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FAQs about Marine Substrates Moving/Replacement/Addition 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 Replacing 2, Marine Substrate Moving/Replacing/Adding To 3, Marine Substrate Moving/Replacing/Adding To 4, Marine Substrate Moving/Replacing/Adding To 5, & 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, Cleaning, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Live Sand, Mud Filtration 1Biofiltration, Nitrates, Sand Sifters, AquascapingCalcium, FAQs 1

A good idea to keep track of what was added... when, and replace and/or replenish some after a year or so, and every six months thereafter

Getting To The Bottom Of Things (Substrate Issues)  9/9/05 Thanks for your web site.  I discovered it a few months ago and have  learned more than I have in the last two years! <Glad to hear that! We're thrilled to bring it to you each and every day! Scott F. here today!> I have a two and a half year old 105 gallon reef tank with a wet dry and built in skimmer.  I am  just starting to get into corals and am trying to upgrade my tank a bit.  I  have started taking the bio balls out to lower my nitrates (my LFS suggested  leaving 2 layers submerged??) and am trying to find a skimmer that will fit into  or around my wet/dry that will be more efficient.  Should I leave the drip tray in the wet dry, also? <It is a matter of choice, really. You could actually put a filter pad or activated carbon in the drip tray, but you need to clean/replace these media very frequently. Otherwise, they'll become nitrate factories!> I have 70 pounds of live rock, nice coralline  algae, a Button Polyp, Yellow Polyps, Green Star Polyps, a Xenia and a small Mushroom rock. I also have 11 fish that are getting along fine for now(1 Scopas Tang, 1 Engineer Goby, 1 Neon Pseudochromis, 2 Green Chromis, 1  Yellow Pygmy Angel, 3 Firefish, 1 Bicolor Blenny and a Green Coris Wrasse) and  assorted crabs and snails.  I believe my mistakes to be a Green Brittle Star, an Echinothrix calamaris Sea Urchin, a Bubbletip Anemone and a Horseshoe Crab (who has been eating shrimp pellets for now).  I will try to find  proper homes for these. <Good!> My biggest question is about my substrate.  I  started the tank with two inches of crushed coral, as suggested by my LFS.   I don't see a lot of life in it and  wondered if I should add sand or live sand  so that the copepods would have a better environment. <Well, live sand has many different organisms that reside within it; some of which are not easily visible to the naked eye.> I have been vacuuming the crushed coral during my water changes. I'd rather not take out the  crushed coral. Could I just add the sand to the tank and have it settle  properly? <You could, but I'd do it gradually.> Would this help? <Additions of new sand/rock can always help increase biodiversity.> Does live sand need to be  quarantined? <Ideally, it should be, unless you are absolutely certain of its origin. Even then, quarantine is highly advisable.> I don't want to set my tank back with cycling live sand.  I just set up a QT tank for future inhabitants. <Good move on your part.> I don't have  the space near the tank for a refugium, or I'd try that. Or could I have a  refugium in part of my wet/dry even though it is in a cabinet below? <Sure, if you can plumb it to the main system effectively.> Thanks for all your help. Laura <A pleasure! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playing In The Sand! (Moving/Adding To Sandbed) Hola wet ones, question on moving my 90G tank. <Scott F. your Wet One tonight!> In a few months the tank will be changing locations in the home, so I will temporarily move the inhabitants so it can be lifted. <Always fun...LOL> I have about 4" of fine grained aragonite in tank and I was thinking of adding another inch since it is a good time to do so.  Once the tank is drained, can I just add the extra sand on top of the existing wet 4 inches of sand?  I have read about 1/2" if I recall, maybe the 1" is too much?   <I'd go for it, myself. Lots of opinions on this, but this technique has worked for me many times without incident...> Its just that I would like to add it all now instead of some now, some later, but I don't want to destroy the sand bed either. <Valid concern> Also, how long can the sand be left without being submerged in water? <Probably a few days, if kept moist. Think about the bags of Fiji "live sand" that are shipped to us: They may be in transit a few days before arriving at the LFS...> That will be the case at the point when I eventually have to lift the tank.  I might do some drilling on the tank as well (another bulkhead or two), so if it is a problem leaving the sand exposed, I can add a little bit of water to submerge it and then stick a powerhead in there to aerate the water.  Will this be necessary? <It will work, but I don't think that it will be necessary if it's just for a few days. Keep in mind that there is the possibility that the thank may cycle again briefly after refilling it...> And finally, I would like to add some supports for my live rock, made up of a grid of acrylic rods.  Will it cause any problems jamming this framework of rods into the sand, too much disturbance to the bed, etc.? Thank you Paul <Good question. In my experience. minor disturbances to parts of the sandbed do not result in any significant problems. However, if you're going to be turning over the entire sandbed, that's a different story! I would not be overly concerned about what you're trying to do. Do monitor water parameters very carefully after the tank is refilled, and before it is fully stocked with your prized specimens...Better to be safe than sorry here! Good luck with the move! Regards, Scott F> Not-So-Smooth Move... Hello, <Good Evening! Scott F. here tonight> I recently moved to a new house and brought my 55 gallon tank with me.  Unfortunately,  the movers were late getting to the new house and it was a total disaster. <Sounds like fun...LOL> My question is, can I keep my sand which spent 30 hours under about 2" of water and my bio filtration which spent the same amount of time out of water? <Yep...Think of how this stuff ships from the South Pacific...It makes it though in good shape...> I know I need to re-cycle the tank, but do I need to replace the sand and live rock? <No, it will need cycling, though, as you surmised> Should I treat all of it as brand new? Cycle the tank and do water changes before I introduce fish? <That's the way I'd play it. Add the rock and sand and treat the system as if it were brand new...Just do regular water tests and stay on top of things...> I'm lost and I could really use your help.  Would adding live sand or live rock speed up the process?  Thanks, Dru <Well, Dru- you pretty much have it...Not a complicated process...You just need to be patient, and test the water regularly to follow the tank's process...You have the right idea! Good luck in your new home! Regards, Scott F>

Moving sand bed Hi All <cheers> I'm moving an established 1" sandbed (and everything else) into a new and bigger reef tank. It's approx. 60 pounds of aragonite and I'll add another 50 to it in the new tank. <I personally don't subscribe to methodologies that employ 1-3" of sand. I prefer over 3" or less than 1/2". In between is too much work... requiring very strong water movement and regular siphoning which limit growth of infauna. The problem with intermediate sand depth in my opinion is that it is neither deep enough for optimal denitrification, nor shallow enough to be optimally aerobic. Hence the tendency for such sand beds to become nutrient sinks after just one or two years of use. Still... it can work... I'm just disinclined to recommend it> Is a good vacuuming before moving precaution enough, <shouldn't be necessary> or will I get a dreaded nutrient cloud/ammonia spike? <if the tank had adequate water movement before the move, I wouldn't expect many solids to be here... else, you are experiencing my above outlined complaint for lack of a true deep sand bed of over 3" (go close to 5-6")> Unfortunately all fish and corals must also be moved in on the same day. <no worries here. Make your skimmer work superbly for the next 2 weeks and be prepared for a couple good sized water changes to play it safe> Any suggestions about moving sand? <yep... all of this old sand needs to go on top of the new uncolonized sand> I thought about rinsing it before putting it into the new tank, but it seems like such a waste of beneficial critters. <very much agreed!> Thank you so much. Can't wait for the new book. Adam <thanks kindly, my friend. Best regards, Anthony>

Substrate size/replacement? Hello Crew, hope you're not too busy ;) <<sure beats work!>> I've had my 55g tank running for about 7 months with just a 1/2'' substrate. <<Reef or FO>> I've decided to add more and go with a 3-4'' DSB <<4-6 is recommended>>. I'm wondering if it's a problem to go with all sugar fine sized aragonite sand? <<exactly what you should do>> I was thinking of 3 30Lb bags of this sand. Would it be better if I went with 2 bags of this and 1 bag of slightly larger granules? <<Mixing size has been done, but not recommended. For the sugar fine I used, it took about 80# to get 1 cubic foot. Don't think 90# is going to do it for you>> Another option available is that I have 1/3 of a 20Lb bag of slightly larger (but not by much) sand left over from before. Is that enough to mix with the sugar sized sand? <<see above>>One more thing...after rinsing, should I just add it all in at once? <<most recommend not rinsing sugar fine. You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached. You might use a 4" pvc pipe as a 'funnel' to get the sand to the bottom without covering all the landscape with silt. Go slow and you will be OK. Thanks again guys, you guys are lifesavers ;) <<Hmmm, I know CPR but that is about it ;) Don>>

Substrate Replacement Clarification Hey folks: I was reading the dailies, and Don wrote: "You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached."  1) what is a horizontal bed run?  2)Why such a small area at a time?  If my math is close, your talking over a year of substrate replacement! <<Hi Rich, while I don't disagree that it will take time, the size of the tank/amount of substrate change/addition will dictate how much sand to add/replace at one time. The bottom line becomes, you don't want to cover up so much of the existing substrate that the beneficial bacteria/live forms are destroyed with a resulting ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike. (Unless you are prepared to re-cycle the tank) Maybe a better over all response would be to go slow (as always) test water quality often. Your (or someone else's) mileage may vary Don>> Thanks, Rich

Sand Beds... Since I need a QT tank I am moving everything from my 29 gallon to a 37 gallon that has been drilled for an overflow and in the process will install a 10 gallon sump.  The 29 has about 30 lbs of live rock and about 1 ½" of Carib Sea Aragonite crushed coral.  Since the tank is much taller, I would like to make the sand bed 3"-4" for de-nitrification. Should I use fine Aragonite sand mixed with the coarser sand already in the tank or stick with the same size crushed coral that is already there? The tank has been up and running for about 5 months.  Also, do you see any advantage to installing a Rubbermaid tray into the sump and making into a small refugium? <Wow! Your intentions are great- everyone should have a quarantine tank. In regard to the 37 gallon system, I'd recommend that you use all of the same grade of sand. It's possible, but not recommended, to mix drastically different grades of sand IMO. Usually, a 3-4 inch sand bed is best constructed of finer grades of sand (oolithic aragonite, like CaribSea's "Aragamax Sugar Fine Sand". Coarser grades, including crushed coral, can create detritus traps in your main tank. Also, many of the beneficial infauna, such as worms, can actually be shredded by the coarse stuff! Why not use the coarse stuff in your planned refugium? In a Rubbermaid "refugium", you'd probably be able to have a gnarly copepod population with that coarse stuff! Good luck! Scott F.> Removing Crushed Coral & UG I have a 75 gallon tank with 3 inch bed of crush coral. The undergravel filter is still installed under the gravel but the tubes and powerheads have been removed some time ago. <Houston, we have a problem!> Recently I have been adding Fiji live rock (15 pounds) with the intentions of adding more. So far, I'm liking the bugs and all the other bacteria that comes with it. The tank is equipped with a wet/dry (5 gallons of bioballs), Berlin skimmer and a Magnum 350 with black diamond carbon. My question to you is, I'd like to remove the crushed coral and install some home depot (play sand) for live sand, but how should I go about this? <I would just yank out the gravel and install the sand all in one day.> Should I remove the undergravel filter or leave it? <Remove> Should I remove some crushed coral and add some sand slowly. <You could do half and half if you wish.> Like when water changes are performed. Will this big change kill my fish? <It should not. The only thing the crushed coral is doing is trapping detritus. It is not performing as a biological filter. Your W/D is taking care of that.> (2 inch blue angel, purple tang, blue spotted puffer, 2 porcelain clowns). Is there any long term effects that will come about with not removing the filter, even if I stay with the cc? <Yes, trapped detritus and depressed pH.> I read an article on how to change over from cc to sand in one long day of work, but I'm will to do if necessary. The article said to make new salt water beforehand and move all live rock into a bucket. Then remove some water, 20 gallons or so. <Do this before you remove the liverock. That way the water is clean. When you start removing the liverock, it is going to mess up the water. You need some clean water to fill your tank back up and to store the fish in while you complete the change.> Then scoop out the crushed coral, with the fish in the tank. <You can probably catch and remove the fish once the liverock is out. Then remove the rest of the water and crushed coral.> At this time I would remove filter and any muck that is setting there. Then you take some of the crushed coral and put it in some nylon, in ball forms. Store the nylon ball in the tank for bacteria and critter purposes for a couple of weeks. Add all the sand to the tank, followed by the newly made saltwater, and turn the system on. Please help me decide which fork in the road I should tack. <Make a bunch of new water, remove clean old water, then remove liverock, catch fish and place in with clean old water, remove crushed coral, add sand, replace liverock, add old water and fish, top off with new water, turn everything on.> P.S. I have a 110 fish only tank set up in my TV room with a 3.5 inch Huma trigger. Should I transfer the fish during the sand swap? <Sure, that would give you even more time and allow sometime for the sand to settle/cloudiness to disappear.> Thank you <What a way to spend your holiday vacation! -Steven Pro>

Substrate WWM Crew, First I would like to thank you for answering all of my questions quickly and efficiently. My 120gal. fish only tank is recently undergoing changes to become a reef tank as they are much more challenging and rewarding.  So far I have added more live rock, (approximately 90 total lbs. and will hopefully end up around 130lbs.when another shipment arrives.)330 watts of actinic lighting and 110 watts of daylight lighting, Amiracle wet/dry filter with Mag return pump, (I forgot the model but it pushes about 400gal/h.) and one Maxi-Jet 1200 powerhead but I'm waiting for the other one to arrive.  I am also trying to put money aside for a high volume protein skimmer but a firefighter's salary isn't exactly luxurious. <I'm a teacher by day. HA!> I currently have an undergravel filter plate with approximately 1 1/2" of crushed coral on top (recipe for disaster). <Yep> I want to add a fine grain live sand but I don't know if I should put it on top of the plenum and coral or remove all of it and only have sand. <If you're going shallow, go very shallow. Like 1/2 inch with no UGF or gravel underneath. Just a 1/2" sand bed> Now for my second question: Deep sand bed or a Berlin style "sprinkling"? <If I were redoing my sand bed, I would build and install a plenum system and I wouldn't use UGF filter plates for this purpose. Author Bob Goeman's offers convincing evidence of plenum effectiveness> Do fine grain sand beds require vacuuming or only a simple water change? <Always vaccum out any obvious detritus that is sitting on any sand bed> I know I cheated and asked three questions instead of one but it would be greatly appreciated if you could help me out. <You got my ideas! Hope that I've helped. David Dowless> Thank you.

Substrate size/replacement? Hello Crew, hope you're not too busy ;) <<sure beats work!>> I've had my 55g tank running for about 7 months with just a 1/2'' substrate. <<Reef or FO>> I've decided to add more and go with a 3-4'' DSB <<4-6 is recommended>>. I'm wondering if it's a problem to go with all sugar fine sized aragonite sand? <<exactly what you should do>> I was thinking of 3 30Lb bags of this sand. Would it be better if I went with 2 bags of this and 1 bag of slightly larger granules? <<Mixing size has been done, but not recommended. For the sugar fine I used, it took about 80# to get 1 cubic foot. Don't think 90# is going to do it for you>> Another option available is that I have 1/3 of a 20Lb bag of slightly larger (but not by much) sand left over from before. Is that enough to mix with the sugar sized sand? <<see above>>One more thing...after rinsing, should I just add it all in at once? <<most recommend not rinsing sugar fine. You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached. You might use a 4" pvc pipe as a 'funnel' to get the sand to the bottom without covering all the landscape with silt. Go slow and you will be OK. Thanks again guys, you guys are lifesavers ;) <<Hmmm, I know CPR but that is about it ;) Don>>

Substrate Replacement Clarification Hey folks: I was reading the dailies, and Don wrote: "You want to add around 1/2 to 1 inch at a time over a very small area (2-4" of horizontal bed run) then wait a week or so and add then next run. Repeat until depth is reached."  1) what is a horizontal bed run?  2)Why such a small area at a time?  If my math is close, your talking over a year of substrate replacement! <<Hi Rich, while I don't disagree that it will take time, the size of the tank/amount of substrate change/addition will dictate how much sand to add/replace at one time. The bottom line becomes, you don't want to cover up so much of the existing substrate that the beneficial bacteria/live forms are destroyed with a resulting ammonia/nitrite/nitrate spike. (Unless you are prepared to re-cycle the tank) Maybe a better over all response would be to go slow (as always) test water quality often. Your (or someone else's) mileage may vary Don>> Thanks, Rich

Adding more sand Hi guys awesome site!!!!!!!! I have a 125ga reef with about 200lb of assorted live rock, It currently has about a 2" Florida live sand bed (when started it was for looks) I would now like to change it to a 4-5" sand bed can i put the new sand right over the top of the existing sand or should I move the current sand ? I plan to add bag sand to what i already have <Check here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm Basically if you go slow, 1/2" at a time then wait a week or two for the new top layer to establish life and then add more> I am also in the process of building a 450ga aquarium (fish only) in which I will be using a sand bed, how long do I need to wait to pull sand from the tank above with the newly added sand to get a good amount of critter to spike the new tank? <If you follow the plan above, then the sand should be populated a few weeks after the last layer has been added> thanks in advance            Bill

REEF HELP Hello Mr. Fenner, <Craig here tonight> I hope you will reply, I need help. <We always reply!> I have a 30 gallon reef with a magnum 350 pro, a BakPak 2r skimmer, 1 PowerSweep zoomed 228, JBJ lightning, no sump or plenum, and an 1" crushed coral gravel. Parameters are; ammonia= 0, nitrite=0, nitrate=10ppm, phosphate is high. I have a couple of mushrooms , 1 button polyp, 3 peppermint shrimp, 1 maroon clownfish, and lots of snails[ Ceriths, Astrea, Nassarius]. All my other corals died summer 2002-too hot, no chiller. In about 2 weeks I'll be getting some corals and fish from a friend, and I want to get the system running well before that.  I'm also getting a little extra algae, I guess due to the nitrate and phosphate. I recently put a denitrator-carbon-PhosGuard mix to canister to lower the numbers. <Check source water, increase water changes, change filter media in canister before it produces nitrates. Re-evaluate feeding in addition to testing source water for phosphates.> I don't think there is any denitrification going on in the gravel cause it looks dirty below with algae and red brownish stuff. <No, exactly the opposite, it is going wild with all the waste trapped in the crushed coral producing nitrates. Trapping food and phosphates as well.  This isn't the best substrate.> I know its probably because of the 1 inch that's not enough. <And too coarse, allowing food/wastes to be trapped. Needs regular maintenance.> My friend also offered me some live sand, can I add the sand on top of the gravel or should I remove all gravel altogether. <Remove the crushed coral all-together.> I would like to just add about 2 inches of live sand on top of the gravel, but don't know if this is beneficial for the tank. <Nope, you entrap the problem wastes.> Please help, eventually I would like to get rid of canister filter. Any advice. Thanks, Andre <No need to get rid of it, it is useful for carbon and chemical filtration like you are using now. Best of luck!  Craig>

Re: Substrate? Sorry bob, love your book by the way. I sent an email asking why i would have to remove my crushed coral if I wanted to add live sand to my tank I plan I  adding 20-30 pounds <Mmm, you wouldn't necessarily have to remove the one for the other... they can be mixed. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the related FAQs (in blue, above) beyond. Bob Fenner>

Substrate, canister filter removal <Greetings, JasonC here...> i hope you can give me some advice. <So do I...> I have a 30 gallon reef setup with a magnum 350 with bio or pro-wheels, BakPak 2r skimmer, 2 zoomed powerheads and JBJ 144 watt white-blue lighting. Also about 1" coral gravel substrate. The tank uses no sump, and  no plenum; It has been running for about a year. Ammonia =0, nitrite=o, nitrate=10 ppm. Right now all i have is a couple of mushrooms, an orange polyp, 3 peppermint shrimp (great Aiptasia eaters), and a small maroon clown. All other corals died last summer, too hot-no chiller {learned lesson - bought a chiller}. I am concerned with the nitrates and the fact that i think the coral substrate is becoming stagnant {no denitrification going on here}. <Well... it's not deep enough to promote denitrification. You need a true deep sand bed for that - at least four inches, five to six would be better.> In about 2 I'll be adding several corals and fishes from a friend, so  the nitrates will skyrocket. I want to get things ready so i already added some SeaChem combination carbon - PhosGuard + denitrator media. I should have used sand instead [i know], Can i know add some live sand on top of the gravel { my friend is also offering some live sand} or should i remove all crush coral. <I think you can mix, but you really need a good deal of sand, and I'd get started on this now rather than later.> I've also thought about removing canister filter and going with just a sump, but i have no clue how to do this. <Well, start by making sure you've got other filtration and circulation that will speak for the loss of the canister - then, simply remove it.> For now i would really like to add some live sand but don't know if i can, and in the future would like remove canister altogether. <You can do both.> Please help me with my immediate problem and also advice on how to build a sump. <For sump building, please read our FAQs on the subject: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sumprffiltfaqs.htm > thanks André <Cheers, J -- >

Ick & new tank, should I replace gravel? Hello !           I am in the process of replacing my 80 FOWLR w/ the built in filter in the back ( pain ! ) to a 100 gal w/ sump below & a Aqua C EV-120 skimmer. In my 80 gal I had Ick & moved my Des Jar tang to QT w/ copper & fresh water dips. It has been 2 weeks since I moved him. When I receive my new tank I was going to use the old crushed coral & live rock to put back in the new tank & then allow another 4 weeks till ( 6-7 wks total ) I put my tang back. Should I use the old crushed coral, and will this amount of time allow for the ick to be gone? <Could, and should> I replace the gravel completely, I was thinking of going to sand if I should? <Can and yes, better> If I do replace the gravel do I need to let the tank cycle over again even though I will be using the existing bio-balls & LR ( 65 lbs. )from the old tank? <The system should not take long to (re)cycle if at all> Any other thought would be appreciated !          Thank you so much for your help once again !              Darrin PS - do you know if there is special cement for acrylic that is used in a aquarium ? <Look for the "Weld-On" brand... folks use a few different "numbers" depending on flow characteristics, cure time... Bob Fenner>

Re: seeding substrate Hi Guys! We have a 75 gal reef that we are in the process of moving to our (new) 225 gal.  The 75 has a substrate of crushed coral and Carib Sea seafloor grade (larger diameter) aragonite. We plan on using 5" of Home Depot's play sand in the new tank. My question is:  can (should) we put the old substrate under the new sand in order to seed the new sand? <Or amongst> How about putting the old substrate in the sump (which now has about 3 - 4" miracle mud). <Okay> The old tank has been set up for a long time, and I hate to loose all that "good stuff" that is in the old substrate. Thank you kindly for your assistance! <A few places you should peruse on WWM. Please start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and read the Related FAQs (linked above, in blue) and: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the Related FAQs... and: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mudfiltrfaqs.htm and... Bob Fenner>

The Sands of Time...(Sandbed Dissolution Rate) Hi guys, <Hey there! ScottF. with you today!> Have a question regarding substrates.  Starting my tank and have a 4.5" DSB with pure Caribbean aragonite.  I have been reading that aragonite dissolves quickly.  My question is how quickly? <To be quite frank- I don't know of any study that has been done that revealed specific rates of sandbed dissolution in closed systems. There are a lot of factors that come into play, such as the ph, alkalinity, etc. Suffice it to say that Aragonitic sand beds will "passively supplement" (as Anthony would say) your calcium level over time with this dissolution process. However, I'd suspect that this will occur over the course of a year or so...Try making a mark at the top of your sandbed (in a location where it is unlikely to be disturbed by digging fishes, currents, or maintenance activity), and then glance at it on a regular (like every few months) basis to see if the sandbed depth has decreased. this is, admittedly a crude, unscientific method, but it may give you some idea> I have a 75 gallon tank.  I was doing some reading in Anthony's book and he suggests a DSB of 5-6" b/c of this.  Also, when and how should this be replaced to keep at a 4-6" depth?    <Again, I'd "mark and measure" periodically to determine when you need to add more sand...I'd simply add it on top, and spread it around carefully...Nothing to fancy! Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F>

Bob, (or Steven) <Do not forget about Antoine.> I am using a 3 inch sand bed of crushed coral. The only form of filtration I have is 173lbs of live rock (Fiji) with a junky protein skimmer (hang on by Instant Ocean) and the DSB. I will upgrade tanks when I move to a 72x24x24 from 60x24x18. I would like to use my 160lbs of substrate to save money but I don't want to lose my corals and fish either.... I have about a dozen coral from colt poly's to an Anemone (which has tripled in size) I have a few tangs too (yellow, purple, blond Naso, hippo) a clown, 6 line wrasse, 2 lawnmowers and a Goby .... about 60 snails and 50 hermit and one emerald green... So what should I do about the substrate situation? <I stand behind my original suggestion. If it is in UG, keep it damp and keep it. If it is a static bed, I would toss it in a heart beat. From a maintenance point of view, I would not want to have to gravel vacuum such a large tank, so I would be looking to spend the extra money and save myself tons of work later. -Steven Pro>

Replacing Crushed Coral <<Greetings, Mike. JasonC here... >> I want to take out my UGF and replace my CC with sand. <<A good plan.>> When I do this is it going to wipe out the bacteria that I currently have. <<If this is the only media housing the bacteria, then yes, you could either lose your biological filter or at the very least set it back a notch. Would you not just pour the new gravel over the old once the UG filter plates are removed? This would likely work fine as long as you have good water flow within the tank.>> I also have fish in my tank. Can I do this with them in there? This is a 55gallon tank FOWLR. <<Well, the UGF removal and gravel addition is going to cloud up the water for at least a day or more. If you have the facilities to house the fish elsewhere while you do the work, then do it. Otherwise, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Cheers, J -- >>

Adding more substrate Hello all! I will be adding some more sand to my bed soon to increase the depth from approximately 3" to around 5-6". Is there any recommendations you can give me on the procedure? <Sure> I remember reading something along the lines of putting the "dead" (new) sand on the bottom and the "live" (old) on top. <Having done this myself several times for client's tanks, I can tell you that if you could somehow magically lift the existing sand, maintain the layers, and place the new sand underneath, that would be the best way. But, there is no way you can remove the existing sand without mixing the different layers. Generally, I remove the water, liverock, and fish and then push all the sand to one side, add new sand on the bottom, move all the sand to the other side, add more sand to the opposite side, and then level it out.> Can I mix it instead? <Somewhat like I outlined above.> Do think it would be better if I removed my livestock before doing this since there might be some silt? <Oh yes!> Also, I am fighting a battle with my rocks, of which I am losing. First my carpet decided to move to a different side of the tank when I upgraded my pumps, but along the way he decided to knock over all my rocks with his foot! Since then, my balancing act has failed. I have tried using epoxy to cement the rocks together, but it doesn't hold. <Yes, epoxy is not really a glue. It merely fills in the pore spaces and attempt to hold things in place.> I am beginning to think that I should have cleaned off the rocks with a toothbrush before using the epoxy. <It would have had little effect.> My rocks have a plethora (Jefe, would you say I have a plethora of piñatas? Yes, El Guapo. You have a plethora. Jefe, what is a plethora?) of feather dusters, so when I take the rocks out to clean and cement, how long would be a safe amount of time so they won't die? <A couple of hours if kept damp. They did survive many hours in shipping, but you do not want to replicate that.> Please Help in Houston, Kim (One month till MACNA! Whoopee!) <Do be sure to come by the WWM table and say hi! -Steven Pro>

Old Substrate Hi Bob & Experts, It me again. I shifting to a new tank soon. 1) Should I put my old sand substrate into my new tank? <You can answer this question better than I. Is there some beneficial quality to this old substrate, a lot of life?? (The nitrate level in my old tank is very high) 2) If place old tank sand substrate into my new tank, will it have any harmful effect? <Again, is it full of detritus and devoid of critters?> 3) Where should the sand be place? Top, middle or bottom? <Bottom> 4) There are lot of debris in the old sand, should I remove it before putting into new tank ? <I would not want to recycle dirty sand unless I could remove the dirt and also save the critters.> Thanks again, Danny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Sand bed and Ich concerns 3/28/05 Hi again Anthony and thanks for your reply. In regards to these statements: "Am I missing something here? " <Yes... over-reacting on the substrate issue my friend> The reason I am changing out my sand bed is because a year ago I bought a pre existing tank in Dallas. I hired someone to break it down and move it 130 miles to Tyler, TX. Someone on the forum warned me not to use the old sand bed (which was almost 2 years old at the time) and replace it with new or else I would have problems with the tank. <OK, my friend... but please understand in the limited medium of text messaging, I had no way/reason to know or presume any of this... and the chaps advice/warning that the sand would cause problems was... well, wrong. If the sand was nutrient laden when you got it, it was a problem whether or not it was going to be moved. And if the sand bed was healthy (not polluted) then the move was no big deal. 130 miles may seem like a "long" distance... but the distance from which live rock, sand, etc travels to your from far away lands is much greater, and more severe... and yet your live rock is not a "problem" for having been moved :) The dude's advise sounds was unqualified at best.> The guy moving the tank assured me he had done this many, many times and reusing the sand bed had never been an issue. <I agree with that chap instead <G>> Since he was pretty convincing and we were running short on time I agreed to go along with using the old sand bed. The previous owner kept a journal and was very meticulous. His parameters always looked good for the most part. However, once the tank was moved to my home and the sand was dumped back into the tank and all of the LR, corals and fish were put in. My chemistry numbers were a bit out of whack and with a couple of water changes NH3 was 0 but nitrates and phosphates were off the chart. <This could be from the sand stirring indeed, but it's par for the course... and does not make the sand bad. Big water changes after any move are necessary>.> I was warned this would happen. I was doing weekly water changes that did not do any good and then started doing even larger water changes. The numbers came down some but were still very high. For almost a year I've been doing 35-40 gall water changes (120 gal tank) every one -two weeks. Sometimes a third or fourth week will slip by. <Wow... there is no way that sand could be the source alone after so many and such large water changes. If so, you would have noticed the sand was foul and polluted from the start. You need to look to another (real) reason for these nitrates.> I had gotten the nitrates down to 80 and phosphates were between 2-3. Using the Salifert test kits. I added 2xTunze 6000 streams and the numbers have gone up higher again. I've been told that the problem is with my sandbed, and that is why I am changing out my sandbed and figured I would QT at the same time. <If this gives you peace of mind... it may be worth it> I don't over feed, I use and Aqua C ev180 Skimmer and it appears to be skimming very well and I use Chaeto in my fuge. I have 16 fish and I know it's more than I should have but those are what came with the tank. (originally there were 24 fish) <Yikes! Stop wondering about where your nitrates are coming from <G>. Even without overfeeding... it is still overstocked. And the food that goes into these fishes, must come out. And the food that goes in already often has nitrate/phosphate in it> Again, the original owner never had any problems according to his journal. <Ahhh... OK.> Marc Levenson has built me about a 45 gal sump/fuge which I will have installed when I change out the sand bed. <Marc is a very good aquarist> I'm hoping that having an increased water volume and a larger area for macro algae will also help out a bit. So if this was your tank would you still just QT the hippo tang and not the rest of the fish? <The Ich issue is unrelated to the sand bed, of course... and putting all fish in QT will be more harm than good and still not eradicate your active Ich problem> I want to do whatever needs to be done, but I don't want to go overboard with it if that is what you think I am doing. I'm just going by what many people have told me to do and it does get quite confusing since this is the first tank I have ever had. Thanks again, Cindy <While its very good to always get a consensus, that only helps when you understand the science/reasons behind it. Otherwise you just get confused because you cannot discern the bad advice from the good info. My strong advice is for you to pick one local source of information that appears to be successful: like Marc (really savvy chap). And follow one school of thought until you get stabilized and gain a better understanding for what's going on. Best of luck, Anthony>

Re: Removing/Installing new overflow Thanks Bob. Sorry if I confused you. What I basically want to do is remove the center overflow and install another smaller one in its place. The one that is in there now is way too big, its taking up lots of valuable room. And yes its takes away from the depth effect of the tank, this thing is almost 30" long, and the tank is 54" long, so you see why I want to do it. <Yes> Would it be a bad thing to remove my sand and put it in really wide/long/shallow Rubbermaid containers , with just a couple inches of water to cover it ? <Nope... should work out fine... just more work> I have 3 of these storage bins that would hold all the sand, and I would only have a few inches of sand in each , so that way it won't starve for oxygen. What do you think of that? Versus leaving it in... Cause if I leave it in won't it have die off ? Also what is the minimum time for the silicone to be in there before I put the water back in ? Thanks Bob. <Some small amount of die-off to be expected in either case... but acceptable. Bob Fenner>

Tank Setup - 06/11/05 Hello there, my name is Cody and I'm going to buy a 35 gal. salt water tank from a friend. <<Hello Cody...Eric Here.>> It's been running for about a year, it has fish in it.  The question is, when I get it I would like to take out the gravel thats in it and replace it with sand. (white sand). So... I would drain the water out, BUT I won't dump it. I will pour it back in.  Would it mess with the water condition or not? <<This is actually a very good idea Cody as you will be placing "matured" water back in the system.  Be sure to keep the water aerated.>> And plus what about the UGF I would like to get that out of there also. <<I would do this too.>> How would I vacuum the gravel when I do water changes? <<With a fine sand substrate and proper water flow, siphoning may not be necessary.  Do some reading here and at the associated links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/>> Please help me before I go out and spend money that I would be wasting. Thanks <<Regards, Eric R.>>

LIVE SAND SWITCH Hi, <Howdy> I have a 55 gal tank that was originally set up the "old fashion" way with coarse coral and an undergravel filter system.  We have since become  "smarter" and have completely removed the undergravel system and added roughly  45 lbs of live rock.  I really want to get rid of the course coral  substrate and replace it with live sand.  Is there any way to do this  without taking apart the entire system, or can you just add live sand with the  coral??? <Can, could do either..>   Also,  it's mostly a fish tank with some inverts and 1  coral.  It has a Remora protein skimmer and UV light. Thanks, Heidi <The easiest way to switch all out is to use a large diameter siphon... a length of one or more inch diameter plastic tubing to "suck out" the existing substrate, let it settle in a large (lined or new) trash can (non-toxic of course) and pour the water itself back into the tank... until all the old gravel is out... then pour in the (washed) new substrate. Bob Fenner> Help! (big "old" tank, tear-down candidate) I need advice: I have a 220 gallon reef tank with a sand bed that was originally about 5 inches deep. It is now about 3 inches deep. It has been set up about four years. All parameters are fine, except the alkalinity is down somewhat. <Yes... the more easily soluble parts of your substrate have melted... the other two inches... and now there is no ready source of alkaline, biomineral reserve> I now have an algae cesspool....hairy as well as bubble. No matter what I try, it does not get any better. <Mmm, no worries... easy to not ways to fix> I have been told by others that when the sand bed gets this small, it is a nutrient cesspool and needs to be ripped down. (BIG project! - ugh!) I was told it is a nutrient sink and needs started all over. <Not so much a sink... as not a reservoir of carbonates, bicarbonates, calcium...> Are their alternatives? Adding more sand at a time? Stirring it? Additives? I really do not want to rip it apart....it is built into a wall and a real project to do. Thanks! <You can/could do a few things here... I would probably take this system apart at this point (easiest, best, long-term fix)... replace the substrate, add more/replace the live rock, substrate. Please read over the set-up, live rock, marine substrate sections on WetWebMedia.com re specifics. Bob Fenner> Ron Cypher, MD

Re: help! Thanks for the fast (but depressing!) reply. <Ahh, you're welcome... as stated... what I would do... there are some "stop gap" measures you could take... siphoning out part of the substrate (half, side to side...) and replacing it, adding live rock over what you have... I would go the overall tear-down, re-set-up route> Does this mean every four years or so I must rip it apart and start all over? <No... better to at about a year and a half or so start an every year process of renewing/replacing part of the substrate and LR... as detailed on WWM> Are you sure I can't just add more sand??!! :) :) ??? <You could... but wouldn't really "do the job"...> Thanks! Ron PS I loved your speeches in Pittsburgh! <Hopefully as much as I enjoyed presenting them. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: help! One last question: (for now!) <Mmm> would I be better off with just the live rock and a small amount of sand and skipping the deep sand bed? I never realized it required that much maintenance (I have four reef tanks with deep sand beds). <I do use substrates... most systems are far better off with them than not. Bob Fenner> Ron

Sand bed Hello Mr. Fenner, First, I'd like to thank you for all your previous help. You've been a Godsend for me. <A pleasure to serve> I have recently found a store that carries Southdown sand, and I'm going to buy some to replace my horrendously old crushed coral. My question is just a quick two parter: first- does this sound like a good idea? <Yes... good to switch out, augment such substrates about every year...> And, if so, how much should I get? It's a 55gal FOWLR setup, just two tangs (a yellow and a regal/blue/hippo/whathaveyou) and a lonely false perc. <I'd suggest doing half at a time (left or right...) siphoning out (large diameter flexible tubing... and water can be pumped back in... maybe via a Diatom (tm) filter...) old and placing pre-rinsed new in its place (like thirty, forty pounds... but you can get more, use for other half later), wait a good month, siphon, replace other side> Thanks for any insights! ~John <And your intelligent writing. Bob Fenner>

Re: sand bed Shoot! Forgot to mention that it comes in 50 lb. bags. So, for my 55 gallon, do you think/feel I need 2 bags? <Yes... if you have some left over, it can be used for other purposes down the line. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thanks again! ~John

Substrate replacement Hello again, it's me making a nuisance of myself. :D <No nuisance. What we are here for, to help.> I'm getting ready to replace my horribly old crushed coral substrate with Southdown sand. I got two 50 pound bags for my 55 gallon, I believe that should be enough. Am I correct? <Yes, 100 lbs. should give you about 4".> I cleaned one bag of sand last night (thank God my wife didn't wake up during that- she would have shot me if she saw the tub at the end of that...), and it's ready to go in. You had told me to do it one side at a time. I figured I'd do one side tonight and the next side next week... try to let some of the "bugs" (wife terminology mode) move over to the new stuff. <Good idea.> Just as I was all set to proceed, a huge question hit me like a brick. As I scoop up this old CC, it's going to get truly nasty in there. I probably should have coincided this with a water change, huh? <Yes, scooping will make a mess. See if you cannot find some vinyl tubing at the hardware store. 3/4" or 1" inside diameter and about 6' long and try to vacuum it out. Much less messy for the tank. All dirt and gravel goes into buckets.> Sometimes I wish there was no such thing as hindsight... I'd kick myself far less often. Guess I'll just start getting a change together tonight, and save this whole fun project for tomorrow... sigh... ~John <let us know how it turns out. -Steven Pro>

Replacing half of my substrate Bob, My 240 gallon FO tank has been running for a good year now. I want to vacuum out half of my crush coral substrate, and replenish it with new crush coral substrate. So that it will rejuvenate my PH . What do you think ? Good idea? or not? Thanks again, <A very good idea... more input on WWM (marine substrate FAQs) re actual steps to completion. Bob Fenner> Lee

Sand bed questions Good afternoon guys, hope all is well. <Very fine, thanks and I hope you are well too. Anthony> I have had to dose the tank heavily with calcium recently and have realized that I probably need to replace the sand bed after two and a half years. I have about two-three inches of aragonite and now understand that wasn't an optimal depth.  <yes...under three inches in my opinion is very challenging to maintain successfully. Almost impractical to have enough detritivores, water movement, etc. to compensate and prevent it from becoming a nutrient sink> I would like to replace it with live sand. One of my goals is to reduce nitrates.  <then a DSB with sugar-fine aragonite may be your ticket> I have a thirty seven gallon with a new CPR refugium and a Remora skimmer. So if I add about 1/2" in the main tank with 4"-5" in the refugium will that reduce nitrates noticeably? Currently they range from 10-40.  <I seriously doubt that the CPR sized refugium is big enough> I have a B. Cardinal, damsel and Pseudochromis in the tank now, but are only going to keep only the cardinal. I would like to change the tank over to mostly soft corals, with a pair of cardinals. <lovely... and if you are not afraid of them <wink>, do consider a long-spine blue dot urchin (reef safe-yes) if you get a bigger tank to grow up and let the cardinals live naturally among the spines> I currently have Kent bio-sediment in the refugium, would it be best to remove or could I mix with live sand to add extra mineral content?  <I might leave well enough alone (definitely not an endorsement of the Kent product though). I don't subscribe to mixing "magic mud" products and sand too much> I read several categories of the FAQ and it seems that you guys recommend changing half the tank at a time. Would it be a disaster if I did it all at once?  <rather challenging. I prefer to do it that way, but am hesitating to recommend it. I have more time than most people with real jobs to spend on my tanks <G>.> Or maybe the refugium then tank? It is going to be a huge project that I would like to do all at once. On another note I just purchased a R.O./DI unit and notice that I get a lot white sediment when I prepare the water.  <are you aerating it first to drive off the carbonic acid? if not... wasting a lot of buffer and creating insoluble bicarbonates(?)> I usually take about seven gallons add Kent Superbuffer dKH and let it sit a couple of days to come to temp., then add salt. Is this a good method?  <sounds like no aeration. With DI or RO water, it must always e aerated before ANY kind of use afterwards (fresh evap top off, or making seawater)> I guess that the sediment are minerals from the buffer? As always thanks for your help. Lowe <quite welcome. Kind regards, Anthony>

Substrate question <Anthony Calfo> ok - question, the recommended sand bed for denitrification is 3-4". Otherwise keep it shallow to prevent Hydrogen Sulfide release. This is usually using CaribSea Seaflor type of products. However, using the super fine (0.2-1.0m) grain Aragamax they claim that de-nitrification can offer using 1" floors.  <I couldn't disagree anymore with that statement> For safety sake, lets say 2". Is this a safe route to go about building a sandbed using Aragamax at 2" rather than 4 ?  <Their argument is particularly ironic and funny that they only need 1" compared to 4" when all of the aragonite mined for our industry come the same single source (formerly Marcona Industries)...hehe. You just have to love a multi-million dollar industry without consumer watchdogs... I love this country!> I'm not quite willing to go 4" on an 18" tank, but 2" is reasonable ? otherwise, I'll stay shallow at 0.5" or so. <.5 and water changes it is> The other question is, with this fine sand, will it harden and make the lower areas hypoxic rather than anaerobic ? I've been told with non-reef based tank (basically no Kalkwasser), that this will probably not be a problem. <agreed...but, Kalkwasser is not the problem... Misapplied Kalkwasser is the problem with clumping> I imagine the sand sifting organism (hermits, crabs, gobies) will keep sift through it even though it packs down a bit. Any thoughts on using a shallower sand bed (2") with the much finer grain products ? <same as before and before.... 1/2 inch or less... 3+" or more... no in between> Thanks Ed <Anthony>

Switching to a Sand Bed Hello, I have read through so much on your site and I am still in search for my answer. Great site though. I am wanting to switch from crushed coral to a sand bed. I am currently using crushed coral and an undergravel filter. I have read that you can put a screen on the crushed coral and put sand on top. <A truly horrible idea. I have seen it done once with disastrous results.> I want to completely remove the crushed coral <Yes, much better to start from scratch and build/create a DSB versus converting an UG into a sand bed.> but I am unsure of how to set up my power heads to create water movement. <Many models have clips that allow them to hang from the tank trim. Other use suction cups to cling to the glass, not as good.> I will not be able to use the tubes they are currently in because they will suck the sand up. Do I get rid of the power heads and is there something else to use for this? <If you have a sump, you can use a larger return pump. If not, you may want to consider adding one with your DSB project.> Any suggestions will help. <Do you have a quarantine tank? Can you relocate your fish to that tank? Getting rid of the UG is going to take sometime to develop a different source of nitrifying bacteria. Much to think about, discuss here. Do read as much as possible about where you want your tank to go, what direction, FOWLR, reef, etc.> Also I have seen DIY sites that run pvc pipe under the sand bed. What is the reason of this and would it be beneficial to do so? <Some use PVC in creating a plenum, as in Dr. Jaubert's methodology.> Thanks, Jass <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Switching to a Sand Bed II Thanks for the fast response. <You are welcome.> I am heading towards a reef aquarium. I once had quite a bit of corals but an unfortunate accident happened and killed all of them along with most of my fish. <Sorry to hear about that.> At the moment, the only coral I have is a frogspawn. I am waiting to add anymore till after my switch to the live sand. I don't have a sump right now but I would like to add one soon. My tank is a 50 gallon and I also have a 40 that is not in use at this time. I plan to move everything to the 40 while I convert. <Good plan. Do establish some biological filtration that is easily movable, a canister filter if you have one or simple sponge filters work well.> The power heads I have are the suction cup type. My concerns were that without the tubing could this suck a fish or anything to it. <A simple trick is to put a Bioball onto the intake. This acts as an extra screen to keep small fish and snails out of harms way.> Sounds like I just need to get rid of this suction cup type and get something else. <See if you cannot make these work for your application first. I hate to waste stuff. Even using the suction cups and plastic wire ties to keep the pump from falling down and blowing sand all of the place would work. -Steven Pro> Thanks

Cleaning decor/replacing substrate You guys are doing a stellar job as always.  <Thanks kindly!> The time has come to change the crushed coral bed in my 72gal aquarium. I keep getting hair algae and believe it is due to waste and uneaten food buildup.  <especially if deep, such course media can be a nutrient trap/sink. Indeed requiring frequent gravel siphoning and very strong water movement in the display> I was wondering if I change the bed all at once or in stages,  <stages if it is used biologically (UG/substrate filter)... else all at once is possible. Do monitor water chemistry closely either way for a week or two afterwards and be prepared to do extra water changes> and whether straining, bleaching, and rinsing it is a viable alternative to purchasing new crushed coral? I'm tight on money and every bit helps at this point. Thank you, <really not worthwhile to reuse in this application. However, if the bed is static and aesthetics only it can and should be very thin (1/2 or less).> Mark Hill <best regards, Anthony>

Substrate Questions Bob, If indeed it is you today :) <Nope, Steven in today.> I am about to setup my refugium....I started a new 180 tank with new substrate Aragamax Select and this time only put 2 inches as apposed to the 4 inches that was in the old 108 tank <Better to pick either a DSB or a thin for looks only layer (less than 1").> the reason is I want to put the DSB in the refugium which will be pretty small...about 25 gallons ( I also have a sump) I know people seed new tanks with substrate from existing tanks.... and it was recommended NOT to use the old substrate (can't remember the reason) so I was wondering...Can I take the substrate out of the old tank (which is still running) and transfer it to the refugium, at least? <Sure> Should I bother seeding the new tanks substrate... <Of course!> You see I am worried that after only a week of being setup if I transfer all the inhabitants, coral and fish, they will die since the new tank has not cycled... which I have not choice to do... (you see the old tank is still in my old apartment and the new one in my new house.) <If you are using all new liverock too, yes best to wait. If you are moving all that at the same time with the fish and corals, no real big problems if done right and fast enough. You will want to watch for any ammonia spikes, but if they occur, they should be small.> So those are my questions.....Transfer substrate to refugium? <Yes> Seed either or both? <Both> How deep in such a small refugium? depend in grain size? <Over 4" of very fine sand.> Thanks for your help, Regards, Robert <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Substrate Questions Follow-up Thanks Steve... <You are welcome.> Yes I am moving 173lbs of live rock...I am moving a bit of an algae problem...even bought 150 snails but they keep getting eaten so now the plan is to move 99% of my hermits (the killers) to the refugium and keep just the tiniest ones in the main, and add about 200 snails. How does that sound? <Like a very good plan. I personally do not use many hermit crabs. I just do not trust them. I will use a few scarlet reef hermits.> The current 180 has 440 of VHO's. The new has 2x250W 6500 MH's and 1x250W 10000 MH with 2x165W Actinics coming on in stages... total peak is 1080W which is more than double the 440W... Keeping in mind I have to move the corals and fish within one week...Any advice to reduce shock to life forms? <Yes, use a lot of screening to cut back on the lighting. Anthony and I have both described the process in other FAQ's. Use multiple layers of window screen to shade the tank to the approximate light level on the old lights. Then remove one layer of screen every few weeks until all layers removed.> Thanks again for the great info....Robert <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Adding more live rock, sandbed and tank Renovation. 7/31/05 Hello again, <Hey Frank!> Ali, I wanted to say thank you for the quick reply! I have a follow up question. I will be following your recommendations to replace the substrate with a 4 - 6" deep sand bed. It looks like the sand you recommended is a 1 to 2 mm grain size. I have heard a lot of opinions on .2 to 1mm sand vs. 1 to 2mm sand. Do you think you might be able to give me your opinion on the different grain sizes and why you recommended the grain size / sand that you did. <Go with the .5-1mm grain sized sand. CaribSea Aragamax Oolitic Select Reef Sand is pretty much the ideal sand for deep sand beds. Several vendors including most 'local reef stores' carry this very popular sand. You have two options here: 1. Siphon out all of your crushed coral substrate, put all live stock in bins, drain the tank, add sand bed, SLOWLY refill tank causing minimal disturbance, wait until the tank is totally clear then proceed to add live stock after careful acclimation. 2. Siphon out apprx. 90% of your crushed coral, leaving just a 1/4-1/8" bed, (covering just the bottom of the tank for aesthetic purposes) and plumbing in an additional sand filter to your tank. For example, a 40 gallon breeder with a 4-6" sandbed plumbed into your existing sump.   Option #2 will be much less work and stress on the animals, however it will require an additional tank (taking up space). On the bright side, you'll be able to keep your nitrate levels in check and the 40 gallon side tank will act as a fully functional refugium as well.> Thank you, Frank <No problem Frank, good luck with the tank renovation. It'll require some careful planning and hard work, however it'll be worth it in the long run. Bust out some cold brewskis and get to work! :) Ali>

Moving A Sand Bed...Or Not - 08/02/05 Dear Mr. Fenner, <<EricR are here tonight.>> Yours is a wonderful site with information which has always been useful.  I'm in the process of moving my 75 gal FOWLR tank to my new home, 15 minutes away.  I read in your earlier mails that you suggest not moving the sand bed, but establishing a new sand bed seeded with some sand from the existing bed. <<Yes>> Considering that it will not take me more than an hour to move the existing sand, will you still suggest that I go with a new sand bed? As usual, your suggestion will be highly valuable. Best Regards Sumit Mumbai <<Well Sumit, the issue is not the time it takes to move the bed, but rather the physical action required to do so.  The sand bed is made up of "layers" of bacteria and micro- and macro-biota.  These life forms are designed/adapted to live at these differing depths/levels of oxygen.  When you "scoop up" the bed in to buckets for transport, you "mix" these layers causing a massive die-off of much of the life within the sand bed, thus creating a pollution problem when placed back in the tank.  For this reason I think it's in your best interest to start again with new sand "seeded" from the old bed.  Regards, EricR>> Substrate question I have about a 2.5 inch bed of crush coral in my 55 gallon tank. I want to add another inch of Flamingo Pink on top of the crush coral, is this OK or will it kill a lot of my biological in my crush coral? Also would the Flamingo Pink be ok with gobies (stirrers). Thanks, Jim >> Should be okay... density, size wise of the new/old substrates... with the gobies as well... but will the two mixing together be okay with you lookswise? They will. Bob Fenner

I have been using marine sand Hi, Well, for about a year now I have been using marine sand at the bottom of my 72 gallon all marine fish tank. Throughout the year during water changes the sand would get sucked out little by little over time or would get so cover with algae that I would remove some. So now I am left with sand barely covering the bottom of the tank. I went and got Carib Sea "Aruba Puka" and "Florida Crushed Coral," my question is how do I go about adding this to my tank without disturbing the fish or the bio system in the tank. I have four fish, a Powder Blue Tang, Emperor Angle, Hawk Fish and a Flame Angel. Any help would be greatly appreciated. >> If it were up to me... I'd gingerly rinse/wash the new substrate in freshwater, with a garden hose, swirling about ten pound batches at a time within a soap/detergent et al. free bucket... and then simply "pour in place" the new material... You can be a little more discrete, by moving the present decor over to a side at a time, as you introduce the new substrate to the other... Should be no big change in bio-cycling... Bob Fenner

I am setting up a 110 gal. reef tank My question has to do with substrates. Local fish stores recommend not using any substrate. They say that every tank they know of has problems within 2 to 3 years of set-up. they claim it is easier to keep the tank clean and avoid problems. I would like your opinion of which substrate to use (if any) and how to prevent long term problems. Thanks for any help you can give. Tom Z >> I'm actually a BIG fan of using substrates in almost every type of set-up... maybe with the glaring exception of most culture systems... For looks, psychological benefits to livestock, buffering pH, adding alkalinity and biominerals...  The arguments of cleanliness for excluding substrates are weak IMO, as I also advocate routine maintenance that includes gravel vacuuming in conjunction with partial water changes. My choices in marine substrates include all the more soluble calcium carbonate based materials, Aragonitic grades, crushed corals, collected beach rubble sold under various names. The better grades are small (unless your biotope, livestock call for something else), and uniform in size and shape (spherical is best, to avoid packing, challenging)... of a few inches depth. Some of the alluded to "problems" with old/er substrates can be avoided, in addition to the vacuuming mentioned, by adding, changing some of the substrate (the older it gets, the smoother, and less soluble, thus benefiting the tank less as time goes by). About ten percent after the first year, and about the same every half year after that will prevent any problems originating from a marine substrate.  Bob Fenner

Changing gravel Hi Bob Fenner, I've got a 55 gal Berlin system, with ~60 lbs live rock, setup for about six months. I want to change the substrate from aragonite gravel to a much smaller aggregate aragonite sand. I've already exchanged 1/3 of it a week ago, now I'm considering changing the remaining 2/3rd's in one shot. I fear loosing the bacteria from the gravel will cause ammonia or nitrite spikes. I have a fairly light bio load with a total of 9 fish, the largest two being a 3" Hippo and 3" Coral Beauty.  >> Don't be overly concerned... the odds are vastly that you won't experience any noticeable amounts of nitrogenous intermediates... the live rock has much more biota and response than you'll very likely need. Not to worry. Bob Fenner

Changing gravel Hi Bob Fenner, I've got a 55 gal Berlin system, with ~60 lbs live rock, setup for about six months. I want to change the substrate from aragonite gravel to a much smaller aggregate aragonite sand. I've already exchanged 1/3 of it a week ago, now I'm considering changing the remaining 2/3rd's in one shot. I fear loosing the bacteria from the gravel will cause ammonia or nitrite spikes. I have a fairly light bio load with a total of 9 fish, the largest two being a 3" Hippo and 3" Coral Beauty. <Hmm, just responded to a very similar question. No problems with the change.>  Although I prefer the appearance of the sand to the gravel, the reason for trying to push this change through is I believe it might be a source of nutrients for Cyanobacteria ( Red and Green) that has been difficult to stop. I've slowed it down by removing all mechanical filtration, doing 10% water changes every week, and I've scraped it off my LR with a toothbrush more than once. It's a very hearty species! I'm also looking to add some macro-algae, but would like to complete this gravel change first.  <More at play here with the BGA/Cyano... read over the algae pieces and faq's on our site re courses of action/causes: Home Page > Do you think my LR will support the bio load while the new sand gets established? <Yessirree Bob> Do you know any magic tricks for removing gravel? <Yes again. The best method bar none (IMO) is a large diameter flexible piece of tubing (3/4, 1" i.d.) to siphon the gravel out... pour the water back in (cloudy, I know)... in a short while, done! And the water will clear... and help cycle the new gravel> Any suggestions for species (and source) of macro-algae? ( I have a Yellow Tang in a Refugium that will be coming back) <Various tropical Caulerpas and Halimedas... again, refer to macro-algae input on the WWM site.> Any other words of wisdom? <Use sunscreen, sing, and don't worry too much.> As always your time is much appreciated! Regards, Craig Douai <Anytime my friend, Bob Fenner>

Substrate materialBob , I currently have a 120 with about 40lbs of fine powdery marine sand as substrate (1/2 - 3/4 inch). I have a fish that sifts this and the sand gets deposited all over everything . What do you think about adding 40 lbs of a coarser substrate over the top of the sand. Thanks, Odlaw <Sounds like a good idea... the two will mix (of course)... but as long as there's enough space/volume for the smaller material to settle "in between"  you should be fine (pun intended)... with much less settling problems. Bob Fenner>

O2, Substrate Questions Hi again Bob, You'll remember me I imagine. <Yes my friend> Ok, I warned you I would ask a substrate question, and here it is. But first... You suggested I add more air circulation for my 40 breeder. I'm running the Ecosystem filter. There's a Rio600 as the output for the algae mud sump. ><Can be tested with gear... but livestock are best indicator... Would add an >airstone, other surface disruption, perhaps a submersible pump, powerhead to >mix water more thorough/vigorously> I was thinking I would put a powerhead at the opposite end to where the output is. I'm thinking that I won't use a Rio, as there have been many complaints on the net about them. Any suggestions of a quiet powerhead? Also I was thinking that something rated 110-200 gal? Is this ok? <Yes> I'd prefer to stay away from the air pump, as these are very noisy. <Some of them... there are others that are whisper quiet... but the bubbles?> Ok, now to the infamous substrate question. One not such good idea I got from Ecosystems was not to use substrate. I didn't like the looks. So I added 20 lbs of LS. Needless to say this isn't lasting so long. I still haven't picked up all the diatom bloom (that I don't even have anymore, just there so I could still have substrate). <Okay> Anyway I would like to add some more. The stuff I have is LS that comes in a bag (I assume bacteria only)? Does it matter if I just cover what's left of it? <Can be done> I was thinking of adding some aragonite (maybe the Southdown tropical play sand from Home depot, I have heard this is the same stuff as regular aragonite that CaribSea makes? Do you know about using this?  <Yes, very similar, and yes> And adding some more LS. Perhaps I can get some LS some a LFS that has been in an established tank? Any problems with this idea. <None, really> Oh yeah there have been a couple comments on good LFS in the Chicago area. It isn't glitzy but my vote is for Ocean Design. He quarantines his fish for two weeks in separate quarantine tanks. He also doesn't carry fish or other creatures that don't tend to do well. So no Mandarins, Cleaner Wrasses, Flower pot corals, etc. etc. <Very commendable. Send my regards please> Another vote for Marine Connection which isn't exactly local, and is online at www.marine-connection.com. <Will check out> Both of them will advice against buying certain creatures, even if it would cut into their profits. <Which it doesn't... in the not-so-long-haul... Obviously, folks who are mis-led, otherwise mis-informed/uninformed are going to "fail" in their pet-fish endeavors and leave the hobby (and business as customers)... so not-rendering useful information in significant, meaningful, accurate ways is entirely self-defeating... You may make "some" sales now, but in the long term... > Thanks again for your help! --Jane J <Thank you for yours. Bob Fenner>

Toxic rocks? I recently set up two aquariums and one of the tanks I can't get to cycle. All I have in this tank is crushed coral in the bottom and so rocks for decoration. is it possible that the rocks are polluting the tank. they appear to look like lava rock but not sure. <Yes... this IS possible... you could test for this with a simple bio-assay... boiling the rock, testing the cooled-down water...> could you give me some help on this. its driving me crazy.........thanks <If it were me/mine, I would add some live rock to the system, maybe pull the volcanic... and check through all the standard approaches for establishing cycling posted on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com under "Biological Filtration" and related FAQs... Bob Fenner>

Substrate mistake Dear Mr. Fenner, I've found your site helpful and thorough--enough to avoid writing in when I've had questions in the past.  <Ah, don't think I will, nor could any handful of people live long, well enough to put "enough" on such sites... the process continues... very enjoyably> However, I think I've erred on a point I did not see in your FAQ's: <Not surprisingly!> The error: I reused substrate from a FW tank in my SW tank. The substrate is 2-3 mm rounded black rock from a Baja beach that was previously in my cichlid tank for years. Before adding to the SW tank, it was cleaned, sterilized and dried for about 14 months. Also reused 2 chunks of misc. granite and lava. The gravel depth varies from 1 - 2 inches. <Yikes...> The problem: 1) I have diatoms and green microalgae. <Yes, and...> However... I substantially upgraded the lighting 17 days ago--Hence the uncontrollable algae <In part... there is likely a surfeit of minerals that is driving all this as well... and a disenfranchisement of predators (of the algae) and competing forms...> My questions: 1) Should the substrate be removed? <Maybe... I probably would> 2) Is the algal bloom indicative of incorrect substrate and rock or, more likely, my lack of patience until some type of homeostasis is reached? <A bit of both... probably more of the former> 3) Can SW tanks safely have driftwood in them? (Mine doesn't at the moment) Curious only. <Great question... have seen this done (mainly "overseas")... > I've included more-precise tank parameters at the end of this message, if needed. <Ah, good> Best regards, Andy Tank parameters: Type: Fish, Invert, LR Up-time: 4 mo. Size: 60G Long Sump: 30G Sump feed: Two single overflow boxes. Sump return: Two Rio 1700's at 4' head W/D Bio area: 12"x12"x12" (homemade) Skimmer: AquaC Urchin (works well but have no baseline comparison) Mech: HOT Magnum 250 carbon media U/V: 15 W LR: 95 lbs Lighting: 4.8 w/G (288w total CF 10,000K and 6,000K blue) Additional powerheads: 2 Water test: SG: 1.0225 Temp: 78F PH 8.2 to 8.4 Ammon: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: Negligible with current test kit(s) Bioload: 1 Cowfish, Lactoria cornuta (juvenile) 1 Blue surgeon, Paracanthurus hepatus 1 Yellow tang, Zebrasoma flavescens 1 Yellowtail damsel, Microspathodon chrysurus (uncatchable) 3 Brittlestars (up to 6") 100's of small ones 4 Emerald Mithrax crabs 4 Peppermint shrimp Lysmata wurdemanni 1 Sally Lightfoot crab (not a true Sally Lightfoot but can't find proper name match with pic) Misc scarlet and blue hermits Misc Turbo snails (about 20) Macroalgae (various--doing well) <Surprising, "whatever" this re-used substrate is "doing" that it doesn't kill the crabs, shrimp...> Maintenance: 15G Water change every other Saturday 2G Kalkwasser drip (homemade thingy)<Good> Tapwater is carbon and micro-filtered but not RO. <I would change out the gravel... but keep the old... soaking in marine water... for later use on a "Baja" biotopic presentation... Bob Fenner, just back from the "corridor" at the tip... cold water, lots of sewerage in it... and the waves middling... but hopeful about pix!>

Live Sand/Substrate Questions Bob, Some time ago, we discussed adding some live sand from a reef tank that is being dismantled to my 65 gallon tank that has crushed coral on the bottom. My crushed coral is about 2 years old and I get the feeling that I should be changing some of it out. WetWebMedia suggests "periodic" changing of about 1/3 of this substrate. How often is periodic?  <After a year and a half or so the first time, every six-eight months thereafter...> Should a drop in KH level be used as an indicator? <Yes> I assume new crushed coral would reduce or eliminate the need for pH buffer (baking soda, etc.). Is this true? <Along with periodic water changes will largely eliminate the need for in "non-boosted" systems... However, folks with intense lighting, a great deal of biomineralizing livestock very often find they have to augment for pH (biomineral, alkaline components)> In the message below, you suggest I consider the live sand "if it's not ages old." How old is ages? <About the same time frame... a year and a half or more...> Can I add it on top of the crushed coral? <Yes> Thanks for your help, <You're welcome. Bob Fenner> John P.S. My wife Wally and I just had a baby boy, Stephen, on the 11th. I think he's really going to like the fish tank! <Congratulations. I am sure he will.>

Bigger is Better (tank size, beer as well) Hi Bob, (or is it Lorenzo), <Bob today, though I hope Zo will come back and host from time to time> Well I finally got my calcium reactor, but have not yet set it up. As you won't recall (who would with all these hobbyists) I have a fairly heavily stocked 75 reef with fish. I have a 20 gallon sump with live sand and Caulerpa, and about 90 lbs of live rock, and 2 inches of live sand in the display tank. I am in the process of buying a 150, but intend to keep the 75 for a California stingray or two. I had very good luck with a prior 'ray until I decided to add a Queen Angel. I intend to move all my rock and animals to the 150, and put "some" new rock into the 75 for biological filtration. The questions are: Would it be okay to put mostly new dead sand in the 150, and just scoop out say 20lbs of my current sand bed to sprinkle over the new sand? <Yes, a valid approach> How many pounds makes four+ inches in a 150? <Hmm, about 3-400 or so> What do you think I should temporarily put in the 75 to keep the system going until I can find a ray? <A bunch of macro-algae, damsel or two, perhaps some polyps of sorts...> Thanks, Marty (keeping the brew cold for you in Dallas) <Still counting on this. Bob Fenner>

Changing substrate & time Dear Bob, After hassling with a hair algae problem for about 1.5 years, and talking with various experts at several different locations, (you inc.) I decided to change out my substrate to a mixture of Carib-sea Aragamax and FFE live sand. After about 15 hrs. of extreme TLC and many words that are not printable, the task was completed. <I hear you> It has now been 3 weeks to the day, and the results are great. There is no re-growth of hair algae to speak of, and the 2 50 gal. cleanup crews, (thank God for turbo-grazers) <And the hair algae...> , are taking care of what is left. All my corals and other finny critters are doing fine, after what must have been a very traumatic experience for them. My question (questions) is, would this be like setting up a new tank? <Yes, in most respects> I re-used quite a bit of water from the "old" system to refill the tank after the process was complete. All the LR was scrubbed with a toothbrush to remove the nasties. How long should one be expecting to wait to see if this changeover actually worked? <You have seen it> 80 gal. tank. water parameters all good except the iodine level 0.04 ca @ 400, alk. 9-10, mg. 1300, nitrate<10ppm. Oh yeah, one more thing. I have recently been seeing where the addition of "Kalk" is not exactly the thing to do. <About time... I've been against this archaic, toxic practice from day one...> A friend of mine has been using a product called "Aragamite" from Carib-sea to do her buffering and calcium adds. What do you know about this product and it's results? <Yes... basically (pun intended) it's finely ground "old reef"... in effect, much like wave action in the wild, many calcium reactor designs... Bob Fenner> Thanx for your input, Charlie Ehlers.

If I'm bugging you, let me know!!! :) (switching out substrates) It's me again. 55g FO with LR cycling. Tank up for 2 1/2 years. Flame angel, tomato clown, cleaner shrimp, brittle star and a few hermits. I am thinking of changing out my CC for sand before adding the LR. What do you think of this plan? <Maybe a good idea... functionally to replenish the alkaline reserve, bit of biomineral such material will afford in the place of your likely exhausted crushed coral... and esthetically, nice to have a change> Home Depot Southdown Sand 35g Rubbermaid Tub (not trashcan) Nylons Crushed Coral (Aragonite) from 2 ½ year old established tank Water from tank Place sand in Rubbermaid tub Add water from main tank into tub Fill nylons with CC from tank (make 6-8 softball size packets) Place nylon packets half way into new sand Have heater (if necessary) and powerheads in tub Rotate nylon packets and stir sand daily Allow the packets to seed bed for 1 week or longer Here are my questions: Will the sand cycle? <Oh yes... you likely will observe "no change" in the water in terms of ammonia, nitrite...> If so, follow the procedure for curing LR? <I'd cure it in place if not "too much" material for this system (like one box/ forty five or so pounds... and not too "un-cured" to start with. If more, or real stinky, let it cure in the Rubbermaid... or if a lot of material (like two boxes), one box in place, the other the tub.> After my newly acquired LF and the sand cycle, can I add both to my established 55g at one time? <Yes> I understand I will have some cloudiness. I do have a mechanical filter. Should I run carbon? <A good idea> Should the fish be removed from the tank until the cloud settles down? <Probably not necessary... it will be obvious if they need to be> From what I have read, adding sand to an established tank would cut down on the cloudiness if prepared in a separate container before hand. <Yes> What cleanup crew for sand? Hermits, snails, etc.? FFE has 2 cleanup crews depending on FO or reef. <Read up, assemble your own mix... you can read my opinions in various places on this topic on the WetWebMedia.com site...> I am planning on turning this tank into a reef in the next couple of months. Would it be OK to get the reef cleanup crew? <Sure> Thanks once again, Mr. Fenner!!! Susie <You're certainly welcome. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Two More Questions (marine substrates) Bob, I have a few questions I left out of my last email. First has to deal with substrate. I have a pistol shrimp and two watchman gobies; right now they are burrowing all throughout the live rock structure and having quite a happy time of it. Would it make any sense for me to add some larger size live sand to my bed of 100% Fiji Pink live sand? <Yes... easier to have the burrows hold their shape> If you are familiar with the names, I was thinking of "Bermuda Pink" or "Super Reef" size sand, and just a little to let them play with the variation in their burrow a bit. I have had someone else say not to; what's your take? <Really like the Bermuda Pink> Second, are you familiar with compact fluorescent lighting? If so, how does it compare to normal fluorescent, in terms of brightness and bulb life. My info says that they are 3 times as bright and last 12-18 months. However, someone recently disputed this and said that all fluorescents are the same and need to be replaced every six months. Any input, such as a watts per gallon recommendation for power compact lighting? I have 384 watts on my 29 gallon reef (very crazy!). <Please read through the Marine Lighting sections, onto the CF FAQs posted on our site... starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/lighting1MAR.htm> Last, would it be acceptable to have a saltwater tank (fish or reef) with live rock (1.5 + lbs/gallon), live sand (no more than 4" deep), a sump and a good protein skimmer as the filtration? <Sure> As a separate idea, would it be acceptable to have a reef with 2 pounds per gallon of live rock, 3" of live sand, and a canister filter (skimming from the surface) as the only filtration? <Could be made to work...> Thanks, Ben <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

Mixing marine substrates Thanks Bob for the blazingly fast response! One can almost think you wear your computer around with you. <Have been accused as being a device itself> You mention mixing the two substrates and indeed I thought of that. But wouldn't the finer sand find its way to the bottom defeating the purpose? <Yes, depending on which one is actually more/less dense, a greater proportion of the one mixed in below/above more> If that isn't a big deal, then I will begin the process tomorrow. <Not that big a deal. Bob Fenner> Zimmy

Re: Moving Tanks Hi Jason, <<Hello.>> Thanks for your advice. Really appreciate it. <<No problem, my pleasure.>> As for the substrate, how bad is it to mix sugar size with crushed coral? <<not bad at all, I would think.>> Should I remove all of it and start with one size? <<nah...>> Thanks again for your 7x24x365 service! <<Glad I can be of help.>> Brian <<Cheers, J -- >>

Question about substrate Bob, Is it possible to replace an existing substrate that consists of crushed coral and live sand with pink Samoa sand (that is not live)?  <Yes> Would it be feasible to pull everything from an existing tank out, put them temporarily in another tank or container, then place pink Samoa sand in the tank and re-fill the tank with live rock/live stock? <Yes, but would be better by far that the live rock was cured... in the system ahead of the change-out> The reason I am asking is because per my local LFS guru, if my nitrates' level is not dropping (the tank is 4 months old) it may be because my substrate isn't working properly (the substrate is 3-4 inches thick)(?) <This is a good depth... nitrates can exist, rise for many reasons.> He recommended either Aragamax sand or something equivalent (Samoa sand). By performing the above though, wouldn't that destroy all de-nitrifying bacteria? <Mmm, certainly the ones in the existing substrate. But there are many more, likely sufficient populations on the live rock, other surfaces in the tank> Assume that I would keep the water. Also, at what point would the livestock have to be re-introduced to the tank? <A day or so after re-setting up should be fine> Would Aragamax or pink Samoa sand be more effective than Florida live sand w/ crushed coral at keeping the nitrates' level low? <Yes... Please read the FAQs here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqs.htm and the FAQs, article files linked beyond. Bob Fenner> Thanks, D.

Re: Question about substrate Hi Bob, The substrate has been replaced. I removed the old crushed coral/sand and replaced it with (40 lb 2 1/2 inch thick) of Samoa Pink sand. Looks better and nitrates seem to be down to less than 5. Also, my nitrite readings seem to be closer to 0, even though with this Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit (using a color scheme) is hard to be accurate. Would you suggest a better test kit? <Not necessarily for nitrates, but in general, yes: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm> I did go ahead and introduced a 3 1/2 inch Kole tang to my main 55 g tank, and this is where I got confused. The LFS "specialist" suggested no fresh water dip because supposedly it stresses fish out tremendously(?) <Less stressful (to you especially) than introducing pests, parasites with the new livestock...> I did not perform the fw dip, but I did quarantine the tang for half a day. He looked bored so this morning I placed him in the bigger tank. He seems to be getting along fine with the yellow tang, and has been grazing on the glass or rock. Do these bristle mouth tangs eat hairy green) algae or will I need a Mithrax crab for that? <Please read the WWM site.> Also, there seems to be an accumulation of a white cottony thing on my maroon clown's head every time the lights come on, but when they are off it seems to go away(?) It looks like it is propagated by light. <Keep an eye on this... and read about clown disease... where?> At last, my water flow is supported by the Penguin 330 filter, 1 Rio 600 power head, 1 Maxi jet 1200 and a Remora skimmer with an MJ 1200 as well. Is that enough? I know I asked this question again, however I just want to make sure no fish dies out of hypoxia. <Please see circulation, aeration FAQs....> Btw, your site is excellent; need to find time to read more... <Learn to use the Search Tool. Bob Fenner> D.

Aragonite I have a 75 gal trickle overflow with a 20 gal sump that is large enough to handle a 15 tank and is working good water spec are great the only problem I have is that my ph stay at 7.9 or 8.0 I add Kalk by slow drip but after the one gal bottle empties it goes back to the 7.9 - 8.0 I would like to know if the original aragonite that I put is the tank eventually looses its punch  <All substrates do> or may be I don't have enough  <A distinct possibility> got about120 lbs live rock I got about an half inch under the rocks and about one inch and a half in the front of the rocks fine to med grain should I had more and if so how much do you think this would help I have a med to heavy load of live coral and about six small fish would increasing the amount on the bottom be the solution THANKS <Maybe... but look into more of your background in water chemistry here... You'd be better off with a "two part" supplement system to bolster your alkalinity (give up the Kalk)... and best with a simple calcium reactor. Please read over these areas on our WWM site, starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm and onto the many linked files, FAQs listed. Bob Fenner>

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