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FAQs about Marine Substrates Cleaning, New and In Place 1

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 Cleaning 2, 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, Selection, Reef  Substrates, By Type: Aragonite/s, Coral Sands, Silicates, Dolomites/TapAShell, Southdown & Such, Collecting Your Own, & Physical Make-up, Size/Grade, Location, Depth, 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

Starting with dry?

Rinse and rinse, and rinse... till clear, before placing.

Sand Settlement   11/26/07 <Hi Scot, Mich here.> I have a quick question that I hope you can answer. I started my new 180-gallon tank and put CaribSea Alive Bahamas Oolitic and now the sediment is in the water. How long does it normally take this to settle out of the tank? <I would have recommended rinsing the sand of this fine sediment.>  I have the wet/dry, Tunze 6060, and all of power heads working. I have two bags of Chem-Pure, PURA pad, 200lbs of live rock and some filter floss in the sump. How long do you thing this will take to clear? <It took months at one LFS that did not rinse the sand.>  I have the fish in a 20-gallon tank and they seem fine, but I know this is excessively close of quarters for the fish and would like to put them in as soon as possible. <I'm sure they would be happier with more space.>  Thank you for your guidance and assistance on this project. Scot

Band Sand Algae   8/24/06 WWM, <Lee> Great site (thanks!) -JK-. I needed some expert advice on my sandbed, lately it is becoming pretty ugly and seems to be getting worse. The problem is a red algae (possibly Cyano) <Likely so> is spreading in my dead spots. I have enough Powerhead flow, I just cant seem to get the randomness it needs. I have hills and caves, and the algae grows in places my powerheads do not reach. I can't vacuum the sand in the areas the algae grows because of  the rockwork, like I said, its in caves and  under ledges. Just want some advice so I can get my sandbed to look as nice as the rest of the tank.. L <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Crusty sand  9/11/05 Hello All! I have a quick question regarding my 40 gallon mini reef tank that is seven mos. old. Details of  the tank are as follows:  30 lbs live sand, 40 lbs live rock, Remora hang on skimmer powered by an AquaClear 802 producing about a half cup of greenish brown scum every two days. A AquaClear 30 and Maxi-Jet 1200 providing circulation along with the return from my XP-2 canister filter. 36 watt Coralife U.V. filter with a measured flow of 180 gph passing through it. Although the XP-2 is rated at 300 gph, I've found that with the filter media in place (two 30 ppi pads, two 20 ppi pads, phos-sorb, Chemi-pure and one micro filtration pad) my output is actually 180 gph. <Yep, about right> Lighting is an Orbit 30" with  dual 65w daylight and dual 65w actinic. pH is 8.2, ammonia 0, nitrate 5.0, nitrite 0, phosphate 0, alk. 5 (trying to raise with Seachem Reef Carbonate), calcium fluctuates between 580 and 610. <... way too high... if accurate, the primary reason/cause of your low alkalinity> I do not add any additives other than the Carbonate which i just started adding a week ago. <... check your salt mix brand... change it... likely Oceanic> Temperature is 81 degrees. Livestock consists of 1 turbo snail, 3 margarita? snails, 4 brown hermits, one blue legged hermit, 1 medusa coral, 1 green open brain coral, 1 pink feather duster, 1 fire shrimp, 1 lawnmower blenny,  2 tomato clowns and 1 coral beauty. <Crowded...> I do weekly water changes of  5 Gal. All water used is R/O. Finally to my question. The top layer of my sand bed, which is about 1 1/2" deep, gets  hard and crusty and turns a shade of crimson to rusty brown in color. Is this a bacteria? If so how can i treat it?                                                                                     Thanks,                                                                                         Eddie <Is chemical/physical... the reaction products from your too high calcium et al. and carbonates, bicarbonate... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Crusty sand  9/12/05 Thanks for the info Bob. Am I to understand then that when i get the calcium down to acceptable levels the crustiness of the sand will go away? <Mmm, won't be added to... the crust that's in there now will have to be removed, broken up. Bob Fenner> Crushed Coral Substrate  9/13/05 Hey guys, hope you're doing well tonight.  I want to thank you once again for preventing my tank from becoming a 1,000 pound paperweight. <Many of them out there> Anyhow, onto the question of the day.  I have a 100g reef tank with a crushed coral substrate.  I know that crushed coral is notorious for trapping detritus, but I was wondering that if the substrate has noticeable amounts of amphipods running around, along with bristleworms and a whole host of other things when the lights go out, is crushed coral still good or is it just too much of a nitrate magnet.   More to the point, with the increase in detritivores (and regular water changes) will nitrates ever become an issue.  I'm loathe to vacuum the substrate because I know I'm pulling out tons of little creatures each time I do.  Any help would be appreciated. <Clay, nitrates develop from high detritus levels resulting from uneaten food, fish waste, etc.  In your case the critters in the substrate are helping in reducing the waste.  You didn't mention your last nitrate reading.  If it is 20 or lower you should be OK.  You didn't mention the use of a protein skimmer.  These will also help lower nitrate levels to acceptable levels.  Search our WWM, keyword, "nitrate control" and read on this subject for additional help.  James (Salty Dog)> Cloudy water 10/25/05 Hey, I mixed salt in my tank a day ago and the water is still very cloudy. There is also white stuff floating all over the top. I had aragonite in there before I mixed the salt and it was very cloudy from that once I poured the water in. Is it the salt or the aragonite that is making it so cloudy? I have powerheads running and that's it. Is there anything else I can do? Or is this normal and I need to just wait for it to clear up?  <If this is new aragonite and you didn't pre-wash, then yes, its from the aragonite. James (Salty Dog)> 

Re: cloudy water 10/25/05 Yes it is new. I didn't think I had to wash it. Do I need to start over or will it clear up?  <Don't have to start over but it will take a while for it to clear up. Might want to check the ph of the water. Sometimes this can cause low ph readings. James (Salty Dog)>  <<Or, you can buy, beg, borrow or steal a Magnum HOT filter fitted with the diatom filter - used for "polishing" the water - to remove the fine particulates that are causing the cloudiness.  MH>>

Sand question  11/9/05 I have a 10 gallon SW with 1.5" sand, fish and mushrooms. It is now about 30 months old. I noticed a patch of sand (about 4x4 inches) that looks like a mound. First I thought it was my Gramma excavating which he does every once and a while but I ruled that out. The mound started coming to a point. I decided to explore it and I dug into it. The sand seems to stick together as if it were magnets and it feels clumpy to the touch. <Good description> Water parameters are stable; ammonia 0, nitrate 0 and even nitrites 0 (since I added some Chaeto). I do not clean the sand since I do not see a need for it. I never see any debris on it so I assume my critters and worms are taking care of everything. Is this anything to be concerned about?  <Mmm, not much... likely this is some species of worm or mollusk at work/living... with such small systems aging, it is a good idea to "shake up" the chemical/physical make-up periodically... add, replace a good part (a few tens of percent) of rock, substrate... Bob Fenner> 

Sand Beds And Hydrogen Sulfide? - 11/28/05 Hello WWM: <<Hello>> I loved Mr. Fenner's book, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist; it saved a few fish lives, I am sure. <<Tis a very good read.>> I trust his opinion and hope he or the crew can help me out with a potential catastrophe. <<I shall try.>> As I am sure you have heard many times before from other newbies, I got some bad advice from a local, large pet supplies dealer when I set up my first marine tank this past June: <<Nothing beats doing your own homework my friend.>> 55 gallon FOWLR, wet/dry with bioballs, Pro Clear Aquatics skimmer, Emperor power filter, a coral beauty, 3 yellow tail damsels, two tank raised Amphiprion ocellaris clowns, a peppermint shrimp, a couple of snails and a tiny crab (hitchhiker in live rock). <<Glad to see you haven't overstocked.>> When I set up the tank, this pet store employee sold me live sand and coral gravel and said to place the sand on top of the gravel and now I have a 1.5 inch base of sand on top of 1.5 inches of gravel. <<Will eventually mix...>> I now believe this advice was wrong after reading through your site as it is a detritus trap and possible cause of hydrogen sulfide. <<Maybe...maybe not...>> I recently lost 10 snails (mostly turbo) and a peppermint shrimp to unknown causes but believe that hydrogen sulfide gas might be the problem. <<What is this based upon, did you smell hydrogen sulfide, or are you just reacting to what you have read? Snails die all the time for many reasons (might even be that hitchhiker crab). In most instances, fears of hydrogen sulfide poisoning are overrated in my opinion. Even when present, this gas exits most systems (having good water movement) before doing anything more than causing the aquarist to wrinkle his/her nose.>> I do remember I lost the shrimp a few days after an intensive vacuuming of his favorite spot around a live rock. Although probably unrelated, I also lost a Amphiprion ocellaris clown to a possible bacterial infection (?) as it had a round, whitish gray sore near its tail and it died a few days after this sore appeared. I was doing light vacuuming of the top ½ inch of sand for the first two months, then I read on the internet somewhere that you do not need to vacuum a sand bed  <<agreed>>  so I did not vacuum for the next two months. However, after reading a FAQ or an article on your site, I again started light vacuuming last month. I have had the tank 5 months and did not vacuum for 2 to 3 months. <<Differing opinions abound...but I can tell you I have had sand beds (of varying depth) for many years and I don't vacuum.>> I noticed some dark areas in the substrate but no fishy smell yet. <<Probably alga...tis natural and most often desirable.>> After reading through your site yesterday, I have decided to go with one inch or less of substrate and therefore need to remove some of the substrate in my tank. <<I'm a DSB guy...but this method is fine too.>> How can I do so without releasing hydrogen sulfide gas, if any, upsetting the water quality (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 40 nitrate <<This needs to come down...20 or less...>>  8.2 pH, 1.24 SG), and protecting my livestock? Can I just remove the gravel and/or sand or must I remove the fish and inverts first and then remove the substrate? <<No need to remove the fish/inverts. Likely little to be concerned with, but you can simply siphon out a 1/2 inch of substrate every few days until you get down to that sub-inch depth.>> Can I leave the last one inch layer of coral gravel with some fine sand mixed in as some of the sand has settled down through the gravel or should I do a complete change of substrate? Can you recommend anything? <<Should be fine to utilize what is already in the tank.>> Please help, I do not want to lose any more lives. I am really worried about wiping out the whole tank from this gas. I am totally confused from all of the different opinions on the web, fish dealers, and in books and magazines  <<and on WWM!>> I am ready to call it quits! <<No worries mate...not all as bad as you may think...all should be fine.>> With sincere appreciation, Geraldine <<Regards, EricR>> PS: A month ago, I went back to the same large pet supplies dealer and was sold Nature's Ocean Pacific Coral Gravel, 4-8 mm, enough to provide about 2 to 2.5 inches (?) of a base. I believe this is too deep for this gravel and it is very dusty, has tiny grains of sand mixed with large pebbles, and appears cement-like when wet! It just didn't look and feel right so I am returning it; I don't even want to use it for a 1 inch base. <<Mmm...if you do decide to replace all...I recommend something in the 2-5 mm (mixture) range for a 1" bed. EricR>>

Re: Sand Beds And Hydrogen Sulfide? - 11/29/05 Eric R.- Thank you so much for responding so quickly. <<You are welcome Geraldine>> I just finished reading through all the FAQs on the WWM site regarding hydrogen sulfide and thought I might be over-reacting. <<Kinda what I thought too...no worries...>> I then checked my email and was relieved to find a response from you which further convinced me that I am probably over-reacting. Phew! Now I can fall asleep tonight with the knowledge that there is hope for me and my fish after all. <<Hee! Glad to hear you/your fish will be sticking around.>> Everyone on my Xmas list is getting WWM T-shirts this year! <<Cool!>> Just one more observation: I thought DSB's were mainly for reef tanks and not FOWLR tanks.  <<Not at all...the methodology can be applied/beneficial to both.>> Happy Holidays to everyone at WWM. I don't now what I'd do without you.... <<And to you in kind...>> Geraldine Newton, MA <<Regards, EricR in Columbia, SC>>

New Tank and Nerves'¦  12/24/05 Hi,   <Hello.>   I have a 55 gallon saltwater tank that was recently set-up (a little  over 48 hours now). <A very new tank.> It was extremely  cloudy when first  set-up but it did seem to  clear up a bit as time went on but not  100%.   <This being a VERY new set-up this is quite normal, no worries.> Today I bought a small amount of live rock to add.   <Good.> When I did, I stirred up the sand a bit (not on purpose) and the tank  is now very, very cloudy.   <Normal.> I have a wet/dry filter and just now  noticed that I have a thin residue of sand dust all in my sump and on  the filter pads.  I washed the pads out but is the residue in the  sump anything to worry about? <As long as you have baffles in the sump protecting your return pump so that debris does not get into it, no worries, just use a siphon tube to get the sand/detritus off of the bottom of your sump.>   Also any advice and recommendations  you have (other than waiting it out) on helping the clarity of the tank  would be most helpful.   <Yes as you allude to your best tool right now is patience.>   Thanks and happy holidays! <To you too, Adam J.>

Hydrogen Sulfide - 01/01/2006 Happy new year to you all, <And to you Will.> This weekend I had the pleasure of stripping down my 60 (UK) gal marine tank for the 2nd time, what a way to end the year but with a nice slow leak...? Anyway all the rocks corals fish etc. are in a nice spare tank set up with heater, filter, skimmer, and sand is in a vat with water and a powerhead. However my sandbed seems to have been producing hydrogen sulfide instead of nitrogen, kind of lucky the tank leaked in retrospect. The sandbed is about 4 inches deep I should imagine, maybe a little under, I have a bout 240lph of flow through the tank <excluding skimmer>. What's causing the hydrogen sulphide? Bed too shallow? Not enough flow? Wrong bacteria proliferating? <Anaerobiosis, organic build up. Flow must be leaving dead areas.> And other than the smell what effects does this substance have? Suppressed pH or is it actually toxic? <Hmm....Being from lack of oxygen, the pH would be depressed, could have a random "die off" of all livestock.> FWIW soon I shall be upgrading from a Prizm skimmer to a v2skim 400, will this help problems, the Prizm never really does much <other than irritate the family with it's gurgling and bubbling> <Will likely help as will better flow. Good surface turbulence will help gas exchange.> Thank you in advance, Will <You're welcome. - Josh.> Re: Hydrogen Sulfide - 01/02/2006 Thank you, <You're welcome Will.> With regards to flow I shall put the 2 800lph pumps at each end and I have a 900lph which I shall put in the middle, I was thinking of placing in the middle of the tank with a powerhead aiming through the rocks, would this be a good idea? <Hmm...You've kind of lost me here. Are these new pumps? These weren't listed earlier. At any rate, I would direct the two 800 pumps slightly downward from opposite ends (so they converge in the middle. The 900, I would mount high on either side of the back wall angled slightly upward and across the tank diagonally (enough to push the surface up about a 1/2 inch). The current will form a slight arch, coming down in random locations because of the surface turbulence.>   Should I point the two 800's at the front glass or just through the tank aimed slightly at the surface? <I would just aim them at each other, toward the rock.> Thank you again Will <My pleasure. - Josh> Bubble/gas Problem  1/16/06 To : The Gods of the Fishkeeping hobby.<No gods, guys & gals> Dear God, I have a marine tank for over a year and recently I have notice bubbles emanating from the coral sand based gravel bottom. I do not have a UG hence very baffled. Need help Lord. <Say two "Our Fathers" and two "Hail Marys" and all will be well my friend.:)  If your coral sand base is much over 1 1/2 deep you are probably looking at hydrogen sulphide gas erupting from the bed, not a good thing.  When you do your weekly water change do you vacuum the bed?  Needs to be done unless you have a lot of critters in the sand been churning things up.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Sudden unexplained loss of fish  1/17/06 Thank you so much for your quick response. <You're welcome> After reading your response I was able to do some additional research into hydrogen sulfide gas emissions and am pretty sure you nailed it.  I was happy to take your advise and reduce the depth of the sand bed in my tank.  So far all of the fish I removed to quarantine are doing well and I will be ready to start putting them back in the main tank as soon as it cycles for a few days.  Just wanted to thank you for your insight on this and the work you all do to get this information out there for everyone.  You are much appreciated! <Thank you Kimberly.  James (Salty Dog)> Kimberly Kennedy Marine Substrate anaerobic area   1/20/06 To the WWM Crew <Flávio> Last night I noticed, over the substrate of my 6 years, 450 litres reef tank, a small white zone, more or less 5 cm diameter, 1 cm height, that look like cotton waving with the water turbulence. The substrate is a very, very fine soft yellow sand that was put in the tank one month ago. The white stuff has a "bad" look, so I decide to siphon it. When in procedure I noticed that the sand under the stuff as a black color and from the recipient a very bad smell is exhaling. I have stopped the siphoning immediately, because the problem is hydrogen sulfur. <Yes, likely so... I would vacuum all out, rinse, wash it and let it air dry... possibly return> I must remove all the sand but I think the better way is to do that very slowly in order to liberate as less gas as possible. Maybe 10 cm2 each day? More? Can you give me some ideas ? <I would vacuum out all the "bad" (dark) part at once... and soon> The total substrate thickness is about 2 cm. It is a thin one but I found now that the grain size is too small. Tank you very much for your help is this dangerous situation. The SPS, LPSs and fishes are ok, for now. Flávio <I would still remove, clean this substrate... the bad part. Bob Fenner>

H2S Substrate follow-up   1/20/06 To Mr. Bob Fenner <Flávio> Thank you very much for your fast help and advice about the "sulfurous zones" in the substrate of my tank. I also noticed that under the dark sand there is some decaying coralline algae and may be some kind of other living tissue, may be sponges, that grew in the pre existing bare bottom. <I would leave these be if possible> Tomorrow I will vacuum it all, because today it's not possible for me. I have in a 5 kg plastic bag a new sand, the name of which is Reef Base - Porous Reef Spheres - Natural Aragonite Mixture, of Red Sea Company. Do you know this product? <Somewhat, yes> It looks nice and has a good texture and size. The alkalinity of my tank water is 11 dKH, calcium about 350 and it works with a calcium reactor. I thank you very much once more for your help and kindness. Flávio <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner> Maintenance/Operation/Substrate Cleaning?   2/26/06 I have a quick question on cleaning substrate. I use Carib sea special grade reef sand (1-1.7mm) My bed is 1/2" to  1" inch deep. With this depth it's completely aesthetic, right? <Will help with buffering, some denitrification.> So, since the bed is static, I can vacuum the whole bottom every time I do a water change. There's not any reason to do a third to half at a time at this depth because it's not performing and biological filtration when it's this shallow. <Correct, I vac mine weekly.> I know I should probably knock it down to a 1/2" everywhere. I read through all the FAQs on substrates and on marine maintenance but could find the answer I was looking for. I found numerous opinions on how deep your substrate should be, but nothing on the maintenance of a very shallow bed. My gut tells me that it's probably all right to vacuum the whole thing at once, but I'm not completely sure. <Now you are completely sure.> Thank you for time. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Jeff

BROWN SAND - 03/24/2006 Hi Bob- <Josh here.> Added 40 lbs. of new sand one month ago. Tank is thriving with the exception of patches of brown sand on the surface. Salt water tank has been setup for five years. Can you please advise what the cause may be and how to resolve. <This information is posted on WWM. Was this a silicate based sand? Could simply be the natural progression as the new sand is colonized. Search under diatoms, blue-green algae, nuisance algae...> Thank you. <Sure. - Josh>

Siphoning/Cleaning Marine Substrates - 04/26/06 I have been reading over emails for a while and I finally found what I was looking for, but not the complete answer. <<Ok>> I read that in a reef tank, if you have crushed coral then you should siphon during a water change. <<Mmm, maybe...depending on depth of the substrate (<1")>> If you have fine sand, you don't need to siphon. <<More at play here than grain size/depth but generally yes, with good water flow the finer grain sands are lees likely to accumulate detritus>> Well, we have a 72 gallon tank with 3.5 inches of an even mixture of sand and cc. <<Mixed opinions on this...should be fine>> Should we siphon and how deep? <<I wouldn't disturb the DSB, but do some reading up on deep sand beds here ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm).  If detritus settling in/on the substrate is of concern then "up" the flow in your tank to keep all in suspension>> A greenish/brownish layer is starting to form about halfway down and I don't know if I should disturb it. <<This is algae that is triggered by the available light coming through the tank front and likely does not extend very far in to the sand bed...nothing to worry about>> Also, since I am here, I have 50 lbs of live rock in the tank.  I will be adding 50 more lbs that I have had in a separate tank for a month.  Is this going to change all of the parameters in the tank initially?  I just wanted to prepare myself before I see any spikes in my tests. <<If the rock is fully cured it should not be a problem though having water handy for a water change after the move (disturbing/stirring detritus) is a good idea>> Thanks, Chris <<Cheers, EricR>>

-Sand and bulkheads-  - 5/7/2006 Hello crew!  I have two situations today that I hope you can help me with. <Certainly>       Situation number 1:  I'm starting up (another) new tank, and I am using Nature's Ocean fine sand (not live sand).  I didn't realize it until I had already added it, but I'm supposed to rinse this stuff.  Now the water's all cloudy and full of gunk.  Will this settle in a day or two, or do I need to empty the tank, rinse the sand, and start all over?  I don't have enough salt at the moment to do that, so I'd half to wait a day or two regardless.  Maybe running a filter on it would help? <The sand "dust" will settle within a day or so, and running an extra filter will help clear up the tank, just check and clean your pumps powerheads etc after it settles to ensure they are not clogged with dust either.>       Situation number 2:  I had a tank (yet another) drilled for bulkheads.  One 1.25 drain (was supposed to be 1.5 but they got it wrong) and two 1" returns.  Now I see that all the bulkhead sizes appear to be too big.  One inch seems to mean "inside diameter" and my holes are only 1" so...what can I do?  Do I just have to take this back and get it re-drilled?  It's pretty expensive here (most places charge $30.00/hole).  I'm hoping you know of a place online that sells special small outside diameter bulkheads (remember -- MUST fit through a 1" hole).   <I do believe that a 1.25" drain is a 3/4" bulkhead fitting.  my slightly bigger All glass aquarium one that came in a kit, was about that size.  If you can, I would look into having the hole redrilled and get the people that did it wrong to redo it if possible.>      Thanks bunches guys!  We really appreciate your help out here in cyber-land. Angelica <Hope that helped> <Justin (Jager)> Sandbed maintenance 5/14/06 Hey guys, <Hello> I just want to say thank you for all the problems you have helped me solve in the past. I have noticed that my sand bed is disappearing. I have a 55 gallon and I bought 3 20lbs water packed AragAlive Bahamas oolite to start off. My tank is about 1 yr and half old and now my sand is starting to diminish. <Common occurrence, dissolves over time, helps buffer the water.> If I need to add more sand I would like to get the finest due to the natural look of the ocean bed I love and my sand sifting creatures. <ok>  Would I have to get the water packed Arag alive or can I buy the dry packed sugar sized sand? <The water packed stuff is no better than the dry in my opinion.>  How much should I add at a time and will this screw up my ecosystem happening on the sandbed? <Add a cup or two a week, this allows sand bed creatures to migrate to the top without getting smothered.> Thanks Joe <Anytime> <Chris> Vacuuming Substrate, Algae, Dead Fish, LFS Water Testing II - 05/30/06 Eric, <<Debi>> Thanks for your reply and in answer to your questions 1) No, I don't filter the water I get from the LFS as I assume they are doing that. <<One would think...>> I have however since this started began to get my water from a different one than the first and the story is the same. <<Still worthwhile to test this water yourself>> 2) The substrate is about an inch and is very fine. <<Should not need to be vacuumed then...assuming good water flow within the tank>> The goby doesn't seem to have a problem sifting it, it is just that the top is brown (could this be algae too?) <<Yes>> and always looks dirty and although I have the skimmer, and two power heads, one a Seio 600 or 650 whichever it is and one an Aqua Jet 600 the junk that does end up on the bottom doesn't suspend much if at all. <<...?>> I tried recently adding an AJ400 to close to the bottom to move that more but it seems to heat the tank up too much.  I try to keep it at 79-80 and it was heating to 81 with the new power head. <<This is not too "hot" in my opinion>> I live in a very hot area of the country and although I have literally several tons of air conditioning the tank still seems to be affected by the warmer weather and moves up from 79 to 80 without the additional power head. <<Indeed...I am in South Carolina and understand well the temperature issues of hot weather.  Perhaps you could position a small fan to blow across the water at the surface of the tank for some evaporative cooling>> It stayed at 79 until the weather warmed up.  I didn't really want it to vary by more than a degree so I unplugged the third power head.  3) I have lots of testing equipment and the test results I quoted are mine with confirmations from the two LFS.  So I tend to think they are correct.  That would make three opinions on the accuracy. <<Understood...but my concern is the test values of the water BEFORE it is added to your tank>> 4)  Yes I have tried running carbon and/or Poly-Filter (one and both at different times) in a hang-on back power filter and didn't see any change in the fish's longevity so I am no longer doing that.   <<Troubling remarks...but most any system will benefit from continuous use of these medias>> On the calcium level I have read about alkalinity and calcium until my eyes cross, but I don't know what to do about the high number as I don't supplement the calcium it is just that way and doesn't seem to come down much at all. <<Then either your make up water or your test kits are suspect>> Do you know how to lower it; would adding buffer alone like from the number one bottle of B-ionic and not the calcium? <<No, don't do this.  The calcium should fall on its own/return to balance from the water changes...unless your LFS is "spiking" the water you purchase there>> I bought some of that a while back thinking I would need it, but never did, so I haven't used it, only the buffer part, except a couple of times to try to raise the alkalinity. <<In your system, with the livestock you have listed, water changes alone should handle replenishment/balancing of your trace/mineral elements easily...something doesn't make sense here>> I did not know if this was good to use just that one buffer part so I discontinued that. <<Good, as just stated, water changes should easily handle your tank's needs re>> So far as the water changes I would love to change less often, I have started the twice a week regimen in order to maybe find out what my problem was with dying fish thinking maybe that would be better.  As I read this site there seem to be various opinions on what should be done on that. <<Agreed...and on much everything else as well <grin> >> I too have thought of something poisoning the fish but have no clue why the goby hasn't been poisoned yet if that is it. <<Any common denominators among the fish that perished?>> The blenny hasn't been with me very long so I am not sure what he will do. If he isn't eating the algae that I think is hair algae does that mean it is something different and he won't eat it or is he that picky? <<Many of the fish (and other organisms too!) we acquire as "biological controls" turn out to be something less than expected due to individual/behavioral differences...often brought about by captive life.  Chances are a different blenny would clean up the algae...or not...>> That's all I can think of for now, thanks for your help. Debi <<Still think you need to test the water from the LFS...and review in your mind/try to link any "happenings" around the time of your fish deaths.  Regards, EricR>>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SERIOUSLY Milky/Muddy water in minireef tank Dear WWM (Bob, Andy, etc., love all you guys) <They're the smart ones, I just tag along> I just started to set up my minireef tank!  **excited**  I was told by my LFS that I could mix the water in the tank, but only if I have nothing else in the tank.  I mixed the sea salt in until the water was crystal clear, and got a SG of 1.024 on the first try. <Skills - takes me 2 or three!>  However, when I poured in the Aragonite gravel, the water became so dirty that I could not see my finger if I would put it inside the tank!  The LFS assured me this gravel did not have to be rinsed, and the bag says "Ready to use; minimal rinsing required". I still ran it under water for a bit, though. <Good idea...aragonite usually requires extensive rinsing, not sure why they told you not to>  All I have in terms of filtration is a protein skimmer, so just for this reason, I added one of my FW filters to help out with the muddiness, but not before cleaning it thoroughly, replacing the filter media, and removing the bio-wheel.  I can't say it's helping. I am very tempted to remove all the water and try again. Please advise... I have tried searching your FAQs for this problem, but I have not found anything.  On a side note, would it be harmful to introduce the live rock to my aquarium now?  Should I wait until the water clears? <Turn off all powerheads or other forms of circulation except for your skimmer.  Let the aquarium sit, for a few days if need be.  If the water is still cloudy you might want to use a diatom, HOT magnum, or some other micron type filter to remove the excess sediment.  The protein skimmer may help remove some of this as well> Sincerely, Paul Chica. <Good luck!  M. Maddox> Clumping substrate problems 12/29/04 Hi, you guys have been great in the past. I'm getting ready to set up a 55 gallon SW tank that was from Santa. I already have a 29 and I'm upgrading. The substrate I used before was the Carib sea Aragonite live Fuji pink sand. <the sand is a fine quality I'm sure... the "live" part is dubious and subject to interpretation <G>. If its live, I'm dying to know how and how long without food and in sealed bags> I loved the way that it looked but after having it up for about a year the sand is turning brown and getting clumpy. <not the sands fault... this is from a (typically) lack of adequate water flow (most people are deficient here... needing minimum 20X turnover). More frequent water changes and siphoning/sand stirring would help too> I don't know what causes the sand to start clumping up, <I do... and can tell you this is from the pH dipping too low (as with at night from lack of adequate buffer/ALK in the tank) and/or spiking the tank too much or too fast with calcium supplements (common)> but it looks gross. I thought it was the diatoms at work but I have phosphate remover in my filter and my levels are zero. I use distilled water from the store. can I use spring water? <perhaps.,.. but it is of variable composition and potentially worse (nutrients) than your tap water. It is not necessarily "pure" water like RO , DI or distilled... just from a "spring" - whatever that means :p. Deionized water that is aerated and buffered before use gets my vote every time>> Is it my sand? Can you recommend a better sand. <its your husbandry my friend... not the sand that's the cause here. No worries... easily corrected> I wanted to use the same sand in my 55 but not if it's going to do that again. I have no under-gravel filter, I have 2 power heads, and protein skimmer. 25% water change about every 2 weeks if things go good. What could be the causing this? What do I need to change? Please help me! <lack of water flow is the most likely problem by far... not enough or not distributed well enough, causing dead spots that accumulate organics over time, aggravated by infrequent spikes of calcium supplementation (daily doses are better than weekly)... and/or severe swings in pH (have you tested this after the lights go out? Are you dipping below 8.0 at night?) Anthony> Maddening Oolitic Dust Storms Hello Bob or Crew, After reading The Conscientious Aquarist and countless web articles on reef aquaria for over two years, I recently made the plunge into my first attempt at a reef aquarium.  After all, I was probably the most knowledgeable reefer who had never had a reef.  I was convinced that a DSB teaming with bacteria, micro-invertebrates, brittle stars and snails would lead to success, so I purchased ESV oolitic aragonite and added it unwashed (Don't wash it!  You want those angstrom-sized particles for biodiversity.) to my tank and two refugia.  The water clouded up big time and two days later a snail couldn't have seen its foot in front of its eyes.  (Add the live rock to the tank and it will clear.)  So, I added my Tonga live rock that had been dipped in a rainbow to the tank and the water did clear.  Now, my Tonga live rock looks like it was dipped in a mud hole and a powerhead won't clean it.<That is because you have an algae that is not coralline growing all over it.>  Then I added a small powerhead to a refugium and the water clouded up big time.<O.K. Don't do that again.  Depending on the size of the refugium a powerhead with direct disturbance will cloud your water along with disturbing the infaunal creatures that you are trying to cultivate.>  Lord only knows what will happen when I add the two Tunze air-cooled powerheads to the aquarium. Please tell me how aquarists have deep, fine oolitic sandbeds and water circulation at the same time? Thank you, Joseph <Joseph, The best thing to do is to disperse the water flow and not have it directly blowing into the gravel.  What I have found that works best is to keep the powerheads near the top of the water and blow from one side of the tank to the other.  This will disperse the direct flow of the water and not disturb the gravel as much.  As for the live rock, if you keep the phosphates down and the calcium and alkalinity up the color will come back.  Good Luck. MikeB.>

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

Cloudy water from the addition of substrate - 11/19/03 I just put my crushed coral or substrate <Thanks for the clarification.... heheheh>in a new startup tank its been 48 hours & water is still cloudy 72 gal bow front, when will it clear up and anything to make it faster? pump, power heads & protein skimmer are all running <Well, depending on the pump, try putting some filter floss and or some sort of mechanical filtration in the water path in your pump or sump to hold particulate. Hopefully you have some means to do so. In any event, please peruse our site as this information is covered quite extensible throughout. Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubfaqs.htm also check through the search tool at the bottom of our main page. No worries as over time, it will dissipate. -Paul > Dale Fleming Sandbed Stuff Thanks Scott F. <You're welcome!> I meant to say option D. Anyways, what about 3-4" Southdown in the display with 4-5" of the existing mixed size live sand /cc for the fuge. <Ahh...sounds good to me> Denitrification in the main tank with pod production in the refugium. Would I need to clean/rinse the existing sand before adding it to the fuge. Would I need to add a specific detritivore kit? I currently have 3 brittle stars. <Personally, I would not "clean" the sand, for fear of eliminating more potentially beneficial life forms. I'd limit additions of detritivores to the existing brittle stars, and maybe some worms. Again- I'd be hesitant to add any creatures that could be too disruptive. Possibly contrary to popular thought, but I don't think that lots of "sand stirring" is either necessary or desirable, especially in a well-maintained tank> The existing sand bed is loaded with spaghetti worms and bristle worms that I can salvage. I was thinking of adding 2 small cukes, about a dozen Nassarius snails and about 2 dozen of the smaller red leg Mexican hermits to new Southdown in the display. <That seems fine to me...Again, I wouldn't disrupt the bed too much, even in the display> Also saving some of the existing sand in nylon bags and using it to seed the display, or is just adding it to the fuge sufficient for biological activity? Any thought or comments are greatly appreciated. Thanx, ken <Well, Ken, I'd be inclined to just place it in the refugium. Sure, you can seed the refugium by keeping it in bags, but in my experience, such procedures don't seem to be necessary. Just dump it in! BTW, for a lot of killer information on DSBs and refugia, trust me and get a copy of Anthony and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" book- exactly what you're looking for...Makes a great holiday gift! Good luck! Regards, Scott F> - Substrate Clumping - Hi guys, Thanks for all your help in the past with my many questions. I'm having a problem with my 150 gallon reef where the substrate in the tank and the 30 gallon refugee is clumping or turning to a concrete type material. It is easily broken up by stirring, but I've read that you recommend not doing this. <Actually, I do recommend doing this.> I use a calcium reactor and keep my calcium level at around 470. My alkalinity is in the 3.5 - 4.0 range. <3.5 to 4.0 what? meq/L?> Water flow seems good and is approximately 15x. I currently don't have any critters to stir the media as the tank has only been running for about 1 1/2 months. All other water parameters seem fine. Is this normal and do I just need to plan on stirring every few days? <Actually, I think you need to take your foot off the gas so to speak... I wouldn't let your calcium get much higher, is probably too high right now. I think you're better off closer to the 400 ppm range than over 450 ppm. Probably would be much higher except it's precipitating in your sand bed and turning it to cement.> Thanks in advance for you help. Dave. <Cheers, J -- >

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sand bed  I have a question regarding my newly set up aquarium. I put about 60# of aragonite sand in my 75gal. Well its all clear and nice but if you move anything like when I try to clean the glass with one of them magnet cleaner the sand lifts off the ground and makes that area cloudy for a little bit before it settles back. I have a dry/wet filter going power hears going....and I rinse the sand some when I first threw it in there. I don't have anything in there just the sand as of now. I am waiting for my live rock. Thanks for your help Jose <fine aragonite will commonly do this... it is not harmful at all... rather beneficial to stir on occasion for the sand bed health as well as liberating detritus for the skimmer to extract>

Set-up (See you in the Louvre... section) The Louvre was mentioned on your website http://www.wetwebmedia.com/reef2.htm in the FAQ section under the subtitle "Is Plexiglas OK in saltwater? <<Ahhh, ok. I see now.>> It is also referred to as egg crate <<and this is the term I am familiar with.>> - was wondering whether it should be level with the sand, above the sand or have a space between it and the sand for the critters to clean under and for me to blow the detritus out from under. <<Hmmm, I am personally not a fan of this type of aquaria management... better to get some Nassarius snails and their ilk to help keep the substrate clean. But... you can use eggcrate if you please, and I would place it in small pieces on top of the substrate - the goal here being to elevate the live rock for easy cleaning.>> By the way - I have been to the Paris "Louvre" - neat place - didn't have enough time though to see it all. - <<Don't I know that one... it's hard to soak something like that in all in one day.>> Thanks <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Milky water question not answered here... Hey guys. <<And hello to you, JasonC here...>> This site is the coolest thing I've ever seen. <<Glad you enjoy it.>> Anyway, my problem. I am starting up a 125 (sold as a 125, but if you do the math, it actually only holds 110....how about that?) So I am doing what I am supposed to do and then some, or so I thought. I am fairly sure I have the same problem as another writer who didn't wash his substrate and got "milk." I didn't wash mine very well...120 lbs, and I only spent an hour total on the rinse and add procedure. So, my bad. <<Rather than rub it in, I'll quickly mention that some substrates, like the popular Southdown sand really can't be rinsed - the particles are too fine. But if your substrate is 1-2mm granules or larger... then, well...>> My problem now is what to do with it. If I have all my filters and skimmer and heads and all that jazz going, how will the dust ever settle? <<So don't run all the jazz, just enough to get water circulating and perhaps the skimmer as well. I would also consider running a magnum canister filter or similar device which would allow you to filter out the fine particulates.>> Oh, and do I need more than 2x36 inch Coralife 20000K fluorescents to have LR? <<The live rock should be fine with this.>> The tank is 20 inches deep. Thanks for all you do. Matt Kraick <<Cheers, J -- >>

Cloudy tank from fine sand hello, I just added a refugium to my reef tank today.  <excellent> I put 4.5 in of Southdown in it.  <totally excellent... DSB> my entire tank is cloudy now, which I expected,  <yep...> but it doesn't seem to be getting better.  <after how long...> I was just wondering if I could turn off the return pump for the night and just let the powerheads. will this help at all or should I just let it go? <eh... it clears within days at any rate. Run your skimmer aggressively if you like. Or keep the refugium offline until it clears while skimming the main tank aggressively. Overall it is little matter unless the tank is heavily stocked with coral and the cloudiness lasts longer than four days. Borrow a micron (Diatom) filter if necessary> thanks Jesse Lancaster <kindly, Anthony>

Sandy water... <<Hi Rachael>> Hi there! I just bought a huge amount of aragonite sand and placed it in my tank. My problem is that the sand gets kicked up very easily because it is so fine. Most of it settles right away but some very very fine particles float in the water for the entire day, making it cloudy. I was just wondering if the sand that is still suspended could harm my fish at all? I was concerned about how it might damage their gills....if there's something I should do to prevent the sand from kicking up I would appreciate your advice! thank you! Rachael <<It will settle out soon. Run the skimmer if you have one and perhaps a canister filter if you have that. Otherwise not to worry too much, it settles out. As long as it isn't too thick fish should do alright. Sounds more like very fine particulate. It will dissipate.  Don't worry, be happy! Craig>>

Aragamax Troubles Does CaribSea very fine (sugar or smaller) Aragamax always make the tank so very cloudy?  <Yes> I used 30 lbs of it (made live at LFS) in my new aquarium (I read and investigated thoroughly and determined that a more shallow LS bed with this very fine LS would function better than deep very fine sand - less chance of dead zones - this stuff is very fine indeed) and I had milky gray white scum everywhere.  <"Dead zones" are the anaerobic areas needed for denitrification. They aren't dead, they are by necessity, without oxygen.> The cloudy water cleared up overnight but if you disturb the sand it goes cloudy again. Also - the filter media (sponges and sheets of filter material from LFS) are hard to remove without white gray residue sliding right off and back into aquarium. Any suggestions?  Try slipping them into a plastic bag or baggie to get them out with the most gunk. Keep rinsing your sponges in *used tank water* (to keep them bio-active).> Is it always like this? Does this stuff eventually precipitate out or get removed via filters and skimming leaving only clean sugar sand that can be disturbed without major clouding?  <Yes, in time, not to worry.> I get the feeling the LFS should advise customers to rinse the stuff thoroughly with distilled or RO water until it is clear - before adding to tank.  <Then you wouldn't get the benefit of this product, which includes all of the fine material as well as the larger sand particles.> I am thinking about this now to clean filter media and water: turn off pumps to sump, remove media, then run a filter like Magnum or something on sump water only until clear. Then start pumps again. That would remove milky gunk from system. Any other ideas??? It is a real mess. <The magnum idea works great for the stuff in the water itself, run your pumps and powerheads to help get it settled while the magnum is running. It will clear overnight (mine did). Think of it this way, you just added a long time good dose of Aragamilk. It clears up! Craig>

Sand in Clouds Makes Rain First I would like to thank you for the knowledge that you have provided me. I have searched your site for the answer to my questions. I have found excerpts that I think will help but when I go to the thread I cannot find the FAQ that I was looking for so I'm writing you. I bought Southdown sand, placed it in my tank un-rinsed and filled my tank with water as recommended. After about 24hrs it was clear. I then turned on my pump and the tank instantly clouded. It has been 1 week since and the cloud has not dissipated. Should I have rinsed the sand? How can I lose the cloud that I have currently? Thank you in advance for your recommendations. <Jeffrey, you should have definitely rinsed it. A diatom filter would/should take care of the problem if you want to spend the money. Otherwise, it will take some time. Definitely use carbon, but initially you will probably have to change it daily. James (Salty Dog)> 

Cleaning Crushed Coral Hi crew, >>Hello you. Marina tonight. >I love your site, I go cross-eyed reading all the information you have here. I have a question regarding cleaning my substrate when I do water changes. I have about 2" of Florida crushed coral in my 29g tank. I gently vacuum the bottom when doing water changes. Should I vacuum more vigorously or just lightly. >>Only as "vigorously" as is necessary to remove detritus. You cannot, and don't want to, vacuum it completely clean, as this is where your nitrifying bacteria live in their largest numbers. If you do want to be more vigorous about it, limit the area to no more than one third to one half the substrate. >I plan on changing substrates later when I change to a bigger tank (200g in about a year). Thanks for your help and keep up the good work. Larry. >>You're welcome, Marina - who loves alliterations!

SW substrate dust... new... in the tank Hey guys, I'm starting a reef tank, and I ordered some aragonite sand on the internet. It didn't say anything about washing, and after I put it in and filled my tank, I found out you are supposed to wash it. <What a mess!> My tank is 29 gals and I have an Aqua C protein skimmer with a maxi jet 1200. I just started running the skimmer a couple hours ago and the tank is still really cloudy. What should I do? Will this clear up over time? Thanks for all your help Sincerely, Devin O'Dea <Mmm, if it were me, my system... only twenty some gallons of water... I'd dump it all out, rinse the substrate in clean bucket increments (about ten pounds at a go) and start again... you will lose at least this amount of water trying to gravel vacuum out the dust... and the time waiting... Bob Fenner>

Answer to Vacuuming Sandy Substrata de Marina Also how would I gravel vacuum a fine sand substrate? I have the Oolite Aragalive so if I vacuum the bottom the sand comes out also.  <I didn't know you had a fine sand bed. You probably should add (if you don't have) some sand stirring critters. I guess the AquaClear 110 would probably work to a degree, but with a 4" sand bed in the filter I'm thinking that the water flow through the sand won't keep up with the 400+gph pump on the filter.  James (Salty Dog)> >>James, I happen to have more experience vacuuming sandy substrates than I care to, and if you'd like to place an addendum to this, please let's.  These substrates CAN be vacuumed quite effectively, but it requires a VERY LONG (and I do mean very long) vacuum tube.  An equally outrageously long section of flexible tubing is also necessary, this length seems to help "drive" or power the siphon better.  When I worked at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, one of my regular "chores" (ha! As if it could actually be called a chore!) was to feed and care for the baby bamboo sharks in the coral lab (public display area). They are grown out on sandy substrate, in what for all intents and purposes is essentially a large cat-litter pan.  Filtration and water changes are, of course, quite important, but more so with these little ones. They left quite a bit of uneaten food (even with hand feeding), so I had to vacuum the sand very regularly. The tube was about 3' (three feet) long, with about a 2" diameter. That, along with keeping a kink in the hose (hand-controlled) allowed me good control. There were those who tried to use ball valves in the line, but you just can't get the same control as when you "hand kink" it.  Marina<<

Calcified substrate Greetings. First off, I want to thank Bob, Anthony and everyone else on the crew who helped me attain such respect and pleasure in this fascinating hobby. I have a 75G reef set-up that has been growing strong for a little over a year now, with everything flourishing beyond my expectations.  Today, while vacuuming the substrate, I noticed a couple of areas that seem to have calcified. I'm assuming that I'm probably overdoing the Kalk drip. <Yes, very common> In trying to maintain a calcium level at the 500-520 range, I began dripping Kalk 24 hours a day as make-up water. Too much? <Yes... rare that conditions, desires would dictate wanting to elevate calcium beyond 450 ppm...> Would it be prudent to remove the calcified areas of substrate? <Yes...> Upon removal, should I attempt to break it up, rinse it and re-use it or just discard it? <Likely simply discard... hard to practically get the materials back into solution... and there may well be other solutes you'd rather discard> What other method would you suggest in order to maintain the 500-520 range I am after. I have been using Kent Kalk mix. Can these levels be attained and/or maintained using a liquid supplement? Thanks again, guys (and gals)! Greg <Mmm, might I ask what it is you're seeking to do with so much free calcium concentration? Hard to maintain alkaline reserve, and many important chemical reactions are driven aside in this pursuit... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm  and the MANY files linked above. Bob Fenner>   

Live Concrete? (Live Sandbed Going Solid) What would turn live sand into cement? Cindy <Well, I've seen this happen in systems where lots of Kalkwasser or calcium additives were used with little circulation and no sandbed surface agitation. Not exactly concrete, but hard just the same! Hence, one reason that a little bit of stirring at the surface is not a bad thing. Regards, Scott F.> 

Nitrates and Substrates Hi bob- <Anthony Calfo in your service while Mr. Fenner has hit the road with the traveling Bob Show> Your web-site has given me info overload....in a good way. <now try browsing the site with only actinic lights on in the room and Pink Floyd music playing in the background> For starters, I have a 55 gal salt tank. Assorted tangs, choc. chip star, green brittle, 2 peppermint shrimp,2 small urchins and a feather duster. Tank is about 5 years old. <just curiously...how many tangs and what kind in the 55gall?> The substrate is a crushed coral, average size is about that of a bb. I have a big double wheel emperor filter on the back, a Prizm protein skimmer, a magnum 350 canister that is full of bio-balls and covered with a floss filter and 1 powerhead. Lighting is 2 55w compact flour. daylights and 2 55w blues. The stronger lighting and protein skimmer are new additions in past few weeks. <excellent...you'll appreciate them ever more in time> I did a 15 gal water change with the nitrates between 25-50mg/l. I use a vacuum siphon and dig down into the coral .  <the phrase "dig down" into the gravel is a bit scary... if you aren't already doing it, gravel siphon the top inch of a three to five inch substrate and no more than that. Particulates shouldn't make it much deeper if you are not overfeeding or have enough detritivores, and you stand to do more harm than good by compromising the fauna> On recommendation from my LFS I rinsed out half of the bio-balls in tap water because they were very packed with muck.  <I'm glad you rinsed them (although I would have used aged water from the tank from a water change before discarding it). However...for future reference... they should not accumulate any such muck. Either the pre-filter isn't working properly, there is a design flaw or perhaps you got busy or forgetful on prefilter maintenance> I was not sure water was getting through them. Anyway, The day after the water change the nitrates were off the scale ,100+, and the fish were puffing quite rapidly. I changed another 5 gal the next day and it may have brought nitrates down a bit. But the poor fish look like they are suffocating. I use tap water that is conditioned with a chlorine/chloramine neutralizer. It checked ok when tested for nitrates. I have had this tank for years with no major problems and my routine has not really changed.  <if the gravel siphon was aggressive, you may have liberated noxious elements. The fact that your bio-balls accumulated any matter at all on them suggests that you a problem with nutrient export processes (which are on the mend in part with the skimmer<smile>> The bio-ball rinse after 4 years was a first though. <not the immediate problem... couldn't produce nitrate that fast (takes days to weeks)... it was a necessary evil> And the recent addition of skimmer and new stronger lights. When I was siphoning the bottom this time I moved some of the larger rocks and some large amounts of dark green or brown matter came out. I have a feeling that it was good stuff. <not sure I follow you thinking...sounds like accumulated detritus/sediment (bad stuff most often)> My thinking (after long conversations and lots of time on your web site) is that the increased flow in the bio-balls is producing more nitrates and that I destroyed some (or a lot) of the good bacteria in the substrate that convert nitrates.  <I disagree on the first count if the time frame is hours to a couple of days, but I agree on the second count> But the LFS tells me that nitrates are not that harmful <Wow...a very broad statement ... more false than true. Small amounts of nitrate harmless or necessary for marine life, large amounts fatal... beginning with tangs, angels and butterflies> and something else must be causing the increased respiration. I feel that I am a bit out of my league on this one. HELP!!!! <it simply sounds to me like the misapplication of course substrate which easily traps detritus (as you have noticed) has finally caught up with you... you are making good changes to help the water quality> They also suggested that I push the coarse crushed coral towards the back and put a layer of finer coral on top of that and then top it off with a thin layer of sand. And then never vacuum the bottom again. Is that a good idea? <quite frankly the idea horrifies me. I am glad you are seeking second opinions. Crushed coral by virtue of its size is inherently going to trap detritus. The rule of thumb for many aquarists with a static bed of substrate (no flow trough) is 1/2 inch or less OR five inches or more. And with a deep substrate you'll need finer sand and/or adequate detritivores to keep it serviced properly. The advice of your LFS will only trap nutrients in this case> What are your thoughts? This is a new problem for me and I want to make sure I can correct it as soon as possible. <if it isn't now or going to be a hardcore reef tank, you do not need or want a deep substrate. You might consider siphoning most of the gravel out and only leaving a 1/2 inch behind. Any more will trap sediment too easily, but shallow media can be cleansed with good water movement which keeps sediments in suspension for nutrient export (skimmer, etc.) The poor fish are really working the gills I hope I provided enough pertinent info. I am sorry this is so long winded but I thought it would make it easier for you to help me. Thank you in advance Dennis <keep reading and asking questions, bud. Best of luck, Anthony>

Oolitic Sand and Milky Water Hello Bob, I have one more quick question... <You got Steven because Bob is off traveling the great Midwest.> First off, thank you for the helpful information you gave me yesterday!! My question is: I Have just started a saltwater tank (This is day 3). I used very fine grain sand/coral for the bed of my tank and instant ocean salt. My problem is that my tank looks like milk, and it's been 3 days!! <This is not unusual with fine aragonite sand. It will usually disappear on its own. You can help by adding a mechanical filter or doing the water change. Just be sure not to disturb any more sand.>

CLEANING CRUSHED CORAL SUBSTRATE!!!! Dear Robert, <Steven Pro this evening.> I'm so glad I found your site. I hope you can help me with my new cichlid tank set up. Though I cleaned 40 lbs. of crushed coral the best I could, once it was in my tank with water (46 gallon) it still seems to be very dirty as the tank has been white and cloudy for a couple of days and each time I move around the substrate, it kicks up more and more white dust to cloud the tank. I have an Eheim canister filter attached #2217 and am using a Power Clear power head #402 for water movement.. Is the clouding eventually going to go away? <Yes> Is it normal to have the substrate give off a white cloudy mix every time I move it around? <Very normal to have cloudiness with crushed coral.> Should I simply try not to disturb the crushed coral? <Eventually it will settle down, get trapped in your filters, and removed with water changes.> Thanks so much for your advice! Mitchell Wexler <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Anaerobic sand Dear Bob Anthony Steven <we three are now melded into one being... unfortunately, two of us didn't know about the severity of the problem with flatulence that the third one has...ahem. Nonetheless, Anthony Calfo in your service><<I want a shrubbery! Bob F>> I have two issues for you today if you will. Anthony, I took your advice about six weeks or so and began emptying out the cup in my Remora skimmer daily. Output kicked up immediately. Coincidentally, the Rio pump on it died about the same time, and I replaced it with a MJ1200. I am truly pumping slime now!  <outstanding> As yet I have seen no improvement in the underlying problem, however. That is a "blanket" of algae on top of the DSB, mostly surrounding my (thriving 18-month) Heteractis malu.  <yes...many times the dissolved nutrient level without a daily performing skimmer concentrates to great levels after months or even years. Especially then, it will take more than few weeks with a weaker skimmer to catch up. Increased water flow in the tank will help too> Now other real algae issues in the tank. I clean some of the same golden jelly-like algae off my glass twice a week. At the advice of my usually-reliable LFS, I added about 48 (yeah, 4 dozen) Nassarius (sp?) snails about a month ago.  <For cleaning diatoms off of glass?!?> (Some reading has since disclosed that this is two or three times what my 55 gal tank with 65 lb LR should sustain, but so far they seem to be doing all right. A-a-r-g-h!) Scum blanket is unchanged. <sure...its like putting a platter full of filet mignon in a room full of vegetarians> The second issue flows from two black areas in the DSB.. The larger is about 4 square inches and growing. Both start about one inch below the sand surface. A few days ago I got a whiff of sulfur off the water surface. My LFS says this is just evidence that the DSB is doing its denitrification thing properly, but I have my doubts.  <You are right to trust your doubts> The tank is 2 years old, but I only put in the DSB about 6 months ago. Basic parameters have always been excellent - - zero NOx's and phosphates, pH 8.3. Calcium and alkalinity have always been a struggle (currently 310 and 8.0).  <Is the sand deep enough? over 3" is minimum necessary... over 5" would be ideal. If you are under three inches, then I'm not surprised. Aerobic pockets are rare in tanks with adequate circulation, but this combines with the presence of blanket algae on the substrate is prime evidence that there are dead spots of water flow at the bottom of the aquarium. Sounds like you need to add or adjust water flow> The tank is lightly populated, with only 4 smallish fish and 6 modest-sized soft corals. Everybody is healthy, although I think my hammer coral would like more calcium. How much trouble am I in with the black spots? <very little risk...it bubbles off easily. But do correct and prevent from more occurring> Best regards and thanks for all your help. Newt <always welcome. Anthony>

Anaerobic sand II Thanks, Anthony.  <always welcome, my friend> The sand bed is a solid 5 inches deep.  <outstanding> The theory behind the flock o' snails was that they would disturb the surface of the sand and thereby disrupt the algae growth through mechanical (as opposed to digestive) processes. In practice, they all jump out of the sand when they smell food, then dig in an hour later. A few venture onto the glass at night. <I see the logic, but would recommend better water movement to keep detritus in suspension for export by filters/skimmers as a better means to this end> I have about 1000 gallons per hour flowing through the 55 gal tank (the skimmer/MJ1200. a Marineland 400 sans Biowheel, a Fluval canister sans biomedia, a separate MJ1200, and a big PowerSweep power filter), but most of it is in the top 8 inches of water.  <exactly... and a common mistake that I have executed myself as well. You do indeed have a lot of great hardware for movement... just adjust and tweak until the slow or dead spots are reduced> If I read your advice right, I will redirect one of the power filters toward and across the sand surface where the black spots are forming. Anything else I need to do to counteract the anaerobic action & sulfur production? <you are correct. And the diffusive action of the water movement is usually all one needs. It is indeed possible to have measurable different zones of water chemistry from great movement atop and weak movement by the substrate.. oxygen and pH readings can be quite different from near the bottom when compared to the top in such aquaria... amazing but true> Since I wrote, I added a colony of zoanthids about the size of a lemon, and skimmer production leaped to about 12 ounces of light, cloudy skimmate a day. I assume the coral and (more likely) underlying rock were not fully cured and will work themselves clean in a couple of weeks. <quite possible... throttle back the air or water in the meantime to yield darker skimmate> Thanks again, Newt <best regards, Anthony>

Sand clumping I'm currently using live sand as my substrate and I went away on vacation and noticed when I came home my sand was clumping up into little balls. Is this something in its early stage or just because I didn't stir the top of the sand. <no... sign of a significant pH change... a sudden and severe drop in pH when you were away (as in nighttime without Kalkwasser to keep it up... or buffer by day to do the same)...OR... the sudden addition of Kalkwasser to much or too fast. Kindly, Anthony>

Ugly Sand! Hello guys! Please tell me what to do about my ugly sand in my reef tank. It's always full of brown and green algae, you know, the type that blows in the current.  <easy to control by aggressive protein skimming (daily dark product) and more careful nutrient control (no overfeeding, stocking), etc> I stir it up only to have it return hours later.  <this tends to STIMULATE more algae growth. Siphon it out or starve it out (skimming)> Cutting back the lights helps a bit,  <that only treats the symptom and not the problem... you need better control of nutrient export processes> but I thinks it's not a very good solution.  <you are wise/intuitive> I was at www.garf.org and they have a 'product' called, "Reef Janitors". You can purchase a few hundred 'crawly things' to add to your soil to supposedly make the overall environment a better one. This makes perfect sense to me, but I am a beginner into this reef hobby. My tank is 55g. with 60lbs LR and 3 inched of sand. It's been up for 8 months. Thank you!!! Pam <Pam, better water movement (to keep detritus in suspension) and better skimming may be all that is necessary. 2-3 weeks of good daily skimmate and its gone... trust me <wink>. Anthony Calfo>

Reef Set-up Question... Sand Making Tank Cloudy Hi Guys, Thanks so much for all the information available in the FAQ's. It's worth it's weight in gold. My set up will be.. 72 AGA Bow front 4 65watt PC Florescent, 2 10k, 2 blue 2 50/50 URI 48" 40 watt Fluorescent 100lbs fine aragonite sand 100lbs Fiji live rock (Walt Smith) 600 gal/hr overflow MAG 7 in sump pump Turboflotor 1000 in sump skimmer. My question is this. After rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing the sand again. When can I expect the water cloudiness to disappear? I am currently running a Magnum HOT with the 8 micron paper filter. It seems to have little effect. Will these small particles eventually dissolve? Or would you suggest I drain the tank and start rinsing again? <Generally, tanks clear in a matter of days. I have found that sometimes rinsing the sand makes the cloudiness worse. I would just wait it out at this point. The Hot Magnum is a good idea.> Thanks again for all you do for the hobby/habit. Dan <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Maintenance Questions Pretty new to the aquarium hobby, but have been at it about 8 months now. Was told to wait a while before I vacuum the substrate, so I have. Now, I realize that when I try to vacuum the base of the tank, all of my live sand goes into the hose/snake as well. <Mmm, give it a preliminary stir with a wood or plastic dowel (to break up the chunks!) and devise or buy a siphon with an "exploded end" (we used to make our own out of plastic bottles with the bottom cut off and a good length of tubing attached to the narrow end...). Such "funnels" allow you to stir up the bottom, remove the muck, but leave the substrate behind> Looking for a trick to avoid this from happening. Was also wondering how long I should wait before I change the white and blue pad in my canister filter. (the water is still crystal clear, I believe due to the protein skimmer) <Do this on at least a weekly basis... good to remove the grunge there before it dissolves, returns nutrients to the water... fueling algae growth et. al.> Love the web site. Thanks, Tim Gauen <Thank you, Bob Fenner>

Maintenance Questions Pretty new to the aquarium hobby, but have been at it about 8 months now. Was told to wait a while before I vacuum the substrate, so I have. Now, I realize that when I try to vacuum the base of the tank, all of my live sand goes into the hose/snake as well. Looking for a trick to avoid this from happening. <If you have a DSB, you should not need to gravel siphon it. Occasionally some detritus might settle there, but you should not insert the siphon into the sand.> Was also wondering how long I should wait before I change the white and blue pad in my canister filter. The water is still crystal clear, I believe due to the protein skimmer. <Depends on the brand and model, but generally every 1-3 months.> Love the web site. Thanks, Tim Gauen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Thermometers & Substrate I have 2 questions for you all today 1. which is better as far as thermometers go the glass ones that go inside the tank or the sticky ones that go on the outside? <IMO, the glass ones are better, but should not be allowed to float around in the tank waiting to get broken.> 2. When I bought my substrate (crushed coral) the guy at Elmer's LFS said NOT to rinse it, but the bags say to do a light rinse. <Crushed coral needs rinsed like crazy.> Which is right? <Are you sure you have crushed coral though. Being from Pittsburgh and knowing Elmer's, I am not sure they carry crushed coral anymore. They do have various grades of sand, some larger than others.> It is not live sand. Thanks, Colleen Pittsburgh, PA <By the way, did you make Bob's pitch at Elmer's on Saturday morning? -Steven Pro>

Moving sands... I've been looking around lately for a place where I can buy assorted worms and things like micro-starfish etc.... I'm gonna use them to seed my livesand bed. my LFS guy said that I could get a bunch things like that online but I've been running into a ton of dead links. <Look on the Links pages of www.WetWebMedia.com, contact my friend Morgan Lidster at Inland Aquatics, the fine folks at Marine Center for more about how to get what you're looking for. They will help you assuredly> I'm getting a 125gal (used to have 55gal) and I'm gonna use aragonite for about 80% of the tank and the rest will be a pure fine sand bed (for things that like soft beds, anemones, starfish, blah, blah). the only problems is that I wont be able to vacuum the sand so I need a lot of little cleaners.  <No problem> the live sand at my LFS has a lot of stuff in it, but nothing that's big (1-3mm large). Lemme know if you can help. Jon Trowbridge I don't want to use sea cucumbers because I don't want them to spread the sand around into the gravel. <Mmmm, well... this will happen... as you'll see. Bob Fenner>

Milky Water (marine substrates) Bob--As you recall, the unwashed Southdown I added on Sunday caused my tank to turn into a milk vat.  <Yes, we both wish you would have washed it ahead of placing> I added 90# of LR on Tuesday night--the water is starting to clear some, and I can now see about 5 or 6 inches into the tank.  I also know there is quite a bit less crud floating around in there because the alk had decreased from the initial test of 7.2 on Tuesday afternoon to 3.2 last night. Ca had decreased from 440 to 380. (I have also moved the Ca reactor from the old tank to the new tank for the cycling process.) <All predictable... Say, you don't know of someone, a shop maybe that might lend, rent you the use of a Diatom (tm, Vortex products) Filter for a day or two?> I added a makeshift power filter to the sump last night--by taking the old biofilter media from my DAS (the cylindrical shaped one) and attaching the Rio 2100 (the one that came with the Turboflotor) on top with a tube to pull water through the filter. (I had removed this biofilter from the DAS several weeks ago.) That has also seemed to help some. I'm borrowing a Magnum HOT filter from a friend tomorrow if it's still looking murky when I get home tonight. <Oh, yes, these will help... still, look for the DE filter> Since Southdown is so highly recommended on the newsgroups and many people advise against washing it, I did a search on the reefs.org site last night, as I'm sure there are plenty of other people that have had the same issue with milky water as I'm having. I found several threads that seemed to indicate that once the nitrifying bacteria get established, they will coat the tiny particles that are clouding the water and that will cause them to stick to the rest of the sand bed, clearing up the water. This would also be consistent with Mike's (at Paragon) statement that once the cycled LR is added, the water will clear up in 24-48 hours. Is this a plausible theory? <Yes... but I would still wash it... in five, ten pound batches... in a plastic (five gallon "pickle") bucket...> I tested for organics last night, 24 hours after the LR was added. Mike said I shouldn't see a spike at all because they fully cycle the LR in their tanks before it's shipped, and the packing was such that the LR was just as wet when I received it as when they pulled it from the tanks. I've confirmed from other people on the NG that they have purchased Paragon's LR and have not experienced any ammonia spike after adding it to a tank. I did get a reading of trace ammonia and nitrite last night--each equal to or less than the lightest color chip on the Salifert test kits. Nitrates tested around 2 ppm. <I wouldn't make such a "guarantee"... not anyone's control enroute can spell/determine such results...> At this point, I'd like your comments on my plan to clear up the water and make sure the tank will support denitrification. I added two cubes of frozen food this morning--if I don't get a noticeable spike from that in 3-5 days (is this enough time to tell?), then I'll conclude that the LR is doing its job and was adequately cycled such that it is able to support filtration. I also fed the tank for the reason that I believe that the added organics will help to thicken the foam in the skimmer, which should make the skimmer more efficient at pulling out the particulates that are clouding the water. <Hmm, I wouldn't "feed" the system like this... or inorganically (with ammonia compounds...)... "just" let time go by... there is sufficient organic input from the new live rock> One other question--I was also thinking that to increase the skimmer output on the new tank, I could add some of the skimmate from the old tank to the sump of the new tank. Sounds crazy, I know, but I was thinking this also might help to confirm whether there is going to be a spike, and also would help to increase the efficiency of the skimmer on the new system to speed up the clearing of the water. Does this make sense?  <It does... but I would not do this either... unnecessary, and a real chance of forestalling cycling rather than hastening it...> I haven't done this yet, as it sounds backwards to add skimmate to a clean system, and I wanted to see what you thought about it before I did it. The old tank settled down and wasn't dripping this morning--although after doing the water change on Tuesday to harvest water for the new tank, it was leaking 2-3 times faster than before, and dripping from several different places from the back. The rear seal is obviously giving way. Needless to say, I was freaking out at that point, but now it looks like it will hold if I add top off water in small amounts so as not to change the pressure dynamic on that seal too quickly at any given time. Ideally, it needs to hold for at least another week, preferably longer. <Keep the water level low... a large catchment container under it... fingers crossed... re-seal it (you know how?) when empty...> I'll keep you posted--for now the emergency situation is over, and I'm keeping a close eye on the old tank. Thanks for your thoughts again. P.S. The parrotfish pic on yesterday's FAQs is really cool--is that one of the pics from your most recent trip? <Yes, thanks for the notice... and am getting better (easy to do because I'm starting so far back on this learning curve) with the new Nikon scanner.... much more to come. Bob Fenner> James A. Deets

Re: Milky Water Thanks for the response and insight, as always. I called the LFS and they have a Magnum HOT with a diatom filter I can rent for $5 a day. I think I'll go up there in a few and pick one up today. They didn't have a Vortex Diatom filter. <"Cause I hate that milky wahtah.... Georgia, you're my home..." Not a great product/substitute, but it will do> On the "no spike from the LR" issue--just to clarify--he's not making a guarantee, just relating observations. <I understand> I'm just adding those observations to the mix of data I'm getting from my water tests in drawing conclusions about the denitrifying capacity of the system. Since I've already added some food to the system, how long should it take for it to break down into ammonia compounds? i.e., if I'm going to see any ammonia from this food breaking down, how long should it be before I see it? <Days to a couple of weeks> Luckily, I won't have to reseal the old tank. Since I only bought it a few months ago (albeit used and with no warranty), the LFS is giving me 100% on it as a trade in on the new tank. They will have the honor of pinpointing the leak and doing the resealing duty! <Very well> P.S. If I ever upgrade to (or add??) a 300 gallon system, the sand will be washed thoroughly. . . :) <I believe you! Bob Fenner>

Bubbles in Substrate Bob - As a result of your website, I was inspired to rehab my 12 year old 75 gal aquarium that I had let degrade to a point were only a few hardy damsels could live. Now that that summer project is completed I am enjoying ( and I am sure my fish) the tank. <Ah, the pleasure... for both of us> Part of the rehab process was to replace the substrate with 1.5" of aragonite. That was two months ago. Now, there are small bubbles along the glass in the substrate. Is this a problem?  <No real problem... though many general articles, even books state that this may be a sign of anaerobic action, trouble... it's likely just the opposite here: an indication of vibrant metabolism. As long as the water doesn't "smell bad" when the bubbles are released I wouldn't worry> I remove them by running my finger along the glass about every two weeks. <Sounds fine. Bob Fenner> Thanks -- Chuck

Photos (Rock, Coral skeletons) Hi and good morning, Bob. Here 2 photos of the rockwork for my tank. One outside and one inside the tank. No water yet! About 1" sand on the bottom. I'm still waiting for my equipment. I left about 1-2" clearance between the rocks and the back of the tank for circulation. Is that o.k.? <Yes, a good idea to facilitate cleaning> I don't want the fish to hide in that gap all day. I might have problems with higher ups in the house if they don't see the fish!!  <Mmm, they'll come out in time...> Anyway, there will always be gaps in the back, even if I rest the rocks against the back glass. I will add some more coral rock if I can get some later. One question. How do I clean the sand? <With a "stick" and gravel vacuuming. Please see the WWM site re maintenance> If I pass the gravel cleaner close over the sand without sucking out the sand, will that be o.k.? Will the bacteria in the sand do the rest? I think I will have to stir up the sand when doing so, right?  <Yes> I will start the cycle with liquid 'Cycle start'. Regards, Bernd <Okay. Bob Fenner>

Sand bed I am presently going nuts with a high nitrate problem, still can't figure it out I do have to upgrade my Prizm skimmer to a bigger one per your advice (thank you). <This will help> But I have a bigger problem. Every time I do a water change a clean and some of the bottom six hours later my fish appear to have ich, thought it was a stress thing since only the newer of the three would show signs.  <You are likely correct> It clears up but cannot be good, even one that when I did have a major out break never showed any signs, it is now. Have treated the fish but can't do main tank. My wife wants me to drain and start over, even new rock which could be my nitrate problem. <Won't solve the nitrate situation. Please read this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqs.htm area on FAQs about nitrates, the further FAQs, on to proposed areas of nitrate elimination.> I am thinking of going to a sand bottom instead of crushed coral. My only question is any advantage or disadvantage to laying directly on the bottom and is the aragonite worth the extra money? Many thanks again <Please read over the "Marine Substrates" article on WWM and the many FAQs posted there. Bob Fenner>

Curing Live rock and crushed coral in a reef 7/29/05 Hello Crew, <Howdy Frank! Ali here...> Thank you for all for the effort that you put into this wonderful website! <Merci> What a wealth of knowledge! I have a quick question about live rock and substrate. I have a 90Gal marine aquarium with some soft corals and some fish. I started the tank with about 2" of coarse crushed coral substrate and 50 lbs or live rock. I have recently acquired another 150 lbs of live rock which I am currently curing. <Make sure you cure your rock for at minimum a full 4 weeks. Utilizing LOTS of circulation in the holding "bin" will go a long way. Additionally, it would be better to add 1/4 of your new rock per week, so that in 1 month's time all of the new rock will be added. This is AFTER the initial minimum 4 week curing phase. > The question that I have is if I add all of this live rock into my aquarium, I will be covering up a lot of the crushed coral on the bottom of my tank and will therefore be unable to vacuum most of the substrate in my tank. Is this going to be OK, or is it going to lead to problems in the future? Will I have to switch to a deep sand bed in order to add this rock? I am trying to do what is best for the marine life by adding the rock, I do not want to create any dangerous side effects in the process. <Generally speaking, crushed coral isn't something you want to utilize in a reef aquarium. You will have less problems in the future if you bite the bullet and do a tank renovation, removing the crushed coral and replacing it with a fine grained deep sand bed 3-6" or simply going completely bare bottom, or perhaps a shallow sand bed 1-2" of fine grained sand. The CaribSea Aragamax Select sand is ideal for this and can be found at most reputable dealers.> Thank you, Frank <No problem Frank! Good luck>

What are those bubbles? Live sand query! Bob, Thank you for such an informative look at aquarium keeping. I am returning to the hobby after a four year "break" and have set up a 58 gallon reef tank. After much time at your site I have learned that so much has changed in the hobby. <Ah, welcome back "to the fold"> We just passed the two week point. The tank is running great and levels are superb for the moment -- no ammonia, no nitrite, and less than 10ppm nitrate. I am using about 60 lbs of live sand, 35 lbs of live rock, and 30 pounds of limestone base rock. After much fussing with air hoses and pumps, the skimmer is producing some great nasty-looking junk! Filtration consists of a HOT Magnum and a Sealife Systems Pro Series 300 wet/dry. We have even made it past the ugly diatom stage. More live rock will be added at a rate of 10lbs a week until I am happy with the look of the mini reef! <Sounds good> Fish include: Long-nosed Hawk, Watchman Goby, Fire Fish, and a Blue Damsel. Clean-up crew includes: 10 blue legged Hermits, 5 Turbo Snails, Sally Lightfoot Crab, Serpent Star Small) and a Sand Sifting Star. <Do keep your Hawkfish well-fed... it may well ingest your crustaceans> After time at your site I know that I need to reconsider the wet/dry or replace the bio-balls! Advice here? <Watch your nitrates, pest-algae growth... pull the plastic media as it makes sense to you> The Substrate is where my question lies: The sand bed ranges in depth from 1-3 inches. I know that I need to add to that for de-nitrification and I will do so within the week. <Okay> I am seeing tiny bubbles in the sand. What gas makes up these bubbles? Good or bad? <Life, more good than bad. If they don't "smell bad", don't be concerned. Can, will be vacuumed, stirred out over time... eventually other processes will discount their production to being unnoticeable.> Also, in creating a DSB am I trying to create anaerobic zone? <Intentionally to an extent, yes> I always heard that this was trouble but like I said, so much has changed in the past four years. Any additional thoughts would be very helpful and very much appreciated. <Please do take a read through WetWebMedia.com, starting with the search tool at the bottom of the homepage... putting in terms like anaerobic, DSB...> Thanks for your time and consideration. I know that you guys are very busy and any info you can share will be helpful. <We all have exactly the same amount of time my friend. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> Best regards, Lee Kirgan

Maintaining A Sand Bed  8/31/05 Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> First off, I want to apologize if this question has been answered somewhere, but I have searched and only found bits and pieces of what I need. <No problem-ask away!> My question is whether or not I am supposed to vacuum the gravel in my aquarium. <Well, it is advisable to perform some light vacuuming on the tops layer of sand on a regular basis.> I have always vacuumed (even though I must go very slow so I don't suck up the substrate) about once a week for my water changes, and after seeing the color of the water being taken out, I knew it was the right thing to do... <It is, in my opinion. Lightly cleaning the upper layers of sand will help keep the sandbed from accumulating excessive organic detritus. It is inevitable that stuff will accumulate there, but regular siphoning will help reduce it somewhat.> My sandbed is about 3" of medium to fine aragonite. If I forget to vacuum for more than a week my sandbed turns green and red and fills with bubbles, is this denitrification? <Well, the green is probably algae growing between the glass and the sand. The bubbles can certainly be indicative of denitrification processes occurring in the sand bed.> It just seems like if I don't vacuum, too much debris will accumulate. <This is the concern that many hobbyists have about sandbeds. They do need to be carefully maintained in order to avoid excessive amounts of detritus from accumulating and possibly degrading water quality. If you visit many hobby discussion boards, you'll see a growing number of hobbyists forsaking sandbeds altogether. Lots of opinions here- and many are correct! Keep your sandbed clean, and your tank will be a healthier, more stable environment for your fishes.> My livestock includes a Blue Hippo Tang, a Yellow Tang, a Hawkfish, a Flame Clown, a Percula Clown, a Fairy Wrasse, Frogspawn, Candycane Coral, many mushrooms and leathers, Zooanthids, a 12"BTA, and a 6" Sebae. My tank is a 75 gal with a Remora Pro skimmer, a Fluval 404, and about 100 lbs of live rock Thanks for the help, Dan   <Well, Dan- sounds like your habits are good. Just don't siphon to aggressively into the lower levels of sand, or you'll end up disrupting the very denitrification processes that you're attempting to foster. Also, do think about larger quarters for the Hippo at some future point. Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.>

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