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FAQs about Marine Substrates Moving/Replacement/Addition 2

Related Articles: Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Deep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biofiltration, Denitrification, Live Sand, Live Rock, Biominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity

Related FAQs: Moving/Replacing/Adding To 1, 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


New System Setup\Stocking 3/12/2009
Hello, you guys are great!...but here is my dilemma:
<Hello, thanks, and lets hear your problem.>
I just attempted to setup a 55 gal tank today.
<Welcome to the hobby.>
I have two powerheads on each side of tank, AquaC Remora protein skimmer w/pump, added my water, salt, and put 40 lbs of CaribSea "live sand" into the tank.
<Did you mix up the water before hand?>
When I added the live sand the tank went completely brown.
<Heheh.... normal.>
Its been several hours now and hasn't really cleared up, but the protein skimmer is working its butt off.
<No surprise there.>
Did I completely mess up the tank or will it all settle?
<It will settle, by morning it will be much better.>
I also need to spread the "live sand" around because I can see where it didn't cover the bottom in some places.
<Move it around in the morning, expect it to cloud up again.>
Sorry for the NEWB questions, but couldn't find the answer elsewhere.
<Try here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/marsetupindex1.htm
Here is a piece I wrote a few months back detailing my setup
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/first_steps.htm >
Thanks for your time!
<My Pleasure, Mike>

Re. New System Setup\Stocking 3/13/2009 Cloudy aquarium after adding

Well, it wasn't settled in the morning....should I turn off everything, such as my protein skimmer and power heads, and just see if it settles on its own?
<You can turn everything off. It will settle with time.>

Re. New System Setup\Stocking 3/15/2009 Cloudy aquarium after adding substrate. 3/15/09
Everything started to settle today and i could see through my aquarium, so I turned everything back on and the powerheads began to blow the sand throughout the tank again which made it cloudier than the last time....are my powerheads too powerful?
<That, or your substrate is too fine. Get everything leveled out, then add a thin layer of coarser substrate to hold everything down.>

Sand Bed... SW? Adding to/replacing... no reading, referral  2/6/09 Hello Crew! <Hi> I just have one really quick question for you all. I currently have about a 1" sand bed in a tank that is about a year old. Should I ever add more sand or just leave it be? <You may want to replace a little of it every year to replace the buffering capacity, otherwise I would not worry about it too much.> Also, if I should add it, how do I do that without clouding up the water? Thanks for your help on this. <Not really possible, rinsing it first before adding will help cut down on the cloudiness, but you will still experience a fair amount of suspended sand for a few days.> Matt <Chris>

Replacing crushed coral substrate with aragonite sand 1/26/09 I've had my 125 mixed reef up and running for a little over 2 years. For most of the time, I considered it an "underachiever". Corals (LPS & softies) grew poorly if at all.... Fish seemed to do much better. Not a heavy fish load, just one 3" Scopas, a 2" Longnose Hawk, and three 2-3" fairy wrasses. I feed only 1 cube well rinsed frozen mysis every 2-3 days. I am vigilant about keeping my parameters in line. pH 8.0-8.2, Ca 375-450, Alk 7-10 DKH, Mg 1400+ I am using 2 Koralia 3's, 5 Maxijets, and an Eheim 1262 for flow. I have no measureable ammonia, or nitrites. Nitrates held below 20 with Chaeto in sump & 25 gallon monthly water changes. <Really still too high.> I top off about 1 gallon Kalkwasser & 1 gallon RO water daily. I dose baking soda for alkalinity daily, Do flake solution for Calcium when necessary, and Epsom salts / Kent Tech M for magnesium as needed. I have very little coralline growth. About 2 months ago, hair algae sprouted up FAST in my tank. My RO tested at 2 ppm TDS. I began to look for other sources of trouble. I think I found it. My aquascaping is of the "fruit stand" style. <Oranges, peaches.maybe a few bad apples!> I have about 150-175 lbs liverock in the tank. Whilst taking my oldest sons toothbrush to the hair algae, <Nice!> I found what could be described as detritus "dust bunnies" nestled amongst some rocks........ So I cleaned them out, and started to run GFO & carbon thinking I had my problem licked. No such luck. Hair algae flourished like barn cats on a dairy farm. So after digging a little further, I found more "dust bunnies" in my rockwork (I'm assuming from being to closely positioned or tightly packed). <Yes, perhaps just dead spots in the flow allowing accumulation there.> I removed about 1/4 of my liverock, and siphoned / basted, filtered out a ton of goo. I repositioned the rock slightly for better flow, less gunk collection. I also noticed that no matter how much flow I directed at my crushed coral substrate, It never seemed clean, and occasionally would give birth to a detritus tumbleweed. <The endearing quality of crushed coral!> Soooooooooo......... To make a short story long.......... I siphoned out as much of the crushed coral as I could (probably 80% of the total). The other 20 % has formed serious concretions in places. I have eggcrate wall to wall on the floor of an aquarium. Finally, my question........ I purchased 100 lbs aragonite "sugar sized sand" today. How should I go about placing it into my tank? Do I need to cycle it in another tank / tub ? <No.> Do I just need to rinse it and put it in ??? <Yes.> After I put it in, can I expect my tank to cycle again ? <No, not with your current sand bed.> I would like to do it without removing my corals or fish if possible. <Well, anyway you do it will end up clouding the tank for a bit, but all will be fine. In the past I have taken a funnel and some tubing to pour the sand init helps a bit.> Your expert advice is eagerly awaited. Thanks for your time, Jim <Welcome and thank you for the fun read! Scott V.>

Re: Another Algae email... substrate, LR change outs/additions, pod culture, comp.   12/31/09 Hi Bob, Thanks for the info. It sent me in all the right directions. I would like for you to clarify for me on your recommendation to change out some of the substrate (and LR in time), is it (in your estimation) a lack of biological activity or is it a lack of buffering/tract elements capacity? <Actually both these are primary reasons> I am thinking that I will just scoop a few cups off of the top of the LS and scrap the rest and change out all at once and re-seed the new. <Okay> I have the opportunity to do so when I drill the overflow, as the tank will be empty. Or should I have a little more patience and replace in thirds over several months. <This would be better> Can I re-use any of the current sand after rinsing. <Mmm, yes... though it will be less soluble... a "neat" experiment can be done short or longer term... the short one might involve some "new" sand and your old... of the same depth/volume and/or weight... mixed in with water, some dilute acid (perhaps just vinegar)... and having a few days go by... remeasuring both samples... Longer term, if you had two aquarium settings you could do the same sort of experiment, measuring before and after... You will find that the "older" sand dissolves more slowly> Aragonite sand is expensive and I would like about 5-6" depth. I have 2 kidneys and can sell... well, never mind :). All joking aside, I want to make the smartest decision. <Adding a bit more new live rock would be even superior... biologically> The algae on the sand bed does feel slimy. Silky may describe more accurate. Descriptions are subjective. I do wish I had a microscope. <I wish every household did... and the curiosity to use it... Costs much less than (for many folks monthly) cable TV...> Also, my bulb on the HQI 150w over the refugium-to-be is about 16 months old. It is a 10,000K... do I need to replace with a new bulb for the Chaeto? <How many hours do you run it? Do you have a PAR meter? Does it seem that the green alga is growing too little with it?> A semi-related question. I do not see any copepods in my tank. I shine a flashlight at night and see nothing. I don't think I have ever noticed these at all. Is it possible to have the population completely eradicated and not repopulate? <Yes... is very possible... Hence the "re-inoculation" suggested...> I have literally thousands of amphipods. Again, no fish in my system for 8 months or so. I have an Emerald Crab that will eat them (Copepods), but that is all. I have had shrimp and other Copepod predators before. Could the conditions in my tank have caused them to completely die out at an earlier point - my tank did over heat last summer to about 90F for an afternoon? <Mmm, more likely the former> Do Hermit Crabs dine on Copepods? <Some do, will for sure if they can catch them... Do know that the Copepoda are an enormous assemblage... size, feeding mode et al. very diverse...> I believe I have read on WWM somewhere (I think an outside link from the FAQ's... Maybe Advanced Aquaria article) that Amphipods will eat Copepods, true? <Some can/do> I am about to drill the back of my tank for an overflow and half inch return line to put the fuge into action. Keep your toes crossed for this. <Go slow...> I must give a plug for www.glass-holes.com if I may, as they are truly a top shelf business. <Ahh, thank you for this. ScottV was kind to drive down and visit this last week here from Fresno. We had a great time visiting fish stores, the Birch/SIO aquarium, chatting> Awesome service and products good prices and free shipping. Take Care and thanks in advance. Stay safe and have fun tonight (New Years Eve). Don't know if one can stay safe AND have fun at the same time. :). Scott <Mmm, a bit of a conundrum, but, yes, partly. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Possible Gas Build-up in Substrate  12/19/08 Hi WWM Crew: <Bonnie> I have a 29 gallon reef tank with 4 inches of GARF grunge for substrate. <Mmm, not a fan... search WWM re... is just "some old guy with a hammer and old/bad live rock"...> I have 25lbs of live rock. I've had the GARF grunge for about 1 year now. <Is getting old... started as such> All the corals in the tank were growing in leaps and bounds this past year. So much so, that I've propagated many times my xenia and frogspawn and sold them back to my LFS. My crocea clam has grown very well also. I faithfully do 20% water changes every weekend, and have for the 3 years I've had this tank up and running. <Good!> I haven't changed anything, however, for the past month or so, all the corals are looking a bit under the weather and none have shown any signs of growth at all. <I am a fan of adding, switching out some hard substrate after a year or so of use... particularly in small systems as this... Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/substrepl.htm and the linked files above till you get the gist of this suggestion, rationale> All levels for nitrate, nitrite and ammonia are vert low or zero. I was wondering if there is a possible build up of toxic gases from the substrate causing the problem. <Mmm, doubtful... but likely a loss of ready soluble components (biomineral, alkalinity), a dearth of biota... all solve-able with the addition/switch out alluded to above> I never vacuum or stir the substrate. One reason being I've heard that you're never to vacuum the substrate of a deep sand bed and I don't stir the substrate either, because this GARF grunge really yucks up the water and turns it VERY cloudy if you stir it. Now I'm thinking maybe I should be stirring it from time to time. What are your thoughts on this? <Posted> I also follow GARF's bullet proof reef method by adding the Seachem products, and use Chemi Pure. Thanks for any advice or suggestions you can send my way. I do have a Remora C protein skimmer on the tank as well. Bonnie <Do please take the time to read the citation above, the links at top in turn... Bob Fenner>

To Change Substrate, Or Not...  12/10/08 Greetings, <<Hello>> And thank you for being here with tons of information and when I have a question regarding my tanks. <<Were glad to be of service>> My question is a simple one; I have a 47 gallon tank that I am going to replace as it has developed a white film on the inside, which I have no idea what it is, <<Likely alkaline mineral deposits>> and am unable to remove it by any means (at least those that are safe to try while livestock are still present in the tank). <<Mmm, if scraping with a razor blade doesn't work then a soak with a mild acid (e.g. - vinegar) might do it, but will require removal of the livestock like you say>> I have planned everything out as advised by information here, but am uncertain as to one important factor. I was planning on removing the substrate (which I never vacuum), <<I don't vacuum mine either>> placing it into a 5 gallon plastic container, and washing/rinsing it thoroughly. I have mixed feelings about this because I realize that by doing it; I will be destroying all significant bacteria in it. <<And a host of other beneficial organisms, true... But unless you plan to let this new tank cycle completely (maybe up to 4 weeks or so), this is a necessity as removal and replacement of the substrate will cause a die-off of some substrate biota as well as a release of bound/confined nutrients/organic material. A less destructive method would be to rinse with clean aged saltwater. You will still lose a good bit of the biota present, but much of the adhered bacteria will survive this much better than a freshwater rinse>> I plan on keeping ALL of the water which will be simple as this is not a far move. I also have about 50 pounds of live rock in the tank that I will be sure to keep well during the move. The whole thing should not take too long at all. <<Okay>> Regarding the substrate however, what would be my best course of action? <<You have a couple options here. Rinse and replace as you have stated, or replace with new substrate and seed this with a few cups of your old substrate and/or some substrate from friend's tanks (I would also seed if you decide to rinse). The advantage to the latter is that new substrate will provide a fresh boost of alkaline/bio-mineral content (assuming an aragonite/calcareous material is used)>> Thank you and best regards, Jeffrey <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Re: To Change Substrate, Or Not? - 12/10/08 What about live sand? <<Depending on the source, this may not be much different than reutilizing your own live sand>> I have only had minimal experience with it, using it in a 29 gallon tank that I just keep a couple of small fish in, but it definitely cycled quickly. Jeff <<Up to you Jeff Either way, you will need to monitor the Nitrogen cycle before restocking the tank. EricR>>

Substrate, re-use, SW    9/16/08 Hi again... <Hello, Mich here.> I have set up a 55gal corner flow...sump, skimmer..all the bells and whistles. <Congrats.> I used 15 gls of water from my existing 2yr 30 gl tank. I set it up on labor day and have added a live rock. I have added substrate, but here is my question...can I use the substrate that is in the 30 gl tank, or move some of it to the new 55 gl tank? <I would use some of the substrate from the 30 to seed the substrate the 55. You don't need to transfer all the substrate, just a cup or two.> Thanks mk <Welcome, Mich>

Replace Substrate or try to Clean/Improve what I have? - 7/2/08 Hi and thank you for all the knowledge and experience you share with us. <You are very welcome!> The substrate in my 75 gallon aquarium with a 25 gallon refugium is a mixture of sand and aragonite. <Okay, you've lost me. Aragonite is a coral product; most substrates are some form of aragonite. Are you saying you've mixed some sort of play (silica) sand with aragonite? Or that you have aragonite sand with crushed coral or a coarser media?> It is about 2 inches deep. <Mmm...yes. A problematic depth.> I am aware of ways to improve my system so the problem hopefully does not happen again, however , the question I have today is what action do I take today.? The problem I am having is very dirty substrate which I have never vacuumed. (I never understood how people can vacuum sand or nuisance algae-doesn't it clog the vacuum?) The top of the substrate clumps and sticks together with various nuisance algae. <Yes, without frequent vacuuming or stirring the substrate will compact and become a trap for detritus and microalgae.> should I totally replace the substrate? (of course a section at a time) and at the same time make it deeper? <If you have mixed size particles I would do this, or if you have mixed a non-aragonite sand with aragonite material.> or... Should I stir the present substrate a section at a time (getting the detritus, etc into the water column) and doing a water change at the same time (and also add additional substrate to make it deeper). <I would recommend vacuuming the substrate while stirring to catch the gunk- you may release things not beneficial to the life in your aquarium that you want removed immediately. Make sure if you go this route that the substrate is quite clean before adding to the top> I have had the aquarium about 2 years. The refugium was added about 8 months ago. Both actions will be followed by more regular water changes. <Good...10% weekly is a good benchmark> So which should I do replace or improve/clean up my substrate. <Depends on what is in there, financially possible, work, etc.> Thank you, <Welcome.> Anne <Benjamin>

Sand Beds, Deep or Shallow 5/1/08 Hi guys, <Hello> I'm sort of stuck in the middle here. <Now I have that scene from Reservoir Dogs in my head.> I had a sand bed that was about three inches deep of sand about 1.5mm. My levels were good. I began to take some of the substrate out thinking that it wasn't deep enough for a DSB, and wasn't quite shallow enough to avoid excessive waste material build up. <Was more towards the deep side, probably helping some here.> Since I started to reduce size, I am getting nitrite spikes when I do water changes. <Biological material being kicked up, decomposing quicker.> Should I continue to remove the substrate? <If you like.> It is difficult to get it all because some is under the rock work. Or can I add more gravel to attempt a DSB? <Could do this too, and since I'm a fan of DSBs the way I would go.> Is this OK to do with livestock in the tank? <As long as you don't go too nuts it should be fine.> Also, if I go to a DSB, can I mix an oolite sand with the more coarse gravel I currently have? <yes, although the denser oolite sand will eventually work its way to the bottom, which is ok unless you were hoping to keep a certain esthetic look.> The tank is a 55 gallon FOWLR, sump filtration, aqua c skimmer, 40#'s LR, Amm-0, Nitrite-.25 (only after changes, 0 a day after), nitrate-5ppm, Cal-420, dKH-8.3, phosphate.03, Sp. G. 1.0253, Ph. 8.06. <The nitrite should be ok, while it is very important to keep it at 0, I am guessing this is very transitory. However, those phosphates may become problematic, try to find and eliminate the source before it fuels an algae bloom, also you pH is low, more so that it seems since the scale is logarithmic.> Thanks, Sean <Welcome> <Chris>

Live sand mess! 4/8/08 HI, <Hello> Help!! We are in the process of changing our 75 gallon tank over to a 180. We were told by our LFS to save money we could use half live sand and half regular sand, what a MISTAKE! We had 120 lbs of sand in our tank and it looked like mud (last Night) it just was a mess, so we took all the sand out (NIGHTMARE) and bought all live sand and put that in the tank, this sand came with a Clarifier to mix in that clears the tank in a few hours. <Whether the sand is live or not should make no difference, its about particle size.> It cleared it up, but it is still hazy. I also have a lot of thick foam on the top of the tank, I have used a net to get most of it off. The question I have is , how long will it take for this problem to go away, I did not have this with our last tank set up. <Few days to a week most likely.> I just went to try and even out the sand, and again a cloud of white is all in the tank. I wanted to transfer my fish into the new tank, as I have half of the tank taken apart, but I am afraid that this haze will harm them I can not get a straight answer form our LFS here, everyone tells something different. <Its just small sand particles, should not really effect your fish, putting them in an uncycled tank may be a problem however.> Can we transfer the fish with this haze present, and is there anything we can do to try and clear this up, or is this going to take a while to go away and my tank is going to look awful for a while. <Some mechanical filtration should help pull out some of the suspended material.> I have a few fish that like to dig the sand. As always thanks for your help. <Will likely be a problem for a while then, once those fish start digging they will kick up more sand particles.> DEB <Chris>

Re: live sand mess! 4/8/08 Hi Chris, <Hello> Thanks for your help. We will be using water and filtration from our other tank, bio wheel etc.. We were told that by doing this it is ok to put our fish right into the tank since we are using our old filtration and this has all the Bacteria we should need. <It will help but you will most likely still see a ammonia/nitrite spike. The bacteria you are trying to culture lives in more places than just the filters.> We also put some bag bacteria in the tank to run thru the new additional filter we will be using. Do you disagree with this process and should our fish be OK? <Try to space out the addition of fish to the new tank as much as possible and watch the water quality very closely and be ready for water changes if necessary.> Thanks Deb <Welcome> <Chris>

Recycling old substrate, Moving Tanks 3/6/08 I'll start by saying thanks for all the effort put into the site. <Thanks for using it.> I currently have a 55g reef tank that has been running for 3 years and this is the first question I have had to send. The rest have always been answered through searching this site. <Excellent> With that said, I have read various postings that have a little conflicting info and wanted to clarify. I recently purchased a complete 150 setup and need advice on making the switch. My current setup has approx. 3" Caribsea AragAlive and around 80-90lbs LR., Remora skimmer and Eheim canister with livestock being a yellow tang, <will appreciate the new home> 2 ocellaris clowns, royal Gramma, engineer goby and Firefish goby, 2 BTAs (not on purpose, had a split and can't get the newby out yet), frogspawn, various mushrooms and polyps, Kenya tree, pulsing xenia and umbrella leather. I was told by my LFS that I could transfer all of the sand from the old tank and mix with the new and transfer the whole tank right then and that any cycling that occurred would be minimal and not affect the livestock with sufficient water change and monitoring. <Hard to say for sure, and a big risk. I'm a big fan of the slow, conservative approach.> Then I consulted your site and found some differing opinions. <This hobby was made for differences of opinion.> Some of the posts said take it all (barring excessive detritus and bad smell), some said take only the top inch or two and some said use only a small amount to seed the new tank as transferring all of the old sand will cause a big cycle of the new tank due to die off of organisms from different layers. <I would go with either of the latter options. I agree that taking all the sand will lead to problems with little benefit. As soon as the lower levels of the sand are exposed to oxygen rich water or air many of the organisms will be killed of. I would just take a fair amount of sand from the top inch or so and use it to seed the new sand bed.> I can only remove all the sand and deal with the cycling if I leave everything else in the old tank (engineer goby would stress with glass bottom only I would think). Can you clarify if one is better or just up to individual preference? <I think seeding the new tank, letting it cycle without the fish (should be pretty quick) is the way to go.> There is a lot of life in the old sand and I hate to lose it. <Can't be helped to some degree, but will reestablish itself in the new tank if allowed. Another benefit of letting the tank cycle without fish.> Once everything is out of the 55g tank I will use it for cycling 130 lbs of incoming LR. <I would use the new tank to do that with, keeping the fish in their normal home.> The second issue is with the refugium that came with the 150g. This was a used tank and the refug has about 4-5" of mud that has been sitting submerged in stagnant water for about 3 weeks. <That is going to smell nice I bet.> I will remove the old water but wanted to know if the mud is still safe to use or should I clean it and start with new mud? <I would replace if economical, lots of dead stuff in there now I bet. I would come back but not before fueling a nice algae bloom.> Last question is regarding lighting. In searching for lighting I found some setups that are "generic" from China that are much cheaper ($600 for 3x250 HQI, 4x96w PC). Should I follow the "you get what you pay for" approach and steer clear of these? <I would be wary, especially if not UL listed. A few hundred dollars saved here could cost you your home, tank, everything.> Sorry for the lengthy post and hopefully I won't have to post again for another 3 years. <No problems, good luck with the new tank.> <Chris>

Switching Aragonite Gravel to Live Sand - Version with Spell-Check!! 02/25/08 Hi Crew, <<Hello Barbara>> I hope this e-mail finds you well. <<Am fine, thank you>> I have a 30 gallon reef that has been up and running for a year now. I currently have aragonite gravel in there. I started out my 72g FOWLR with Live sand and would love to switch to live sand in the 30. <<Okay>> My concern is stressing out my fish and inverts. <<Valid>> The first few months were rocky, as this was my first saltwater tank. <<I see>> I just recently got brave enough to try some easy corals and now I have things running very, very well. <<Mmmso why the desire to make the switch I wonder?>> I would hate to botch things up! <<Me too!>> I guess I just want to make sure the benefits outweigh the risks. <<Hmm, you state the tank is running very, very well so Im at a bit of a loss to understand what benefits you are imagining from this switch. But even if only aesthetic, the risks are minimal with some considerations/precautions>> If you feel it is worth it, how do you suggest doing so? I was thinking I would have to remove some tank water and put live rock/corals in buckets briefly, remove the gravel and exchange for live sand. <<Removing the rock and ALL livestock will make the exchange of substrate easiestbut you will need to place your livestock in another holding system of some kind while you place the rock back in the tank after the substrate exchange and check for/monitor a new Nitrogen cycle. Disturbing the rock, as well as the live sand you will be placing in the tank, will cause some die-off of microbes/bacteria/substrate infauna at the least. You will need to monitor the tank for a day to see if a new Nitrogen cycle kicks off. Some may say you dont need to do this when reusing your cured rockbut I disagree. Now, if you cant or dont want to re-house your livestock for a while, you can exchange a portion of the substrate at a timesay ¼ to 1/3 at a go. You will still need to monitor closely for problems and take action if necessary, but these will be less likelyand obviously, working around the existing rock/livestock wont be so easy>> When I put the sand in my 72 there were no fish so I didn't worry about the dust/silt/sand that was kicked up. <<I have seen extreme instances where this caused fish deaths, so you do want to keep it to a minimum (perhaps run a canister filter during the exchange to help with removal of suspended solids). It is less problematic with your corals, though it does make a mess so I suggest you give them a blast with a Turkey baster or similar afterwards to help them shed any accumulated debris and to help reduce their need for excessive mucus production (requires much energy) to do same>> Thank you for your input! Barbara <<Happy to assist. EricR>>

Re: Switching Aragonite Gravel to Live Sand - version with spell check!! 02/26/08 Hi Eric, <<Hey Barbara!>> I read the FAQ's often and have read quite a few times where it was recommended that the tank be switched over to Live sand for the nitrate reducing benefits of a DSB as well as the benefits of the natural biological fauna that comes with it. <<Indeed I am a BIG fan of DSB methodology and employ it in both my display tank and the ancillary refugium>> Since you don't think it's worth it and I am concerned about stressing my critters I will leave well enough alone. <<Mmm, wellnot exactly what I said/meant. I stated I didnt know why you wanted to make the switch (you didnt give the reason in your first query) if the tank was currently running very, very wellyour words. But I do agree hereif the tank doesnt need the switch and you are happy with the system, then leave well enough alone for now [grin] >> Thank you for your speedy reply, as always, and your time, Barbara <<And as alwayshappy to share. Eric Russell>>

Snowflake eel and Lionfish system 12/26/2007 I have a 18" snowflake eel and a 8" lionfish in a 180 gallon with a 80 gallon sump. Lately I have noticed when the eel moves around the sand makes the water cloudy so I am thinking its time for new sand. The sand was some cheap stuff I bought offline when I first added it about a year ago it clouded the tank for 3 days. So I am going to get some descent sand from my LFS. <When you rinse the sand well in a bucket prior to adding it to the tank, it usually will not become very cloudy.> My question is how deep of a sand bed should I have. <Less than 2 inches if the sand is just added to make the bottom look good or 4 to 6 inches if you want a live deep sand bed to get rid of nitrates. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm.> Currently I have about 4" of sand but from what I have been reading this may not be a good idea with out having a sand sifter to release harmful gases and such. <Seed it with live sand or some sand from a long running DSB system of a fellow reefer. The tiny critters in there, worms of all sorts and crustaceans will prevent the production of toxic gases in a tank with sufficient current with their digging activities.> Also is it better to have a fine or course sand. <For a DSB fine sand, for a shallow sand bed it does not really matter.> I have 50 pounds of rock is this enough or should I add more. <Your two inhabitants both do not need too much swimming space, so you can add some more for aquascaping and nitrate removal purposes if you want to.> I feed 3 times a week usually krill, clams, squid, and Mysis shrimp. Is this enough variety? <Sounds good. Dont feed too much krill, rather try larger shrimps or prawns.> I always use a vitamin supplement on the food. <Thats great.> I am currently not using a protein skimmer would I benefit greatly by using one. <Yes, tremendously.> When I swap out the sand should I put some of the old sand in the sump until the new sand is cycled. <I would not swap all the sand at one time, but if you still decide to do that monitor your water parameters. Putting some of the old sand into the sump is a good idea.> Is there any inverts that might go well with this set up maybe a starfish or large hermit crab? <If your water parameters are good (low nitrates, sufficient pH) you can try some inverts. I would not recommend sand sifting sea stars now, since it will take a while until your new sand bed is populated. Larger Hermits crabs may work, but they should not be large enough to endanger the moray. My crustacean eating morays try to eat smaller hermits, but they are not very successful and skip this behaviour after a few days and accept the hermits as new tank mates. Some Snowflake eels eat snails, but most dont.> Thanks for the help. <Welcome. Merry reefing. Marco.>

A tank under the tree! 12/18/07 Hey Crew, <Hello, Scott V. here.> I'm upgrading my tank from a 46g (basic canister filter, hang on skimmer setup) to a 65g with an overflow and 20g sump/refuge - Merry Christmas to me! <Nice upgrade, I love that size tank!> My new tank is going in the same place as my old one, so my plan is to put my inhabitants (hermit crabs, brittle star, 2 Clownfish, Lawnmower Blenny) into my 20g QT tank while I do the move. I've gone through the tank moving links, but still have a couple questions that I'm not sure I found the answer to. My questions are: 1 - when the liverock goes into the new tank, should I expect an ammonia spike if the rock has been out of the water for, say, a day? <Out of the tank or out of water completely? Put the rock in a Rubbermaid or similar bin full of tank water, perhaps with a heater and small powerhead for circulation. This will minimize die off and likely prevent any spikes.> 2 - I'm also adding substrate to bring it up to a 4" DSB, which means adding about 2.5" more sand than I currently have. Do I need to cycle, or will adding the new sand (after its cleaned etc) not cause any harm? <This will be fine.> 3 - do you know a good divorce lawyer should I screw this up somehow? <Depending on where you are located I know one that may fly out, Heeeee!> Happy holidays to you all! Sean <Thank you Sean, happy holidays to you and your family also. It sounds like you have planned a nice system. Good luck, Scott V.>

Switching to DSB, GARF Grunge in the way... Grunge Grudge! (Removing/Covering Unsightly Substrate) 12/3/07 Hello crew, <Hey there! Scott F. with you today!> Thanks for all the info on this site. It's greatly appreciated. <I'm glad we are providing you a good service...It's our pleasure!> Specs on my tank are as follows: - Approximately 1 1/2 year old tank. - 24 gallon Aquapod, 150 wt./20k SunPod on top, Remora skimmer (w/ Maxijet 1200) on back, 2 Maxijet 900s' (one w/ a Hydor Flow h2o deflector, the other tee'd with Lockline "skimming the surface" & the other half blowing down behind my LR) providing circulation. <Sounds well thought out.> - Have a False Percula (ornery little rascal) <To borrow a phrase from my dear friend, "Shocker!"> , Sixline Wrasse, Watchman Goby, Serpent star, sand sifting star, and an Emerald crab. Also have a Candy Cane Coral, some Frogspawn, GSP's (dang weed), a couple of soft corals, and a couple of Zoanthids. - Used to have a small Longnosed Hawkfish, but he disappeared three weeks ago. Don't know if he jumped into reef-jerky land and the dog eat him (seriously) or if he made it into the back of the tank and got puréed by one of the powerheads. <What a lovely bunch of options!> I found what resembled a couple of "vertebrae" in the back of the tank - so who knows. <Call in the "CSI" people for a positive ID..> - Tests seem ok. 1.25 sg. 8.2 pH. No detectable levels of ammonia or nitrite. Calcium floats around 380 to 400. Alk between 8 & 10. I do dose with Tropic Marin calcium and alkalinity booster when needed.. Phosphate is undetectable, but I never trust the two test kits I have (I think I might be blue color-blind -if there is such a thing :) <Yeah- I think there is. I have a friend who wears teal blue with his green khakis...yuck!> Nitrates stayed undetectable w/ test kit until recently when they jumped up to 10 ppm. I think that may have been related to the disappearance of the Hawkfish. I use an RO unit with DI for top-off. <Could be the missing fish striking back from the great beyond. Could also be that your RO membrane needs replacement.> Recently I started getting some hair algae and a bit of Cyano (maybe due to the lost Hawkfish). <He has it in for you, huh?> I was kinda short on snails so a few days ago. <Courtesy of our friend the Hawkfish, no doubt!> I ordered a cleanup crew from GARF. Also got some of their Grunge product. It felt rather coarse while I was adding it to my tank, but my lord - when the water cleared my tank with a 1-1.5" medium grained sand bed looked like a trout stream with all the huge chunks of rubble. <An aesthetic not everyone likes.> I don't like the looks of this grunge rubble and I don't see how any kind of sand-sifters will ever be able dig thru it. I'm sure the watchman goby is ticked off! <Could be a problem. Coarse sharp substrates can damage these animals.> The sand-sifting star is just grubbing along the top of the sand bed now. I've heard good stuff about the worms, stars, etc. that come with the grunge, but the rubble has to go. I'm more interested in small inverts (MiniStars, worms, pods) than anything else... <Well, you could "mix" the grunge into your existing sandbed.> After reading so much about DSB substrate here I want to go that direction, but large chunks of rubble is not what I had in mind. So, my question(s)... Assuming I'm going to try and pull out as much as I can of the GARF grunge rubble - would it be best to do so ASAP or wait a little while? <If you're going DSB, I'd just add the new substrate material on top.> I will likely transfer this rubble to an amphipod culturing tank I hope to set up (since shortly after adding the wrasse I didn't see pods in my tank any more...). <But you do have a happy little Wrasse, don't you?> I was thinking of ordering a mix-and-match combo from IPSF that included some sand-shifters and their amphipod culturing kit. <Good products from a good vendor> As I pull out the rubble, I'll replace with sand. Hopefully the sugar fine kind. I would like to get to the three+ inches level. Based upon what I've read here, it sounds like the best bet would be to add a little bit of sand each water change. I guess I could keep the rubble in my new 'pod culturing tank while waiting for the new sand to get acclimated, and then order the shifters and pod culturing kit from IPSF. <I have done it both ways: Gradually building up the sand, and just dumping new live sand on top of the current substrate. I've enjoyed good results with both. Your call.> Would you suggest removing all this rubble at once and slowly adding a fine sand, or should I slowly remove this unsightly rubble - giving it a chance to so "some" good. <Again- your call...I'd probably just pour the new substrate on top.> Thanks in advance, this place is great! <Glad to be of assistance! Regards, Scott F.> <<Have been told that this GARF "product" is just "some old guy with a hammer and shot/dead live rock..." RMF>>

Tiered Sand. Any Issues? 9/15/07 Hello Crew, <Hi Ron> Short time follower, first time caller here. Picked up a modest size tank about 2 months ago. It is a 36 gallon bowfront, 1"of crushed coral, 30 lbs of red lava rock, <Do not like this stuff, too many small holes for waste to enter.> Red Sea skimmer (will try and upgrade at Xmas- Tunze nano is the current plan), BioWheel filter, 1 false Percula Clown, 1 Camel Shrimp, 1 hermit crab. I essentially have not changed anything (other than removing a lot of red slime algae and reading. The slime (and some green algae) is slowly returning, but it is not too bad. I ordered a pair of the Maxi-Jet 600 powerheads and some live sand to get added in for now. <Good circulation is a must.> Thinking of the sand, I was not wild on the idea of having an all-over DSB as it? <why all the ? marks, have deleted several already.> takes up viewing space from the front.? I was wondering about the idea of having? very little substrate in the front of the tank, then having essentially base-rock retaining wall holding back a deeper 4"-6" DSB towards the rear of the tank.? <Would not go much deeper than 4", especially if you are just starting out in this hobby.> I searched a bit and? did not find any mention of such a <What's a "such a"> thing.? Would there be any potential issues to this sort of setup?? <I don't believe you are going to find interlocking live rock. The gaps in the rock will eventually allow the sand to flow through. Why not just slope from front to rear? Is what most do.> Thanks in advance for any suggestions. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Ron?

Re: My Tank may be about to explode!!! Help!!! Moving... SW sand.    9/10/07 Hi Bob, <Tom> Thanks for your reply. I have gone out and purchased a new 135g glass tank (72 x 18 x 25). I also bought a double ballast with two 400w 20,000k MH lights to replace the one that I was using, and to be able to place them on the left and right side instead of the middle of the tank. <Good> Today I am doing the move of the old tank and replacing it with the new one. I also bought some more bagged "live" sand, 60lbs to be exact.  I don't think that this will increase my sand bed depth enough, but its all they had at the LFS today. <More can be added later> I plan to mix this sand with my old sand in the old tank after I get all the LR and creatures out. Then I plan to rinse it all before moving it to the new tank. Does this sound like a good idea? <Yes> Also, I have about half of a 5g bucket full of sand that came from a friend's tank when he dismantled it. This sand has been in the bucket for about 6 months, and had dried out, as far as I can tell. It may have been damp underneath still, but a few days ago I added some saltwater from my tank to the bucket in order to cycle the sand and add it to my refugium later. In light of this emergency tank swap, I would like to use this sand in the new tank, mixed with all of my old tank sand and the new bagged sand. Do you think that it would be dangerous to just mix the sand in the bucket with all the other sand and add it to the tank now? <I think it will be fine> Or do I need to cycle this sand in the bucket for longer than just the few days i have added water to it? <Not likely> The issue here is that I need this new tank set up immediately so my creatures don't all die, and I'd like to build the sand bed up now before I put everything into the new tank. BTW, in answer to your previous question, I have had the sand in my old tank for about 6 years. I have corals and I don't want them to die from any bad stuff in any of these sources of sand. I have done karaoke once in my life. I was in London with a friend and we were at a birthday party for one of his English friends at a pub. Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" was up and so we were drunk enough to go up and sing, being two goofy Americans. We made it through the first verse and chorus and they kicked us off the stage. i know I can't sing to save my life, but its those moments where your judgment is impaired that you do things you probably shouldn't have done! =) <Heeee!> Thanks for the help! If there is anything that I can do to help with making your site more of what you envision, I would be very happy to do so. <Oh! It is exceedingly plain... as I know little re even the simple web authoring program (Frontpage), nor have much in the way of artistic verve. But/hence don't have much in the way of ideas of how to improve the looks, functionality...> Please let me know. I don't do web programming or anything, but maybe there is some other way I can help. I look forward to your reply. Tom <Thank you Tom. Bob Fenner>

Transferring Sand... Adding New   9/9/07 Hello all, <Hi Josh> I have recently upgraded from a 30-gallon to a 90-gallon tank and have had the 90 running for about 4 months. <Congrats!> Everything is running well in both tanks, and I am still using the 30 tank as a qt tank for the livestock I am slowly adding to the 90. <Very good.> Both tanks have about 3-4 inches of sand. What I want to do is increase the depth of the sand bed in the 90-gallon to about 5-6 inches. <OK.> Is it safe to move the live sand out of the 30 gallon and into the 90 gallon, leaving the 30 gallon with only a half inch or so of sand? <You could.> Would it be better to buy new sand for the 90 gallon instead? <I think this is preferable. I think the QT benefits from the DSB provided that it is not used as a treatment tank.> I realize I should have done this earlier on in the process. <Likely would have been easier.> In my 90 gallon so far I have 3 green Chromis, yellow watchman goby, purple firefish, Swissguard Basslet, pacific cleaner shrimp, variety of snails and hermits, pearl bubble coral, zoanthids sp., colt coral, xenia sp. <OK.> Any advice on how to increase the depth of the sand bed in the 90 would be greatly appreciated, <Not sure what type of sand you are planning on adding, but if it is not live sand, i.e. something the likes of Southdown/Oldcastle I would rinse it quite well.> or even whether this is a good idea or not. <I don' think it's a bad idea. Would have been easier prior to the addition of livestock. But it sounds like it is still a relatively new set-up and I think it would be better to do it now than a year from now. You may want to temporarily your livestock into the 30-gallon until the sediment from the new sand settles down.> Thanks in advance! <Welcome! Mich> Josh

Changing out shell substrate on established reef system 06/15/07 Hello, and thank you for your time, <Hey hey MacL here on the job> I have been reading WWM archives for several years now but have never posted. Of recent, I have been searching for almost two weeks for a previously answered version to my question, but to no avail. My problem is my choice of substrate. I took a 15 year hiatus from aquaria, and for some reason decided to cut corners and use my old (but very, very clean) substrate. It is made up of tiny bi-valved mollusk shells, almost but not quite 3 inches deep. All the rage in 1986, but now, well, uh know.... I could slowly replace it with fine sand over the coarse of a month or so, but how would I keep the two substrates from mixing together in that time? If I try to change it out all at once, I'm pretty sure I'll have casualties. <Yeah you definitely would. Changes to tanks need to be done in small steps and slowly.> I'm a member of the Atlanta Reef Club, and I posted in our forum of my poor choice of substrate. It was suggested to me that I could unload the tank, level the existing shells, place several thicknesses of nylon screen over the shells and slowly over the coarse of weeks, cover it in one to two inches of fine sand. Not a true Plenum Filter, but along those line. This sounds as if it could be done with the livestock in the tank, as housing them outside the tank for an extended period of time is not an option. <I don't think that's a good idea because I would be wary of the very bottom substrate basically becoming hard as a rock and locking up. I remember the substrate you are using (Gawd, dating myself here lol. And as I recall it had a big tendency to lock up and get filled with detritus.> My water tests have always been very good. Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, very low Nitrate (lowest on test color chart) Calcium 400 to 420 and Alk in medium high range (the test I use reads a 13) My tank is a 30 gallon long. set up for almost 3 years with about 40 pounds of live rock, a nice cleaner crew, 2 fish (Clarkii Clown, Six Line Wrasse) and 8 soft corals ( I consider it full and not looking for any new additions). Circulation and filtration is supplied by a Prism Deluxe Protein Skimmer, a Magnum 350 Canister Filter ( Media changed once weekly and canister thoroughly washed).The rest of the equipment is rounded out with an in-line heater, an in-line 9 watt U.V. Sterilizer (the main reason I run the Magnum is to have these items in-line and out of the tank), and an Odyssea Compact in-tank Power Filter 275 (very, very strong in-tank filter) with 192 watts Actinic/10k lighting. I'm not sure if this practice is helping or hurting, but being "Old School", I still unload the tank every 4 to 6 months, swish the gravel, and using my Diatom Filter on the Magnum, continue swishing every 10 minutes until the water runs clear and no detritus is seen. <Once again I remember doing this as well. It was done because that particular substrate locked up tighter than a drum and kept lots of crap locked in it. I would be very careful doing that with corals in a tank because the loose detritus could damage one of the corals and start an infection.> Something's telling me this is a bad thing, but the tank looks so nice afterwards. <I run a diatom on my tanks at least once every two weeks, they just look so clean afterwards.> I only keep hardy softies (Kenya Tree, Xenia, Toadstool and Finger Leather) and have yet to lose one, but do you think I'm sitting on a time bomb? Instead of singing your praises (which is tempting), I'll better use that time for checking grammar, spelling and punctuation. Thank you for all you do for our community! <Dakota let me make you a different suggestion. Why not slowly take out the substrate you have in. Your tank is in good shape so you could slowly replace parts of the substrate. My suggestion would be to basically divide the tank into 8 sections in your head. The first week replace on of the 8 sections with the substrate of your choice. Should you use something like sand I have seen it done this way. You place the sand in a stocking, like a woman's stocking. You put the stocking in the water before you begin the replacement. Letting the sand fill with water and get heavy. After a day or half a day you slowly remove your part to be replaced in the substrate. I used a plastic cup. Then you take a knife cut the stocking open and place the sand in the empty section. You repeat this every week or two weeks until finished. Remember slow is always better. Monitor your tank afterwards, run the diatom if you need it. Walla!!! Good luck.> Dakota Everhart

How Do I Increase The Depth Of My Sand Bed? 05/29/07 Dear Crew, <<Greetings Andy>> I know everyone says it but I can't help but start by saying yours is the best site on the web by a mile. <<Many thanks for thisis a collective effort of many fine people asking nothing more but a chance to help others prosper I the hobbyokayand maybe voice/press their points of view from time to time [grin]>> Many, many thanks. <<You are quite welcome>> I currently have a small 3-foot 50-gallon reef tank with a sump. The sump currently has a 1" sand bed and after reading on your site (and others) I have decided I would like to increase it to greater depth to help lower my nitrates. <<AhhI am a BIG fan of deep sand beds for this purpose, and others. The sand beds in both my display and refugium average about 8 in depth. Im not saying you should/need to go this deepjust letting you know how/where I stand on the issue>> I also have Caulerpa growing in the sump and it is lit 24 hours with a small T5 Arcadia Arcpod. <<Mmmnot my first choice in macroalgaebut can/will do a fine job when researched/cared for properly as you seem to have done>> Please can you advise me how to increase the sand depth? <<Is a simple matter>> A little at a time or all at once? <<I would make the addition all at once>> Same size sand (1mm) or different grain size? <<Youre choice here, though I prefer the smaller grain sizes to reduce the chances of trapping detritus in the substrate>> Mix the new sand with the current bed or layer on top? <<Hmmscooping up/placing the existing bed on top of the new should save some of the autotrophic and aerobic bacteria withinas opposed to just smothering all beneath the new depth of sand>> Should I remove the algae first or leave it in there and add the sand? <<Oh yes! Remove the algae and return once the new sand is in place>> Also would a small power head just in the sump help? <<You can do this>> My return pump runs at 10x tank volume. <<Should be plenty>> Many thanks, Andy <<A pleasure to assist. EricR>>

Re: How Do I Increase The Depth Of My Sand Bed? 05/31/07 Thanks for your advice. <<Quite welcome>> I intend to purchase some fine sand to create a new sand bed. <<Sounds good>> Do you see any benefit in adding live sand sold wet and with live bacteria or should I just add dry sand to an existing sand bed? <<Your existing sand bed/system will seed the new sandsave your money and go with the dry sand>> Do I need to cure live sand or follow any other procedures? <<Just rinse/add the dry sand>> My current 1" sand bed has large grain size of 1-3mm. I want to use much finer sand having read your comments and also others on the site. <<Mmm, yessugar-fine aragonite is my fave>> My key objective is nitrate reduction. <<Minimum four-inches then>> Should I completely remove the existing sand bed and start again (using a small amount to seed the new one) or can I just add it on top effectively having an inch of larger grains on the bottom and then 3" of fine grains on the top. <<Either way mateis up to you>> I have read that mixing different grain sizes is ill advised. <<Is of small consequence in this case, given the small quantity involvedI would not be concerned re>> My sump has only sand and macroalgae growing in it and the water is mechanically filtered and skimmed before it reaches the sand chamber of the sump. Thanks in advance of any advice or wisdom you can share. Andy <<Always welcome. EricR>> Substrate Question   5/24/07 Hi Crew, <<Hello, Brad. Tom with you this afternoon.>> I looked over the various posts in your "Substrate" sections but didn't find any advice pertaining to my question. <<Lets start one, then.>> We (the wife and I) had a second 75 gallon tank that was up and running for a short time (maybe 3 months max). I tore it down and put the substrate in 5 gallon buckets with lids. The substrate in question has been "in storage" now for about 8-10 months. Is the substrate still safe to use in a established (2 years) tank? <<Safe? Certainly. Viable, as in loaded with beneficial bacteria? No. The lids would have prevented enough airborne ammonia (plenty of it) from entering the buckets to feed the bacteria. The bacteria would have died off fairly quickly without a supply. Treat it as new gravel rinsing thoroughly and add as necessary/needed.>> Thanks, Brad <<Youre welcome, Brad. Tom>>

Hair algae and other concerns... subst. ish  3/1/07 I first want to thank you for this awesome source of information, and helping so many reefers like me.  The website has been a source of reference, and answered countless questions through the length of my project. This is my first posting, I suppose it is an act of desperation.   <Yikes> I currently have a 65g reef, created over the span of a year and a half (1st reef after marine and freshwater tanks for 15 years), 1-3 crushed coral/live sand/rock rubble mixture, <Mmm, a "detritus trap"... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked files above> 50+ lbs. live rock and 20lb lace rock, now seemingly live.  Lighting is 150MH Ushio + (2) 96w dual actinics (342w total), Remora skimmer with prefilter box, (3) Maxijet 1200s, Mag7 return pump.   Below the display, a 10g wet/dry and 20g. refugium with 65w fixture on a reverse cycle from display and 6 DSB (again relatively fine crushed coral/live sand/rock rubble mix), Chaeto., and HOB Emperor 400. The fuge is fed off the sump and overflows back to the sump (wet/dry).  The refugium is full of critters (micro brittles, Astrea, pods, bristleworms, Cap snails, 4-5 Nassarius snails, and who knows what else) though the population does not seem to be writhing as it once was, nor does the Chaeto grow as quickly as it used to.   <This sounds good> I am rather diligent with 5-10g. water changes weekly (R/O water), vacuuming display substrate, and changing wet/dry filter floss, carbon, etc, and careful not to overfeed.  Stocked in the tank are a pair of Maroon Clowns, Six-line wrasse, Yellowtail damsel, Skunk cleaner shrimp, Mithrax crab, Sally lightfoot, and a good mix of snails and hermits (about 30 of each). <Too many IMO> Corals included: rapidly spreading Anthelia, Kenya Tree corals that continually drop branches, small but spreading frags. of Green Star polyps, button polyps, and green mushrooms.  To many peoples dismay (yours included) a massive BTA (14 dia.) centerpiece that I would love to remove if I could find a way top do so with out injuring.  The BTA has not moved since adding it 9m. ago, but I realize it is only a matter of time, and would prefer a reef over an anemone tank. <Can be moved via the rock it's on... or gently scraped loose from the bottom...> I have done my best to use only captive reared creatures, and grow corals from small frags, unsuccessfully trying to create a spectacular reef on a budget.  Bioload seems moderate, the skimmer is working, but only pulls about 1-2c. a week (this is a mystery).   <Happens... No worries> The anemone has quadrupled in size, all the soft corals have grown very well.  Growth has seemed to slow, yet everything seems very healthy. <Likely influenced by the anemone's presence...> Water parameters (S, Temp, Amon, Nitrites, Nitrates, pH, Alk, Phos, Ca, Silicates) stay in good order, though I question whether I may be getting a false reading on the Nitrates due to the Chaeto and hair algae utilizing them. <Yes> For four months I have battled a serious hair algae outbreak, only in the display tank. I have done everything the wetwebmedia forums suggest (bulb changes on schedule, H20 changes, H20 parameters checked/rechecked, added hermits/snails).  I have added supposed hair algae consumers (Scopas tang, Foxface), only to see them eat small amounts of the algae, spit it out, and perish within 2 weeks. <A BGA either itself or mixed in... toxic>   I would like to add 1-2 cool display fish after fixing the algae problems   Finally the hair algae growth has been slowed, far from stopped though, only to have Cyanobacteria come in.  I scrub with a toothbrush and siphon much of the rock with every water change, filtering this through a fine micron bag (from a clam aquaculture facility I once worked at) and back into the sump.  This has helped curb the growth and makes everything look great for about two weeks.  Much of the rock has remnants of the hair algae, especially that out of direct light, it is impossibly to eradicate this manually.  My hope was to cull the algae/Cyano. and make cleanup manageable to for the recently supplemented janitor crew. <Mmm, I'd abandon hope re the clean up types... and STRONGLY consider changing out the substrate... see the above citation... at the same time you might move that anemone> I will not give up on this tank, and I am constantly looking to improve the system, still being sensitive to changing too much too quickly. <A good trait> I must get the algae under control, and feel as though it may take some major changes to do so.  Something is not right in this closed system, and I cant figure out what it is that going on in seemingly healthy system.     <It's the substrate amongst all you have mentioned> So finally to my questions, after a very long winded introduction:  Are the sand beds in the display tank or the refugium the source of undetectable Nitrates feeding the algae? <Yes> What should I do to fix (add to/remove) these substrates if that is the case? <At least the type, amount/depth in the main tank, yes> Flow seems adequate, though dead spots may exist on the lower rockwork and rear of the tank, this is not where the hair algae grows fastest, a light residual film exists in these areas and it is near impossible to reach some areas of the rockwork without dismantling and disturbing all inhabitants. <One time deal... and I would do it/this> I have thought about adding a DSB in the display, but the appearance and volume it would occupy is not to my liking. <Not necessary... can be done in the sump, refugium> Getting rid of the wet/dry has been in the plans, but I have kept it for fear that a crash is imminent, and it would be my saving grace. Thought of adding an UV sterilizer, in an attempt to kill off algae spores released when scrub-siphoning. <Might help... also in providing more 02,03...> Adding another powerhead, more flow seems like overkill.  Can the nuisance algae harbor compounds that not only make them distasteful, but toxic?     <Yes, for sure> I am determined to figure this out, but I am at a loss with how to proceed.  Any help/advice is most appreciated. Many thanks again! <Thank you for writing so clearly, thoroughly. Do read over the marine substrate areas... and formulate a plan for switching this out. Bob Fenner>
Re: Hair algae and other concerns... subst. concerns  3/1/07
Mr. Fenner,    Thanks for the quick response to my very long message.  I will certainly look over the substrate forum again, to formulate my plan. <Welcome> For clarification....do you suggest switching the substrates in the refugium, as well as the display? <Mmm, ideally both... but at least the main display... the refugium to a DSB with fine sand if at all possible as well> The display substrate is a must, I just need to figure out how to store the rock and organisms in the during the overhaul. <Not hard to do... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i6/Moving. tm and the linked files at bottom> If the algae that I am growing is in deed toxic, how do I get rid of it before reintroducing into the new (revamped) system? <Mmm... really best to allow it to "cycle out"... perhaps using a bit of activated carbon... a few ounces... traded out every few weeks... in the meanwhile... Other organisms, circumstances will prevail in the substrate switch to eliminate/supplant it> During this overhaul I will scrub and rinse well, but it is all over the live rock with corals attached. <I would leave this all be>   The algae is bound to return, it seems impossible to eradicate, and I guess nothing will consume it.     <Not much... but it will go... with time, patience> The refugium is alive and I would hate to completely trash the 5" substrate within? <Mmmmm> Because it is not a fine grain sand, are you suggesting to remove all of this substrate as well?  So much for LFS advice! <I would maybe save a good bit of this, maybe divide the space, placing the finer/new on one side... I would not toss any myself...> Also, through this process, will induce another cycle? I do not want to kill off much of the tanks inhabitants. <Will not likely induce a cycling event> I will take the opportunity to remove the anemone. Any suggestions on finding a replacement for the clowns to host in? <Mmm, posted on WWM... the ideal would be to have another set-up...> I'm afraid the female Maroon will become even more aggressive without the safe harbor of the BTA. <You may find that this fish "calms down" quite a bit w/o this territory to defend> Thanks <Welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: Hair algae and other concerns. Alg contr. f'  3/1/07 Bob- Here again with questions... I incorrectly identified my substrate, in both the main tank and refugium.  It is actually a Medium grade sand (NOT crushed coral), with some shells and rock fragments.  Some of the sand will come through the siphon when vacuuming, but most falls back down.  With this correction in substrate, and confidence I can rearrange the rockwork to minimize any dead spots; would you still recommend removing all the substrate? I would like to increase the depth in the display tank to increase the microfaunal life, the question is whether to strip it all out, or add over the existing? <Well... this is "a horse of a different color"... I would just mix in some very fine coral sand myself. BobF>

Removing sand from a refugium 1/21/07 <Hi Keith.> I bought a nice 55 gallon tank with a 20 gallon refugium from someone who had a long-standing reef tank and refugium.   <Good deal. I love used equipment almost as much as new!> He is located about 45 minutes away.  <Good to know... ;) > He gave me a really good deal as he was got a nice 120 gallon setup. <???> We planned it out and I went and picked it up about 2 or 3 months ago.  He kept the tank running for me as he took about two weeks while slowly adding things to his new setup.  We kept most of the water and transported the refugium as carefully as possible to try to keep the bacteria alive to help cycle the tank. <Should not be a problem if sand was kept moist at all.> I had 40 gallon with about 70 pounds of live rock, a Mandarin <sic> goby, liverock, aragonite <sic> sand, a cardinal, Astrea nail <[Sighing, shaking head...] Nail?>, a 10 gallon refugium underneath the tank with some Chaetomorpha. <Sounds good so far.> I got the new tank back to my house and got it set up as quickly as possible, but did make a mistake with salinity for a day or two and then got the salinity correct<ed,> then waited a few days and slowly started transporting the contents of my tank to the new tank.   <What constitutes a "mistake with salinity"? A few days may turn out to be a little short on the wait for a potential re-cycle.> I tested the water for a few days and all seemed well.   <Mmm... ok.> I didn't add anything else to the tank for about a month and then added 10 Astrea snails. I added some base rock I had in the process as well which as starting to look alive again. <That is a good thing indeed.> Recently, I had a red slime outbreak (Cyano) and started noticing the live rock was fading.  I did some reading on your site and read about phosphates and couldn't figure out where they were coming from.    <Food, water change...> After reading and chatting with a few friends, I look back and realized I was probably feeding to<o> much food<,> <Mm-hmm.> so I cut back feeding to every other day and did a few water changes over the next month but it was still present.  So I did the following after doing some research: Added some Caulerpa to my refugium, <Good, will compete for nutrients with BGA.> Added light in the refugium (was a 60 watt house light I kept on all the time) with the purchase of a 12 inch 36 watt Coralife compact fluorescent. <Likely, will be more than enough.> Changed his power compact light he had (it was about a year old) and got a new one <Ok.> Added a carbon bag to the refugium getting some good flow main tank. <Hmm?> Purchased a pair of phosphate pads where you keep one in for 24 hours then discard, and put the second one in for 48 hours then discard along with some Cyano powder you can add to the tank which has gotten rid of the Cyano before I even discarded the first pad) <Uh-oh, sounds like a possible E.M. or similar product aimed at killing the BGA, instead of reducing the levels of it's required elements. We used to use Erythromycin in the 90's to try to get rid of Cyano and snot algaes, but it had the undesired effect of killing of your beneficial nitrifying bacteria as well as basically dispersing the Cyano in dissolved form (bad) into the water column.> Also siphoned some sand out of the main tank, rinsed it thoroughly making almost free of anything and placed it back in the tank.   <Not neccessary.> Added a powerful powerhead (Rio 2100) getting some good circulation plus another standard powerhead <Very good step in thwarting BGA.> Here are some questions I hope you can help me out with. <Will try...> 1. After thinking about it, I would think that I would have a ton of die-off in my sand.   <In the form of ammonia, not usually phosphate.> When I got the tank, he left me an inch or two of Southdown sand in the main tank and probably about 5 inches of Southdown in the refugium that he had up for years.  Can I siphon all of this sand out of the refugium, then just add about 3 inches back in the refugium with hurting the natural cycle of the tank?  Any bacteria there I should worry about? <I would just add to the existing substrate, as I don't see a need for removal of the older, established schtuff.> 2. I recently found some ar<a>gonite sand filling about half a bucket.  I rinsed it thoroughly and added some to main tank.  A week later, I vacuumed some more sand out, rinsed it thoroughly, and added it back to the tank.  Is this ok to do every two weeks or so, or even every week?   <Above and beyond what is required, here. Furthermore, any rinsing of established media (LS, LR etc.) should be done in tank-water.> I love my Mandarin <mandarin> who has been with me for 3 years, and don't want to disrupt the sand bed, but want to get rid of any die off<.> <You are overreacting, IMO.> I know I must have gotten that aiding the phosphates?   <If you allow the new system to properly cycle, and confirm the cycle with testing, you should have no probs. I would expect the cycle to be quite abbreviated.> Let's say I took out a little sand here and there each water change then adding it back after rinsing thoroughly. <Cut that out! ;) > 3. On my current refugium, I now have the Coralife lighting, but I did leave the 60 watt bulb shining down on the 20 gallon refugium, is this ok or two <too> much light? <Mmmm... probably, yes. Do some searching re lighting requirements for refugiums.> Thanks again for your help and taking part the most informative/educational aquatic website I know to date.   I stay glued to the site! <Thanks for participating! -Graham T.>

Crushed coral substrate   1/15/07 Hello Crew, <Hello Lisa, JustinN with you today.> I read someplace (I think on your site) and now I can't remember or find the article/letter.  The subject was about crushed coral substrate and how it loses it's pH benefits over time.  Is this true? <Mmm, yes, tis true, though not only of crushed coral substrate. This is true of any such marine substrate, be it crushed coral or oolitic aragonite sand, and is also true of live rock to a lesser extent. The easily soluble portions of these will be dissolved into the water column over time, and when its depleted, pH, alkalinity and calcium levels will typically begin to deplete.> I have had mine going on 5 years.  All the water levels are good, but as of late I am having trouble with green hair algae and cannot get rid of it.  I go in and the tank with a tooth brush and scrub the rock.   <Is better to do this outside the tank, as all the little strands that are let loose into the aquarium have the potential to take root and become another patch of hair algae.> I also remove the top layer of gravel and pour boiling water over it and let it dry out with the intentions of returning it to the tank (is this okay to do?).   <Certainly> How do I get rid of this "green hair devil" for good, and what should I do with my crushed coral?...Guess that was two questions combined.  Sorry! <Your crushed coral is likely fine, though after 5 years, you might consider exchanging some of it for new crushed coral. Simply remove some substrate and replace with fresh, rinsed crushed coral. As far as the hair algae goes, hair algae is usually indicative of high phosphate and nitrate levels. Have a read here for some more information: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm Hope this helps you! -JustinN> By the way, I would love to contribute a donation, but have closed all my CC accounts.  Is there a P.O. box I can mail a check to (don't worry, it isn't a rubber one)? Thanks for your help! Lisa <Certainly, the mailing address for WWM is as follows: WetWebMedia 8586 Menkar Rd. San Diego, CA 92126. Thanks for the support, Lisa!>

No tank...I'm outta here...go pound sand... landlord rel.s... reef set-up   12/28/06 Hello Crew (Mich if possible):   <Hello Again, Mich here.> I hope this email finds you having enjoyed a wonderful holiday season.   <Tis good and getting better!> I sent an email regarding an upgrade from a 55 to a 75 however my landlord (the same one that will not let me have a sump) has decided that a 55 is as large as I can go.  I will be looking to move in the near future as my life revolves around my fish.   <Heee!  Wow!  I didn't expect the new landlord suggestion to be the one most seriously taken, but follow your bliss.  You are far from alone in respect to your priorities.>   In the mean time I want to use the items that I already purchased and would like your advice.  I currently have a 55 with and Aqua C Remora, a Emporer 400, and 3 small power heads running my reef tank.  I also have around 3 inches of sand.   <OK> My plan is to add a couple more inches of sand.  I am aiming for a 4+ sand bed and here is the problem.   <OK> I currently have a Yellow Watchman Goby and a Pistol Shrimp.  I have looked on WWM and found that you can just slowly add well rinsed sand.   <Yes> Will this pose a problem for the Goby/Pistol?   <I would trying doing it in small step, as not to get too much  sediment in the water column at any one time.> I will also be adding 4 Maxi Jet 1200 s to  each corner of the tank and aiming them at the center.   <Good, but wait till you have added the sand or it will be a dust storm.> I will then remove the Emperor filter and just have the Remora.  According to WWM I think this plan will work.  Do you think this is a good idea?    <Yes.> Thank you so much for all that you do and have a wonderful New Year. <Welcome! It is a collective effort.  Yes, I assuredly will have a wonderful new year and wish you the same my friend!  -Mich

Just moved   10/5/06 Hello- Love the site.  I just moved over the weekend and I have a quick question for you; I have looked all over the site but I can't find this specifically.  I have a 75 gallon FOWLR w/ 40 lbs. of rock and about 30 pounds of sand.  I set up a 10 gallon tank with a small pump to keep my rocks alive.  My question is about the sand.  I stuffed a bag full and of sand and set it in the 10 gallon with the rock; the rest of the sand is in a 5 gallon bucket topped with approx a gallon of tank water.  I placed it in the bucket Friday night.  If I put this in my newly set up tank, can it harm my tank?  Also, I found 2 clowns in the false back of my tank where the filter/return lead to the sump after I broke down the tank;  {insert finding Nemo joke here} ...they were still alive after 8 months or so anyway, I put them in the 10 gallon tank with the rock.  How long do you think they can they survive there?  I plan on doing everything this weekend, but now I'm starting to worry.  Thanks <<Ryan:  Anytime you disturb a sandbed in a move, you run a high risk of transferring sickness and disease to the fish (I found out the hard way when I moved a tank that had been established over 2 years).  I would put the clowns with the rock only, and leave all the sand in another container (with a heater and powerhead) until you can set up the main tank again.  When you set the main tank up, put the sand and rocks in it and run the tank for a few days.  Leave the clowns by themselves.  After the parameters stabilize, move the clowns back to the main tank.  Best of luck, Roy>> Thanks, Ryan

Adding live sand  - 05/29/06 Hi crew, <Hi> I have a 90 gallon FOWLR with crushed coral at the moment. I'm interested in housing Jawfish (Yellowhead) and wrasses (red Coris) and realize that they need a sandy substrate. My CC depth is ~1.5" now, and my plan was to add sugar-fine LS to a depth of 2.5" or 3". This results in a couple of questions. 1. Would these guys be ok in a mixed CC/LS setup and this depth, or do they need a complete sand substrate? <The problem is that the CC does not stay at the bottom, it will rise to the top of the sand, making problems for the Jawfish especially.> 2. I've read up on your site about the LS depths recommended (1" or less for decorative purposes, 4"+ for DSB). I'm very diligent about regular water changes (~15% a week w/ vacuum) and monitoring nitrates, so I'm more concerned fish happiness than nitrate reduction. <Jawfish make mostly vertical burrows, so 3+ inches of sand is best.> 3. Tied to question 2, are there additional drawbacks to this combination and depth I should investigate further? <I would remove the CC, and replace with sand.  A pain but really the best long term solution.> Thanks for all of your help and support. Ian

Adding Additional Substrate - 06/29/06 Hello again, back to ask another question. <<Hello Ryan, EricR here again>> I recently did something that Eric R. told me not to do (which is went from a 55 gallon to 90 gallon in one day, added seeded sand and my old sand from the 55 gallon on top) so far I have not had any problems although I am worried because he advised me against doing this in a day. <<Was just that Ryan...advice.  Is ultimately up to you to decide a course of action>> Anyway my question is, I am not happy with the sand (actually crushed coral that was under the sand in my 55) being on top, not as nice to look at, can I slowly add a few pounds of CaribSea Bahama Oolitic fine grain sand at a time (I know its not actually live but no dust)? <<Shouldn't be a problem...though the fine sand won't likely stay on top...will eventually mix in>> Just FYI I did this one day change over a week ago and have been monitoring all parameters in my tank which are ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0, phosphate 0.1, alk 9 dKH, calcium 400 ppm, PH 8.3.  So is something bad still likely to happen? <<My advice previously was to allow some time to monitor/allow for the new system to cycle to reduce risks before adding your livestock.  It looks like you may have had enough "cured" material to transfer to the new system to avoid a full-blown nitrogen cycle.  At this point, I would keep a close eye on water quality and keep a batch of seawater and some chemical filtration media (Poly-Filter) handy in case a large water change becomes necessary>> All of my corals look better than they did in the old tank, my anemone looks great, my fish are fine -no Ick, snails are fine and my cleaner shrimp is good. <<Am glad to hear>> I have been feeding quite lightly to let bacteria populations get back to normal levels before I feed regularly. <<I think you can begin to return to a normal feeding regime...monitoring water quality along the way>> I have attached a picture of the tank, just for fun. <<Looks very nice, though it is so large I'm not sure if we'll be able to resize/post.  For future reference, please send images as bitmap or JPEG attachments...of a few hundred KB in size>> Thanks I am extremely interested in what you think, Ryan Nienhuis <<Keep a close watch and the tank will likely be fine.  Regards, Eric Russell>>

Replacing a damaged acrylic tank   7/18/06 Hi Crew, <Tom> We have a healthy 120G reef setup for 2+ years now, much of the credit goes to the WWM database.  Around 170lbs live rock, 1-1.5" sand/rubble bed, several good size SPS (up to 12" across), <Nice!> a few nice LPS, xenia, 6" derasa, Lysmata shrimp, few dozen small hermits and Nassarius snails.  The fish range from about 4.5" down to 2.5", and are a purple tang, pacific blue tang, flame angel, pair of Percs, yellow watchman goby, royal Gramma, twinspot/yellow hogfish, yellow Foxface - all healthy & active.  Salifert tests indicate quality & stable water. So what's the problem?  The old tank is giving out <?!> so we need to move the contents & gear across the room to a replacement tank of about 130G. Could it be done as simply as the following plan? 1. Pump about 1/2 the old tank water into the new tank. 2. Keep the old tank circulating with powerheads. 3. Put about 1" of new sand into the new tank. 4. Seed the new sand with a few pounds of the old sand and let settle for a 1/2 hour or so. 5. Move the rock and coral & arrange in the new tank. 6. Move the fish and remaining animals into the new tank. 7. Pump the remaining water into the new tank. 8 Top off the new tank with enough saltwater, probably 10-20 gallons of aerated, buffered saltwater. 9. Keep the new tank temperature stable & circulating with powerheads while we move the existing gear (sump, chiller, pumps, skimmer, lights, Ca reactor, etc.) <Sounds good, complete... will you move the remainder of the substrate ultimately into the new system?> We've budgeted a day for the move and the next day to work out issues, and another day for wrapping up.  Is this plan OK?  What else could we do to minimize the stress on the animals and make this a successful event? <Plenty of towels, buckets... a reduction in any/all other distractions> Is the new tank likely to have any re-cycling issues? <Likely not> Thanks, Tom <Welcome. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> Re: Replacing a damaged acrylic tank  - 07/18/2006 Hi Bob, <Hello Tom> The current substrate is a mix of sand & rubble, and the plan was to use a kitchen colander to sift out rubble before putting the old sand in with the new. <Ahh... I see>   In the new tank we want sand only, no rubble.  Given the sifting & handling of the old substrate, do we need to be concerned about causing enough of a substrate die-off that we should just use enough to re-seed the new tank, or would it be OK to reuse all of the old substrate, after it is sifted? <Perfectly fine to use the finer-only bits... the bacteria will survive in good numbers if you rinse this with only the old system water. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Tom New Tank, New to Salt Water 8/17/06 Mixing substrate types/sizes   8/17/06 I have a question about my first saltwater fish tank. I just set it up yesterday and I dont really know a lot about saltwater fish tanks. <Read, read, read and read some more before adding any livestock.> I have a 29  gal fish tank with about 20 lbs of crushed coral in it. Can I also put some sand in it or will that just be stupid? Thanks a lot   ~TREY~ <Mixing substrates is generally not a good idea.  You get worst qualities for both this way.> <Chris>

Sand or crushed coral, maybe both? 8/8/06 Hi, <Hello> I have a 55 Gallon fowler tank. Not much in it right now,50 pounds live rock, 3 turbo's,6 red and blue leg hermits,3 Astraea snails and 1 clown. The tank has been set up now for about 3to4 months. My sand bed is made up of 30lbs Aragamax sugar sized sand mixed with 20lbs live sand. <How deep is it?  I'm guessing 2+ inches.> My problem is that the sand gets so dirty looking (brown algae and snail poop I think)  when I try to clean it the sand gets EVERY where by the time it settles my live rock is just covered and looks like crap. I hear good things about sand helping to control nitrates, that's why I went that way. <At the right depth it can be quite useful for nitrate reduction, 3+ inches at least.> But I was wanting to maybe go the crushed coral route. <Can be problematic, trapping detritus.>  I don't know any body that has a saltwater tank and the LFS in my area are not worth going to "they don't even sell RO water" so I thought I would ask some one who could help me out a little!! <Hopefully> Should I try the coral or stick with the sand? <I prefer sand, either under 1 inch or over 3.>  Can you mix the two and have the coral for the top layer? <Worst of both worlds, I wouldn't recommend it.>  Is the coral easier to keep clean? <Not really.>  Also one more question I did some reading just incase I did go with the coral about keeping nitrates down and I came across a DIY project called a coil denitrator that claimed after two months of cycling it will help keep nitrates down ever heard of anything like this? <Yes> Maybe worth trying? <Lots of work, mixed results at best.  Water changes and a deep sand bed are easier in my opinion.  Give this a read for more http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm > Thanks for any help Brian <Anytime> <Chris>        

Redoing Substrates 9/13/06 To All: <Hi> I'm getting ready to redo my substrates in my 90 gal reef tank. I have had problems in the past with nitrates sometimes high but can be controlled with water changes. <Best method> Currently I have a 5 inch crushed coral bed with underwater filter powered by one 110 and a 70 aqua clear power head on each corner. along with a canister filter and skimmer). <What we call a nitrate factory.>  UG filters are not used much anymore for this reason, among others.> After reading endless amount of info on your site I just wanted your opinion on what would be the best substrates for me to use. I would like to stick with a substrates for some of the goby's and other creatures that enjoy digging. <I like using substrates in the main tank.> I was thinking of going with 3 to 4 inches of live sand. <Good, sugar fine is best.> I have 75lbs of live rock that I use for my reef too. Should I use underwater filter or just place the sand on the bottom?? <Sand on the bottom, the UG filter will not work with sand.> And should it be mixed with crushed coral or something else?? <Nope, just sand.> This seems to be the most difficult question to come up with an answer for. There is so many ways to setup a substrates. <Many different ideas out there, I like a simple 3-4 inch thick layer of sugar fine sand.> I'm sticking with mostly soft corals since I currently don't have a metal halide light. <Sounds good.> Thanks, J.R. <Anytime> <Chris> Replacing Marine Substrate - 09/11/06 Hello again, hope all is well. <<Well enough...thanks>> Quick question, I would like to replace my substrate with fine sand (about 2-3 inches deep), bad idea? <<Not a bad idea...but I recommend a minimum of 4" is recommended to allow sufficient depth for nitrifying/denitrifying processes>> Would it be best to use Carib-Sea Aragalive? <<Not in my opinion...a waste of money.  Any "dry" sugar-size aragonite will do>> My current substrate is a fine sand, crushed coral mixed and the main reason I want to change it is I am not happy with the look (the crushed coral always ends up on the top). <<Okay>> I think that if I tried to add the fine sand on top I would eventually end up with the crushed coral on top again, and would smother most existing bacteria.  Or would it be possible to siphon out a third of the current substrate at a time and replace it with the new substrate over a period of a few months? <<This is a good approach...2-3 weeks between will likely suffice>> By the way it's a 90 gallon tank with 20 gallon sump.  Thanks, I'm sure I'll have another question in a week; I need to stop thinking so much (obsessive compulsive disorder). <<Ha!  No worries mate...be chatting.  EricR>>

Re: Replacing Marine Substrate - 09/12/06 Ok thanks, one last question. <<Alright>> By siphoning current sand I won't be letting off harmful gases in the tank will I? <<Is a possibility...especially if your sand bed is covered with rock/water flow has been insufficient to keep detritus in suspension.  My experience with this has been that pockets of "gas" (hydrogen sulphide), while highly toxic, quickly dissipate from the water.  It will make your nose wrinkle for sure, but I've never experienced problems with livestock from disturbing small pockets of this gas.  Hobbyists remove/change/modify their substrate all the time.  Supply vigorous water movement (but no need to create a "sand storm") during the operation and you'll likely incur no problems.  EricR>>

Sandbed On The Move?  9/28/05 Hey Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> Apologize for the question but not seeing my problem directly. <No need to apologize!> Currently have a 75g mainly FOWLR (couple of mushrooms and a few polyps) with ~65 lbs LR and a 4-5 DSB. Im sold on the DSB idea; tank has been up for 3 years and since initial cycle, nitrate and nitrites at zero. <Good to hear!> Moving across town in a few days to a new house where Ill be setting up a 145g display on the main floor along with a 75g sump and 33g refugium in the basement. Problem is the new tank and sump still havent been delivered and realistically if I had them now, probably wouldnt be plumbed for a couple of weeks. <I see.> Concern is maintaining the DSB. Was thinking, taking the 75g down, saving top 1 layer of sand, moving everything across town in tubs. Once there, fill the 75g back up with SW thats currently at the new place aging (power heads and heater) and the LR. The sand I saved, I would place in the 33g with a HOB filter and power head to keep for seeding the DSB on the new system. The move is going to be complicated enough as is, so wondering if its worth the effort in trying the keep the sand or just toss it? <I'd hate to totally waste the established sand bed, but there might be some die off of the infauna and bacterial populations within the sandbed once it's disturbed and moved. Expect some possible "re-cycling" to occur. It's certainly worth a shot, if you are up for the effort, IMO.> A some what related question, if I were just to have ½ sand in the display and setup a remote DSB in the sump and/or refugium what would be the minimum surface area for maintaining NNR? <Hard to say, actually. I'd tend to use the "depth" as a gauge for denitrification capacity. I wouldn't run less than a 3"-4" sandbed in the sump if denitrification is what you are attempting to achieve.> Finally, thanks for the site; its amazing the amount of info. In addition to the reading online, Ive probably a stack of FAQs printed 18 high (all two pages per sheet, most double sided). Great reading when on the road or when someone else is on the computer and I need a WWM fix. Mark Edmonton, AB <A great idea...You CAN take it with you! Good luck on the move! Regards, Scott F.> Mixing Substrates - 11/20/05 Hello WWM Crew! <<Hello Aly! EricR here>>  I'm finally converting my 7-year-old 46 bow front FOWLR to reef (I know, what took me so long!) <<Mmm...nuttin wrong with fish...>>  and I've got the ill-talked about CC substrate in there right now. <<Not all bad...much to do with grain size/depth.>> I've been reading up on substrate for the past week here on WWM and I'm going to make the switch to a SSB. <<I'm a DSB kinda guy...but this is fine too.>> I'm going to take out 1/4 of the CC at a time and replace that section with the sand over the next month until all is complete. <<Alrighty>> So just a few questions I need a little clarification on, if you don't mind. <<I don't>> Sand Type- I think I'm going to go for the Aragamax sugar-sized sand mixed with a bigger grain. <<You can do this, but not necessary. Much more simple to just pick/choose a grain size and proceed...>> I like the look of the Bermuda Pink (2.0 - 5.5 mm) but I've seen it described as a mini CC substrate. Fiji Pink Reef Sand (0.5 - 1.5 mm), Flamingo Reef Sand (1.0 - 2.0 mm) and Grand Bahama Biome (0.1 - 2.0 mm) are also on my shortlist but I have no idea what would look or work best mixed with the sugar sized. <<Mix or not...my choices would be the Fiji Pink or the Flamingo Reef Sand. Best combination of grain size/variation in my opinion>> I'm running all of that info off the Carib-Sea page: http://www.carib-sea.com/pages/prod.../aragonite.html What would your preference be to mix with the sugar size? <<As stated...but without mixing in the SS.>> Mix Ratio- What ratio would you mix the sand? I used an online sand calculator that says my tank will need 23 lbs. to make a 1" bed. A 1 1/2" bed would come to the bottom of the black strip on my tank but I read that would be a bad depth (just in case, I would need 34 lbs. of sand for the 1 1/2" bed). <<For the SSB I would use 1" depth or less. If you decide to mix with a sugar-fine substrate then I recommend no more than 30% of the fine stuff.>> Rock Slide- With the transfer to sand, I'm worried about a rock slide driving straight through a 1" sand bed and cracking the bottom. <<Of little concern...think about the folks who don't even use a substrate (bare-bottom).>> I had read about eggcrate being a possibility from a LFS. Will that help cushion the blow if there's a rock slide? <<It could...but the 1" substrate will do just fine.>> I guess I've come to rely on the cushion of the CC, which sounds silly now that I think about it! <<Hee!>> Thanks in advance for your help! -Aly <<Welcome, EricR>>

Used gravel - Let's Call it "Pre-owned"!  12/03/05 I have a neighbor who failed with his 180g reef (two floods-ruined home theater in room below tank, fortunately still married though). He then tried fish only for a while, then finally converted to fresh water. He's offered to give me 160lbs aragonite gravel which was in the tank through all of the above (including FW with a Pleco and some goldfish for ~1 yr).   He never used any meds, copper or otherwise, and says disease wasn't a problem. Would you be nervous using the aragonite in a new reef? Thanks, Neil  <Yes Neil, wives can become very nasty when situations like that occur. To answer your question, no, I would feel comfortable using it, just rinse portions of it at a time in a bucket. James (Salty Dog)>

Stocking and Sand for a 29 Gal. - 12/17/2005 Hey guys first time question, long time reader. First up thank you for running such a great site. <Glad that you enjoy it, though we'd probably be lost without the help from the ladies!> Okay I have 29 gallon with a magnum H.O.T filter, 20watt NO lighting, with 24lbs of live rock and about 20lbs of aragonite live sand. I've had the tank up for about two months now and just ordered the Orbit Lunar Lights PC (130watt), Maxijet 1200, and the Bak Pak 2. In my tank I have 2 Yellowtail Damsels, a large Green Brittle Star (about the size of a computer mouse) that hitched a ride on some liverock, <I'd recommend removing this. Well known for ambushing fishes at night.> a Feather Duster and 2 Peppermint Shrimp. Water checks out fine as well, I do a 5 gallon water change a week because of the lack of a skimmer. <Good but better to have the skimmer.> First question is I plan on getting rid of the Damsels for 2 Percula Clowns, a Flame Angel, <The Flame Angel needs more room.> a sixline wrasse <May not work out either.> and 2 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, not at all the same time of course. Is this a fair load of livestock or overkill? <Way over.> For corals I would like to do some striped mushrooms, button polyps, and xenia, I hope my new light would be powerful enough for these. <Should be fine but be careful mixing these in a small tank.> My last question is I would like to add more sand to my tank to create a deeper sand bed. Can I use the same live sand about 20lbs or would that cause an ammonia spike in my tank? <Can use the same, be careful not to bury the existing bed. You'll have to add small amounts at a time, in sections. Move a portion, add sand smooth back over.> Thanks <You're welcome. - Josh>

Changing substrate  - 01/09/2006 I have had my 55 gal tank set up for about 2 years.  It has a bed of coarse aragonite (.5 to 1 mm), varying from 2 to 4 inches in depth.  In reading the info here on WWM I'm thinking that it's time to replace some of the aragonite, and it looks like "state of the art" is a DSB of sugar-fine aragonite.<sounds like a good idea!> So, do I need to totally remove the more granular substrate before adding the finer variety, or can I remove the top half of what I have and add the finer substrate over the top?  What should the total bed depth be?<all of your questions can be found here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm> I expect that even after I aggressively rinse the new aragonite there will be an introduction of fines into the tank.  Will that bother the fish (one perc, one pajama cardinal, one purple firefish), the Kenya tree, mushroom, and Crocea?<probably not>  I have a QT that I could relocate them to if need be, until the "dust settles".<the dust should not bother the fish too much but make sure it does not settle inside the clam, good luck, and read the info in the link provided! IanB> Thanks! Ken Baker

Substrate Change and Water Quality  1/8/06 Hi Crew, <Hello Ernie.> Just found your site not long ago and would like to say thanks for all the great information in your pages. <Glad you are learning form and enjoying it.> Wished I had found it along time ago. <Me too.> I just took out 3 inches of crushed coral off the top of 3 inches of .5 to 1 mm aragonite sand. I replaced the crushed coral with 3 inches of the same .5 to 1 mm aragonite sand. <Cool.> I kept all of my live rock submerged in rubber maid container during this process and used the same water that was in my tank originally to refill. Plus or minus ten gallons of aged water made up aerated, and ph and salt balanced. Question is will my tank recycle after this process. <It shouldnt go through a large cycling process again, no. However the disturbing of so much substrate and the removing or disturbing of bacterial colonies may cause some water quality issues as far as nutrients. I would continue to test the water daily for at least a week or two after the switch and do a water change if necessary.> My fish are currently moved to another tank but it is really crowed and I would like to get them back home. Thanks a lot. <Just test and check the stability, if everything checks out, youre good to go.> Ernie in Kansas <Adam J in SoCal.> 55 gal reef tank in Bahamas   1/10/06 Hi, <Hello> I have been reading your site and realize I must be extremely lucky. I live on the water in the Bahamas and catch all my critters in the back yard in knee deep water. <How nice> I have a 55 gal tank with sand and rock that we picked up. It has been up and going for around 1 1/2 years. I have a bunch of crabs, urchins, brittlestars, a sand sifting sea star, some shrimp , anemones and some fish ( snapper, parrotfish, wrasses, beau Gregorys). I change the water , from the back yard, every couple weeks. Usually around 1/3 to half of it. I feed them Prime Reef and some fresh fish chunks. <Sounds good> Everyone seems to be happy. I am sorry I cant use the technical terms I just got online here and am learning a lot  but I have just been winging it. <As long as you're understood... the medium is the message> My question is should I add or change some of the sand on the bottom? Or just leave it alone. <I would change some out at this junction every half year or so... perhaps a quarter to two-fifths> Thank you so much .Michelle <And you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner> LS and white sand mix 01-11-06 Hi WWM, <AngeloM3> Just about to start the cycling for my 55gal tank.  I have 40lbs of LS and 20lbs of white sand, with about 30lbs of dead LR going in for the cycling. After its done the cycle I will add about 20lbs of Cured LR.   <Do not wait for the cycle to end to add your live rock or your will start another cycle.> I do plan on getting 2 Lawnmower Blennies and various inverts (plus about 4 fish and 1 anemone). Couple of questions about cycling and the sand layers........... Since I'll have the blennies and inverts that will be sifting the sand, how should I layer the sand?  White sand on the bottom with LS on top? Or visa versa?   <It doesn't matter as it will not stay in layers.> Also a grate was included with my tank that covers the entire bottom of my tank (but is removable) what is this for and do I need it?   <Get rid of it. It will hinder your deep sandbed critter from doing their job.> During the cycling period.... how often and what percentage of water should I be changing? <<Depends on measured water quality... RMF>> <None. Good luck and make sure to use this cycling time to research your future animals. Travis> Thanks for your help -AngeloM3 Re: Changing substrate   1/17/06 Thanks for the link to Anthony's article. The only question not answered there is whether I need to remove all my coarse aragonite before adding the fine aragonite or can I remove part of it and add the fine on top of the coarse?<you probably should remove the coarse aragonite because the fine aragonite will seep through and wind up at the bottom. good luck, IanB> Thanks Ken Cyano/control, adding sand and an Anthias   2/2/06 Hi crew!  I love your site and visit it daily... just to make sure there is nothing I have missed.  Keep up the great work!  I am currently in the need of some advice, however.  Tank specs as follows: 50 gallon, 20H x 18W x 48L 65lbs live rock 4 x 65 watt PC (two actinics, two 10K daylight) Ammonia/nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 10ppm PH - 8.3 at night SPG - 1.025 Calcium - 410 Alk - 4 MEQ (should this be higher?) <Mmm, no. This is right about right: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/feb2002/chemistry.htm> This tank is a mini reef that has been up and running for 3 years.  Mostly soft corals...leathers, mushrooms, zoos, button polyps, xenia, star polyps, and a couple of impulse LPS...one hammer and one open brain.  The livestock is well and healthy...with most of the inhabitants doubling within the past year.  The tank had been fine for the first 2 years it was set up...went through the initial diatom bloom that went away as the tank settled....and I never saw any other algal blooms....until now.  lol I have what looks to be hair algae, but it comes off in clumps and feels slimy.  I'm still confused as to what kind it is, and I've searched pics posted on here and still cannot ID it.  The guy at the LFS told me it was probably due to high phosphates from my tap water.  So I bought a tap water filter  (all really I can afford at the moment) and some Ultra life Slime remover (ever heard of this?). <... yes, and not advised> I added the slime remover for a day, performed a 10gal water change in which I proceeded to scrub the algae off MOST of the live rock.  I thought I had gotten it all, things were well in the world.  However a few weeks ago....I upgraded my lighting to what is stated above.  It used to be only 2 65 watt 50/50 PCs.  And now the algae is back with a vengeance!! <Yes... just "recycled" the nutrients...> I'm assuming that I'm still getting phosphates in my water, and the light fueled another bloom? <In part, likely> I currently have no space for a sump or refugium, and run a hang on back Aqua C Remora and a millennium filter in which the media has been replaced with Chemi pure and PolyFilter. I do 5 gallon weekly changes...and I really have no qualms over brushing the algae off the rock again.  I kind of enjoy killing off the buggers.  I have also read that live rock loses it's buffering capacity and some of it should be replaced periodically?   <Yes... posted on WWM> I've had the same live rock for 3 years....would this be a smart move for me? <Yes> I'm also thinking of adding more sand to my display, but have read conflicting ways on how to do it.  I've read that you should do half first, and once that establishes, the other half. <One approach... again, posted>   I read somewhere else that you should not cover the existing layer of sand.  Since I would have to do it with my livestock STILL in the tank....would this be feasible, or just leave the 1inch I currently have alone? <I would add more... either slowly "sprinkling" on top of the existing, mixing in, or scooting old to the side, adding new there> Well...I'm not done yet!!  I have my heart set on a Starburst Anthias. Current fish stock includes, 2 black clowns who are so busy trying to decide who will be the male/female that they take no interest in anyone else in the tank.  One canary wrasse who is wrapped up in its own reflection, one bicolor blenny who on occasion munches on the aforementioned algae, and one rusty angel who is king or queen of the tank.  There lies my concern.  This fish hasn't bullied any of the other tank mates....but it is pretty boisterous come feeding time.  I was thinking I could add the Anthias with about 3 Chromis to act as dither fish, in case the angel decides he wants to reign supreme.  I haven't added any fish in a year....so I'm a tad concerned before I spend $40 on this Anthias.  ::sigh:: But the angel is my favorite. Any thoughts or suggestions? <Will likely mix, though hide in this setting> I also have my heart set on a clam...and from what I've read, the lowest light requiring species is the T. squamosa. Would I be able to maintain one with my current light set up, once the algae problem has been resolved?   <Likely, yes> That's another reason why I wanted to add more sand, I read they prefer the sandy bottom of the tank.  Also...would I need to supply phytoplankton? <... I would> Again I hear conflicting info....yes they need it, no the light is all they need.  Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.  Sorry this has been so long and excruciating....I look forward to your reply. Thanks, Karina <Take your time... and enjoy the process/es... Bob Fenner>

Sand bed question  - 2/11/2006 I have a 135ga. tank (been set up for fish only with crushed coral ten years) that I am converting it from FOWLR to a Reef tank. I am removing the under gravel "slowly" and planning on leaving about 1" of (from my FOWLR setup) cleaned crushed coral (to save money & keep from removing it all) and add about 2" to 3" fo live sand to top. I will have a good size wet/ dry/ protein skimmer/ UV/ canister filter/ power heads for very good water flow. Do you see any major problem with having about 1" of crushed coral mixed with 2" to 3" of live sand. <No.> Will I need to clean it regularly (monthly as I have in the past)? <A good quality live sand should contain worms, microcrustaceans, etc.  These guys are suppose to do the work keeping the sand churned and gobbling away at the detritus.  Sand sifting stars help a great deal in this process. I don't believe I would want to use a UV with a sand bed, will kill beneficial critters along with the bad guys.> Do you think I should definitely remove all crushed coral and have at least three inches of live sand? <Choice is yours.  I'd prefer all sand if I was doing this.> Would I need to clean at all? <As above and do search our site for more info on this subject.  James (Salty Dog)> Kent B. Murrell Adding/Changing Reef Substrate - 02/09/06 Hello crew. <<Howdy!>> Great site, so much info. <<Glad you like it.>> I have a 125 gallon reef which is doing well thanks in a large part to WWM. <<Excellent!>> I have taken your advice and added a 30 gallon refugium with a 6 inch DSB and a very large portion of Chaetomorpha algae. <<Ahh...good (better) times ahead!>> Also added an Aqua C skimmer and a closed loop manifold increasing my flow by about 700 gallons per hour.  Also have removed all bio balls from the wet/dry. <<You've been busy...>> Needless to say my system has never looked better and my nitrates have fallen to < 2.5 PPM (Salifert). <<I would try to keep it (nitrate) at about this concentration.  Many of your corals will benefit from a bit of nitrate availability.>> My thoughts are leaning towards possibly changing  or adding to the substrate in the main display. <<Ok>> I have about 3 to 4 inches of crushed coral and sand mixture at this time.  That was before WWM and via the advice of my LFS.  I would like to add fine sand to the main display.  Is it Ok to add to the existing mix or do I need to remove it and start over? This would not be the easiest thing to do. <<Adding to existing will be fine...is what I would do.>> I was thinking of vacuuming the crushed coral very thoroughly in small areas prior to adding the sand.  This would be done in stages and not all at once.  Does this sound possible? <<Sure>> Sand looks so much better and I understand is much easier to maintain.  Looking to add a couple of inches as stated. <<The fine grained sand will work its way to the bottom and need "topping up" eventually.>> Thanks for your advice.  You site is awesome <<Thank you for contributing.  Regards, EricR>>

Substrate questions 2/18/06 Two quick questions. My current substrate is fairly course (CaribSea Aragonite 5-10mm, 1" to 1.5" in depth) and I would like to replace it with a fine sand (Seaflor Aragonite reef sand, 1" to 1.5"), how would I go about this? <If the bed is fairly new and not supporting much life, I would just add the fine substrate and let it fill in the spaces in the coarse.  If it is older and has a lot of life but not a lot of detritus, I would do the same, but slowly enough (1/4" per day) to allow the life to rise to the surface.  If it is older and has a lot of detritus and not much life, I would vacuum it aggressively and then fill in with fine.  Removal of the old substrate is not really necessary in my opinion.> Second, do you recommend letting your rock rest on the substrate or being suspended above it? Thanks <I am a big fan of placing pillar in the substrate (I use 3" PVC rings cut to a length slightly longer than the depth of the bed).  It improves water movement, reduces dead spaces, allows critters to roam more freely and provides more surface area for biological activity.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Substrate question part 2 2/20/06 Won't the fine sand eventually fall to the bottom? My substrate is about 2.5 months old. <Yup, it will.  That is exactly the idea.  As it settles to the bottom, keep adding it until it covers the existing substrate.  Once all of the spaces are filled with fine sand, you will have a deep fine sand bed that happens to have a lot of larger particles in it.  It will function fine and will require much less sand to create the desired depth.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Substrate Question part 3 3/7/06 How deep would you go? Would 3" - 4" be sufficient? <<Sorry for the slow reply!  Yes.  3-4" is ideal for deep fine sand beds.  AdamC.>> Substrate Question part 4 3/9/07 Would it matter that half the bed would be very course sand - 5-10mm ? <<Doesn't matter at all.  In fact, I prefer some larger grained material in a DSB to help prevent it from blowing around as much.  It also benefits burrowing critters by preventing cave-ins.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

WWM Question on Substrates part 5 6/18/06 The levels were checked against a calcium monitor. <<Sorry for the slow reply.  I have been away from my inbox for a couple of weeks.  Hmmm... I always prefer to do this the other way around.  Monitors must be carefully and frequently calibrated.  Using your test kit on a reference sample (known concentration) can verify that your kit and technique are good.>> My alkalinity is around 5. <<5 what??  5 mEq/ml is a bit high.  5 dKH is quite low.>> What do you mean about keeping calcium in balance with alkalinity? <<Ideally, both Calcium and Alkalinity should be in their ideal ranges.  For Calcium, this is roughly 380-400 mg/L and for Alkalinity, it is roughly 9-11 dKH (3-4 mEq/ml).  If both are high or both are low (in balance), it is better than if one is out of range and the other is OK (out of balance).  When Ca and Alk are out of balance, both parameters become harder to manage. Hope this helps!  Best Regards,  AdamC.>>

Maintenance/Operation/Substrate removal  2/18/06 I was reading some recent info on aquarium substrates that has started to make a whole lot more sense than what I have believed to be true.  There seems to be an undercurrent of hobbyists that are making the radical switch to bare bottom tanks and for a very good reason.  It has been explained to me that a DSB can be an unpredictable detritus trap that over time can hinder water quality and can eventually become unstable and release various chemicals into the water.  I have never really liked the look of my 2-3 inch aragonite and shell gravel bed that I have in my 75 gal FOWLR.  I have been taking more and more out over the course of the past 2 months.  I have about 75lbs of live rock that have been in the system for over a year now and the system is filtered with a wet dry and protein skimmer combo.  The other night I took out the bulk of it (Well pretty much all of the substrate) and replaced it with a thin layer (Less then a half inch) of sand.  I have a Maculosus angel, yellow tang, flame hawk, Xmas wrasse, PJ cardinal and bl yel tail damsel that have been doing very well.  I wanted to improve the water quality by removing the built up detritus from the past 5 years of use.  Will the Live rock be enough to support the beneficial bacteria that breaks down ammonia or will my tank spike and re-cycle killing all of my fish?  I know this is after the fact but I thought that I had this all worked out. <Mark, no worries.  You should have enough bacteria on the rock and inside your wet/dry to handle the situation.  James (Salty Dog)>

Changing/Renewing A Sand Bed - 02/14/06 Dear Mr. Fenner & Staff, <<Staffer EricR here>> I have a 90 gallon reef tank that has been up and running for about 2 1/2 years.  My question is I would like to change some of my existing sand bed.  The sand is starting to look dull and doesn't seem to reflect light like it once did when it was new. <<Depending on the grain size of your substrate, perhaps a Bullet Goby/Genus - Amblygobius or a Diamond Goby/Genus - Valenciennea would prove useful.>> The tank has been stable for the last year with very little problems and I fear that changing out the sand might upset the apple cart. <<Perhaps rather than replacing the sand you could add a new layer (1/2" or less) atop the existing.  If your current bed is aragonite it has likely "shrunk" from dissolution anyway.>> Do you think it would be a more gentle transition if I were to change out my sand with live sand (1/2" Aragonite sand bed ) or would dry sand work just as well? <<Dry sand would be fine, though adding "live" sand will provide a "boost" to your sand bed biota.>> Thanks for all your help.  I start everyday with reading the Q & A portion of your web site and have learned so much! <<Thank you for your contribution as well.  Regards, EricR >> Redoing the substrate in a reef aquarium   3/15/06 Hi Bob, I have a 40 gallon reef tank which has been going for about a year.  Everything seems to be fine.  I recently had a service come to look at it to make sure the tank looks OK.  They suggested I take out the gravel which the original people set me up with and put in sand.  This makes sense, but before doing anything radical, I like to get second opinions. I have tons of lace rock which is covered with coralline & other algaes as well as some live rock I have gradually introduced.  I don't want to harm any of my little creatures [ a star fish, sea urchin, a serpent star, a cucumber, snails & 2 fishes, as well as the corals], but I do want them to have the best environment.  Any major problems with this? <Mmm, can definitely be... best to "culture" the new substrate... remove the sessile invertebrates, perhaps dismantle the tank to remove the old>   The pros seem well read & knowledgeable & they would be doing the turn-over.  Thanks, LC <This change-out can be smooth if one does a bit of planning... do rinse the new material, culture it with some of your "old water"... for a few weeks, months, before switching. Bob Fenner> "Crushing" Crushed Coral - 03/27/06 Hello, <<Howdy>> I have a 55 gallon tank with 1 1/2 inch crushed coral substrate bed.  I'm in the process of getting a 75 gallon upgrade, I'm over the crushed coral look/cleaning and would like to have a DSB, which I have in my other 2 tanks that looks great and is easier to clean.  Can I smash up the crushed coral into tiny pieces place this in my tank then place 1 or 2 20lb. bag of live sand on top of the smashed up crushed coral, or will the crushed coral turn into dust when I smash it? <<Hmm, you can try...seems like more trouble than its worth though.>> I'm just trying to save some money where I can. <<Then just mix/cover the crushed coral with the sand.>> Thanks. <<Regards, EricR>>

Sand bed and live rock    3/27/06 Hi Crew, <<Hi Jeff, this is Lisa.>> I need advice on setting up my reef.  I've just put in a 3 inch layer of Carib Sea Aragonite select.  First, the bag says it never needs changing, but The Book, Conscientious Marine Aquarist, states that it will need to be changed.  Yes, no, maybe? <<The substrates buffering ability will diminish over time.  It will need partial replacements over time to keep this up.>> Second, when I place my live rock in, do I need to move the sand bed out from under the rock (for vacuuming) or do I place it on top of the sand? <<Its a matter of taste really, but for stability, some build the sand around, not under, the rock.>> Thanks again! Jeff <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

Marine substrate Hi Bob/Team, <Hey Doug> My question is short & sweet. I am upgrading my 90 gallon reef tank to a 180 gallon community much to the pleasure of my "captives" & the chagrin of the wife. A bottle of wine will help soothe the latter. I am obviously going to need more sand. Do I put the new sand on top of the old or visa-versa? (typical reef setup) Thank you in advance   <Yes, short and sweet.  Here you can basically do what you want.  You're seeding the new sand with the old sand (i.e. adding beneficial bacteria to it).  So, mix it up, layer it, do what you will.  I would probably suggest an even mixing.  Have fun with you new large tank!  Your inhabitants will love it!  Jen S.> Doug

Old Sand, New SW System - 4/25/2006 Hello there again. <<Hi Heather, this is Lisa.>> I hate to be a pest but you guys have been so helpful in the past. <<Not a problem :).>> I just have a quick question. I used to have a 29 gallon saltwater tank, which I upgraded to a 55 gallon. My question is can I reuse the old sand that was in the 29 gallon? <<Sure you can.>> I bought all new sand when I set up the 55 gallon because I was having some kind of reddish/purple hair algae growing on my sand. The old sand has been sitting in the empty 29 gallon for over a year now. If I rinse it off real good can I add it to my 55 gallon? <<Yes>> Will I introduce that alga to my new set up? <<If its still living after this time, then yes, but this is not likely.>> I'm already having a problem with Cyanobacteria and don't want to add any other problems. <<You should investigate the cause of this BGA, that way you can eliminate it.>> Should it be safe to use? I have 60lbs of live sand and you guys recommended that I go deeper. I'd hate to waste all the old sand because it was so expensive. <<Give it a good rinse in tank water to get rid of any detritus first, and youll be fine.  Do you have fish in the new tank now?  Youll want to keep an eye on your water quality for some time after adding.>> Thank You <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

Adding Substrate  - 05/09/06 Hello all. <<Hi Ryan.>> One quick question.  What would be the best method for adding substrate to an established reef aquarium without disturbing the rockwork and burying anything? <<When Ive added substrate, I rinse it, then fill a scoop (cup, net, whatever) with a small amount of it.  With reef gloves on, I reach to the tank bed, and sprinkle it where I want it.>> Thanks so much! Ryan Mullinax <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

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

New Tank, Old Substrate! Hi Crew, <Hello there! Scott F. with you today!> Time to ask the experts!. I tried posting this on RC and have received conflicting advice. <Well, there is generally no one "right" way to do anything in this hobby, as you know! I'll give you my two cents worth, of course!> I have set up a new 75g with new water, new 5" DSB (Dry bagged) and base rock. I have an existing (about 1 yr) 30 gal with DSB, live rock, coral, snails, crabs, no fish. The new tank has been up for 2 weeks, I used some change out water in the initial fill. How is the best way to transfer everything over to the new tank? All at once? Move just the DSB and let new tank cycle? <I prefer this technique. Sand and water together. There will, in all likelihood, be a new cycle in the tank> Leave old tank bare bottom for a while? I plan on using all the water from the 30 gal. I would like to move it all at once if that's safe. Please help as I don't want to kill off anything. Thanks! <Yep- I'd move everything to the new system, and monitor water parameters carefully, as you would in any new tank. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F> Adding substrate to active tank 4/7/04 Sorry to be bugging you so much today- <no worries> Going to add some new substrate this evening.  Current substrate is a little low, and the white of it has really faded- hope to brighten it up (tank is 6ft long- 125 gallons).   <do be sure that you keep less than 1" or more than 3" of sand if fine (deeper if not for the latter over 3") for optimal success. Intermediate beds require much more sand sifting, siphoning and/or stirring> I have one Lion Fish, and several hermits- what is the safest way of adding new substrate?   <place it in clean plastic bags and soak it in saltwater days in advance to saturate it... then sink the sealed bags to the bottom of the tank, then cut the bags open and gently slip the sliced bag off/away> I know to rinse as much as possible; <yikes, no! Not IMO. You will be rinsing away a very useful buffering pool and likely just making the sand milkier. Soak the sand as per above and enjoy all with convenience and clarity> perhaps small amounts at a time, even sending it down a long PVC pipe, from the surface of the water to the bottom? <very messy> And again with PVC, a good washing should do the trick?  Thank you, Daniel <best of luck, Anthony>

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

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

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

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

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

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

Substrate Replacement Greetings Wet Web Media folks. <Scott F. here today> I wrote to you about 5 or 6 months ago concerning fish species setup for my upcoming 50 gallon aquarium.  Now that it is setup and running awesomely, I have a question about substrate.  I was reading up on some fish that I would eventually like to get.  Most that I would like to eventually need a fine substrate or sand base. Currently, I have a natural rock base with each rock no more then ¼ in diameter.  In an effort to make The aquarium accommodating to these fish I was wondering if there is any possible way to safely transform my substrate to a combination of rock and sand without terrorizing my ecosystem that is currently established.  I know what I would like to do : Have the rock on half then have that drop off, and be covered with the sand. <You can certainly do this. I'd either replace one section of your tank's substrate at a time, or I'd just place the new substrate material right on top of the existing substrate. Some people may disagree with this strategy, but I have done this myself many times without ill effects, so I am comfortable with it> I also have concerns cleaning the sand (if this is safe to do) as I use a python© to siphon the water out, clean the gravel and refill the aquarium.  Do I just hover the python over the sand to clean it?   <Personally, I would not disturb anything more than the top 1/2 inch or so of the sand bed, just to be on the safe side. Why disturb any of the valuable processes, not to mention the accumulating natural "fertilizers" that you are trying to foster in a healthy sand bed> Also, I have many live plants in my aquarium as well.  Will the plants live in the sand or would it be best to have them only grow in the gravel substrate and have natural driftwood create a cave system in the sand? <Really depends on the type of plants that you are trying to keep> Thanks you for any assistance you may be able to give.  This is still the #1 source of aquarium information and it Is always reliable. Thank you for hosting such a great site! Blaine Morgan <We're happy to be hear for you, Blaine! Regards, Scott F>

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

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

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

Fresh to marine substrate Mr. Fenner, <Ron> I have a 75 gal aquarium that has been used for African Cichlids.  It has an aragonite substrate.  If I change this tank to marine, Can I keep the same substrate in there? <Mmm, yes... I would take it out, wash it (likely in a "pickle bucket" and garden hose, until it ran clear), and add more (like a good half again) as the older material has likely lost a good deal of its "easy solubility"> What will the effects be if I do?  Will it cause an ammonia spike resulting in a cycle? <Will have to be recycled again... the microbes present will be almost completely wiped out with the cleaning, change to saltwater... Read about this, and be prepared to wait a few to several weeks for cycling to become established... with or w/o the use of prep.s. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Ron And Christina Allison Replacing One Substrate with Another Hi guys, <Lynne> My 55 gallon acrylic tank is over 1 years old and I have 2 clownfish, a peppermint shrimp, emerald crab and some snails and hermit crabs. I use a SpectraPure 5 stage RO/DI filter for my tank water. <How nice> Lately I have developed an explosion of brown slime algae mostly on the substrate but now spreading onto my live rock and glass. I feed my fish only a small amount once per day and do frequent water changes (5%) twice per week. <Mmm, some source of nutrient seems to have snuck in here... maybe from?> I have had a brown slime algae problem since the tanks beginning but now it is out of control. I have ruled out bad water and over feeding as causes due to the above info and I also have an effective skimmer (Aqua C EV- 120).   <...!> I have brisk circulation and test my water regularly with no readings of phosphate ( 0 ) with a LaMotte test kit. <Curiouser and curiouser> The only conclusion I can come to as to the root cause of my brown slime algae is my substrate. I got some (now in retrospect) bad advice to use the Sandown Play Sand. I have about 2-3 inches as substrate. <Maybe> At the time I did not realize it contained silicates. Now, I think it is the cause of my brown slime algae. <Not the silicates, but perhaps some other substances> My question is can I replace my silicate loaded sand with a different substrate to rid my tank of the brown slime algae without draining my tank and starting over? <Yes. You can even siphon out the old (and pour back the sediment settled water... then pour in the new, washed substrate if you'd like. Otherwise, do consider another approach... the addition of a living sump, a refugium, with purposeful living macroalgae, a DSB... plumbed with your existing tank. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm (and the numerous Related FAQs, in blue, above). Bob Fenner>

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

Moving a Marine Tank part 2 8/3/05 Thanks for the prompt response! One more follow on question, you said: <All sounds good here too, except for the sand.  I would strongly suggest new sand for the new tank.  Moving established sand beds often results in serious problems, even with rinsing.  There is simply too much organic material (living and dead) in every nook and cranny in the sand.  It is however, a good idea to transfer a few cups from the top inch or so to help seed the new bed with worms and other critters.> Which is fine, but can I let the old sand dry out so that everything dies off, give it a really good clean, and put it back in the tank at a later stage? Or is it done for? Thanks <<I would not suggest doing this.  Microscopically, the sand is very porous.  There is no reasonable way to get all of the organics out of it, especially if it is allowed to dry.  Best Regards.  AdamC.> Marine Substrate - 09/09/05 Thanks for your web site.  I discovered it a few months ago and have learned more than I have in the last two years! <<Excellent...glad you find it useful!>> I have a two and a half year old 105 gallon reef tank with a wet/dry and built in skimmer. <<Hmm...if you've been reading our site you've probably discovered some of us don't think "reef tank" and "wet/dry" should be used in the same sentence <G>.>> I am just starting to get into corals and am trying to upgrade my tank a bit. <<ok>> I have started taking the bio-balls out to lower my nitrates (my LFS suggested leaving 2 layers submerged?? <<should be fine but not necessary IMO>>) and am trying to find a skimmer that will fit into or around my wet/dry that will be more efficient. <<A very good move...>> Should I leave the drip tray in the wet dry, also? <<Up to you, may be less noisy than without...can also serve as a shelf to lay a media bag of carbon, etc.>> I have 70 pounds of live rock, nice coralline  algae, a button polyp, yellow polyps, green star polyps, a xenia, and a  small mushroom rock.  I also have 11 fish that are getting along fine for now(1 Scopas Tang, 1 Engineer Goby, 1 Neon Pseudochromis, 2 Green Chromis, 1 Yellow Pygmy Angel, 3 Firefish, 1 Bicolor Blenny and a Green Coris Wrasse) and  assorted crabs and snails. <<Sounds fine>> I believe my mistakes to be a green brittle star, an Echinothrix calamaris sea urchin, a bubble tip anemone, and a horseshoe crab (who has been eating shrimp pellets for now). <<Mmm...agreed...>> I will try to find proper homes for these. <<very good>> My biggest question is about my substrate. <<shoot>> I started the tank with two inches of crushed coral, as suggested by my LFS.  I don't see a lot of life in it and wondered if I should add sand or live sand so that the copepods would have a better environment? <<Copepod environment aside, your substrate is in that "no man's land" where it's not deep enough to really function as a DSB, yet not shallow enough to keep from accumulating detritus.  I would add a minimum of two inches of sugar-fine sand to the existing substrate.>> I have been  vacuuming the crushed coral during my water changes. <<Not necessary with a deeper substrate/vigorous water flow.>> I'd rather not take out the crushed coral.  Could I just add the sand to the tank and have it settle properly? <<Differing opinions here...I say yes.>> Would this help? <<yes>> Does live sand need to be  quarantined?  I don't want to set my tank back with cycling live sand. <<I wouldn't go to the expense of adding all live sand. Purchase dry sand to bring the substrate up to depth and then add a cup or two of substrate from a friend (or LFS's) tank.>> I just set up a QT tank for future inhabitants. <<That's great!>> I don't have  the space near the tank for a refugium, or I'd try that. <<Too bad...very beneficial in my opinion.>> Or could I have a  refugium in part of my wet/dry even though it is in a cabinet below? <<Not the best choice, but doable.>> Thanks for all your help. Laura <<Happy to assist, EricR>>

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