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FAQs about Deep Sand Beds, Physical Make-Up

Related Articles: Deep Sand Beds, Marine System Substrates (Gravels, Sands) by Bob Fenner, Marine Substrate Options by Sara Mavinkurve, Live Sand, Biological FiltrationBiominerals in Seawater, Understanding Calcium & AlkalinityNitrates in Marine Aquariums

Related FAQs: DSBs 1, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 5, DSBs 6, DSBs 7,  & FAQs on: Rationale/Use, Dangers, Biological Make-Up, Size, Location, Depth, Conversion to/from, Maintenance/ Replacing/Adding To, & Live Sand FAQsFAQs 2Live Sand 3, Identification, Selection/DIY, Systems/Placement, BiotaMaintenance, & Marine Substrates, Mud Filtration 1 Live Sand, Plenums Nitrates in Marine Aquariums, Refugium Substrates/DSBs,

All organisms benefit from a properly set-up and maintained DSB. Amplexidiscus fenestrafer

Question about crushed coral     5/5/13
Hello, in browsing the site I have read that this substrate is a detritus sink.
<Some more than others... depending on many factors; higher order are substrate size, shape, composition, depth... lower are food make up, circulation matters, RedOx, DO, substrate "cleaners", maintenance aspects....>

 I have 400 pounds that I want to use in my 250 gallon display tank.
<Mmm, have you read re substrates on WWM?>

I have 2 refugiums that are 22 gallons each, separate from a 75 gallon sump. I will be running a large skimmer as well as elevating my liverock above the sandbed. There will be 2 VorTech mp40 circulation pumps in the display tank, and a Mag 12 return pump on it as well.  My question is given the thousands of gallons of flow per hour I will have, on top of a light bio load, using RODI water at 0ppm, do you think I can get away with crushed coral substrate ?
<Mmm, yes...>
 Im using Carib sea florida crushed coral and aragonite blend.
<Good products in my estimation>
 Honestly I'm afraid a finer sand will get blown around,
<Nah; once it settles down. @ 1 mm material is there to stay>
and I already have $400 worth of the stuff so Id like to use it for monetary reasons. Also I will use a large cleaning crew when it gets to that point.  What are your thoughts?  Thank you, Adrian
<Can be made to work all the way around... assuming the types of purposeful livestock you intend don't prefer finer.
Cheers, Bob Fenner>

deep sand bed?     5/4/13
I currently have a 125 g display tank with approx 100lbs of live rock. The bottom has 1.5-2" of large crushed aragonite.
<I wouldn't do this... too much of a detritus trap... and don't care for the looks>

I am desire <desirous> to <of> have <having> mostly corals or reef system with a few fish.  Currently only have yellow tank <tang?>, Clarke clown, yellow eye tank, and 4 small Chromis. I have had this tank for 10+ years with very limited success with corals. I can get ammonia,

nitrites to 0 but can seem to never get below 20ppm on nitrates.  I run ro, di water so I'm not importing nitrates at water changes which i have been doing every 10 to 14 days religiously for the last year.
I have two sumps in a dedicated room of my basement. (Display tank is on main floor). One sump is about 20 gal and the other is around 50 gal. Both are divided into 2 chambers. All of water inters the 1st chamber of the 20 which houses a protein skimmer then flows over and through a filter pad
<Nitrate factory>
 into the 2nd chamber. About half of water the
n travels into the second sump where the return pump is and the other half first flows though the other chamber before flowing into the pump return chamber. My plan was to make the chamber in front of the pump area my refugium (its approx 16x33).
<Ah, good>
 My questions are would it help my nitrates to add 4-5" fine sand in the refugium area?
<Oh yes; and in the main/display tank as well>

 would it be beneficial to make small area DSB with large crushed aragonite?
 My understanding is if I use the DSB I should not vacuum it right?
<See WWM re... I would vac part... as your regularly scheduled maintenance>>
Would it be good idea to put cheata in this area?
<Chaeto? Yes>
 I currently have cheata in this spot for about 6 months or so, no noticeable growth.
<... see WWM re culture... Your low ORP here is likely indicative>
 I only have fluorescent grow lights over this area, should i put 175 watt mh.
(I have 3- 175 w Mh 14k bulbs on display tank).
<Fluorescents of use are better... again, gone over and over on WWM>
Thanks for the help
<We're glad to help. The reason for our informational site/resource. Bob Fenner>
re: deep sand bed?     5/4/13

So you would recommend I remove most or all of large substrate in display and replace with 4" of fine sand?
<Yes... you've read on WWM?>
 Then remove filter pad from sump area right?
 I figured the pad would remove floating particles as long as I cleaned regularly, but this message is not necessarily?
<... I'd employ rotating filter socks... changed/switched out and cleaned daily. BobF>

Switching Media... DSB failure      8/26/12
Hello Crew! I hope you have had a great summer.
<Fab so far, thanks>
You folks have always been a great help and I have another quandary I'd like your opinion on. I have 2 reef tanks currently. My main display tank is a 54 gallon bow-front corner aquarium. When I set it up I set it up using the Special Grade Reef substrate as a DSB (about 5" deep). I really did this to deal with the nitrates. Well, I have had it running about 2 years and my nitrates are super high (80+).
<Boing! What happened? Something is up... foods/feeding wise? Your test kit/s?>
 I even added a refugium almost a year ago which has plenty of macro algae growing in it. It made no difference in the nitrate level.
<Mmm, do you have high soluble phosphate? Perhaps you're a candidate for goosing pH a bit (to 8.6 or so) w/ Kalk... to insolubilize... Is your RedOx low?>
I have become very frustrated by this and I think I am having difficulty with some of my fauna because of it. My understanding is also that a DSB can actually cause increased nitrates due to trapped organics. So with this in mind, I am seriously considering removing the DSB and just sticking with 1-2" of the substrate I can clean.
What are your thoughts on this and what would be the best way to do it if I do? A little at a time or all at once?
<I'd try vacuuming what you have during water changes first... is your KH okay?>
For the second part of my problem, I have a standard 55 gallon aquarium with just a couple of fish in it and a few soft corals. My daughter talked me into trying to breed my Maroon Clowns (amazing what the pleading eyes of a six year old can get you to do!). I have no intention of going crazy about this but I thought it would be fun to try it and see if I can get them to breed and raise some fry just once or twice. So that was the original intent for this tank, to breed these two clowns and is still my major intent. I got a great deal on Fiji Pink Live Sand which looks beautiful in this tank and is great and I really  like the look of the fine grain sand bottom. The problem is that apparently, my clowns, especially the female does not appear to share my fondness for this sand anywhere in her territory. She has dug it out from different places in the tank to bare glass and piled it up on one side.
<What they do>
Aesthetically this is not great but to be honest the fish's happiness is more important, especially if I want her to breed. The real issue is that now in places I have sand that is 7-8" deep and when she does this because the sand is so fine and there is good flow in the tank the sand gets blown on to all the soft corals and everywhere including into the powerheads and pumps.
<I suggest the ongoing regular re leveling during the aforementioned gravel vacuuming/water changes. DO watch your hands as a good size Clown/Premnas can really bite... draw blood>
I think, unfortunately, the sand has to go in favor of a heavier substrate that won't blow around.
I figure since this is not a DSB I can just remove a bunch at a time and replace it with a more coarse substrate like the Special Grade I have in my other tank. So my question here is if I do take down the DSB from the 54 (based on your advice above), can I just wash that substrate with clean salt water to wash out the debris and use it in the 55 to create a 1-2" bed?
<I'd do a solubility test... even w/ simple Acetic/Vinegar... what you have may be too hard... not soluble... not functional as a DSB substrate>
This may all sound crazy but such is life! LOL
Thanks for all you do and the time you put into answering all these questions!
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Recommended substrate for competing objectives (DSB, avoidance of  cloudy tank with stirrers)    7/3/12
Crew, I am planning a 200G FOWLR with: Porcupine puffer, Wrasse (Coris Gaimard or Choerodon Fasciitis), PYTB Tang, Eibli Angel, Bicolor Goatfish, 2 Maroon Clowns, Eibli Angel, and 3 Engineer Gobies.
As you can see, I have selected some functional fish in the tank, particularly with substrate stirring. However, I don't know if/how to balance the desire for a DSB (for NNR), using the finest substrate possible, with the prospect of a cloudy tank due to the engineers, goatfish, and wrasse. Can you recommend a substrate and depth?
<A fine... 1-3 mm. mix of aragonitic or coral sand... rinsed well (in aliquots of 5-10 pounds in a swirling garden hose discharge in a clean "pickle bucket")... as deep as you can stand... 3 plus inches>
Also, is there risk that these fish will stir the deeper pockets of the DSB, causing problems (nitrates and other toxins due to disruption of DSB activity)?
If so, should I instead plan the DSB in the refugium and target a lesser depth, and coarser, substrate?
<Best to have fine/r substrate in both... which is what I'd do>
Thanks, Dave
<Welcome. BobF>

Let's Get this Straight.... DSB size, make-up     1/4/12
Hi there!
<Car bear>
So after spending a TON of time reading your web site and others on DSB, I find it interesting that there is no real simple straight answer to my question (or rather a formula).
<Of course there is, "it depends"...>
  For example, I have a 60 gallon reef with over flow built in.  Tank is 48" x 12" (typical size).   I have a 20 long to put under it for a refugium/sump.  (I do remember that a sump tank size needs to be at LEAST 1/3 of the total tank volume, but bigger is better... well not when you don't have the space.)  Okay, now for the direct question, what size does the DSB have to be.... in terms of WIDTH and LENGTH (my refugium tank is 12" wide, so how many inches long do I need MINIMUM)  Yes I know it depends on stocking.  I am talking rule of thumb. 
<Mmm, here it comes again: "The larger the better">
  I will get into DEPTH in a second....... I found a formula that was in metric, so converted to standard, 3.5" to 6 SQUARE INCHES per 1/3 gallon  (formula was 9 - 16 cm per 100 liters).  If THAT is the case, then say 5" was about the middle.... 5 square inches per 1/3 gallon or 15 square inches per 1 gallon. 
<Square? I would've proffered summat in cubic inches/cm.s>
For 60 gallons, well that would be 900 square inches.  What am I missing here?  Or does the 900 square inches include the sand bed depth?
<Don't know... but there should be a discussion of such>
  (if that is the case then I would need 12" x  12" x 6" deep or 864 square inches)   I feel bad for the poor soul who is now reading this and thinking WHAT????   My sentiments exactly. 
<Lo siento mucho tambien>
Depth.... after reading a WWM article on DSB, I came to the conclusion that depth was directly related to granule size. 
<To extents, yes>
I think I understood that the oolite sand that is sugary in density, would only need to be 3" deep.   Then that would throw off my formula above!!! 
12 x 12 x 3 is only 432 square inches btw.......... Then when reading in WWM q & a, one of your staff says 4-6" on oolite sugary sand!  Really?  I thought 4-6" was for the next level up (medium sand)  according to your page:
<Mmm, yeah>
Please clarify also this.  One "expert" says keep the DSB and the Chaeto separate since all the bugs will crawl into the Chaeto and not be in the DSB (which from what I read, these bugs prefer sand... so, huh???).
<Not a big deal>
   Then says don't put rocks on the DSB because it will cause dead spots. 
<This either>
Then in your Q & A, I read the opposite, that it is okay.  So do I need one compartment only for rubble (to break the bubbles from the main tank), one for DSB and one for Chaeto?
 I wanted to put shaving brush in the DSB, now I wonder if I should since I read the roots could cause the DSB to harden......  ARG!!
<Again, little spuds>
One more question.  Has to do with the baffle height on either side of the DSB.  I have seen designs where the baffle height is the SAME as the sand level (which seems odd to me since you need a slower flow), and I disagree with that.  BUT I would like to know how many inches above the DSB should the baffle be.
<A few... more if the water flow is higher...>
Baffles..... set apart 1" or 1.5" or 2"......  Ahhh!!!!!!!
<Any of these should work>
  I know they have to do with flow, but I would assume (say on one side of the set of baffles after the refugium, a 1" to 1.5" space between say baffle 1 and 2; then between 2 and 3 make it 2" between so I can stick my hand in if something needs to be removed from between the baffles.  (this was an issue I had with my other refugium)  Or would the reverse be better.
 I honestly read until my eyes crossed, so I really appreciate any help.
<A tool can be inserted twixt any of these spacings>
Carrie :)
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
Subject: re: Let's Get this Straight....    1/4/12

Would 3" deep sugar fine sand x 12" x 10" work with a 60 gallon normally stocked.
<Sure. B>

Time For A Remote Deep Sand Bed? -- 11/16/11
Dear Crew,
Currently I have a 125g reef tank (~145g total volume with sump) mostly mushrooms, and some mini(mini-maxi) carpet anemones. At any given time, I have between a 3"-5" sand bed (due to current and sifting critters, more on that later on stock list). I am having a hard time keeping my nitrates below 20ppm. Nitrites, ammonia, and phosphates are all 0 (verified with Salifert test kits). I recently did a 30% water change and removed all forms of mechanical filtration (filter socks and sponges), which had a marginal effect to say the least. I am beginning to think that my problem lies in the refugium area. I decided to try out Seachem's De-Nitrate, which now I am thinking might be causing some of my issue.
<<Mmm, yes'¦a bit too 'coarse' for my liking as a refugium substrate. Would be prone to entrapping detritus'¦I much prefer a 'sugar-fine' aragonite for this purpose. And depending on the grain-size of the bed in your display, this too may be an issue re the Nitrates'¦perhaps a bit of stirring/siphoning/cleaning is in order>>
I am thinking about putting together a remote deep sand bed,
<<hopefully of sugar-fine aragonite>>
hoping perhaps that it might help drop the nitrates down, since I am not sure that the 15g refugium area would be enough if I made a 6"-8" sand bed and kept my big ball of Chaeto in there.
<<Will help'¦though a bigger vessel for the remoted DSB is always preferable>>
I don't believe my tank would be considered overstocked, though I am not too sure, as there are only 10 fish in there (breeding pair of Yellow Damsels, breeding pair of Watchman Gobies, Scopas Tang, Kupang Damsel, Engineer Goby about 10" long,
<<A great fish'¦though these are social animals that will do better in a group (e.g. -- 3 or more)>>
Maroon Clown, Threadfin Cardinal, and a Banggai Cardinal). As far as inverts I have
6-8 Emerald crabs, a cucumber, a Long Spine Urchin, a Pencil Urchin, and 4 Fighting Conchs. Is this too much for my 125g?
Any input would be greatly appreciated.
<<Swap out the Seachem medium in the refugium for a finer grained substrate as a start and see if/how it helps>>
Thanks crew!!
<<Happy to share>>
<<Cheers'¦ EricR>>

slate: Support for SW sys., LR above DSB     11/12/11
hi guys I have looked around for the answer cannot seem to find it anywhere so hope you can help
I am setting up my new reef tank I will be using a dsb in main display I have read about elevating the live rock from sand
<Mmm, am a much bigger fan of scooting the sand aside, or placing the live rock first... with flat, large/r pieces touching the bottom... much less chance of trouble from the rock shifting>
and have come up with a plan I will be sawing 7 inch pieces of square pvc pipe and cutting the sides out to create a four pillar stand for live rock I will be using a spray bar at the top of the tank pointing straight down so I get steady flow over the sand = no dead spots.
my question is I need a base for my aquascape in the form of plates without buying live rock is there a cheaper substitute such as slate etc that is reef safe
thanks in advance
<Mmm, well slates are close to being chemically inert, but I'd look for something like PVC sheet, other plastic grating that is nearly completely inert. Look under "plastics" in your yellow pages or their electronic equivalent. Bob Fenner>
Re: slate    11/12/11

Thank you for the quick response sorry I did not clarify I shall be using milliput or similar substance to give the rock stability but just a little so it can be removed for re-scaping so ideally it would have to be a stone base as milliput wouldn't stick to plastic also I will be using a lot of the square pvc pipe I think I made it sound like just four pieces (table legs) but these will be supporting individual hopefully rock bases apologies again for lack of info
<No worries. Thanks for the follow-up. BobF>

Live Sand vs. Dead Sand   8/25/11
Hey there,
<Hi James>
I'm finally in a place where I can restart my aquarium.
I was going to attempt to use a DSB (6 inches) to filter the nitrates in this tank. I read that using sugar grain sand is best for this, but had concerns that this might lead to cloudy water in a FOWLR tank.
<Mmm, no, unless you are talking about big currents whipping the sand up. I would not worry.>
My thoughts were to use the sugar grain to make up the lower 5 inches or so and cover it with a slightly heavier grain.
<Can do>
Am I worrying over nothing concerning the grain?
<Yes, just go for the fine grained Aragonite>
Also I'm seeing a lot of debate between using live sand and dead sand, with little clarity on the best way to go.
<Packaged 'live sand' is sand with some bacterial populations included. It is not true live sand as it does not contain any animals.
These same populations of bacteria will develop in your aquarium anyway, and plenty are to be found on live rock>
The base of the aquarium is 8 square feet which calculates out to about 300lb of sand to get a depth of 6 inches.
Should I get all dead sand and use something like bio-Spira to jump start it, mix it with live sand (if so what ratio and should I put the live sand on top or bottom or in-between), or will live rock be sufficient to jumpstart the sand?
I'm trying to avoid my rookie mistakes last time and not buy just to buy.
<The advantage to using the live sand is not that it is live at all, but that it is far easier to rinse/ clean before you lay the DSB. Trust me, rinsing 10-20 bags of sand through is one hell of a chore, so anything that makes it easier is a bonus. Plus, sometimes it comes finer grained than the dry sand, so, the choice is yours. But, I would not let the 'live' element of it sway your thinking at all>
Thanks in advance for the advice.
<No problem>
-James Williams
Re: Live Sand vs. Dead Sand  8/27/11

Thanks for the quick response,
<No problem at all>
Just needed a little bit more clarification regarding sand types that I forgot to ask in my last question. As stated before I'm looking to do a DSB FOWLR tank with a depth of 6 inches which requires 300 lbs of a .2mm-1mm grain sized sand. So far I haven't been able to locate a bag of play sand that tells me grain size.
<You won't. Play sand is silica, usually from builders yards. These are not too concerned with exact sizes. I would always use aragonite for this application.>
Also people go back and forth about silica in the sand causing diatom growths, is this a legitimate concern?
<No. In order for silica sand to cause diatoms, it would have to dissolve into the water. Since silica is, essentially, quartz (one of the hardest minerals known to man),
and one of the main constituents of granite (one of the hardest rocks known to man) then this is unlikely. Glass is also made from about 75% silica, and if that dissolved then every aquarist who is married will not stay that way for long>
saw the pictures of the different sand types in your DSB article, is this something that I should just eyeball? I really want to use the sand bed as a nitrate filter for this tank.
<Mmm, there are other methods for nitrate control, some of which might be more appropriate for a FOWLR than a DSB. DSB's give other benefits such as plankton production, mostly in reef tanks. You will not get this with a silica DSB, nor any buffering capacity either. Have you looked at articles by Ron Shimek on the web?>
As a side thought would putting a DSB in the wet dry filter do anything for the tank?(All I've seen is pictures and it
looks like there would be room in the return section).
<IMO DSB's should be large. If you compromise on the size, then you compromise on the benefits. In smaller sump-type situations my opinion is that shallow mud beds are more appropriate. An alternative is the 'sand bed in a bucket' a'la A. Calfo. Google this on Reefcentral>
Thanks in advance for your time.
<No problem. Have you explored all other/ alternative nitrate control methods to see if there is anything more appropriate? There are different denitrator units and carbon dosing methods that are worth looking at. You can always set up the FOWLR without the DSB and try to manage the nitrates first, with sensible husbandry and stocking, adding a control method later on if required. Simon>

Re: Two technical aquascaping questions, concerning DSBs 5/28/10
Dear Bob (or fellow Crew member)
Thank you kindly for your response. May I respond with a couple of queries, born of last night's eye-blistering research on WWM concerning DSBs?
Abandoning the idea of partitioning, can I confirm that it is good practice and sustainable to install a permanent (and I mean permanent) structure of live rock on the base of the aquarium, and then 'back-fill' with 4-5 inches of fine sand?
<Mmm, I wouldn't make anything rock-wise "too" permanent... a good idea to allow for removal, re-doing>
I suppose this would be analogous to someone adding a DSB to an established tank. Are there pitfalls here to be aware of?
<Mmm, some... and these are adequately gone over on WWM... there is some small chance of anaerobic activity and its consequences... Not much of an issue if some basic maintenance is applied (periodic stirring mostly)>
Secondly, am I correct in assuming that if flow is sufficiently high, no poking, stirring or shifting of rocks (the latter totally impossible with the aquascape I want to achieve) is needed -- and that the live sand is self-maintaining?
Both the above points *seem* to be the implied consensus from WWM's pages and FAQs on DSBs, but perhaps I have misinterpreted.
Many thanks
<Welcome. BobF>

New Tank DSB -- 04/18/09
Hello All,
I have just one question for a new tank a RSM 65 gallon tank, can I add 30 lbs of sugar-size Aragamax as my first layer and then add 40 lbs of Ocean Direct Caribbean LS for the final top layer, I want it for the purpose of NNR and pod growth?
<<Sure, no hard and fast rules here. I do agree with placing the live sand atop the other to keep from 'smothering' any beneficial aerobic bacteria present'¦the other types of bacteria that will inhabit the deeper regions of the bed will develop on their own in about a months time>>
Or just add the 40 lbs of Ocean Direct to the main tank and put the Aragamax in a Refugium when I get one in a couple of months?
<<This too you can do'¦ But for an effective DSB, you'll need to have about 4-inches or more depth so you may need a bit more sand than you have>>
The reason for asking is I want to keep a Jawfish.
<<Okay'¦then do also provide a small amount of larger substrate (3-5 mm) as well as some shell fragments, for the fish to use to bolster its burrow against cave-ins. And please do read here and among the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm >>
I also have three fish I have to transfer over from my 29 Gallon tank; they are 1 Royal Gramma, 1 Yellow Clown Goby and 1 Lawnmower Blenny.
Thank You,
Ramon and Sons
<<Happy to assist'¦ EricR>>

Re: New Tank DSB -- 04/18/09
Thanks for the quick reply,
<<Quite welcome>>
For the larger substrate can I use Florida Crushed Coral with Geo-Marine Aragonite Formula?
<<Yes'¦and do add some pieces of broken shell as well>>
It looks like the biggest piece is the width of a Q-tip, can this be used on top of the LS? I only have 10 lbs of it any way.
<<This is fine'¦all will eventually mix together (which is OK)>>
My last question is my LR has some BGA on it do I need to scrub it off before I put it in the new tank or just put it in? It will be empty for 2-3 months so the tank can get a foot hold.
<<I would try to remove the BGA first'¦ Perhaps set up a small tank or other vessel with some water movement to hold a few pieces at a time and where you can provide frequent water changes while siphoning away the BGA until it no longer returns'¦then transfer the rock to the new system and go to work on the next couple pieces>>
Ramon Ortiz
<<Eric Russell>>

Re: New Tank DSB -- 04/23/09
I have one more question, I came up a little short on my 3" DSB can I add LS on top of the CC
or do I need to brush away the CC and add 1/2" of LS to the back of my tank?
<<Not necessary>>
The front is 3" and the back is at 2-2.5"
Thanks Again,
<<I would merely add the ½' of sand where needed. EricR>>

DSB Setup 3/17/2009
Hey I hope everyone had a great weekend.
<Very good, thank you.>
I have wrote a couple of times about my tank and new fuge set up. I currently have around 3 good solid inches of crushed coral substrate in my tank. Some of it is mixed in with really fine sand but 95% of it is much larger pieces and some small shells mixed into it, maybe around 2mm with some bigger some smaller I sort of guessing.
<OK so far.>
I'm actually in a hotel thinking about it so I can't look at it right now.
I took the advice of my LFS and used this stuff. After getting your books and reading so much on the Internet everything I read says I should be using sugar fine sand or oolite grade sand.
<For a DSB, yes, this is correct, but it needs to be around 4 - 5 inches deep.>
My tank is only around 5 weeks old with some LR and 3 fish in it. I was considering maybe I should change this to a DSB. I saw where you had suggested this to someone else but that post was from a couple years ago.
My tank is a 55g tank that I want to make a reef setup in it, just waiting to get it set up right. Is this still your stance on the subject of substrates?
<DSBs are great for nitrate control, but not required for a reef setup.>
Also is it possible to add the sand over the top of my current substrate?
I paid a lot of money for the stuff in there now but am willing to throw it out if need be. Or can I take some out and put fine grade sand over the top? Or just throw it all out?
<If you really want to do this, I would take some substrate out and add some fine marine sand.>
Also, I read a lot of differing opinions on silica sand, what is your stance on this for a reef setup?
<Not recommended in my opinion, adds nothing beneficial to water chemistry and will help feed diatoms.>
I was thinking of buying the sand that says is already live I have found it on the web but it's pretty spendy like $30 for 20lbs. With my size tank this would be expensive but I don't want my fish to be out of the tank for a long time waiting for another cycle if at all possible. I was thinking maybe if I could put sand over the top of my current substrate it would save some money or maybe buy some cheap play sand then put the top couple of inches of the expensive stuff. The bad part is the play stuff is a different darker sand color rather than the white or possibly black live sand that I saw I liked. Any info or advice will be greatly appreciated.
<I would stick to marine sand and keep the play sand in the sandbox.>
Thank you so very much for all your time and effort you give to us. I love your site and read it all the time.
<My Pleasure>
Thanks again.

Re: DSB Setup 3/18/2009
<Hi Roman>
In your reply you say "you would take some substrate out and add some marine sand." Does that mean you would take out all except for like an inch?
<This is correct>
Then if I want to do a DSB put in 4-5 inches of marine sand to make the total 5-6 inches for the DSB? Or leave like 2 inches of the crushed coral?
<I've had success placing the fine sand on the bottom, then putting a thin layer of crushed coral or a coarser substrate on top to keep the sand "down".>
The stuff I have in there now is mostly Bio Active live aragonite. The bigger one I think its 1.0mm to 2.0mm plus I put in some "non live" aragonite in the bottom that stuff is around 2mm. I looked the stuff up on the web. I was thinking of going with maybe the same brand as it seemed to really make the cycle in my tank very fast and not a major one from what I have read and compared too. Do you think this will be ok to use Bio-Activ Live® Aragonite Black Beach? Grain size: 0.5-1.5mm Or would that be too large of pieces still?
<That would still be a bit too large for a DSB, you want a maximum grain size of about 1mm.>
I want to use the DSB for NNR I would like to have fish as well as corals and some inverts like maybe some stars etc. Is it ok to use black? I don't normally see that in tanks and was wondering if there would be some problem but I was thinking it would make colors contrast nicely. Or do you think something from the same company but smaller would be better?
<You could put the black sand on top of the DSB. for the color, just do realize that it will get mixed in with the regular sand over time..>
They have stuff that is .1 to .5 mm. I planned on using something like the in my refugium.
<That is perfect for a refugium.>
Or is there a better company or place to buy this all together? Something cheaper possible on the bottom few inches and then the more expensive on the last inch or two?
<That is fine. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >
I realize I will need around 200 or so pounds of this to get the depth in a 48x13 space and this stuff is around $30 for 20 lbs ouch. I just want to make sure all is right before I start getting too much stuff in there. I am lucky I found your books and web page early in my saltwater hobby career. I see some people who are changing to a DSB with full tanks and that would be a bit frightening to me. I really enjoy your site and all the help you so willingly give to myself and others. You are an extraordinary source of information and it's hard to digest all of it at the speed I wish I could.
<Nothing good comes quickly, take your time and research before you "jump"
Thank you very much,
<My Pleasure.>

Remote DSB help 1/25/09 Good morning from the land down under! <Hello from sunny then rainy California Andrea!> It's been several months since I last asked a question here - the long and short of it is that my seahorse keeping has really become a special past time and I am already working on a larger system for the ponies. Going from a 20G all in one to 50G cube...and this time doing away with all the fake plants and going to try for something more natural. System info - 220L Cube with MariSys 240 wet/dry filter. RO/DI top up - SeaChem salt mix. Substrate - about 1" crushed coral 2-3mm. The DT is not yet inhabited. I have been cycling the MariSys using ammonia to 5ppm per day - this filter is still running in a 10G tub while I am getting the finer touches of the DT done. The cycling water includes several large pieces of dead coral rock and I have built a wall of dead coral rock that is now mounted in the DT (that rock has not been cycled). The reason for using the dead coral is purely to avoid uninvited guests. I'm a tad paranoid when it comes to this and seahorses. My question relates to a remote deep sand bed that I have set up. This is not a refugium but something that I read on a forum - the gentleman advising on it was Anthony Calfo. I'm hoping you know what I am referring to. It relates to this wonderful and simple idea --- a bucket / tub - an inlet and an outlet at the opposite end (the outlet being slightly lower) and very fine sand with water running over the top. No critters - no lighting - no macro algae. Are you familiar with what I am referring to? <Yes, I have seen this thread, going on for several years by now.> When I was done reading the pages and pages of threads, I immediately hunted for my tub and fittings. Because of the design of the MariSys (the lack of space inside to add a pump) I decided to open the outlet/drain (at the bottom) and pop the whole unit inside another tub so I could add a pump to draw the pre-filtered water into the RDSB. The outlet from the RDSB runs back into the MariSys to where the return pump is. I had no idea what size pump I would need so I chose a pond pump that could be regulated a little. Its rated at 1500L/h max ... I have cut that back to where the outlet was coping without flooding the tub. Okay so this seemed to be working in practise - no flooding - nice water flow over the sand as it exits through 2 x outlets. I couldn't see a sand storm --- well initially there was a bit but it seemed to settle down. I went away feeling very clever. <!> A couple of days later I realised there was some sand sitting atop where the water was going back into the filter. On closer inspection - Lord, I do believe I removed 4 cups from the filter...the level of sand in the RDSB had dropped several inches. Ooops. Cleaned it all out and re-hooked it all. I popped a couple of stockings over the outlet to see if this has all now settled but 2 days later and I can see the socks are filling with sand. So I guess that means too much flow? <In a way.> I'm so sorry this is so long. I've worked for months on getting this tank ready. I'm just unsure now ... this sand is very fine beach sand (cleaned and sifted) ... if I cut back the flow, it seems to me to look almost still ... but of course it isn't. Is there any guide as to how much water should be flowing over this kind of RDSB? <Pretty much just anything less than what stirs the sand up. The implementation of the flow is also important. Looking at your pics it appears you would benefit from something to disperse the flow. Even just a piece of plastic for the flow to land on, maybe a small plastic container. The idea is to have the flow go through the RDSB without reaming out one particular spot.> I have some pictures if you'd like to see what I have done just in case none of this makes sense. :( http://s477.photobucket.com/albums/rr135/MadDogNoz/?action=view&current=Jan19_0801.jpg http://s477.photobucket.com/albums/rr135/MadDogNoz/?action=view&current=Jan19_0802.jpg http://s477.photobucket.com/albums/rr135/MadDogNoz/?action=view&current=DSCF4195.jpg http://s477.photobucket.com/albums/rr135/MadDogNoz/?action=view&current=DSCF4196.jpg Oh and my tank :) http://s477.photobucket.com/albums/rr135/MadDogNoz/?action=view&current=Jan18_0801.jpg The pics give a vague impression of the water flow. Does this seem too much? <Not necessarily, more of the implementation described above.> I guess my concern is, if there isn't enough then I could end up with other problems? <Not really. The reality is if you only run 100lph through the RDSB you will still run your system volume through the thing more than 10 times a day! That really is plenty. But, the thing to also watch out for is the container becoming a detritus trap, you will be able to monitor this and change the flow if needed.> Oh the sand bed, well it was about 12" deep ... down about 3" since the sand went overboard. Regards Andrea Madeley South Australia
<Nice setup, have fun. Scott V.>

Grading and Rinsing Oolitic Sand... (or not)? ~ 01/09/09 Greetings WWM Crew, <<Hello Brian>> Thank you so much for your fine work! <<Ah, quite welcome'¦a collaborative effort>> I've been reading over your many archives for a year, slowly acquiring gear (as I can afford) in anticipation of setting up a FOWLR, eventually (hopefully) reef system. <<Mmm, yes'¦ The planning and anticipation, indeed the *shopping*, is a time of much enjoyment. At least it was/is for me>> My confusion, if you'd be so kind to entertain a question and comment re, <<Certainly>> concerns the necessity (or desirability) of rinsing Oolitic DSB substrates. <<Ah'¦>> Advice and opinion on this seems to go from yes to no. <<Indeed'¦ And valid arguments to both. But my choice based on my experience re is to rinse'¦ rinse a lot'¦>> As background, given my fiscal constraints and the high cost (for 5-6 inch, main tank DSB in a 300G system) of "branded" packaged Oolitic/Aragonite, <<Hee-hee! Indeed! I have a 375g reef display with a DSB consisting of about 1,200 lbs of sugar-fine Aragonite, with another 300 lbs in a refugium. Lucky for me at the time, I was able to obtain 50 lb bags of Aragonite *play* sand for about $7.00 a bag versus the approximately $1.00 per pound for the, as you say, *branded* variety>>. finding discontinued availability of Southdown and Yardright, <<Mmm, yes'¦ A huge loss to the hobby, or rather, the hobbyist>> I spent several months doing some serious "snooping" around in search of cheaper Oolitic sand alternatives. <<Do tell!>> After considerable time spent on intelligence gathering, I located a source of Oolitic sand reportedly mined offshore of, I believe, the Bahamas. <<And very likely the same source for the previously mentioned and now defunct play-sand brands>> So, I hopped in the truck armed with a cup and a bottle of vinegar. I was surprised and pleased to find a 300-400 ton pile of clean Oolitic sand which, when tested, bubbled nicely in vinegar. <<Excellent>> I purchased (legally) 1300lbs (what the truck could hold) for $18 dollars (US). <<Wow! A superb deal for sure!>> This sand, however, is not "graded". <<'¦? I would not expect it to be a *consistent* grade. But if true Oolitic it should all still be very small/fine. But even if not so/if it contains some larger grains it should still work fine as is>> Upon return home, I devised two sieve drum-screens (for lack of better term) and spent the next two-weeks-of-nights manually rotating the drums, sifting the sand. <<Yikes'¦ A lot of work. And probably unnecessary>> I ended up with approximately 700lbs of fine sand (.00? to .75mm), 350lbs of medium (.75 to 1.5mm) and 250lbs of coarse sand (1.5mm to 3mm). <<Ah'¦ As alluded, this would all have been fine combined as obtained>> I want to achieve 15 to 20x circulation via use of an OM 4-way and closed-loop manifold. So, to get an idea of potential clouding problems I tested the finest-grade sand, placing about 1/2 cup into a quart of H20. As expected, the "fines" (particles barely visible to naked eye) in the sand totally clouded the water. <<Yep>> Sitting undisturbed in the jar, the cloudiness took 24+ hours to become crystal clear. <<Uh-huh>> Slight movement of the jar and plume trails rise off the sand surface. <<Yep>> My question, actually questions, is as follows: 1. Is it necessary or desirable to rinse this sand (especially the fine grade) prior to placement? <<Maybe not necessary, but I would/do'¦ With water movement, and unless filtered out by your equipment, these fine particles can really cloud the water for days. I also really don't like the mess these *fines* make of the system/décor/equipment/et al., and though some argue the fines can/will do much towards boosting alkaline/bio-mineral content, I find what is left after washing these away also does this just, er'¦ fine>> My plan is to place LFS-cured LR first, sand second so as to stabilize the rock work and then seed with live sand. <<A fine plan'¦ And one you will enjoy more if you first rinse the sand to prevent the live rock from being coated by the fines (yeah you can blow these off'¦ but then your water is all cloudy again>>>> I've read in various forums, including Dr. Shimek's work, that it is "desirable" to keep the "fines" (as in "mud") <<No argument, but better in a refugium with a lower flow rate than in the display in my opinion... Unless the display is a biotope geared towards such>> ...but the problem of clouding would, I presume, potentially continue indefinitely with DSB critter disturbance and given 15-20x desired circulation. <<Not indefinitely, as these very tiny particles will *eventually* settle out in your sump/places of low flow and also be removed by your skimmer, with time>> 2. Would it be advisable to layer...place the .00? to .75mm to a depth of 3-4 inches and then place another 1-2 inches of the .75 to 1.5mm on top of that to perhaps reduce clouding until the super-fines (.00? to .05) dissolve or amalgamate? <<You can'¦ And though it may make some small difference it won't be much I think. But it also won't hurt to give it a try>> 3. Can or should I use the larger grade (1.5 to 3mm) for anything?...perhaps in some configuration (maybe separated horizontal layers or vertical "walls") in the refugium for POD production? <<This too you can do'¦ Though I would just mix it all together and use as is>> Can the larger grade potentially be used in a calcium reactor? <<Indeed it can>> 4. Have I wasted my time separating grades? <<[grin] I would not have bothered with such>> Could or should I have used this sand "as is" with the various particle sizes naturally all mixed up? <<Indeed you could have/can do>> Any opinions or guidance you might provide would be very much appreciated. <<You can go either way'¦ And I think this is also a bigger *deal* when adding sand to an established system as opposed to new'¦ But though it takes a lot of work *I* would definitely rinse the sand of the fines before use'¦ And with the volumes/ratios you listed, I would also not be concerned with separation of the particle sizes>> Warmest Regards, Brian <<Happy to share. Eric Russell>>

Re: Grading and Rinsing Oolitic sand... (or not)? ~ 01/10/09 Thank you so much, Eric. <<Quite welcome, Brian>> I really appreciate your input. <<Is my pleasure'¦>> Of course, I wish I'd have contacted you, received your thoughts, prior to all of that sifting <<Hee-hee! Thought that too, while I was writing my reply>>>> ...considerable toil, but a work of some enjoyment as directed towards the "end game". <<Indeed'¦ And the exercise is a good thing too>> After reading your comment about Oolitic, "But if true Oolitic it should all still be very small/fine", <<Yes'¦ Oolitic sand grains are generally smaller than 2mm. Larger grains would be defined as Pisolitic>>>> I look at my sand with new interest in further exploring the geologic and, perhaps, chemical formation process. The grains of this particular sand, regardless of whether looking at the fine, mid or coarse grades as I've separated them, are all egg-shaped <<Excellent'¦ And is as suggested by the name (The name derives from the Hellenic word òoion for egg. [Wikipedia])>> ...smooth and roundish, white to light cream in color. All grades bubble vigorously in vinegar. I am wondering if, when mined from shoals, such material comes from the bottom in such mixed grades (would seem naturally so) <<Indeed>> and then is later "refined" for such markets served, previously, by the Southdown and Old Castle (Yardright) aggregate corporations as play sand? <<Yes'¦ And for such hobby vendors as CaribSea no doubt, but with a very considerable markup to us/consumers. Luckily I have a few bags of Old Castle I'm hoarding>> Would seem that I stumbled upon a pile no longer mined for such markets, but intended for an entirely different purpose. <<Very probably this *pile* is intended for construction use (fill) or concrete manufacturing (have you ever heard the terms *soft* sand and *sharp* sand used in reference to mixing a batch of concrete?)>> It would also seem that this sand has received some cleaning or heated refining...it is clean and no apparent salt (to taste). <<Likely just washed'¦>> While I was there loading my truck, large dump trucks were hauling full loads of this sand to the pay-scales. Through discussions with the source-pile, vending-attendant I discovered that this Oolitic sand is an additive used by a regional, industrial power provider for combustion during a power (electricity) generation process. <<Oh?>> It would seem that they're using the calcium carbonate additive in combustion chambers to reduce emissions as part of what I'm guessing is a "clean coal" burning process. Pretty interesting tidbit, I think. <<Agreed'¦ And if I might speculate, this may well explain the disappearance of this sand from the play-sand market (as in there is more profit to be made by not having to package, and selling in bulk to the industrial electrical concerns for this new(?) purpose)>> Again, thank you very much...both for your time and response. Best Regards, Brian. <<Always welcome mate. Eric Russell>>

Should I Go DSB or No??   12/31/09 Hello All, I am in the process of setting up a 125 gallon aquarium that I will be moving from my established 80 gallon Bow Front aquarium. My question revolves around my sand bed. I have five bags of the Carib Sea Special Reef Grade Sand, <A good product in my estimation> so far I have added just 2 bags of the sand into the tank and that gives me around 1 1/2" of depth. Now, my question is this, should I leave it be or add the other three bags for a DSB. <Yes I would... unless you intend to place a refugium below this system... in which case, I'd build the DSB there> Additionally the aquarium will rest on a DIY stand <Very nice from your pix> (plans were found on GARF website). The stand is actually pretty planar with a tiny gap in the center so to err on the side of caution, <? for expansion? Settling?> I added 1/2" foam (interlocking tile type). I have added a few photos as well. Any info will be much appreciated. Thank you,
R. Morton
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Re: Should I Go DSB or No??   12/31/08 Thank you for the response. Regarding the small gap in the center, it is the settling that I am trying to keep under control. Since the stand has already been Poly-ed (sp.??) I really don't see any reason why the wood would expand, but I know if I don't expect it to happen it probably will lol. Do you think I am being too cautious? I just don't want the tank crack from stress or worse. When I eyeballed the gap it was very small (could probably just slip an envelope under it). I honestly believed that with the weight of the water and sand etc. that this gap would disappear, but I added the foam just to be on the safe side. What do you think? <Not likely useful nor a worry> Thanks Again, R. Morton <Certainly welcome. BobF.>

Re: Should I Go DSB or No??  12/31/08 I must apologize for all the emails. I was just on the CaribSea site and it says not to use the Special Grade Reef Sand for DSB's. I have both of your books and they have helped me greatly in the few years I have had my aquarium, and you haven't led me astray yet. Call me just being curious, so I am throwing this little bit of info out there to see what you think. <Well... finer (even smaller than nominal 1 mm diam.) "sand" is better for DSB use alone, but... as you stated, you already had the Caribsea product in place, with more bags to possibly apply... Let me see if I can make this clear/er... You would be better off with the finer material (and placing it instead in a refugium)... but if it were me, mine and I had what you state... I'd go ahead and add the other bags... B>

Substrate & Maintenance Questions, DSB des., maint.  12/02/08 Crew Thanks for all the great FAQs and help you've already provided. I had some additional questions regarding my 220g FOWLER that I am setting up as an upgrade to my current 120g. Setup includes: * 72*24*30 island display tank with viewing and swim lanes on all four sides with LR in the middle * 300lbs of LR * RO/DI water * 30g skimmer sump and AquaC EV240 Skimmer with Mag 18 pump * 35g refugium with 5" sugar fine DSB, Chaetomorpha, LR rubble, alternate light cycle, 4-5 times flow * 60g overflow sump that includes the heaters, return pumps and some of the LR (water flows from tank to either the fuge or the skimmer sump and then into overflow sump before return to tank) * 30g weekly water changes * T5 lighting (2 strips of white and 2 strips of blue) * Aiming for 10-20 times flow in display by augmenting overflow returns with a closed loop manifold * Heavy fish load, including tangs, dwarf angels, B/Fs, mated clown pair, Anthias trio, a Sixline wrasse and a mystery wrasse Questions: LR maintenance crew -- Will rely on skunk cleaner shrimps, fire shrimps, emerald crabs and serpent stars for detritivores. Will rely on fish and emerald crabs to eat algae. Planning to add Nerite snails if/as needed to control algae. Does this all sound optimal? <"Optimal?" Who knows? It all depends on what starts growing in your system. This is seriously one way to go... but your needs/strategy might change as time goes on, as the tank matures, etc.> Am I correct that the Nerite snails can "right" themselves if they fall on their backs? <They do seem a bit more adept at not getting stuck on their backs, but there's no snail that is completely incapable of doing itself in by falling into the wrong crack.> If not, what would be your recommendation as an algae eater that won't fall over and die? Display tank sand & sand maintenance crew -- Because I will have a DSB in the fuge and a heavy fish load in the display, I am not planning to use a DSB in the display. In the FAQs, I see that it's best to keep the sand bed no higher than 1/2 inch if not a DSB. However, I also want to make sure that I have a maintenance crew to keep the display sand bed stirred, algae free and clean looking. From what I can tell, sugar fine or something close to that would be the ideal size, right? <For anything other than a DSB, it doesn't really matter... so, yes, sugar fine sand should "work."> It also looks like a combination of Cerith and Nassarius snails would be the best choices for my sand maintenance goals. <Oh, where to begin? ::sigh:: It's all a bit more complicated than this. Yes, you do need a few of these such animals to do the first phase of "digestion" of debris/left overs/etc. But they're only the first in a long line of animals that process such "waste." The best things to keep a sand bed (of any depth) "stirred" and "clean" are the little guys... copepods, worms, seed shrimp, etc. Mini brittle stars can also be very helpful (and delightful!).> However, from what I've read, they both need "deep" sand beds (though my sources didn't indicate exactly what that meant). How deep would the sand bed need to be in order to employ these snails? Would you recommend a spider or fighting conch in addition to, or in place of, the Nassarius and/or Cerith snails? <Again, I might be focusing a bit too much on snails. Get yourself some spaghetti and bristle worms, pods, mini brittle stars... and any variety of "bugs" and worms too small to even see with the naked eye (i.e. the kind you get in "live sand" seeder kits).> Also, would you recommend a pair of bullet gobies? <Recommend them for...? Sand bed maintenance? No.> If so, what depth would they need? And how deep does the bed need to be for the wrasses? <likely at least 2 to 3 in> I am assuming that I should not use a sand star unless I actually use a DSB in the display, correct. <No sand sifting stars! Please... large, carnivorous echinoderms are no friend to any sand bed.> Boiling all this down...to keep the bed as low as possible, while keeping it stirred, algae free and clean looking, what combination of sand depth and crew would be your recommendation here? <Personally, I would either commit to a "proper" DSB of at least 4in in the display or just go bare bottom (or rubble bottom)... there's really no sense in a "shallow" sand bed. I know a lot of people really want at least a little sand for aesthetic reasons, but if you don't make sure it's well populated and maintained, it's likely going to end up being more of a hassle than it's worth.> Fuge maintenance -- Only planning on Nassarius snails here. Does that sound right? <Ok, yes, just a few Nassarius snails are good to have (especially in the beginning)... but this is certainly not the end of the story. You need much more than just them... think small, squirmy, crawling... worms, pods, maybe some mini brittle stars. If you want snails in the display too, try Trochus, Strombus, etc.> Should they be the large ones or the small/vibex ones? <The smaller ones are preferred. Btw, if you have the time, interest and commitment... this is a great list of very helpful and informative articles by Dr. Ron Shimek: http://www.ronshimek.com/online_works.html> Thanks much for all the help. Sean <De nada and happy reefing, Sara M.>

Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions 12/03/08 Crew, I forgot to mention one other option I was considering... Some of your FAQs suggested using both a DSB sump and an EcoSystem miracle mud (MM) sump for larger tanks. I was thinking about adding a Caulerpa/MM sump to the below setup. On the EcoSystem web site, they recommend 1200-1500 gph through the MM sump for a 220g tank. However, that would use just about all of the flow that I can get out of my tank's 2 overflows (700 gph max each). Their recommended setup has the skimmer placed in the MM sump in the first chamber before the mud chamber. Doing this robs the mud and Caulerpa of nutrients, so I imagine that's why they only recommend skimming a couple of hours each day. I was wondering if it might make sense to have three sumps running in parallel. In other words, overflow water from the tank would be diverted 650 gph to the skimmer sump, 650 gph to the Caulerpa/MM sump and 100 gph to the DSB/Chaeto sump. The output from all three sumps would flow by gravity into the overflow sump for return to the main tank. (I have room for all of this, since the filtration system is in the basement below the display tank. Does all this make sense? <I don't see why not... if you have the room, it makes sense to me.> My reasoning is that I would be getting the benefits of both the Berlin and the EcoSystem approaches by splitting the filtration duty in half. Or would this be worse than just going with one approach? <Typically, when it comes to filtration for reef tanks, variety is a good thing.> Also, would 650 gph be enough flow going past the EV240 skimmer? <I would think so. If not, you could always just leave the skimmer on longer.> If you think this combo approach makes sense, would you recommend any changes to the proposed gph flows? <Look good to me.> I haven't heard back on my earlier email, <Really?! I did reply... I wonder what happened! I'll resend.> so I'd appreciate your thoughts on my earlier questions as well as these new questions whenever you get a moment. Thanks much. Sean <De nada, Sara M.>

Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions 12/04/08 Sara, Thank you SO much for this info, and for the info on my follow-up email. <My pleasure.> Turns out that your messages got caught in my spam filter, <Oh, yes, this happens to some people... > so that's why I didn't get them initially. I've added you to my safe sender list so that it won't happen again. You've given me some great insight. I will definitely go with both a DSB/Chaeto fuge and a Mud/Caulerpa fuge in addition to my skimmer. <cool> Regarding all the little critters you mentioned (worms, pods, etc.), I was kind of just "assuming" them. Until your email, I hadn't really focused on the fact that they were such an import part of the equation. <Indeed... they are the most important. Yes, you can assume *some* of them. Eventually, you'll almost inevitably introduce many of these things without even trying. However, the people who have the best and most successful (and useful) sand beds make an actual effort to accumulate them (and to make sure they have the diversity needed for a healthy DSB). Also, waiting to "accidently" acquire them will take a lot longer than if you get seeder sand and seeder populations.> And thanks for the link to Shimek's works. I haven't read all yet, but I've already learned a ton there. <Hehe, well, I haven't read them *all* either... but many.> I think I understand now that I need to focus on the critters, and doing that means staying away from the sand stars and gobies. I will definitely look into a sand seeder kit. From your email and from what I've read so far from Shimek, it sounds like a DSB in the main tank is the best way to go. However... I just don't like the look. This will be one area where I won't go "optimal." <Well, a remote DSB is "almost" as good (and in some ways has its advantages)... again, it's more a matter of properly caring for (setting up and populating) the sand bed more than where you put it.> But I don't like the bare or rubble bottom look either. Sooo... Below you suggest that if I want "at least a little sand for aesthetic reasons" that I should "make sure it's well populated and maintained" or "it's likely going to end up being more of a hassle than it's worth." I'm willing to put in the effort/investment to get the aesthetic benefit of a shallow bed; therefore, I have 2 main follow-up questions: * Could I "get by" with a 1" or lower sand bed, given the 2 wrasses, or should I go to 2" and plan to do more manual stirring? <Go with 2"... but don't manually stir it. You can siphon the top of it lightly. And, you can try to keep it populated by occasionally switching some of it out with the sand in your fuge.> * What's the best way to make sure that my shallow bed is "well populated and maintained"? A sand seeder kit should get it started, and hopefully the 2 refugiums will help keep it populated with little critters, especially if I avoid the gobies and sand star who would gobble them up. <Yes, the refuges will help. Also, as stated above... you can occasionally switch out sand between the fug and the display.> Could I still use Cerith, small Nassarius and/or conch snails to assist the critters in a shallow bed? <Yes, but don't over do it! Don't get more than one conch or more than 2 Nassarius per 40g or so...> Beyond that, would regular manual stirring help enough? Any other recommendations? <You shouldn't have to do any manual stirring.> Thanks again! Sean <De nada! Sara M.> Re: Substrate & Maintenance Questions Thanks for the speedy reply! And even more so, thanks for the great advice. I feel like I have a game plan now. Time to finish the setup and get this thing cycling. Can't wait to see the new tank in action. Thanks again. And Happy Holidays! You are most welcome... and good "luck"! :-) --Sara M. (Happy Holidays to you as well)

DSB almost ready.. 11/13/08 Hi Bob, <Dave> I hope all has been well with you. I have a quick question for you. I have the 55g tank set up for the DSB in the clown house for the grow out system. A club member is giving me approx 200-250lbs of live sand tonight from his 2 tanks. Both tanks have been up and running for over 2 years so the sand should be well cycled. He is tearing both tanks down because he is moving and may not set them back up right away. The sand beds are approximately 2-3 inches deep now in both tanks. My question is can I just put all the sand into the 55g tank and start water flowing over it immediately or do I need to let it settle? <Depending on how much "loose material" there is between, amongst the sand it may be a good idea to rinse, let settle for an hour or two> I wasn't sure if going from 2"-3" as they are now to a 8"-9" DSB will cause any harm to my current system. Is there anything special I should do? <Mmm, a general statement: "If" there is a good deal of apparent "sediment", biological and/or not, I would mix in made up seawater/stir, pour off this material to an extent before placing... "If" there is a large amount of such material I might even rinse all in just tap/mains water to remove the bulk of it (and yes, kill off, remove much of the bio-matter) before using... "If" there is but a small amount of such material, I'd just add/place the used substrate and use as is> I am very happy to have found this sand as it is established now and was free. Thanks again, Dave Durr <Bob Fenner>

Re: DSB almost ready..  11/14/08 Good Morning Bob, <Big D> Thank you for the info. I picked up 3 buckets of sand last night from Casey's 75g & 120g tanks. I would say that there is quite a bit of sediment/loose material. I had an extra 29g tank that I put all the sand into and added some fresh salt water and a power head to keep the water circulating. I think that rinsing this sand is going to be necessary so I am glad I had an extra tank available. Should I be concerned about any cycling after adding this sand? <Mmm... possibly... if it were me, mine, I'd either rinse all thoroughly, effectively killing, or opt to more lightly rinse, move/place just a few inches (3-4) at a time (every few days), effectively building up over time> One thing that I did not realize is that he also has a 200g & 300g tanks that are being taken down also. He has offered me all the sand that I may want out of those tanks also. I am going to need more sand to get the desired depth in the 55g refugium for the grow out system so I will go get some more sand this weekend. <I would not fill the 55 (I take it this is a standard/show of 24" height) much more than sixteen inches or so... to leave room for water/transit volume... even if there is an accompanying tank/area for overflow> I just had a friend give me a 90g tank that I am thinking about using for a sump/refugium for the broodstock system. The sump for that system has always been a little small. Now that I have all this live sand available for free I think that I need to make that change as soon as possible also. <Good, I would> Once I get this up and running is it safe to start adding some macroalgaes right away? <Yes> I have a bottle of live copepods from Reed Mariculture that I was going to add also. You had recommended Gracilaria and Chaetomorpha as macroalgaes to add to the refugium for Nitrate & Phosphate removal, are there any others that would be beneficial? <There are many, but these are the better, available genera currently> As always thank you for your time, Dave

Mud vs. DSB in HOB Refugium 8/6/08 Hello: <Tom.> I spent about 5 hours reading about HOB Refugiums last night (until 4am). I am considering purchasing a AquaFuge2 Large (25" Long) HOB. Not sure I completely understand what's best for my tank a Mud or DSB on the bottom of refugium. My tank: 46 gallon bow 404 Fluval canister filter Red Sea Prizm protein skimmer Approx. 1" crushed coral on bottom. <The usual nitrate factory warnings: clean the canister frequently along with the crushed coral bed (consider replacing this with something finer) to prevent detritus buildup.> Thanks for reading. <Either will work fine, pretty much personal choice. I choose DSB for myself, mud is expensive and can be messy if not careful. Ask the next guy and he will swear by the mud. Give whichever appeals to you a try.> Tom <Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Mud vs. DSB in HOB Refugium 8/7/08 Hello Scott: Thanks for the quick reply. Did you suggest that I should consider replacing the crushed coral in the bottom of my 46 gallon display tank? <Yes.> This is something I have been wondering whether its possible to do. Maybe remove all the crushed coral and put a DSB in the main tank to. <It is one way, the one which I prefer.> Is this possible with out damaging live stock (fish/corals)? <Yes, either move out the livestock and switch or just scoop out what you can and add the new, finer sand.> Thanks Again, Tom <Welcome, Scott V.>

Re: Mud vs. DSB in HOB Refugium 8/7/08 Hello: Thanks again. <Welcome.> When creating a DSB is the entire 4-5 inches to be sugar fine sand? <Sugar fine is good, you can use a bit coarser if you like, but the finer the better.> Are there any recommended "Live Sands" that would meet the proper criteria? <No, just some dry sand with live rock to seed off of (or a scoop of sand from an existing tank). The majority of "live"/bagged sands are a joke in my opinion. True live sand will have curing issues just like rock.> Regards, Tom <Scott V.>

DSB with CaribSea Seaflor Special Grade Reef 7/28/08 Ok, I have used this sand for in my last two display tanks. My 90G has about a 4'-5' depth ( I know it may be in that no-man's land area). <A good depth actually.> It has been running w/o problem for almost 3 years. I have about a 1-2' in the display of my 250 and I was just getting ready to set up my 100G fuge. I was planning on about a 6-7' depth of CaribSea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand. I have read many articles on WWM RE: best sand for DSB. I already have 160lbs of the CaribSea sand and now I'm thinking that I may be better to go for something a little finer. <I do personally like this sand, but still do choose the finer oolite type for DSBs. The Special Grade is a great sand for shallow sand beds. It is coarse enough to stay put reasonably well, yet does not act as near the nutrient sink as crushed coral.> When I first decided to use the Seafloor special it was because of lots of people complaining about their sandbeds turning solid and this would not happen with the more coarse sand. <It still can, same composition.> I know there are pros and cons to everything, but if it were you which way would you go? <The finer sand is my first choice, but the Special Grade will work fine in a 6-7' DSB.> Grateful for your help as always. Oly <Welcome my friend, Scott V.>

DSB in Nano 01/10/2008 Hello Crew, <<Hello, Andrew here>> I've been in the marine hobby for about 4 years now and still hooked <<Aren't we all>>. I have a question and a comment. Right now I have a 2.5 gallon tank on my desk which has been running for about a month with just live rock. I am upgrading to an 8 gallon bio cube with the intent of putting a single mushroom polyp and 2 or 3 Zoanthid polyp and watching them grow<<Sounds great>>. To most people that might seem like a waste of space and a tank but I've always been fascinated with watching things grow and multiply. I test twice a week keeping a record of all my result and I do a weekly 10% water change, with several micro water changes during the week to keep the salinity stable. The same will apply to the 8 gallon once its up and running. My question is this, I would like to know if I should go with a bare bottom tank or have a deep sand bed (3" +). I know that having a bare bottom will make cleaning very easy, but I have never set up a tank with a DBS and I would like to try it so that I may further my knowledge and experience with the hobby. If I do opt for a DBS, what are the long term effects in a nano tank? <<You could do a DSB of 3 inches, yes, however, I feel in a small aquarium as this, a lot of space will be wasted. Benefits of a DSB is that you will have an anaerobic area for denitrifying bacteria and provide nitrate removal. More info can be found here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm >> And now for my comment. I work at a local fish shop and I do my best to get people started on the right foot by telling them before buying anything research it. I usually hand a business card with your website written on the back of it. I am still surprised and a little frustrated with the attitude towards aquariums. It seems like people insist on stocking the tank as fast as they can. Too many times I've seen customers walk in with tanks stocked past the limit within the first 6 months of the set up. Then they come back after a year and complain they have terrible algae problems or that all their fish are getting sick. I can't stress enough the benefits of being patient. One more thing, I'm really sick of people treating the fish as if it were an ornament to put in a glass box. These are living creature with (to some extent) feelings and personality. I don't understand why people insist on give the fish less than adequate conditions. My biggest pet peeve is tangs in anything smaller than 100 gallons. All those poor hippo tangs that have died because of an ignorant hobbyist putting it in a tank that is way too small. I hate that excuse "but its small and I will switch it to another tank when it gets bigger" statement. That fish will probably develop growth problems before you decide to invest in a bigger tank. Would you keep your child in a 3'x3'x3' room, over feed it and clean it once a month? will it be healthy? Think about it people!!! treat it as if it was your own child and it will reward you. I promise. <<I understand your concern, the vast majority feel the same. Let us hope this type of fishkeep always stays, at most, in the minority of the hobby>> Thank you for your time. Pat <<Thank you for the questions and comments, A Nixon>>

RDSB Water Flow Questions 12/21/2007 WWM Crew, I just finally finished reading the many pages of information on deep sand beds and nitrate reducing methods. I found it to be an excellent discussion and a wealth of information. However, I have a question that remains unanswered... For background, I have a new 210G BB SPS dominated tank with a 60G sump, and I'm using a 75G AGA (48" x 18") for a RDSB with 6" of sugar size sand. The RDSB is not lighted. I have 150# of Tonga LR in the main display. I'm using a Reeflo 250 Orca as my skimmer and I typically run carbon passively in my sump. Flow through the entire system is high with detritus staying in suspension and being removed via a filter sock in the sump. My main focus/desire for the RDSB is for nitrate reduction followed by an increase in bio-diversity of the overall system. I'm interested in opinions on both (1) overall flow through my RDSB as plumbed into my total system (currently I'm moving less than 200G/hour through the RDSB tank with the returns directed at the top of the tank) <This sounds good to me. I'm sure opinions vary on this, but I think as long as your moving about as much water in an hour as you have in the main tank, you're probably good. Of course, to a point, more is probably better.> and (2) flow within the RDSB, not only in volume, but with respect to how, where, and by what means (currently I have no additional flow other than the main returns). <Water flow actually THROUGH the DSB is largely dependent on the benthic life of the sandbed. You want to have a lot of worms, micro-crustaceans, etc. living in the sand to turn the sand grains around. This is what moves water down and through the sand.> Specifically, I'm interested in opinions on flow techniques at the sand/ water interface level. <If you want to add more water flow above the sand bed, you can just add a powerhead. If you don't think you can do this without creating a sand storm, you could try piling some rocks in one corner and pointing the powerhead at the rocks from the other side of the tank.> Thanks in advance and thanks for maintaining this excellent resource. Tony <De nada, Sara M.>

DOH! Anaerobiosis  11/16/07 This is a follow up question to one a few weeks ago that Bob answered (thanks Bob and thanks for the info, helped big-time!). <Welcome Tom> Long story short, large system, three 300 gal tanks linked together, perfect water param.s including no phosphate on Salifert (I run Phosban). I have an aged DSB (7months) in the display. I had ph issues and then ran into ventilation issues when adding additional halides, so I was not surprised when some of my SPS browned down, that was 2 months ago (I run a bugless system, dip, qt everything coming in, no signs of aefw). But over time they should have colored up so I started looking for potential issues in the system, I had bad sand in two tanks (shallow beds but not shallow enough). I shut each tank down, removed the sand, and set up a new DSB in a large refugium with tons of flow and Nassarius and Chaeto. Color started to return! However, at the same time I tested the DSB in the display by vacuuming test holes, and low and behold I found tons of Anaerobiosis. <Easy to occur in such large systems> SO here are my questions: - I would love to take down the display and simply replace the DSB with new sand (I used the wrong size sand for the depth I had, I should have used sugar grain), however the DSB in the refugium is only a week old. What is the best strategy to use here, I have a ORP controller running and will be getting a sanders ozonizer next week. I am not losing any pieces and I am seeing good polyp extension, I am thinking the best thing to do would be to vacuum out and replace perhaps 1/4 of the DSB in the display a week (testing trates each week), that way by the time it all has been replaced the refugium should be NNR, correct? <In time...> I just don't want to implement too many changes too fast either. As a side note I have been using SeaChem's Stability to help inoculate (I know it may be a waste of time but its worth a shot). Thanks a million, I truly appreciate everything you guys do Tom <If there's room, I'd just place the sugar-fine on top... an inch or more... IF no room, as you say, remove/vacuum out some of the extant and add... and be patient here for now. Bob Fenner>

Re: DSB creatures or not?  11/13/07 I'll ask some fellow reefers for a few fine sand samples. Luckily we have a healthy reefing community here in the Chicago area. :) <You sure do. :-)> There are a couple of reasons why I want to separate the CC and remove it from the main tank. Aesthetically I'd like the fine sand substrate look. Chemically, I've read on WWM that crushed coral and the like (aragonite based) will lose its beneficial nutrient "leakage" within 18-24 months in an average tank, so its time to recycle it anyway. <Well, actually, I think crew members here have had some small disagreements over if aragonite actually puts anything in the water that's beneficial. After looking at the dissolution constant (and saturation points in salt water) of calcium carbonate, I'm not convinced it dissolves in a normal reef tank (the pH would just have to be too low--again, in my opinion). But, even if it did increase alkalinity/calcium in some way, you can use other supplements to accomplish the same thing.> Finally, the overall depth of >1" and the mix with the finer sand substrate is making me think that it may be a contributor to my never ending battle with nitrates. (yes, I do water changes regularly, etc...) <In order for a sand bed to help with nitrates, it needs to be at least 3 to 4 inches deep. This might be helpful: http://www.ronshimek.com/Deep%20Sand%20Beds.htm> Removing the crushed coral should leave less than 1" depth of substrate in the main tank. <See above. Best, Sara M.>

Old Sand For New DSB? -- 10/06/07 Hello Crew! <<Hiya Don!>> Well I have my 210 AGA up and running. <<Neat!>> I have 54 corner FOWLR with a 6-inch DSB. When my 210 is all done cycling can I add the 80# of sand if I clean it out real well instead of buying it? <<Sure>> I won't need it to be live because everything will be done in the 210. <<Okay>> Oh by the way the sand would go into the 135 gallon sump I have and make a new DSB if I could. <<Yep'¦>> Oh yea if you haven't figure it out I want to put all my live stock and LR into the 210 and that is why I ask. <<After the new setup is cycled I hope'¦>> Thank you for your time. Don V. <<Regards, EricR>>

Deep Sand Bed, Low Salinity System 9/21/07 Hi. Greetings from Alaska. <Hello from Chicago.> I have a 55gal. FOWLR with quite a bit of fish. Bicolor angel, Raccoon B/F, Fox Lo, Royal Gramma, Flame Hawkfish, Tomato clown and a Yellowtail damsel. <I would call that very heavily stocked, even overstocked.> I am a big fan of hyposalinity system and that is not as a treatment but as a method of my hobby. <I have to disagree with you here, keeping fish in anything other that natural as possible conditions is exceedingly stressful over time and leads to an early demise.> I am running this tank for more than a year now and I have no disease or any problem on my fish during this period. <Unfortunately I don't think this will last over the long haul as the conditions take their toll.> I am planning to buy a HOB refugium and make a deep sand bed in it. My question is: Can a anaerobic nitrifying bacteria form or thrive in a deep sand bed with a salinity of 1.010 SG? Thanks for your response. Larry <The bacteria will colonize this area, there are many species that live in all different salinity levels. However I encourage you to reconsider your approach.> <Chris>

DSB reading referral  7/21/07 Hello. I have a couple questions regarding a sumpless, 55g mixed-reef start-up, if you'd be so kind. First, I'm going to utilize a deep sandbed of 4", and wanted to know if there's a formula to use so I know how many lbs. of sand I will need. <Mmm, can guess... as tanks have varying dimensions, sands differing densities... you'll likely need about 120 pounds or so> I plan to use "sugar fine" or a notch coarser (any suggestions regarding grade of sand?). <Yes... posted...> For seeding, what would be a good/minimum ratio of "live sand" to use along with dry aragonite? Lastly, I figure it's smart to use two heaters, in case one fails, so what wattage for each would you suggest? As always, I really appreciate your help. Eric <And we your taking the time to read: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/index.htm Scroll down to the Substrates tray... DSBs... Bob Fenner>

DSB tank and planning  -- 07/18/07 Hi crew, How's it going? Good I hope. <Thanks :-)> Want to say thanks for answering all my questions thus far. I have a few ideas that I'd like to run by you guys and gals about a tank that I'm in the process of setting up. I have a forty gallon reef aquarium with 192 watts of daylight PC's and a cheap skimmer that works quite well. So far I have around two inches of course sand and I was thinking about putting a 2" layer of sugar-fine sand on that to have a DSB. <I'd take out the coarse sand and use only the sugar fine sand (or a bit finer if you can).> Would this work? <Well, if you're wanting it to work as a biological filter, coarse sand is not a good idea. You should have at least 3" of finer sand. Fine masonry sand works too if you don't want to pay the money for aragonite.> Also I would like to get something in the way of a sand-sifting cucumber, seeing as they do not eat all the good creatures in the substrate like the sand-sifting stars would. <Nassarius vibex snails are also good substrate mixers. And kudos to you for doing your research on those sand-sifting stars!> I have around 30 Lbs. of live rock in my tank too, and would like to get a lot more. <Ok, but it is possible to get too much live rock. It's not about weight. It's about volume. You can get more if you want, but just keep in mind that the more rock you have, the less water you have.> As in the way of corals, I have a rock of mushrooms and a rock of Zoa's. Could I get some species of Sarcophyton and an Open Brain? <You can get one or the other but don't get both. Sarcophytons produce toxins that are trouble for LPS corals (and especially bad for the open brain corals).> I am also going to get the H.O.T. magnum filter. Any suggestions would be helpful. <Hmmm... maybe run some carbon in that H.O.T. magnum.> Thanks! <De nada, Sara M.> -Nate

Re: DSB tank and planning  -- 07/18/07 Hey Sara and crew, Thanks for the quick reply. I am just going to a one question to follow through. Did you mean take out the course sand and put two inches of sugar-fine or finer sand, or take out the coarse sand and put in 4 inches of sugar fine or finer? <Ah, sorry for not being clear. To make a proper sand bed, I suggest you take out the coarse sand and add 3 to 4 inches of sugar-fine sand (or a bit finer). You should also seed the sand with some established live sand which you can either purchase or get from a fellow reef keeper with a well populated sand bed.> Anyway, thanks for the help. <De nada, Sara> -Nate

Live Rock on Top of a DSB ? -- 06/28/07 Hi there guys! <Hi Jason> I've got a 20 gallon fuge for my 70 gallon mixed tank. It's a new setup, only 2 weeks old. I've placed some sugar-fine sand in the fuge. To "seed" the sand, I placed about 15 pounds of live rock (from my last snorkel dive) on top of the 4-5 inch sand. My fuge is very visible, and I like it looking nice. It is actually part of my display, separated by glass with a couple small holes. I've got some questions regarding the setup... is it ok to leave some live rock on top of the DSB? <Yes, Live Rock on the DSB is OK. Just make sure there is plenty of sand dwelling fauna to keep the sands maintained> How much is too much? From what I've read on WWM so far, most people agree that live rock on top of a DSB is a nutrient sink for nitrates and live rock on DSB is a no-no, but I've found some posts stating that this is ok. I hope you guys could clear it up for me. <There are reports that DSB become nutrient sinks. The biggest reason is nutrients aren't being exported via resins or water changes as frequently as needed so over time there is a build up. Using source water that has a zero TDS reading and changing resins and water changes every 30 days helps prevent this. Sand beds also have the ability to create ammonium (another nutrient) so the use of Caulerpa in the sump is recommended. The Caulerpa will assimilate any nutrients that the DSB may be adding to the water. With the use of Caulerpa and activated carbon/phosphate resins together you can control nutrients in the tank quite well> If I need to take out the live rock and place it on my display, will I cause any ammonia/nitrate spikes? Besides taking out the rock very slowly, and having some water at hand, is there anything else I can do to minimize the spiking? <Being that the tank is 2 weeks old you will have a spike as the tank cycles. Water changes should be done at the end of the nitrite cycle. If I have misread your statement and the 70g is established and the sump is a new setup, then you should have little to no spike in the nitrogen cycle because the bacteria in the established aquarium will compensate naturally for that. As far as anything else you could do is concerned, keep up on water changes and exchange all resins every 30 days. Keep your protein skimmer cleaned at least every other week so that it is running at it's best potential. (sooner if necessary) and run your sump lights on a reverse photo period to the main tank.> Thanks, Jason <Rich aka MR. Firemouth> Another DSB/Nitrate Reduction Question -- 06/23/07 I have a 58gal tank + sump with approx 45lbs live rock, crushed coral substrate. <<This last is likely a large contributor to your Nitrate issue>> A Finger Leather, a few Mushrooms, Xenia, Zoanthids and some Yellow Polyps. <<But for the Xenia, quite a noxious combination>> All are small and well spread out. <<But in a relatively 'small' volume of water'¦do employ some purposeful chemical filtration (Poly-Filter/Carbon)>> Livestock = Yellow Tang, <<Tank is not big enough for this fish, mate>> Maroon Clown, Royal Gramma and a Sixline Wrasse + Snails and Hermits. <<Not that you should consider it now, but if things change, that Pseudocheilinus will make future fish additions problematic>> Protein skimmer that makes about an 8-12oz of dark skimmate a week. My nitrates are consistently in the 20s. <<Ah yes, this needs to come down. It's hard to say for sure but, perhaps you need a better/more efficient skimmer>> 5-gal water change every 2 weeks with aged RO water. <<Allowing the salt mix to 'blend' for several days I hope>> It's understood that by increasing water changes, I will dilute the Nitrates, but I do not want to have to do this on a permanent basis. <<Mmm, understand the mindset'¦but on this small volume this is an inexpensive and most healthful process. And doubling the volume to 10-gallons could make a very big difference here>> Reduced feeding does not seem to help reduce the Nitrates. <<Coming from somewhere else>> It seems that I have a lot of debris in the crushed coral even after using a gravel vac. <<Course substrates can be very problematic>> I have taken some crushed coral out and cleaned it but I am afraid to do a lot at once for fear of shocking the tank. <<Mmm'¦may not be much of an issue if the existing depth/volume is small>> I think that a DSB is the way to go. <<I am a strong proponent of this methodology>> After the DSB is up to par I would add more live rock. <<Don't act too quickly re the rock'¦fishes need room to roam>> At the present, 100lbs of pet store aragonite is not in my budget. <<The retail side of the hobby IS proud of this stuff>> I see 4 ways to get to my goal of having a DSB. 1) Remove all of the crushed coral at once and add a bag at a time of aragonite over several months until it reaches the 4-6 in. depth. 2) Add a 12x16x4 DSB in the sump inside a plastic container and then do the above. 3) Wait until I can get enough sand to do the change at one time. 4) Wildcard option, to use limestone play sand that I found in a local Home Depot (Chicago region). It did pass the vinegar test, but it does not say where it is from. The pallet is in a slot marked Old Castle but I did not see Old Castle on the label, I can/will check again. <<This is probably not Limestone but rather Aragonite sand'¦and most desirable/useful as such re our hobby>> If these were your choices, what you would do? <<Hmm, a combination of all these choices! I would purchase sand from Home Depot'¦add the DSB to the sump and wait a week'¦remove the crushed coral from the display and add the full depth of sugar-fine Aragonite to create the DSB'¦ And do consider rinsing this sand before adding to the display. Some authors say this isn't necessary'¦and on new systems it is less of an issue'¦but I speak from experience when I say you will not like the result if you merely dump this sand in to your existing display without rinsing away at least 'some' of the 'fines'>> Until the nitrates are lower, I will not add anything and will have to increase the water changes. <<Good>> I consult the WWM regularly and am thankful to all of the crew for the comprehensive site. <<The 'Crew' is happy you find the site useful>> I do not understand how you all have the time and patience to answer our repetitive questions. <<Hee-hee! Can be trying at times for sure'¦but the greater good we 'know' we are doing far outweighs the occasional inconvenience or thoughtless/selfish querier. And to be fair, the 'Crew' has it easy compared to Bob who must 'handle' all the queries we leave, as well as maintain the site/post all for the public's edification>> After reading your daily questions for a while, I have come to the conclusion that many of us who ask questions (myself included) are not ready to accept the hard truth; we want a magical cure to Ich and other problems, as in my case Nitrate reduction. <<Ah yes! Tis true many write in looking for validation for something they know is wrong, and subsequently refuse to accept the 'hard truth' as you say'¦but by far the majority of folks are just looking for some 'personal' attention/guidance to their dilemmas. And as we often tout here'¦nobody should rely on a 'single' source for their information anyway. Hobbyists should research/attempt to gain information from a variety of sources (books, NET chat forums, WWM, hobby clubs, etc.) and use their own good judgment to choose a course of action'¦WWM is just one cog on the wheel>> Thank you! <<Quite welcome'¦and 'thank you' for this opportunity to rant [grin]. Eric Russell>>

DSB/ Coral Sand 6/20/07 Hello, <Hi> I'm about to set up a DSB to help with my high nitrates problem. This may well be a stupid question but is coral sand the same thing as aragonite? <Yes, or at least most likely both are calcium based.> I can get hold of some sugar fine coral sand for my DSB but I am struggling to get some aragonite. Seachem and AquaMedic bring aragonite into South Africa but there's none around at the moment. So, will coral sand do the same thing? <Yes, you can make sure it is calcium based with a little vinegar, looking of it to sizzle a little.> I did read your DSB page a couple of years ago and set one up with aragonite. It did reduce my nitrates to zero in weeks, amazing. However, I moved house and built a 900 gallon system. I never got around to doing another DSB and my nitrates have shot up so quick. One more question, when we moved house and my system, my LFS people said I had to throw away my DSB because disturbing the sand would release all the bad stuff. So I did throw it away. Is this right? <That's what I have done when moving, once exposed to air the nitrate reducing bacteria die, you are starting from scratch in that regard anyway. You could clean out the existing sand and reuse it, but that always seemed like more work that it is worth.> <Chris> Thank you so much, again. Kind Regards, James.

DSB questions 6/6/07 Hi Crew, <Ed> Thanks for all your help so far. You've been an invaluable resource in helping this noob get started on the right foot. I have a 42 Hex with 40 lbs LR, a 3 inch sandbed (mixed fine live sand and CC), 175 MH pendant, Remora skimmer on MJ1200, and a rio400 powerhead for added circulation cycling for 5 weeks now. What's in there so far is the cleaning crew (2 skunk cleaners shrimp, 1 sm. brittle star, various hermits and snails) and a couple small frags (few Zoa buttons, GSP, 1 sm Xenia stalk, 1 sm mushroom) and no fish yet. I do a once a week 5 gallon water change and top off with RO/DI water. Everything is doing quite well. My question is about the sand bed. My nitrates have been sitting pretty steadily at 5-10ppm. I was concerned that maybe my sand bed is just a bit too shallow or coarse. Might this be the case? <Mmm, yes... and your system is new...> I've read that DSB's will perform differently depending on the situation and my tank is taller than it is wide, hence lower surface area. Can I add more fine live sand at this point without affecting the tanks cycle? <Likely so, yes> Would this even help? <Ditto> I did just add 10 Nassarius snails this week. Before that, nothing was really sifting through the sand which I realized after some research is quite necessary. Would more sand stirrers be beneficial? <Not really> I guess 5-10ppm nitrates isn't that bad and maybe I'm just being impatient, but I'd like to see them at 0 before adding any more livestock. Thanks so much for you time =D Ed Gambler <Mmm, will likely never be zero here... w/o the addition of more outside filtration of a few possible designs... I take it you have read on WWM re Nitrates and their control. Bob Fenner>

Lighting a DSB, possible coral grow out system in sump.  3/30/07 Hello <Dzien dobry Lukas, Mich here.> This is my first e-mail to you. I'm writing from Poland. <Welcome!> I have a 600 liters reef aquarium and I just started my DSB in sump. It measures 50cm X 40cm and the sand is 8.5 deep (size of aquarium is 160cm x 60 x 60) <Very nice.> and my question is: does the lighting above DSB have any influence on it. <Oh, yes, of course.> Is it bad or is it maybe worthwhile to light. <Depends on what you want to do.  You can have a DSB for NNR that does not have any lighting.  If you want a refugium to grow macroalgae you will need some kind of lighting, though, it can be minimal.> if it is good what kind of light do you recommend- I'm thinking about two T5 24w - I want to put some propagated corals in sump to grow in peace.   <If you want a place to grow out photosynthetic corals you will need lighting.  The two T5 would be fine for macroalgae but you may need more than what you have depending on the corals you are trying to propagate.  Give it a try, you could always add more lights with the T5's.  I think the T5's are an excellent place to start.  There are many FAQ's on coral propagation.  Could start here and continue with links in blue:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corlpropfaqs.htm  >        I know it's lot of thinking but I hope you will help me <Will most certainly try!> Looking forward Lukas PS. Sorry for my language if it is abusive <Hee!  Not abusive at all.> Please answer me on this email if its possible <Will do!  -Mich> Re: Lighting a DSB, possible coral grow out system in sump.  3/30/07 I think I have too much nitrates in my system <Have you tested your levels?> so I would like to reduce them by DSB. <Excellent!> So if I want to use it for NNR and don't want to have any macroalgae but still have some light for soft corals propagation at first, <You can do this.  Macroalgae would also help with NNR.> I will light the DSB in that case would it be bad for it? <No, Not bad.> or it makes no difference if there will be no alga. <You can light it, but it is not required if there are no corals or algae present.> any animals you recommend for DSB, some sea stars etc...? <Nothing you need to purchase, life will self seed from your live rock...you have live rock correct?  -Mich> Re: Lighting a DSB, possible coral grow out system in sump.   3/31/07 Yes I have 80kg of live rock in show tank. <Glad to hear!> But in the sump I have just few very small pieces, is it necessary to put some more in the sump? <You can, but is not necessary.> Won't it "destroy" the surface of DSB that I think is very important. <No.  It is not the surface of the DSB that is critical, the DSB works as a whole. The surface is important, but the depth and the grain size are equally or more important.  You may want to consider a book titled "Reef Invertebrates" by Anthony Calfo and Robert Fenner.  The first part of the book does an excellent detailing such living filters.> Ohh and what about the circulation above the DSB. Should it be strong? <No, is not necessary for just the DSB.  If you decide to propagate corals in this area you will need some good circulation.      Mich> Adding CaribSea Mineral Mud to existing DSB refugium   3/29/07 I have a 90-gallon reef tank with a 29-gallon refugium that's been set up for about 6 months.  Currently, the refugium has a 6" DSB (sugar-fine aragonite) with about 20 pounds of live rock frags placed over the top of the sand bed.  Above the live rock, there is about 8" of open water where I grow Chaetomorpha.  I've been contemplating adding Mineral Mud to my refugium to provide a better environment for anaerobic bacteria, and burrowing micro-fauna, as well as time-release additions of trace elements.  In order to do this, I believe I will have to do the following: * Take out all of the live rock & DSB * Drain the water from the refugium * Lay down a 1" thick layer of Mineral Mud in the empty refugium * Put the DSB back over the top of the Mineral Mud (gently to avoid mixing) * Replace the live rock frags * Refill the refugium using a dinner plate to avoid disturbing the sand bed <Mmm, I would not do this... NOT mix the mud and calcareous substrates> Question No. 1 - do you think there is substantial benefit to adding the Mineral Mud to my existing system? <There likely is, however I would keep the two types of media in separate areas...> Question No. 2 - if yes, do you believe the steps above are the best way to accomplish this? Thank you in advance, Steve Lasik <Mmm, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/refugdsbfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Adding CaribSea Mineral Mud to existing DSB refugium  3/30/07 Bob, thank you for the link to pertinent questions.  I tried to find FAQs that specifically addressed my situation, but could not. <We must need keep pressing on... adding "more complete answers"... in the form of "articles"...> A follow up question: I want to split my refugium area (12" x 20" inside a 29-gallon tank) into two separate compartments, one for a DSB w/ Chaetomorpha, the other for a mud substrate w/ Gracilaria.  Would it be better to split this lengthwise into two parallel channels (6" x 20"), or just two 12" x 10" compartments, with one flowing into the next? <Interesting question... I don't think either algal arrangement will result in more/less competition in any sense... but do think I'd go with the parallel arrangement... to aid experimentation further in adjusting water flow rate, lighting... Bob Fenner> Re: Adding CaribSea Mineral Mud to existing DSB refugium  3/30/07 Okay, I will divide the refugium into two parallel channels, 6" x 20" with equal flow going to both sides.  This leads me to two more questions: 1. Do you agree the Chaetomorpha & DSB should go together in one channel, and then the Gracilaria & mud together in the other (my logic here is the Gracilaria will root in the mud, whereas the Chaetomorpha just floats)? <Mmm, yes... I do agree> 2. Should I put some of the live rock rubble in each channel, or put all of it on the DSB side? <For me, this latter> Thank you for your continued input, Steve <And you for yours. BobF> DSB Set-up Questions  - 02/15/07 <Snowy greetings! Mich with you today.>. I want to add a DSB to my aquarium for NNR.  I'll give you the details of my system before I ask the question. <OK.> My tank is about 2 years old.  220 gallon tank, FOWLR.  About 200 pounds of LR.  Coralife Super Skimmer 220.  About 1 to 1-1/2 inches of very fine sand in the tank.  The LR and the skimmer are all the filtering I have, no bio balls. <Alright.> I just purchased a 40 gallon heavy-duty tote that I want to add alongside my sump for NNR.  The new tote is kind of short and wide, so it appears to be at least 25% of the surface area (in terms of square footage) of the main tank.   <OK.> I thought that I would put about 6 inches of the Home Depot play sand in the new tote for the DSB.  I like the look of crushed coral, so I thought about replacing the fine sand in the display tank with 1/2 inch of crushed coral.  I would move the fine sand from the main tank to the DSB to mix with the Home Depot sand.  So, I wouldn't actually be removing the current sand from the system, just moving from the display to the DSB. Does this seem like a reasonable set-up to you?   <Mmm, yes, though I would consider going deeper than 6 inches if possible.> Am I doing anything that would cause more harm than good?   <Mmm, not that I can think of.  I would add the sand from the display last to the 40 gallon tub, to preserve the life in the sand from the display it should be the top layer in the tub.> Thanks for the help. <Welcome!  -Mich>

Re: DSB Set-up Questions  - 02/15/07 <Hello again!  Mich here.> Thanks for your prompt reply!   <You're welcome!> You mentioned that I should go deeper than 6 inches of sand in the DSB.  How deep would you suggest? I've not seen anyone recommend sand deeper than 6 inches in WWM before (not that I mind making it deeper). <Over time, due to the buffering properties of the sand, some of the sand will dissolve and compact and the 6 inch sand bed you started with may become a 5 inch sand bed.  If it were me/mine, in a remote setting I would start slightly deeper, but it really is up to you.  You want a minimum of 4 inches.   You will see varying opinion if you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbdepth.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaq2.htm  > Thanks <Welcome!  -Mich> Deep Sand Bed 1/5/07 Hello Crew: <Hi> I currently have a 55 gallon reef that I am trying to add a DSB to.  I am slowly adding the sugar fine sand and I am now up to about 4 inches.  The problem that I am having is that my four Maxi Jet 1200's are blowing the sand like CRAZY.  <I bet, big powerheads.>  I don't want to change them because my corals are doing very well with them.  I was wondering if I could use different substrate as the top 2 inches for the DSB.  I was thinking crushed coral.  <Not really, will trap debris and cause nitrate problems.>  If I can use crushed coral do you have any recommendations on how to avoid the milky water that crushed coral always causes? <Wouldn't use.> I know you can rinse it for ever and still get the cloudy water.  I do not use a filter just an Aqua C Remora and am concerned that the cloudy water would last forever.  Thank you so much for your help. <Best bet is to try to rearrange the powerheads.  Maybe find a configuration that works better.  Crushed Coral will only add problems long term.> <Chris> DSB's... lighting?    12/26/06 Hi crew. <KB> I was wondering if a DSB has to have appropriate lighting for success. <Mmm, no... unless other organisms used that require light...> I was planning on treating my 'water change' water as it has around 20ppm nitrate when it comes from the tap. <I would not drink or use this water for cooking... See WWM re water treatment> I was thinking about getting 2, 100 liter tubs, putting a 6 inch DSB in one and cycling the water from one to the other and back again. I am planning on storing them under my house where it is quite dark. Also how long do you think the water needs to be treated in this quarantine area before I can put it in the main system, then replaced and start treating again, another batch of water? <Likely about a week... you will see> Does it need to be heated the same temp as the main tank? <Yes... tropical, stable> My other option was to put the water in the main system and treat it there with a HOB fuge with DSB, but again, I'm unsure about lighting (if at all). Many articles on your site say you should have opposite cycles, but is this necessary? <Not necessary for a DSB itself... however "reverse daylight photoperiods" in sumps, other areas that are tied-in with ones main-display system/s that are illuminated when that/those system/s lighting is off are very useful> Thank you for your awesome knowledge and taking the time. Merry Christmas from Down under, Sydney <And to you and yours. Bob Fenner>

Using alternate substrate for DSB + coral sand for buffering.  - 10/28/06 Crew, This is Amod Oak from India. First of all, a BIG thanks to you volunteers! Without delay, here's the deal: Prospective tank specifications: 30L x 24B x 30H inches. Prospective DIY sump specifications: 30L x 18B x 24H inches, with a total of 4 chambers, first two (small) acting as mechanical filtration + skimming chambers, the third, the biggest one intended as a refugium, and finally the last one housing the return pump. The query: In India, we have access to aragonite sugar fine sand that is very very costly. It is not feasible to use it for a DSB. So I was wondering, can I use some alternate but inert substrate of sugar fine size for a DSB? For e.g. crushed, sugar fine marble sand? <Can... not nearly as soluble/suitable though> Yes, I know that it wont help in buffering, but here's my second question, what if I use the aragonite or maybe crushed coral sand in the refugium to help with the buffering? That way, I will have both.. DSB (without buffering capabilities) and aragonite/coral sand in the sump with buffering capabilities? (aragonite/coral sand in the sump so that quantity required will be less.) <Will likely work... am surprised there are not more ready sources of crushed coral sands> And the last question, all over the site I have read that BECAUSE other alternate substrates are not made up of soluble calcareous substance, they wont help in NNR. <Mmm, not so> But isn't that wrong? NNR is achieved due to anaerobic biological activity in the DSB, so how is calcium associated with it? As long as buffering is assured, wont NNR carry on in any sugar fine, inert, spherical DSB? <There is some natural nitrate reduction possible in/with all substrates> P.S: I have not included any other system specifications because my question only concerns using non calcareous substrate for a DSB. Thanks and regards, Amod Oak. <You should do fine here. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> DSB In A Bucket - 10/20/2006 Dear Bob, James, Steve and the entire crew (also Anthony if he is still around), How are ya?! <Tired, answering lots of questions today and getting sick of the computer lol. And Anthony is off and on.> Anthony Calfo awhile ago advocated the idea of using a DSB in a 5 gallon bucket to reduce nitrates in a reef setup. The idea as I understand it, is to simply get a bucket with any type of sand and have filtered water move across the surface back to the tank/sump (bucket is to be covered to prevent light from getting in). What is your opinion of this? There is not too much on this topic in the FAQs. RC has a lot of opinions on this but I need "real advice" from experts (yes I'm kissing up!). I am thinking about doing something similar. <Okay so first thing, there is no such thing as an expert in this field. Being an expert implies that you know it all and I'm sorry to say no one does. Sorry my personal peeve. But there are lots of people who do know lots of things. That being said, the idea is to set up some type of extra way to remove nitrates and if you have tanks that have problems with nitrates then anything that you can do to help this is a good idea in my opinion.> I originally planned on using a converted Amiracle SL 150 Wet/Dry filter (about 12-13 gallons) as my refugium for my new 120 gal (I will only have a half inch sand bed in the display). With my space limitations under my stand, this was the biggest refugium that would work. I was originally going to have a 5-6 inch  DSB in there with my Chaeto but I am beginning to decide against this because of the volume the DSB will take away from the Chaeto/water (I obviously have a separate sump for my skimmer, phosphate reactor etc). BTW my water was going to be pumped into the refugium from my sump and then gravity fed back into the sump. <Just a thought here, I usually run my refugiums separate from my sumps so I can control the rate of flow through the refugiums to get optimum removal of nitrates.> Do you agree with my concern about the DSB taking volume from my Chaeto - my main goal is nutrient export and pod production - or am I over thinking this?   <I see why you are thinking the way you are. I think for your particular purposes this might be the way to go or you could have no sand base whatsoever.  Anthony had various points to using the DSB with his removal and changing to a small sand base looses those cleansing aspects as well but if you only want to do this for the nutrient removal then the Chaeto is the way to go.> Back to my original question i.e. DSB in a bucket and assuming you agree with the effectiveness of it and that my 13 gallon refugium is too small for a DSB and Chaeto,  here is what I plan on doing. Instead of using a bucket I plan on using a 6 gallon green water storage container (used for camping) and drill two holes for bulk heads on the side. I would fill the container with about the equivalent of 5 gallons volume of sand from my old tank after washing it thoroughly to remove Hydrogen Sulfide smell etc. <If you wash your sand you loose all the good benefits as well. Just take sand from the very top disturbing no more than 1/4 of the sand at a time. You can do this over an extended period of time. Also, you don't want to dig way deep into the sand anyway in your tank because you want to avoid problems in your main tank.> I would then simply get a Mini jet water pump and pump water from my sump and allow gravity to feed it back to my sump. There would be no need to cover the bucket since the green container with the lid would take care of light getting in. Would this work and/or am I missing something here?   <I think that would work along the same concept of what Anthony was proposing as well.> Thanks again for all that you do (Sorry for the long post)   <Long posts welcomed, sorry about the delay in answering.>

Miracle Mud & DSB...Can I Use Both? - 11/10/05 Hello There <<Hello>> I love your forum, your assistance and guidance is an absolute wonder for the Aqua-ciety. <<We're pleased you find it useful.> I have a quick question, I did read your FAQ's and I did not come across any discussion or topic specifically about using a DSB and Eco-System filtration combined. <<ok>> My setup - 120 gal, 6" aragonite DSB, 100/lbs live rock. I am wondering 1 thing.  According to the Eco-System website installation procedures, they specifically instruct the public NOT to use more than 1" sand bed in the main tank along with their filtering system.  I have read your pages on DSB's and I agree for a DSB for main tank filtration but I wanted to add the Eco-System refugium below the tank for extra filtration.  Do you recommend using a DSB 6" inline with the Eco-System/refugium with their product MM (Miracle Mud)? <<No reason you can't do this.  The choice is yours to either follow the Eco-System procedures exactly, or in your case since you already have the DSB in the tank, to use a "modified" version.  I don't think employing both methods together is going to "hurt" anything.>> Any insight would greatly be appreciated.  Also, I was curious to know if I had to read your comments on the web or would you be so kind to email me directly? <<We do both...we post and reply.>> Thanks in advance and thank you for you wonderful efforts in this hobby. Sincerely, Maurice Rousseau Jr.

Refugium Methodology...Reverse Flow DSB? - 02/11/06 Hi, <<Hello>> I have a 210g reef tank (200lbs. LR and a large number of corals) with a 40g sump and a 40g refugium. <<cool>> Lighting is an Aquamedic space light with 3-250W 20K HQI.  My skimmer is an Aquamedic model, not sure of the model number but I have found it to be excellent. <<ok>> The pump for the return is a Dolphin 3000gph.  I have been toying around with various ideas to try to improve on the refugium because it's not doing what it is supposed to do which is act primarily as a nitrate reducer. <<I see...>> In talking to various people, I came across an idea that intrigued me but have not been able to verify it.  In a nutshell, it uses a plenum (~2"tall) and has approximately 5-6" of sand on top. <<You don't need the plenum...>> The interesting part is that a pipe is run under the plenum and water is slowly pushed thru the sand and then returns to the main tank. <<Hmm...ok>> I have not been able to verify the effectiveness of this, and while I don't mind experimenting, I would prefer not to do anything that would have a truly detrimental affect.  Any ideas would be great. <<I'm not familiar with this methodology...for my two cents, I would employ a simple lighted vegetable refugium with a 6" sugar-fine DSB and Chaetomorpha algae.  But if you're interested, do set up a test system as described, and let us know your findings.>> L <<Regards, E >> Screen between sand layers? Dear Crew: Last Sunday I put sand (approx. 4'') in my new tank. I got so excited doing it that I forgot to place the mosquito screen between the layers (to prevent the sand sifters from disturbing the DSB) as I was going to :) I'm planning to have some sand-sifting snails and possibly a starfish in that tank. Should I take the sand out and start all over and if I don't will the snails and starfish defeat the purpose of the sand bed by turning it upside down? << I wouldn't worry about it.  With 4" you should be fine, they won't sift that far down. >> Thank you very much for all your help. << Don't worry, just take it slow. >> Peter <<  Blundell  >> Sand bed grain size... Hi guys. <Stephan> Reading thru your pages I find that a lot of people set up their DSB with different grain size. Is this a new thing? <Mmm, not really... folks have used single or mixed grain sizes...> What is the real advantage over one size grain style. What two grain sizes (in or mm) would those be and how is it implemented or installed? Thanks for the clarification.  Sincerely, Stephan <Mmm, let's see... the size of individual grains dictates the amount of surface area per cubic volume... so, smaller is better by and large... Mixed sizes tend to "clog, channel" more than single grain diameter... Depending on depth of the bed, composition, angularity... most folks settle on diameters in one millimeter nominal range... In actual practice... having more of all sizes, depths generally works out... that is, if anything, folks have too little of any given grain size, depth... Bob Fenner>

Upon What Bed do Sleeping Dogs Lie? Not a Deep Sand Bed! Hi Guys <<Marina-guy this morning hey.>> Many thanks for the continuing support, on this great site. My question is related to deep sand Beds. <<Ok.>> I have been having problems getting my Nitrate down and I am setting up a refugium with a small 12x12x10 tank next to my main sump, this will be fed via a water supply from my old counter current skimmer. (have upgraded to a Turboflotor 1000) The water will come in to the tank then be skimmed and returned via the skimmer to the mains sump. Where the main pump will return it to the main tank. My idea is to have around six inches of sand in this refugium to help as a de-nitrifiers. <<Ok. With that much sand you'll not have much room for macroalgae, those are helpful as well.>> What I am having problems getting my head around is what size of sand to use, I have spent a few hours sifting around 50kg of coral sand to give me 2 different types of sand. <<NUH UH! Seriously? You've been sifting through the sand? That sounds like something I would do! <giggle> >> Type 1 is very very fine, the sort you could easily make a sandcastle from, and looks like it compacts very easily. Type 2 is much more coarse and the grains are around 1-2mm, much more loose than Type 1. Which one would you suggest is the best to use? <<Either one, really. I've seen DSBs that looked more like Mud Beds, and others that looked like really deep gravel. The larger size, Type II, will not present the same problems such as cloudiness, remaining in suspension upon disturbance, etc. Also, if it's crushed coral, we don't have to worry about sharp edges harming any detritivores you may wish to place in there. I don't know how large the main system is, but a box that's under 1'cu seems a little small for larger setups (55g and over). In any event, you really can use either one, or both. Generally, the larger the particle size, the deeper the bed will need to be.  Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm and note the top photo shows a tank with a substrate that is clearly not just sand. Both types CAN and do work, my friend.>> Best regards Robbie <<You're welcome. Marina>> 

Upon What (sand) Bed do Sleeping Dogs Lie? Part Deux and the Idiosyncratic Englishman Hi Marina <<Hello again Robbie.>> Firstly my apologies for assuming my reply would be from one of the men folk on WWM, and not one of its fair maidens <<Hee.. we fair wenches thank you!>> Many thanks for the speedy reply. <<You're very welcome. This was an easy one for me.>> So I did not really need to sift the sand... <<Nope.>> ...us Brits have some strange pastimes eh? <<Yeah, and I hear you lot drink this thing called a "Shandy". You're not one of those shandy-drinkers, are you?>> The main tank is 100 gall but has a 1.5 inch bed of crushed coral with around 90kg live rock, Have a suspicion that this is acting as a nutrient trap which is causing the prob.s with the Nitrates. <<The live rock is really quite helpful in this regard, ASSUMING it is of good quality. Know that good live rock actually contains some anaerobic bacteria that further break down nitrate into nitrogen, et al. Also, the crushed coral does require a good deal of maintenance, debris/detritus accumulations are problematic. A sand bed in the display may be an option, since those 90 gallon tanks are rather tall.>> I really just want the 'fuge just to help with Nitrates, if I go with the really fine sand then I could add a sand sifter star to this to keep it stirred? <<Yes, and you don't have to have sand to help with nitrate reduction, though creating an anaerobic area is the idea here. Also, uptake of nitrogenous wastes/nutrients by Macroalgae helps prevent its buildup in the first place. The refugium is an excellent idea/move, but can be further expanded upon.>> Thanks again for all the help. Robbie <<You're quite welcome, and do read that link I sent you, along with the others. Also, find yourself reefs.org, Advanced Aquarist online magazine, as well as Conscientious Aquarist online magazine on our site. Should be more helpful information there. Marina>>

Deep Sand Beds...Silica Sand? - 06/03/05 Hi, Home Depot has 30 mesh, which is fine grade material. It is made for sand blasting. The bag says silicone. Are these pellets safe and do-able for a deep sand bed? <<Silica sand is very "do-able" for a deep sand bed.  Just be aware you won't get any buffering capacity as with aragonite, nor is it as soft/easy on the skin of burrowing creatures.>> Thanks, Dan. <<Welcome, Eric R.>>

Deep Sand Beds? #2 - 06/03/05 Hi, I understand that the stuff I can buy at Home Depot is silica sand.  For a 100 gallon tall, how deep does it need to be to be effective? <<Same as if it were a 20 tall...4" minimum, though I recommend 6".>> Thanks, Dan. <<Welcome, Eric R.>>

Using a DSB and LR Hello! <Hi there> I have not purchased my tank yet as I have been researching the different filtration setups. Since my budget is very small, when I came across the DSB method I thought it would be more economical in the long run (since there is a cost to replace filter media and electricity costs.) However, the more I have read into it I began to realize that as with all things in saltwater aquaria...there is not one way to do it. <Ah, yes...> I did my research, but i still have questions. I am thinking that I should do a deep sand bed (mine will be 5 inches to accommodate a jawfish which I intend to purchase at a later time) without a plenum on the bare glass of the 29 gallon  tank. I have used a sand bed calculator and found that I will need 73 pounds of sand. Some aquarists recommend using 50% live sand. 25% crushed coral, and 25% crushed shells. Another aquarist said in the Aquarium Fish magazine that the coral and shells would be too large and coarse for the delicate organisms (such as worms) <Mmm, no> to move in the substrate without injury. I also think that the coarser substrate would damage my future jawfish. <Again, not... Opistognathids dig about, move the larger bits where they want... in captivity, the wild> This same aquarist suggested using 10% of my tanks total volume in pounds should be live sand. This completely confuses me--how can the volume (gallons) turn into the mass of the sand (pounds)? <Just a rule of thumb likely> I would appreciate it greatly if you could tell me how much live sand to put in my future tank, and if not all 73 pounds, what other substrate I can use to fill up the level to 5 inches. <I would just buy/use five, perhaps ten pounds of actual LS... the rest will be inoculated sufficiently hence> Please keep in mind that my budget is very small. Speaking of my small budget, I am interested in purchasing live rock to aid in filtration, to beautify my tank and so I can later have coral and anemones. I have read that I need one pound per gallon of live rock. In my area that runs about 200 dollars. (for the 29 gallon tank) I am hoping that I either do not need that much because of the DSB or that I can add it ten pounds at a time. <Don't need that much, can add a bit at a time... best of course to re-cure outside the system> I am also thinking I will definitely need a protein skimmer, but perhaps with this filtration system I don't? <A useful tool... you can try it without... more expense in the long haul in synthetic water... to maintain quality> Also when I place LR in the tank wouldn't I need to put it right on the glass bottom so it doesn't fall and crush my fish? <Mmm, no... not really... Place the larger pieces first, securely mount smaller on top... as the DSB dissolves, gets tunneled about all should settle a bit w/o falling> So then would I put the live sand in afterward around the live rock? Or is it okay for the LR to be on top of 5 inches of sand? <The latter> I know these are a lot of questions, but with all my research I have not found a better place to get a straight forward answer. Thank you very much for your help and time! Jennifer <Glad to share... keep investigating, sorting through your possibilities, choices. You'll do fine. Bob Fenner> DSB Questions - 08/26/05 I have been reading quite a lot of your information on DSBs. Because of your information I have decided to go with a DSB for filtration on my 90g reef tank. <<Super!  I'm a DSB fan myself.>> My proposed setup is a 30g with 3 separate compartments. The first is the stable water level where the skimmer goes 10"X12", the second is the refugium area, 21"X12"X14"deep, and the last area is for the over flow with mechanical filter and a small portion of bioballs then to the return pump.  My plan is to illuminate the refugium area counter to the main tank 14 hours a day with 40 watts of PC lighting. <<Sounds good>> The 4" DSB will be filled with macroalgae and detritivores.  Flow rate is directly proportional to the return of the tank, I have a 1300 gph pump on the return.  Do you have any suggestions or modifications to this set up? <<It looks like you have things well in hand.>> In your FAQ's I have read that DSBs should be installed properly and proper maintenance.  What is the proper installation and the proper maintenance that you are referring to? <<Well Dallas, proper installation would be to use the correct grain size at the correct depth.  My preference is sugar-fine aragonite at a minimum depth of 4 inches (six is better).  The larger the grain-size, the deeper the bed.  Maintenance refers to high water flow...high water flow keeps detritus in suspension and out of the sand bed.>> Thanks for all of your help. Dallas <<Always a pleasure, EricR>> Getting In Deep! (Deep Sand Bed Implementation) Love your web site. Talk about a plethora of useful information! <Glad to hear that! Scott F. with you today!> I'm setting up a 180 gallon marine fish/reef aquarium and am thinking about using a 4" depth DSB/1 or 2" plenum (are my numbers correct?) filtration system in a 55 gallon aquarium I'll be using for the DSB and sump.  I'm concerned whether other filtration is required.  I'm also considering skipping the sump and may set up the 180 as a self contained DSB system unless you can tell me why I should use a sump). <Well, in addition to adding water volume to your system, a sump will provide you a "nerve center" to process system water, by utilizing chemical filtration media, mechanical media (such as pads or filter bags), macroalgae for nutrient export (in a lighted section of the sump, etc. You can also house equipment there, such as protein skimmers, probes, heaters, etc.> In either case, once the DSB is functioning, will I need any kind of filters, such as a particulate prefilter, protein skimmer, bio ball-type filter, etc? <Yes, in my opinion, you will. A protein skimmer is an absolutely essential piece of equipment, providing a "first line of defense" against the accumulation of organics. I would not use bioballs in your filtration system, as they will actually accumulate the very substance (nitrate) that a DSB excels at removing.> I'm also wondering how much water flow (throughput) I should plan for the DSB sump or standalone 180 gallon DSB tank? <Well, in the main tank, it really depends on the types of animals you intend to keep. If you are looking at a hardcore SPS setup, 10-20 turnovers per hour is minimum. You can tee off some of the flow to your remote DSB, or use any number of different configurations. Do check out the DIY site ozreef.org for lots of ideas on sump systems and designs...> Can the DSB sump pump be used as the only circulation source for the main tank in a reef setup, or is the DSB meant to be a trickle type, meaning an additional pump is required for main tank circulation? <Again- no hard and fast rule here. Ideally, it would be cool if you could have the remote DSB as a "supplement" to your main sump, in order to get the best of both worlds.> Is detritus vacuuming required in the main tank in either case? Thanks, Dan Kelley <I would not do any vacuuming other than the first half an inch or so, which will avoid disrupting the processes occurring in the DSB. You can read a lot about the many options that you have right here on the WWM site! Have fun with the research, and enjoy setting up your system! Good luck! Regards, Scott F> 10 in depth of water 2/12/04 I have s quick question, If my tank is only 10in deep can I use SO fluorescents (of the appropriate temp), changed regularly, in conjunction with T5's to light Euphyllia, Sarcophyton, Heliofungia, Pachyclavularia, Plerogyra, Catalaphyllia, Trachyphyllia? Could I possibly go to 12 in depth. Also, I will have an 11 inch sand base under them, and of course live rock in the tank so some corals could be placed higher if needs be. All of the corals you listed will tolerate SO fluorescents with no problem, even if you increase the depth a bit.  I would recommend that you try to get four lamps per foot of tank width and cover the entire length (four lamps over a 55 or six over a 75, for example).> Is the sand bed to deep? In the main tank I don't want the sand dissolving under the coral and lowering them, could you recommend a sugar fine sand that doesn't dissolve. <I don't think 11" of sand is too deep, but after about 6" I don't think you will reap much additional benefit.  You also have to take into account the tradeoff of diminished water volume.  If the only goal is to get the corals closer to the light, then I wouldn't bother.  Any aragonite based sand will dissolve.  Silica sand will not dissolve, but it's use is controversial.> I will be using Aragamax in the sump to help with buffing as well as a calcium reactor. Finally, water changes are very important and I do them frequently but as many people know what ever you spend on your equipment initially pales in comparison to what you will ultimately spend in upkeep. I am trying to set up a system that meets all the animals needs but is cost effective over time. Since I do 25% water changes every week the expense of salt is killing me, any help in getting less expensive salt that will get the job done. <I too believe in the importance of water changes, but unless you have tremendous input, 25% per month should be more than OK.  I can often find IO brand salt for about $10 per bag and less than $40 per 200gal bucket.  Getting any brand for any less than that will be a challenge.> I know many people say just have better filtration, but I have an excellent protein skimmer etc., low contaminants, I have just found water changes help allot, maybe its diffusing all the things we can't test for like chemical warfare etc...I just don't want to stop using them as they have worked for me.  What do coral farmers do about the huge amount of salt they need for their systems? Thank you Greg <Again, you have my agreement about the benefit, but you may get 90% of the benefit with half of the water changes.  Small amounts of regularly changed carbon will help too.  Any business with large systems simply buys salt in large quantities.  Since a large part of the cost is freight, buying in pallet quantities saves cost.  Also, some large commercial facilities re-use water, sending "used" water from SPS systems to soft coral, fish only or live rock systems for example.  Hope this helps.  Adam>

DSB Debate... Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Hope all is well and a very big thank you for your help! <Our pleasure, thanks!> I have been reading through the DSB FAQs and I am now torn as to how I will be setting up my new 55 gal SPS reef.  I really don't want to go the deep sand route as can't find any play sand that I would feel comfortable using.  (Yardright's website says that their play sand is NOT suitable for aquarium use and Home Depot in this area is using play sand from a company called Bonsal.)    <Well, you don't have to use Southdown or other play sand for a successful DSB. Most of the fine oolithic aragonitic products made for aquarium use are just perfect!> Basically, the tank will have approximately 65-70 lbs of LR and my plan was to have a 3/4" - 1" live sand bed (Aragalive pink Fiji) and a HOT converted (no mud, using Aragalive oolithic) Ecosystem Refugium and skimmer.  Also, the tank will not have a large fish bio load (1 barnacle blenny, 3-4 damsels, snails and 2 peppermint shrimp). My question to you is:  Would my plan work or would the benefits of the DSB be far greater? <I believe that the benefits of a DSB would be measurably better> Again thanks for all of your help! Cheri <Do consider a DSB for the benefits that you seek. it's not the only way to decrease nitrates and increase biodiversity, but it is certainly one of the best...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

DSB Advice 2/22/04 Hi, Long time listener, first time caller'¦ <Glad you finally picked up the phone!> As a project, I'm looking at building a 2 level  sump with 2 DSBs, due to not having a large available foot print under my tank. Looking at the attached highly technical drawing (which is not to scale), the yellow is the DSBs, the brown is the skimmer (water comes in in this chamber), and the black being the Out pump back to the main tank. I intend to have live rock in there too. I have a few main concerns that I was hoping you could help me with: 1. Do you see any issues in the top DSB not being under too deep water. The top level may only have a few inches of water above the sand bed. Could this be a problem, could this increase the oxygen level in that area which will  affect growth of anaerobic bacteria? Should I make that DSB thicker? <Not an issue at all.  A thin film of water flowing over the sand would be fine.  Oxygen diffusion is primarily limited by low water exchange within the sand, not the O2 concentration in the overlying water.  A DSB should be at least 3-4" deep, so as long as you meet this minimum, that is fine.> 2. What would be optimal flow rate of this sump? <Hard to say, but more than a few hundred gph would probably disturb the sand quite a bit, especially in the upper layer.> 3. This there a problem with the skimmer being in the initial chamber that the water enters, again, will this add too much oxygen with affect anaerobic  bacteria? Should I move it so that an exit chamber has the skimmer? <As stated above, this is little concern in terms of O2 concentration in the DSB's.  IMO, the physical location of the skimmer is completely a matter of convenience.> 4. and lastly, are there any general problems with the design as a whole? Am I wasting my time trying to make the top layer? The sump will be a tall 2ft tank, so the top layer may be 1ft long (minus skimmer chamber + room to set up Out pump).  I have an established tank which I don't want to touch. <You never stated what size tank this was for.  If you're current tank is bare bottom or just has a thin layer of sand, you will probably see some of the benefits of a DSB from a bed with as little as 25% of the surface area of your display (for example 2ft^2 of DSB for a 2ftx4ft (8ft^2) tank).  More is better, but what you have proposed looks like a maintenance nightmare. If you really have you heart set on more area, I would consider removable trays to contain the sand.  I would stack the trays with spacers in the center of the sump, have water enter on one end, flow through the stack of trays to the other end where the pump would be located.  This way, you could unstack the trays for maintenance, you pump would not have to be set on sand (a sure way to destroy the pump), and you could have your increased surface area.  HTH. Adam> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

Sorting Through Sand (Sandbed Practices) Hi Scott, <Hello again!> I have a couple more questions here. <Sure> 1. For DSB, is the denitrification effect proportional with the depth of the sand? Or is the denitrification effect more proportional to its surface area? <Well, there is some controversy as to how deep the sand bed depth must be to foster maximum denitrification processes. Some studies have indicated that natural denitrification can occur in the top half an inch or so of sand in natural reef environments, but in aquariums, we tend to recommend minimum depths of 3 inches for maximum performance. DSB methods have been proven for years, so the practice is well documented and successful for many hobbyists.> 2. The recommended DSB thickness is 3 inches. Does this 3 inches includes the thickness for the plenum? <Plenums require strict adherence to sand depth and grain size (see sandbed advocate Bob Goemans' site,  saltcorner.com , for more on this technique) in order to function properly. The depth that we are referring to is for "static" (plenum-less) sandbeds.> 3. How thick should the plenum be? <The standard recommended height of the plenum area should be 1 to 1 1/2 inches, usually created with eggcrate over some PVC pipe sections. A screen is placed over the plenum, and sand (about 2-4 mm in size) is placed over that screen at a depth of about two inches. Another layer of screen is placed over that sand (to help prevent detritivores from burrowing into the plenum area and disrupting the processes within). Sand is placed over this second screen at a depth of about 2 more inches. That's all there is to it! Of course, the processes involved are a bit more complex.> 4. Do I have to keep the plenum dark? In another words will the anaerobic bacteria be affected by light? <Well, the plenum area does not let light in> 5. To the best of my adjustment and cleaning of airstone, I get only light brown tinted skimmate in my counter current skimmer, do I have to chuck away my skimmer? Or get a more powerful air pump? <Could very well be the solution, if all other adjustments are not working> 6. If silicate sand are used, the are minerals leached to the water going to affect livestock's health directly? Or it is just causing algae bloom? <Silicate is mainly a contributor to nuisance algae blooms> 7. Will changing 50/50 tube to pure 6500K or 10000K tube improve coral/anemone photosynthesis? <I prefer 10000k for functionality, but the 50/50's look better, IMO. wattage is very important. I tend to favor metal halide over fluorescents, as they provide optimum intensity for photosynthetic invertebrates> Thanks sooooooooooooo much... :) Wid <My pleasure, Wid! regards, Scott F.>

Converting to DSB >Dear Zen masters of the zoosphere: >>Whoa.. how very.. "anime".  Greetings, grasshoppah.   >I'm a newbie with a 9-wk old 30 gal. glass tank, 304 Fluval w/ bioballs, PolyFilter, and phosphate traps, Seaclone skimmer, 96 w. combo fluorescent.  Current inhabitants include 3 damsels (1-1/2"), 2 perculas (2"), and 1 yellow tang (3").  All fish are doing very well and I don't intend adding any more.  I have one polyp that is dying due to algae overgrowth (I'm trying to bring it back through periodic cleaning), and a couple of pieces of so-called "live rock" purchased from my LFS, which actually turned out to be clumps of coral with algae on them. >>Oof, you need some good live rock.  Also, 9 weeks is a bit soon for a noob as yourself to be housing inverts just yet.  Need to let things settle down a bit, first. >All vitals seem good-- pH 8.3, sg 1.023-4, NH3 0, N02 0, N03 10 ppm-- except Ca (350 mg/L). >>You're not housing any stonies, and a range of 350-400 is certainly acceptable in such a situation.  You don't really want it significantly higher than 400 unless you have high calcium demands in the system. >Anyhow, here's my problem:  I want to establish a reef tank and add inverts.  I've had tremendous algae blooms which I am starting to get under control. My substrate is ~ 1" crushed coral.  I'm thinking a comprehensive solution to my algae/calcium/biodiversity problem would be to add a 4" DSB using Southdown (now Oldcastle) Tropical Playsand, and then seeding it with the critter pack/macroalgae from IPSF.  Does this sound like a good strategy? >>It does, but honestly at this point I would FIRST spend the time and money on the best quality live rock I could get a hold of.  Once you have *that*, you can install the DSB, maybe some macroalgae, and not worry about buying the critter pack (unless you really want to). >If so, my questions to you are: 1.) the sandbags say Caribbean, sterilized, silicate free, and then down at the bottom "not recommended for aquarium use."  Is this just a sop to the aquarium sand mfrs. or are you aware of any deterrent additive they've put in the sand? >>No deterrent, just a CYA kind of situation.  Silicate isn't going to cause much trouble anyway, but is sharp-edged, and many critters aren't appreciative.  It also does nothing to help with Ca levels or alkalinity.   >2.) Placement: reading through your site I've seen recommendations for placing the sand directly in the tank, and, conversely, removing all stock and H20 and then placing the sand.  I really don't like option 2-- more work and more stress on fish IMHO.  But what do you think?   >>Wet the sand, and either make a "director" with PVC tubing, or just load it up into a net or cup and gently pour where you want it.  Be prepared for the cloudiness, can last up to two weeks easily.  Have a turkey baster on hand to blow it off any inverts (though you're not quite ready for them). >3.) I've had good success in our freshwater tank maintaining a 2" river sand bed covered with a coarser aggregate that allows for periodic vacuuming.  Would it be a good idea to remove the crushed coral, place the sand, and then place the coral back on top as a covering layer, or just go with the sand, or (as I saw in another post on your site), place the sand on top of the coral and let it sift through gradually? >>Ah, definitely, just let it migrate. >4.)) Finally-- how long after I add the sand should I wait before adding the critter pack?   >>I'd wait till the cloudiness goes away, but then again, as I said before, I'd buy the live rock before installing the DSB.  That's where the real value is, in my honest opinion, and it will provide you with what you seek much more ably.. is that a word?  In any event, it will provide the biodiversity you seek and then some.   >Many thanks.  Wyatt Evans, Washington NJ. >>Many welcomes, hope this has helped.  Marina

Re: tank setup question--Ecosystem, DSB, live rock specifics Hello and thanks for the reply.  I have some follow up questions regarding DSB.  You mention that I should read Ronald Shimek's articles--I actually had before I wrote you and his articles actually prompted me to rethink my DSB as it is not fine grain sand.    I corresponded with him on Reef Central and he said that I could go dig up some marine/sand mud along the coast where I live (los Angeles) provided it is in an area with no/little pollution concerns (and to check local laws don't prohibit digging up sand).  What do you think about this?  << I wouldn't do it.  With all the money we spend on our tanks, I wouldn't skip corners on buying sand.  I really like the CaribSea products and would certainly just buy sand. >> He also recommended trying what he will do for his next tank--a blend of silicate sands. << This is common where I live, but I really don't like using silicate sand.  I see no advantages to it. >> The discussion is here: http://reefcentral.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=3064537#post3064537 Let me know what you think!  Thanks for all the advice!  << I think you will be much happier with the common crushed coral types of products.  Also, if something does go wrong you'll always be questioning the sand.  So to me, it is worth the piece of mind to just get good crushed coral from the beginning. >> Saskia <<  Adam B.  >>

Deep Sand Bed Questions Thanks for the reply.<MikeD here again. You're very welcome>  When we were discussing the deep sand bed option you said you liked fine grade aragonite.  Do you mean don't put a deep sand bed in at all?<Aha! what we have here is a simple matter of miscommunication. "Deep Sand Bed" refers to the depth of the substrate as opposed to the makeup of the substrate. Aragonite or crushed limestone comes in many grades, ranging from coarse pebbles a 32nd of an inch across to very fine, looking and feeling like normal silica sand in consistency>  , or do you mean use the aragonite sand??<Yes, sand grade crushed aragonite>  How about a mix of the two 4" of the Southdown, 2" of the aragonite?<that would be fine, although the finer sand will eventually end up on the bottom as it will stratify.>  Or would it be better just to use a fine layer of the aragonite and forget about a deep sand bed (in the display tank)  I do like the look though of a deep sand bed, or am I asking for trouble with these large fish?<4" of very fine crushed aragonite IS a DSB or "deep sand bed". By using true silica sand, two problems are often encountered, 1) sand is silica based, thus inert and does nothing to assist in keeping your pH alkaline, and 2) it can pack down SO tightly that it even keeps water and oxygen out, Partially this allows for anaerobic bacterial action and can be good, but conversely, if organic matter gets buried it has the potential to form pockets of gas that end up being hydrogen sulfide, which can result in a bubble being released that can drop pH instantly PLUS is so deadly that a fish getting a whiff of it in the face can be killed even faster> Getting back the my sump and live rock option...  If I was going to use 1.5#'s  of live rock per gallon for the 180 for filtration and not use a wet-dry filter I would then make a refugium with a deep sand bed in the sump as well.  But if I have to use the wet dry / and the live rock I would not have a refugium then.  Does that sound all right?<Sure. It's all a matter of choice and many use a refugium with a DSB and the LR placed on top of that. If lit, the LR then can grow macro-algae which can remove enormous amounts of nitrate from the water>  Pretty much what I'm debating is that I don't want to buy a $1,000 in live rock and then have to shell out $500 for a wet-dry<Understandable. Don't forget however, that you also have the option of using largely dead base rock (Honeycomb limestone is best) and some LR. Over time it ALL becomes LR and the time is often MUCH shorter than many realize. Many LFS don't mention this as it cuts down on profit tremendously>.  But if that's what I have to do then so be it.  Let me know how all this sounds.<Does this help any?>  Thanks

Deep Sand Beds >Hi Guys, >>And a gal, Marina here. >I just discovered your great web site. I'm upgrading from a 50 to 110 gal. reef tank. I plan on having a 5-6" deep sand bed. I've read about South Down play sand in your forums and none of the Home Depots on the west coast sell it. I've discovered at our local hardware supply a white sterilized play sand from San Juan Capistrano, CA. >>Home of the famous swallows, and my favorite Mission. >The sand is the sugar type which measures .2 to 1 mm in diameter. It's not from the Caribbean, but it's still from the ocean. Can you give me your pros and cons about using this type of sand? Thanks in advance,  Dick >>Well, not knowing what it's comprised of will make it a little difficult to give you best/worst case scenarios.  The reason we like Southdown is because it is quite similar in composition to Aragonite (calcareous, and IIRC oolitic as well).  Assuming it's been *very* well washed/cleaned, also calcareous in nature, and has no pollutants, then I would think that you should be able to use it as well.  Otherwise, your biggest concerns are those listed above.  Calcium content is another concern, not as great, but it is a terrific benefit garnered from using the other sands.  One way you might be able to determine very quickly if it's NOT calcareous is to pour a bit of vinegar on it.  If it fizzles, you know it's base/alkaline.  If it does nothing then you can eliminate the possibility that it's calcareous.  I do hope this helps, and best of luck.  Marina

Shifting Sands (Sand Bed Depth) Thanks again for quick reply... :) <My pleasure!> I have the last DSB question. I spent endless hours on WWM and nano-reef.com but only found conflicting opinions. <About sand beds...really- you're kidding! LOL> "3" min and 4" or more is better": I read some people saying this rule was based on using a relatively coarse grain size (2mm+).  So some think it you use "sugar fine" grade (0.2mm - 1.0mm), you achieve the same result with the half this amount (2 in.) because circulation within substrate is less thus less oxygen for the same depth. <So many complex processes occurring in deep sand beds...> For the same reason, some think 4"+ of "sugar fine" grade makes it easy to develop dangerous sulfur gas.  I think this same group of people mentioning Ron Shimek's article. Since you have more experience and read more on this topic, what is your opinion on this issue (half depth for sugar fine grade)? Thanks, Kevin <I'm certainly not a marine scientist like "Dr. Ron", but I am a nuts-and-bolts kind of hobbyist. I have constructed and seen lots of sand beds, and I can say that even with the sugar sized oolithic aragonite, I think that you'd be well served with a 4 inch depth. I've never really experienced (or heard of anyone else experiencing) problems with hydrogen sulfide in a well-maintained DSB...With good husbandry and stocking, I think that the DSB is a great asset to any system! Regards, Scott F>

Shifting Sands (Pt. V) Scott, <Hello there!> Thanks a lot as always! <You're quite welcome!> I think I am inclined to try DSB (4").  At least I can monitor it during and  a while after LR cycling to see it really helps with Nitrate.  Very appealing concept if it can lower nitrate/phosphate especially I want many things to low and stay low in small set up.  Dr. Ron says open sand surface is important with no LR on it. <I agree with him on that...> So it may seem as if Biowheel (which does not produce more nitrate than what is available in my tank) + DSB (reduce Nitrate) + very, very little LR (just enough to give hiding space for Clown and shrimp) might be the best option.  But I will still ditch the BioWheel (for more circulation) and go with about 5-7 lb of LR since LR seems to have some limited ability to help reduce Nitrate. <Well stated, IMO...The Biowheel is not "bad"... I just think that good live rock can do as good a job at contributing to "biological filtration"...> Even after 4" sand, it still leaves about 10" water column.   With 150 GPH eclipse filter and Aquaglobe PH, there should be plenty of flow in 10" water column. <Should be nice!> I am thinking I will not put in air stone.  Aquaglobe has a venturi. If it is quiet enough for my son's bedroom I will use it. Otherwise I will ditch it. <Agreed...may be a bit noisy...Just break up the water surface a bit...you should be fine> What's up with someone saying air stone in marine tank will lower PH?  I thought more air is good?  Does PH really go down if you have air stone in marine? <Air stones drive off C02...Help oxygenate the water...I believe that the effect would be just the opposite>   I will be sure to report my findings on both DSB and Aquaglobe PH. <Please do!> Thanks a lot. Kevin. <Good luck, Kevin! Regards, Scott f>

Shifting Sands, Pt. VI (Or, "As The Nano Turns") Thanks, <A pleasure, as always!> After I fired off the e-mail, I went to Dr. Ron's forum and your assessment is absolutely correct.  Dr. Ron considers even sugar fine grade a bit coarse and recommends 4+" of this stuff.  I am learning so much that my head spins.... <Yep- I know what you mean...Sooo many different views- sooo much info out there!> As a nuts-and-bolt hobbyist who have constructed and seen lots of sand beds, would you still go with DSB in Eclipse 12 if you were in my shoes?  Have you seen successful 4" DSB (nice denitrification benefit and nitrification) in small tank like this?   <I have, and it will definitely limit the water volume in such a tank...Really a tough call; one that is predicated on both your sense of aesthetics and functionality> I read in one of the forum that Dr. Ron was against the use of DSB in small system (< 29 gal) saying it would not be efficient and may become detritus trap but the careful reading of the forum seemed to indicate that his opinion on small tank DSB was based on his theory and experience with larger system, not the first hand or even second hand experience with small system.  Theory is good, but real experience is also important in my opinion.   <Yep...There are views out there that suggest that it will rob the tank of oxygen, function as a nutrient trap, grow algae, etc. Again- there seems to be more room for serious study on this topic. If you are so inclined, I'd give it a shot...> On the side note:  I ordered Aquaglobe powerhead to put in my Eclipse.  You mentioned more circulation is good but had a concern about heat build up with PH. One nice feature of this is that transformer is NOT in the PH but is a part of the power plug.  So less heat issue. <Very cool- literally and figuratively!> It is also really tiny so little water displacement.  Nice features for nano.... <Absolutely!> I do not know how reliable this PH is but I guess time will tell.... <Yep- the jury is still out on this one...Give it a shot, take careful notes on your experiences, and SHARE with your fellow enthusiasts! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cycle Questions and DSB installation - 8/14/03 Hi All, Tried this question yesterday and seems the response got lost.  <I saw it and it is probably in one of the crew's inbox so you may get this answered twice. Unfortunately we don't have the bandwidth to just sit around and wait for email to come in. Being that we are all volunteers, we get a handful of email and go through it as soon as we get time from our jobs, kids, school, vacations in some cases, etc. Sorry for the delay, Sam. ;-) There are some emails further delayed than yours. =) In any event, let's get to it>   Anyway, getting ready to cycle a new tank, but there seems to be different opinions and how.  <Yes indeed>   Some say lights on others off.  <I like lights off during cycle with NO starter fish. Lights off because lights on with a high nutrient spike like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate would be advantageous to algae growth. Just a few pieces of fish flake food or sinking pellets or something every few days.>   Some say skim others no.  <I believe most, if not all of us here at wetwebmedia, would employ a skimmer during cycle for a great many reasons. One is that the tank will likely spike any way even while skimming. The skimmer is more of a chemical filter, taking out chemical constituents out of the water>   You get the picture.  <Yes I do.>  Suggest to me the most proper procedure and also when the DSB should be installed in this equation.  <I would install the deep sand bed after I have placed my live rock. Place the live rock, then pour the sand around it. Be sure to add some sort of live sand from either a friend, store bought, or ordered from a great many fine online dealers. I would avoid the bagged "live sand" as your only source (OK to use, but doesn't have a supply of the many sand organisms (mostly bacterial forms)> Thanks in advance.  Sam <You're welcome - Paul>

DSB Screen or No? - 8/29/03 Hello Staff, (So I don't offend someone for the improper gender or name) <no worries... most of us are confused at any rate> I am going to start a tank with a DSB and would like to know what screen to use to separate the upper and lower "halves" of the sand bed. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank You, Daniel <no screen at all... I do not recommend mixing grains in a bed. Bob and I cover live sand at great length in our new book "Reef Invertebrates". The advantages and disadvantages systematically of each grain size and at various depths. The short story, however is that there is no significant advantage and arguably a disadvantage to NNR strategies when most aquarists do not make the bed deep enough in the first place (too often under 6"). Some folks say its best to mix grains to diversify the micro fauna. But that's what live rock and plankton refugiums are for (micro crustaceans). If you want to commit to a DSB... go for a static bed of fine (under 1mm) sugar sized sand at 4-6" min. IMO. Best of luck, Anthony>

- Deep Sand Bed Clarification - Help! I have a 60 gallon DAS tank that is over-run with undesirable algae growth. I can control the problem with weekly major water changes, although I know that I should only do smaller water changes to maintain the balances, etc.  The tank is got the front angle-cut ends  |        |        | \________/ Per the advice I received at the local store, we layered the sand bed with fine sand then with coarse sand to about 2-3 inches.  After reading some of the articles I know now that 2-3 inches is inadequate. <Yup... not really a 'deep' sand bed but a sand bed none-the-less.> Much of the sand in the front of the aquarium is hardened... I suppose from the see-saw effect of Kalk additions. <Yes, that would explain it.> I use a float switch with a 6 gallon source of fresh water/Kalk mixture to automatically keep the tank topped off.  I suppose I have been using too strong a dose. <Yeah, would separate these two.> Pump capacity is pretty much what you suggest... I have the filter pump that pulls through the weirs/protein skimmer and foam filter.  In addition to that I run with 4 Maxijet pumps at about 925 gallons/hours plus the pump that cycles through my chiller.  On top of all the sand, I have about 60-75 pounds of live rock. As far as livestock goes, I have a branch of pink hammer corals, green hammer corals, torch corals, an open brain up on a rock (should be on the sand, right?), some xenia, plenty of mushrooms, a couple toadstool leathers, cabbage leather and a variety of button corals, etc.  We have a small assortment of fish, i.e. a medium brown Scopas tang, a maroon clown, a Pseudochromis, a blenny, a couple damsels, a sally light foot crab, a serpent star fish, a tuxedo urchin, and a good assortment of snails, and hermits. First the DSB.  Will 3-4 inches of fine sand suffice? <Not really, need more than four inches to call it deep. At three to four inches, your sand bed will likely be a source of nitrates rather than eliminating them.> And do I need all the rock? <Yes.> I can only imagine that everywhere there are rocks, these places are "dead spots", as far as current goes? <Not entirely, especially if water is moving as you say... water will move through/in/around.> And what about the sand beneath them? <Should still harbor some life, although it's always best to try and get the rock sitting on the bottom of the tank, not just on sand.> Do I have too much water current happening? <In my mind, there's no way in the practical sense to have too much circulation.> And what do you recommend about topping off my system with the automatic top-off set up that I have? <Leave out the Kalkwasser, dose that separately.> Go to a 2-part calcium system and only top off with fresh water... no more Kalk? <Kalk is fine when used sensibly - in top off was an honest mistake that is easily corrected. Two part calcium additions would be better balanced, would be less likely to turn your sand bed to rock, but I think you've identified some other areas where you can change your practices and also eliminate other instabilities.> And then, you say to stir the sand from time to time.  How deep should this stirring be? <As far down as possible.> Should the hose end vacuum be used to sink into the sand and deep vacuum? <I would not gravel vacuum a deep sand bed.> What about the sand bed behind and beneath the live rock? <Move the rock around every so often - six months or so.> So, something like sea cukes are safe and stir the sand enough? <Yes.> Any other creatures you would recommend?  And what brand of fine sand would you recommend? <Any that is fine enough.> Your help/advice will be greatly appreciated. <Cheers, J -- >

- Deep Sand Bed Clarification, Follow-up - What, then, should be my minimum depth of sand? <Four to six inches. More would be better.> What brand/type of sand? <No brand preference. Any calcium-based substrate is fine. I'd go for a couple of grades - sugar-fine on the bottom, something a little more coarse above that, and something even more coarse above that to hold down those sugar-fine layers.> The fine "live sand" or do I need to add more critters to really make it live? <Anything bagged as live sand will have no 'critters' - any live rock you obtain should come with a good deal of live which will appear suddenly one day, several weeks after addition of the rock - these will make your sand 'live'.> And will all the current I have blow the sand? <That's why you need a layer of something heavy on the top.> Thanks for your patience and thanks again for your advice. Barry <Cheers, J -- >

DSB substrate 12/9/03 Hi Bob or Anthony, I love your book! When is the next one out? <kind thanks... and Vol. 2 (Reef Fishes) will be out in 2004. We hope to have it ready for late summer perhaps> Is there anything in this hobby other than water which is not controversial? <good point, although can you please define what you mean by "water" <G>?> I am planning a DSB for a new 75 gal tank. I was planning on spending $$ for 200 lbs of aragonite until I read Dr. Shimek's papers on substrates. His opinion is that only the particle size (fine) matters and not the composition itself. <there is merit to this belief IMO and I myself prefer sugar fine aragonite for most applications too (because most folks want/need nitrate control/support)> I live in SW Fl and have beautiful calcite beach sand which he feels would be just as good. <depends on what your perspective is. For nitrate control you will need more of it if it is more coarse... and subsequently need better water flow and sand stirring (you or creatures in the tank). And even if it is sugar fine, it will not contribute minerals as well (at all, nearly... none) as aragonite. Aragonite is much better in this category as it dissolves at a pH of still over 8.0... but calcite does not dissolve until the pH dips into the dangerous mid 7's on the pH scale> He also states that aragonite will not be much of a buffering agent as it does not breakdown until the pH is much lower then it should be. What are your thoughts on this? <I disagree on the latter. From what I've read in science and hobby literature, aragonite dissolves easily in still higher pH waters (over 8.0) and my practical experience with 48,000 lbs of this sand delivered for my coral farm and used over a decade supports this <G>. Seriously... the half life of sugar fine aragonite is a mere 18-24 months in most aquaria... meaning that your 6" bed will be about 3" deep after 2 years and have contributed so many useful minerals in the process> Will I have the same results using the local sand assuming all other things are equal? <good results but not the same. No worries, the mineral loss can be reckoned by more water changes and careful supplementation of your system with calcite instead> Thank you for you respected opinions. <thank you for caring to know them my friend... best of luck. Anthony>

DSB substrate II 12/9/03 Anthony, Wow, talk about a fast reply! You and the Crew are great! <we aim to please... that and we have no social lives and sit by the computer all day. Oh, yeah... we write for a living. Phew... we are not total losers <G>> The buffering question and at what pH is dissolves seems to be the major difference. But we all know it does dissolve, so those minerals must go somewhere! <exactly... and many folks (myself included) have noticed that the need to supplement with Calcium and/or buffer is markedly decreased in such systems> I lean more toward your explanation as you certainly have used enough of it. I suppose in the overall scheme of things, the price of the aragonite is one of the least. <yes... true. And it yields so many natural benefits> I shall plunk down the $$ and buy some! <have you heard about buying this same material from Home Depot Stores packaged as play sand (formerly South Down brand)?> (you don't have stock in the sand mine do you? :)) <heehee...nope. Its a rule around here.... we take no free samples and as such can remain unbiased about recommendations/critiques> Thanks again <best regards, Anthony>

Deep Sand Beds 12/16/03 Happy Holidays to all: A special holiday greeting to Anthony, who may recall my barking blue hippo tang's prognostications from last football season concerning the Steelers. <heehee... I do recall> Well, my tang has been as quiet as the snow that buried the Steelers yesterday! Sorry, Anthony, but if it is of any solace, I am sad to admit that I am a Giants fan...nuff said after last night's debacle. <grumble, grumble> I have read the article and FAQs regarding deep sand beds and find them fascinating. I apologize in advance for my stupidity, but I have learned that the only stupid question is the one that does not get asked. So here goes... I have a 125G FO without live rock, wet/dry with skimmer, that has been operating for over four years. The nitrites are zero, but the nitrates consistently hover around 50. I was wondering the following: <thanks to the wet/dry no doubt> 1) Are we talking about just plain old sand, or must the DSB consist of live sand? <plain ole fine sand is fine. All will become "live" enough for NNR (natural nitrate reduction) in as little as two weeks> If it is live sand, must the sand be quarantined to avoid disease? <if so yes... but only a handful is needed for a good innoc> If live sand, must a lighting be present to sustain its viability? <none> 2) I would like to perhaps add the DSB to my sump. I will try and explain my sump configuration as best as possible. Water returns from the display tank and into a compartment that holds the protein skimmer. The water then flows to the left, over a filter pad. It then drips down into the compartment that contains the carbon bags and wet/dry media. >From there, it goes into a compartment that houses my Rio 2100 that returns the cleansed water back to the display tank. I could probably make two sand beds. The first would be under the wet/dry media. That area is roughly 6" by 12", and could accommodate a 5" deep bed. <a good depth> The second bed would sit beneath the Rio 2100, which measures roughly 6" by 18". This area could also have 5" deep of sand. <fine too> Do you think that it would be beneficial to establish these two sand bed areas? <it would not doubt help to reduce nitrates... but reducing your dependency on the wet/dry would be better... more live rock and more skimming> Also, if so, would I need to place the Rio 2100 on some sort of support to ensure that it would not pump the sand into the display tank? <yes... likely> I appreciate your insight on what sounds like may be an effective way to reduce my nitrates. Thanks, Mitch <best regards, Anthony>

Powerhead and DSB Question  4/6/03 Hi there!<Hey, Phil with ya this morning!> Is two Maxi Jet 1200's in the back corners of a 29 gallon too much circulation for a tank that "will have" roughly 35-40 lbs of live rock, one Flame Angel, and miscellaneous crabs, shrimps, etc.?<I don't think so.  I'm really big into have a lot of flow in a tank.  If you read on WWM, you'll see that a high flow rate can help stop Cyano.  Which is a very good thing.>  or would two 900's be better.<The bigger the better, IMO>  Also, with this kind of circulation would I be better off with a DSB or stay with the 1" of CARIBSEA "Puka shells" I have now so as not to blow the sand around.<I like DSB's but I have CC in my 29g "reef" tank.  It does well, get's a little patch of Cyano every once and a while.  So I guess if you like the CC stick with it.  If not switch to sand.  As long as you don't have your powerheads pointing down you shouldn't have a big problem with sand blowing.>  I like the sugar-sized sand look but people I've talked to say that it's hard to place the powerheads "out of sight" and keep from blowing the sand all over the place!<The rule is to place the heater AND powerheads in the tank before the live rock.  This way the powerheads are hidden from sight.> Thx in advance, you guys are great!<Thanks for the kind words.  Let us know how the tank turns out!  Phil>

Re: Live rock and sand for a new tank Don (you guys are awesome!!  Please no need for the apologies in delayed response time.  Your time and assistance are priceless. <Thanks for your understanding.> I have decided to go with a deep sand bed, and follow your recommendation below.  I know 4+ inches.  I will probably buy 5-10 lbs of live sand from dealer to seed.  Two questions: <All very good> 1- What is this talk of a plenum now?  Do I need one or can I just lay the 4" of sand on the bottom? <All my experience has been 'plenum less' and this has worked well for me. Here is a link to plenum FAQs on WWM http://www.wetwebmedia.com/plenumfaq2.htm> 2- What is it of this "Southdown" sand from Home Depot as a substrate?  I found it and have bought 150 lbs.  What a deal I received too.  Mismarked, received for $2.25/50 lbs.  It seems that this is a hot ticket item in the field as well according to the countless message boards and forums.  Is it recommended to use? <You are a lucky man. A great way to setup a DSB inexpensively. I would highly recommend it and wished I could get it in my area. Since you have this available, I would make sure I had at least 4" depth across the entire sand bed.> Kindest regards, Louis Rizzo

AGA Overflows and DSB Hi to everyone, Love your site. Ditto to all the superlatives about you guys (and gals). Quick question.  I am currently setting up a Reef tank (65 gal. AGA with 2 corner overflows). The problem I came across is this: the AGA corner overflows have a row of inflow slits that are located only 3" above the tank bottom. Could I just keep the DSB at three inches around these openings or should I try to "block" them with some live rock. The goal obviously is to have a 4-6" DSB. I'm sure I am not the only one who has come across this problem. Your opinion as to how best to handle these overflow slits would be greatly appreciated. Tom <Ah yes, I would use some black silicone and seal those hummers off myself, but that's just me. You might want to jump over to WetWebFotos.com (the WWM forums) and search the forums for AGA overflow questions, you will likely see several pertaining to this issue. A good chance one of our AGA owners will chime in as well. I wouldn't want my DSB making it's way inside my overflow boxes. Craig>

Nano No-No's? Scott, <Hi there!> That was quick!  :)  Thank you very much for the quick reply.  I have some questions for clarification... <Sure- ask away, my friend> It seems you place more importance on DSB than live rock in this setup.  Does DSB serve dual functions (nitrification on upper layer and denitrification on lower layer)?  If that is true, then is 3" sand (instead of 4" for water volume issue) and 5 lb of live rock good combination (again water volume issue)? <That's my take on it...In fact, make it over 3 inches for best results...> I read 1 - 1.25 lb live rock per gallon of water as rule of thumb.  But if DSB can help in nitrification too, above combination maybe best considering the water volume issue or do I still need at least 7lb of live rock (after DSB, it would definitely hold less than 12 gal of water) in addition to 3" DSB?  Or would still you go for 4" sand and 5lb or 7lb live rock? <I'd go for 4 inches of sand, and whatever amount of rock you choose...remembering, of course, the displacement that these materials will cause> Grain size: I saw CaribSea aragonite.  The bag said 1 -2 mm grain size but it definitely looked more coarse than that and was not uniform size.  Grain size similar to sugar powder is the best size for DSB? <I like the so-called "sugar fine" grade, which is from 0.2 mm-1.0 mm> Critters:  You mentioned just a couple of snails.  You would not trust hermit crabs in the small set up (may try to eat shrimp or bother clowns)?  I think snails and shrimp will help with detritus (and some sand sifting with Nassarius or Bumble bee snails) <I'd go for the Nassarius and maybe some Trochus or Strombus - Bumble Bees are cool to look at, but t hey don't do much for your system, IMO> and was considering hermit crab for sand sifting, but if they will likely bother other creatures like Banded Coral Shrimp, I will forget about them.  I remember reading red legged ones are nicer than blue one or the opposite. <Well, I love those little crabs, but they sometimes snack on the snails! Counterproductive in a small tank, if you ask me!> Should I stir sand manually once a week?  Both upper and lower layers? <If you are running 3 inches or less, you may want to stir the top layer once in a while. Personally, in a 4 inch bed, I just let it be> Dumb question: The water inlet strainer for Eclipse pump.  I currently have it come as close to the bottom as possible.  I should do the same with DSB (as close as possible to surface of sand) for better water circulation and allow it to suck in detritus? <Actually, I'd probably trim the intake to get it just a bit farther off of the sand. In a tank this small, manual extraction (i.e. siphoning during H20 changes) of detritus is still the best way...> Thanks, Kevin <My pleasure, Kevin...Good luck with your efforts. You might want to check out this site dedicated to nano-nuts: http://www.nano-reefs.com/    Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Live Sand Bed 7/5/03 Anthony, <cheers, my friend> Thanks for the info on the LSB and your usual prompt response. <always welcome :) > Still can't believe you guys respond as quickly as you do--and today's even a holiday! Any ideas as to where one might locate large quantities of the sugar-fine aragonite?   <Caribbean white child's play sand from the DIY store (Home Depot or the like) is really quite fine. Perhaps you've heard of the SouthDown brand on the message boards?> Locals only seem to carry the SeaFlor.   <Hmmm... do browse the online catalogs for brands that carry what you like (like CaribSea)... then contact the mfg for the closest dealer to you... let them work a little for your money ;) > Also, any length of time to wait before adding the sand stirrers, live sand, to the new substrate? <Hard to say... perhaps 6 months or more... especially for the sea cucumbers> Mix in live sand or simply add to top of bed? <Simply dump on top... and do resist predaceous fishes for many months. Let the DSB establish well first> Thx again. <Kind regards, Anthony>

DSB & lightly stocked FOWLR tank Hi guys/gals- <<And hello to you, JasonC here at your service.>> I was hoping you could answer a question or two for me. After I give you the specs. <<Shoot...>> I am in the process of upgrading from a 4 year old 55 FO tank into a 125 FOWLR tank w/ 40 gal refugium and 20 gal sump. The "gang" consists of: 1- 6" Naso tang 1- 4" Regal Blue Tang 1- 4" Sailfin Tang 1- 4" Yellow Tang assorted 1"ish original set-up damsels 1- arrow crab - 55gal FO "clean up crew" from F.F.E. (lots of crabs and snails) - 130lbs of live rock Equipment for new 125 FOWLR: -Berlin Turbo Classic skimmer -2 - Mag12 pumps for circulation -500w of compacts- 6x65 8000k daylights and 2x55 actinic blue I was planning on some sand and Caulerpa of some sort for the refugium. <<Any chance I can encourage you to try another macro algae besides Caulerpa? There are some other, more predictable options.>> Would this amount of livestock be ok for a DSB of 4-5"? Or should I go with the 1" or less idea in the main tank and have a DSB in the 39gal refugium? <<Yes, 4-5" would make a good sand bed, but an extra inch would help. You won't be able to accomplish an equivalent DSB in the refugium compared to the 125 because of the reduced surface area. If it were me, I would put a DSB in each.>> It sounds like the livestock will eat much of the cool stuff off of the live rock so I was considering having some of the live rock and the DSB in the refugium and skip the Caulerpa. <<Or you can rotate rock between the two so that you can offer that army of tangs something fresh and new every so often. Picking algae from the rockwork is what these fish do constantly in the wild - constantly. If you want to have showcase tangs, I'd do my best to offer them something as close to natural as possible.>> The refugium is mounted underneath the main tank and will be a display tank also. So I was hoping I could keep some of the live rock full of "life". <<Think about moving rock between the two systems - I think this would take you a long way.>> I have an extra Magnum 350 canister filter. Could it be useful somehow with the new tank? Maybe for calcium or something? <<For calcium? Heavens no... I'd use one as a substrate cleaner, or perhaps a ways to run activated carbon on the system... that's about it or perhaps EBay fodder.>> Thank you again. All of you are making me feel much more at ease about the upgrade. <<Glad we can be of service.>> Dennis <<Cheers, J -- >>

DSB substrate question Good morning (or maybe noon, if you're east coast), <It is now the afternoon here.> I'm building a DIY refugium with a DSB. I've seen you recommend Home Depot Southdown sand before. I went to my local Home Depot and they did not have anything by that label, but they did have "playground sand." It was sugar-fine, composed of crushed marble, taken from calcite ore. <You do not want calcite. It does not dissolve nearly as well as aragonite. There was a very good article in the October 2002 issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist by James Fatherree discussing the differences.> It was labeled as over 99% silicate free. Is this essentially the same thing as Southdown? <It does not sound like it.> Would this work for a DSB or should I consign myself to the high prices of my LFS? <I would continue to search for a better product. There are several online vendors now selling Southdown like sand. I would also ask a local marine aquarium society. They could probably direct you to someone that sells Southdown or a similar product.> Thanks for your counsel, John <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

DSB substrate question Good morning (or maybe noon, if you're east coast), <Ahh Hi John, West Coast, a fine sunny morning!> I'm building a DIY refugium with a DSB. I've seen you recommend Home Depot Southdown sand before. I went to my local Home Depot and they did not have anything by that label...but they did have "playground sand." It was sugar-fine, composed of crushed marble, taken from calcite ore. It was labeled as over 99% silicate free. Is this essentially the same thing as Southdown?  <Hmm, don't know if this is crushed marble or coral? There are several versions from Southdown of Caribbean aragonite sand. Some is labeled "Southdown Plays and" and some "Playwright play sand". You are looking for Caribbean aragonite, "mined" from the Caribbean. Also, look in the Garden Dept, not the concrete dept where they will send you for sand. If the bag is from Southdown (on the back label) you can confirm the contents by calling Southdown at (800) 526-1753.>  Would this work for a DSB or should I consign myself to the high prices of my LFS? Thanks for your counsel, John <Yes. It will work fine. You may also seed it with "live" sand from your LFS or LR. Go for it, we can't get it out here! Craig>

Southdown DSB and Eel Biotope Hey guys! I am back with a couple more questions. And by the way, thanks for the help in the past and the awesome site! <our pleasure> I recently asked about setting up an eel biotope in my 125 Gal. Would it be wise to go with a DSB for possible future grow into a reef tank when I get more cash? I am worried that the eel will dig to much and destroy and stir up the sand bed. <few if any eels will damage the infauna of the sand... just an occasional clouding of the water from scavenging activities/prowling> Is there anything I can do to avoid this? <a little bit of coarse sand on the top layer (no more than 1/4 needed)> Oh, and I found a Home Depot in my area that regularly stocks South Down Tropical sand ;) Actually the Cimex plant that makes it is in Easton, PA and I live 30 minutes outside Easton. <very cool> The other question I have is on interior decoration. I want to go with a similar look as the tank on the aquascaping section of your site: ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aquascaping.htm). I like the look of the dim light peaking through and the dark brown stone. Where would I acquire dark live rock or rock in general that is like that and still safe for a marine tank? <hmmm... not quite sure, although many folks have used black lava with little concern other than a possible flare of algae from imparted elements of the lava> I am not interested in reef at this point and want the tank to look as natural as possible and still look menacing and creepy. Any ideas there? <yep... you should have seen the eel display I did in my last shop. I described the basics of it in my Book of Coral Propagation in the front chapter on concept aquariums/systems. The gist of it was a subterranean plumbing system with clear tubes siliconed below the sand and against the front glass to see the eel swimming down below. The tank above the DSB had no rock or anything on the sand proper short of a little bit of rubble around the mouth of each hole in the sand where the tubes met the sand surface and the eels popped up. However, there were two stalactites of rock coming down from the ceiling (live rock below water, dry rock above with air plants cultured on them). The peaks of these hanging pillars dipped down into the tank almost to the sand bottom (the eel loved to slither throughout this rockwork when it wasn't hiding below). Just below each Stalactite in the sand I sealed a large PVC collar into the sand to the glass bottom (at the same height as the sand bed so it wasn't too obvious of a well). From underneath the tank, spotlights were shone up through these light wells up the length of the rock pillars and the eel would lay his face over the well with the light shining up around to catch the warm radiating water! An awesome sight> Thanks again! You guys rock, glad I found this site..... Tim Turner, Reading, PA <How close is Reading to Lancaster? I'll be there with Steve Pro perhaps in April for That Fish Places anniversary sale. Say Hi! if you are close. Best regards, Anthony>

Sand Bed Depth Sand bed depth...I have only 1/2 inch of crushed coral in the tank, how would you suggest i go about creating a DSB in this tank, can it still be done in an established tank such as this and what would I need to buy and prepare it, thanks again.... <Lots of ways to accomplish this...It is certainly possible to simply add enough live sand to the tank to achieve the desired depth (3 plus inches) all at one time...Other people gradually build up to the desired level. Do read our FAQs on live sand beds, or do a Google search for more information on the topic at the wetwebmedia.com site. Good luck!  Scott F.>

Clumping sand Anthony, Ughh.  C'mon, buddy, yer killin' me.  I set this tank up in January, so I honestly do not remember (with 100% certainty) which brand I used, but all of the local LFS's carry CaribSea, and I purchased my substrate locally -- and yes, it is medium grade. <indeed... this is a common complaint> Also, my substrate depth is less than 3", <heehee... that's what I get paid the big bucks for <G>. Not a surprise here either> but I CANNOT stand the "ant farm look" of reef tanks with 4" - 5" substrate depths.  I'm sorry, but I find it *very* ugly.   <Your aesthetic preference is valid. If you do not like the look of a DSB then you simply need to find some other way to manage nitrates. No biggie. Which do you hate more... DSB or weekly  water changes (or more)... perhaps less fish... whatever it takes. Its your tank. However, 1-3" sand is not an option IMO. It takes way too much effort to keep from clumping or becoming a nutrient sink. 1-3" sand is not deep enough for denitrification, yet too deep for aerobic faculties. It just sucks in the long run (2+ years). Especially with medium or course grains: Traps a lot of detritus, requires massive water flow in the tank and weekly siphoning of the gravel, so to speak. To other people though, this is of little trouble. Personal preference.> I used 60 lbs. of aragonite in my 75 gallon tank, about 1.5 - 2 inches deep overall. <Ughhh> Why is depth of substrate a possible mitigating factor for this particular problem? <penetration (course grains and not too deep) of spiked water in a low pH environment where fusing can occur more easily (calcite has to hit 7.6 or lower to begin dissolving but aragonite can do so at 8.3!> Would adding 20 lbs. of a another brand or type (fine Fiji pink, for example) help me any? <nope... the grains will settle... might make it worse (no ideal medium for a given faculty to exploit to the fullest> The number of seemingly innocuous pitfalls that this hobby possesses is truly amazing. <very well stated my friend> Anyway, one of your statements: "You were dosing slow enough, but perhaps the concentration in the slurry was too rich. It is a simple matter of too much or too fast." was encouraging.  I will work on 'tweaking' my dosing speed and/or concentration.  In the mean time, any thoughts on how to address the substrate *quality* issue would be greatly appreciated; but I won't increase the depth substantially.   <no worries... if you can otherwise control nitrate accumulation, I'd recommend siphoning sand out periodically until you get to no more than 1/2" depth. At this point with good water flow in the tank you will not have to service it much anymore> I apologize for being stubborn on this one point, but I really think that the "ant farm look" is quite unattractive. < no worries at all. We all have our preferences. You might consider an inline bucket full of sand downstream and out of sight for DSB nitrate control if necessary> I am, as always, very grateful for your time and consideration. <our great pleasure> Your fellow hobbyist (with concrete slab substrate), Mark Schwartz <with kind regards, Anthony>

DSB and Eel Biotope Hi again! <Hi there! Scott F. here today> I recently spoke to you about setting up a moray eel biotope. I am slowly changing my mind about it. I have been reading much into the newer designs of reef systems. I am just thinking to the future of the tank. I do still want an eel but I may want to expand into full reef down the road. That said, I have two real quick questions: 1) Would a DSB around 4 to 5" be ok for an eel biotope? I am worried they may dig it up and cloud the water. But in the same note I want to build some future into the tank if I go full reef.... <I'm less concerned about extensive digging activities by the eels than I am about the potential for rockwork to collapse. Many eels have been injured and/or killed by unstable rockwork. Do take this into account when designing and assembling this tank> 2) I found a local source for Southdown Tropical play sand. It is very inexpensive and I have heard good things both on your site and many many other forums. Is this a good choice for about 90% of the DSB? I will top it off with a live sand layer to seed. As I mentioned above, will the eel dig it up and destroy its chances of it working for me and will I need to ditch the bioballs if I implement the DSB method? <I think that the Southdown is a fine choice for a deep sand bed. Yes, there is a possibility that the eel will undermine the sand bed with digging...This really depends on the individual eel and its habits. Personally, I would ditch the bioballs if using a DSB. For that matter, I'd ditch the bioballs even if using a substantial amount of live rock. You do need some vigorous circulation and, possibly some supplemental mechanical filtration in this tank, not to mention a very efficient protein skimmer. These fish eat a lot and eliminate large quantities of waste products regularly.> Unfortunately I must cut some corners because I am on a limited budget and my wife will kill me if I spend a ton of money. <Understood!> Would love to go full blown reef but that cost is way out of the picture at this point. Just keep telling her I am taking baby steps! ;) <Well- taking intelligent, well-thought "baby steps" now will certainly pay dividends down the line!> Thanks for any help you can give! Tim <Best of luck to you, Tim! Regards, Scott F.>

DSB / Old UGF Plate Hello to all: Due to potential of 'yuckiness' building up, is it a bad idea to use a filter plate underneath a DSB of 6 inches?  The plan is to use +/- 100 lbs of LR, Red Sea Berlin H.O skimmer, Fluval 404 canister, and various powerheads for circulation within a 75 gallon reef tank.  I also have 440 watts of VHO lighting for my eventual guests.  I do plan on keeping several small fish such as Blennies, gobies, and damselfish.  Thank you in advance. A Russell <Yes, under gravel plates are yucky, you do not want to use one underneath your DSB.  Check out the link below for more info -Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm  >

Sand: what kind to use for DSB? Hello all again Hi I have two things today I took your advice and bought the Aqua C Remora Pro.  After two days I have emptied the cup twice of urine colored water and adjusted the cup higher each time.  Eventually I will have it tuned properly.  After two days my nitrates have dropped from 80 to 10  I have never had them that low so my hats off to you guys for suggesting that skimmer. <Excellent to hear. And kudos to Aqua C for the engineering eh?> We are going to put in a DSB and I know how I am going to accomplish it, but I don't know where to get the sand.  I would have to pay a couple of hundred bucks for that much sand from my LFS (we looked today).<Yep, its not cheap, but what is in this obsession?>  Is there anything wrong with using sand from the beach?  <Since I live in Nebraska I have never tried. I only have seen folks here recommend against it, in any way>Would I have to bleach it or anything or should I just treat it as live rock and let it cycle in a tub.  Also should I get it from below the waterline or above.  We are in New Jersey and its cold.  Another place I can get sand is at a sand fill nearby, but that is not sand from the ocean, instead it is from a freshwater fed mining hole.  There is nice looking sand in Ocean City which is not too far away.  Or the third option is to buy online, but what kind of sand is the best. <you want fine (sometimes called sugar fine or oolithic) aragonite sand. There are places online that you can order from. In New Jersey, you may be able to find some deals locally or at least close. You might check the WWM forums ( http://www.wetwebfotos.com/talk) and look in the Live Sand forum for many discussions/recommendations for alternatives> As always thanks for a wonderful site <As always you are welcome and keep us updated. Don> Bryan Flanigan Piggy the Lionfish <I will giggle every time I see a lionfish from now on <G> thanks>

Deep Sand Bed Bob: What are your thoughts on the type of sand(s) to be used to create an optimal deep sand bed? I have heard of the 10/30/60 theory utilizing larger-to fine-to very fine coral sand mixture. What can I do if I currently have a 2 and 1/2 inch medium sized grade sand bed and am concerned about disrupting the ecological balance in my existing 92 gallon reef tank. Thank you. <Have heard of this formula... and many others... all to some degree workable... For all, with existing substrate, my approach is to scoot over a good part of the current material and augment, mix in the new in half, third, quarter batches once per week (let's say the left side in a small system, like a fifty five, then the right next week) till all is relatively blended. Bob Fenner

Deep sand bed Bob, your opinions please. A deep sand bed is a given,  <Perhaps in this scenario) the question is "to plenum or not to plenum"? <Pros, cons> Siphoning live sand to clean detritus. Some "experts" say it removes too many valuable critters, the reason for the live sand to begin with. (?) Any opinion on Marc Weiss's reef products? <"Emperor's New Clothes"> Calcium reactor, out of the budget. Kalkwasser to much trouble. To keep up calcium levels and alkalinity, what in your humble opinion are the best additives to use? Constant or sporadic use of carbon in a reef system? <All this posted on the WetWebMedia.com site. Please use the Indices, Search engine there> Let me ask you one more question since you're published in aquarium magazines. The very same magazines where all the Q&A forums are constantly filled with kids questions or just plain stupidity. (Sorry to be so harsh) <No need to be sorry or too harsh... some of these columns are indeed excellent in my opinion> Doesn't it bother the daylights out of you for example you read "Hi my water is cloudy and all my fish keep dying. Right now all I have left are 3 Oscars, 2 Jack Dempseys, 1 goldfish and 3 big Angelfish in my 10 gallon tank. Do I need to do a water change or use carbon? Is my tank to small? AA AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I wonder if any of the thousands of people who have wrote in to these magazines have ever even read the articles that they contain so they can actually learn something. <Am not a big fan of this genre of "writing"> That is why I love your site. The Q&A's here are for the most part are written by thinking and knowledgeable people with the desire to learn more about our fascinating hobby. <Mmm, well, a good proportion perhaps> God bless and live long Bob Fenner. You the man! <Only one of many, "e pluribus unum", my friend. Bob Fenner> Zimmy

DSB Hi Bob - I converted my crushed coral substrate to a DSB yesterday in my 120 established tank- used Southdown sand that I seeded with the CC from the existing tank (made balls with nylons). Two days later, the water is still cloudy. Is this normal? <Yes> How long will it take to settle? <A few days to a week or so> I have a sand stirrer/detritivore kit coming to me on Wednesday, and plan to add it after the lights go off - any further suggestions? Robb <Mmm, would have been better to add these organisms a week or so later. Can you accommodate them elsewhere? Bob Fenner>

Refugium, Deep Sand Bed, and Diving. Hi Bob, Maybe you can enlighten me on a couple of things. I have a 90 reef tank mostly LPS and SPS with about 220 gallons total system water. I set up a separate plenum refugium in a old 70 gal. (48"x18") about 2 months ago. I followed your illustration and info on wetwebmedia.com, lots of great help from the FAQ. I have a problem, I bought too much substrate (CaribSea "special seafloor grade. 1mm dia.) What I would like to do is add this gravel to my display tank that has about 1" crushed coral already in it. Not to the whole tank, but around the front, sides, etc. I don't want to take everything out and start over. Too much work. But with the added substrate I could make a deep sand bed about 4-5" deep about 6" wide (between the front glass and the LR.) Is this a good idea?  <Mmm, maybe... you realize it will all be getting mixed together... about the same depth... over time> I can't seem to find any info on people experiencing with a deep sand bed AND a plenum. Your insight would be much appreciated. <Both can work together... better than one apart from the other IMO/E> On a side note, I just got certified PADI and I'm leaving for the Cayman Islands next week for a week of dives. :) You have any "favorite spots" I should check out?  <There are so many... will you just be on Grand Cayman? Do you intend to just use one dive agency? You only have a week... the place isn't all that big, but IS huge underwater... I'd just go, trust the local folks who are showing you about... There's not too great a variability in the biological make-up (nor much in the topography) all about the island. Hopefully you are intending to make photos... Oh, and do read over about the Caymans on the Web. A very popular dive/travel location.> It would be a nice and educational change to see reef creatures in their natural environment.  <Definitely> Keep up the fantastic website! Any plans for a new book? <Always working on such. Next... a Pond Pocket Guide! Don't groan. Things could be worse... be chatting, Bob Fenner> Brad Stefanko

Sand Bed Dear Anthony, Steve, or Bob: <You got Steve today.> Let my start by saying that Bob's book has become my defacto source of marine fish keeping info. I read as much as I can from as many sources as possible, but I keep coming back to the CMA! You guys are truly an inspiration for me and my efforts in this hobby! My entire outlook on aquatic husbandry has changed as a result of CMA and WWM. Everyone who is serious about keeping marine animals needs to use this resource! <Glad to hear it!> Well- here's my question... I've seen a lot of correspondence in the daily FAQ's about sand bed depth, and I think I overdid it just a bit. The depth is about 3 inches, and I use Aragamax sugar-sized sand from CaribSea. I established a 150 gallon FOWLR system about 6 months ago. The system has a ETSS Sump and Evolution 750 downdraft skimmer. At your suggestion I have established a refugium in the sump with an assortment of macroalgae, lit 24/7 by a small fluorescent. I have a modest fish load, and the main aquarium has about 150 lbs of high quality Fiji live rock. I have fantastic coralline growth on the rock and on the back wall of the tank. CSL 4x96 CF lights provide plenty of light. Nitrite and Ammonia are zero, Calcium is 350ppm, alk 2.3meq/l, ph 8.4, Phosphate 0.5ppm, and Nitrate has been steady at 10.00ppm. I do regular small water changes twice weekly. Basically, everything seems ok (I'd like to get the nitrate down to 5.0ppm or lower, though). My fear is for the long term. After reading your FAQs and other WWM resources it's apparent that over 2 inches of depth may not be a great idea for long term management. Am I being paranoid, or should I reduce the depth to about an inch or less? Will there be any short-term toxic effects on my inhabitants if I reduce the depth at this point? Or, is it ok to keep the 3 inch depth with regular sand bed siphoning and maybe more "sand stirrers"? Sorry for the length of this email, but I am really concerned about the long run, and I hope that I haven't put my precious animals on a slippery slope to long term demise! Once again, I greatly appreciate all that you do to make our hobby so gratifying! <I have not read all of the info on the site, it is a bit overwhelming, so I cannot speak to the FAQ's you spoke of. I will give you my opinion and I know Anthony is of the same mind set. I will always use a Deep Sand Bed in a reef tank, but it must be 4-6" deep. Less than 4" is not beneficial and can be disadvantageous. I would also always recommend purified water (RO, DI, etc) when using a DSB. It does you no good to have nitrate converted to nitrogen, but have a buildup of phosphate from your source water (Cyanobacteria problems, interference with calcification, etc). In a fish only tank, I would probably siphon off some of the sand to bring it down to 1" or less.> Regards, Scott F.

Sand Bed follow-up Steve-Thanks for the FAAAST reply! <Just wait until you get this one.> I will definitely reduce the sand bed to 1 inch or less- do you think there will be any negative nitrate/nitrite/ammonia ramifications if I do this all at once, or is it better to reduce the gravel bed say, one inch at a time? <Possible nitrate ramifications, but can be counteracted by aggressive protein skimming, stepped up water change schedule, and use of purified water (RO, DI, Kold-Sterile). Probably no effect on ammonia or nitrite. All of the above regardless of slowly removing versus all at once. I would be a little lazy and remove some over several water changes. -Steven Pro> Thanks again Scott F

DSB & wet/dry questions Mr. Fenner, <You got Steven Pro today.> Just picked up a copy of your book, and have to say, very well written! <I am sure Bob will appreciate your kind words.> Enough flattery and on to the questions. Here is my setup. I have a 125 tank, 40 gallon wet/dry sump, AquaC Ev-120 Skimmer, and about 160 lbs. Of Fiji Live Rock. It is a new setup and I have had the Rock and the skimmer in place for about a week. I started this with the wet/dry in the system as my initial intent was to have a fish only but am drawn to the reef. So, here is my question, since I am still both cycling the tank and curing the live rock in my main tank, should I just remove all of the bioballs at once in the wet/dry and use it as a sump? Or should I remove them slowly. I don¹t think it matters as I have no animals to hurt from a spike of any kind. <I would wait until the rock is done curing (ammonia and nitrite drop back down and maintain a level of zero). Then you can remove all of the bio-balls. Make sure you do not get another spike (unlikely), but best to be cautious before adding your animals.> The second issue is of the substrate. I have about a 1/4 inch of crushed coral, about 2 inches of the Carib-Sea medium coarse Aragonite reef sand, and about a 1/4 inch of Carib-Sea Live Sand in that order from the bottom to the top. Is this OK? My impulse is to pull it all out and just go with about a hundred pounds of live sand and create a 4-5" DSB? Or should I go with about 3-4" of the finest dry aragonite and then top off with about an inch of live sand? Any thoughts or suggestions? Would you pull the current substrate, add to it, or leave it as is. <I would add 4" of fine grain size aragonite sand and then place 1" of livesand on top.> Thanks a million!!!!! Adam <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Deep Sand Bed... on the right track Hello Anthony- <greetings friend> Thank you so much for your prompt response. I am coming straight home after work each day so I can check on the kids in the tank. To answer your questions.. And I feel a e-mail slap on the hand coming. <nope... I am much kinder and gentler on medication> I have 1 Naso tang (Clyde), 1 Sailfin (Hapu),1 regal blue (Gwenivere) and 1 yellow (Sanchez). <I love the names!> And a few of my original set up damsels from 5 years ago. A 55 gal tank The Naso is growing quite fast (is approx 6-7 inches now) was MUCH smaller when I picked him up 4 years ago but and I am eyeballing a new 90 gal tank. <yes... please do. Better yet, consider a lower and longer 100 gallon tank (or any 6' new digs instead of another 4 footer which does not offer much more swimming room, just more water> He is such a beautiful fish. <agreed.. magnificent! $ years is good... keep going!> They are all beautiful. Regal has developed a bit of hole-in-head. <common with this ultra strict herbivore...needs near 100% green diet!> I now soak the food in Zoë and Zoecon. Hope it helps. <maybe... but do add a greater variety of greenstuffs and/or customize your own home-made food as described in Bob's CMA book> The yellow seems like it is catching the brunt of my current problem. The poor fella is puffing and just swimming back and forth and will not eat(3 days now). All others have kept up a little bit of an appetite. And their respiration seems like it has slowed a bit since yesterday. But the nitrates are still in the 75-100 range. <keep doing proper water changes... adding extra aeration wouldn't hurt too. Resist overfeeding which lowers dissolved oxygen> The substrate is about 1/2 inch in the front and increases to about 2 inches in the back.  <dangerous in my opinion. Too thick to be aerobic but not thick enough to be helpfully anoxic. Just dangerous and the reason why so many other reefers have inaccurately faulted "deep" sand beds. The rule stands at 1/2 inch or less, or more than three inches (I use five inch minimum for denitrification> And is usually 2 inches around and big rocks (for support) Around these rocks (in the deeper coral) is where the large quantities of dark green or gray matter filled the hose and vacuum. <gray can be scary> I dig down until I hit the bottom and then move around a bit. <shouldn't be necessary with adequate water movement and sand depth in tank... also disturbing to microfauna if too aggressive> When I clean the tank I use the siphon and force it down till I hit the bottom of tank. And just move all around the tank. I would call it aggressive. One guy at the LFS seemed much more knowledgeable than the rest and was the only one who thought that I might have let out a lot of noxious material (just like you suggested). I think I may have explained his suggestion wrong. He suggested that I remove about half of the larger crushed coral. Push the rest of it against the back wall and slope it towards the front, stopping about in the middle of the tank (a slope). Then add about 2 inches deep of aragonite (1-2 mm size.) and slope that towards the front, stopping about 3/4 of the way from the back. Then add 2 inches of .5-1.0 mm aragonite and taper it off till it is about 1 inch deep in the front. And create circulation that would move the water from the top of tank, down the front and back towards the back of the tank and that it would move through the substrate and in the deeper portion along the back is where the nitrates would be eliminated. <the intent is good, but the execution is flawed in my opinion. It does not serve the greater good to leave any coarse material (crushed coral) behind... it is just a nutrient trap and source of pollution. It is not even a functional buffer at this point having been covered with organics. Furthermore, the mixing of grades of sand is not necessary or helpful if screened, and not successful without it. Don't bother at all. If you want denitrification, use all fine aragonite at more than three inches of depth. Otherwise, use any grade of sand that looks good at 1/2 inch depth. The sloped bed, quasi-denitrification idea may not work as hoped with good circulation (O2 penetration) and movement of the pile> Then get a few sand sifting starfish and just siphon OFF THE VERY TOP of the substrate at cleaning time. <much agreed> I was considering swapping with the finer aragonite so that I could let a starfish have a buffet underground.  <nice idea> If I put just a thin layer of the aragonite, 1-2 mm size, could I let a sand sifting star loose in there? <no mixing...above reasons> I now only have the brittle stars and shrimp for cleaning the bottom. <a good start but need more> Is there a short term solution for lowering the nitrates until I can get the substrate problem fixed? ?  <dilution is the solution to pollution> I am not sure how long they can all hang on while I get my act together. <honestly, you are considerate and it sounds like you are on the right track!> They are stressed enough right now without me being "all in their business". I have changed 20 gal of water in two days. Will changing more cause a problem? I was planning on 5 gal every other day until I figure this out or until the nitrates drop. < a necessary evil and almost no stress if done properly> My pH has dropped into the high 7 range in the last few days after the water changes. Should I correct it or let things mellow out a bit? <way too low... water changes should be bringing it up. Find out why (test source water, aerate tank heavier to drive off CO2, etc) It is not a reef tank nor will it be heading that way. I just like the idea of things happening in a more natural way. The idea of the deep substrate naturally removing the nitrates sounded good. <very cool and agreed> Wow.....this post is longer than the last one. I will try to leave you alone after. Thank you Anthony, for your expertise!!!!!! Dennis <no trouble.. my pleasure, bud. Anthony>

Weight of DSB Dear Whomever: <Anthony Calfo in your service (having purchased 48,000lbs of fine aragonite at one point for my coral farming greenhouse!!!)> I would love to put a deep sand bed of 6-8" in my new 220 gallon reef (only in planning stages). If I am estimating correctly, that amounts to about 700 pounds of substrate!  <exactly> Can a standard glass tank and stand handle that kind of weight?  <absolutely... water is indeed heavy...almost as much as the sand in density> I am having nightmares already.  <try wine before bed> Thanks for any advice. <very welcome> By the way, tell Anthony I love his book; quite practical information! <I will...as soon as that fragment of his multiple personality returns <G>. Anthony> Sincerely, Pam S.

Deep Sand Bed Clarification - Jaw Fish Questions Dear Mr. C, <<Greetings>> Just curious as to your opinion on the sand bed debates. Dr. Goeman's recommends four inches of 1-2mm over a plenum. Dr. Shimek calls for 6-8 inches of sugar-size on the bottom of the tank. Bob seems to go for 3-4mm and 3-4 inches with or without a plenum. The hoipoloi have various strongly held and voiced opinions. I am at a loss, and my head hurts. Besides Advil, any suggestions? <<two Advil? Personally - really this is what I have in my refugiums - I would just do a sand bed as deep as is practical, with the finer sugar sands and as much liver rock as is practical. Plenums do work, but require more time to set up and the debate is whether or not the interstitial critters can move through the layers the way they need to or not. Four inches of sand would be fine.>> Semi-related question: Approximately how much floor (sandbed, not living room) space does one allow per yellow headed Jawfish? <<I am not recalling, I do believe it's more than you might think... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/jawfishe.htm - one per system is what Bob says.>> like that No rush; at the rate I'm progressing my tank will be up in 2003.(And the whole philosophy will change again! Sigh.) Thanks, Pam S. <<then again, it may not and you'll be well prepared. Cheers, J -- >>

Clarification on a Deep Sand Bed Robert- I really appreciate your quick reply. It was helpful, and I have decided to set up the tank before I go on vacation. In your reply you said that the 45 lb Fiji rock and 60 lb sand sounded like too much for my 28 gallon tank. I was thinking the 45 lbs did sound like a lot, but the 60 lbs of sand was a figure calculated online for a 4" depth. Actually depending on the density of the sand it calculated between 50-65 lbs. Would 30 lbs of sand be enough to provide a deep enough sand bed? <<30# sounds more reasonable. I just went down-cellar and measured my 20L which is the same height as a 29 [if I recall correctly]. A 4" sandbed would leave you with roughly 7" of water. That's a little silly - perhaps/definitely overkill for a 29. It's one of the reasons that I'm not a big fan of ratios and patent answers. It's all relative to the size of your tank. Two to three inches would be a deep sand bed for a 29. Spend your money on a good skimmer and less rock and sand. Skimmers are just as important as important in the filtration game as live rock and deep sand beds.>> Thanks Again Jeff <<Cheers, J -- >>

DSB and reactor media > Hi, Mr. Calfo, Here I am again. The following questions is bothering me a lot. <No worries, my friend...> > 1. Why is it a bad idea to mix some larger coarser grade sand into a 6+ inches DSB? <Various grains of sand permit or deny diffusive action (osmosis, saturation or diffusion, etc). So a bed of coarse sand only will allow better penetration of oxygen rich water (which you do not want for efficient denitrification) by virtue of the large angular shapes of the sand media and the larger spaces between grains. It also traps more detritus but does encourage more amphipods. Fine sand, on the contrary encourages more microfauna (bacteria, tiny worms, copepods) and is better suited for the establishment of a larger colony (because of the increased surface area of the smaller grain sized) of denitrifying bacteria. When all is said and done... we don't need coarse sand for amphipods because they will grow anywhere else easily (live rock, sump, refugium) and the trapping of detritus can be a nightmare to keep up with and in the typically poor current displays of so many aquarists leads to the crash of a sand bed unfairly blamed on DSB methodology. You want sugar fine sand if you are gunning for denitrification and it really needs to be as deep as possible (solid 3" minimum but over 5" is much better)> > 2. I just bought some calcium reactor media by Dupla. The media looks like some crushed coral and shells, and I am sure they are. I have also checked out the calcium reactor media by CaribSea, and it too looks like crushed coral, but it is claimed to be aragonite. Why??? <Not all shell/calcareous media is aragonite. About 20% of the beaches in the Caribbean are said to be composed of aragonite... the rest are calcite. Just a different form of calcium carbonate but a big difference nonetheless. I have seen some studies about reactor media... not the least of which are reports from the notable aquarist/author/manufacturer Daniel Knop. Avoid shell and crushed coral at all costs. They are least effective and most likely to impart undesirable elements. Champion Lighting and Supply have an excellent bulk calcium reactor media that is outstanding. Do look into it. Let them know I suggested it if you like.> > 3. Since aragonite and crushed coral look so much alike, how can we tell one from the other by their appearances? Is aragonite crushed SPS coral? <We aquarists cannot tell visually. It is a molecular difference. The notable advantage is that it dissolves easily and at a higher pH. Calcite is tough to dissolve. We must trust the word and reputation of the vendor along with the experience of fellow aquarists. Many of my friends swear by the bulk media at Champion.> > Sorry to bother you. Thank you for your time. <No bother my friend, always a pleasure.> > Sincerely Samuel

Final Questions Bob, So a "Deep Sand Bed" is basically four to six inches of fine sand (say three inches of "clean" sand and one live on top) put into the bottom of the tank? Only use screens to prevent deep burrowers from damaging the anaerobic parts of the bed? <Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm... yes and often the principal stated reason. Bob Fenner> Thanks again for all your help. Evan J.

Sand bed Hello, <Hi there> I have recently found your website, and I find myself on here everyday. I find myself totally immersed on your website.  <Mmm, soon you'll be answering queries!> I have just purchased my 55 gallon fish tank and a 30 gallon fish tank for my sump. I plan on purchasing a ~20 gallon Rubbermaid container for my refugium. Would it be okay to add a deep sand bed in the refugium (~4in) with live rock and add only 1 in of sand bed for the 55 gallon tank? <Yes> And approximately how much water should flow through this refugium? <A few... 2-3 turns per hour is about ideal) Thank you for your time. <You're welcome. Bob Fenner> Dave

DSB, NOT Plenum/Jaubert Methodology Bob, Thanks for the quick reply. As I've done more research I've now have a couple more questions. The DSB I'm building is for a standard 45 gallon tank, and I was originally going to build off a model system I found in a 1998 copy Aquarium Magazine. For a sixty-five gallon tank it was using one inch of aragonite gravel and two inches of sand over a one inch plenum. <I want to make a distinction here. When I refer to or even read about a deep sand bed/DSB, I usually think of a static sand bed, no plenum. I use the term Jaubert system to describe sand with a plenum.> Is this deep enough for a my 45? <I would refer you to Dr. Jaubert of the Monaco Aquarium and his writings. Many negative things have been said of his system when the tanks in question were not setup to his specifications. I would search out articles by him, if your intension is to build a Jaubert system tank.> FAQs and information from the site indicates needing a deeper amount. The other question is can I use crushed coral in one layer or all sand? and how much sand would that be? Finally about the "dead space" caused by placing rock on the sand. I plan on using live sand, but I was also going to attempt to minimize the dead space by placing the lowest layer of rock on two inch PVC pipe "cups" above the sand. Will this help? <Yes, I have seen many interesting ways of elevating the liverock above the sand using PVC, lighting eggcrate, milk crates, and many other food grade plastics.> Thanks again, Evan J. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

DSB Vs Jaubert Hi, Bob & Experts Please help, I confused between DSB and Jaubert. Most said that DSB is better the Jaubert Plenum system and only few agreed on Jaubert system. Can please enlighten me on the pros and cons of both system? <Far too much to say in a short email. I will say I have used and continue to use static DSB's 4-6" deep without problems. I have nothing against the Jaubert system, I have just never needed it.> Thanks, Danny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Marine Fish only & sandbeds Hello to Ye of great aquatic knowledge, <hmmm... so many jokes, so little time> I've been reading quite a few of your web pages and clicking the various links and I've sent a few emails and had some very informative replies. I'd just like to say thanks before anything else because my tank is looking and doing better than ever. As I gather information to prepare for the next, not too distant aquarium project, I have a few points of confusion I was hoping you would clear up. First, I have a couple of sandbed related questions for what will be a 374 gallon or larger Fish only/live rock setup that I didn't see too much of on the various pages because most people who wrote in seem to be more on the reef end than the large fish end of the aquarium world and the fish people didn't ask my questions for me; <agreed> 1. I've read the FAQ page http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm (and the other sand bed question pages) and there seems to be common knowledge about deep sand beds in reef tanks and then there are two segments on a page referring to a fish only & live rock tank where Anthony Calfo says "Truth be told, most reef fishes are too much of a burden for our DSB fauna and that is one of the reasons why a fishless, upstream DSB refugium is so popular " <yep... and this statement does honestly make some assumptions about the typically overfed and or overstocked tanks that are so common. As well, most tanks have no where near enough water flow either. As such, DSB methodologies can be easily corrupted with heavy fish loads (reef or no)> and Steven Pro says "<I would add the additional LR but not sand. I do not like DSB with FO tanks. The sand bed can too easily become overwhelmed by the influx of nutrients from such greedy eaters as your fish.> which puts both guys on the same page,  <agreed> so I would like to ask what would be the opinion at WetWebMedia.com of the ideal substrate (sand, crushed coral ,possibly live rock across the bottom held up 1/4 inch by supports, none, other)  <bare bottomed is the easiest and ugliest. Anything else is fine if kept shallow enough (1/2 inch or less) so that detritus cannot accumulate easily. Strong water flow is always necessary (no dead spots) in any tank, and course media is tougher to keep clean> (mostly) Large Fish only aquarium with a large amount of live rock? From my point of view, sand looks the best and always did, but years ago, the advice I always got was that sand is unhealthy for fish only tanks.  <that advice was mistaken. Mismanaged sand beds are bad for fishes, properly managed ones are very beneficial if one takes the time to plan and maintain right> Now, everywhere I go .... fish and sand in the same tank. Healthy combination? <can be yes> 2. How much substrate (if any)? <over 5" if nitrate control is needed... less than 1/2 inch if not> 3. I currently use just enough crushed coral to thinly cover the bottom glass in front of the live rock (bare glass under and behind the rock) and use the large ended siphon tube to pull detritus out of the crushed coral during water changes,  <a fine practice/application>but with a tank as large as I want to upgrade to (minimum 374 gal.), I can't imagine vacuuming that much substrate on a regular basis unless I do a section at each water change and if sand is used is it just as frequent a job?  <that's what strong water flow (keeping detritus in suspension) and two skimmers are for :) Seriously> I see many huge tanks in public aquariums with sandbeds on the bottom and I don't get the impression they vacuum the sand . <massive water flow again><<Most actually do vacuum... but "after hours". RMF>> What is their routine and if that's not applicable to a home aquarium,  <easily applicable.. most people just underestimate random turbulent water flow> what would you advise? <above> 4. I have read about reef tanks with 2 inch sand beds and then a sheet of plastic screen to keep it undisturbed and then another few inches of sand for critter access, which sounded like a possible plan in a Fish Only/Live Rock Tank before I read Anthony and Stephens comments.  Am I correct that they are saying the issue is not the sandbed disruption (although that could be a problem with large fish),  <yes... could be a problem with digging fish especially> but the fish generated nutrients that would still be a problem even with that much sand on a 120 by 30 inch tank bottom? <exactly... nutrient overload... such should be in skimmer> With a screen divider situation, the sand under the screen is to be left untouched always? <not really the point... needs to be sifted by microfauna... not stagnant> 5. I see these newer products of live dry or damp sand in a bag that allow instant aging and stocking of aquariums.  <absolutely ridiculous products> Wouldn't ordinary dry, bagged aquarium sand mixed in buckets with the recommended per tank gallon amounts of saltwater BioZyme or other instant bacteria products have the same basic results?  <not even necessary... dry sand inoculated in tank with a handful of live... all is "live" in weeks> Would that be more effective than just adding the bacteria directly to the aquarium?  <the bacteria products for the aquarium are not much different than adding flake food to rot... they are barely "alive" if at all... simply a usable source of food for inevitable naturally occurring bacteria in tank> Could home made cement mixture base rock created and cured like the public aquariums do be brought to life (aerobic bacteria anyway) <no thrilled with this idea> in buckets with the instant bacteria products? This is part of my master plan (The home made rock) plus the actual live rock I have in the current tank, plus new live rock. <too heavy... learn fiberglass casting techniques instead... seriously. That's what more big aquariums use> Sorry to bug you with what is probably basic knowledge to most active aquarists, but although I've had aquariums for 30 years (17 fresh water, 13 salt), I haven't stayed on top of the new methods in the last few years and it's time to catch up! Thanks, Rich <enjoy the journey, education.. kindly, Anthony>

DSB Hi again, It's regarding DSB. I got sand in my present 4ft tank and intending to add it into the new tank to speed up the process of maturing the tank, however part of the sand is cover with algae. 1) Is your advice to me to add all the sand in my present into the new tank? <Yes> 2) How to arrange the sands in DSB?  Bottom - Crushed coral? Medium - Medium finer sand?? High - Fine sand ? <I would just use all fine sand.> I plan on buying some sand sifting sea stars (Astropecten polyacanthus). Is it advisable to have it if I intend to setup a reef tank with little peaceful fish, shrimps and snail. <No, I do not like to use those starfish.> 3) Is sand sifting sea star reef safe? <They will not eat corals, but other beneficial life forms.> 4) Will it harm live form or vice versa ? <They eat many worms and other good creatures.> Thanks again. Regards, Danny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Deep Sand Beds Bryan here, you will be hearing a lot from me as I am researching for my tank setup. I want to learn and research as much as possible so I don't make some of the mistakes I made b/f ( B/F I found your site). Last night I read up on DSB, I want you to clarify a few things and to see if I understand. You need at least 4"-5", (could use a joke here) <I think I will refrain and let the readers insert their own.> more towards 5" of a fine reef sand. This depth will harbor anaerobic bacteria beneficial for denitrification and in between depth can be dangerous. Again no coarse substrate so as not to allow detritus accumulation. Very beneficial to have a strong flow/current over the DSB, and no heavy bioload as will defeat the purpose or ability of DSB b/c of accumulation of waste. Now some questions, a DSB w/ LR in a reef set up is all the biological filtration needed right? <Yes> Then add a skimmer and mechanical filtration. <You may not even want or need the mechanical filtration. I prefer to use a sump design that incorporates a settling chamber instead. It allows detritus to accumulate in a small area where it is easily siphoned out.> I read that you can lightly stir the sand every month or so, and not to vigorous to disturb the bacteria. I also read some people were vacuuming the DSB, which would you prefer? <Slight disturbance of top 1/4 to 1/2" to get rid of diatoms. If you use the right amount of critters (worms, pods, etc.) you may not need to do this that often.> How much of the DSB at a time and how deep would you go? <I do all the visible parts, but no more than 1/2" deep.> Also what do suggest as far as sand sifters? <The tiny hitchhiking critters that come with your liverock or livesand.> Last question, what is the process of replenishing the DSB, say after a few years. Do you want to tank 1/3 of sand out and add new? <After a few years, your DSB will no longer be as deep due to dissolving. You can lightly add a little at a time to the top. Again, not too much, less than 1/2" at a time so that you do not smother anything.> Thank you for the advice, Bryan <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

5" of Southdown Sand To Anthony Calfo, I put 5 " of Southdown sand in my 180 gal reef tank, just like you said to all at one time . How long will it take to clear the water up .I found the Southdown sand at a Home Depot in Cary NC $4.95 for a 50 lb bag. RGibson <turbidity depends on how you handle/process the sand. Most people want to rinse away the chalky fine particles but that just makes a miserable mess and prolongs turbidity. The fine particulates are actually desirable and quite soluble. Put the sand dry into the empty tank and fill the tank gently by pumping/pouring the water in to a bucket sitting on the sand bottom. This minimal disturbance will afford an ideal clarity within 24 hours. Else, rinsing or blasting the sand on the refill is sure to cloud the tank for days. Anthony>

Re: 5" of Southdown Sand To Anthony Calfo:  Should I run the P skimmer while the water is clouded. Southdown was $3.95 for 50 lb RGibson <certainly... but when the tank is filled slowly in a bucket sitting on the sand, it is quite likely tat no clouding will occur at all. I have set up tens of reef displays where the water was crystal clear from go by this method. Simply avoid blasting the sand with water... a gentle fill will do the trick :) Kindly, Anthony>

Live Sand Bed 7/4/03 Hello at WetWeb, <Cheers> Just reading the live sand bed section in Anthony and Bob's new book, and I have a couple questions.  Let me preface them by saying I recently had to remove the aragonite bed from my 180-gallon reef due to what I believe was phosphate precipitation. <Yes... does occur... but usually is not a problem unless the bed is stirred or agitated. Else it is neutrally bound> The bed was like concrete and I was having algae problems, so I opted to remove it.   <Hmmm... that actually sounds like a water chemistry problem. Adding calcium/Kalk too quick or too much and/or spiking the pH is what causes that. Subsequently, the compromised sand bed can feed nuisance algae or at least not deter it. Point being... the problem was not your sand bed... but the advice you got on how to maintain it> Removal of the substrate and large water changes seem to have greatly assisted in alleviating the nuisance algae.  I suspect the problem arose from playing the see saw game with alkalinity/calcium, etc., and using additives to try to balance it and instead made it worse.   <Exactly, my friend> Out with the old.  I now want to add a new live sand bed and am considering using the Carib Sea Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand for starters, which is what I had in the original bed that I removed after it became so compact.  There is no specific grain size indicated on the bag of the Carib Sea, so I can't give you that specific information.  If you are familiar with this particular grade, would you opine as to how deep a bed you recommend, and how much live sand and sand stirrers you would add to it to seed the bed?   <No worries... simply seek sugar-fine grains at a depth of 3" minimum... 4-6" better still.> I'd like to add a few Holothuria cukes, etc., once its established to keep things clean, and perhaps some critters from IndoPacific SeaFarms to improve the life and stirring of the bed.  This system is old and the buffering capabilities, etc., have greatly reduced, and I would like very much to get it in balance again with a good sand bed.   <No troubles at all... can be had> I must admit I'm a bit paranoid after all the work I went through to remove the substrate and alleviate the algae problem.   <Understood... but easily prevented. Do focus on excellent water flow (10-20X tank volume) and due diligence with dosing supplements (starting with 2-part mixes in a balanced tank, mixing said liquids vigorously before every use (else see-saw occurs), etc)> Sorry for blathering.  Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  BTW, I never give up.  Just want to do it right this time. Many thanks, Peggy <Excellent to hear! Best regards, Anthony>

DSB And Pump Returns - 08/17/05 WWM (EricR), <<Hiya Todd!>> Thanks again for the great response and all of the previous suggestions are in the workings as we speak. <<Hope they prove helpful.>> I have a few more questions before I switch my LR and some tank mates over to the new tank. <<Alrighty>> First off is more of a should I do this question.  I am going to put a DSB instead of my old crushed coral base. <<Yea! (sugar-fine, right?)>> I want 4-5 inches but I am not sure what kind (I would love the cheap stuff from Home Depot, but its not Southdown and I don't trust the play sand at my Home Depot), so I was thinking of the Coral Sea (0.5-1.5mm).  The LFS store here suggested some crushed coral but I don't really trust them yet especially after that comment! <<A "small" amount mixed in wouldn't necessarily hurt anything, but also affords no benefit so...>> Do you think that should do fine and not too messy when I move the rocks around or add water? <<My preference for a DSB is sugar-fine aragonite sand.  Sand from other sources is workable, but doesn't provide the buffering capacity of the aragonite.  I'm not familiar with the Coral Sea product but will assume it is of a marine/calcareous origin and will likely serve you just fine.>> Also, should I put the same sand in my refugium? <<I would>> Last but not least is a question regarding my return lines out of the sump. <<ok>> For now I am going to be using a underwater pump (Rio 20, cause that is what I have for now).  I want outflows in all four corners coming from my sump, if you think this is a good idea? <<Looking at your diagram, yes.>> If so, then do I have one line up from the pump, place a 'T' at the top of the tank and put one 90 at each corner...If you look at the tank from the top, it would look like an upside down 'Y'.  There also would be a 'T' at both corners that would have an outlet then another 90 at both ends for an outlet.  I will send a quick schematic to make it easier for you to understand. <<it did>> The other option would be to have two pumps in the sump.   One for each side of the tank (two outlets per pump)?" <<This second option would be my choice...a bit more flexibility/gives some measure of redundancy in case one pump fails.>> Also, would a 1" PVC pipe do the job (from the pump to the outlet in the tank)? <<Considering the small size of the pump(s), I would use 3/4" pipe with 1/2" nozzles to increase water velocity (figure 300-350 gph per 1/2" nozzle).>> Thanks again and keep up the good work. Todd <<Always welcome, EricR>>

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