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FAQs about Marine Substrate Selection 2

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 Rock, Biominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Marine Substrate Selection 1, Marine Substrate Selection 3, & Marine Substrates 1, Marine Substrates 2, Marine Substrates 3, Marine Substrates 4, Marine Substrates 5, Marine Substrates 6, Marine Substrates 7, Marine Substrates 8, Marine Substrates 9, Rationale, Reef  Substrates, Cleaning, Replacing/Adding To, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Live Sand, Mud Filtration 1 Biofiltration, Nitrates, Sand Sifters, AquascapingCalcium, FAQs 1

Too fine, unsettled sand can damage pumps, impellers...

Black Sand Nano 9/26/06 Hello folks, <Hi> A friend turned me on to your site, great info.  I am in the process of setting up a 29 gallon oceanic cube. I wanted to use the fine black Fuji sand.  This is not live sand, so how does this figure in the equation of setting up a mini-reef?    Thanks Stephen <Should work fine, if I remember correctly it is calcium based so you will get some buffering from it and the critters from your Live Rock will populate it with time.> <Chris>

Sand Bed Size 9/21/06 Hey guys. <Hi> Firstly as always, thank you for such a helpful web site. Since my last question I have gained much information from your FAQs and informative articles. Crikey! You guys are good and probably over worked! <Bob is quite the task master especially when he makes us travel to tropical destinations to dive.  It is a labor of love I assure you.>    Just a quickie. With reference to my new 4x2x2ft reef tank, which would you choose for a less than1/2" deep bed: A)  CaribSea Aragamax Sugar Sized Sand   Grain size 0.1 - 1.0 mm. or..... B)   CaribSea Special Grade Reef Sand    1.25--1.95 mm diameter grain size. And of course why? :o) To be honest I am leaning towards the Aragamax due to the fact it simply looks better.  Being from Australia (hence the crikey!) these are the only two CaribSea products I can get my mitts onto. 'Tanks' for your help (ha ha I'm sure that one has been done before)<G'day Mate> All the best Garth <For a shallow bed like that either will work just fine, the choice is really just what looks best to you.  If you decide to go with a deep sand bed the sugar fine works better, so for future flexibility I would go with the sugar fine.> <Chris>

Sand From the Local (Non-Tropical) Beach, Not a good Idea  10/6/05 Hi guys, and gals. <Hello, Adam with you this evening.>  I have a question that could be useful for some people. <Probably that's why we post them in the FAQ's.>   I live on Myrtle Beach, sc.  And I can't find the good homeland as they only have the "sackrete" brand of play sand.  <I assume you're referring to Southdown, it is seldom seen in recent years.> and my trip to a few Lowe's in the area didn't produce any results either.  So my question is: can I collect the substrate off the beach? <Not a good idea.>  I'm sure your gonna say that the substrates from the beach has parasites and pollutants in it.  and my response would be a scenario were I would boil the substrate somehow to disinfect it. And kill the parasites, hopefully.  <You're right if pollutants and parasites were the only thing to be worried about it would be very easy to sterilize and cure the sand. But you didn't think it was going to be that easy did you? The problem that we face is that sand is not sand.  The sand you would find on a tropical beach is calcium based, the remains of ancient corals and other calcium based organism remains.  The sand you will fin on your local beach is silicate based. At the least it will give way to uncontrollable diatom algae growth in your tank.>  And is collecting 200 + lbs. of sand from the beach  illegal? <Varies from localities, consult you local authorities before collection.> thanks for the help. <No problem, and not to nit-pick but please capitalize and punctuate sentences as this will end up in the FAQ's for others to view. It saves us a lot of time so we can help others. This time I'll help you about a bit and run it through a word processor. Thank you, Adam J.> Local Beach Sand, Not a Good Idea  10/4/05 Hi Bob. <No not Bob. Adam J responding to you tonight.> I'm a newbie so please bear with me , not that I'm cheap but can I start my reef tank  with sand from the local beach  ? <Generally not a good idea, most American 'beach-sand' is filled with silicates.  At the least they cause horrible diatom growth.> I live in Long Island N.Y. There are lots of drift wood, rocks,   I liked to take that is of course if it's legal, think its  possible ? <You would have to check with the local authorities as far as the legality of such collection.> Rich R. <If I may ask a favor of you, please capitalize and add appropriate punctuation in future queries. Adam J.>

Question Regarding Hawaii and Sand 11/3/05 I plan on collecting some live sand from Oahu for my tank, in accordance with Hawaii law of course (1 gallon per person per day). Thankfully, most of the sand here is of the right composition, with lots of calcium, <Yes... am sure you've been to the Waikiki aquarium down at Kapiolani... seen the "saltwater wells" they've used for decades... very good water with little work> but I am not sure where to find sand fine enough to establish a good, nitrogen-cycling deep sand bed. <Is most everywhere> I thought I would try Bob on this, since he has some familiarity with Hawaii. I went to Lanikai last weekend, and the beach sand is fantastic, however the live sand in the tidal zone is much more coarse. Any suggestions?  <I would use this over the fine/r...> Also, after using your website for several weeks, I finally bought your book yesterday. It will be a great reference to keep around. Thanks. Doug Cook <A hu'i ho! Bob Fenner> 

Self-Collected Substrate Material? 11/1/05 Hi There, <Hi! Scott F. with you today!> I live on the West Coast of Ireland and have access to Irelands only coral beach. The sand is composed of fragments of broken coral from about 3-10mm long. Would it be safe to use this as a substrate? The beach, water is pristine. Would the fact that it is coming from a cold water environment to a tropical tank reduce the possibility of introducing pathogens? The tank is a new tank and will have no fish in it for at least two months. Thanks for your time, David <Well, David, I am always concerned about the introduction of pathogens and/or pollution from wild collected substrates, but it sounds like you may be looking at a good product. Be aware, however, that fairly coarse (and I'd classify this material as "coarse") substrates do require a lot of attention to husbandry, as they tend to trap detritus over time. I'm not 100% certain that the temperate/tropical issue would assure you of a potentially disease-free substrate. I am, however, more concerned about the ecological impact of collecting from beach sources.  Many communities have strict laws about collecting wild materials from their beaches and other ecosystems. Do check with local authorities first. If they give you the "green light", then it's worth a shot to use this material. In the end, your 2 month "fallow" period will probably help reduce the possibility of introduced pathogens. I'd still clean and rinse the material thoroughly before use. Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.> 

Aragonite, but Which Adam..??  11/30/05 Hey Adam <Hello?> I would like your opinion on aragonite as a substrate as I've never bothered to incorporate a substrate, I have no idea which one to purchase. <Well first you need to decide why you want substrate. There could be a number of reasons to incorporate substrates in marine aquaria; aesthetics, to enjoy the benefits of a Deep Sand Bed or creating a certain type of biotope or living environment (i.e. resting spot for wrasses). As for aragonite it is calcium based making it useful for its buffering effects in the marine tank. The problem with it is that most hobbyists choose a brand that is to coarse and thus it becomes a nutrient/detritus trap. I would attempt to find material that is as fine as possible. Another thing to consider is the flow rates within the tank, tanks such as high flow shallow water biotopes can make sand beds quite impractical.> Thanks. <Adam J.>

Sandbed Selection, Not Always A Personal Choice - 01/09/2006 Good evening, <Hi Mike.> I am in the process of setting up my first marine/reef aquarium and I need some professional advice. <I'll see what I can do.> I have a 75 gallon tank with 100lbs of live rock, AquaC Urchin Pro and an in-sump refugium. <Good start.> I am interested in keeping a goby, goby/shrimp pair, or perhaps some other type of burrowing fish like some of the Jawfish. <Ok.> However I'm not sure that I completely understand the sandbed requirements for keeping burrowing fish. I am not particularly interested in NNR (DSB) in the main tank and the only reason I want to use sand is for aesthetics and as a habitat for these fish. <I think your view will change over time here. If you wish to keep burrowing animals, why not let them burrow? The DSB is not just for NNR, but is proven to help sustain these animals.> Do you have any suggestions for a beginner? <I highly suggest you choose to employ the DSB.> Thank you for a response and for the wonderful service you provide. -Mike <Gladly. - Josh>

Australian Gold Sand   1/25/06 Hello, I am sorry to bother you with a somewhat silly question but I am beginning a reef tank and I am trying to research everything.  I did not see anything on your site regarding my question.  I am trying to learn all about LS, what is troubling is how "live" is not truly "live" and so on.  I have found a beautiful sand by Nature's Ocean called Australian Gold. It is not live, but I have a friend with an established reef tank who could give me a pound or so of her sand.  I have only seen it on one site and no references <references as to what?> at all anywhere else. Has anyone heard of it? <I believe Nature's Ocean is a relatively new company and that is probably the reason you only saw it on one site.  They do advertise in TFH magazine.> Is it even legally allowed to be sold or is this fishy? <I'm sure it is legal or they wouldn't be selling it.> It is so beautiful that I question never seeing it for sale or talked about.  Again, I did try the forums but I didn't know how to post a question there. Thanks for the trouble.  <Why don't you go to their web site and contact them.   www.naturesocean.com  James (Salty Dog)> Jill

Good Sand? - 02/07/06 I purchased play sand from Wal-Mart that is from Thomasville, Pa. It's very white and I would like to know if this will be safe for my reef tank. <<Safe?...probably...beneficial?...maybe not.>> I have gotten differing opinions most saying if it does not say tropical play sand don't use. <<Mmm, not necessarily.>> One individual I spoke to was saying that if I put it in some vinegar it should dissolve, tried it and most of it did, can you help? <<If the sand dissolved in vinegar it is likely carbonate based and quite suitable for your reef tank.  EricR>> Travertine As Bio Material? - 02/25/06 Hello. <<Howdy>> I got some great advice today.  Thanks to everyone. <<Welcome>> Just one question that is not anywhere on the site. (Now it will be.) <<Ok>> My LFS sold me about 30lbs Travertine <<?>> for biological filtration in my sump. <<curious>> I can't find a single person with Google who uses this. <<Likely not>> This worries me.  Thoughts? <<Firstly, I don't think you need worry...no harm should come to your system from this material...though that doesn't mean the possibility of introducing a contaminate is ruled out.  My knowledge of Travertine is as a material used for decorative stonework in up-scale homes/buildings.  Though it is a calcium carbonate/CaCO3 based material, it is fine grained/dense (polishes up nicely) and less than a good choice as a bio-media in my opinion.  It likely won't hurt your tank, but I doubt it will help much either.  You would be better off replacing this with ordinary live rock rubble for biological filtration.>> Thanks in advance, Christopher <<Regards, EricR>> <Mmm, having had a few rooms re-done with this material as tile recently... and read about its natural origins, am inclined to toss in my warning against its use in biological systems. Take a read on the Net here... I would NOT place this material in a biological system w/o it being tested for undesirable material/s. BobF> Grain Size For Sand-Sifters - 03/17/06 Hello.. <<Howdy>> I currently have a 90 gallon FOWLR setup with a sand bed consisting of half 1.0 - 2.0 mm and 0.1 - 1.0 mm.  If I had to do all over again I would have all of the sugar-fine sand but what's done is done. <<Ok>> I have read that the larger grain is borderline inappropriate for sand sifter's like gobies and cucumbers. <<Sugar-fine serves best here in my opinion.>> (of course I asked this question to my LFS at time of purchase and they said I would have no problem adding sand-sifters with that grain size). <<Mmm...was it the only size they sold/had on hand maybe?>> My questions is, are there any sand-sifters that would be appropriate for my sand bed or does your experience say I can have the gobies and cucumbers or did I shoot myself in the foot? <<Some of the larger gobies (6"+) may handle your smaller grain sizes fine, but I prefer to provide these animals with fine-grained sand.  Why not add some sugar-fine aragonite to your existing bed?  The goby/cukes will be able to sift the finer grains, while spitting out what they can't use.>> Thanks in advance and oh yeah.......awesome site! <<Regards, EricR>> Don't Use That Sand...  4/6/06 Hi crew/Bob <Hi Joe, Jen here.> I just wanted to get some advice on an issue. A few months ago I brought back a bit of sand from a clean beach. For the past month or so, it has been stored in a few buckets which had previously stored cement and paint.<Ick> These buckets were cleaned prior to filling with the sand, although remnants of each I would think are still present. <More than likely> I would like to know if I can now use this sand in my SW tank? <I wouldn't.> I will rinse thoroughly and remove all (though few) pieces of debris from the sand first, however, I am concerned whether adding the sand will have a detrimental effect. It might be worth adding that the sand looks very clean although I realize it's mostly what you can't see that does the damage! <First taking sand from even a 'clean' beach can cause problems.  You have no idea the microscopic organisms that may be living in it.  It, even though unlikely, could be the downfall of an entire tank.  Second, the sand has been stored in buckets that have been used for something else, toxic chemicals at that - so there may be residue here.  Remember, if you're using it for a tank - make sure its new and clean, even the bucket.  Third the sand has been sitting for months, there could be biological breakdown here that you probably don't want to add to a tank anyway.  OK? Best thing to do is buy your substrate and seed it from an established tank. Best of luck, Jen S.> Thanks in advance for your advice, Joe

Substrate help  4/29/06 <Justin here with you.> I thought I was doing well until I spoke with a LFS looking for a new Salifert test kit.  The individual asked me about my setup which I told him was as follows: 90 Gal tank Amiracle MR-300 filter Iwaki md40rlt pump angstrom 25w UV emperor aquatics series two skimmer and overflow 2 zoomed PowerSweep powerheads (no longer sweeping) <Does happen, they are rather finicky> 90lbs Walt Smith Fiji rock 70lbs of Florida crushed coral. When I advised about the crushed coral the "Sales" person acted like the world just ended and I would never have any success whatsoever.  I did some research on the topic beforehand and to me it looked like an argument that has been going on since the beginning of time, live sand vs. crushed coral vs. aragonite substrates.  To me it sounded like a coke vs. Pepsi debate; just a matter of personal preference.  He asked why I put the coral in the system and I told him that my LFS advised that they have been using it for many years on 300+ tanks with no problems.   He then stated that they have no idea what they are talking about and I should return the coral to them and buy his live sand at $37.99 per 20lb bag.  Then he began to talk about how ugly crushed coral is and how my nitrites, nitrates and every other water parameter  will spike and lead to my ultimate failure.  Quite honesty thesis SALES person's opinion was discounted by me quite quickly because of his rude and arrogant manner in getting his point across.  If I truly did the wrong thing, I have no problem in taking the coral out and replacing it with some other substrate, although I won't buy it from that man's store. <You are fine, crushed coral is a fine marine substrate.  It may collect more debris that other substrates due to its larger size.   You should gravel vacuum the substrate to avoid issues long term.  There is only really aesthetic reasons to use different substrates.  > Right now I'm cycling the tank with the rock and my ammonia is zero my nitrites are at  2ppm, nitrates 30 ppm, ph 8.3.  I'm going to wait AT LEAST one more month before adding any fish and corals are not anticipated in the near or distant future.  Am I doing the right thing by leaving the substrate or is this guy just trying to make a sale.  By the way he also tried to sell me uncured rock for 8.00 /lb, he must really need to pay the rent.     <That is a great, that you are doing this the right way, so I think you will just fine.> By the way I think your site is fantastic! <Thanks ill pass that on to Bob.> <Justin (Jager)> Opinion  on..... outdoor coral beds  - 05/15/06 Bob we met at the NextWave at our DFWMAS club in Irving Texas. I was very impressed with your incredible first hand knowledge of the Marine aquaria industry. Which is the reason for this email. I live in Fort Worth but not in the city limits and have no restriction on the 4 acres where I live. There is a 2000 sq foot house also available. Seeing how your from Cali I thought you might like the choice of name for my new adventure......Ripple AquaSource... <Heeee! Have had their wine on occasion...> it's also one of my favorite songs by the "Dead"...the other one being Cassidy which is my daughter name.  My wedding song was Sugar Magnolia <Seems reasonable> I would love to ask you a few questions if that is possible, I do like the good folks at Garth and there projects. <The singer or GARF?> The cool thing about this I plan to fund it with a gas lease I have. Funny story lived here 21 years and out of the blue a guy shows up with a gas lease. too funny. I do like the idea of funding this from some unexpected funds from something underground to something underwater.  thought about making a 400 foot wall around the front of my place out of DIY live rock know where I can get my hands on 20,000 or so pounds of crushed coral and oyster shells cheap?? <Mmm, yes... likely... Call around the "local" sand and gravel plants re... ask them how much to deliver...> I lost the link on the guy in Ohio that has done this if you know it please forward... Pizza and Beer Robert Barrett <Now you've got my attention. Cheers! Bob Fenner>

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> 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.>

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>

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> 

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>

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. Her'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>

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>

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

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>

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 >> 

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>

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> 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.> 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  >> 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>

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  >>

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>

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  >

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>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Limestone as a substrate 1/16/03 I'm thinking about soaking it in water and changing the water often as you advised.  Once it gets to the "clean" stage I'll have the salt water checked for contaminants.  If it checks out then I'll have saved $hundreds in substrate. <How are you going to have it "checked for contaminants"?  Standard hobby test kits may not be available, and lab analysis is costly.  A standard test kit may work for Copper, which is the biggest concern, but there are other metals present that may be of concern.  Also, rinsing in plain water will not duplicate the low pH environment of a DSB.  I share and support your desire to make this hobby more cost effective, but you may be putting thousands of dollars in livestock on the line for a few hundred in sand.  I don't want to discourage you, only to encourage you to be sure before you proceed.  Best Regards.  Adam>   Re: Calcium source If I could find Southdown or Yardright play sand in Colorado, I'd be a rich man.  I can't even get them to return my e-mail inquiries.  Do you have their phone number perhaps?  I'll bug them until they send an 18 wheeler out loaded with it.  :) <The parent company is Cemex.  The rumor around the hobby is that they will not respond (at least not favorably) to inquiries from aquarists since they supply aquarium industry companies.  I am quite sure that if you are determined and get the right person on the phone (just asking for "calcium carbonate play sand") you could arrange for a truck load to be delivered!  Be prepared for the sand to be shockingly cheap and for the trucking to cost more than the sand.  Adam> Sand for a sandbed - 2/23/04 Hi guys! <Hello> I can't find aragonite over here <Where is that? Can't have it shipped in via internet purchase??> and the white sand being sold at LFS are of silica variety. <really?> So I just decided to get two bags of sand from the local beach (legally of course). <Oh yeah. Legally? What does that mean? Also. I don't think that is such a good idea myself. Usually beach sand has lots of "pollution particles" for lack of a better word. The least of which is likely some silicates as well> Typical gray sand. Had them rinsed well and will let them stand for a week. <Won't help much, in my opinion> Anyway, while rinsing them, I included cleaning my powerhead and found black filings from the sand stick to the magnet impeller part. <Probably lead or some obvious metal> Is this anything to be concerned about? <I think so. Not totally sure, but I don't like this idea of local beach collection at all. Too many unknowns. I would do a test run first. Set up a tank and add the sand, then test the water over the course of a few months. Also, see if someone (maybe a College or High School) can't do a breakdown of the elements found in the sand. You really should know what you're dealing with. Could end up being a very costly "experiment" for you and your animals if you don't know the chemical makeup of the sand you are adding to your environment> I remember playing with these filings from beach sand ever since I was a kid and know for sure that this beach isn't a man made one. <That doesn't matter, really. Stuff is dumped in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans all the time. It is bound to wash up on shore. As a matter of fact, the shore is THE repository for all that "pollution" Also, are you sure the sand wasn't added though? Lots of beaches have sand moved to them from other areas of the state (or other states) I hope it's ok though as I'm left with no more choices. <Really?? Are you sure?? Well, if you have no choice then go with a bare bottom. What do you plan to keep? This makes a big difference too. Good luck ~Pahulio> TIA! Ken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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