fish that are getting along fine for now(1 Scopas Tang, 1 Engineer Goby, 1 Neon Pseudochromis, 2 Green Chromis, 1 Yellow Pygmy Angel, 3 Firefish, 1 Bicolor Blenny and a Green Coris Wrasse) and  assorted crabs and snails. <<Sounds fine>> I believe my mistakes to be a green brittle star, an Echinothrix calamaris sea urchin, a bubble tip anemone, and a horseshoe crab (who has been eating shrimp pellets for now). <<Mmm...agreed...>> I will try to find proper homes for these. <<very good>> My biggest question is about my substrate. <<shoot>> I started the tank with two inches of crushed coral, as suggested by my LFS.  I don't see a lot of life in it and wondered if I should add sand or live sand so that the copepods would have a better environment? <<Copepod environment aside, your substrate is in that "no man's land" where it's not deep enough to really function as a DSB, yet not shallow enough to keep from accumulating detritus.  I would add a minimum of two inches of sugar-fine sand to the existing substrate.>> I have been  vacuuming the crushed coral during my water changes. <<Not necessary with a deeper substrate/vigorous water flow.>> I'd rather not take out the crushed coral.  Could I just add the sand to the tank and have it settle properly? <<Differing opinions here...I say yes.>> Would this help? <<yes>> Does live sand need to be  quarantined?  I don't want to set my tank back with cycling live sand. <<I wouldn't go to the expense of adding all live sand. Purchase dry sand to bring the substrate up to depth and then add a cup or two of substrate from a friend (or LFS's) tank.>> I just set up a QT tank for future inhabitants. <<That's great!>> I don't have  the space near the tank for a refugium, or I'd try that. <<Too bad...very beneficial in my opinion.>> Or could I have a  refugium in part of my wet/dry even though it is in a cabinet below? <<Not the best choice, but doable.>> Thanks for all your help. Laura <<Happy to assist, EricR>> Getting To The Bottom Of Things (Substrate Issues)  9/9/05 Thanks for your web site.  I discovered it a few months ago and have  learned more than I have in the last two years! <Glad to hear that! We're thrilled to bring it to you each and every day! Scott F. here today!> I have a two and a half year old 105 gallon reef tank with a wet dry and built in skimmer.  I am  just starting to get into corals and am trying to upgrade my tank a bit.  I  have started taking the bio balls out to lower my nitrates (my LFS suggested  leaving 2 layers submerged??) and am trying to find a skimmer that will fit into  or around my wet/dry that will be more efficient.  Should I leave the drip tray in the wet dry, also? <It is a matter of choice, really. You could actually put a filter pad or activated carbon in the drip tray, but you need to clean/replace these media very frequently. Otherwise, they'll become nitrate factories!> I have 70 pounds of live rock, nice coralline  algae, a Button Polyp, Yellow Polyps, Green Star Polyps, a Xenia and a small Mushroom rock. I also have 11 fish that are getting along fine for now(1 Scopas Tang, 1 Engineer Goby, 1 Neon Pseudochromis, 2 Green Chromis, 1  Yellow Pygmy Angel, 3 Firefish, 1 Bicolor Blenny and a Green Coris Wrasse) and  assorted crabs and snails.  I believe my mistakes to be a Green Brittle Star, an Echinothrix calamaris Sea Urchin, a Bubbletip Anemone and a Horseshoe Crab (who has been eating shrimp pellets for now).  I will try to find  proper homes for these. <Good!> My biggest question is about my substrate.  I  started the tank with two inches of crushed coral, as suggested by my LFS.   I don't see a lot of life in it and  wondered if I should add sand or live sand  so that the copepods would have a better environment. <Well, live sand has many different organisms that reside within it; some of which are not easily visible to the naked eye.> I have been vacuuming the crushed coral during my water changes. I'd rather not take out the  crushed coral. Could I just add the sand to the tank and have it settle  properly? <You could, but I'd do it gradually.> Would this help? <Additions of new sand/rock can always help increase biodiversity.> Does live sand need to be  quarantined? <Ideally, it should be, unless you are absolutely certain of its origin. Even then, quarantine is highly advisable.> I don't want to set my tank back with cycling live sand.  I just set up a QT tank for future inhabitants. <Good move on your part.> I don't have  the space near the tank for a refugium, or I'd try that. Or could I have a  refugium in part of my wet/dry even though it is in a cabinet below? <Sure, if you can plumb it to the main system effectively.> Thanks for all your help. Laura <A pleasure! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Substrate for Goby/Shrimp combo. 8/9/05 Mornin' Bob <Cheers... Anthony Calfo here in his stead> First let me apologize if this has gone to the wrong place, I found your link while perusing the Goby section on your excellent pages! <Welcome!> I'm considering making a return to the hobby after a break of quite some years and of course a lot's changed since then! While researching current thinking on Reef systems I've got bogged down on the BB/SSB/DSB/Plenum issues and this is compounded by the fact that I'm very keen to house the Goby/Shrimp combination and the obvious effect this will have on substrate choice, plus the fact that I have a very large quantity of  (dead) Oolitic sand which I would like to use in what will be a reef system with very few reef-safe fish, small clawed crustaceans( Lysmata, Thor, Saron) etc. I think I'm now up to speed re. Live Rock, Skimming, Carbon, Phosphate reduction, Turnover ,Lighting etc. I would like the Goby/Shrimp to be able to exhibit normal behaviour, hence my problem. The system will be integrated within the main tank as I have no space (nor desire) to run a sump. Would their digging spoil a DSB or even release anoxic toxins from a DSB by digging? <Not at all. If the DSB is kept healthy with adequate (proper and necessary) strong water flow above it so that solids do not accumulate excessively... then all will be fine. And this is easy to accomplish. Seek to produce random turbulent water flow as with closed loop manifolds (you can fid some neat and current links/pics on this subject over at Reefcentral.com)> You mention adding tubes to the substrate, ( I can't find the link) which I'd thought of. <Yes, excellent idea. Just bury under the rocks/in the sand and let them do the rest> Would a 1" substrate with tubes covered with sand be better? <That's not deep enough for the shrimp and goby or efficient DSB activity (NNR)> In either case I could never run a system B/B. <I too very much like deep, fine sand beds. I think your oolitic sand is a best bet. Do enjoy at 4-6" (10-15 cm)> Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer cos I'd prefer not to proceed rather than get it wrong! Kind Regards, Steve. <kindly, Anthony>

Change of Substrate 1/16/05 I have a 39 gal tank that I set up about a month ago as a result of a 29 tank that went bad. I am attempting to resolve to a reef tank as money permits and chemistry cooperates. I used the Shell substrate from that old tank instead of buying new! <this is fine... but be very good about gravel siphoning and stirring the substrate... keep string water flow too as coarse media accumulates solid matter faster> This was from an under gravel filter which I did not put in the new tank. I have a Fluval 204 filter and a SeaClone Skimmer which is not working as expected. One of the reasons I decided to upgrade was that I could not get the Nitrate level down in the old tank. I was informed that one reason was because of the under gravel filter. <perhaps... too coarse, too fast, or too shallow> Well Nitrate issues still plague me and I am beginning to wonder if I should replace the substrate with live sand as the present substrate is dirty and even though I change water and vacuum the surface inch or so I cannot seem to get it clean.   <indeed coarse media is quite a challenge> I have some live rock but not what I need so will add as I have money to do so! Do you advise this, and if so what is the best way to do this? <deep fine sand (<1mm) is an excellent denitrifying substrate. Use four or more inches for best results.> I am open to any advice so please, what ever you think will help I would appreciate! Thank you Grant <soak the sand with fresh or salt water for some weeks in advance to reduce clouding. Drain the tank and save the water and fishes aside while you remove the old substrate and replace with new. A fast refill (using pump to drain and fill) and you are back in business. Anthony>

Moving a Marine Tank part 2 8/3/05 Thanks for the prompt response! One more follow on question, you said: <All sounds good here too, except for the sand.  I would strongly suggest new sand for the new tank.  Moving established sand beds often results in serious problems, even with rinsing.  There is simply too much organic material (living and dead) in every nook and cranny in the sand.  It is however, a good idea to transfer a few cups from the top inch or so to help seed the new bed with worms and other critters.> Which is fine, but can I let the old sand dry out so that everything dies off, give it a really good clean, and put it back in the tank at a later stage? Or is it done for? Thanks <<I would not suggest doing this.  Microscopically, the sand is very porous.  There is no reasonable way to get all of the organics out of it, especially if it is allowed to dry.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Maddening Oolitic Dust Storms Hello Bob or Crew, After reading The Conscientious Aquarist and countless web articles on reef aquaria for over two years, I recently made the plunge into my first attempt at a reef aquarium.  After all, I was probably the most knowledgeable reefer who had never had a reef.  I was convinced that a DSB teaming with bacteria, micro-invertebrates, brittle stars and snails would lead to success, so I purchased ESV oolitic aragonite and added it unwashed (Don't wash it!  You want those angstrom-sized particles for biodiversity.) to my tank and two refugia.  The water clouded up big time and two days later a snail couldn't have seen its foot in front of its eyes.  (Add the live rock to the tank and it will clear.)  So, I added my Tonga live rock that had been dipped in a rainbow to the tank and the water did clear.  Now, my Tonga live rock looks like it was dipped in a mud hole and a powerhead won't clean it.<That is because you have an algae that is not coralline growing all over it.>  Then I added a small powerhead to a refugium and the water clouded up big time.<O.K. Don't do that again.  Depending on the size of the refugium a powerhead with direct disturbance will cloud your water along with disturbing the infaunal creatures that you are trying to cultivate.>  Lord only knows what will happen when I add the two Tunze air-cooled powerheads to the aquarium. Please tell me how aquarists have deep, fine oolitic sandbeds and water circulation at the same time? Thank you, Joseph <Joseph, The best thing to do is to disperse the water flow and not have it directly blowing into the gravel.  What I have found that works best is to keep the powerheads near the top of the water and blow from one side of the tank to the other.  This will disperse the direct flow of the water and not disturb the gravel as much.  As for the live rock, if you keep the phosphates down and the calcium and alkalinity up the color will come back.  Good Luck. MikeB.>

Using sand from a friends tank? I currently have a 90 FOWLR running.  I'm also in the midst of setting up a 180. I am able to get an area reefer's sand bed. It's a live DSB of Southdown from a 72 bowfront. He's leaving the hobby anticipating a future move. I would like to use that for a SSB for my 180 FOWLR. I also have two bags of Arag-Alive already. In the 180, I will have my Volitans, Naso Tang, and Dogface Puffer. I would also like to add a Blue Tang and a Majestic Angel. I'm also looking to replace the sand in my 90. I plan to convert the 90 into a mixed reef, with a few low maintenance corals and about a 4" sand bed. In it, I will keep my Algae Blenny and Yellow Tang. I will also add fish such as a Black Cap Anthias, Scooter Blenny, Firefish, and perhaps a couple of sand sifting gobies. Should I use the live Southdown in the 180 and add some Arag-Alive for some variety, or leave it only as Southdown, and use the Arag-Alive as part of the sand bed for the 90? < I'd use the Aragalive in the 90 gal.  Here is why, with all that sand from a friend, it is basically all live sand.  I mean it has been in a running tank.  So it shouldn't really need any more live sand to get it going. > Any advice on which sands to use? In advance, I appreciate your help. <  Blundell  >

Clumping substrate problems 12/29/04 Hi, you guys have been great in the past. I'm getting ready to set up a 55 gallon SW tank that was from Santa. I already have a 29 and I'm upgrading. The substrate I used before was the Carib sea Aragonite live Fuji pink sand. <the sand is a fine quality I'm sure... the "live" part is dubious and subject to interpretation <G>. If its live, I'm dying to know how and how long without food and in sealed bags> I loved the way that it looked but after having it up for about a year the sand is turning brown and getting clumpy. <not the sands fault... this is from a (typically) lack of adequate water flow (most people are deficient here... needing minimum 20X turnover). More frequent water changes and siphoning/sand stirring would help too> I don't know what causes the sand to start clumping up, <I do... and can tell you this is from the pH dipping too low (as with at night from lack of adequate buffer/ALK in the tank) and/or spiking the tank too much or too fast with calcium supplements (common)> but it looks gross. I thought it was the diatoms at work but I have phosphate remover in my filter and my levels are zero. I use distilled water from the store. can I use spring water? <perhaps.,.. but it is of variable composition and potentially worse (nutrients) than your tap water. It is not necessarily "pure" water like RO , DI or distilled... just from a "spring" - whatever that means :p. Deionized water that is aerated and buffered before use gets my vote every time>> Is it my sand? Can you recommend a better sand. <its your husbandry my friend... not the sand that's the cause here. No worries... easily corrected> I wanted to use the same sand in my 55 but not if it's going to do that again. I have no under-gravel filter, I have 2 power heads, and protein skimmer. 25% water change about every 2 weeks if things go good. What could be the causing this? What do I need to change? Please help me! <lack of water flow is the most likely problem by far... not enough or not distributed well enough, causing dead spots that accumulate organics over time, aggravated by infrequent spikes of calcium supplementation (daily doses are better than weekly)... and/or severe swings in pH (have you tested this after the lights go out? Are you dipping below 8.0 at night?) Anthony>

Sand Depth Query Dear Bob & Staff, <Good morning! Ryan with you today.> Thanks for all the great advice in the past. I am at the end of a battle with Cyanobacteria. <Tough battle!> Which I'm happy to say I have won with the help of all the great info on this site. My next question is about water make up. I use a very cheap tap water filter with a ion-exchange resin. (all I can afford at the moment) I have a 10 gallon container that I use to make up my water. In the past I have only aerated it about two hours before I added buffers and started to use it in my tank. In reading previous Q & A you advise to aerate over night. I have also seen a drop in Alkalinity. Do I have to add a buffer and alkalinity boost to my make up water. <Buffer yes, alkalinity no.  Unless your make-up water has serious issues.  Have you tested it?> It seems when I add just the buffer alone and test the tank the next day alkalinity seems to drop? <yes, unless you've got issues that I stated above.> Second question I have is my LFS told me I should remove my 1" of live sand. He said that either I should have a DSB (which I thought about but decided cost and moving the rock was not an option right now) or nothing at all. <I'd go with half inch or less.>  The tanks that they have both ways. He said live sand adds to Phosphate and silica problems. <Hmm...That's a load of Cyanobacteria, right there.  If you pick a silica-free sand, such as Southdown, how could it add silica to your water column?  Phosphates are the same story.  Just inquire about the make-up of the sand, and the rest is easy.>  What is your feelings on this? <Stated.  Good luck! Ryan>

Replacing One Substrate with Another Hi guys, <Lynne> My 55 gallon acrylic tank is over 1 years old and I have 2 clownfish, a peppermint shrimp, emerald crab and some snails and hermit crabs. I use a SpectraPure 5 stage RO/DI filter for my tank water. <How nice> Lately I have developed an explosion of brown slime algae mostly on the substrate but now spreading onto my live rock and glass. I feed my fish only a small amount once per day and do frequent water changes (5%) twice per week. <Mmm, some source of nutrient seems to have snuck in here... maybe from?> I have had a brown slime algae problem since the tanks beginning but now it is out of control. I have ruled out bad water and over feeding as causes due to the above info and I also have an effective skimmer (Aqua C EV- 120).   <...!> I have brisk circulation and test my water regularly with no readings of phosphate ( 0 ) with a LaMotte test kit. <Curiouser and curiouser> The only conclusion I can come to as to the root cause of my brown slime algae is my substrate. I got some (now in retrospect) bad advice to use the Sandown Play Sand. I have about 2-3 inches as substrate. <Maybe> At the time I did not realize it contained silicates. Now, I think it is the cause of my brown slime algae. <Not the silicates, but perhaps some other substances> My question is can I replace my silicate loaded sand with a different substrate to rid my tank of the brown slime algae without draining my tank and starting over? <Yes. You can even siphon out the old (and pour back the sediment settled water... then pour in the new, washed substrate if you'd like. Otherwise, do consider another approach... the addition of a living sump, a refugium, with purposeful living macroalgae, a DSB... plumbed with your existing tank. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm (and the numerous Related FAQs, in blue, above). Bob Fenner>

Setting up a 135 Hello all. How are you all doin?  Good I hope, I'm good myself and excited. We just set up our 135 reef, got the sand and water in and are now going to Vancouver B.C. to get all our supplies. You guys have helped me with all my countless emails and I really appreciate it and just wanted to say thanks. Now one last question (there's always a catch) Here's my question. I have a 40 gallon sump and am wondering what substrate to put in? I don't want to put sugar sized for the fear of it getting blown around, would Florida crushed coral work? << Crushed coral is my favorite. >> I would like to have about 5 inches would this Function as a NNR? << Sounds good. >> Also I have 400 watts of PC lighting do you think this will work for some of the lower light LPS? The tank is 18 inches high << I do think it will work.  That is a lot of pc, I'd consider switching lights out, but if you already have that many pc bulbs then just keep them. >> Thanks a lot Sharon <<  Blundell  >>

Fresh to marine substrate Mr. Fenner, <Ron> I have a 75 gal aquarium that has been used for African Cichlids.  It has an aragonite substrate.  If I change this tank to marine, Can I keep the same substrate in there? <Mmm, yes... I would take it out, wash it (likely in a "pickle bucket" and garden hose, until it ran clear), and add more (like a good half again) as the older material has likely lost a good deal of its "easy solubility"> What will the effects be if I do?  Will it cause an ammonia spike resulting in a cycle? <Will have to be recycled again... the microbes present will be almost completely wiped out with the cleaning, change to saltwater... Read about this, and be prepared to wait a few to several weeks for cycling to become established... with or w/o the use of prep.s. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Ron And Christina Allison

Large and Fine Live Sand I have a 75 gallon reef tank that has a deep sand however the grain size is not fine but medium.  I read that the most effective size is a "sugar fine" grain size. I have live rock several brain corals, a hammer, a frogspawn, a leather, mushroom, green polyps, xenia --- fish include a Purple tang, Lawnmower blenny and a Red-lipped blenny.  My water parameters are in range except for my nitrates which is the reason I am inquiring about the deep sand bed.  My primary question is will it be effective to mix fine grain with my already existing medium grain. <Yes, but I would try as many inches of the sand you currently have (4-5) first... measuring nitrate at least weekly... and see how this works out. Bob Fenner>

Substrate Choice Hello! :0) Bob and Anthony <cheers, my friend> To Anthony I have to first say this; I read your account with an individual who was trying to shoehorn a metal halide between two fluorescents in an improper shroud design.  You may or may not recall.  I was laughing so hard I damn near lost my bladder.   <ah, very good to know. I have always felt it important to include spastic and involuntary incontinence as part of the everyday> You have missed your calling, you could easily write comedy.   <heehee... thanks kindly for saying so. I really do look for reasons all/every-day to laugh. Delighted when I can share it> I would also like to say that I have your book "Reef Invertebrates", excellent tome'.  Now, my question finally.... I have a 180 half cylinder, (I know, you recommend long and low) <truly no worries as long as you don't stock it like its a low/long 180. Just be mindful of the surface area/gas exchange limitations of tall tanks and all will be fine> that will have a 55 gallon sump, and two 55 gallon refugiums upstream.  I will place my DSBs remote in these vessels.  I like the idea of being a "ball valve" away from isolation should things go wrong.   <understood... although the risk is small for the need to take them offline. The keys are water flow and nutrient control> Since I am setting these remote items up this way I was wondering if I could use a different substrate in my aquarium that will not absorb overtime.   <hmmm... by absorb, do you mean become a "nutrient sink"? If so, then opt for finer substrates as more coarse media requires even greater water flow and stirring and/or siphoning> I will be running the DSBs remote and I will be running a Calcium Reactor.  I do not want to replace sand in the main display over time.   <then opt for fine calcite not aragonite> I only wish for a non-replaceable aesthetically pleasing substrate.  What depth and what substance would you recommend that would be low maintenance?   <only about 1/2" or less> My tank turnover will be between 20 to 25 times an hour to the sump. Mike <all very fine to hear. Rock on my salty brother. Anthony>

Crushing crushed coral Hi WWM crew. <Stephan> I have some crushed coral about 10mm from my former tank and I want to put it to good use for a refugium. Can This stuff be reduced to a powder and how would you crush it asides from renting a steam roller? Thank a bunch for the continuous help. Stephan Gaudreau <Could be crushed by some gear... or taken to a hobby, jewelry making shop... to crush, then screen/sort... but for the cost, trouble, I'd buy some fine material and maybe mix it in with some of this larger grade coral substrate. Bob Fenner>

Substrate sand size Hi guys (and/or gals)!     For a 10 gallon inline refugium for my 40 gallon tank, what substrate would you recommend for best species diversity support. << CaribSea crushed coral. >> I have read on your site that certain amphipods prefer larger sized substrate, while copepods, et al. prefer sugar sized. Would I be able to achieve the best of both worlds, by placing a small 2-3 inch high divider in the middle of the refugium across the bottom with fine substrate on one side, and coarse on the other, or would it be better to stay with one or the other? << Better to put a thin layer of fine sand (one inch) then on top of it put a layer of crushed coral (two inches).  This is the new popular way to go. >> Your thoughts? Thanks a ton. Blair Miller <<  Blundell  >>

Replaced Crushed Coral with Sand 10/29/04 Hello crew, kudos on your site. <Thanks!  Glad you like it.> Last week I changed out the crushed coral in my 100 gallon FOWLR with 60lbs of Fiji pink aragonite sand and 120lbs of Fiji pink Aragalive live sand. During the process I took the 120lbs of live rock out, removed the crushed coral, placed the aragonite in first then sped the live sand over the aragonite, and replaced the live rock, then I reused the water that was siphoned out of the tank. <Sounds like about the same way I would have done it.> There has been no cycle (which I didn't think there would be much one). Total depth of sand is 5" to 6" of sand in the tank, about the same in the sump (was already in the sump) and some live rock rubble in the sump with a TurboFlotor 1000 skimmer (thanks to Bob for the recommendation the skimmer it's great)<I agree that a cycle should not be expected.  The TurboFlotor is a great skimmer, but probably somewhat undersized for the tank.  If you have any nutrient issues, I would consider upgrading.> there is 500 gal. flow through the sump along with 1200 gal circulation in the tank using power heads. my main question is how long will it take for the sand to help decrease nitrates? <I would give it a couple of weeks.> Right now they're 80 on the test kit and I am doing water changes but I don't want to start a cycle in the tank with to frequent water changes (I was thinking about 20gal a week till the nitrates are under control) <I would slow down on the water changes.  There is no reason why this would initiate a cycle, but the more the bacteria are fed, the faster they will grow.  Be patient, they will come down.> oh yea there was an under gravel filter under the crushed coral (nitrate factory) which went into the trash.  Sorry about being long winded, and I read your site every day. Thanks Ed in West Texas  <The ideal place for the UGF in my opinion.  Thanks for visiting!  Adam>

UGF plate in tank to create denitrification Bob, We've spoken recently regarding my new tank set up using RUGF <Reverse Under Gravel Filtration> with Crushed coral as substrate. I'm a newbie. As I keep reading up on all this stuff it seems that denitrification is one of the hottest topics when it comes to marine tanks. My question is.......instead of my original plan of a RUGF with Crushed Coral.....if I just use an UGF plate in my 75g FOWLR w/a few Shrooms and softies, and use 1 1/2 of Crushed Coral, will it create a denitrification zone in the tank? <To some degree... would be far more effective with a deeper substrate level, depending on grade, three, four inches> And would regular aragonite sand be better vs. the crushed coral? <Of same average diameter, no> I'm not sure I know the difference between the two (CC vs. Aragonite) other than one is a larger size than the other but they have the same chemical make up. <Actually... aragonite/s are mined, consistent composition... calcium carbonate... crushed corals are collected inorganic matrices of organic origin that contain considerable "impurities" of use... like magnesium.>   I'm reading where CC seems to be a substrate that buffers well and holds the ph constant among other things. What do you think about denitrator units?   <... am a big fan. Bob Fenner> Thanks Don

Southdown Play Sand 10/25/04 I have read several (well until my eyes started to hurt) of your "articles / questions" over the last few days, and so many times you refer to using Southdown Play Sand.  I have effortlessly tried to find this sand in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia and have come up empty - handed.  Many times you have referred to Home Depot being a carrier, and once I saw Ace Hardware. Tried everyone in the area, plus some other "similar" stores such as Lowe's, and nothing.  Where can I find this sand ? Thanks, Kataryna  (NEWBIE) <I live in the Pittsburgh area.  This sand was quite easy to find in the area for quite a while (at Home Depot), but isn't around any more.  My sense is that they switch suppliers on a whim.  This sand is also sold through other outlets as "Yard Right".  If you have a local landscaping company that deals with Yard Right or Cemex as a supplier, they may be able to order you a truckload (be prepared for a couple of tons minimum, but it will be cheap!)  Do avoid silica based sands for many reasons. If you aren't sure, simply put a pinch of sand in some vinegar.  Calcium carbonate sand will fizz and dissolve, silica sand will do nothing.  Best Regards.  Adam.>

SERIOUSLY Milky/Muddy water in minireef tank Dear WWM (Bob, Andy, etc., love all you guys) <They're the smart ones, I just tag along> I just started to set up my minireef tank!  **excited**  I was told by my LFS that I could mix the water in the tank, but only if I have nothing else in the tank.  I mixed the sea salt in until the water was crystal clear, and got a SG of 1.024 on the first try. <Skills - takes me 2 or three!>  However, when I poured in the Aragonite gravel, the water became so dirty that I could not see my finger if I would put it inside the tank!  The LFS assured me this gravel did not have to be rinsed, and the bag says "Ready to use; minimal rinsing required". I still ran it under water for a bit, though. <Good idea...aragonite usually requires extensive rinsing, not sure why they told you not to>  All I have in terms of filtration is a protein skimmer, so just for this reason, I added one of my FW filters to help out with the muddiness, but not before cleaning it thoroughly, replacing the filter media, and removing the bio-wheel.  I can't say it's helping. I am very tempted to remove all the water and try again. Please advise... I have tried searching your FAQs for this problem, but I have not found anything.  On a side note, would it be harmful to introduce the live rock to my aquarium now?  Should I wait until the water clears? <Turn off all powerheads or other forms of circulation except for your skimmer.  Let the aquarium sit, for a few days if need be.  If the water is still cloudy you might want to use a diatom, HOT magnum, or some other micron type filter to remove the excess sediment.  The protein skimmer may help remove some of this as well> Sincerely, Paul Chica. <Good luck!  M. Maddox>

Sand Bed Query Hi, you have been so helpful l in the past and I was hoping that you could help with another problem. I have a 29 gallon reef tank that has been up and running for about 10 months or so. Everything is going fine the fish seem to be happy and healthy. The problem is my sand. I have 30 pounds of live aragonite Fiji pink sand and it's turning colors. First is was that ugly brown diatom algae that was growing all over everything. Now that has turned to green algae on the glass and my sand is turning red. I tried to sift the sand myself to keep the top layer from turning colors, but that wasn't working to well. I even brought 3 sand sifting star fish hoping they would do the trick. But so far very little progress. The red is in clumps and it's in the back of my tank. The front is still kind of brown. do you think it's from my light? I have a Current USA Orbit Compact fluorescent with the moon light. They say that the bulbs are 65watts each, dual daylight & dual actinic. Do you think that could be the problem? If not what could be doing this. The tank looks so much brighter when the sand is white. Please Help >>>Hey Heather, First of all, fairly new reef tanks sometimes do this, no worries really. Secondly, have you taken steps to introduce sand bed fauna into your tank? I like to grab a few pounds of "grunge" off the bottom of the live rock bin at the LFS. Sand bed kits are also available online. Without the needed critters, a sand bed will not function properly. Also, have you checked your nitrate and phosphate levels? How much do you feed? Are you running a skimmer? Have you done any water changes recently? How is the current in your tank? Is this fine or course sand? It should be fine, almost sugar-like. Larger grains can be present in smaller amounts. All things to consider. Regards Jim<<<

Collecting Your Own Substrate? Hi you guys <Scott F. your guy tonight!> Thanks for all the info. I would like to set up a new tank with a sump. In both the sump and Main tank I would like to add a DSB. For this I need at least 5-6" of gravel sand. Being from South Africa I have a little problem. The LFS stores here only have Aragonite 2-4mm in size. My understanding is that I need fine sand for the DSB to work at its best. <That's the general consensus at this point...> Can I use Aragonite (2-4mm in size) for the bottom half (3")of the sump and tank? <Well, you could mix some of the larger sized particles in, but the fine stuff is really what you need. BTW, a "true" deep sand bed is more like 5" plus...This will be deep enough to foster the beneficial denitrification processes that you are seeking> Can I collect sand from the ocean to use for the top half of the DSB? Or Can I just collect sand from the ocean to use on my DSB.? <Well, a lot of it has to do with the source. Many near-shore sources may have contamination, impurities, etc. Additionally, your locally-found sands may or may not be aragonite based, which will deny you many of the buffering capabilities of aragonite-based products. In my opinion, it's better to go with the (admittedly more expensive) commercial products. There are also potential ethical and legal issues associated with the collection of natural materials. Do check with local authorities before engaging in such activities.> When collecting sand from the ocean is there do's and Don'ts. Should I rinse the sand? <Again- depending on the source and condition of the material, rinsing can be either a great idea, or a disastrous proposition to inhabitants of the sand bed. Do your homework first...> Can I use NSW for the water in my tank? When collecting NSW for how long can it be stored & should it be aerated when not used. Thanks Gustav <Well, Gustav- you can use natural sea water, but there is a definite protocol for its appropriate use. Please see the FAQs on water and water quality here on the WWM site. Lots of material on the pros and cons of NSW use in aquaria, as well as ways to prepare it for use. Do some research here and see if you are up to the challenge! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Is Purearagonite.com still in business? 9/24/04 Don't know if you'll have any knowledge on this one...I was wondering if you guys knew if Purearagonite.com is still in business? <hmmm... I'm not sure. I've heard a couple other folks complaining about them being slow to reply> I've tried calling them for over 2 weeks and never get an answer. >you have tried online, I presume? Some companies prefer to channel all correspondence via e-mail. More affordable to monitor> It's sad to live in CA, finally be ready to buy a whopping load of sand, and then not be able to move forward with the best source available (LFS has HIGH prices!). Thanks, John <be sure to check in with your regional aquarium societies. These dedicated aquarists have networked and solved many such problems... you have SDMAS in San Diego, MARS in Sacto, SeaBay  and BARE in the Bay area... MASLAC in LA... SCMAS for SoCal... etc. Reefcentral.com has a forum for clubs... do follow their links/leads and more. Best of luck! Anthony>

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

UGF in FOWLR Tank I recently sent a question regarding REVERSE flow with a UGF in a FOWLR and some soft corals and I tried to reply to your response to me from the "Crew" and couldn't...........the email came back undeliverable so I'd like to address/discuss this issue with you Dr. Fenner. <Just Bob please, I have no doctorate> I have a 75g in which I'm removing the deep sand bed...............too many problems I won't get into after 3 years. Anyhow, recently, while cruising a forum on another website (Reef Central), I came across a guy (Paul B=check it out on the site) who has had the same tank set up for 32 years utilizing a UGF with Reverse flow with 1-2 inches of dolomite.  I've been contemplating using a STARBOARD bottom until I came across this UGF set up used by this guy. <Neat... I finished an article a couple days back for a U.S. zine (TFH) on UGFs... so am a bit up to snuff on them...> Now...the response sent to me originally by your "crew" on my first email question (and I'll forward it to you separately) said that detritus and organics would get trapped in the substrate. But if you're using two pumps/powerheads like the Hagen with reverse flow at 170-200 gph, won't that blow the detritus and organics up off the substrate and into the water column which can then be removed by the skimmer or another form of mechanical filtration like an Eheim canister or Aqua Clear 500? You thoughts please. <With an in-line particulate/mechanical filter (like the canister) there should be little detritus to get lodged in the substrate with a reverse-flow UGF... what little there is will likely be digested, decomposed there. If the substrate bed is not too deep (depending on grade, shape, make-up...), regular maintenance will be able to remove "enough" of this accumulation. Bob Fenner> Don     

Re: UGF in FOWLR Tank So this is an ok idea?............should keep phosphates and nitrates low or to 0 with regular maintenance on the canister? <Not likely down to zero, but close enough with careful feeding, regular upkeep> What is your feeling about dolomite vs. crushed coral or even large particle aragonite.... <This is posted on WWM... most folks are/would be better off not using dolomitious (composite magnesium and calcium carbonate) materials...> again, only doing an inch to 1.5 inches or do you recommend a thinner layer? <Also posted on WWM... please read there> By the way, I forwarded the RC thread with the guys tank. Let me know what you think but please address my questions above .............thanks again! Don <Be chatting, reading. Bob Fenner>

Back To The Future? (Bare bottom Tanks And UGFs) Two questions: <Sure> Is there any benefit to using a UGF with reverse flow utilizing crushed coral as a substrate? <Well, reverse flow undergravel filters were all the rage in the late seventies and early eighties, before wet/dry filters and sumps came into vogue. They fell out of favor when more "complete" biological filtration systems and techniques came into being. UGF systems certainly are efficient biological filters, but they tend to trap detritus and organics over time, and will slowly drive down the pH of a system that employs them. In the end, you're really better off using the simple sump systems that are very readily available and easy to run> What are the pitfalls of a bare bottom tank? Don <Well, Don- in a nutshell, the real pitfall of a bare bottom tank is the lack of denitrification processes. I don't want to oversimplify things, but it essentially boils down to that. A sand bed-preferably a deep one- will foster denitrification processes that can greatly improve water quality. Tanks without sand beds tend to develop accumulations of nitrate over time. Yes, there are some detractors of DSBs on the popular message boards, and a few people are trying to go "retro" back into the bare-bottom "Early Berlin" style of the mid eighties. They tout the ease of being able to remove detritus from the tank, the "cleaner" look, etc. I'm a bit puzzled as to why people want to go back to a technique that really didn't work that well in the eighties...Personally, I think that the new bare bottom trend is just an excuse for running super-powerful pumps without worrying about blowing sand around! Aggressive protein skimming and good husbandry- mandatory for any successful system, are crucial in bare-bottomed tanks. I sincerely believe in my heart that a well-maintained tank with a decent sandbed can run for years and years without problems. Do get different opinions on this, of course. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

White sand vs. Black sand Hi WWM crew, You guys are awesome! Thanks for all the wonderful articles and FAQs. I have almost completed my 135 gallon reef setup. The plumbing is all finished! Woohoo. I would like to have a DSB of about 5-6" and I have used CaribSea Aragonite in the past. However I saw a Nano tank with Seachem's Gray Coast in it and it looked awesome. The little corals really stood out against the black sand. << Yes they do, but I still wouldn't use it. The black sand can't provide the other calcium/alkalinity benefits of crushed coral. However, it is debatable whether or not crushed coral provides any benefit, but I think it does. >> I have been reading on this type of sand which claims it is magnesium calcite but I'm not sure of it's buffering capabilities in a reef tank. << None. >> Any info you guys would have would be greatly appreciated! << A large sump with lots of crushed coral would do the trick, then you'd be okay with your black sand in the main tank. >> Which one do you think would best help me with my pH buffering and my NNR? << The crushed coral can't be worse, it could only be better. But not necessarily better. >> Thanks, Shawna << Blundell >> 

Mixing different sand types Greetings - first off thanks for a fantastically helpful website. A bit of background about my tank: 90gal, approx 1 month old.  4.5" Sandbed and 50lbs of extremely porous pacific rock.  I have 40 more lbs of Gulf keys rock on order which should arrive next week. Currently I am running a hob Prizm skimmer which I will be upgrading as soon as my paycheck allows (within the next month or two) to a EuroReef or Won Brothers in-sump skimmer.  I have a 10gal wet-dry system which I will be gradually pulling the bio-balls and filter media out of to convert into a sump. For turnover I have a 4100LPH in-sump pump with a HOB overflow in one rear corner, and a single return nozzle in the opposite rear corner.   Additionally I have a 300gph PH on the side and will be adding two more over the next week or two. No inverts, nor any fish at this time, my cycle has no quite completed. With regard to my Sandbed --- I first purchased 40lbs (approx 1.5") of crushed aragonite sand from the LFS. This is somewhat coarse - grain size is around 1mm up to 1.5mm.   Last week I added 80lbs Southdown sand for another 3" depth.   The two substrates are segregated at this time, with the finer sugar sand on top of the original crushed aragonite. << It will eventually works its way down to the bottom. >>  Should I leave them separated, or should I stir them together now while the tank is still young? << I wouldn't worry about it, they will mix and settle on their own. >>  I understand once the tank begins to age severely disturbing the bed is not recommended. << Correct, I say leave it be. >> With regard to my future livestock.  My plans currently are: 6 Blue Leg Hermits 12 Astraea or Nassarius Snails One Watchman Goby One Royal Gramma 6 Green Chromis Your thoughts? (ratio of cleaners to fish, disruption of the DSB, and/or overall bioload). << You really can't have too many cleaners.  And your fish bioload is really dependent upon how well that live rock is working.  If you aren't feeding heavy then you're fine with a few fish in large tank like that. >> Sorry for the long post - Thanks for your time. << No worries, it all looks good. >> Nate <<  Blundell  >>

Best Substrate for a 120 g Aggressive Fish Tank? <Hi! MikeD here> Thanks for the help.  My son has a 120g w/ a center overflow so the fish can swim in a circular pattern.<OK>  He wants to add an Orange Filefish <IMO these ought to be left in the ocean. While beautiful, they feed very heavily on live Acropora coral and 95% of the ones sold die a slow death of gradual starvation!>, a Blue spotted Toby <Small, but can be nippy towards slow moving fish and inverts and actually considered by many to be a very real threat to a Lionfish>, Fox Face <Nice fish, VERY hardy!>, Picasso Trigger <Nice but NOT peaceful as they grow, with Triggerfish taking the place of Hyenas in the ocean, the omnivore/predator with teeth that can devour ANYTHING they choose.>, arc eye Hawkfish <VERY nice, and peaceful as well to all but the smallest fish. They too are aptly named after the raptors of the sky, swooping down on unsuspecting small fish and crustaceans>, raccoon butterfly <Nice AND hardy> and a dwarf angel<My suggestion here? Wait until the tank has been up and running for close to a year before adding the angel and it's chances of success will triple.>. The tank will have a large sump in the basement 75g.<Perfect>  We already have 3 SW tanks: 2 reef and 1 for a snowflake eel<that eel, by the way, would do well in this tank if you felt like adding him>.  All of them have deep sand beds and inverts.  (We have an incredibly peaceful eel <Many SFE's are peaceful if well fed on crustacean flesh, as they are specialized predators upon these>.)  Should I/we add a deep sand bed to both the tank and the sump or should there be a different substrate for the actual fish tank.<I run DSB's in all of my fish tanks, IMO this falls into the individual preference category.>  Also,  the current sump in the 120 is an ecosystem.  Do you recommend continuing w/ that style? <If you're happy with it, why not?>  The former owner never had a nitrate problem but it was a reef tank <That's because nothing ate or pooped in it a reef tank and a EOWL are literally worlds apart>.  What's confusing to me w/ a DSB is that we can't put in any inverts to keep it clean<Really? Why? I keep burrowing snails, crustaceans, worms and such in ALL of my FOWLR DSB's.  I live in Florida and the DSB in the Gulf of Mexico is teeming with life.>.  I appreciate the help; I've tried searching for this info several times but couldn't find it.<Hope this helps a little. In most aspects of the hobby I think you'll find that there's RARELY only one way to do anything, with some extremists going a little overboard in claiming their way is the ONLY way and ALWAYS view this type of advice with suspicion>  Thanks, Nancy

Sandbagging <Hi Paul, MikeD here> We are going to the Keys next week for a little diving and relaxation.
<You couldn't pick a better place as long as you factor hangovers in> Aside from maybe violating a couple of local laws, what is to stop me from filling my swimming shorts with beach sand and stuffing the whole mess inside my suitcase for the flight home.<This is great! The first thing is that it's VERY uncomfortable, the second is to use care that you don't get something alive in there you weren't counting on!**grin**>  You see we live in Kansas and aragonite sand is very expensive out here (like $2.00 a pound).<It's pretty expensive here too, not much less>  I know one should never disturb reef life or collect your own live rock, but beach sand?<Well, there is ONE minor problem, that being that our sand is largely silica, not aragonite. Before doing that I'd just go down to Home Depot and get some Mason's sand....much cheaper and safer!>   I could pick up a couple of empty pop bottles and some cigarette butts along with the sand and say I was cleaning the beach.<Now, THAT would be appreciated!> Thoughts?
<Most Florida sand is silica, just as is used in children's sandboxes, with the exception of very high surf areas, where some of the beach is finely crushed sea shells, often dredged up from a mile or so out as "Beach Replenishment". The sad part is, for all your conscientiousness, the state itself is quite hypocritical, with the huge amounts paid for "beach front property" often given priority over the sea bottom that's dredged up for those expensive "private" beaches.> TIA Paul in Stilwell, Kansas

What size sand should I use? I recently set up a reef tank using Aragamax and Aragalive sand with live sand activator (grunge) from GARF . I think I made a mistake on the grain size of the sand. << This is a big debate in my aquarium club. >> I used the west Caribbean Aragamax sand which is .2-1.7 mm in size. The Aragalive sand is the reef sand which is larger . I have a 3 inch base down but I came across in my reading that the grain size I used should only be to a maximum of 1 in. Did I make a mistake? << No worries, that is perfectly fine and I wouldn't change anything. >> Should I replace some of the sand with larger grain sand? << If you want to, it isn't a bad idea to add some rubble or large sand on top, but I wouldn't take out sand, or change it. >> THANK YOU for your help, Mark <<  Blundell  >>

Tahitian Moon Sand? 8/4/04 Hello all. I'm setting up my tank after a long LONG dry spell.  I'm going to make a 5" to 6" deep sand bed and I normally use oolitic aragonite but I noticed this cool looking CaribSea Tahitian Moon Sand (call me silly :-).  Does anyone know the particulars on this stuff? Is calcium based or silica based?  Will it work (WELL) for a DSB? Wes <the key here is going to be particle size... for efficient denitrification in a deep sand bed, you should seek grains .1-1.0 in size (ideally closer to the sugar-fine lower end of that spectrum). As to composition, no idea with some of these wacky names these mfg.s come up with. Do consult the mfg. website and/or e-mail them for specs. One easy test for silica versus carbonate based sands is to place a sample in vinegar: no response from the silica based sample. If the product is carbonate based, you might then care to know if its calcite versus aragonite. The latter being more useful as it dissolved more readily (at higher pH) and is arguably "better" for reef aquaria with calcifying animals. Ultimately though... its not that big of a deal. With calcite or silica, you simply depend heavier on other convenient means of supplementing Ca and ALK like calcium hydroxide and/or calcium reactors. Best regards, Anthony>

Tahitian Moon Sand 8/5/04 Anthony, you are awesome as always. Thank you. <always welcome my friend> I have been totally unsuccessful at finding Southdown up here in the NH/MA area.  Maybe I'll look into this moon sand more. It's black and sure looks neat. Thank you... Part 2: I called CaribSea and asked about the Tahitian Moon Sand. It is silica based and not recommended by them for use in a DSB.   <silica sand is not harmful per se... just not helpful> Just thought I would pass the info on.   <yes... thanks kindly> They said that if you want a darker look you can use their Indo-Pacific which is a mixture of aragonite and volcanic materials.   <ironically... volcanic matter is far more risky than silica. DO stick with straight oolitic aragonite for best overall benefits/results> I'm sticking to the oolitic aragonite. :-) Wes <best regards, Anthony>

TAHITIAN MOON CAUTION. . . Hi gang: <Chuck> A reader queried about Tahitian Moon oolitic sand yesterday. . . Just a note of caution: In my experience (fortunately limited to a 12 gal. nanoreef) it looks incredible in bag at the LFS [beautiful jet black]. . . and incredibly AWFUL in the tank. Imagine buying a black car you could never really wash. This is worse. The upper layer goes murky gray. . . regardless of normal/frequent cleaning. Even worse, the 'optical illusion' seems to be the eye 'thinks' all the sand is the color of the grungy top layer. . . Call it a case of the beauty of theory hitting the mess of reality. I junked the stuff and started over. Chuck <Thank you for your input. Bob Fenner>

Should I replace the top layer of my sand? 7/29/04 Hello wet Web Crew... << Hi, Blundell here. >> I wanted to know if it would be possible to pull out some of my sand bed.... (maybe just the first 1\2" ) which is heavily laced with debris. And in return add about 2"  of clean live sand without causing major damage. << I think you can.  But I'd do it slowly.  Like remove 1/4th of the surface area first and replace it.  Then a week later, remove another quarter of the area. >>I've vacuumed heavily and threes still a very brown tinge to my sand substrate.  << This I wouldn't worry about.  I don't want my sand to look white, I like it all colored up.  I'd be careful, as to not disturb your biological filtration. >> And if this is possible do I have to use the same size sand can I use a smaller grade...(like a sugar grain size). My sand bed is 1-3 1/2" deep and would like it to be deeper if possible after the fact.  I'm using 1 size up from sugar grain size. << I would probably not use sugar sized sand if you are going to have a deep sand bed.  I really like crushed coral, about 4 inches thick. >> Please over look any typos.... I'm the typo king : )  << Looks good King. >>       Thanks in Advance  J. Williams <<  Blundell  >>

Sand Question   Dear Mike D, <I be here!> I was really looking forward to buying some beautiful fine white sand today, imagining how good it would look in my tank.  I was nearly at the cash register when, I realized that it might get clogged up in my power head or remora protein skimmer and possibly break it.  Am I being paranoid?
<Sure you're being paranoid, but in such a way that it's called foresight, so well done.  If the intakes are not near sand level you should be fine, but as you surmise, very fine sand CAN cause pump problems if it gets into the moving parts. Keep in mind as well that silica sand also has no buffering/ph qualities, which is why I stick to fine grade aragonite> Asma

WASHING SAND BEFORE USING Thanks for the quick reply. Is it possible to dry the sand & use it at a future time? << Yep, this is what most sand is. >> I know that we would have to reseed for it to be "alive" but would the dead bio load just be too overwhelming or could it be "cured" almost like live rock. << The best thing to do is to just rinse it and rinse it and rinse it.  You can do this in your kitchen sink with a strainer.  Do this before you store it, and after.  That way you don't have anything decaying while it is stored, and you rid the dust that accumulates before you use it again. >> You folks are just the best at what you are doing & really appreciate the time you put in to our hobby. Asking questions & education I believe is the key & you folks have got a lot of keys!!! << Thanks much. >> Lynne Bennett << Adam B. >>

Making A Stand With Sand (Sandbed Composition) Hi, <Hi, Scott F. here with you tonight.> I've had a 125G marine tank setup for about 2 years.  Initially it was going to be a FOWLR. A few months into it I discovered that two other engineers at work have reef tanks.  I made the "mistake" of talking to them and looking at some pictures of their tanks. My focus quickly shifted to converting it to a reef tank.  I love it.  I've been reading books, magazines and internet info. pretty steadily for the last 1 ? years now.  If I had it to do over again I would have done quite a few things differently.  Learning is fun and expensive. <Yup, I know how that can be!> I upgraded the lighting last year and have upgraded water flow and a new skimmer this year.  The next step that I would like to take is to increase the depth of my sand bed.  I have a few quick questions about how to pull this off without causing harm to the fish and corals that I already have. <Sure, glad to help.> My first question concerns what size sand to add.  I currently have about 1.5 inches of aragonite sand (1 - 1.7mm grain size).  Should I add more of this size, or go to something smaller? <Well, it all depends on what you want to accomplish.  A finer sand have been proven to denitrify quite effectively.> I'm not sure how risky it is to mix sizes.  I've read differing opinions on this.  If I do stick with this size, how deep should I go? <As you read through your own research, there are varying opinions.  I mix sand sizes in my tank and it seems to work out ok.  It has not proven problematic for me.  As far as depth of your sandbed, my rule of thumb is one-half inch or less, or three inches or more (up to six inches, or so)> Secondly, how do I add it?  Is it better to add a little at a time, or try to get the new stuff underneath the existing?  Either way should be a challenge. <Personally, I have added it all at one time and have not experienced any problems.  Your water may be cloudy, but will clear in several days.  Monitor your water chemistry carefully.> Thanks for your help. Larry <No problem Larry.  I hope this information has been useful for you.> P.S. I'm reading Anthony and Bob's new Reef Invertebrates book.  It's great! <It is a great resource and, as a matter of fact, has a tremendous amount of research on sandbeds.>

Substrate in a FOWLR Hi all, <Hi....MikeD here> I am one of those strange folks who is going back to a fish only system from a reef.<Welcome partner, I did that long ago>  I have used DSB for a few years with success but would like to get back to crushed coral or crushed shells.  Of course, DSB is all the rage and pretty much the predominant advice you get these days from the discussion boards, but is crushed coral still a good idea?
<CC or aragonite now comes in different grades an option we didn't have in the past. I prefer the finer, sand grade myself and use it in my tanks>  My goal is to have a clean look at the bottom of the tank but not bare.  Will I be disappointed with my future nitrate count?<Possibly, depending on feeding, clean up crew and such. Again, you're now seeing many more options that make it much easier, such as small conchs, pistol shrimp, sea cucumbers and sifting sea star species. IMO the more variety you have in your DSB the better the odds of success>  Are there other pitfalls I am not thinking about?
<Just make sure your tank is arranged so that you can't get gas pockets forming under the LR, which can be a very real danger> Thanks for any input you can provide. <You're welcome. Hope this helped at least a little and don't forget to enjoy.> Paul D. DiGiorgio

Substrate in a FOWLR MikeD, <at your service> Thanks for the response.  Can I ask a couple of more questions?<Sure, fire away.> Can I do away with the DSB entirely and just have CC on the bottom for looks?<Sure. Many people do just this, relying on filters ,LR, bioballs, etc. There's almost always more than just one way, with the best one being the one that works best for you and your fish.>  In a fish only tank, wouldn't the clean up critters just get eaten by the fish?<Sometimes, but that depends on what you're using for a clean up crew and what type fish you're attempting to keep.  The mix has to be tailored to each individual combination of species.  There are currently more types of "clean up crews" available than ever before in the hobby, and it seems to be getting better and better all the time, but collectors, wholesalers and retailers are often slow to try something new.  By living by the sea, I have many creatures available that are great, but simply not readily available to most folks.  I've actually talked to some wholesalers who often answer," There's no market for those!" Without ever realizing that of course there isn't...they've never been offered for sale and no-one knows just how good they work.> Thanks again.<You're very welcome>

Saving Sand Dwellers - 6/14/2004 Crew: <Hey Rick, MacL here> I am planning an upgrade from my 55gal (4feet) to a 125gal (6 feet).  I currently have an established DSB (1.5 years), and I would like to use the 55gal as a sump and keep the DSB.  <Sounds nice> This is proving to be difficult, because I do not have the 55 drilled for a return, and I would like to have an external pump (Iwaki or Dolphin). <Very nice choices>  If I stay external, I will have to empty the tank (and destroy the DSB) to get it drilled.  Is it feasible to sift out the infauna as I remove the sand bed, and save them in a quarantine tank until I get the tank drilled and setup for sump duty? <How long do you think it would take you to empty the tank and then get it drilled?  A day, a week, a month?> Do you know of anyone that has done this, or similar? <People do move their sand beds all the time and while they have some die off the majority does fine.> How fine of a sifter would work best? <I don't think you will find a sifter fine enough to get the bacteria from the sand.> Is there another way? <I would suggest putting your sand into a quarantine tank. It will do fine as long as you have some circulation going. This should keep the sand and fauna alive for at least a couple of weeks.> I would really hate to lose my 1.5 year investment in this DSB, so if I can save the critters, this would make my day. <Definitely> If not, would it be better to just go with an internal return pump, and section it off from the rest of the tank somehow? <Just a thought here but I can't see why you couldn't go with an external pump that is plumbed to pull things from close to the sand. Similar to the way a canister is plumbed?> This would present some of its own challenges. <Many people do use internal pumps in their sumps. I have it running both ways personally. There are always ways to put some live rock around it to isolate it in the tank.> There surely would still be some disturbance, along with other concerns, yes?  <Both ways do have their share of problems Rich. I hope I have given you some ideas to think about. >Thanks a million, Rich <Good luck, Mac>

Substrate Replacement Greetings Wet Web Media folks. <Scott F. here today> I wrote to you about 5 or 6 months ago concerning fish species setup for my upcoming 50 gallon aquarium.  Now that it is setup and running awesomely, I have a question about substrate.  I was reading up on some fish that I would eventually like to get.  Most that I would like to eventually need a fine substrate or sand base. Currently, I have a natural rock base with each rock no more then ?” in diameter.  In an effort to make The aquarium accommodating to these fish I was wondering if there is any possible way to safely transform my substrate to a combination of rock and sand without terrorizing my ecosystem that is currently established.  I know what I would like to do : Have the rock on half then have that drop off, and be covered with the sand. <You can certainly do this. I'd either replace one section of your tank's substrate at a time, or I'd just place the new substrate material right on top of the existing substrate. Some people may disagree with this strategy, but I have done this myself many times without ill effects, so I am comfortable with it> I also have concerns cleaning the sand (if this is safe to do) as I use a python? to siphon the water out, clean the gravel and refill the aquarium.  Do I just hover the python over the sand to clean it?   <Personally, I would not disturb anything more than the top 1/2 inch or so of the sand bed, just to be on the safe side. Why disturb any of the valuable processes, not to mention the accumulating natural "fertilizers" that you are trying to foster in a healthy sand bed> Also, I have many live plants in my aquarium as well.  Will the plants live in the sand or would it be best to have them only grow in the gravel substrate and have natural driftwood create a cave system in the sand? <Really depends on the type of plants that you are trying to keep> Thanks you for any assistance you may be able to give.  This is still the #1 source of aquarium information and it Is always reliable. Thank you for hosting such a great site! Blaine Morgan <We're happy to be hear for you, Blaine! Regards, Scott F>

Sand vs. aragonite Hey Adam, Thanks for your previous response. About 3 months ago, I totally overhauled my 75 gal tank.  What it used to be: old bulbs, no water chg in 2 years, 10 gal sump, Berlin venturi hurricane skimmer, TONS of algae but all tests came out ok.  Never fed fish, they ate the algae that grew wildly in the tank and choked off all live rock, and temperature swings of 5 degrees.  The algae was nasty looking and the tank an eye sore so I decided to overhaul everything (didn't hurt that one of my best friend's new tank was doing great.) I still seem to have a problem with certain things staying alive, however. My new yellow polyps, green star polyps, tiny percula,  have all died. << I find yellow polyps a little tricky, and Perculas often have stress. disease problems.  But green stars are definitely on the durable side. >> The new improved tank: First of all, all the sand, gravel, and "live" rock is left over from the old days.  I just added new fish, corals, clean up crews, better equipment, and di/ro water, and frequent water chg.s.  The algae prob has been resolved with the exception of a little bit of brown stuff growing on the aragonite. Why would that come now? << Well it is hard to say why.  Typically brown algae will grow in new tanks, especially in low water flow areas, or where there isn't something to compete with them for nutrients. >>  Seems backwards, especially since I've been doing water changes and have such a large clean up crew.  I had 3 urchins but I got rid of them this weekend when I found out they were eating the coralline algae.  Is that a good move? << You are asking me at the wrong time.  I typically love urchins, but this week my urchin has tipped over quite a few rocks.  I say it is a personal preference on whether or not you are willing to "clean up after them". >> I have approx 2 1/2" of Arag. in the front and drops to 1" in the back.  How should I add more Arag to your recommended  levels rate, mix in, spread out, do one corner???
<< Good question.  I like to have a few cups of sand in a little cup or bucket.  I fill that with water first, then lower that little bucket to the bottom of the tank.  Then you can slowly dump it out and just leave it on top of your existing sand.  I don't think you want to dump in a bunch at once, or all over the tank at once.  Maybe add a few cups every few days.  If your tank already has a lot of corals and fish in it, then this is even more difficult to do, as you don't want to be constantly changing their environment.  Again, a decision you will have to make on what is worth what to you. >>
I also have an AquaC-EV120 skimmer (per your recommendations on site), MaxiJet 400 and 1200, CustomSeaLife 4x65w PC hood, a H.O.T. Magnum canister filter (using carbon) that I purchased today and will run periodically to remove residue in tank. My livestock: snails (array of snails for cleanup), brittle star, purple tang, Eibli angel, bicolor Dottyback, blue velvet damsel,<< Some cool fish, but not many fish.  This will allow you to make some small changes here and there and probably not over stress them. >> scarlet reef hermits (few of these seemed to have croaked), couple blue legged hermits, and macro algae in the refugium - a 20 long.<< This refugium is an excellent place to add more sand.  In that type of tank you could have around 6 inches of sand, but I still think 4 inches is good. >> <<  Adam Blundell  >>

Sand vs. aragonite I am using aragonite in my 75 gal. tank.  I'm really not sure if there is a difference between that and crushed coral??? << Not by definition, but often times crushed coral is larger and more irregularly shaped. >>  There is a lot of live rock in the tank but I am noticing some brown algae now.  I do my 5-10% water change once a week (or 2) and the water tested just fine every time I've tested it and even when I took it to the LPS to have tested. Is it more beneficial to use just sand?? << No no no.  I think crushed coral is the substrate of choice.  I see no down sides to using it. >> I used to use it in that tank years ago but had an algae problem (b/c I wasn't doing water changes) and siphoned a great portion of the sand away.  SO to replace it, I used aragonite (doesn't siphon as easily) and just laid it over top of the little sand I had left. << That sounds like a good way to do it.  I'll say the algae problem isn't related to the type of sand.  How deep is your sand bed?  I'd recommend about 4 inches deep.  What other filtration do you have?  That would be a more contributing factor to the algae problem, at least in my mind. >>   <<  Adam Blundell  >>

Playing With Sand Thanks again for the quick response. Would you put the sand bed right over top of my existing substrate (florida crushed coral, already 3-4")? <Well, there is a lot of controversy over sand grain size, etc. If you're gonna use a fine, oolithic aragonite, it's probably best to gradually replace one section of the tank substrate at a time, letting the process take a few weeks, IMO> And what about vacuuming the substrate after the sand bed is installed? Can it be vacuumed and is it necessary? <I would not disturb anything more than the first 1/2 inch or so of the sand bed. If you are a careful feeder, and are conscientious about maintenance, you may not really have to do much of anything to maintain a healthy clean sand bed> (I assume when you say sand you mean live sand?) <Yep> If so, any recommendations as to which type? Chris <I'd go for a nice, clean grade of sand from Fiji or another South Pacific locale. Your LFS can probably recommend some. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Silica Substrate And A Nasty Algae Bloom Hello All, <Hi there! Scott F., here today> Thanks for all your help in the past. <You're quite welcome! We're thrilled to be here for you!> I made a mistake when setting up my reef 75G Reef Tank.  I used Silica based sand (aprox 100lbs).  I am having trouble controlling algae growth in the tank now. <Yuck> The tank has been up for 3 months ( a transfer from a smaller tank that was running a year). I have  50 lbs of live rock. Aqua C 180 Skimmer Eheim Canister (w/ 2 bags of Chemi Pure) Power Compact 4x 65  (12 hour Photo period) 33 Gallon Sump 5 Fish Small False Perc (2") Royal Gramma    (3") Coral Beauty        (2") Yellow Tang         (3") Hippo Tang          (3") Various Soft Corals Clean up crew (snails, hermits, 1 bristle star & 1 Serpent star) I use R/O water and change 15% every two weeks. I have brown algae and green hair algae problems.  What suggestions do you have for correcting the problem other than removing the sand? Would a "fuge" help? What type of Macro Algae should be used? If sand removal is my only option, How? <A refugium could help to export some of the nutrients. My favorite macroalgae for this purpose are Gracilaria and Chaetomorpha. The silica-based substrate will continue to be a factor in your algae problems. It's hard to say just how much of a contributor, however, because it really depends upon the rate of dissolution of your substrate material. On the whole, I'd rather ditch the silica material and replace with live sand. You can do it all at once, or slowly, one section at a time (either way, you'll be disrupting the system and exposing it to some trauma). I suppose the more conservative approach would be one section at a time. Continued use of chemical filtration media (activated carbon/Poly Filter) can help export additional nutrients and compounds, as well.> Last I did a lot of research on the skimmer (should have invested that time on sand research) and chose the Aqua C.  I am getting little skimmate from the skimmer about 1/4 cup every 2-3 days I keep adjusting the gate valve to try to get better performance but no success, any suggestions? Thanks, Brian <I'd contact Jason Kim at Aqua C. He's a super guy, and can give you a lot of tips on making this excellent skimmer do a better job. Usually, it's just a series of simple adjustments that will do the trick. Good luck to you! Regards, Scott F>

Diggin' Damsel! Hey! guys, I just added some sand to my tank after having crushed coral. Anyways, my Snowflake Eel is way more active and he always swims in the water, sometimes for like 10 seconds. He'll swim with my other fish. Is the sand that big of a difference to him? <Well, it is easier on his skin, but the behavior may just be coincidental> Also, my Yellow Damsel keeps fanning big holes in my sand and exposes the bare bottom which I don't understand. I keep covering the hole up but 2 seconds after SWISH its back open. Is my damsel trying to find a breeding area? <An annoying, but common damsel behavior. This is generally done as a "nesting" behavior. This pit provides the fish a territory to retreat into, and eventually, a possible spawning site. Not a whole lot you can do to stop this guy from his excavating, so enjoy the natural behavior!> Thanks for taking time to read this, Aaron <My pleasure, Aaron! Regards, Scott F.> 

Substrate and Soft Coral Questions Hello, <How goes it, Michael here> I have a 36 gallon bow front tank, currently fish only (yellow tang, maroon clown, damsel and neon Pseudochromis) with about 10 lbs of live rock. The tank has be up for about a year and half. Substrate is about 1 inch of crushed coral. Filtration is handle by a ViaAqua 750 canister filter along with a Prizm skimmer. They are not the greatest equipment, but they do the job. <Quite so>  Lighting is provided by a Coralife compact fluorescent system (twin 65 W 50/50 bulbs).  I am considering replacing the substrate, with a finer aragonite based sand. My question is how much should I replace at a time? <No more than 50%>  Considering my setup, I'm not sure how much of the biological filtration is occurring in the substrate and live rock, and how much is in the canister filter. <There won't be a whole lot of biological filtration occurring in your substrate bed. Why, exactly, are you intent upon replacing it?> My second question concerns soft coral. Currently my clown spends most of the time swimming behind the heater and filter intake pipe. I would like to introduce a soft coral that would be attractive to him as a home. <A Maroon clown isn't likely to accept a coral as a symbiotic host>  I am afraid of getting an anemone, and have heard that some soft coral or more robust and are good surrogates for a clown. <They can be, but I'm not sure a maroon would accept a coral. If you are prepared for an anemone, they are not as difficult as you might think; at least not the hardier specimens>  Do you have any recommendations for specific coral? <A toadstool leather (Sarcophyton sp. or perhaps a Xenia>  Is there anything I should do to my tank to prepare it for coral? <Make sure your water quality is excellent, that your pH is high and your nitrates 5ppm or below> In relation to my coral question, I submitted an email previously concerning the large number of bristleworms I have in my tank. I originally thought they killed most of my snails (nine total) but now I'm not sure. The one remaining snail is doing just fine even though I see bristleworms crawling around and on it each night. I have a large Bristleworm population (my guess is over 100). Mostly in the eighth to half inch size range. <Bristleworms that small are excellent detritivores, I wouldn't worry about it>  I hoped the neon Pseudochromis would help control the population, but I have not actually seen her eat any. Though I do occasionally catch her examining the substrate closely. I previously asked about any danger bristleworms might pose to coral. The response I got was that a controlled population should not cause harm. What is considered a controlled population? <Small bristleworms :)>  Should I consider adding an arrow crab? <If you like, but they've been known to munch corals also> I appreciate any help you can provide. <Anytime. Let me know if you have any more questions> Thanks, Robert Heuser <M. Maddox> 

Sandbed Confusion? Hello Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. here today> I've had numerous tanks throughout the years with the same results, everything would be fine for the first 3 months then after that green hair algae would start growing and by 6 months the tank would be covered in green hair algae. This seems to happen in all the tanks I setup even though I do water changes, add higher flow rate, reduce feeding, reduce lighting, etc, etc. It always seems as though my sandbed is a phosphate sponge even though it was between 4 - 5" deep in all these tanks. <Well, initially, as you know, nutrients accumulate in systems regardless of sandbed depth, since the nutrient export processes in new systems are immature and cannot handle the large influx of nutrients. I guess it's a "right of passage" in many systems, and does go away with good husbandry> Now I'm setting up a 240 gallon tank as a FOWLR and was thinking of going bare bottom so that I could easily siphon out all the garbage from the bottom of the tank and avoid it breaking down and creating phosphates. I was going to sprinkle a bit of crushed coral for decor since I don't like the plain glass look, but I've inherited a banded cat shark therefore I'm afraid that the few pieces of crushed coral will cut his abdomen, which leaves me with either using starboard (plastic) or going completely bare bottom. <Personally, I don't like the bare bottom look, but many hobbyists seem to feel that this is an easy way to keep maintenance tasks easier. On the other hand, this is similar to the concepts used in the 80's and early 90's, in which no sand bed was favored because it was thought that this would assist in maintaining a "cleaner" system. This school of though fell out of favor when the "natural" philosophy became popular. One of the big negatives of the bare bottom technique is the potential accumulation of nitrate, as well as some lack of chemical stability (calcium levels, pH, etc.)> Some people have suggested that I put a 1/2" of sand,  but I'm afraid that if I do this, I'll end up with Algae yet again since I won't be able to suction out the detritus. <I don't think that you are any more likely to experience algae problems with a 1/2" sandbed than you would with a bare bottom. detritus will accumulate over time, but should not be too much of a factor if you are attentive to maintenance>   Sincerely,  A Frustrated Algae Plagued Fish Keeper. <I can understand your concern and confusion. One only has to surf the message boards out there to see hundreds of different points of view on the issue of sandbeds. The important thing is to consider the requirements of the animals that you want to keep, the maintenance practices that you want to follow, and go for it. I think that consistent husbandry practices are as important as any methodology that you choose to follow. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Silica based sand for marines? likely pass 5/5/04 thanks for all the help in the past <always welcome> I live in RI. I know that the beach sand here is full of silicates and possibly iron. would this be bad to use in a refugium. <perhaps... but worse still is the fact that there are millions of people living behind that coast to which everything runs (to the sea). Yikes! And beyond pollution, coastal waters are hot-spots for parasites and disease. (need 4 week QT bare minimum). Sure seems like a lot of risk and a lot of work. I'd advise against it> will the silicates feed diatoms in the main tank if I use the beach sand in the sump. <possibly> I hope to grow macros and mangroves in the sump and keep starfish and other inverts in the sump to eat up any detritus. if you have any thoughts on this, any help would be great. thanks <do spend the few dollars on a carbonate based sand. We have Aragonitic "Southdown" sand at so many of the N.E. Home Depot stores... $4 for 60 lb Anthony>

Mixing Substrate Materials Hey Guys / Gals <Scott F. your guy tonight!> First time to ask a question but have had many many answered on your most valuable site. <Glad you enjoy it! We are happy to bring it to you each day!> I have a 130 gal. 6 ft. Reef system have had no problems other than 2 or 3 Aiptasias. All water parameters have always tested perfect, regular water changes, aggressive skimming with Euro Reef, no over stocking or feeding. <Excellent!> Tank has been up for 7 mos. Tank mates are 2 Perculas, 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Coral Beauty, 2 Firefish,1 Fire Shrimp, 15 Hermits (very small) 20 Turbo snails, 2 Sand Sifting Stars, Lots of soft Coral's, and one missing Bubble tip Anemone (my mistake). <I'll bet that there's a great story to that one!> On to my question: I have had a 2" to 3" sand bed from the time of set up (always wanted more) I asked at the L.F.S. if it would be OK to add 1" or 2" of live crushed coral sea shell mix over the top of existing sand they said it would be fine so I proceeded. (probably should have asked here first) My two sand sifting stars immediately surfaced and have not submerged for two days, The crushed coral and sea shells are no larger than 1/2". Will the stars get accustomed to it? <Well, it is potentially a rough material that can damage them.> Should I mix the new and old together? Or did I make a big mistake and need to remove newly added coral base? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Will be waiting your reply. Many thanks in advance. Rio Holbrook Benicia Ca, <Well, Rio, it was not a mistake, but I think that it's better to mix in the new substrate with the existing sand. A lot of aquarists will advocate a more uniform sand bed (in terms of particle size), but a mixed bed does look nice, and can be quite successful, IMO. I have experimented with this in my own system (partially because the internal water movement blew fine sand away from the center of the tank. My one caveat with this substrate is that you should stir it regularly, or it can become a "brick" of solid material due to calcification processes! Also, detritus can accumulate in the larger grain sizes if you're not careful at feeding and husbandry. In the end, if you're having second thoughts about the whole thing, I'd remove the crushed coral and opt instead for a fine oolithic aragonite product, live or otherwise. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

The "Disturbed" Sand Bed I recently upgraded from a 125 to a 300 with a 75 sump.  I upgraded the lights to 800 watts VHO and 1000 watts of halides.  I transferred a DSB from the prior tank onto a layer of sugar sand within the new tank.  Everything went well.  Everything is doing well.   <Cool! Sounds like some serious lighting!> Now, 1 month later, I am having high nutrients.  I know this because of Cyanobacteria (red slime) in the sump/refugium and because of an explosion of majano anemones in the main display.  The tank is not overloaded with fish and I am not overfeeding.  The flow is 3000 gph (10x).  The skimmer has been pulling cups of pure black water every day for a month now. <Wow! Definitely a nutrient issue...> When the DSB was moved, it was BLACK with nutrients.  The discoloration settled in a couple of days while the fish/corals waited in large trash cans with air stones/heaters/powerheads.   The water quality is now perfect, but there are obvious signs of nutrients.   <Well, excessive nutrients are indicative that your water quality is NOT perfect! Are you testing phosphate and nitrate?> I have two questions about this: 1) Could the nutrients still be the result of the move of the DSB?  It has been 1 month now and it is the only thing I can figure that it still causing the nutrients.  Have others experienced something similar from transferring a substrate from one tank to another? <It is quite possible that when the sandbed was disturbed, many of the nutrients that were bound up within were released en masse, with significant consequences> How long can I expect this to go on for? <Hard to say. A well established sandbed may have a very large amount of organic nutrients that can take some time to be assimilated or exported.>   2) It is suggested that only the top 1" of a DSB be stirred on a regular basis.  However, looking at a 1 year old DSB from the old tank, there were a lot of nutrients built up, though my nitrates showed zero, the water quality was very good and the corals/fish thrived in the 125.  This implies that maybe the entire DSB should have been stirred on some regular, infrequent basis, or is this normal for a DSB?    <I don't believe that a deep sand bed should be disturbed beyond the first 1/2" to 1". Nutrients are assimilated and processed within the sandbed, and, as you discovered, disturbing the deeper layers can have dire results> Thanks, you have a wonderful website.   <You're quite welcome! I would advise that you continue aggressive nutrient export processes, such as working the protein skimmer, use of activated carbon and/or PolyFilter, and small, frequent changes with quality source water. You are now becoming an expert on the need NOT to disturb the deep sand bed! Actually, there is so much more to it than this overly-simplified explanation, so I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of Anthony and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates", which has some outstanding, very up-to-date information on deep sand beds and sand bed processes. Regards, Scott F>  

Keeping Sand In Place Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I'm setting up a new reef tank to replace my old 55gal. This one is 120gal AGA which I had drilled on the back wall to install both the internal overflow as described in Anthony's book and the return manifold. <Very nice!> I have a few bags of fine Southdown tropical play sand that I will use for the DSB. (It says on the bags that the sand is sterilized. Do you think that I should wash it before I put it in?). <Opinions vary about this, but I would at least soak the stuff for a while before using it> I just read the latest article Tank of the Month (4/2004) article on RC and I think that I would like the look of the substrate gradually sloping down from back to front. In case you have not read it, I would like to have the DSB to gradually slope from about 6 inches at the back to about 4 inches at the front of the tank. <It's certainly not a problem to do this, in my experience, and it looks nice, too.> To prevent the sand from settling down that over time would make it level, I would like to glue in a glass divider (about 35"x5", the tank bottom is 48"x24") to the bottom of the tank parallel to the back/front wall, and about 10 inches away from the back wall. <Nifty> Do you think that this could have negative impact on the integrity of the tank? <Good question. I'm not 100% sure about that. I'd consult the manufacturer of the tank, just to be sure. Maybe you'd be better off just using egg crate and some screen for this purpose, just to be on the safe side?> Would you glue it just at the ends of the glass divider or along the whole length? Thanks. Petr <I would probably go the whole length for stability. This is a neat idea- but I do implore you to consult the tank manufacturer, just to be sure, whenever you are gluing things to the tank structure itself. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Grain Size Query  I am thoroughly confused over an issue that probably should be simple. I have read two books by two leading authors. One says to use the smallest grain size you can get, preferably down to 1/16th of a mm. The other says no way, use 2mm grain size sand. One says that the smaller grain is excellent because sand bed dwellers can easily move about and that larger sizes are too difficult to move and abrasive for them. The other says that with smaller grain size, there isn't good movement of oxygenated water into the sand bed. The sand I purchased was CaribSea Oolitic Select that is graded to .5mm to 1.02mm. Is that too small of a grain size for about a 3 to 3 1/2" deep bed? I can't go much deeper because of the built in overflow slots on my tank.  <I see the dilemma- is there a way that you can block off the bottom overflow slot? Otherwise, I find grains of the range .5mm-1.00mm the best for feeding your tank naturally! It will help produce great zooplankton, and would be good for a variety of macroalgae. The only problem I foresee is that this grain size has a half-life of about two years- so you'll be down to below 2 inches by 2006. You're going to need to stay on top of this, because "in this mid range, the sand is often too deep to be wholly aerobic and yet not deep enough for efficient denitrifying faculties.">  <quote from article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >  Thanks!  Sand Silly <Not a problem, Ryan> 

Adding substrate to active tank 4/7/04 Sorry to be bugging you so much today- <no worries> Going to add some new substrate this evening.  Current substrate is a little low, and the white of it has really faded- hope to brighten it up (tank is 6ft long- 125 gallons).   <do be sure that you keep less than 1" or more than 3" of sand if fine (deeper if not for the latter over 3") for optimal success. Intermediate beds require much more sand sifting, siphoning and/or stirring> I have one Lion Fish, and several hermits- what is the safest way of adding new substrate?   <place it in clean plastic bags and soak it in saltwater days in advance to saturate it... then sink the sealed bags to the bottom of the tank, then cut the bags open and gently slip the sliced bag off/away> I know to rinse as much as possible; <yikes, no! Not IMO. You will be rinsing away a very useful buffering pool and likely just making the sand milkier. Soak the sand as per above and enjoy all with convenience and clarity> perhaps small amounts at a time, even sending it down a long PVC pipe, from the surface of the water to the bottom? <very messy> And again with PVC, a good washing should do the trick?  Thank you, Daniel <best of luck, Anthony>

Put It Back? Hello,  I've been reading your website for days now in preparation for my tank move next week (55 gallon reef with various LPS, Shrooms, and Zoanthids, pair of ocellaris clowns, one squampinnis Anthias, one Chromis, one lawnmower blenny, about 50 lbs. of Fiji and Tonga live rock, wet/dry, MD7 main pump, Sealife Systems skimmer w/Rio 600, Icecap VHO).  <Sounds like a impressive tank!>  This will be the third time I have moved it in the past 4 years (we finally bought a house so this should be the last time).  <wow, that's a lot of moving. Congrats on doing it so well, I know many people that couldn't even do it once without catastrophic problems.>  The last time I moved it, I kept nearly everything. When I added the aragonite back to the tank, the sediment added with it was awful, and caused a horrific amount of nutrients to be dumped into the system. All of my parameters and algae was out of control after the move for about 6 months. I had & still have a plenum with about a 5" bed above (I will not set it up again based on what I've been reading on WWM, I will probably go with a DSB minus the plenum).  <I'm quite happy with my DSB, and I know many people who also are extremely happy with the results in their tank.>  My LFS recommended that I discard all of my aragonite and start with new live sand (the bagged kind like Arag-alive or equivalent) since I will be releasing all of that nutrient-laden gunk into the tank if I scoop out my bed and refill it. I don't think they were just trying to sell me sand (I've been going there for years and it is not that type of LFS). Regardless of their recommendation, I will probably keep at least the top inch or so. Any thoughts on replacing the sand bed? Thank you.  <You don't necessarily have to use live sand like Arag-alive sand. The cost of using many bags of live sand can be quite expensive. You can use the dry sand that your LFS sells and then "seed" it with a bag of the Arag-alive sand. By placing Live sand on the once dry sand the bacteria and other micro organisms will eventually spread and colonize the whole sandbed. I actually used bags of Children's play sand I had purchased from my local hardware store. The sand is usually sold by companies like "Southdown" or "yard right". It's actually dredged from the ocean floor by the same company then sold to these companies to be packaged for the consumers. The companies like Southdown have a non-competition clause with people who are selling sand for the home aquarium, this is something that many consumers never realize. I have been quite happy with my tank using "The Southdown Method". Not to mention the cost of the 40 pounds bag of sand from the hardware store was between 5-8 dollars rather than the $30 for the 25 lbs bag from the LFS. so, you can see how much money you can save by doing it this way. The biggest concern is that you MUST wash the play sand quite well or else you have a cloud of sand that is almost impossible to settle out. Another good idea is that if you purchase the Children's play sand, you can seed it with your old substrate. By using women's pantyhose you can take your old substrate and place it in that. make something about the size of a baseball and then double the pantyhose over on itself just to be sure it doesn't break. You can then take this and sink it into the sand bed and eventually the bacteria and other organisms will spread into the rest of the sand. After a few weeks you can simply reach in and carefully take the "substrate balls" out of the sand. Works quit well.>  Sergio  <Good luck with the tank, and hopefully this will be the last time you will have to worry about moving! -Magnus>

LR, LS, Powerhead I am new and have made some serious and expensive mistakes with my 72g tank. My nitrates are off the scale. I read I need more live rock (50 lbs now) and some live sand (crushed coral only now). Can I add the live sand on top of the coral? I have a high flow canister pump, should I add a power head in tank also for flow? <you can add the live sand on top of the coral but since it consists of smaller particles it will eventually wind up on the bottom anyway. I would definitely add a powerhead for added water flow, IanB>

Coarse or Fine (Substrate Material Sizing) Howdy, <Hey there! Scott F. here today!> Been recommending this site and your books to all. Great stuff. Decided to turn my old quarantine tank in to a 10G Nano. I already have a few mushrooms in it, and figure I'll add a bit more live rock, an Orchid Dottyback or a Sixline Wrasse and some Zoanthids. Right now I've got about ~1" of course crushed coral in it.  I've read plenty that suggests this isn't the best substrate.  Is this going to be a problem? Should I replace it with fine oolithic?  The tanks pretty shallow so I'd rather not do a DSB. Thanks. Matt <Well, Matt- a lot of opinions exist on substrate materials and composition. The "knock" on coarse substrates is that they tend to trap detritus if not carefully maintained. If you are going with a shallow sand bed (less than one inch), this is probably not a problem. I suppose that the argument can be made (however weak and anecdotal) that finer substrates can provide some denitrification even in very shallow beds. Personally, I like the aesthetics and biological "efficiency" afforded by finer materials, such as the "sugar sized" oolithic aragonite materials. In the end, use what works best for you. If your husbandry techniques are good, it's really a matter of taste. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

New Tank, Old Substrate! Hi Crew, <Hello there! Scott F. with you today!> Time to ask the experts!. I tried posting this on RC and have received conflicting advice. <Well, there is generally no one "right" way to do anything in this hobby, as you know! I'll give you my two cents worth, of course!> I have set up a new 75g with new water, new 5" DSB (Dry bagged) and base rock. I have an existing (about 1 yr) 30 gal with DSB, live rock, coral, snails, crabs, no fish. The new tank has been up for 2 weeks, I used some change out water in the initial fill. How is the best way to transfer everything over to the new tank? All at once? Move just the DSB and let new tank cycle? <I prefer this technique. Sand and water together. There will, in all likelihood, be a new cycle in the tank> Leave old tank bare bottom for a while? I plan on using all the water from the 30 gal. I would like to move it all at once if that's safe. Please help as I don't want to kill off anything. Thanks! <Yep- I'd move everything to the new system, and monitor water parameters carefully, as you would in any new tank. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F>

Building A System From The Bottom Up! (Substrate Materials) Hi crew, <Scott F. with you today!> I started a new Aquarium FOSW (go figure I am only new at this). While I started out putting together, the setup, I went out to the local Aquarium. The problem I have is the Aquarium deals with Fresh Water Fish (tropical) Only. I asked for Coral Sand, and instead was given a 20kg bag of a White Gravel (very Fine), Got told this stuff was Better ! <Well...> This is the question: will the Gravel be OK for the Marine Setup or should I get the Gravel (pebbles) out of my tank and replace it with Coral Sand now (before the Fish go in and while I am still cycling the Water). <Personally, I'd use a coral/aragonite-based substrate for both its efficiency in creating a deep sand bed, and for its buffering capabilities in marine systems.> I am of the understanding the Gravel will effect the Ph of the water which in turn will determine what fish I could keep (to say the least). <Well, certain substrate materials can impart minerals to the water, and provide buffering capabilities that help you maintain a more stable environment with a high pH and alkalinity. These factors, in turn, will help you keep a variety of marine fishes and invertebrates> I must admit this White Stuff looks good, but from my reading it could be a key to the success or failure of my Marine tank in weeks to come. Could you please advise? <Well, it can play a key role in your system's stability. As you are surmising, substrates are more than just an aesthetic component of your system. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Sand Clouds (3/7/04) Hello, <Hi! Steve Allen tonight.>   I have found a lot of useful Information on your web site and It has been a great resource as I delve into the world of saltwater. <For me as well.>   My question is about the use of aragonite, I have read it is one of the best to use for starting a tank but I am unsure on how to prepare it for the tank?? Do you need to wash it to run clear as my  first attempt on a small tank left the water milky for a few days, or is that normal.. <You'll never get it to run clear, but gently rinsing away debris before adding it to the tank is useful. All of that cloudiness is useful buffer. It will settle over time. If it settles on your rock, gently puff it away with a baster.>   Also I am in the process of setting up a 130 Gallon saltwater fish only tank and as budget permits move to a reef setup. Any suggestion on filtration? <Live rock, deep sand bed, skimmer, sump/refugium.> Can I use a Fluval 404 to start or should I spend the money and go with a trickle filter and sump setup? <You can use the Fluval for mechanical/chemical filtration, but will need to open & clean it at least weekly. I gave u on mine very quickly. Rather than trickle/sump, look into a sump/refugium.> Thanks in advance, Drew Forbister <Hope this helps.>

Sand near Pittsburgh? Hello Steven or Anthony or what ever helpful person gets this:) <Ananda here, helping out...> I live in Pittsburgh and I know a couple of you do also. I would like to find Southdown or YardRight tropical play sand for my reef tank. For some reason I can plunk down $6+ dollars a lb for live rock but cant fathom spending $20-30 for Carib sea sand when the Southdown is almost the same for 1/3 the price (or less).  Any idea where I might find some?  Thank you! Jeremy <You might have better luck posting this on the forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk -- we have several people who live in and near Pittsburgh on the forums, and they may be able to help you with a source that's near where you live. When you get to the forums, do a search on "Southdown Pittsburgh" to find some relevant (but older) posts. --Ananda>

Sand Mixture Hey, <Hello, Ryan here>         Almost forgot, I'm  going to mix my 3" sand bed in the tank and in the sump, 50/50 live/ regular Caribbean clean washed sand, should I put the live on top of the regular, or actually mix it together. <I would put the live on one side, the clean on the other.  Then, take a few handfuls of the live stuff and put it in each corner with the clean.  You don't want to smother the live, and you don't want to mix the two.  3 inches isn't an ideal thickness for a DSB, it's too thin.  It's also too thick for a simple sandbed.  I would either add 2 inches, or remove 2.  Good luck, read up: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm>                   Thanks Again, Louie

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