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FAQs about Live Sand 1

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

Related FAQs: Live Sand 2, Live Sand 3, Identification, Selection/DIY, Systems/Placement, BiotaMaintenance, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, DSBs 4, DSBs 5, DSBs 6, DSBs 7, & FAQs on: Deep Sand Beds Rationale/Use, Dangers, Physical Make-Up, Biological Make-Up, Size, Location, Depth, Conversion to/from, Maintenance/ Replacing/Adding To, & Sumps, Refugiums, Live Rock Calcium, FAQs 1


How much live sand? - 2/19/03 Hello again, <Hello, Paul here>I am planning on starting up a new tank (saltwater).<Cool. Be sure to read as much as you can. Think about what it is you want to keep and devise a plan. A good plan goes a long way to success>  I was wondering how much Live Sand I would need for a 50 gal rectangular tank (36x15x20). <Well, there is a formula in there somewhere, but there is really no way of telling without a little more info. In any event I would buy enough to do a 4" live sand bed. See, the size and general geological makeup of your sand needs to be added into the formula. The best way to do this is to have an idea of what type of sand you plan to use and know how many pounds per cubic inch. I may be wrong here but I believe it is: (l)engthx(w)idthx(4")intended depth of sand bed pounds per cubic inch of sand your placing. Not really easy to determine, eh? The rule I use has served me well. I look at what a bag of sand will roughly fill an area of my tank. So if 2 30lb bags of sand will kinda fill half my tank to roughly 4' then I will need 4 bags to gain approximately 4' of sand for my entire tank. I always buy an extra or two in case I under estimated, and I always return any unopened bag(s).>  I'm aware that a 1-3" bed is ideal but have no experience with Live Sand up until now.<I think the theory is now  1" or less for no anaerobic effect or 4-4 1/2" for anaerobic effect. Check here as I am sure Anthony Calfo has made mention of this many times here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/dsbfaqs.htm>   Any insight would be great! <I think your on the right track here. Information is half the battle. Read some, plan out your tank, know what animals will populate your tank, read about them, buy, and build. A couple days of research will really help your tank succeed. Thanks for the question. To all the math majors out there, if I am wrong about the formula please indulge us with your genius. Paul - out> thanks again Kevin Conner  

Sulfur in the Sand Bed (12/22/2003) Ahhhh.  I have a 20H nano set-up, with app. 3 inches of fine oolithic sand in the display tank and a 5" DSB in a 10 gallon refugium (also fine grain size).  This evening I decided to move a shaving brush from my display into my refugium, and when I pulled out the root ball, the sand on the roots smelled fairly strongly of Sulphur. <"sulfur" as in sulfur dioxide or "rotten egg" as in hydrogen sulfide?>  I know this is obviously not a good thing, as it must be poisonous to marine life.  I change 3 gallons weekly, run PolyFilter and a bit of carbon, and employ macroalgae in the refugium as a means of nutrient export.  <Admirable husbandry practices.>   I am skimmer-less at this point, and I plan on getting one soon, but that is besides the point at hand.  I am a bit confused here, as I did all the research for months before I set this up, and I have had success thus far as far as inhabitants are concerned.  It is a fairly young set up, roughly 4 months now, and this is the first time I have noticed this.  I took a pipette and sampled the sand in my DSB as well, and I also noticed a slight scent on Sulphur.   I am very worried now, I am not quite sure what is happening here, and I  can't find much info on it anywhere.  I am assuming the sand beds are turning into nutrient sinks, but of that I am not certain.  Any suggestions would be appreciated, as I am a little shocked at the moment and I would love to hear what you fine folks think I should do here.  I am assuming the sand bed is not being stirred enough and it is too static, but I'm not sure how to remedy it.  I hope that I do not have to break this down and begin again, but if I do, so be it.  Thanks again guys, I really need some advice on this one. <I really don't think you need to be too concerned about this. Some sulfurous gasses are a natural product of the anaerobic processes in the DSB. They seldom rise to toxic levels. If you have good circulation and are doing some careful superficial stirring (manual or with critters that stir) and ill gasses produced will be released so gradually as to not be toxic. Your use of carbon, PolyFilter and water changes will help a great deal. There is some more information scattered around WWM. Search on sulfur, Sulphur and sulfide for info.>

-Live sand bed for a 35g FOWLR- Thanks Kevin,  I am going to actively seek out the remora. <Cool> I have another question non-skimmer related. I am reading everything I possibly can on the substrate topic in you FAQ's and articles but it's still a little unclear. Lots of different answers for the similar substrate questions. <As there will likely always be> It's either 1.5" or 3-4 DSB. I would like to go with Carib sea Fiji Pink Reef Sand with aragonite because I like the way it looks with that slightly pinkish tinge. How much Aragonite do I put in for substrate for 35 gallon FOWLR tank? <If you want to reap the denitrifying benefits and all that other jazz of deep sand beds, I'd suggest sugar-fine sand. If you like the pink color, Natures Ocean makes a pre-packaged "live" sand (total BS, but already packaged in nice clean water! think no clouding!) that is a nice pink color and a nice particle size. It's a little more expensive, but worth it for being dust-free. I'd suggest a 4" base of this mixed in with as much true live sand as the budget allows for.> I am going to go with about 35 Lbs Fiji live rock. Does it matter if I go Live sand or not? <Yes it does, if you're planning on constructing a deep live sand bed, you need to get them critters in!> One last thing, Would I be okay to use a few small pieces of Tufa rock as a base rock to lift the live rock up above the substrate slightly? <Sure, but a much better idea would be to cut several pieces of 1" or so PVC pipe cut as deep as your sandbed is. You can bottom-out the pieces in the sand where the rock will go. This way, the rock will have a solid base, and it will be hard to collapse the rockwork. Good luck! -Kevin> Cheers, Mike

LIVE SAND PROBLEMS <<Hello, JasonC here at your service... has anyone ever mentioned that when you type with the caps-lock on, people think YOU ARE YELLING AT THEM! No worries, it's just a little hard on the eyes.>> HI I HAVE A 75 GALLON TANK I HAVE LITTLE STALKS GROWING OUT OF THE LIVE SAND BED LOOKS LIKE STALAGMITES IN A CAVE I THINK THAT'S THE ONE THAT START ON THE FLOOR AND GROWS TO THE CEILING <<It is indeed.>> I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS <<Neither do I... are these actually like stalagmites or are they more tube like?>> SPEC IN THE TANK 8.0 TO 8/2 ALK 3.0/4.0 MEG/LTR CALC 350 400 NITRATE LESS THAN 5 AND PHOS LESS THAN.1 EVS PROTEIN SKIMMER24 INCHES HIGH TWO WHITES AND TWO BLUES URI ACTINICS MED LOAD OF SOFT CORALS AND FIVE SMALL FISH ABOUT 85LBS LIVE FIJI ROCK AND TEMP 77 PLEAS HELP IF YOU CAN A TON OF CRITTER CLEANUP THANKS <<Well... just based on your description I have no clue. You might try browsing this page: http://www.tcnj.edu/~maughme2/faq.htm which is a "Hitchhiker and Critter ID" page - has photos and really good descriptions. You may have better luck there than you did with me. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: LIVE SAND PROBLEMS <<Hello, JasonC again...>> if you touch them they fall over and just lay there its like there are some type of minute bugs or something building them but you can see anything at all moving about <<I agree with your proposal that some type of minute bug is building these, although it could also be a worm of some type. If you haven't seen anything crawling around, perhaps try sneaking a peek when the tank lights are off, using a flashlight to spot them - I think you might see something running around then. In any case, no worries, these things are likely helping keep the place more tidy than without them, and is a good sign of life.>> like you said beats me I will keep trying <<Good luck.>> thanks for your help <<You are welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Live Sand, DSB or not Greetings all- Thank you again for answering my questions last weekend. You guys are the best. <Thank you very much!> My plan is to switch, when I move my tank to paint and have my dining room floor redone, from an UG filter with crushed coral to no UG filter and live sand. Since I will be adding more live rock and the live sand, I may hold off on the refugium for now (due to all the costs in the paint and the floor, not to mention the LR/LS). My questions are: 1. Is the 1.5 lbs live sand/gallon a decent approximation of the amount of sand needed (I've seen this at other websites, but I don't know if your recommendation of 1-2 inches of LS is roughly equivalent)? <It depends on what you want to do, thin covering vs. DSB. I would stick to 1" or less or go the other extreme and go 4" or more. 10 pounds of fine aragonite sand will cover a 12" x 12" area at about 1" thick.> 2. Any suggestions of what to add to keep the sand clean, beings that the tank inhabitants include a 4" moon wrasse which has been the kiss of death to snails and hermit crabs (I don't think the Koran angel and the yellow tang have been too tough on the critters, just the wrasse)? <That is a hard one. I would probably stick with the worms and Chitons that you get for free with most good quality live sand and live rock hitchhikers.> Once again, thank you for all your help. I'm confident that the moving and painting and moving back will go smoothly with your advice, and I'm looking forward to getting a "new and improved" tank running after the room is done. All good wishes, Daryl Klopp <And to you too! -Steven Pro>

How much live sand? Great incredibly informative website. <Thank you from all of us.> I'm setting up my tank (reef) for the first time since the great Northridge Earthquake with the following parameters: 60 gallon Aquasystem with built in wet dry <You may want to consider removing the W/D media.> Fluval 304 canister filter (ceramic media removed) 90lbs live Fiji rock (in 2nd week of curing) Remora Pro protein skimmer One Powerhead Lighting ?? (2 fluorescent and 2 Blue actinic) I can't remember the name but I purchased from Marks Tropical Fish in Studio City. My question is this: How much live sand should I have? 1.5"? 3"? <For reef tanks, I prefer to use a 4-6" deep sand bed, DSB.> Is live sand better than Aragamite? <Live sand is generally seeded aragonite sand. I usually use almost all dry sand which I seed with liverock and/or some livesand. I would purchase the livesand that is not already prepackaged.> Which would you prefer? <See above notes.> Darrin from Sherman Oaks, California <Good luck to you. -Steven Pro>

Live sand (collecting your own) Hey Guys, As I was sitting on the beach fishing with my son last night, a thought struck me - Why should I pay for live sand when I live on the beach here on the VA/NC border?! Here before me were acres of sugar sized white/cream colored sand just there for the taking!! But then I started thinking there has got to be some problem with this sand or EVERYBODY would be using it for their aquariums!! So I decided that I better drop you boys an email and get ya'lls opinion on this matter. There is plenty of dried sand & "live sand" under the water. Well, as I eye my shovel &pail, I await your reply..... Thanking you in advance, Joshua Scialdone <You were/are right to be suspect of this "free live sand"... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the associated FAQs files. Only in a few places in the U.S. is such material suitable for hobbyist marine systems. Bob Fenner>

Live Sand Good Evening, I emailed earlier (sorry I am on a different computer and somehow the "leave a copy on the server" check on my work email program has been changed so I can't include my earlier email and reply - it would have come from jcraddock and was sent and replied to earlier today). I mentioned that I was planning on using 1.5-2" of LS in my reef set-up and the reply came back to use 4-6". I came home and looked back in my archives and found the article that led me to this amount - now, I'm not trying to pit one aquarist against another - and I understand that both may work well - I am, however, trying to make an educated decision and I would like to know what I'm missing. As I said in my earlier email - I'm open to any/all suggestions and I know that I need to read and ask many questions, but I'll eventually have to make my own decisions. The following was listed in the "About web site by Stan & Debbie Hauter" web page address http://saltaquarium.about.com/library/weekly/aa070198b.htm; "Unless you are going to be using the Jaubert/Plenum method of filtration, excessive amounts of live sand should not be used. The sand bed becomes too thick, which allows unwanted DOC's (dissolved organic compounds) to get trapped, that in turn can contribute to the growth of undesirable micro and macro-algae. Here are some suggested amounts of live sand to use: - As the author of Simplified Reefkeeping, Robert Metelsky recommends a thickness of approximately 1-3/4 to 2 inches, which calculates to 1.45 pounds of sand per gallon. For a 55 gallon tank, this is 80 pounds. - The FINS Reefkeeper Live Sand FAQ's says that it is normally used at a rate of 10 pounds per square foot of bottom area, which yields about a 1 inch deep covering. - In Michael Paletta's The New Marine Aquarium, he suggests a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch, "as even this amount has been shown to have some utility in lowering nitrate levels". Basically, the bottom line here is that anywhere from a 1/2 to a 2 inch layer to cover the bottom of the tank should be sufficient. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! J.T. Craddock <Do read through are site for your answers and our collective opinions. I would use either less than 1" and have no denitrification or 4-6". -Steven Pro>

Livesand and Frozen Foods Hello again, <Hello> Two questions that I've been wondering about for a while: First, is it okay to occasionally stir up the top layer of live sand? Some gets stirred up when I clean algae off the glass, and other times I give a small area a stir on the surface to kick up debris. If it's okay, is the resulting temporary white cloud harmful to my fish? <Do not go too deep. I will occasionally lightly dust the top 1/4" to get rid of diatoms.> Secondly, my puffers love frozen shell-on shrimp. Is it a problem to actually feed it to them frozen -- as in, not thawed? In addition to the shell I thought that it being frozen would also help to wear down their teeth, but if it is a bad practice then I will thaw from now on. <Interesting, I would think you would be ok, but perhaps just thaw the food anyway. It will give you sometime to let the food soak in vitamins/supplements. I like Boyd's Vita-Chem and American Marine Selcon.> Thanks so much, Karen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Live Sand Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I begin by saying thanks for the amazing service that you and the WWM provide. A wonderful and invaluable resource that borders on information overload!  <yes... we have been told that we are really full of it many times<G>> I have been able to research numerous topics with your FAQ's and your added Google search engine! Thank you. <excellent to hear> My question is about live sand. I am seeing "clumps" of sand -- I tried that in the search feature -- and have noticed that the grains seem to be sticking together. <yes, I understand and can explain it> Tank info: 58 Gallon + Wet Dry Ceramic Media)/skimmer + HOT Magnum Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate >10ppm pH 8.1 dKH 10 Calcium 400 I add the Kent CB as the tests warrant and had been using Aragamilk. <bingo... misapplication as part of the problem> My sand "crew" includes: <this has nothing to do with detritivore activity> Sand sifting star, Over-achieving Dragon Goby, <yes... Amblygobius phalaena: this goby is one of the very best and most hardy!!! for sand sifting. I love them> 10 Blue-legged hermits, and a Blue Damsel that has taken to re-arranging the sand in three of the four corners of the tank! What do these clumps indicate about my water chemistry?  <it is exactly precipitated (literally) by wildly fluctuating chemistry. Perhaps unnoticed by you if you test your pH at the same time every day. Some folks get it by pouring in Kalkwasser solutions too much or too fast which causes a temporary spike in pH locally. It may occur from the misapplication of other Ca or Alk products (like your Aragamilk product.. of which I am dubious about its benefits in the big picture) when used too much or too quickly (smaller more frequent dosing is better than large weekly doses. And finally it can happen in tanks (receiving such products or not) that have wild "natural" swings in pH between night and day. I see that you report a pH of 8.1. If this is accurate and a reading taken by day as I suspect (when pH in aquaria is highest by far)... then you have a borderline serious problem with pH. You may actually be dipping down to 7.8 or lower at night (tank respiration). And this is all assuming that your test kit read accurately! What if the kit read high? And your day night readings are actually 7.9/7.6...yikes! No wonder then aragonite in your bed is fusing.> Or is this supposed to happen?  <nope... an indication of a minor flaw in the system that could turn into something bigger. Still not much to worry about> Everything looks fabulous but I am noticing more of these little sand "balls" every day.  <yes... do examine your dosing system and day night pH swings (take a test reading after a long dark night before the lights come on and not after a fresh dose of ca/ALK)> I really did try to find this mentioned in the FAQ section and under LS but I may have been looking for the wrong thing. <appreciate you taking the time to look... hopefully you found other interesting things> Thanks for all your hard work and for sharing your expertise. Have a wonderful day. Lee <best regards, Anthony>

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

Re: Collection and Reefs Bob: <Hello> Hugo again. Thanks for your patience and all your help. I have gone and come back from the site that I had talked about collecting sand from. I have several observations and questions. Here we go: 1. The sand is a brown color, sort of clay-ish looking. Upon closer examination the composition appears to be shell bits, coral fragments, and bits of something that appears to be dull and translucent, sort of like really dull glass. I also noted a lot of limestone in the entire area. Large boulders all over the place. <A very good description. the dull-glass bits may be silicate in nature> Underwater examination of this sand revealed something very curious. I have noticed in almost all the places in which I snorkeled (over 1/4 of a mile) that in several places there are mounds of sand which are gray in color. Just every so much space, there are these mounds of sand, completely gray about 3 ~5" in circumference. What could this be? <Areas where the local animals have dug up and mounded deeper, different sand types... that haven't gotten mixed in with the general more homogeneous substrate... Worms of many sorts, mollusks, crustaceans, others and together create these "mounds"> 2. Observing the fish fauna, I noticed things like spiders, a lot of fan worms, and even 2 stingrays. I also saw a great deal of sea urchins. The later had black thorns and very bright red bodies. Are these urchins something I should worry about? <Worry about? I would avoid touching them, and not use them in your system unless you're sure they will "go with" the rest of life you intend to keep> I did try to avoid them, as I am sure that meeting those spikes would not be pleasant. What about the stingray, would it be dangerous if I accidentally stepped on it? <Likely yes> 3. The location of which I am talking about is a rock barrier, about 1/2 mile long, with the waves breaking on one side, and a shallow and calm pool on the other side for about 70 feet, until it goes extremely deep. I did encounter a fish that looked exactly like a yellow tank ( round body, short snout) but it was light blue in color, with a yellow tail. I know it couldn't be a purple tang, because it was light blue, not purple. I have never seen one this color, but I know it wasn't a surgeon even an infant one) because it was round. What could this be? It was behaving like a tang (gracing on algae constantly). <Does sound like a juvenile Acanthurus coeruleus. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acanthurTngs.htm> I also saw something that looked like a coral beauty, but it was black with tones in red. These guys were observed alone, one per cave, and seemed rather territorial. One nipped my finger to let me know I was too close for his comfort (hehehe). Are these in fact coral beauties? <Not Coral Beauties. That Dwarf Angel species is not found in the Atlantic. Please read through our root web: www.WetWebMedia.com re the Fishwatcher's Guide to the Tropical West Atlantic, Marine Angels... maybe Urchins as well> All in all I was happy to be there, and I can even say that I did not wish to take any of those guys home, as looking at them in their environment was satisfying enough. <Yes> I was a bit sad to see several beer cans at the bottom of some areas. What pigs we are!!! It is amazing to see how nature thrives in spite of us... Well, I am sure that I'll be back there again. This is all I ask for now. Thanks!!! <Perhaps you would enjoy photography, writing stories about your experiences, reflections... videography? Bob Fenner> Hugo S

Collection and Reefs Bob: First. What is the ISBN of your book... I can't seem to find it. <Please take a look on Amazon.com under title, or my name> Second. I live in Puerto Rico, and thus have access to unlimited amounts of some of the most beautiful reefs (my opinion) in the Caribbean... I would like to collect some "live" sand myself. My big idea was to go somewhere somewhat deep and with a weighted bucket and a rope (I know, kinda unsophisticated) drag that baby and pull up the results. <Yes> Several questions come to mind, and I cannot find anything this specific in the archives... 1. This will actually be the same or even better than packaged stuff right? I mean, I can go from the reefs to my house in under 30 minutes... <Maybe... a good idea to at least rinse lightly (in seawater), decant, and store in an aquarium setting for a good two weeks before using > 2. Parasites come to mind. Any way to kill the little suckers before using the sand? <All sorts. Please read through WetWebMedia.com re Live Sand: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm and the associated FAQs file> 3. If the commercial sand being sold is reef sand, why would the sand in the reef down here have silicates? Do they not come from the same place? <Yes, about a third or so silicon dioxide based. Don't come from same places specifically (collected, sorted on beaches for the most part)> 4. I also think that I would like to collect some fish... I did get a permit for this from the local Natural Resources dept, that you know of in my area, what are good specimens to catch? <In Puerto Rico? All sorts of areas... again, please read through the WWM site... "Collection", Quarantine...> 5. What foreseeable dangers do you see in collecting fish by snorkeling in a reef? (sharks, Scorpionfish, jellyfish) <Other divers, yourself... perhaps Fire Coral, Sea Urchins... really> Is scuba a must? What kind of fish can I expect to catch this way? Realistically? <Practice and study makes perfect my friend.... many and enough organisms can be easily gathered by snorkeling. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help! Hugo S. San Juan, Puerto Rico

Re: Collection and Reefs Bob: Tank you for your prompt response, I can't imagine how many e-mails you must read a day! <Am sure you can... a couple hundred...> I found the ISBN in Amazon.com... Thanks. <Very good> You said that about a third of sand comes from here, maybe I didn't understand quite what you meant. <Sorry for the lack of clarity. I meant to state that about a third of the sand you're likely to find is silicate-based... only about another third is calcium carbonate-based. Alternatively, the various companies (e.g. CaribSea) try to collect, clean and bag almost 100% carbonate-based materials> Did you mean that a third of the wrong type of sand comes from the Caribbean/Puerto Rico? <Actually, about this amount comes from "sandy bottoms" in most places off coastlines... some more than others. You'd be better off looking for a beach area, at accumulations of hard materials and screening/sieving out the small "silica" (shiny, flat, angular) materials in an attempt to collect just the "shell and coral skeleton based" ones. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the FAQs beyond> By Silicon Dioxide did that mean that it has silicates?  <Yes> Also, where does aragonite come from usually? Specifically? <Mined, crushed, sorted, cleaned calcium carbonate material from "ancient" reefs. The coarser material is extracted from a few places in the world, the finer (oolithic) from areas of the ocean where it forms spontaneously, accumulates. Please read: http://www.soils.wisc.edu/virtual_museum/aragonite/> If I let the sand dry and then sift it for the correct size (sugar sized), then this would kill the whole "live" concept right? <The "macro" parts, yes. The "micro" (e.g. bacteria, funguses, viruses...) would likely persist to some degree> Would this reef sand be small enough for a 4" DSB? How much sand would you say in pounds or gallons it would take for a 4" DSB? <Please read over WetWebMedia.com re Deep Sand Beds. Bob Fenner> Thanks! Hugo S

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

Live Sand Source Hi Jason, I'm looking to build up my sand bed. I don't have any local fish supplier who carries live sand. I'm looking for a internet supplier who carries a good quality (high fauna) sand. Any recommendations. <<For actual vendors, I would check the WWM Forum - many there have experience with these online dealers. On the other hand, if you can get a hold of some aragonite sand and some live rock you can make your own - this is what I do. Place sand and rock in tank and wait a month or two - oh, and run the lights and pumps... by then end of two months, your sand will be quite live. This is a really good/cheap way to go; builds a good foundation. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Good Sand Cleaners hey, I was wondering if you could tell me of a good animal that would clean my sand in my tank. I am using silica sand that I bought from home depot that seems to be working fine. I have noticed however that when it gets stirred up there is a cloud that develops. so I am taking great strides to keep my hands and siphons out of the sand. any kind of live rock safe animal whether it be fish, crab, shrimp whatever. that can do the job I would like to know what it is:) - Thanks a lot. Brandon Meador <My preference for sand stirring duty is the use of the tiny critters; worms, limpets, copepods, amphipods, etc. If you are looking for larger, more visible animals, Nassarius snails, Scarlet Reef Hermit Crabs, Serpent and Brittle Starfish are all good choices. -Steven Pro>

Live sand bed help Hey Bob, I'll try to keep it short and to the point. I was using an undergravel (crushed coral) filter that's been in my tank for about a year now. I thought it would work like my old freshwater system, so I chucked it and replaced it w/ 40 lbs of LS (retail stuff that comes in a bag) and already (2 days) the tank looks better. One concern was the depth of the sand, I have a 25 gal. tall and the sand is 3-4 inches deep. Do I throw out some sand and keep it between 1-3 inches or wait to see if black stuff starts to form? <Leave sand at this thickness and do not worry about the black layer.> I'm running 90W SF lights, Berlin in tank skimmer, and 3 circulation pumps. livestock 2G chromis,2 cleaner shrimp, 2 peppermint shrimp, 1 Percula and 15-20lbs LR. I also do 5gal weekly water changes, and use Salifert iodine & all in one. Thanks for your help and keep up the excellent work! <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: Collecting Live Sand Thank you very much for your fast reply. Your info is very appreciated. I promise to send you some pics when it is finished. We are going on our holiday - at last - to Eilat in Israel, do u think it would be possible/legal to collect our own live sand as a souvenir for my reef tank - and also live rock? <Have been to this town in the upper Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea... would ask re the legality, practicality of such extraction while there. Bob Fenner> Eden Maddocks

Live Sand Hello and good evening to you! <And you> I wrote to you not so long ago about creating a refugium in my sump. All is going well and I now have my sand & rock placed in the refugiums. I have a quick question. I have about 5lbs of live sand left over. I would add it to the main system but I am happy with it's depth and stability. Can I store the sand that I have left over? <Mmm, not really... at least not as very live... best to place it> If it were to be kept in a sealed container and left could it last a few months? <No... if you want to store it, may as well rinse it thoroughly in freshwater... store as "dead"> It would be at that time that I think it would be a good idea to replace some from my main DSB. No rush for a response. <The organisms in the sand can't wait. Bob Fenner>

Adding a Sand Bed Bob, I recently wrote asking about Calcium reactors and sand beds. I believe I will, on your recommendation go with the Knop reactor. I hope it works as well as it claims.  <You will find it does> My other question was the addition of a LSB. I asked about creating one in my sump that as of now contains only live rock. I do at this time have 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch of live sand (it wasn't purchased live, but it sure as heck is now!) of various size in the tank now. It is seemingly teaming with life, mostly visible tube worms that extend in all directions out of the sand and winding up the LR. I also have a clam embedded, polyps and mushrooms and living out of the sand. What type of damage will I do to my five year old tank by adding new substrate. <Not much, temporary> My first thought was to add new substrate in small amounts, thereby not smothering any life to quickly and give it a chance to "surface." I still feel that this method will bring about some casualties and possibly cause a spike in my chemistry due to the die off. My next thought was to leave the display tank alone and just add a CPR refugium. It is much easier, but will it help to the same degree as adding depth to the display bed? <Mmm, differently> I also have no plenum in the display tank. I have a 45 gallon tank and was going to go with a 24" by 4" refugium. Due to the footprint of the LR wall in the tank right now, I wouldn't be able to get much more sand than that in it anyway. I won't disassemble the wall as it has "grown" together in many places. Suggestion as to which course I should follow will be appreciated? Thanks for the help, Brett <Do try adding a bit of the new substrate every month... and consider adding the refugium as well.... More is... more better. Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand... Water Change? > I was hoping that I would be able us the python and clean the tank better. > <You can... but "cleanliness is not sterility"... you don't want to "clean" the substrate too well> > I was thinking of just stirring the sand and with a fine net removing the particles that come up out of the sand but I was told that would kill bacteria and produce more nitrate is this true? I was thinking about doing a water change today the last time I did one was last week. My numbers are Nitrite - .20 Ammonia - .50 PH - 8.6 (I Can't get the ph down what can I do) Nitrate - 80 I won't be able to do one next week because I am going away should I wait or do it now. <Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/waterchg.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand Hey Bob how are you? My clown passed away on Saturday I was really disappointed that I let that happen I have never had a fish die on me before... it's a big let down. I wanted to thank you for all your help and you speedy response. <Sorry to hear of the loss> I must move on I have live sand and I have trouble cleaning it. I use a python and when I try to siphon the dirt the sand comes along with it. Is their any other method of cleaning? <Hmm, either just gently stirring it with a wood or plastic dowel and/or letting "sand stirring" organisms do this and/or having an outside power filter of some sort with mechanical sieving remove the particulates...> I was thinking of slowly adding crushed coral and removing the live sand is that a good idea or is that just dumb.  <Either one works... what do you hope to gain by the change?> I was also thinking about just adding crushed coral over the live sand but do not know if their are any ramifications in doing that.  <Most likely the two will simply get mixed together over time> One more thing what is the most accurate test kit you have come across. <Practically speaking? Either Hach or LaMotte... but Salifert is accurate AND precise enough. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/martstkitfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: Live Sand I was hoping that I would be able us the python and clean the tank better. <You can... but "cleanliness is not sterility"... you don't want to "clean" the substrate too well> I was thinking of just stirring the sand and with a fine net removing the particles that come up out of the sand but I was told that would kill bacteria and produce more nitrate is this true? <No... consider the alternatives... and their results. Bob Fenner>

Reef tank (mainly substrate biofiltration concerns) Dear Mr. Fenner, Allow me to start by saying I love your website, it is very informative and helpful!!! <Ah, good to hear/read> I have a 30 gal reef tank, age about 10 weeks old. So far everything looks great. The tank specifications are: ~ 10 weeks old 36" x 12" x 15" Icecap VHO 2 x 95 watt (50/50 & 03) open to air, until I build the hood, due to increase in water temp 79 F, 1.024 sg very small external filter w/ carbon 1 PowerSweep (160 gph) 1 grotto ph (300 gph) plenum w/ 1" void space, 1" crushed coral, 2" aragonite special grade. I added the live sand activator from IPSF within a few days of setting it up. So far the organisms that are visible to the eye are multiplying much to the delight of my longnosed hawkfish) The tank inhabitants are: micro hermits, red & blue legged hermits (~20) turbo, Astrea, Strombus, Trochus snails (25 or 30) anthelia polyps green mushrooms Sarcophyton green button polyps grape Caulerpa 1 tomato clown 1 longnosed hawkfish 1 green serpent star (very small, about 2-2.5" diameter) 1 tunicate (purple) numerous fanworms, flatworms, spaghetti worms, and bristleworms (which have bored holes through my Aragocrete which I like, but have not harmed any corals) I add 20 ml reef restore Alk & Calcium each morning Anyway my questions are: 1) Have you heard/ do you have any experience with the LS activator from IPSF? <Know of the product... don't use it or anything like it... rely on live rock "inoculation"> 2) How long should it take for the denitrification to occur in the plenum? I have about 9 lbs LR, along with Aragocrete ( instructions from GARF.org) but these do not seem to break down nitrates <Sometimes takes a few months for "stability" to set in nitrification/denitrification... with a "steady state" of nitrate at whatever reading... are you accumulating at this point?> 3) As yet I have not added a protein skimmer. Because I am a college student, I am on a limited budget. I have been looking into a Skilter 250 or 400, are these any good, and if so which is better? <Both are fine products... but not very powerful/efficient as skimmers... you can modify them by placing a fine-air bubble (like a wood type... needs frequent changing...), down the middle of the contact chamber/collector cup... Another alternative would be a Prizm or SeaClone for your thirty... or a small sump or hang on type...> If I purchase on <Ah, a wise idea> I plan on looking into Tom Walsh's modifications. 4) There are animals growing on the glass. I saw a picture of them at www.atlantisaquatic.com calling them as "curlies" ( under images) Do you have any idea what these things are? <Hmm, found them... look like reddish polychaetes in a gel type tube... they're likely just that: segmented/bristle worms...> They are growing all over the rocks, glass, and the snails shells.  <No worries... they will mostly cycle out... and soon enough...> Thanks for all your help. Sincerely, Erin Smith <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: sandbed question Hello and thank you for the quick response, I read the links that you sent to me. They actually confused me even more. <Yikes... sorry, the intent is of course the opposite> The one on types of filtration you say that the use of live sand is not that great of an idea and in the one on plenums there is a diagram showing live sand. Can you explain why you think the use of live sand is not good.  <Hmm, don't know specifically what we're referring to here... but "live sands" are a good idea in general... and all substrates become "live" to an extent in use/exposure in biological systems> One last question (maybe): If you were to set up and aquarium for yourself with all your experience, would you use a plenum or a deep sand bed. <The latter perhaps... only in a separate sump though, NOT in a main/display system> I have limited space under my aquarium so whatever I do has to be within the tank itself. Thanks again. <Then I would skip on this technology for now... just using "some"... a couple of inches, of substrate, live rock... NOT a plenum or DSB... until you have a bit more experience, room for a sump to add one of these tools. Bob Fenner> Brett

LR/LS and other questions Hi again, Some more questions for you: 1) Is 20 lbs. of LR enough for a 40 gallon aquarium? <For? For functions sake you could have more... for looks sake, ditto... though beauty is in the eye, mind, pocketbook...> 2) I was planning on using a mixture of live and non-live sand as a substrate but I was wondering if I should just use 30 lbs. of non-live sand and buy some more live rock? Is there any advantages to using the live sand as opposed to "seeding" it with live rock? <Virtually, actually, none> 3) Is there any reason why I can't remove all of the fish from my brackish tank, do a 20% water change, increase the salinity to about 34 ppt, and add the cured live rock and the substrate to this? Or do I need to drain and clean out the tank, then add water and let the system settle out for weeks (start all over)? <Umm, what are you going to do with the brackish livestock? Should be fine if they're being moved elsewhere> 4) What is a good level for dissolved oxygen in a reef tank (my brackish aquarium is about 4 mg/L right now)? <For almost all set-ups, about 7 ppm... harder to get this much in warmer tanks... but 4 mg/l, ppm is a bit low. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Kevin

Live Sand - Bubbles Thanks in advance - this site is great! I have a 100g. tank with about 3 inches of live sand (actually half live/half regular). I have three white burrowing starfish and 5 horseshoe crabs to stir the sand. I also have a Banded Goby. However, in the front of the tank there are bubbles in the sand. When I stir it seems to only be next to the glass. Do I need more sand sifters? <Not in my opinion... the gasses are likely no problem... likely indicative of vigorous activity itself... no blackness, sulfur smell? I wouldn't add more sand sifters> It seems like they just don't get right up next to the glass. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Cathy <You're doing fine. Bob Fenner>

Live sand Dear Bob, I just started a 65 gallon SW tank with plans to add live rock and eventually have some corals. I am starting to cycle my tank now and have a damsel fish. My substrate is crushed coral. I want to add about 20lbs of live sand and wonder if the sand will all sift to the bottom.  <Hmm no... not unless it's exceedingly finer than what you have in place now> Do I have to remove most of the crushed coral or move it to one side of the tank (will that work)? <I would "sprinkle" it on top of what you have... it will all eventually be mixed together> Will I have to add the live sand in small batches so as to not spike the ammonia level or will the Damsel fish be ok if I add the sand all at once? <You can add it all at once. Please read over the Live Sand materials on our site: http://wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm Bob Fenner> Thank you, Kathy

Live sand Hello Bob, I have a 55 gallon tank and am about to put everything together. How much sand (and what grade) should I put at the bottom?  <Please see our site: www.WetWebMedia.com under "Marine Substrates"> I would like to ultimately put Jawfish and other burrowing fishes in, so how deep is a question as well.  <Ditto above under "Jawfishes, Opistognathids> Ok, well, I know it needs to be 4-5 inches or so with these little guys, but I don't know what KIND of sand (really fine or just kind of fine?) <Fine... as in a sixteenth of an inch diameter... but with some larger material to give "substance" to their structures...> Also I have not implemented a CO2 reactor in my tank and I am wondering if this is necessary. <Helpful for what you list... and likely will have> I have only one piece of live rock in the tank right now and two damsels. (I am the one who thought you should torture these little guys to cycle your tank and didn't know enough about cured and uncured live rock, so I bought only one piece, thinking I'd buy one piece at a time. Silly me, I know better now). My point here is to tell you that my live rock is growing lots of things right now. I don't know enough to identify any of them, (ok, well I do know I have lots of feather duster worms) and I must be doing something right - I think one of them is even some sort of hard coral. It kind of looks like it and I know I shouldn't have, but I touched it just to see if it was soft or hard or what the heck. It was rough and hard. There are bright red crown looking things, and hot pink round things and weird white stick things and macroalgae galore and two star fish who use to be one but got lonely and made himself two. It is all so fun and strange and my question is: Should I supplement them with something? <I probably would not... your system in under-populated enough to make do with water changes, the calcium reactor... do monitor pH, alkalinity, calcium...> My system is VERY primitive. I am not even running filters on the thing right now, just water changes twice a week and lots of cleanup and testing (all parameters are below detection limit) on my part. <Hopefully you do have circulation/aeration...> I am about to hook up a big protein skimmer (I made myself) and a refugium/sump tank (made that myself too :). <Quite an engineer!> So we are roughing it until then, but things seem to be going good. Any advice is appreciated. Talk to you later, Jana <Keep studying, exploring my friend. Bob Fenner>

Re: Using FRESH seawater for water changes (and FRESH substrates) Thanks for the reply. Another question along the same lines: What about live sand/substrate? I believe it's legal to collect substrate in Florida (not LR) so what's the difference between spending $100-$200 on LS imported from somewhere else and collecting my own as long as I rinse it in aquarium water prior to introduction? Is there something else the LS distributors do to "condition" the LS to be free of bad critters? <Hmm, either by storing for longish periods of time (weeks) to making their own from "dead" sand/substrate exposed to live rock... these makers avoid pests, parasites and pollution... you can/could collect, store and do requisite water changes, searching amongst particles for pop tops, etc.... would it be worth it? Bob Fenner> Thanks for your time, Brad

Live Sand for a FO System Quick question for you, if you don't mind, regarding live sand. In reading your articles and FAQs on LR and LS, you repeatedly suggest placing LS remotely in the sump. I understand your reasoning, and it makes sense to me. You also suggest "making your own" LS rather than purchasing LS from the LFS. <Yes... in general this is "enough"... often "the exact same" as the "made sand" that is sold in the trade> Reminder: My tank is a 100G FOWLR with a 40G sump. I'm planning on making a plenum/refugium setup in the sump. I have "messy" triggers and puffers. <Okay> What exactly do you recommend then for substrate in the main tank? How thick? I have "messy" triggers and puffers. <An inch of substrate of whatever type... just on the tank bottom... and plenty of larger pieces of live rock> I like the look of fine live sand, but do agree it would be easier to take care of if it were more easily accessible in the sump. <I would have some in both... likely a plenum set-up in the sump... with two grades, a plastic mesh between, a "dead" hypoxic space under... as detailed on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Thanks as always, Eugene

Live mud, sand, algae, and sponges from P.I. Hi Bob, I occasionally have the opportunity to visit the Philippines, usually north Palawan and would like to collect a small amount of mud ,sand, algae, and maybe sponges or tunicates. Is this legal or feasible ?  <Think so... legal wise would check with the airlines... and remember the term, "for my personal consumption"... i.e. not commercial... Feasible wise? Please read over my sections on Collecting Marines posted on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> Transit time from El Ned to Michigan is 3-4 days. Also are there any outstanding reef display tanks within an hour or so of LAX ?  <Gosh, a bunch I've seen on "tank tours" with the L.A. and Orange Country marine clubs... and lots of organisms at the wholesalers... Do look up "Piece of the Reef"... others in the phone books at your local large public library... and use the Net to develop a "travel strategy" for when you hit town...> Thank you for your efforts to preserve the reefs ,the hobby, and the animals under our care. Ray  <Thank you for the acknowledgement my friend. Salamat. Bob Fenner>

Live Rocks & Live Sands Hi! your website is really a big help for those people who want to start up a marine aquarium like me. My question is 1) Can LR & LS be one of the reasons of diseases (Amyloodinium, cryptocaryon etc.) or possibly contribute to the downfall of a marine aquarium.  <Rarely, but yes... if the LR or LS starts to go sidewise... it/they can hurt water quality... and consequently fish health... but have no firm evidence of a parasite having been introduced by these materials.> 2) Does it have any negative or positive effect on the water quality. <Many positive effects... see the piece, FAQs... on Live Rock, Sand on the site> 3) Is there a way/process you can do to kill/sterilize or condition the LR & LS before putting them to your marine aquarium so you can minimize the diseases. <Just a standard break in, curing period... really> I'll appreciate any help, my email is Thanks in advance. Bing

Reef Tank Hi Bob, I'm having a problem in my tank and I do not know what's going on. In the left side of my tank, I have a very bad problem with the sand. It seems orange-brown and every time I recycle the sand to get rid of it, it comes back a few hours later. It seems to subside at night when the lights are off and gets very vivid when the lights go on. I have a 72 gallon bow front with 4 X 96 power compact lights that are on timers. The blue lights go on for 10 hours a day, 1 hour before and 1 hour after the regular lights. I have a UV sterilizer. I tested the water and everything was fine. Originally the store where I buy my reef items from said maybe it was being caused by the flow, so I moved it over a bit and we still had a problem. Than someone else at the store said it was red slime and gave us a treatment. We put the treatment in Friday night and it seems the same to worse. The treatment says we can put another treatment in, 48 hours from the first. But it didn't seem to help the first time.  Please help! Sincerely, Steve Rubin  <Hmm, coloring might be mainly bacterial or even abiotic but still organic in origin... at any length if it bothers you, I would first endeavor to enhance water movement there (redirect a powerhead, small pump, place an "air wand" along it...), or mix in some more coarse substrate, scoot the substrate away from the vicinity... And in the longer term, perhaps mix in some more/better (Hawaiian?) sand stirring type organisms... a bunch detailed in places on our site (where else?): Home Page  Bob Fenner

?'s on seeding manufactured rock w/live rock... Hello Bob,  Love your site & FAQ. Very informative. I would also like to compliment you on the way you handle & answer the questions you get. I know some people may disagree that LR is the best method of biological filtration, and some people get downright nasty. I like how you (unlike many people) don't take it personally, and answer the questions objectively.  <Thank you.> I wish more people (including myself) were better at that. Anyway, on to my ?'s I have been very happy with my existing tanks filled with LR from FFExpress, however I am trying something different. I have acquired a 300g acrylic tank which I can't afford to stock completely with LR. So I have been making my own rock (oyster shell aragonite/Portland white cement mix) & curing it. <Should work just fine... simply takes a while to populate.> I am getting closer to being ready to put them in the tank. They are still leaching a little KW, and consequently the pH is still around 8.6. I have been told that with really good circulation & aeration the added co2 will bring the pH down adequately. <Hmm, the CO2 ala carbonic acid in solution won't do much... but dilution, time going by period will help... and if it were me, I'd stoop to adding an inorganic acid (simple 3M HCl... aka Muriatic will do... or even vinegar as an organic (Acetic, CH3COOH)... to bring all about right in a couple of days...> I think that by the time I order my rock the water will have stabilized. And now my questions. - How much LR would you add to "seed" the (dead) manufactured rock w/ coralline & good bacteria?)  <A box or two... whatever's on sale, that you can afford.> the water will have stabilized. Any special concerns that you would address?  <Not much more than assuring that most all the leaching was over... as gauged by pH...> Would live sand speed the growth of nitro somonas/Nitrobacters much? <Not worthwhile in my opinion... The live rock will make your substrate live as much as any added live sand will> Would you crush a few small pieces of rock & spread them around? Turn off the protein skimmer to speed the spread of coralline? >> <Definitely no to turning the skimmer off period, and nah to the need to break the rock... organisms will make their way down into and through the sand on their own... almost immediately. For boosting the corallines, keep your alkalinity and biomineral levels up... and be patient. Your friend in fish, Bob Fenner>

Free Live Sand? I live on the gulf coast of Texas. Would the sand I can collect here be beneficial to my reef aquarium? Thank you for your time >> It's possible... I would screen it for removing most of the undesirables (possible metal, glass)... and store it ahead of use... rinse it in seawater and cure it in a system without livestock ahead of use... Bob Fenner 

Live Sand I was wondering about adding live sand to our 300 gallon reef tank. We have a DAS key hole tank. We have added PVC pipe with holes and a pump to the back of the tank (on the bottom). It is not feasible for us to reset the rock on top of a framework of PVC pipe. I was wondering if we could just add the live sand to the front of our tank. I believe we would still have the good forward water flow from the back of the tank.  <Yes, this is a workable plan> Could we add the live sand a little at a time, or is it best to add what we would need all at once. <Best all at once, or in layers... the larger grade on bottom, a layer of plastic screen door material, then the finer, upper layer... More can be added, seeded to the top...later> We have anemones, corals, 2 Kole tangs, mandarin goby, two red striped blennies, two lawn mover gobies, cardinals, hawks, star fish and a very nice clean up crew from ffexpress that has really cleaned up our algae problem. If you need more inf., I will respond after your reply. Thanks >> Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Live Sand I was wanting to purchase an 80 gallon tank...I have a 55 right now and I am very pleased with how the tank is right now with crushed coral on the bottom...I was interested in using Live Sand in my 80 gallon tank that I am going to buy next week. My question is: Are their any benefits to using the Live Sand in a tank or is it mainly for the looks? Thanks in advance for your time and help. Brandon >> Many benefits to utilizing the live sand in marine tanks... in addition to aesthetics. Food, filtration, stirring action, enhanced buffering, biomineral addition... making the system overall more viable, stable...optimized... Bob Fenner, whose "live sand" input is further stored at www.wetwebmedia.com under that name.

80 gal. reef tank Bob, I am in the process of setting up my first reef tank and need a little advise. How much sand should be put in? Should it be all live sand or a mixture of what components? The tank is 80 gallons, 48 x 17 x 24 with four 55 watt power compact and two 175 watt , 12,000k metal halide bulbs. Thanks a lot...........Robert >> Hmm, well, depends... on the types of livestock you intend to keep, your sensibilities of what looks good, and what you otherwise want to do with this sand bed (like is it going to be a denitrator of some sort?)...  But if it were me, I'd start off with "about" an inch (you can add more later)... maybe fifty, sixty pounds for now... Add more if that doesn't "look" like enough... and either allow your live rock to seed it on its own, or buy a few (maybe ten) pounds of live sand to sprinkle on top, once you get about the amount you want in of the "non-live" sand. Bob Fenner, whose live sand input can be found at www.wetwebmedia.com in greater detail.

My new 125 reef Bob, I emailed you last week about moving a sandbed. Your advice, as always, proved to be sound. I moved everything (not all the sand) from the 50 into the 125 without any problems, not even any complications, and the results turned out to be greater than I imagined they would. Check it out (the new pictures are at the bottom of the page): http://mindspring.com/~dlos/125.htm Thanks again, Dave >> Ah good, and very nice to have different angle views of the system... One suggestion re the website, do consider "re-sampling" (and hence down-sizing) your images to expedite downloading. Bob Fenner

Adding live sand currently I have a 55 gal. reef tank and is doing quite well. I want to add some live sand to the tank. I currently have gravel right now. I was wondering how much do I need, and if I should remove the gravel from the tank? should I take out all of the gravel or only some? >> Hmm. let's see, about four square feet of bottom... about ten pounds... Do you have live rock? I might add some of that about now as well. Bob Fenner

Sand stirring First I must Comment about how much I enjoy your column. I'm setting up a 29 gal. reef as I write I am using a live sand bed. I would like to know what the best fish/invert is for keeping the sand stirred. Thanks, Charles Willis >> It is an honor and a privilege to serve the folks and their livestock through and with this forum... and very much a fun and educational "job" for me... For this size system, I would use something in the way of a small species of goby... Maybe a Phalaena or Amblygobius... after it's been up a good three months... I would have to skip some of my favorite Valenciennea spp. due to the likelihood of starvation, and the same for Seastar species that might do well in a bigger system... As well as my favorite over-achievers in the way of bottom searching, the Goatfishes (family Mullidae). Bob Fenner

Would there be anything wrong with using Florida beach sand in my 55 gal FO + Invert tank? Current substrate is a thin layer of crushed coral. Will there be an ammonia or nitrate spike if I replace all at once?  Thank you for a wonderful column! Scott >> Nothing probably wrong, given careful screening of the raw material for bits of metal... and a brisk rinse (freshwater is fine) to remove fine material and "excess" living things... And yes to the likelihood of having something in the way of a break in period/incident... as with live rock, other live sand... monitor for this and hold off on stocking till all settles in. Bob Fenner Live Sand Question Would there be anything wrong with using Florida beach sand in my 55 gal FO + Invert tank? Current substrate is a thin layer of crushed coral. Will there be an ammonia or nitrate spike if I replace all at once?  Thank you for a wonderful column! Scott >> Likely there will be some problems... but these can be minimized by doing a bit of work: After collecting the new sand, screening/sifting it with two grades of material: one larger the lower smaller... to yield all about the same grain size... and then thoroughly checking through the sand for "tramp" metal and other contaminants... sort of like sieving through a natural dried bean product to look for sticks, stones... And then placing the sand where it will be used, without livestock present and curing it by running your filtration and checking aspects of nitrogen cycling...  There are many specifics left out here for brevity... questions, concerns, suggestions... please write back. Bob Fenner

Which one? Hi Bob, Just wanted to say thanks for all your advice. I'm going with Turboflotor. I read your book and I'm following your recommendations. You didn't get into the Live sand bed issue as deeply as I would have liked. This is my next decision to make.  <Please tell me you're either a book publisher or an eccentric millionaire! I have "The Conscientious Reef Aquarist", "The Best Livestock for Your Reef Aquarium".... and a few other titles "done"... but no one else to help at this point... The book you're referring to is CMA no doubt... It was finished in late 95... remember that century? And the live sand issue then was... tiny?> Depth of LS Do you have any experience with the Jaubert method? I really don't want to use this method, for the simple reason that it make the tank look lousy!! You see about 5 inches of substrate on the bottom of the tank. Will 2-3 inches of sand provide you with the same effect? Does the bio-load you have make one method better than the other? What type (size) substrate would you recommend? I love the look of fine sand. But is this a detriment to the tank's filtration? Maintenance? Inhabitants? <Yep. Two/three inches of two, finer graded substrates will do enough good... almost as much as deeper beds. Bio-load does have an effect... if it's too great... you'll "pile up" nitrates more than if the load were smaller... The lower section (about two of the three inches) about 1/8" inch diameter, the upper 1" about 1/16"... with a screen between. Fine sand is fine... if not too deep, and the more consistent the grade, and more spherical, the better. Maintenance? I'm a stir and gravel vacuum proponent... one side of the tank every two weeks to a month.. just the upper bed... A drain underneath is nice to exit some of the plenum water once a month or two... and (here's the big groan part) taking the whole thing down and re-doing it every year or two... This is why I like to remote such NNR (natural nitrate reduction) systems to sumps... Bob Fenner Live Sand vs. CaribSea sand. With my first reef (unsuccessful, due to ME!) I had used the CaribSea reef grade aragonite. Put in 30 lbs of live rock, and within a few months had all kinds of worms and weird stuff crawling through the sand. Was this "Live Sand"? Would a few pounds of live sand be a good idea to get important critters in the rest of the sand bed? I installed a plenum after six months with the tank running fine (I got caught up in all the plenum hype) . After six more months, I was getting the same readings as I had before. It seemed like a waste of time installing the plenum, and I ended up with an unattractive tank (thick sand layer). Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Tony Revinski  >> I am going to setup a 6' x 2' x 20 " (150g) aquarium with 170 pounds Fiji live rock and about 200 pounds Fiji live sand for a fish only (probably convert to reef in couple of years). Should I place both rock and sand in the aquarium the same day? If so, should I put rock in first or the sand? Are my quantities for both okay or should I modify them? Thank you for any recommendations you may have. Lex >> Hmm, well, the sand goes in first in my opinion... and practically in most everyone else's... And/but I myself would not buy much live sand or any at all... unless I really liked the looks of the imported material... instead, I'd just let the live rock seed the sand... this will happen... and results in about the same effect functionally... as much of the desirable life in imported "live sand" is actually "made" this way... You can place the live rock on top of the sand, live at the get go or not, on the same day. Bob Fenner

Live Sand Hi Bob, Two weeks ago I got a shipment of your live rock, very happy with this purchase since it was my first. The system that I have started is a 33 gallon long ( 48 inch ) reef. I have forty pounds of the cured Fiji premium live rock in the tank now. How much live sand should I order to get a sufficient base. And should I mix the course at the bottom moving to medium and then topping off with fine. Also what is your take on adding reef rubble in with the course live sand. Regards, Louis >> Well, if it were me, I'd utilize the live rock to make my own live sand (this is how much of the "live sand" is made... even in the South Pacific... for shipping to the west). "Just" rinse and place the coarse (maybe #5, or, let's say 1/16" on up in diameter) material on the bottom, around your rock... and yes to the rubble if it suits your artistic eye, and nah to the fine(r) sand on top (this will/would just get mixed in anyway... and possibly cause problems later). Your "sterile" new sand will soon be "live" in a few weeks from "recruits" from the live rock. Bob Fenner, who says, there are occasions, types of systems that can/do benefit from "purchased" live sand, but most folks can do very well by the above method.

Burrowing Baby Brittles << I am attempting to increase my sandbed from 2 1/2" to 4". I have some
baby brittle stars and other goodies in my current sand bed. Do I need to worry about burying them too deep if I add the new sand all at once? Do I have to add the new sand in stages? I would rather do it all at once, but I fear I will bury much of my live detritivores by adding all of the sand at once. >> Good question... I share your concern. If it were me, I would add the sand (washed) a bit at a time (like ten pounds, or a gallon or so) each water change... There's much to be gained by going slower here... and nothing to be lost by taking your time. Bob Fenner

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