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FAQs about Marine Substrate Selection 3

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

Related FAQs: Marine Substrate Selection 1, Marine Substrate Selection 2, & Marine Substrates 1, Marine Substrates 2, Marine Substrates 3, Marine Substrates 4, Marine Substrates 5, Marine Substrates 6, Marine Substrates 7, Marine Substrates 8,Marine Substrates 9, Rationale, Reef  Substrates, Cleaning, Replacing/Adding To, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Live Sand, Mud Filtration 1Biofiltration, Nitrates, Sand Sifters, AquascapingCalcium, FAQs 1

Remember... you're not just choosing for yourself. Cirrhitichthys aprinus Cuvier 1829), the Blotched Hawkfish.

Mar. substrate sel.        4/21/16
Greetings! Thank you for time!
I'm upgrading from a 30gal to a 108gal, and am in the process of selecting the substrate. I really liked the CaribSea Tahitian Moon. My understanding is that it does not offer buffering capabilities, so I intend to mix it with their Hawaiian Black Arag-Alive in equal portions. This Tahitian Moon sand is shipped both dry and according to them suitable for marine aquariums, which I presume would need to be rinsed; and they also ship it in freshwater, with freshwater bacteria. How detrimental is the freshwater bacteria to a saltwater aquarium?
<Not at all>
Will the bacteria die off and cause ammonia spikes as it cycles?
<Will die off; not significant NH3/NH4OH contributors... very little biomass>
I've read elsewhere that the bacteria is very similar and wont necessarily die. What's your take? Thank you for your
<You can/could always write CaribSea and inquire directly. Naught to worry re. Bob Fenner>

Thank you - you guys are amazing.
<Welcome JC, B>

marine white sand       2/4/13
Hi Bob are you familiar with natures ocean marine white sand?
<Yes. Is aragonitic:
very pretty, have half of that in my tank, but looking back I am not sure whether or not this is silicate based...and if it is silicate, is having this mixed 50 50 with sugar aragonite a safe mix?
As I add more sand , (currently have 2-3 inches total now) I can add pure aragonite.
<Real good. B>
RE: marine white sand    2/4/14
Excellent, so it is aragonite based. I was worried, for it doesn't directly
say it on bag like carib sea does.
<... you could have searched...>
Secondly, when determing turnover rate of tank, do you calculate all moving
water, sump and tank, or just tank.
For example, If I have a 2000 gph pump, (say after head pressure) but the
pump is t'd off and half goes to protein skimmer. Is the turnover rate
still 2000, since that is still the water being pumped around and
oxygenated, or is it 1000, because that is all the water the tank is
directly receiving back?
Re: marine white sand      2/5/14

Hey Bob,
I had asked you about the sane "Natures Ocean Marine Based Sand" yesterday whether or not it was silica based or aragonite. And from what you searched and found, you said it was arag. Well before I had asked you, I emailed the
company asking them what it was. I received a response last night from natures ocean, and the woman stated it was in fact silica based.
<Strange... as some sites on the Net stated otherwise. Thank you for this correction>
With that said, and if it is true, I have roughly 30 lbs of this particular sand, with 70 lbs carbib sea aragonite.
Is this a safe combination, or is the silica dangerous. I know it doesn't have buffering capabilities, but I am thinking since I have predominantly aragonite, it may still be ok. What do you think?
<The Si02 is not "dangerous", but not of much use... see WWM re... lack of surface area, solubility of useful mat.s B>

expired live sand     11/24/13
I am setting up a new 36 gal tank with 26 gal refugium. Long ago I bought a lot of CaribSea Caribbean aragonite live sand that now has an expiry date of 3/2011.
The packages have never been opened.  I know the live part is long gone but is it possible "unfriendly" bacteria has grown in there? Would you recommend using it?
<I would use it; and not worry; nothing has grown on/in it that is harmful>
Thank you
Gai Burnett
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Bay/Estuary Invertebrates- substrate issues    11/19/13
I'm currently in the "planning stage" of my next tank- a 20 gallon biotope modeled on San Diego/Mission Bay.
<I live in the town; have collected here>
 Among others, I'd like to keep some ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis).  In the wild they dig interconnected burrows up to 3ft deep, however I understand this is a function of living intertidally (they can go to the bottom of the burrow and then into deeper water when the tide drops).  I intend on giving them 8-10" of substrate, however their natural substrate is a mix of very fine sand, silt, and mud, much of which is anaerobic. 
<Yes; folks used to collect this animal in/about the channel at OB...>
My question is this- how would I provide such a deep, fine substrate without causing water quality issues related to anaerobic decomposition?
<Mmm, not much; given it's collected naturally; and you take the time to siphon off, replace, recant... till the bit of upper water is more or less clear. You may want to fashion some sort of faux tunnel, channels so you can see the life here>
The uppermost level of the substrate would be well oxygenated from the other inverts (local Nassarius and Cerith snails) and the shrimp burrows would allow water to travel to the bottom of the substrate but I worry about sulfide buildup in this system.
<Mmm, I wouldn't... what are your plans for circulation, filtration?>
 If it helps, my planned substrate is going to be 50% natural silt/mud from the bay (to seed the naturally occurring microfauna) and 50% of the finest grained aragonite sand (I know it deviates from the biotope, but the buffering capacity is a plus and I think that going 100% natural substrate would guarantee problems from anaerobic decomp given the high levels of organic matter present).
If the shrimp habitat proves to be impractical, I'm just going to do a 3-4" substrate and leave the shrimp out of the tank.  Thank you in advance for any insights you can give on this topic.
< Can be done... I'd go ahead w/ your present plan. Bob Fenner>

Aragonite Sand in Virginia Beach 6/12/12
Had no luck at my local hardware stores locating sand, went to a neighborhood weed & feed (Virginia Beach feed & seed) They were out of stock but according to catalog it is silica free and from the Caribbean
So I placed an order for a 100lbs for $12.58 it should be in Thursday Will let you guys know the outcome of the vinegar test
<Sounds good.  James (Salty Dog)> 

Tying in a macro tank. Substrate sel.  1/7/12
First off...thanks for all the wonderful advice. Even though I have never posted a question myself, I have always been able to find an answer here.
I have a 175 gallon display mixed reef. I use two 70 gallon Rubbermaid stock tanks as sumps.
<Great for this ap.>
 I have plumbed in a 58 gallon tall RR aquarium I want to grow macros in for display as well as for the obvious benefit. My real question is about the substrate. I have plenty of clean used fine grain sand I can use as well as mineral mud. I do want grow some rooted macros. So here come the questions.
Is a mix of mud and fine sand a good substrate for me?
What would be a good ratio of mud to sand?
<3 to 4 sand to one portion of mud or so... enough to keep the mud "down">
Would I literally mix this together or layer these?
<Mix the two for the bottom layer, place just sand on top>
How deep should this substrate be?
<As deep as you can make it really... a few to several inches>
Is used sand ok, or should I start with new sand?
<Used is fine>
Do you see any challenges overall with tying a macro tank in with my reef tank?
<Perhaps some initial excess nutrient issue/s w/ the start up... but nothing long term>
Thanks again for the advice
<Just stating what I'd do given the same circumstances, opportunity Chris.
Bob Fenner>

Re: Was "Ideal" size for specimens to be shipped, Now mostly substrate sel.    1/6/12
Hey Bob (and Crew),
I do like diving (although I am green at it), and I do hope to meet you someday. Are you speaking in Michigan anytime soon?
<Not scheduled>
 How about MACNA 2012? Where will it be?
<Yes; in DFW, TX: http://www.dfwmacna.com/
will be a very nice time; educational and fun>
Anyway, I already ran my stocking plan by you. Here's a refresher. I just bought 125 gallon 72"x18"x21"  that is a FOWLR in the works. I already ordered and received my fish from Liveaquaria.com. They arrived in fantastic condition and are all eating. They are in quarantined 3 to a tank in 29 gallon tanks with 20-30 lbs of established live rock per tank.
Testing daily...no detectable ammonia or nitrite. This weekend I will be filling the new 125 gallon and placing the rest of the established Liverock and new substrate. I'm not anticipating much of a cycle as the live rock I have has been in an established system for 3 or so years. After 3-4 weeks I plan to move all of my livestock (as long as they are healthy) and their live rock into the 125 gallon. My fish list: 2" Picasso Trigger (cute as hell), 1.5" Papuan Toby Puffer (also cute as hell), 2.5" Flame Hawkfish, .5" Yellow Wrasse -Halichoeres chrysus (could this get eaten by the Flame Hawk?),
<Mmm, hopefully not... Perhaps best to grow it up a bit... to 1.5 plus inches in the 29 before moving>
 3" Vrolik's Wrasse, 2.5" Exquisite Fairy Wrasse, a Two Barred Rabbitfish (out of stock when they shipped, unfortunately, so I hope he will ship in the next two weeks), and a pair of Maroon Clowns who initiated this tank upgrade, the female being about 2". I plan to raise the fish together...no other additions. In fact, reading my fish list makes me think that maybe a wrasse or two should go into one of my other systems because I don't want to be overstocked when the fish reach their adult size.
<What you list should be fine together>
My reason for writing is mostly in regards to the substrate for the FOWLR.
I am a believer in deep sand beds...4"-6" sugar-sized sand in my display.
It works for me as I have a 180 gallon reef and a 90 gallon anemone reef tank running, lightly to medium stocked compared to most aquarists, with probably about 3/4 lb of live rock per gallon, only 10% water change per month, non-skimmed ( I know, slap me), reverse lit refugium with Chaeto and rubble, and NO DETECTABLE NITRATES. The systems are not fancy, but they work with a minimal amount of maintenance, in my opinion due to the deep sand bed, live rock, refugium, and relatively light stocking level, and the fish seem happy and healthy. However, I'm new to the FOWLR, semi-aggressive scene, and I've read much about appropriate systems, yet I question what would be best in regards to substrate.
<Really the same as your other systems>
I get the overall impression from reading the FAQ's that it's a matter of aesthetics, but I believe it is more than that. I have to say that I had my mind set on black substrate. I researched black aragonite sand knowing that I wanted aragonite for it buffering capability and ended up ordering 240lbs of Arag-Alive Hawaiian Black. I was thinking I'd be able to do a deep sand bed with this, but upon delivery, I realized that the particle sizes might be too large (advertised as .1-3mm, but it just looks like the cheap freshwater aquarium gravel to me). Frankly, I don't like the way it looks, and I'm concerned that it will trap detritus. As I see it, here are my choices:
1. Skip the deep sand bed and put 1" or less of the Hawaiian Black in the display. Vacuum it regularly and expect that it won't help in keeping my nitrates in check. I hate vacuuming gravel, by the way, and I wonder if my wrasses would be able to burrow into such large "gravel."
<Not really... and this material tends to be much sharper/angular than small diameter coral sands>
Perhaps employ a fluidized bed filter or DSB in my refugium, but the refugium portion of my sump is only 14"x12", so I don't believe that would be enough.
<Would go a long way...>
2. Pay the shipping to return it. Would the Indo-Pacific black (.2-2mm) or Nature's Ocean Black Beach Reef Sand (.5-1.55mm)  be appropriate for a deep sand bed in the display and keep the wrasses happy?
<Mmm, again; not really as much as rounder, softer (white) coral sands>
The Indo-Pacific is not completely black, but has grown on me. If the Indo-Pacific or Black Beach Reef Sand is not suitable for a deep sand bed, what aragonite based mostly black product would work?
<None IME>
3. Mix the Hawaiian Black with some other smaller particle sand.
<I wouldn't do this. Not functional, nor appealing in appearance to me>
4. Return Hawaiian Black and go "bare bottom"...haha. I'm not sure I'd like that aesthetically...in the aquarium, of course, and I don't think the wrasses would like it at all as they like to burrow in the sand, from what I've read. It doesn't seem like it would be a comfortable place to burrow.
However, with the messy eaters and lack of cleanup crew due to the trigger and the puffer, is bare bottom the best choice?
I could place the wrasses in one of my other systems.
<Yes... or could place a tray... glass, plastic... of fine substrate for their use... in a corner here>
5. I read in one of the threads about growing GSP, Xenia, mushrooms...other aquarium "weeds" on the aquarium floor. Would this even be possible with the trigger and puffer?
<They will almost certainly sample these organisms>
If so, would 4 T5's over the tank work to grow these corals/corallimorphs?
<Can... but this is a deep shaped tank if it's a standard 125>
 In this case, would I have to place the Wrasses in one of my other tanks, or perhaps, do 1/4 of the tank in sand, by creating a barrier with a piece of glass.
Summary question: Which substrate is best for a 120 gallon FOWLR with messy eaters such as a Picasso Trigger and a Toby Puffer for an aquarium naturalist who likes to employ mostly natural methods in reaching aquarium equilibrium?
<As stated; functionally fine coral sand... aesthetically? Up to you.
Cheers, BobF>

Crushed coral giving me a headache, 12/21/11
Hey guys / gals at WWM.  Firstly I'd like to thank you all for so selflessly devoting your time to help those in the hobby, its such a great and interesting resource I have trouble getting any work done! (I'm working now ha)
<What is this work thing you refer to?>
I have a 3 foot LPS tank for over a year now but I have a bit of an issue developing.  I would really appreciate some expert advice re my 1-2 inch crushed coral substrate. Unfortunately its gradually becoming more and more dirty looking (see att.), despite siphoning it weekly with water changes and stirring it up now and then. I'm afraid it is turning into a detritus sink.
<That is the problem with it.>
I'm wondering instead of removing it, could I just cover it with 2-3 inches of a sugar fine substrate like aragonite? Or is that like brushing rubbish under a rug?
<Pretty much, and the sand being more dense will eventually sink below the crushed coral so it really won't fix your problem.>
I'm concerned that in removing it there will be a collapse, as my rock and corals aren't glued (also attached) and also that the bacteria loss with the substrate may cause a nitrite spike. Unfortunately I can't go back in time (yet) so what you recommend? Cover it up or replace it completely?
<Replace unfortunately, otherwise you will just have more problems.  Long term replacing it will be less work, but it won't be fun to replace.>

Sediment for Marine Tank   6/25/11
<Hi there John>
I recently read an article in http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ about what types of sediment to use in my 100 gallon fish tank but I still have some questions:
Before I ask here is my tank. Its 100 gallons filled with really cool contraptions (Protein skimmer, chiller, UV sterilizer, Biofilter with bio-balls, etc) and it is housing my Blue crab and Atlantic horseshoe crab (obtained legally). However, I recently read that the quartz rocks I used as a sediment were making the water too acidic and therefore had to remove them.
So here is my question: I decided that the best substrate to get is live sand because the microbes that will live in them will help feed my crabs and buffer the water. I was told to get live sand that had calcium carbonate in it and dolomite.
<I'd skip this last... too hard to keep clean, not as water soluble... for what you're hoping to do/keep>
I went to Home Depot and all they had was play sand for sand boxes that have Silicas and quartz.
<Don't use this>
Where can I buy a bag or two of dolomite or live sand with calcium carbonates?
<"Fish stores", as in tropicals... pet stores that retail aquarium gear...>
Would crushed coral be acceptable too even though I don't have any other animals in the tank?
<Better for this material to be fine. See WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/hshoesys.htm
What companies would you recommend?
Thanks for your info.
-Mr. Cassell

white sand bed. Mixed substrate choices, SW    6/16/11
Hi crew,
I will be getting my new tank in a couple of days 6ft(L)x3ft(H)x2.5ft(W). I am planning to use CaribSea Aragamax Sugar Sized white sand to cover the bottom of the tank. Due to the size I will need quite a bit of the sand. I wonder if I can first use the crushed coral in my old tank to cover a little of the bottom and then top of with the white sand?
<I wouldn't do this... it will all end up mixed together, and I don't think you'll like the look... and hard to change>
// ragu
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: white sand bed    6/16/11
Bob, thank you for your response. I was reading through the articles/FAQs on sand beds but I am still not too clear. Some parts of it says need to use 3 to 4 inch and some FAQs say under 1inch?
<Mmm, well, actually one or the other... That is, better to have less or more, but not in-between>
What would be the difference? Is it sufficient to just use 1 inch of the white sand?
<Yes... though functionally, having some area/part of systems as DSBs is of value>
My system will be mostly FOWLR with some corals.
<Keep reading for now is my advice. Start here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm
and the linked files above. BobF>
// ragu

Was using Black Sand a bad idea?   1/30/11
We set up at 125 gallon saltwater aquarium last March (2010). We opted to use Black Sand over the white (I believe it was the Carib Sea Tahitian Moon). I have since been told, and have found others that have had issues with the black sand causing algae out breaks. This, apparently, is related to an increase in iron in the water column.
<Mmm, this and a dearth of substrate-provided/augmented Alkalinity and biomineral addition>
I had similar algae problems with one of my smaller tanks that had white sand. So, I am not sure what the issue is.
When I checked the chemicals, everything was with in limits. I didn't however check the phosphate. We did notice, however, that particles of the sand were actually sticking to the magnet for the powerhead. I had transferred my best live rock from my other tank (67g), and bought three other large pieces. We transferred the fish from the 90g, and the 67g over to the 125g, after acclimating them (or at least the ones I wanted to keep.) So, we presently have 1 pajama cardinal, 1 yellow tang (Zebrasoma family)<genus>, 2 blue green reef chromis, 1 six line wrasse, 1 Hawaiian flame angel, in addition to the CUC (blue legs, scarlet reef hermits, and two skunk cleaners, and new addition of 4 Mexican Turbo snails). We also have some very thriving red-hammer and frogspawns corals.
<Mmm, these could be a source of trouble. Do read here:
The algae is the very filamentous types. Looks like spinach when you pull it out.
<And here: http://wetwebmedia.com/grnalgcont7.htm
and the linked files in the series above... till you understand your options>
I have opted to hire an aquarium service to try to resolve this.
<Mmm, better by far for you to understand what is going on here... w/ or
w/o their help>
Trying to maintain the 125g by myself is pretty hard, put hopefully, we can get it back on track. He was thinking that we MIGHT have to look at siphoning all of the sand out, and putting in white sand.
<Perhaps... the mat.s mentioned above can be supplied otherwise>
I probably have 80 or more pounds of live rock. I can't even pick up the pieces, my husband had to do that. We have double overflows, going down to custom made sump with two 4" inch filter socks, then to a bubble chamber, and across a refugium (which just got thinned out, and is housing an Ocellaris clownfish on a permanent time out for rough housing a Starry Blenny - It was my 9 year old's decision to keep the Starry Blenny, so for now the clown stays in the refugium until the other tank cycles), and back up through a return pump. I'm thinking filtration isn't the issue here, but something else. Oh yes, lighting are T5's, staged for actinics on @ 11; 10K on at 12, actinics off at 6, and 10K off at 7pm.. If I remember the program correctly. We also have blue LED moonlights.
<Sounds good>
Have you heard of black sand causing iron issues?
<Mmm, yes. Do note though that Fe ions are a macro-element/nutrient, essential in marine systems>
The fish, corals, CUC, and the Ricordea are doing fine. In fact, all of the mushrooms have multiplied.
I may be repeating myself, I thinking my son's ADHD is rubbing off on me, but was the black sand a mistake?
<Not necessarily, no>
Should it be replaced, or maybe take a what and see, and get some more aggressive algae eaters? (or larger quantities of them).
<I'd read for now>
(4 tanks total, yes, I am insane, but I can't get rid of them. I would feel really guilty if I sold my kids tanks, which are a 14G & 29G Biocube, while I keep my 29G and the BIG tank)
Thanks in advance!
Patty Benoff
<Welcome Patty! Do write back re your stance, plans after reading. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Was using Black Sand a bad idea?   1/31/11
I think I forgot to mention that there is a protein skimmer on this 125 gallon system, I can't remember the brand, as it came with the 90 gallon that I have bought in July 2009, along with the red hammer and frogspawn that were actually growing next to each other.
<Likely duking it out chemically, physically... Have you read on WWM re Euphylliid/Caryophylliid compatibility?>
I had dropped the feeding down to twice a week using granules. I am using Fish & Reef 2. Unfortunately, access to Live Brine is limited. My LFS closed, and the other one, well, let's just say he has red slime in his tanks when I walk in. I have been in there a total of three of four times in three years.
I do have some GFO over the filter socks.
<For removing HPO4? Why?>
Circulation does go through a chiller, so the temperate is maintained between 73 and 77. The tank does have a wooden top, where a rectangle was cut for the light fixture. Other fixtures would have been too close to the water. The back of the stand is open and approximate 3-4 inches away from the wall. The circulation with in the tank includes the return pump QuiteOne 2200 gph with 4 nozzle, plus 4 Maxi Jets 1200 (two across the back, two across the front), and we just added a Seio M1200 for additional current front to back current.
Reading about the CO2 was interesting, I don't recall seeing a C02 test kit anywhere locally. I will have to search for one online.
<Mmm, generally not an issue... is typically easily monitored as part of pH>
This is where I have to admit that I have not been the best at doing water changes. But all the tanks have water changes at the same time. So, I don't understand why this one would have more algae than the others. It has a DSB just like my daughter's 29G.
<Oh? In a tied-in sump?>
The cartridges in the RO/DI system are only six months old, and their is no discoloration on the cartridge. TDS meter shows 0 PPM. I have tested the RO/DI water before and have come up with .25 ammonia. The LFS did the same thing, and had the same results. This was when I had my first tank set up. It was then that we realized that the City had additives in the water, but the .25 would go down to 0 within two days. My saltwater mixes overnight using a Mag 7 pump. (Noisy, noisy, noisy, but really great for mixing).
Back to the algae, we (the kids and I) picked up a Lawnmower Blenny yesterday, which will hopefully provide some additional help to get rid of the existing/remaining algae. This is a shot of the right side of the tank.
<Mmm, really only consume certain types, species of algae>
and my attempt at getting a panoramic shot of the whole tank. Obviously, the tank is not over stocked. I have yet to add any additional corals to this tank. Only what I had when I bought the 90 gallon.
The mushrooms, have spread on the rock in the center of the left side of the tank. Really nice Ricordea, and some kind of decided to take a trip to the other side.
All of my test kits are API, with the exception of my Magnesium, which is from Red Sea. I really need to contact them for some large print instructions
<Do look on the Net re... easy to read there>
Thanks for all the help! Still curious about that black sand, though. But we will take a wait and see. In the meantime, I have a hunt and seek for a CO2 test kit.
<As long as you have reasonable biomineral content, in proportion and Alkalinity, from whatever source/s, I would not be concerned re the substrate choice here. BobF>

Mud Mix Or Sugar Sand/Chaetodon Feeding 1/17/11
<Hi Paul>
Refugium question... What is the best media to put in one.... Fine sugar sand 3" base or the Miracle Mud, Kent Marine Mud........ or 2" of mud with 1 " sugar sand on top. Do you have any other suggestions.... Just a fish only Marine tank. Also will the mud leave a hazy in the water as it seems easy to stir up?
<Personally I prefer Miracle Mud but either will work just fine. I've used the Miracle Mud in the past and I didn't experience hazy water, just need to shut the flow off until the residue settles and you should be fine.>
#2 Black Back Butterfly hard to keep. I see some on utube <You Tube> and they eat like crazy... all the ones I see in a store don't eat or look good. How do you get a good one if it is possible to keep these?
<If there were a top 10 list of best butterflies to keep, the Chaetodon melannotus would be one of them. You need to ensure the fish is eating and looks good before buying.>
I know you will probably say they are a hard fish to ship.... So if I want one do I just keep trying until I get one to live...
<as stated above>
I always ask the fish store to feed them, but they never eat... so I am just wondering how come I see so many on utube eating??
<That's funny, I did a You Tube search and I only came up with two videos and neither one showed them eating, basically just tank videos.
If you can find a healthy one eating at the store, then acclimation should not be too difficult. It's possible the store employee may have not been feeding foods to
it's liking. Best results acclimating to prepared foods comes from feeding a variety of frozen foods in small amounts several times daily. Once they begin eating they will gradually
accept most foods. Read here and the feeding FAQs found in the header.
Thank you for your help.
<You're welcome.>
Great site, good information even better reply emails....
<Thank you for your kind words. James (Salty Dog)>

Reusing sand and rock from dead system  12/13/10
Good evening and Happy Holidays to all,
<Good morning Rob and thank you!>
I have used the search option many times and have always found the information I have been looking for, until this time that is.
<Ok, no problem>
I'm sure it has been asked before though.
<Questions like it, yes>
I have a saltwater tank that has died. Basically the light fixture died and at the time I had no way of fixing or replacing it so all of my corals and fish were given to someone who could care for them properly. At
the time I had no intention of getting the system up and running again due to cost and my work/school schedule. In the time the water has about half evaporated raising the specific gravity to around 1.5.
My question is that now that I plan to establish the aquarium again, is it possible to reuse the rock and sand from the old system?
Since the specific gravity rose so high I did not know if the rock and sand would absorb the excess salt and leech it back into the new water.
<No, it will not do this to any appreciable amount. You will have plenty of time during the initial phases to get the parameters where they should be>
I understand that all life that was in the sand and rock will most likely be long dead
<Most yes, but you will be surprised what can, and often does, survive in extreme conditions>
and the system will need to be seeded with new sand and rock.
<Yes, this will be needed>
Also the system will need to be cycled as if it was a brand new system before it can be stocked.
<Yes, although you will have some beneficial populations of bacteria there, and this might take less time than you think>
Am I able to rinse the rock and sand with either salt or fresh water to be able to utilize it again?
<Yes, perhaps getting the tank as it is to the correct temp & salinity and going through a curing process as if you are curing live rock. Search on WWM re, and test regularly for nitrate/ phosphate. Utilise water changes, skim, run carbon, perhaps some iron based media if required. When all seems good, add your new live rock & sand>
Currently there is approximately one inch of sand in the system and I want to
add at least three more inches to make a deep sand bed.
<You could recure the system, temporarily remove most of the sand after, lay the new on the bottom with the old back on top all in one go here. Then seed with new live sand after>
Thank you and your entire crew for all you have done to further the hobby.
<No problem>
Without your excellent site I would have made many mistakes over the years.
<Heee! Ive made many mistakes myself even WITH such direction! Such is life Simon>

Lake sand safe? - FW Lake sand for SWS Aquarium - No. 11/18/2010
Hello again,
<Hi Sonya.>
I have a quick question. I've been searching for literally hours to find an answer and I am lost!
<Lets see if we can find you.>
I would like to know if it's safe to use sand from Lake Erie for a new 300 gal salt water tank?
<Not recommended.>
Of course I would filter it and rise it first, even bleach it or what ever would be needed. I'm not in a huge rush(not that you can be in this hobby!) I just can't seem to find what minerals are in lake sand.
<They are mostly silica based sands and would likely become too compacted for use as a deep sand bed. It is also very likely that any sand on your local beach is contaminated with fuel, pesticides, and other things that will not readily wash off >
I want to do a deep sand bed in this tank as well and I wasn't really keen on the idea of spending thousands on sand and then again on rock.
<Do check around with local fish stores, many times, you can get discounts on bulk orders of sand.>
I already have several other tanks I can seed the new tank with I just want to make sure there wouldn't be anything harmful in the short or long term.
I know play sand is quartz/silica and that would cause problems with the balance in the tank wouldn't it?
<It compacts, defeating the purpose of a deep sand bed. It will also leech silicates into the tank, causing a massive diatom bloom.>
It just seems so convenient since I am only a few block away from beach!
<For what it is worth, I live a mile from the Atlantic and I can't use sand from my beach either, mostly for the same reasons.>
As always thanks again for all your help!
<My pleasure>

Re: Lake sand safe? - FW Lake sand for SW Aquarium - No. 11/18/2010
Hi Mike,
<Hi Sonya>
Thanks for the quick reply! We also have a ton of Limestone here. Would it be possible to use pure Limestone sand?
<As long as it was washed and soaked, most certainly.>
I'll be having some coral in the tank and maybe put in some Halimeda to help absorb the additional calcium carbonate if that's needed
<Calcium in carbonate form isn't readily available for use by corals. It does, however, act as an excellent buffer.>
Do you know what's the major difference between Aragonite sand and Limestone sand's calcium carbonate makeup?
<Regular limestone usually has more calcite, which is another form of calcium carbonate. Chemically, they are identical.>
1 ton of Limestone sand is only $20!! If that's usable that would be kind of nice!
<It is usable, again, just make sure it is washed well before adding livestock.>
Thanks again!!
<My pleasure>

Sugar Fine Sand Blowing Everywhere/Water Flow 11/16/10
Greetings WWM crew and once again thanks for listening.
<Hello Karl>
I have created a somewhat "unique" situation and would really appreciate some advice. I have been cycling a Red Sea Max 250L (66G) with the requisite amount of live rock for 4 weeks now, all going well. I had planned to go with a shallow sand bed and had purchased some sugar fine sand for this purpose. In my research I had come across a couple of recommendations to delay adding the sand, this would avoid
discoloration of the sand due to algal blooms during cycling.
<I would have added the sand and minimized the photoperiod during cycling.
Was the live rock cured?>
So I did not add the sand until this past weekend, enough to provide a depth of 1.5- 2.0". As you
can well imagine the sand really clouded up the tank and the fine partculates has covered the rock, etc., etc.
<Did you wash/clean the sand before placing?>
This in itself is not that much of an issue as it will clear with time, the larger problem is that the stronger powerhead
<What is the gph of this "stronger powerhead"?>
in this tank is blowing this fine sand around to the point that on the left-hand side of the tank the bottom stays bare, and the fine sand will not stay in position at all in many areas. So what to do now? It is clear that I would need a substrate with larger particle size to avoid it being "pushed" around so much.
I was thinking of removing 50% of the sugar-fine sand and adding some coarser material.......does that sound right and what would you recommend adding?
<Would have helped to know your total flow rate, but I'd try directing the power head slightly
toward the surface and see if that doesn't calm things down. This is a common problem using standard
laminar flow power heads where the flow is one directional. A better way to go would be with a
random flow or propeller type powerhead where the water is discharged at a much higher angle, both horizontal and vertical and offers infinite adjustment of the return. The Tunze Nano Stream 6015 would be a good choice for your system. Take a look here.
Another option would be to install a mini ball valve on your present power head similar to the one shown here.
This will allow you to adjust the flow to a point where sand isn't being kicked up.>
Also do you think I should be switching my plan to a deep sand bed after all?
<Is up to you, but deep sand beds will require plenty of micro fauna to
keep it clean.
Have a read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm>
I thought I would go with a shallow bed for cosmetic purposes and siphon/clean it regularly but now I am questioning my whole plan, your thoughts there would be appreciated.
<I'd keep what you have, much easier to maintain, but that's just my opinion.>
Also do you think this whole episode with the sandstorm will mess up the cycling ?
I am not new to this hobby and thought I had pretty much come across most problems until I created yet another one --- should have known better. Thanks for your help as always it is very much appreciated.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Marble as a Substrate 6/15/10
I have heard many different opinions on substrate for fish only saltwater aquariums. I was sold a 1.5mm marble sand. Is this suitable or not?
<It is suitable. Bob has a great article about substrates, mentioning marble here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm >
The retailer I bought it from uses it in their saltwater fish only tanks, but other more reputable dealers have said don't use it.
<Aragonite is the best choice. Maybe they want you to use that? It costs more.>
Who is right and what should I do? I am in the initial stages of setting up a saltwater tank. My tank is 120 x 16 x 20, approx 220 litres.
<The store you purchased the sand from was right, it is suitable for a marine FOWLR. The other store is wrong in saying not to use it. A better statement for them would be, you can use the marble sand, but aragonite sand will buffer your pH more. Like always, just keep an eye on your pH. Add buffers if it drops.>
Please help! I have been sold two other lots of totally unsuitable substrate, have wasted more than 500 litres of water already, cleaned my tank twice, and I am ready to toss the tank!!
<If you want to avoid this same situation happening again and again I'd recommend reading before you buy. Sadly, retailers don't always have up to date information.>
Many thanks, Dee Barile
<Hope this helps, Scott T.> 

Oolitic Aragonite 4/16/10
<Hello Ann>
I am not sure if I am addressing my query to the correct email address but I had Anthony Calfo in mind.
<No longer with us.>
My son is building an institutional marine tank in Pennsylvania and he asks where is there in Pennsylvania a good source to purchase live rock & fish.
This would be a mail order.
<Might try Premium Aquatics located in Indiana. They are reasonable. Go here.
Do you also know of a cheap source of dry oolitic aragonite sand the size of sugar?
<Try same site, may want to Google.>
<Cheers, James (Salty Dog)>
Oolitic Aragonite 4/16/10
<Hi Ann>
Thank you James, I appreciate your quick response and will do what you suggest.
<Yes, do take a look. They are good people to work with, shop there all the time.
James (Salty Dog)>

Reptile calcium carbonate sand in a reef tank.   2/7/10
<Hi there Will>
Just a quick question. I am building a small pico reef tank, I was wondering if reptile calcium carbonate sand (like this
tid=6502> &pcatid=6502) was safe to use in a reef tank?
<Mmm, likely so... the ad states this product is "100% CaCO3"... but, there are a few "types" of calcium carbonate... some more soluble, shaped, sized that are of more utility.>
I have been looking for black sand, and have only been able to find large overpriced bags of black sand that are labeled for marine tanks. And I only need about 5 pounds to cover the bottom of the tank.
Tanks for any help,
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm
and the linked files above where you lead yourself. I would be selecting a finer, Aragonitic/coral sand myself. Bob Fenner>

Live sand... SW substrate sel.   9-12-09
Hi - I have a pretty simple question for u
marine geniuses but believe it or not its confusing to me. I just put down a 4" inch bed of oolitic size aragonite sand in my new marine tank. I'm wondering if the water circulation is going to blow this sand all over the place. Should I add a 1/4" layer of 1-2 mm sand on top of the oolitic sand.
I'm trying to encourage small crustacean life for pipefish and dragonets.
<Much depends on the orientation of the discharges of your circulating mechanisms (pumps, powerheads...). I'd wait and see>
Will the oolitic sand be just fine as far as water flow is concerned? I like the look of the finer sand but I was wondering what your experience has been regarding this matter.
Thank you very much!
<Please learn to/use a spellchecker.... Again, I wouldn't mix other substrate on top (it won't stay there anyway). Bob Fenner>

Re: live sand, subst. sel. f'  9/13/09
Hi Bob,
Thank you for your reply. I do apologize for the grammar, or lack there of.
<No worries>
I'm going to add another inch of the oolitic sand ( 5 inches total ) and be done with it. It seems that my best bet would be to aim all powerheads in an upward manner and toward each other. Does this sound optimal?
<It does to me! Would also like to mention that such fine sand does generally "settle down" with time, soaking. BobF>
re: live sand
Thank you Bob. Have a great weekend!
<And you Sal. B>

Substrate Follow-Up Questions 8/26/2009
Hey Crew,
Bob recently gave me some great advice on using hyposalinity to battle ich. The 6 week treatment period ends this week and I'll be gradually raising the salinity back to normal over the course of the following week. So far, all fish except one are doing great. My mystery wrasse disappeared the day after I emailed Bob about it. Turned up dead on the bottom a few weeks later. He looked good, except for the dead part, so it had to be the hyposalinity. We were sad, but I was happy to see that everyone else adapted beautifully.
I had been keeping my sand bed at around 2" for the wrasse.
<Not deep enough for this purpose>
But as I learned from a previous response from Sara M., that depth is more trouble than it's worth. So, without the wrasse, I'm debating whether to go shallow (< 1/2") or to go with a DSB (about 4").
<I'd go the latter route myself>
I was intrigued by some FAQs answered by EricR which indicated that he has maintained sand beds of varying depths without vacuuming, but there wasn't much information on what he did to avoid it, since most other advice recommends vacuuming.
Just to recap, I have a 220g FOWLER with fuge, 300lbs LR and AquaC EV-240 skimmer. I'm in the process of installing an Ozotech 300mg Ozonizer.
Circulation in the display is about 6000gph, including the overflow returns and four Koralia 4's. I do 10% water changes weekly.
My current and planned fish include B/Fs, Dwarf Angels, Tangs, a pair of clowns and a variety of predators (Dwarf Lion, Comet, Blue-Spot Puffer, Longnose Hawk).
Sara previously gave me some great pointers on going to a DSB (i.e., sugar fine sand, well populated with critters from seeder kits, good circulation, Nassarius and Cerith snails, possibly a fighting conch).
We didn't specifically talk about vacuuming, and I couldn't find anything in Shimek's works that addressed it. What else might help to avoid or minimize the need for vacuuming?
<Mmm, there are a few things, approaches. Read here:
and the linked files above...>
Would some cucumbers be good?
<Not IMO>
Is my 6000gph circulation sufficient?
<Should be>
Do I need to evict the Lion because he's a messy eater with a lot of waste?
My puffer likes to eat snails, so are the Nassarius and Cerith "necessary" to avoid vacuuming?
<Again, not necessarily>
If so, I might choose to evict the puffer. Alternatively, would a big wrasse like a Coris gaimard help to avoid vacuuming by stirring the sand up in the absence of the snails, or would it just make matters worse by eating critters in the sand?
<A bit of both... the real world/universe is not so "westernish" discrete>
I hadn't noticed the Lion or the Comet eating Nassarius and Cerith snails, but could that be a risk as they get older?
<Small probability>
Since my current gravel is "medium" sized, should I replace it or just gradually mix in new sugar fine (along with some seeder kits)?
<Up to you... read on...>
Lastly, both of the local fish stores in the area that seem to have knowledgeable staff strongly advice against DSBs in the main tank, because they've had so many cases where DSBs have become a problem.
<I prefer in many cases to remote them/DSBs to sumps, refugiums and such, but...>
That could be just because the DSBs were set-up incorrectly or not well populated, but are there any other risk factors that I should consider to avoid any future DSB problems in the main tank?
<Please learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM>
If I go shallow, obviously I'd skip the Coris. And there's no apparent need to change grain size. What else might help to avoid or minimize the need for vacuuming a shallow bed? Is my 6000gph circulation sufficient?
<... is this repetitious or what?>
I'm assuming that at less than 1/2" I wouldn't be able to use Nassarius or Cerith snails anyway, so I could keep the puffer, right?
Assuming that either depth could be made to work without vacuuming, which would be your recommendation? Note that I've never had an issue with nitrates with my setup, and the fuge likely provides enough critter food for my fish, so it really is mostly about long term ease of maintenance with minimal risk of future problems.
As always, thanks for the great advice.
<Keep reading. BobF>

Re Shelf Life For Mineral Mud/Substrates/Live Sand... now set up, maint. of same  8/6/09
Thank you, very much, for answering my question.
<You're welcome.>
I had read the article by the way.
Now, if I may ask another. In the article it says to stir your substrate and it also warns about packing from too much disparity in substrate granule size. I plan on fabricating (adding two Lexan dividers to a 29 gal tank) a three section refugium and using the mix of live sand, sugar fine sand and mineral mud to create a DSB of 10 to 12 cm in the middle and largest section. Will the mix of substrates cause any issues,
<They should be uniform in size otherwise the smaller particles will find their way to the bottom.>
will I need to stir it (I have read on your site that you shouldn't stir DSBs) and would a DSB of live sand (aragonite) <1mm be beneficial in the main tank? If the DSB in the main is not overly beneficial, how deep
should the substrate be? Leng Sy recommends <1 in. Is it, really, dangerous to go deeper, say 2 to 3 inches?
<Would be best to read here and related articles/FAQ's.
As far as livestock goes, I only have a Maroon Clown, Yellow Watchman Goby, Firefish, Starry Blenny, green BTA, 2 or 3 Peppermint Shrimp (only been seeing 2 lately), 4 Turbos, 6 to 8 Cerith, 6 to 8 Nassarius, about two dozen Blue Leg Hermits and I don't plan on adding anything but corals once everything is up and running well.
I know that was more than one question but it seems, for every question I find, or am given, the answer to, several more arise.
<Yes, and is best to search our site first before writing, as answers to your questions will usually be found here.>
Thanks again,
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Live rock under the sand  5/10/09
Hello crew.
I am step by step finally doing things the "right" way with my reef tank.
<Ah, good>
Obviously its been a very educational, time consuming and expensive road but its fun too and that makes it all worthwhile.
<We are in agreement>
Anyway, with my 125 long, I have graduated to the 5" DSB and plan on another inch I think.
I had a 3 inch bed for a year and have been dealing with quite a bit of Cyano lately despite my as prescribed 2 water changes a week of 5% a time.
I have a 30 gallon refugium with a 4" DSB and have bumped that up to about 7 now. Also I have a Euro Reef skimmer in the sump. Since I added these couple extra inches of sugar grain aragonite a few days ago, already I see a decline in the BGA.
It was an additional 90 lbs of sand. I have another 90 lbs on standby but I m not sure I want to add any more. It would be nice to leave some room for the fish to swim. I also have about 180 lbs of live rock in there. So you know.
<Mmm, I might suggest (so I'm doing so) that you look into other avenues to limit BGA... have you considered measuring RedOx, perhaps adding ozone...?>
I was wondering for the future, (thinking bigger tank down the road), can I bury some of my live rock under the sand and would it still be beneficial as a biological filter? Or would the buried part die off?
<Mostly die off... for the surface area, desires you may have (denitrification) the same volume of fine sand would be of more use>
I just thought it would create more swimming room to have some rock under the sand being the sand bed is on the rise. Or would the sand bed rise all the more due to displacement?
<Mmm... yes>
I think if a person wanted to have a 6-8" DSB as is regarded as a good way to go, and wanted adequate room for the fish to swim, I think a 6' 180 gallon would be better suited.
<Mmmm, yeah... I'm a bigger fan of remoting such purposeful beds to remoted/tied-in sumps/refugiums myself>
Obviously bigger is better, I just hate to short-change swimming room for the sake of denitrification.
<I agree>
I never would have guesses getting into this hobby that I would have needed that deep of a bed.
<Strictly speaking, you don't>
I know I could go with a sand-free bottom, but really, that's hardly realistic. Have you ever seen an ocean floor with a glass bottom?
<Not yet, no>
Not to mention that would call for extra denitrification measures I'm not up for.
<As alluded to above... there are other means of "fighting" nitrate et al.
metabolite accumulation, its deleterious effects (e.g. Cyano)...>
I have moved all of my rubble rock from my Chaetomorpha part of the fuge and put it into my skimmer area as well as the main return pump area of the sump I wanted to free up more space for the Chaetomorpha due to the increased DSB in that area. I have a foam sponge block over the return pump to catch any fragments from the rubble rock, but not on the skimmer pump because it is supposed to get raw unfiltered water. Right?
<Ehh! Not necessarily... I encourage you to get/use a couple of "socks" (Emperor Aquatics' are superior) to fit over the return/s going into the sump instead... and be religious re their mechanical cleaning (every few days let's say, rinsing it out, replacing with t'other)>
Is this new arrangement of
rubble rock ok or will this be a problem?
<I wouldn't do it personally>
I have lots and lots of teeny tiny amphipods scurrying all over the floor of the sand bed in the Chaeto area, so that's good. I also saw a "school" of them in my display proper on some rubble rock up against the glass. I'm just bragging now, but it's largely due to all of your peoples' help over the years.
<Mmm, no... tis to your credit>
One last thing, one of my cleaner shrimp has crawled over my overflow and into the whatchacallit. He's down in there crawling up and down the wall hanging out with the Nassarius snails that like to go in and out of there because they can. I'm assuming my shrimp will be just fine in there, it seems there's always something to scavenge on but will I need to rescue him or will he eventually walk back up and out of there?
<Mmm, maybe>
I'll stick my hand in there and he'll approach but backs off if I make a move to grab him.
Thanks for the input, always helpful.
<Again, please do skim, review on WWM re... BGA control, Nitrates and Phosphates... and O3 use... Nirvana is just a step away (forward, backward or to the side) here. Bob Fenner>

Very Coarse Substrate
<Stocking Level/Systems> 4/15/09

Hell again!
<Really, having a bad day?>
I just set up my 29 gallon BioCube and have a dwarf Hawkfish.
<Mmm, I'm guessing a Falco Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco).>
I plan on adding a valentini puffer and a yellow fuzzy dwarf lionfish. Right now I have 20 pounds of coarse substrate..broken shells and what not. After searching and reading for hours I've come to the conclusion that this substrate is horribly wrong considering the messy eaters I will be housing in my tank.
<Yes, and so is your tank size horribly wrong for these type of fish.>
I plan on putting 3 inch sand bed in place of the crushed shells. Couple questions concerning this.
Is it nesesary <necessary> taking out the crushed shells or can I <I> add the sand on top of the crushed shells? I personally don't think it would be a problem just adding the sand on top of the shells. Just looking for some more avice <advice>.
<Is best to go with the same particle size, you likely will have compacting issues. See here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm>
Also with the deep sand bed, what would you suggest I <I> use to shift the sand?
<Shift or sift?>
I was thinking a cucumber of some sort but not sure? Some say snails but I know that my puffer would eat em all up.
<Shouldn't, because the puffer should not be in that size tank, and is better to keep puffers in dedicated tanks.>
What other options do I have for substrate shifting creatures?
<None, with a puffer, but do look here.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Aragonite 3/9/9 Hi Guys <Hello Nemos janitor.> Hope you guys can help me find the answers I am looking for. But before we go there I must first add that I have in excess of 15 years reef keeping experience with about a total of 45 years in the fish keeping hobby. Just a little background so you understand my experience. My questions to the team are. How do I determine what products have or are Aragonite? <#1 Thats simple: Ask the producer. #2 Find out where the material comes from, what it is in terms of origin: older carbonate fossil materials are mostly calcite, younger materials (corals, shells) and younger precipitated rocks ("Tufa") are mostly aragonite. #3 More detailed analysis requires some knowledge in mineralogy, the crystals are quite typical, but youd need thin sections, a good microscope, some experience to be sure. #4 In addition, calcite has a smaller density (<2,8 t/m³), so if you can determine the exact (!) density (+- 0,05 t/m³) youll also be able to determine, which mineral you have in front of you.> Now I have done a little research on the subject and without going into detail have ascertained the following in simplified terms. 1) Aragonite is calcium carbonate (CaCO3) as is Calcite and they are polymorphs. <Yes.> 2) Aragonite will over time become Calcite. (Q for another date. Is there an in-betweens stage?) <Yes, in geological times of thousands, millions, 100s of millions of years. There are animals that can produce both minerals in their shells, geological units where only a part of the aragonite has turned into calcite, but the crystals themselves are either orthorhombic or trigonal.> 3) Aragonite has a Orthorhombic structure and calcite and Trigonal Structure. <Yes.> 4) The structure basically determines the hardness of the calcium carbonate or for its ability to increase the calcium content into the water chemistry at a reasonably high PH. <Yes, structure somewhat determines solubility, but solubility of both minerals is quite similar.> Is my understanding correct so far? <Yes.> I can go on providing cert's of various Calcium carbonate products mined throughout the world. All are meaningless to the layman/average reefer. Me included. Hence my inquisitiveness. From these Chemical analysis sheets how does one determine what is suitable for aquarium use. Most probably both. <It cannot be determined from analysis sheets alone in every case, only if the density is given.> But which are aragonite? If any. <Likely both below are calcite.> I submit 2 arbitrary Cert's for your consideration. Comments on if you were an aquarist what to look for. 1) http://www.sudeepgroup.com/calcium%20carbonate%20(hc)%2098%20%25_granular.pdf <No density given.> 2) The product here is The Juraperle. You will find it under downloads. http://www.eduard-merkle.de/ <This is calcite, I know the geology of the quarries of this company. They also give the density which confirms this is calcite.> There may well be articles covering the subject and I apologise intruding and taking your time. Please point me in the right direction. Your input would be appreciated. Many thanks Nemo's Janitor. <For use as aquarium substrate Id simply prefer (oolithic) younger aragonite sands due to their surface structure. For use in Calcium reactors it does not matter if the material is calcite or aragonite. Their solubility is quite similar (solubility of aragonite is larger), the surface structure will be much more important here, too. The more porous the medium is, the larger the surface, the better the kinetics of the solution process. A simple look at the grains will be more helpful than an analysis if this is Aragonite or Calcite. Cheers, Marco.><<Dang! RMF>>

Crazy Substrate? SW sel., mixing 02/28/09 Hi there, I am new to saltwater and have a 29 gallon bowfront (glass) about 4 months old. It has been 5 weeks since adding 18-20 pounds of "fresh" (day after arriving at the LFS) Indonesian live rock and 20 pounds of Nature's Ocean black live sand. I want it to become a reef tank slowly, as my budget allows. I am planning to breakdown the tank this weekend as I will be adding a 27 gallon sump and will be drilling an 1-1/2" hole for the overflow (Quiet One 4000 return pump, via a SCWD, outlets split to each side of the tank). I'm reluctant to tear the tank down right after cycling, but figured the added sump would make it worthwhile. By the way, the overflow will be piped through the wall into the garage, where the sump will sit directly on the other side of the wall with about 1 foot of head height, thus removing the noisy CPR backpack skimmer from my living room and making the wife a happy camper all at the same time.=) <Good idea> The wife and I were considering a change of scenery regarding the sand. We were on the fence regarding the look of the black sand, as it was not as black as expected, and figured this would be the time to change if we were so inclined. When we got to the LFS things got crazy. They suggested the Nature's Ocean Reef Substrate noting that it was great for copepods and such. So the gears in our heads started turning and the wife and I thought if would look really cool to mix the two substrates, going for a totally different (and possibly more natural?) <For some areas...> look, so we bought a 20 pound bag. Oops, forgot to research your website before buying! I'm hoping that the fine sand will help keep detritus above the substrate while the larger particles help with copepods, etc. (eventually I'd like to have a mandarin dragonet). Is this crazy talk? <Mmm, no... not in this day/age> It seems like you guys are decidedly against the larger sized particles. I'm not really interested in a DSB because of the limited size of the tank and water volume, so would this choice just be a matter of preference as long as I keep it limited to about 1" deep? Or am I really looking for big problems? <Everyone with substrate of any sort has degrees of DSBs... any mix of substrate types, sizes, depths can be used, given some attention to ongoing maintenance/operation> By the way, do you have any opinions on the appearance of mixing the Nature's Ocean Black Live Sand with the Nature's Ocean Reef Substrate (assuming it was an acceptable decision)? Or maybe mix the black sand with an Australian gold or pink sand would be a better choice? <I think most any mix can be made to work... has some aesthetic value> Have you seen this done? <Yes> Also, I was really hoping to put a pair of yellow striped Premnas <This tank is too small> (small and paired from the LFS) in the tank with the Mandarin, being that I intend to start a 240 gallon tank with the year if all goes well, which I could transfer them to. But after doing lots of research on your site it looks like I'm stuck with my distant second choice- a pair of Ocellaris? <Maybe> Thanks for your time! The advice on your site has been invaluable. Jason, San Diego <Oh! Nice weather here today. Bob Fenner>

Smallest Recommended Sand Grade? 02/07/09 Hi, <<Hello>> I was researching for sand for a Nano project and I came to this online dealer I trust since Ive bought many stuff from him. <<Okay>> I had always believed that the best sand for a reef tank was sugar size sand, it looks good, it reflects the light very well, and it does not trap detritus as much as coarser sand. Or thats what I had understood. <<I am in agreementthough the coarser grades can be of use in situations where very high water flow moves the smaller sand grains around too much>> This dealer sells sugar size aragonite, he calls it #1 size, yet hes got a #0 particle size. I asked what it was and he says its aragonite salt sized particles. <<?>> Smaller sand particle than sugar size I had never heard before. <<There are no doubt smaller particles/grains (as evidenced when you rinse the sugar-sized sand)but I did not know such was available graded and in quantity>> I wonder if its better or worst than sugar size, and what problems or benefits would it have? Hopefully you know something about it. <<The smaller grain size may prove troublesome re keeping it out of suspension or just moving around too much, but also may prove more soluble for contributing to alkaline and bio-mineral content. Its worth giving a try if you want, though I think it might be more suitable to a low flow mud refugium>> Thank you. <<Happy to share. EricR>>

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 welcomea 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 dont 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 wont be much I think. But it also wont 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 Im 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>>

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

Soleichthys heterorhinos... Substrate... commercial prompting for "muck"   12/15/08 Hello Crew, I wrote in several days ago about a Soleichthys heterorhinos that I recently acquired but didn't get a response back, so I'm assuming the email got lost in the cracks somewhere. <Mmm, didn't see this email... but did see this delightful flatfish last month in Indo. Here on Fishbase: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=22544> While I understand that these interesting little fish aren't regularly traded in the hobby, <Mmm, nope... Have never seen it offered> what information I've been able to find about them made me think that they might be an interesting species to try. I do know some of their requirements for care such as large open areas of sugar fine substrate, they feed on benthic inverts and small fish, found both in lagoons and seaward reefs, are more active at night, can reach roughly 18cm, etc. What I don't know, and am asking for your assistance with is whether or not there are any special care requirements for these neat little guys (other than getting them to eat initially which has presented some challenges, but he/she's been starting to eat more lately)? Any additional information you guys can provide would be tremendously appreciated. Sincerely, Jeremy Johnson <This gives me just the impetus I was looking for to write Tony Wagner at CaribSea and prompt him in turn to suggest adding "muck" to their line of substrates... Really this is the best for this sort of animal... it lives under, in most of the time... and consumes animals associated with it... Needs a large area... not too overlit... Bob Fenner>

Utah Sand 10/24/08 Hi gang, I've recently written concerning my undulated triggerfish that has been under the weather lately and was informed that supplying a larger system would probably alleviate what ails her. <Often enough does so> Well, I want to do that but money is tight so I'm wondering if it would be alright to use this oolite sand and rock that we have here in Utah from the old lake Bonneville. I've heard from some people that they use it and it looks just as good as the "regular" sand. I'm wondering if it would be as beneficial as using the store bought stuff. My plan would be to have about 100lbs of the Utah sand and what I have in my current tank, about 50 lbs. I'm upgrading from my 30 gallon to either a 90 or 150, depending on how much cost difference there is. Thanks, Chris. <I do think this sand is worth trying... have read re on Wikipedia, elsewhere... is oolitic, mostly calcium carbonate layered... Perhaps not "as soluble" as more recent marine-derived substrate, but... not likely a big deal. Bob Fenner>

newbie question regarding water and substrate for new tank Taking a Stand on Sand (Wild collected versus pre-packaged) 09/04/2008  Ok, I'm sure this has been covered already but couldn't find anything. So I've had my tank sitting on the stand for about a month now. Wanted to wait till I had the ideal spot ready for it which required taking down a wall into my kitchen and will have the tank as a peninsula separating the entry way and the kitchen. Spent all Labor day weekend doing this and the electrical. <Sounds like my kind of weekend project! Scott F in today!> About the tank, it's a 180 G. with a Dolphin 1/3hp Amp master 4700. Go a trickle filter with a Sealife Systems Impact protein skimmer. <Good circulation, I see!> So here's the gotcha, money is really low. I live in Boca Raton, FL. about 15 min.s. from crystal clear beach. There are small reefs right on the beach. I'm thinking about going to get my water and sand from the beach during high tide. I know a lot of you are cringing but I will be far from any marinas or inlets. <I am cringing, of course.> Anything that I should consider before I do this? <Yes, actually. First, I am always hesitant to give a thumbs up to the idea of collecting sand from local beaches. Not only does it pose some potential pollution/contamination issues, it can also create problems for the environment. Beach erosion is a very real problem here in California, and sand becomes a pretty precious resource after storm events. Sure, the impact of one person is seemingly minimal, but the cumulative impact of "just a few" hobbyists collecting from the wild could be significant. It may not even be legal to take such materials from nature- do check local laws. The substrate materials that you buy in aquarium stores come from companies that are collecting such materials are doing it with the proper licensing, etc., and are collecting from far offshore where the erosion issue is not a problem. In the end, I would recommend that you go with the packaged stuff. As an alternative, you could use the packaged play sand called "Southdown", which is Aragonitic in nature, and relatively inexpensive, found in home improvement stores. It's a less expensive alternative to the packaged aquarium products. Hope this helps. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Scott F. if possible Getting to the Bottom of Things (Substrate Materials)  9/10/08 Is Southdown even available anywhere? I have looked everywhere and even online with no luck. Do you have some top secret information? The only sand I have found locally is made by Quikrete which I know is not suitable. <Yeah- Quikrete is NOT too good for reefs, huh?> Thanks for your time this site is wonderful! Sandra <Well, Sandra, I think I referred to a product no longer available. The product is now known as "Oldcastle Sand", and can be found at home improvement stores such as Home Depot, etc. Occasionally, there is a product called "Yard Rite" which is also a similar product found at these stores. You really want to rinse this stuff a bit, otherwise the water will be cloudy for a long time! Do the vinegar test" before using this stuff, or other non-aquarium sand products. Take a few drops of vinegar (acetic acid) and dispense into the sand. If it fizzes, it's calcium carbonate (a good thing!), and is acceptable for use in aquaria. Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Oolitic Sand... A Fine Substrate  9/2/08 Hi Bob! <Mich in tonight.> Finally nice to actually ask you a question. What are your thoughts about using oolitic sand for a base? <Is fine for most systems.> Do I need to add other substrates, or will I be ok with this alone? <Can be used alone or in combination with other substrates, your preference.> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm Cheers, Mich>

Re: Oolitic Sand... A Fine Substrate 09/04/2008 <Hi Chuck, Mich here again.> What should or can I do about the "dust" that clings to the live rock? <You will find a turkey baster to be a very handy tool for your aquarium. Eventually the sand will begin to blow less as is begins to amalgamate. Cheers, Mich> Chuck
Live Sand vs. Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand, 8/7/08 Hello: <Hi> When creating a DSB so far what I have read on WWM is to use 4-6 inches of Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand. Is this considered Live Sand? <Usually not, live sand has life in it, microfauna and flora, which is not present in bagged, dry bags.> If not when would you use live sand? <I would just use a little to seed the dead sand.> After all I have read here and all the questions asked and answered I am planning to change my 46 gallon tank from 1/2 - 1" crushed coral to 4+ inches of sugar size sand. <Ok> I plan to remove the crushed coral and add the sand. Or should I mix the 2 together? <Remove and replace.> Is it necessary or preferred to remove the live rock to add the new sand? <Is best too.> Is it ok to lay the live rock on top of the new sand or should I suspend the live using egg crate or similar. <Egg crate, PVC framework, or placing on the glass and adding the sand around it is best. If placing on glass the tank should be empty of water to prevent a sandstorm.> Thanks for taking the time to read. Regards, Tom <Welcome> <Chris>

Re: Live Sand vs. Aragamax Sugar-Sized Sand, 8/8/08 Hello: <Hi> Is below the preferred order once I remove my live rock & crushed coral: Add the 4-6 inch DSB Lay the egg crate on top of DSB where ever live rock will go Put live rock on top of egg crate Thanks, Tom <Ideally the egg crate would extend all the way to the glass to provide support for the rocks, but as long as it makes a study base that will not move (fill in the eggcrate with sand) you should be fine.> <Chris>

Will any sand be ok for substrate? 08/04/2008 Hello WWM thanks for all your help thus far. <<Hello, Andrew today>> I have a 6' tank that was fish only that has now been changed over to more of a reef setup with loads of xenia that has increased about twenty fold in the last five months and a few other corals, colt, toadstool, hammerhead, and a Condylactis. I wish to replace the substrate from crushed coral to a very fine sand. Reasons being aesthetics (I want the substrate to be perfect looking) and to lower nitrates. I've read on your site that I should do this bit by bit and not plunk it over the existing substrate. That I should work from one end across to the other removing existing substrate as I go. My questions are: 1) How much should I remove at a time? 10" in width or can I get away with more <<I would do a 1/4 at a time, leave a couple of weeks in between swap outs to enable life to transfer to the new sand>> 2) Present depth is about 1.5". Is 2" of the fine sugar sized sand ok <<Yes, absolutely fine. Just bear in mind that if you want sand burrowing fish in the future, more like 4 inches or more would be more suited>> 3) Can I use "any sand". the local supermarket sell a perfect looking fine sand for child use, it says it has been cleaned but that's it. I don't know what type of sand it is or what it has been cleaned with. as its for child use I would assume no bleaches or toxins in in but I am trying to contact the manufacturer. Does this matter? <<Personally, I am just a stickler for sand choices and would only purchase / recommend a proper marine substrate, like CaribSea sugar grade reef sand>> 4) If its ok should I also buy some live sand and apply top? any benefits, like speeding up the amount of sand changed at a time? <<Don't see any real need as life will transfer from the old sand. If anything, just save a few cup fulls of the old top thin layer of sandbed, and spread over the new sand to promote life>> 5) Will fine sand affect my PH or any other parameters in the tank - buffering ability etc. I am mainly concerned about my xenia. <<Nope, all shall be fine>> 6) I have heard that the only negative with sand of this size is the cleaning. I've never really cleaned my substrate (didn't know I had to at first) and as a result algae has formed at the bottom. will vacuuming be a problem or will my critters suffice, sand sifting stars and snails 0.5" hermit crabs? <<Normal sand sifting snails, hermits, bottom grazers etc will suffice>> Thanks for all you help, Lex <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Re: will any sand be ok for substrate? 08/07/2008 Thanks for the fast response Andrew, your comments were most helpful. <<Always a pleasure, never a chore, Lex>> I know you said you prefer "proper" marine substrate and frankly so would I, the only problem being that the only fine grade whit sand I can find is live from CaribSea and I can only find it in small bags at £5.00 each. given the size of my tank this would prove to be very costly as apposed to the child grade one that is twice as big and under £1.00. If you know or any reasons why I shouldn't use it, please let me know. <<Ahhhhhh...A UK person, just like myself. In that case, please do check out this substrate, its what I brought for my last reef tank.. http://www.atlantisaquatics.co.uk/acatalog/caribsea.html The one at the bottom of the page. Excellent service and communications from them, certainly one of my recommended suppliers.>> Thanks again, Lex <<Thanks for the follow up, please do advise me if you order from these and let me know your experience with them. Regards and have a good day. A Nixon>>

Dolomite limestone, use as substrate  07/22/08 My husband and I are in the process of setting up a 90g tank at home. We have done some research and are interested in using pulverized limestone as our sand bed. We can't find it at HD or Lowe's but we found dolomite limestone at our local garden center. Is this the same as the pulverized limestone I have seen others mention? <No. Dolomite is a different mineral in contrast to aragonite and calcite, the more common carbonate minerals that compose limestone. Dolomite is less soluble and has a significantly higher concentration of Magnesium. It also might contain potentially harmful elements it enriched through its geological history. Especially if you want to keep stony corals, Id prefer coral sand (also known as crushed coral, aragonite sand), which might be more expensive, but safe and potentially beneficial for coral growth and stable water parameters. Unless you know exactly the composition of this specific dolomite and can determine if it is safe for aquarium use, I would not use it.> Thanks for your help. Callie. <Hope that helps. Marco.>

Dry Live Sand 4/5/08 Hi I have a question regarding DSB's I currently have two inches of aragonite sand and want to seed it with live sand, my LFS told me to use pink live sand (not really pink just called that) which is the type they claim to use on their tanks which look great. <OK> My only problem with this is that the sand is shipped like aragonite sand in that it is dry in a plastic bag. I was wondering if dry live sand is just a scam or if the microfauna is able to live dry? <There will be absolutely no seeding benefit from this sand, and for that matter very little from water packed sand in a bag. The best thing you can do to seed your system is to talk someone with an existing tank into a cup of their sand or to simply add live rock to the system. Regards, Scott V. >

Re: Dry Live Sand 4/7/08 This question is for Scott V. <Hello, with you.> I Recently asked if dry live sand is at all reliable as a live sand and upon further research found a company that sells wet live sand by the pound which is perfect for me because I only need about 7 pounds to seed my aragonite sand. They claim that there live sand has lots off little pods, worms and such but I wanted to ask if these beneficial beasties would survive the collection/shipping process and make it to my tank. Thanks and I will try to procure a cup of live sand from an aged tank! <True wet live sand will be of some benefit, much of the life in it will survive shipping. Although simply seeding from another tank or live rock is the easiest and most cost effective. Welcome, enjoy the new tank, Scott V.>

Re: "New" 55 Gallon Reef Aquarium... GARF "grunge"...  03/14/2008 Thank you, was hoping maybe you could respond to some of the questions & comments I sent GARF as well ? <<Added some comments into the email text below that you sent to GARF.>> <<Thanks, hope this helps. A Nixon>> Thanks again ! Re: "New" 55 Gallon Reef Aquarium 03/14/2008 Good morning, <<Good evening, Andrew today>> Was hoping I could receive your expert advice once again ? <<Shall try>> Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to Geothermal Aquaculture Research Lab in Boise this AM. I have also included my prior e-mails to you @ the bottom for reference if needed. One thing I forgot to ask them is if they & now you think I am on the right track, is this GARF safe to add w- the existing livestock or should they or it be quarantined in anyway? <<I would only acclimatize the hermits / snails>> I am pretty sure you are familiar w- the product but here is a link to the site just in case. http://www.garf.org/reefjanitors.html <<yes, seen this before>> Also I do have concerns about heat once the new lights are running, I am currently right @ 80 (assuming the cheap little thermometer in there is reasonably accurate) I don't know why it would be so high though, ambient temperature is 70-75, has open back canopy, about 6 inches off wall, piping is matched to pump port size. Trickle filter I thought helped w- heat dispersion. Current lighting is a Corallife 65w 50/50, I have an additional 4x65 50/50 Corallife retro on the way. <<Nothing excessive to cause temp rises. Devices inside the tank also contribute to tank temp>> Again, thanks in advance for all you do !! Aidan From: Stuart, Aidan Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 8:09 AM To: 'Leroy@garf.org' Subject: GARF Grunge Good Morning, I inherited a marine aquarium & am in the process of giving myself a crash course. 55G, has been set up about 2-1/2 weeks w- 10 gallons of original water & the balance from LFS. Ammonia, Nitrate & Nitrites all consistently test zero. There is I would estimate about 30-40 pounds of live rock & about 1-1/2 - 2" of live sand from the original aquarium. Inhabitants: Sailfin Tang (my LFS will take him, he is small now but since will outgrow this tank see no reason to keep him) 2 Clowns 1 Anemone (again LFS will take, want coral & have been advised I shouldn't have this w- coral) 1 Mushroom Coral I would like to eventually have a nice fish / coral mixture. Current Lighting is a 65W Corallife 50/50 but I have ordered an additional retrofit 4x65W Corallife 50/50 which will give me 3 sets of lights available to have on different timers. 2 50/50 @ 130w & one 50/50 @ 65w for a total available of 325. Have a wet/dry trickle filter w- mat & Purigen only (no bio-balls) that has a 500GPM flow, also 2 Koralia circulation pumps on order (600 GPM per) & a skimmer in the sump. As long as this aquarium was set up prior to my receiving (6 years, but I don't know how long the rock was in) I would have expected much more coralline on the rock & overflow wall. The rock I would estimate has maybe 15% - 20% coverage, but also has green hair algae (doesn't appear to be increasing or excessive) The overflow wall merely has nickel to quarter size patches. <<Coralline will arrive in time given good lighting, calcium Alk and Mag levels>> I don't want to get ahead of myself before adding more livestock & coral before the tank is ready & assume getting more coralline would be the 1st step ? <<This is no indication of a tanks suitability to house fish or corals, the water parameters / cycling are what govern this>> If I am correct in that I was wondering if the GARF Grunge would be the best start (& in what qty), <<Info stated on their website " 0NE POUND FOR EACH THREE GALLONS WILL ACTIVATE TWO INCHES OF ARAGONITE SAND ADD ONE POUND PER 10 GALLONS TO IMPROVE WILD LIVE SAND! " >> if so what combination of lighting from my above options would be best until the addition of corals, I am assuming the 1x65w @ 10-12 hrs ? <<8 hours is plenty of lighting>> If I am on the right track so far what would you recommend for a rough time estimate before I could add corals & additional fish. <<Once the cycle has completed and a large water change has been done, you can start to slowly stock the tank>> Lastly here is a list of species I thought may be good for a tank of this size that would peacefully co-exist. Do these look like good picks & if so what qty of each would you recommend both for compatibility & bio-load. Would order added matter ? I do currently have the two Ocellaris, the Sailfin & anemone will be returned before I make any additions. Midas Blenny (Ecsenius midas) Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) Bicolor Pseudochromis (Pseudochromis paccagnellae) Limbaugh Chromis Damsel (Chromis limbaughi) <<I would leave the damsel out, these can get aggressive>> Sixline Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) <<Add this fish last>> Royal Gamma Basslet (Gramma loreto) <<I would choose this or bicolor Pseudo.. They are very alike and you may get some aggression shown from the Gramma to the bicolor>>>>

Re: "New" 55 Gallon Reef Aquarium... GARF/Grunge... using WWM  03/15/2008 Thank you sir, I appreciate the advice, I assume you had no objections to the GARF then. One forum I looked @ had to shut down a couple of threads on the subject because they took a nasty turn, very strong opinions on both sides. <<Its a very debatable issue I suppose. An aspect you have to consider is how genuine the product is? Fact is, a lot / most won't have a means of checking out the product to ensure the specific contents. Would I use this? No...Given time, life will be generated under its own steam. Just my opinion of course. Hope this helps. A Nixon>> <Aidan... take a look on WWM (the search tool...) re GARF, "Grunge".... this "product" is a hoax... "some old guy with a hammer smashing up dead LR"... Andrew Nixon is in the UK... likely unfamiliar with... RMF.>

Sand Bed, pH, and More 3/13/08 Hi Crew, <Hello> I have a few questions. I have had a 46 bow front reef going for about 5 yrs. now. I have about 50+ lbs of live rock and my substrate is 4 in. of crushed coral and live sand mixed. LFS told us to do this when we went from fish only to reef (6 months later). I would like to go with one or the other. <Sand> There is a lot of detritus on the live rock. Which critters are best at cleaning that up and are reef safe? <You mostly, get more circulation to keep it suspended where the skimmer can pull it out.> Another question, I've been taking a water sample to my LFS every 2 weeks everything tests fine except my calcium (380) and ph (7.8) I've been adding ph buffer and calcium daily and doing 10 % water changes every 2 weeks. Any suggestions on increasing these. <I would do the water changes weekly, and make sure you buffer you top-off and water change water before adding it to your tank.> I have a Hagen test kit that I can't stand. Cal and ph are hard to read, that's why I take my sample to the LFS. <Ok, have you tried other brands? You can even get an electronic pH tester fairly cheaply.> I would like to add a star fish any recommendations? <A Serpent Star would probably be ok.> My tank consists of: A brand new Remora protein skimmer with MaxiJet 1200, and 2 Hydor 2 pumps for water movement. <I have 5 smallish powerheads in my 46, I think more water movement will help here.> I can't think of my lighting, but I do know that it is enough for clams. Do I need anything else to keep my tank beautiful? <Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.> I don't have any room for a sump or refugium. Thank you for your help. 1 maroon clown 1 yellow tang (will get rid of when too big) <Already is regardless of size.> 1 Naso tang (will get rid of when too big) <Same> 2 lawnmower blennies 1 bubble coral 1 flowerpot coral 1 chili coral 3 Nephthea 1 rainbow polyp rock 1 open brain coral 2 peppermint shrimp 2 Astraea snails Everything is doing quite well in the tank. <Good> <Chris>

Tank upgrade Substrate/Refugium 2/4/08 Hello, I would like to start by thanking you all for volunteering your time to run WWM! I am an avid reader, and deeply appreciate this resource. <Thank you, it is a pleasure to be a part of.> I will soon be upgrading from a 55 gallon FOWLR to a 75 gallon. My current inhabitants are a 5 Tetraodon nigroviridis, one 2 Amphiprion clarkii, and one 1 1/2 Chrysiptera parasema. I dont plan on adding anymore livestock after the move, Id just like them to have more room to roam. <Yes.> This system has been running for about 2 years. When I set up the new tank, I will be adding more live sand and I was wondering which one to add first, the newly purchased, or the sand from my current set up? <I would put the old sand on top or even just mix the two together.> Right now the depth of the sand is about 2 but Id like to increase that to 3 or 4. <Go for the 4 depth.> I am guessing it doesnt matter, but I really want to do this the right way and not cause a major upset that I could avoid. I also have an Aqua-Clear 150 that Id like to stop using after I switch. I currently have about 40# of LR (will add more) and an AquaC-Remora Pro skimmer. I havent gotten rid of the Aqua-Clear because every time I perform maintenance, there are tons of micro crustaceans, etc. that have made their home in the filter and I think they must be beneficial. <Acting as a small refugium.> Would there be a benefit to adding a hang on refugium in place of the Aqua-Clear even though I am not going to be keeping inverts? <Yes, especially if you grow macroalgae for nutrient export.> I was thinking I could put some of the filter media in the fuge to entice the critters to switch homes. I know some advocate the removal of filters and some still find them useful, so Im confused about my options. <Possibly opt for additional live rock here instead. If you can divide the area with baffles and light it and add macroalgae this will be even better.> I searched through the tank upgrade FAQs and didnt see anything that pertains to the sand question, so any help would be appreciated. Thanks again! Jenny <Welcome, good luck, Scott V.>

White Cement Substrate 02/01/08 Hi all, <<Greetings>> I have set up a 120 gallon tank (48x24x24) and because of the very high flow rates and I cannot stand the look of bare bottom I decided to use fine white aragonite sand (2 30# bags) and white riverside cement (around 8 cups) to make a substrate for the tank. <<Mmm, I see So essentially you have "poured a concrete slab on your tank bottom. I hope you dont come to regret this, my friend. I can tell you from experience, the cement mix will foster nuisance algae for some time to come>> It is around 1-inch deep. Can you give me any info on what I should do now; it is "setup" 3 days old? <<You must now cure the concrete. If you add water to the tank now, it will yield a pH about 12.0. You will need to let the slab soak for a few days to a week under about 20 gallons of freshwater, then, remove the alkali saturated water, add new freshwater, and repeatcontinuing to do so until the water yields a pH of about 8.5 or less after a minimum of three days in the tank>> I assume I should treat it like the fake rock that people make correct? <<Yesthough curing this slab in your tank as opposed to curing rock in a plastic trashcan is going to be a bit more of a hassle>> Soak it in water for a few weeks and watch pH levels? <<Will take more than a few weeks>> Would it be worth it to try to treat it with an acid to neutralize it? <<Not in your tank>> How long should I expect this to take? <<In my experience8-12 weeks>> Thanks! <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Re: White "Cement" Substrate 02/13/08 Thanks for your quick reply. <<Very welcome>> So a few follow up questions if you don't mind. <<Not at all>> You said that "the cement mix will foster nuisance algae for some time to come" could you elaborate a little on this please? How long and why? You said from personal experience so I assume you have done this cement sand mixture before? <<Indeedas faux live rockand dont recommend it/wont do it again. Admittedly my experience is anecdotal, but cement-made materials (e.g. rock) appear to provide both a nutritive source for nuisance alga (this, a result of the Phosphate content of the lime/limestone used to make the cement), as well as an attachment site that favors nuisance alga over Coralline alga. Although this example is about cement-made rock, I see no reason why the same principles wont apply in your case>> I know people that have done this type of "bare bottom" tank before and don't remember them mentioning anything about algae issues. The reason I did this is because I want to make this a SPS tank primarily, but hate the bare bottom look. <<Me toonot natural at all>> I wanted any easy way to keep detritus in check and have a very large amount of flow without a sand storm while still maintaining the look of sand. <<The sandstorm issue with high water flow is overrated in my opinion. Yes, there will be some movement/shifting (but this is natural), but careful positioning of your flow devices will preclude any storms (I have more than 14,000gph of flow with a 7-inch sugar-fine DSB in a 96x30x30 tank). As for maintaining the look of sand, I cant imagine this cemented substrate not discoloring/darkening to the point that it looks like anything close to sand>>>> Is there a preferred way to do this without cement? <<As mentionedor maybe a shallow (3/4) substrate of coarser material (3mm-5mm)>> I know some people have used epoxy but it didn't work so well with the fine sand. The other thing I wanted to run by you is thisIf high pH is the issue with not allowing me to put my live rock in the tank until the pH comes down on its own, why can't I inject CO2 from a tank regulated by a controller/monitor through the skimmer to keep the pH stable at 8.0 until the sand cement mixture cures and stops leaching out into the water? This theoretically should work right? <<It is true that CO2 will suppress pHbut it seems to me the amount needed would render this environment just as uninhabitable as otherwise (CO2 poisoning). If even possible, I think this amount of CO2 would displace so much oxygen that nothing desirable would/could survive. Much better to just soak the material in freshwaterthough will be quite the pain since it is cast in the bottom of the tank>> If I use a bubble counter over time it will just stop injecting CO2 and once I see no more CO2 being injected it should be stable at that point correct? <<Bubble counter?...no A CO2 controller would be needed to monitor the pH and the release of CO2>> I realize this idea is a little "out of the box" but just wanted to know if there is any solid reason why this wouldnt work. <<You have my thoughts on it>> Thanks again for your time, its great to have such a good source to bounce questions off and get a non-biased answer. <<Hee-hee! Hardly non-biased hereand although Im not trying to sell you a productI guess you could consider I am trying to sell you on my opinions/way of thinking [grin]! Regards, Eric Russell>>

DSB and new tank setup - Follow-up, reef f'   2/1/08 Hi :) <Hello there> Please can you help with a few questions. <Will try> I recently setup a 4.5x2.5x2 (LxHxW) bowfront tank. Should be around 120 odd gallons? <About 7.5 gallons per cubic foot... about this> Made a DSB of 4" using sand from the local topical beach. I think you call this sugar fine. <Okay> Did the vinegar test and magnet test to check for suitability and was looking good. Dug a 1-1.5" pit in the sand and placed 65-70Kgs of live rock in this for a foundation. Then built the rock structure on top of this base. The sand is a bit thicker below the 1st 2 inches. But it looked less white so I used the whiter sand on top. When you look at sand in the beach after the tide has gone in, there is a totally dry layer on top and a bit darker layer an inch or so below. I have used both the types. Dark below and light above. 1. The sand in the corner facing the water flow (powerhead) does not seem to remain in place a BIT. The sand height in this place is around 2" only. <Will move about, seek its own level...> 2. A little bit of sand is ALWAYS moving around as in a few grains hear and there. Will it be better If I add some crushed coral that is grinded to a slightly larger constituency? I could put this on top so the sand flies less? <Might help, yes> 3. I plan to remove the powerhead and use a 5 gall surge. Will this wreck my sand and make it a constant sand storm? <Should pretty much settle down in time> 4. Will this affect the DSB? Even if I put additional sand here it will get settled somewhere else. <Mmm, no, not much> 5. Will my rock structure be stable? I have not used any PVC structure. Dug a pit in the substrate for 1-1.5" and put some of the live rocks there and got a base. <If the rock is set on the very bottom, sturdily arranged, it should stay put> 6. I cured RAW rocks in the tank as it was being setup. I saw some pods initially when the rock was curing and then nitrates went up to 20ppm. After this I din see any pods. But in 2 weeks nitrates are zilch. I could not resist myself so put a small frag of Palythoa and another small frag of Zoanthids. They are looking awesome from last 1 week. Can raw rock cure in 2 weeks flat? <Can> I used a DIY skimmer only and did zero water changes. Lights on for 12-14 hours (1 150W 20K Kelvin MH and 1 40W 10K Kelvin NO tube). 7. Last week I picked up a few rocks I have put in the sand bed and I saw black to silvery material below. I guess this is rotting stuff as it smelt like that. Is it toxic to have put the frags in? <Possibly> 8. Can you give me any good reference to fragging Zoanthids? <What little we have on WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/zoanthidreprfaqs.htm and Anthony Calfo's "Coral Propagation" book> They are on a big rock which cannot be broken as it is hard as granite. Have to only scrape them off. If I try to scrape them from the base, they sometimes get smashed as they are small. Any better way? <Read on. An electric saw would help... perhaps a sharp chisel (do wear gloves and eye protection)> 9. How can I attach them to my live rock? <Read on... best to "tie" to some other material, move this into place once secured> 10. There is a bit of macro algae that came in with the live rock. I did not cut it off during the curing. It is of many types. Caulerpa, kelp, and some calcareous types as well. is it ok if there are many types? Should I add more? <Please read on WWM re Macrophyte/algae Compatability... the mix should be fine> Cheers and Thanks Again Ranjith <Bob Fenner>

Circulation Questions. Heavy Water Flow And Fine Sand 01/30/08 Am in the process of putting together the components for my new 120 gallon tank (4x2x2). <<Neat>> I want to keep SPS and clams. <<Ahhno softies?excellent I don't want to utilize too much rock (75-80lbs) as I would like the tank to have an open look. <<I am much in agreement with this method of aquascaping. Far too much rock in many hobbyists tanks in my opinion. If more biological filtration is deemed necessary a fine-grain sand bed of 4-inches or more will do the trickcan even be placed remotely (sump/refugium)>> I've got some unique aquascaping planned using flexible PVC. With that in mind, here is my circulation setup. Eheim 1262 (900gph) located directly beneath the tank in the cabinet for my return pump with a gate-valve to control return flow. <<Nice choicegood quality long-lasting pumps>> I just purchased two 6-month old Tunze 6080's (2,250gph x 2, not controllable) at a great price from a fellow member of my local reef club. <<Very nice I am a big fan of these pumps for water flow/circulation purposes. I employ seven such pumps (varying models from 1600 to 3100 GPH) in my reef display>> This gives me 5400 gph total flow. Is this going to blow my sand all over the place? <<Possibly But careful placement can mitigate this to a large extent. Regardless of what pump/methods you use, fine sand is going to move around some>> Roger from Tunze said it's a matter of placement and that sugar-fine sand is going to blow around regardless. <<Ah yesindeed so>> What is my best bet here? <<In what respect?>> With everything maxed out Im looking at 45x/hour and about 40x/hour if I throttle back the return pump. I've read that this is an acceptable flow rate for a SPS system but it's the DSB that's got me worried. <<Hmm Im moving around about 16,000gph in my display (375g 8ft tank) when everything is going at once, though this isnt all the time as I have my Stream pumps set up to switch randomly. I have my pumps set high on the end-walls of the tank with magnetic mounts. I also have a 7-inch sugar-fine DSB. I do get some blowing/sand movement when flow paths meet at times, but nothing drastic. Gullies will form after some time, but this is usually gradual and can be easily repaired if/when necessary by gently raking the sand down from the high spots>> I don't like the bare bottom look. Is there another substrate that I could use that would be less likely to blow around and that would be acceptable to place clams on? <<I dont think you will be able to go much coarser before it becomes to large/sharp. It is my opinion that the benefits of the sugar-fine sand; as a biological filter, in-fauna matrix, and even a clam base, outweigh any disadvantages of movement from heavy (read that healthy) water flow. Regards, Eric Russell>>

Sand For A Reef Aquarium 12/4/07 <Hi Bryan> Any good sand substrate recommendations for a reef aquarium 96x30x30? We want to keep sand sifting fish such as gobies, wrasse, and certain snails. The Carib Sea Aragamax talks about only using up to 1". I was thinking 4-6" depth for a substrate. thoughts? We will also use a mud based substrate in our refugium in the sump. <I'd go with fine sand, no more than 1mm, easier on burrowing wrasses, etc. Personally, I would go with no more than 2 1/2 inches in depth and mix with at least 20 lbs. of live sand. I'd let this develop before adding the sand sifting critters to insure a good population of beneficial critters. Read here for more info. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm James (Salty Dog)> Bryan Heitman

Particular Particulate Problem  11/28/2007 Hi Guys/Gals, <John> Let me start as most usually do.... You guys are great and I love the site; I am new to reef keeping and your site has kept me out of a lot of trouble. I have a small problem with particulates in my water and I wasn't sure if you could offer some advice. Quick rundown on my system: 95 Gallon Oceanic wave tank 25 gallon trickle filter/sump. 90 LBS live rock 40LBS oolite sand Coralife Super Skimmer 2 AquaClear 70 Powerheads 2 Hydor Koralia 3 Powerheads <Mmm, where, how are these pumps arranged?> 4 65 watt PC True 03 Actinic 2 250 Watt 15,000 MH Mated pair maroon clowns, Red Rose Bulb Anemone, Spotted Blenny, Sand sifting goby, 3 Starfish, assorted snails and hermit crabs I do water changes of 24 gallons monthly, I have started doing it weekly since I have had the problem. I always use a RODI filter and mix 50% Instant ocean and 50% Instant Ocean Reef crystals. My water started to have a ton of floating particulates after I got the clowns. I assume it was from overfeeding (Frozen MYSIS, CYCLOP, and pellets) but since then I have cut back greatly, almost to the point of underfeeding. The water is not cloudy and does not have air bubbles, it just has a lot of free floating particles only visible when the Halides are on. <A good clue> I then purchased an Eheim Professional series 2 canister filter and it has not helped. I added carbon filters and felt pads and every filter medium I can think of to no avail! I even tried a 50% water change and still no change, any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated, I want to start purchasing corals but would like to solve this problem first. Thank you much! John <I wish you had... maybe you do have, a small microscope... that you could take a look at some of these floating bits. I suspect that the oolitic sand has some attached small algae on it... that when your bright lights are driving photosynthesis, cause the light weight material (actually algae with trapped gas produced) to float about... Now... as to a solution... Perhaps mixing in some larger diameter, more angular calcareous substrate with it would cause/help all to stay down. Bob Fenner>

New Setup, DSB, Kolorscape Play Sand 11/19/07 Hi, <Hello> I am finishing plumbing my new system and I am looking for aragonite sand for my DSB. I have found Kolorscape white play sand in a local HD and am wondering if you know whether it is safe to use and whether it is aragonite? <Have not personally used it or seen it for sale in my area.> I have tested several samples of different sands including some from a fish store and non bubbles in vinegar. Please advise if I can use the Kolorscape sand? Thanks again, John <I would check some of the major aquarium forums and see if you can find people who have direct knowledge of this product, or contact the manufacturer and find out what it is actually made of and what additives have been used on it.> <Chris>

Re: New Setup, DSB, Kolorscape Play Sand 11/19/07 Hi Chris, <Hello> I called OldCastle and they say that it is silica based... I have also called my LFS and they sell aragonite sand for $1 per pound (expensive!). <Yes it is.> I need about 300-400 pounds for each of my two deep sand beds and about 200 pounds for my display. Is it safe to mix the two together? <That is quite a debate you are stepping into, many say that you should only use aragonite sand while others say that silica based sand is fine. In my experience I have only ever used aragonite sand and have been happy with the results, but there is debate even among the crew as to whether it is necessary. Do a search and you can see for yourself the differing opinions.> Or should I use aragonite in display and silica for DSB or vice versa? My plan was to have 2" in the display (150G, 60x24x24), <Too much, looking for less than 1 inch here.> 8" in the lower refugium for nutrient export with macroalgae and small pieces of LR (90G, 48x18x24), and 8" in the upper refugium for food generation with another type of algae (90G, 48x18x24). Can you please advise? Thank you so much for all your help, John <There is much discussion here on these subjects, check out our section on DSBs and related FAQs to get the opinions of several members.> <Chris>

Quick Question About Sand From My LFS  (unexpurgated...) 11/02/07 Hello again WWM crew! <<Hiya Shane!>> I am trying desperately to find 250 lbs of sand to use for my DSB at a decent price. <<Indeedtis unfortunate the aragonite sand so readily available from Home Depot a few years back has pretty much all disappeared now>> None of the Home Depots, Lowes or Wal-Marts around here carry the right type of sand. <<Mmm, wellthe sand they carry can be usedit just isnt of the preferred aragonite composition>> After looking for about two weeks, I've decided to bite the bullet, put some KY on my arse and purchase aragonite sand from the LFS. I ran all the numbers and the cheapest way to get the sand I need from them is by getting 17 bags of this stuff <http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/15381/product.web> (http://www.thatpetplace.com/pet/group/15381/product.web if the hyper link doesn't work). I am assuming it would all be okay, can I get you guys' thoughts and opinions on this stuff? <<Should be fine>> Ever used it? <<Nope>> I guess I don't mind the colored stuff; maybe it'll look neat in the tank... Thanks, Shane <<Its up to you, but since you are biting the bullet anyway, you may want to consider buying a few 30lb bags of aragonite material in your chosen grain size from the LFS and get the remainder of the bulk from Home Depot, etc. The Home Depot/garden center sand is likely the same composition (silica) as the colored sand you are contemplating, only without the dyemight even be a less expensive solution. Regards, EricR>>

Re: Quick Question About Sand From My LFS 11/02/07 Thanks for checking this out Eric, <<My pleasure, Shane>> I guess if it'll be okay, I will use a mixture of the HD non-aragonite sand and the sand from the LFS like you suggest. <<Will be fine>> Should I layer these? Or mix it all up? <<If you have sand-sifters (gobies) that may not appreciate the sharp edges of the silica sand then place this on the bottom with the softer (round) aragonite material on topelse, you can mix it up (will likely end up this way anyways)>> I was thinking about getting 120 lbs of aragonite sand and then 150 lbs of the sand from HD's garden center. <<Sounds like a fine plan to me, mate>> Thanks again for the advice. Shane <<Happy to assist. Eric Russell>>

Sand Problem, floating bits  10/30/07 I have a 220 gallon FOWLR setup. There is about 1-1/2 to 2 inches of sugar-fine sand in the display as a substrate. My filtering consists of about 150 pounds of live rock, a protein skimmer and a UV sterilizer. Over the past several months, I have added a wrasse and Picasso trigger that like to "play" in the sand. The issue with this is that my water always has lots if sand particles floating around from them stirring the sand up. I never have very "clear" water anymore and I miss that. The sand has been in there for about three years. Do you think replacing the sugar-fine sand with something with a little larger grain size might help? <Yes> How big is too big? I don't want to use large gravel that will create a maintenance nightmare. Thanks for the help. <Just about anything larger than your current substrate and smaller than crushed coral will do the job. Anything you put in there will be stirred up, but it only takes a slightly larger grain for it to promptly settle. Personally I like CaribSea's Seaflor special grade for non-reefs. It is large enough to not blow around and not so large as to require constant gravel vacuuming. Thank you, Scott V.>

Open remark, query from Sara to the Crew  <Re: Aragonite solubility, use as a SW substrate>   6/30/07 Hi all, I've noticed that it's said quite often that an aragonite sand bed helps "buffer" a marine tank. And I know a lot of people believe this. But my question to you all is, is there any way I can convince any of you that it probably doesn't to any appreciable degree? Or have you already heard this story too many times before? <Is so that many "types" of aragonite are relatively insoluble (have a lower Ksp (product solubility constant) than the resident/extant pH of a given desire... in a marine set-up... Won't bolster pH to the wanted degree... but do some good in lower levels... do provide other benefits> And I'm sorry, I know I'm new and I must be sounding like smart-arse... but it is my birthday today, so anyone want to humor me? :-D Best, Sara <Oh! Happy bday to you! If you were here I'd spank you... What is it... 26 times? Might not do you much good, but would work wonders for moi! Heeeeee! BobF>
Sara -- Up to a point of course aragonite or calcite in the aquarium will dissolve into the water and act as a buffer. But I've heard enough stories of old brackish water tanks gradually (sometimes suddenly) losing alkalinity when relying on this method alone. My assumption is that once the sand grains are covered with bacteria and algae they are isolated from the water. I liken this to the candy coating around the chocolate in an M&M. Anyway, eventually this barrier prevents adequate buffering, and tank pH drops. So while I'm all for using coral sand or whatever as *part* of the buffering system, I far prefer using calcareous material in a filter where it can be deep cleaned or replaced every few months (or whenever pH drop is noticed). Happy birthday, by the way. My day has not been so good -- came home to an aquarium flooding the living room carpet! I must be the only man in England with a flood inside his house rather than outside. Cheers, Neale

Cheap Aragonite SandWhat Was It Called Again? 06/17/07 Hello again! <<Hiya Rob!>> Thanks for all your helpful advice about my sometimes stupid questions! <<Only stupid when you dont ask>> I have yet another...! <<Shoot>> I have been searching at Home Depot....which bothers me because I work at Lowes..., <<Hee-hee!>> for the sand that is aragonite based. <<Difficult if not impossible to find of latesupposedly the company that used to provide this was bought out>> I've searched three stores, and asked employees. No luck! <<Not surprising, I havent seen it around Columbia for several years>> What is it called? <<OriginallySouthdown Tropical Play Sand From The Caribbean, distributed by Southdown Inc.Later marketed in the same bag but without the Southdown moniker (bought out?) and distributed by Oldcastle Stone ProductsWhich was also supposedly bought out, and the sand soon thereafter disappeared from the stores. But, rumor has it that some K-Mart stores are selling an aragonite based productthough this too I have not found around here>> Is the sand white? <<Not so muchbut is lighter in color than the silica sands. Aragonite sand will also feel soft as compared to sharp Silica sandand of course, the vinegar test can confirm>> I want a DSB in a large tank, and can really save some money here. <<I can relateI have a thousand-pounds of sugar-fine Aragonite sand in my display, and another three-hundred-pounds in my refugium>> (Its a shame what marketing and packaging can do to prices for the same item outside of our hobby! I guess they figure we have the money...). Thanks again for your help! Rob <<Good luck with your search. Eric Russell>>

CaribSea black substrates 05/11/07 Hi there! <Hi.> I have a question on substrates.  CaribSea has a black substrate but does that contain the trace minerals and ph stabilizer like the aragonite substrates? <They sell several dark substrates. Eco-Complete is black, but intended for planted tanks. Some of their cichlid substrates are dark, too. In addition, there is Coralline Volcano Beach, which is dark, but also has aragonite particles. Most dark particles are probably of volcanic origin, they are chemically rather inert and wont help much with pH buffering. Only the whitish broken shells, coral skeleton parts etc. in the substrates are aragonite/calcite and will buffer your pH and while dissolving provide trace elements beneficial to inverts for shell/skeleton construction. See the homepage of CaribSea for more further information/pictures and search WWM entering CaribSea to find further recommendations/reviews/opinions on the products. Cheers, Marco.>

Re: Marine Substrate Q; Sand Size for Goby  05/08/07 good day to all! <Hello Again.> (follow-up question) sir <No formalities, Adam or AJ is fine.> regarding the size of my sand, it is about 1mm to 2mm, is that okay for fishes that tend to burrow in the sand like a yellow wrasse and a sand sifting goby? will they get hurt since it is not a sugar fine sand? <Depends on how small the specimens are, but if your getting an average sized goby, this shouldn't be a problem.> thanks! <Welcome, Adam J.>

Marine Substrate Questions    5/7/07 Good day to all the staff of WetWebMedia! <Hi!> I've got some concerns regarding the type/size of sand to be used, here it goes... <Okay.> 1. I was looking for a sugar fine sand for my 50 gallon tank but could not find one available locally so I chose the one with the bigger grain, (just slightly bigger), my question is that I'm planning to add a sand sifting goby and a yellow wrasse in the future, will they be ok in the sand I bought since they like to burrow and sift through them? will the slightly larger grains be harmful to them? <Well you don't say how large is my friend...so there no way to give you an answer really. You should be able to find out the average "mm size" on the grain you are purchasing. I can tell you that you will need a DSB for these critters though.> My second question is that I have some sugar fine sand in my old aquarium (20gallons, about 2 months in operation), can I use that for the new tank? <Yes I would use some to seed the new tank.> If so do I still need to clean it (with saltwater or tap water?) <If it's already in an established, functional display...no.> or should I just directly put it in the new tank? <See above. use to seed new sand.> thanks in advance for your reply, more power to your wonderful site! <Welcome/Thanks, Adam J.>

Used Sand Bed: to use or not? ...and how to level 4/26/07 Hello, <Hello.> I perused your site trying to find an answer to this but could not find it. I recently bought a used 120 gallon acrylic tank.  The previous owner had a reef setup.  He had a good established DSB when it was up and running.  When I bought the tank from him it had been broken down for 4-6 weeks.  The sand was in buckets.  I am now getting ready to set the tank up and am wondering if its ok to use this sand.   <Can eventually be of use, but will initially lengthen the time needed to cycle and ultimately stabilize for livestock.> Its been in buckets in his garage so the temperature has fluctuated significantly.  The sand is dry. <Ahh. Well, there you have it. I wouldn't bother unless you are seriously budget-limited. Better sand can be had. Is not totally useless, but will just be "filler" for some time.> Also, I am placing this on a hardwood floor.   < http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aqstdfloors.htm > The floor seems to not be level.  What is the best way to level the tank to reduce structural stress? It needs to be raised approx .75 inches on one side. < http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aqstdleveling.htm > Any help you could offer would be much appreciated. <I would simply be regurgitating what I read in the links above.> Timothy Pleus <-GrahamT> Lava Rocks, marine substrates, not reading...   3/19/07 Lava rocks are believed to be porous <Most, no... are very smooth> and is good for bacterial growth <No... inappropriate make-up period... almost entirely siliceous... Want carbonates> but many don't recommend it for Reef and marine tank because it may contain some unknown minerals and silicates. <Yes> Are coral chips good enough for bacterial growth ? And how about limestones? I heard that limestones are good. I am using ceramic noodles (bury in coral chips) for bacterial growth with supplement of live rocks and DSB. I am thinking of adding in or replacing the coral chips with something that is more porous and more effective for bacterial growth. What will be your suggestions ? <Yes... Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm and the linked files above. BobF>

Broken Glass Aquarium Seal...What to do?  2/28/07 My 55 gal saltwater tank is losing it's seal (salt forming on outside edges/corners).   <Sorry to hear that.> I think this would be as good a time as any to change everything over to live sand in my new tank. <If you have sand already in the aquarium...and have live rock, the microfauna fauna from the rock has likely made it's way to the sand.....you already have live sand.>    I have about 30 lbs of live Fiji rock and fish in my current tank. <...See above.> I planned on borrowing a pump and heater to placing in my current tank and moving my rock in with the new sand and get it up and running. How long would I have to give the new tank/sand to adjust and should I use some of the water I currently have in my tank? <I would get two rubber tubs (likely about 30 gallons in volume each.) Move as much water from the tank as you can evenly into each tub and compensate by filling with mixed water (preferably mixed a few days in advance). Move the livestock into one tub and the rock/sand into another.  I would perform daily water changes on each of 10% if not then 50% weekly.  Put powerheads and heater in each...make them as stable as possible your animals may be here for a while...if you can't do this see if an LFS will house them for a week, longer is they can.  Remove the tank to a garage or well ventilated area and remove the current silicone sealing and reseal, allow to cure for a few days. Then fill it with freshwater to check for leaks...if it leaks...do it again.  Once you have it right, set-up the tank as you would a new tank, utilizing your old rock. If want to utilize a new type of substrate/sand that is fine but I would add at least a few pounds of the old sand to seed the new sand.  At this point do not add the new fish yet, monitor the chemistry and when stable then acclimate them...much more is posted in detail on WWM.> What sand do you like? <Fine sized (sugar), aragonite based for most applications.> How much sand for 55 gal.? <Depends you want deep-sand bed (functional) or a shallow sand bed (aesthetic appeal)?> Kathy DeMann <Adam J.>

Beach Sand Use in Marine Aquaria  2/28/07 Hi <Hello.> ..love your site! <Thanks.> I've read over the faq on live sand but I want to collect dry sand from my local beach. <Uh-oh.> I live in New Smyrna Beach, Fl, just south of Daytona. I've called every Home Depot and every sand contractor in the county and no one sells South Down or aragonite sand. <No that secret has been out and mostly gone for ages now.> I have a 55 gal and want to do 4". I was thinking of collecting it high up on the beach, close to the dunes. If this is ok to do, <Typically no, most beach sand is silicate in nature, and this would not be beneficial to a marine aquarium.> how do I go about washing? <The problem is not cleaning, disinfecting the sand but what it is composed of.> Thanks a million.. Jen <Adam J.>

Re: Are you DBL sure I can't use beach sand??   3/1/07 Thanks for the quick reply... <Of course.> but I'm confused... <Okay.> if the marine critters are ok with it and we have a ton of them here...starfish and the like why wouldn't it be ok for my tank? <You are making the common mistake here of comparing something as large as the ocean to an enclosed bio-tope not even a fraction of it's size. Please search WWM the effects of silicates are well documented. You are not the first to ask this question.> Is it due to the calcium and buffering capacity? <Somewhat...it's not as efficient as aragonite but it's mostly die to the effects of silicate on the nutrient levels in the water, trapping detritus and causing unbearable algae tirades.>   Also, what is your opinion of Haitian live rock compared to Fiji Aquacultured? <Both are nice, Fijian is probably cheaper and easier to come by.> Very grateful for your help. Thank you! <Of course, Adam J.> Re: Resp. to removing sand from florida beaches   3/1/07 From Kaz I used to live in Deland near New Smyrna Beach. From what I remember the mile long beach is a nature reserve and, as such, collection of sand is probably prohibited anyway. <Thank you, being in Southern Cal. I am not familiar with your law, however I do encourage everyone to check w/ local fish&game departments before interfering with your natural surroundings. Adam J.>

Re: Sand from beach, Necessary Filtration in Reef Aquaria  3/5/07 Wow. that was fast! <Oh I just happened to be answering some other questions when your email came in.> I have another question if you would be so kind... <Of course.> I've put in aragonite and bought 70lbs Fiji premium which is now cycling in my tank with powerheads and skimmer and an HOT. My question is this:  What type of filtration to go with? I've done a ton of research on wet/dry and know about the nitrates. Therefore I was going to leave out the bioballs and basically use it as a sump. But my tank is not drilled (couldn't be, tempered glass) so I need a prefilter. After doing more research I'm worried about how unreliable the prefilter and U tube can be. So what is my alternative? <A hang on refugium.> I've read everything on WWM on plumbing with a prefilter and there doesn't seem to be a fail safe answer. <There are tricks to make them more reliable, but I can't comment on hose because I don't have any personal experience. well because I never trusted the d@mn things to be honest.> Shouldn't I have some sort of a filter? <A large skimmer, lots of water flow, the live rock...you have DSB...and LOTS of frequent water changes...accompanied with a low/moderate stocking level is what I would aim for. If you can swing it look into a hang on refugium.> I know live rock is the best filtration but isn't it prudent to have carbon, <Not in a mature system...though good to have on hand in an emergency situation.> PolyFilters, <Nah, can be uses but not a necessity.> etc?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!   Thank you. <Welcome.> Jennifer <Adam J.>

Crushed coral and descriptions in the book Reef Invertebrates   2/14/07 Hello again, <Hi there!  Mich here.> Very quick and easy question; <Perfect!> In Reef Invertebrates pg 37 is the "Coral gravel" and "Coral Shells" spoken of what pet stores commonly refer to as Crushed Coral? <Crushed coral is actually more akin to the coral gravel than the coral shells.  Coral shells are much more coarse and offer very little in buffering capabilities.>   Seems to me it is, but wanted clarification. <Hope that helps.  -Mich>

Which Marine Substrate?...How Much? - 01/26/07 Hi Bob/staff...greetings Crew. <<Hello>> I have a 29-gallon system, with BakPak skimmer, 10-gallon sump, and # 30 LR.  My tank has been running bare bottom for a few months now.  At first it stayed clean, but now there is still some algae and the corals don't look as good as they used to.  My mushrooms don't expand well and Zoas have been strangely melting down suddenly. <<Mmm, likely deteriorating water quality/buildup of nitrogenous compounds.  Stepping up water changes and employing some chemical filtration (carbon/Poly-Filter) should help>> I want to have a sand bed; I hate the way bare bottomed tanks look. <<Me too>> Can you please share your opinions on substrates, and what you think will do well in my system, (grain size of sand, depth of the sand bed, live rock placement) and ways of keeping the sand clean and the tank healthy. <<Many opinions to found on this...but for me, a sugar-fine aragonite substrate of about four-inches in depth would be my choice here.  Utilizing strong/robust water flow will help keep detritus in suspension and out of the sand bed.  Do have a look here and among the associated links at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm Thanks for any help. <<Happy to assist, EricR>>

Substrate sel.   11/24/06 Hi, guys and girls <Hello Wikus! Tim answering your question today!> I have more questions! The more I read on your site, the more faults (gaps or possible issues) I see in my own setup. <As do I my friend! We are all constantly learning in this hobby!> At the moment I have a 2" to 3" layer of coarse crushed coral (2-10mm). <That may be a problem... as it will undoubtedly collect detritus over time and so create serious nitrate problems!> There is loads of life in the substrate (pods, worms and small white stars (I think they might be brittle stars) , but when stirred it clouds the water quite heavily (Lots of detritus even with vacuuming weekly). <The problem is that with such a thickness of coarse coral, you will not be able to vacuum as deeply into the substrate as the detritus is able to settle.> I've read that open brain corals would prefer a sandier substrate. I have ordered a 55G custom built tank to use as a sump/refugium with 50kg of sugar fine aragonite (DSB). <Brilliant! You will no doubt see a great improvement to the quality of your water.> Would it be wise for me to take out the current substrate (1/3 per week) and replace it with either sugar fine aragonite or 1-2mm crushed coral? And considering that I will be incorporating a DSB, how thick would you recommend me to go with the substrate? To me the substrate in the main display is only for aesthetic reasons, but I do not mind a DSB in the main display. <I am unsure of the size of your main display tank, but assuming that the sump/refugium is adequately sized, you do not need a further DSB in the main tank (though of course this would be helpful... the more the merrier!). As such, I would recommend that the substrate be no thicker than 1/2" to avoid detritus build up. Though be careful as the refugium is commonly overlooked when it comes to proper maintenance routines. Be sure to properly maintain your DSB to maximize its functionality and avoid any problems.> Thank you very much for your time and all the valuable information. Wikus

Re: Using alternate substrate for DSB + coral sand for buffering.  - 11/02/06 Hi bob! Thanks for replying so fast! Just mailed you back to tell you guys what horrible laws, conditions prevail in our country (India). 1) ALL REEF BUILDING CORALS are banned. Yes, ALL! <Didn't know this... are there reasons stated/offered?> 2) You are not supposed to keep any 'nautilus' spp. <Mmmmm> 3) You may keep live rocks, but you have to prove (by showing) to any authorities that might turn up, that they do not have any hitch hiking corals! 4) The only dedicated, 'mass available' aquarium items are available from a Taiwanese brand named 'AZoo'. <They do have some good products> 5) All these conditions and laws are in a country, which is probably the biggest and best source of freshwater species in the world, and many many beautiful saltwater species. e.g. Puntius demasoni endemic to a southern river in our country. 6) A population of 1 billion, so a very big market for aquarium manufacturers. Still, very very slow improvements. <Ah, yes> And with all this, my idol bob...how can you expect us to have a variety of crushed coral sands!? The only sand that is available is red sea 'reef base' at an enormously overpriced rate. <Ridiculous... so much natural material is used on your shores for various purposes already...> Regards, (and crying over the state of affairs in our 'nutrient rich' country) Amod Oke. <Heeee! Be chatting, fighting the battles we choose. BobF>

Beach Sand 11/1/06 Hello, <Hi> I have one quick question. I live on the Oregon coast and was curious if I were to take wet sand (by the water) and start an aquarium with it, if the nitrifying bacteria would live in tropical temperatures. Brian <Not really a good idea, most of the microfauna/flora will not survive the elevated temperatures of a reef tank, and unknown contaminates are a real concern.> <Chris>

Silica Sand/Aragonite Mix in a Reef? - 10/10/06 Hey. <<Hey>> I wanted to get your opinion on using play box sand for a reef tank. <<Is doable>> I have done a lot of reading on this and have gotten contradicting opinions, as with many issues in this hobby. <<Indeed>> I found sand called Kolorscape which is distributed by Oldcastle (same company that once distributed the famous but impossible to find Southdown). <<I've heard some about this sand before...supposedly aragonite based>> This sand is supposedly mined in a different area and is not purely aragonite. <<Easy enough to test>> From my understanding the sand passes the "vinegar test" but not all of the sand dissolves meaning it's mixed with at least some silica type sand. <<Hmm, maybe so...still...better than "all" silica.  Not that using silica sand is necessarily bad, it just doesn't offer any buffer capacity/earth elements to the system>> It also clearly states on the bag that it may contain silica. <<Ah, I see...>> Is this really that big of a deal? <<Not in my opinion>> I read that silica sand is inert and won't release anything into the water. <<I don't think that is entirely true, but I think the concern for silica sand to foster huge diatom blooms or other maladies in our marine tanks is mostly overrated...and even less of an issue in the case of this "mixed" sand.  I've used 100-percent silica sand in a couple marine systems over the years and can't attribute any deleterious effects to the use of the sand>> The source stated that it's only a rumor that won't die. <<As with so many of them>> In your opinion/experience have you found this to be true? <<As stated>> Should I spend the big bucks for aquarium sand or take a chance and save a bundle? <<Considering the Kolorscape does contain aragonite...I would use it>> I have read forums where people stated that they used Kolorscape and loved it, but the opinion was based on only a few months of use.  Any thoughts? <<Perhaps you will let us know/write a piece on its performance>> By the way, I already have aragonite that will be used for the deep sand bed in the refugium so buffering won't be an issue. <<Likely wouldn't anyway...but very good>> I want to use the Kolorscape as a 1/2 inch deep sand in the display and am only concerned about the safety/silica issues. <<Go for it!>> Thank you, Jon <<Pleased to assist, EricR>>

Silica Sand vs. Aragonite Sand - 10/03/06 Greetings again. <<Hello>> I am in the planning stages of a new system. <<Great fun!>> I have seen (play sand) for sale at several Hardware stores.  I have not as yet been able to perform the vinegar test so I can't say for certain that the sand is aragonite or silicate based. <<Okay>> What is the opinion of WWM in regard to using silicate verses aragonite substrates??? <<Mmm, the opinions will vary...but I'll give you mine.  I know aquarists who have used silica sand in FO marine systems with no problems.  I have used it myself before for the "bulk" of the DSB in a coral propagation system with no adverse affect.  Silica sand can be used, but it will offer "no buffering properties" and tends to be sharp/abrasive to sand/bottom dwelling critters.  It is my preference to use sugar-fine aragonite whenever possible>> Thanks <<Regards, EricR>>

Halimeda Leaves    7/13/06 Dear Crew, <Paul> I have two questions regarding a batch of Halimeda leaves that has accumulated on the surface of my otherwise sugar-fine aragonite substrate: <Okay> (1) Will the leaves trap detritus and contribute to a high nitrate & phosphate problem? <No, not likely... in fact...> (2) Will the leaves harbor small organisms that can sustain a Mandarin Dragonet should I acquire one? <Will likely help, and...> In other words, I am trying to determine if the dead Halimeda leaves have any usefulness before I siphon them out. <I would leave them, enjoy their beauty and utility. Are almost completely calcium carbonate... of good shape...> My tank is a 75-gallon reef tank with plenty of live rock, coral, anemones, and 12 small (2" long) fish that unfortunately don't eat algae.  I've had 20 of these fish (Blue Damsels, Pajama Cardinals) but I've recently reduced the fish population to 12 in an attempt to control high nitrates, phosphates and hair algae.  There is also a 29-gallon refugium with a small batch of Chaetomorpha that does not grow as fast as the algae. Thanks very much, Paul. <If we could easily harvest such calcareous material and offer it as purposeful substrate... it would sell. Bob Fenner>

Home Depot Sand?   7/8/06 Hello! <<Hello!>> I've been through your FAQs on sand and before I pay the $36 for the 40 lbs of sand at my LFS, I just had to check on this sand called Colorscapes at Home Depot. <<Hmm, don't recall hearing this was calcareous...but that doesn't mean you can't use it if it's not, just won't get the benefit of a buffer.  Best I can offer is to test this sand yourself.  Place a pinch in a small container and add some white vinegar...if it bubbles/dissolves the sand then it is calcareous>> I've used Southdown in my prior aquarium and it seemed to work well (after rinsing and a week of nothing but cloudiness)! <<Mmm, yes indeed...and is what I used as well (950lbs of it)>> I need enough sand for a 120 gallon tank, the calculator on another site says 131 pounds should give me 3".  Any advice? <<You say you've read up on sand, but have you read up on DSBs? ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm)>> Thanks! Regards, EricR 

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