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FAQs about Marine Substrates Cleaning, New and In Place 2

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

Related FAQs: Marine Substrate Cleaning 1, Marine Substrates 1, Marine Substrates 2, Marine Substrates 3, Marine Substrates 4, Marine Substrates 5, Marine Substrates 6, Marine Substrates 7, Marine Substrates 8, Marine Substrates 9, Rationale, Selection, Reef  Substrates, By Type: Aragonite/s, Coral Sands, Silicates, Dolomites/TapAShell, Southdown & Such, Collecting Your Own, & Physical Make-up, Size/Grade, Location, Depth, Replacing/Adding To, Deep Sand Beds, DSBs 2, DSBs 3, Refugium Substrates/DSBs, Live Sand, Mud Filtration 1 Biofiltration, Nitrates, Sand Sifters, AquascapingCalcium, FAQs 1

You may have to move delicate animals first... Chromodoris willani, reaching.

 

Substrate Vacuuming 36 Inch Deep Aquarium       10/17/16
I have a 350 gallon marine acrylic aquarium. It measures 3 feet top to bottom. I need a substrate vacuum that is long enough to reach the bottom and strong enough to do the job and not pull the live sand out. What product do you recommend?
<Mmm; If you don't have the time/inclination to make one of your own, the fine folks at Python Products make MUCH longer ones in varying lengths. See here: http://www.pythonproducts.com/products.html
<Bob Fenner>
Richard M. Jevack

Sand bottom; maint.       6/29/14
Hello again Mr. F,
how are you? I hope everything is fine.
I have added the 2 Z. Flavescens in the DT and they are doing fine.
<Good. Do keep your eyes on them... can become territorial, fight if kept too long in close confines together>
I have another question: on the bottom of my 250 gallon SPS dominated ( finally !!!! ) tank there is a layer of approx. 2-3 cm of fine sand. I know the depth is wrong,
<Actually... this amount or several times it is fine>
it is the last reminiscence of a long series of initial mistakes..., and I already have a RDSB in the basement as you may remember. The question is what should I do to keep this thin layer of sand clean.
<Either the use of "sand stirring" organisms, and/or the occasional vacuuming, stirring during regular water changes>
Given the rock formations and corals it is impossible to siphon it. There are areas unreachable.
<Perhaps a small motorized water pump you can direct by hand...>
I don't want a bare bottom .
In your opinion what would be the best approach?
<Mmm, read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/maintenance/maintindex.htm

the first and third trays>
To take it all out and wash it from all the detritus accumulated and then put it back in form of a very thin layer ( 0.5 cm )? - a very difficult task in a tank full of sensitive fish and corals . ( and the old
Cryptocaryon problem that is under control for months now but still visible ).
Or put some sand stirring goby in and let them do the job. If so , how many and what species.
<Ah yes; see the above linked files>
Or leave it as it is given the fact that the corals are doing great and the Cyano has almost disappeared ?
But what will happened in the future, the detritus will continue to accumulate.
Or stir it with a stick until all the detritus accumulated goes out and then continue to keep it cleaned by stirring.
In there are some Nassarius snails, some sand stirring stars ( I know they don't belong in there )
<Do report back what you've settled on Andrei; and how it is working for you. Bob Fenner>

Salt Water questions; stkg. Ecsenius, Cirrhilabrus, vacuuming fine sand, mas...    8/31/13
Hello crew! Its been a while since I've needed to bug you guys, and things have been going well. I have a few questions about stocking, dipping, new tank, live rock and sand. I've had a 72 gal Marineland overflow bowfront with about 80# live rock and a skimmer since early 2008. I recently lost a flame angel… literally lost. Im pretty sure I know what happened since
there's been a sudden bloom of Fireworms a few days after he disappeared.
My kids are still looking for him. I had him about 3 years. Current stock include a Fire shrimp I've had for 3 years, a royal gramma I've had for 5 years, and a pair of Perculas for 5 ½ years. They started spawning about 3 years ago. I just let the fry feed the tank mates; no time or interest to try to raise them. I've also had Firefish, a coral beauty, and skunk cleaner shrimp. I live in the Midwest and use tap water. I change 15-20 gal every month. I keep a log book… very helpful. I typically feed
Spectrum marine fish Formula once or twice daily and occasionally supplement with frozen squid, plankton, etc. I keep a 40 gal trashcan of saltwater I mix.
<Ah good>
Until this recent death, I hadn't checked water parameters since 2011.
Yesterday, I checked: pH 8.4, zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and 10 ppm nitrates from an old API saltwater kit. 82 degrees and SG 1.020. Last water change was about 3 weeks prior. All shrimp had been acclimated with an IV drip (1mL/hr over 6.5 hrs). The angels were dipped in freshwater with formalin for about 5-10 min. The remaining fish were dipped in fresh water
Methylene blue for 3-4 min. All animals are then in a 15 gal quarantine tank for 30 days with 5 gal water changes every week or so. I just setup the QT again and am ready to buy new livestock. Now the questions.
One of the local shops has a nice looking 2 inch Midas blenny that they've had for about 3 weeks. Another shop in town has a few 4-5 inch Midas Blennies. Am I better off getting the smaller blenny as long as he eats ok?
<Yes; will live longer, adapt more easily>

Im also thinking of getting a few skunk cleaner shrimp and a fairy wrasse.
I don't usually get more than one species at a time, but figure the bioload from the flame angel vs. a fairy wrasse and a small midas would be similar.
Do you think this is a mistake?
<Not a mistake; I think you'll be fine here>
The shop owner says he routinely gets Solar and Exquisite wrasses and recommends either. Im leaning towards the Solar but would appreciated any advice.
<Both are fine choices of Cirrhilabrus>

Do you anticipate any compatibility problems?
<I do not>
Is my standard Methylene blue dip and one month quarantine reasonable for both fish?
<Mmm, yes; though do keep an eye out that either are getting too thin>
OK, so on to the other questions. My sugar grain sand is getting thin. I use a siphon attached to the faucet for suction. It works great with a toothbrush, but slow removes sand. Any simple advise for adding back sand without a whiteout of the tank?
<Have the discharge from the siphon empty into a bucket, the sand will mostly accumulate, settle there. Rinse (with freshwater) this ahead of returning to the tank>
I anticipate Ill need to wash it with
salt or fresh water once or twice and then.. dump it in.
<Ah yes; fresh>
Next question…
does LR need to be replaced? How often?
<Needs to be added to, renewed periodically... after a year or so, ten percent, twenty... every half year or so. To re-stock w/ microbes to invert.s, algae... and offer more soluble sites for biominerals, alk. mostly>
I've got coralline algae and the
biofilter seems to be working ok. I also have turtle hair algae.
<Chlorodesmis likely>
Finally, Im planning to get a new tank…. As big as I can find.
<Ahh!>
I really like the overflow setup. I think the Marineland overflow glass aquariums max at 300 gal. I think Id be happy with this but would like to know if there is anything larger with pre-built overflow set-up?
<Mmm, well, easy enough to either drill, have a tank made by others come pre-drilled. Search, read on WWM re>
Do you know anything about the stress of the weight?
<Yes>
I assume the manufacturer will have this, but I suspect they'll recommend I put it in a basement.
<Not necessarily... depends on your floor support/s... often these can be bolstered>
Ill have to keep the 72 gal so the other fish don't become food in a larger predator tank. Do you have any reference for connecting these in series?
<Oh yes; on WWM>
Thanks in advance for putting up with this long email. Rich.
<Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner.

Sand/Substrates, used, cleaning for re-use   5/17/2011
<Hi Joe>
If I've been using crushed coral sand in a freshwater aquarium can I reuse in in saltwater tank?
<Sure, just rinse/clean it out good.
James (Salty Dog)>
Re Sand/Substrates 5/17/2011
With hot water I guess
<Cool water is fine, just rinse/clean well until water appears clear.
James (Salty Dog)>

Sandbed cleaning  3/9/11
Okay -- I did my homework -- and frankly, I'm pooped -- there's a lot to read -- so please forgive asking the questions you've already answered J
<No problem>
I have a 125 reef tank about 3 years old. I've tried the sand sifting gobies -- which I like -- but they tend to die due to starvation -- and that I don't like!
<Indeed>
I have snails -- but they don't seem to do the complete job -- I know, I'm over feeding!!!
I read about the sand sifting starfish -- and you don't recommend them since they devastate the natural fauna.
<These are poor choices>
So, now I'm considering a brittle star. From what I've read, certain ones appear acceptable for a reef tank.
<Yes, but will mostly sit under your rocks and will not clean the sand..
are useful additions though>
Which should I consider and how many for my 125 reef tank -- assuming this is my best option.
<Any but the green ones>
Any other recommendations are most welcome.
<Have you considered a Holothuroid, specifically a detritus-feeding species not a filter feeder? I have one that keeps my sand bed spotless. You would have to consider if you have any incompatible fishes such as puffers, triggers and the like. I would also implore you to procure/borrow a copy of 'Reef Invertebrates' (Calfo & Fenner), a book which details just about all of your choices in one place>
Regards,
-gene
<Simon>
Re: Sandbed cleaning   3/10/11

Thank you, Simon.
<No problem>
I do have a blue jaw trigger -- so I may not be able to adopt your suggestion.
<Mmm>
Of course, I could remove the trigger -- that is an option.
<I would not>
Thanks for the additional research reference. I'll check it out.
<It's a great book>
-gene
<Simon>

Weird sand, 4/13/10
Sorry about that
<?>
Hello this is my first message and I wonder if you could help me.
My sand is really weird I use ro water every time I never use tap water the tank
parameters are perfect and temperature is perfect as well.
<Numbers please, "perfect" is subjective.>
The problem is that my fish tank after a week of being cleaned this skin like sand comes on top of it and makes me want to be sick every time I see it and my tank has been running for 2 years. Its like a greeny brown mix its just so strange and I have no idea what it is if you could help me I would appreciate it.
<I assume this is a marine tank. Most likely this is being caused by cyanobacteria growing on the surface of your sand. See here for more
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm ,
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm .
Also in future queries please spell and grammar check before sending, otherwise we have to do this for you before posting.>
<Chris>

LS Bed Vacuuming/Algae Control 1/4/10
Crew;
<John>
I apologize for my inexperience and I have read so much info on WWM that my brain is actually hurting. Even still I am digesting as much as I can and I am sure I am missing some key elements.
<No need to apologize, no one is born with experience.>
I will start off with a simple question I believe, and not sure I have read/found the correct answer yet.
I have seen numerous references on your site to vacuuming the substrate but unsure if it is possible to vacuum a LS bed without sucking all the sand in.
And is it advisable for fear of sucking away beneficial organisms?
<It may be necessary at times if the bed is lacking enough organisms to keep it clean.>
What is the recommended way to vacuum a sand only (actually Aragonite) bed if there is one?
<My method is to use a smaller size gravel vacuum and pinch the hose enough while vacuuming to prevent the sand from getting siphoned out. I vacuum my bed this way during every water change.>
I am having a SERIOUS outbreak of red hair algae now (along with brown algae) growing on both the LS and LR. I have plucked as much as I can off the LR. I have began steps to reduce nutrients by feeding less (from 3-4
small feedings to only 2 times/day), thawing then rinsing frozen food prior to introducing into the tank, using Ocean Nutrition Formula One and Two pellets and occasionally an Omega One food with Garlic flake offering. All fish generally ignore the pellets and the flake. I do try to remove uneaten food but am sure I am missing some of it. Hopefully the Nassarius will take care of those.
<May want to hire more Blue Legged Crabs.>
Some information about tank and livestock:
TANK SPECIFICS:
55 Gallon wide (about 2.5 months of age)
Small Refugium (made from an HOT AquaClear 70 Power filter) with macroalgae (recently added x7 days ago).
<Will help some in reducing nutrients.>
~40 lbs. LR (more to be steadily added as budget allows and have another 5 pound rock curing at moment)
Jebo 304 canister with 2 Eheim fine pads, Eheim sponge (course) pad, ceramic Bio-ring and 2 bags of activated charcoal (one under each fine pad)
<The pads will act as nutrient sinks if not cleaned on a weekly basis. You may want to try Chemi Pure Elite in place of the charcoal, a combination of phosphate remover, ion exchange resins, and a very good grade of carbon. This media is relatively inexpensive at etailer shops.
One example here. http://www.premiumaquatics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=CHEMI-ELITE&Category_Code=Americanmarine>
AquaTech 40-60 HOT Power filters with bio screens. Media is a simple filter media with Activated Charcoal in both.
<Be careful in choosing activated carbon as many of the cheaper brands will release phosphates into the water.>
RedSea Prizm Skimmer
<Not really enough skimmer for your tank in my opinion. An AquaC HOT Remora would be a very efficient skimmer for a 55.>
Last H2O change was 23 Dec. 09 and was 20 gallons
Hydor Koralia 4 Powerheads (x2)
OCCUPANTS
Ocellaris Clown (x1)
McCosker's Flasher Wrasse (x2)
Mexican Turbo Snail (x2) (one added 48 hours ago)
Nassarius Snails (x2)
<I would increase the snail population to about 8.>
Porcelain Anemone Crab (Neopetrolisthes maculosus) (x1) (added 48 hours ago)
<Will not do well in this system. It feeds on planktonic food and mucus from their host anemone and is difficult to acclimate to prepared foods.>
Small Zoanthus colony
Small Star Polyp frag
Various hitchhikers to include spaghetti worms.
(Recently lost a Royal Gramma due to Ich)
LATEST TESTING RESULTS (1/3/10) All testing using API reagents newly purchased.
Ammonia (NH3/NH4) = 0
Nitrite (NO2) = 0
Nitrate(NO3) = 20
Phosphates (PO3- / 4) = 0.5 Ã
Calcium (CA24) = 460 Ã BOTH THESE TESTS ARE UNCERTAIN AS JUST LEARNING HOW TO DO THEM
Alkaline (dKH) = >214.8mEq/L
<Alkalinity on the high side.>
pH (High Range) = 8.3
Salinity = 1.023
Temperature = Bottom: 76.1 °F / Middle: 78.0 °F
QUESTIONS:
My one and only larger Feather duster (dime sized, hitchhiker) recently disappeared (maybe hiding in rock less his feathers) right after using Aiptasia X for Aiptasia removal near it but trying to be careful not get any on it (all filter, water movement stagnant 5 minutes prior to use and about 15 minutes after use before restart). Did the Aiptasia X hurt it?
<Likely.>
I need to advise the porcelain anemone crab was not yet in the tank. I did see some remnants of its feathers after use of the Aiptasia X but now I see nothing.
Did it possibly move?
<Unlikely.>
Red hair algae blossoming at a very fast rate and within last few days.
Brown Algae still predominate on glass and LS. Added a 2nd Mexican Turbo Snail to hopefully get that under control. As stated above I have reduced feeding. Rinsing frozen foods (Mysis and Brine Shrimp) to remove thawed
water, recently added the macroalgae refugium (about 2 weeks ago) to help reduce nitrates. Continuing to add a cleaner crew as budget allows (any immediate recommendations in this area?).
<As mentioned above.>
What can I use or do to bring Phosphates down?
<As above, Chemi Pure Elite or a product called Rowaphos.>
I have not yet changed Canister filter pads as am awaiting them to arrive via mail order since no LFS has Eheim products on the shelf. I have, however, lightly rinsed these twice to get rid of heavy debris.
How can I drop down my dKH ? I am doing water changes (~15 gallons at a time) bi-weekly.
<Will come down in time, do not use any buffers until.>
Any help would be appreciated.
<Do read here and associated linked files.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm
James (Salty Dog)>
Respectfully submitted:
John

Soapy Sand: Best not to keep it. 12/10/2009
Hello, my name is Angel.
<Hi Angel.>
I have a problem with my 55 gallon tank substrate. My roommates accidentally got laundry detergent into my tank and killed everything inside. They also broke open a thermometer inside the sand while taking it out of the old tank.
<Sounds like you need to keep the roommate away from the tank.>
I have started over and now have another tank up and running. I need to know the best method to clean the soap out of the sand. I have strained it out very well and washed it at least 20 times with hot water, but I don't want to dump it into my new tank and have it mess everything up. Do you have any suggestions as to how to clean the sand out well.
<Short answer - you don't. Discard the sand and get new. It would be near impossible to get all of the sand soap free.>
Thanks a bunch,
Angel
<MikeV>

Re: Substrate Follow-Up Questions   9/1/2009
Thanks for the additional info. Actually, I've become an old pro at searching your indices, articles and FAQs
<Ahh! You may be ready to respond to queries soon...>
-- pretty much addicted (it's a wealth of information). In fact, the link you provided below is where I found the FAQ responses from EricR that I referred to. While there's a lot of great information on how to maintain a sand bed (much of which I restated/summarized below), most of it recommends vacuuming. The
EricR responses were the ones that recommended not vacuuming, and those didn't get into a lot of details about requirements as to what to do for a shallow or deep bed if not vacuuming was your goal, especially if you are limited in your maintenance crew due to a sharp-nosed puffer.
<I'll send this along to Eric Russell for his elaboration as well>
Unfortunately, some of the info contradicts. Even below, you mention that you'd go with the DSB but then you later mention that you prefer to remote the DSB.
<Yes and yes>
But, as I'm learning, and as you note below, it's almost never a yes or no answer in this hobby, SO... I think I will first try lowering the sand bed to about 1", adding some new critter seeder kits to refresh the bed, adding some Cerith snails and at the same time removing the puffer (who has recently decided to start nipping at fins quite a bit, so he's lost his good citizen standing). If that doesn't work, I might try temporarily increasing the circulation a bit more, especially near the bottom, to see if that helps. If I still need to vacuum, then I'll switch to the DSB by gradually adding sugar fine (moving the current gravel to the side so that the existing critters can help populate the new sugar fine) until I eventually have replaced all of the current gravel and get to 4"+ DSB. With the DSB, I'll add Nassarius snails to the equation as well and may even add a few more seeder kits at that time to ensure that the deeper bed is fully and diversely seeded after all the transition. I'll revisit the circulation then as well to be sure that I have as much as possible without causing
a sand storm. Info I've found on other sites (e.g., Reeflands, Inland Aquatics, etc.) suggest that you really need a DSB to avoid vacuuming (and that appears to be EricR's preference), so this is probably where
I'll end up, but I'll try the lower sand bed first.
<Sounds like a plan... or series of good plans>
I will admit that I have probably been over-thinking this issue and making a big deal out of eliminating the vacuuming. But for a large tank, the difference between vacuuming and not vacuuming is not an insignificant amount of time and effort. (Because my sumps are in the basement, under the tank, next to the house plumbing, I can do a 10% water change in under 5 minutes with no heavy lifting or mess -- as long as I don't need to vacuum.) So, I'll keep plugging away until I get this thing nailed.
Thanks again for helping those poor confused individuals like me.
<Thank you for your efforts. Bob Fenner>

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

Tiny bubbles, from substrate   9/29/08 Hello again! <Pavlo> As usual, I turn to you for your advice. My 120 FOWLR - soon to be a reef, has been maturing nicely for 9 months now. I have been able to keep all my parameters steady, right where I want them (will get to them in a min.) All is good except for some Aiptasia that keeps coming back. I just tried injecting lemon juice - we'll see how that works. <Do look into, try the Red Sea product "Aiptasia-X"... a winner here> My main concern are these tiny bubbles that appear on the substrate & float off whenever a hermit walks over. When I injected an Aiptasia that was sitting on the substrate LOTS of larger bubbles started percolating from that area of substrate (not from the syringe). I have seen mention of nitrogen bubbles in some WWM postings, and it seems like I shouldn't worry, but I just want to make sure. My parameters are temp 81, S.G 1.025, ammonia, nitrite & nitrate all 0, phosphate 0, ph 8.2, ca 400, KH 8 (as per Elos tests). They have been like this steady for the past 8 months. The tank is a 120, w/ a 30 gal refugium with a 4 inch DSB & Chaetomorpha for export, 200 lb LR and lightly stocked with a Tomini tang, oblique lined Basslet & 2 Talbots damsels. More to come of course, but going slowly. Another question, if I may - what would you recommend as a good beginner coral? <Posted... on WWM... perhaps a Corallimorph> I have 2x150w MH with 4 54w T5's - hopefully this will be enough to sustain some coral life. Any ideas? <Reading> Thanks for the invaluable insights that you provide. Pavlo <I would be vacuuming your substrate each time you do water changes, looking into root cause/s re the gas in/about the substrate... is this too coarse? Too much food? Too little circulation? Low RedOx? Bob Fenner>

Sand Washing   7/18/08 WWM Crew or Bob, <Hello! Benjamin here> I've been around long enough to know that I have to wash any new sand I add to my aquarium, but what about washing old sand -- I have a rather deep tank and though I try I get dead spots in the sand and this occasionally results in Cyano outbreaks. I stir, I adjust powerheads and I also siphon but to get it clean I often remove quite a bit of sand from the tank. As a result I am constantly adding new sand to keep my DSB in place. Is it possible for me to simply wash the siphoned sand clean and return it to the tank? <You bet! Rinse it well to get any detritus or microfauna/flora out, and it's good to go for round two.> Derek <Benjamin>

Cleaning Sand and Feeding Gobies 06/02/2008 Hello, <<Good evening, Andrew today>> My fiancé© and I have had a 38 gallon tank for almost 2 years now and we have never had clean sand! We have tried everything from sand sifting stars that disintegrate in days, to a huge clean up crew that resulted in hermits eating all our snails, to our favorite the golden headed sleeper goby. But we were never properly educated by the store we bought him from. They told us as long as he has fine grain sand he'll be fine. WRONG! <<Yikes...Very wrong>> He starved in about a month. We have been reading up and we know about the copepods but do we really need a refuge tank? We are very limited with space and money and the refuge isn't really any option at all. <<Not even one of the cheap hang on refugiums? They really are low cost and are of great benefit to your system, especially to promote copepod growth, nutrient export>> We really want to get our sand clean again. We recently added 20 Nassarius snails but they aren't doing much either We would love to get another goby but we don't want another one to starve. Any suggestions? <<Getting another goby is not really a good option, as your already aware, as it will starve also as there is obviously a lack of food in the substrate. I would suggest getting some low flow going over the sandbed. This will stop particles settling, and keep it in the water column to be removed via filtration. Maybe up the filtration level on the tank. Don't know what your tank system is, so, cannot really comment much more on that side of it>> Thanks, The Tuggs <<Thanks for the questions, hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Algae in Sand, Cyanobacteria 4/14/08 Hello. <Hi> Ever since my sleeper goby died a few weeks back, I have noticed some algae (at least I think its algae) growing strongly within the sand bed. I've attached a photo. <Cyanobacteria, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm.> I don't really have anything growing on top of the sand however. What's interesting is that it's a variety of colors (green, red, purple) so I thought perhaps its coralline algae. <Is hard, calcium based, Cyano is sort of slimy.> If it is, that's a bit frustrating for me because I don't have as much coralline algae growing on my rocks as I would like. Dark green algae seems to dominate the rocks. I wanted to get another sleeper goby to take care of the sand, but then I read that they also deplete your copepod population by doing this. <Do require a fair sized lie sand bed and aged tank to keep successfully. Also it is really just masking your underlying problem, which is the Cyano.> I have some Anthias fish that feed off the many copepods in the tank and so I'm wondering if perhaps I should not get another goby. I appreciate your advice. Thanks. <Cyano is usually fueled by phosphate, nitrate or high levels of dissolved organics. Limit these in your system and you will limit the Cyano's growth.> <Chris>

Stirring Substrate With Water Changes 4/9/08 Good Evening Crew! <Good eve Gans.> I have a crushed coral substrate. Before I do water changes I stir up the substrate with a small power head to get all the junk out which then gets collected in the skimmer. Is this a good thing to do? <Yes, I would with this substrate too.> I heard the substrate houses a lot of beneficial organisms. Will doing something stirring up the substrate harm then in anyway? <No, leaving the substrate alone applies more to sandy substrates. In this case you may even want to gravel vacuum with your water changes to siphon out the maximum amount of detritus.> Cheers Gans <Best regards, Scott V.>

Substrate Clumping/Binding -- 04/03/08 Howdy Crew. <<Hiya, Paul>> I have a question regarding my aragonite substrate solidifying over time. <Okay>> I have read the responses you have regarding some of the causes, high levels of Calcium and Alkalinity combined with high pH. <<Is one cause, yes>> What I wanted to know was what levels of Calcium and dKH would do this? <<Mmm, generally those levels of Carbonates that bring your Alkalinity levels to the higher end of the accepted scale (8-12 dKH)'¦which coupled with a high pH, allow increased formation of Calcite crystals to clump your substrate together>> My tank is about 120 gallons. Temperatures run 79 -- 81. pH during the day is about 8.35 or so. The calcium level is 390 -- 405 and the dKH is 8.8 -- 9.6. <<Hmm'¦looks okay>> The lower levels in the calcium and dKH were what it is currently after my water change, the higher being what they drift up to before the water change. <<Drift up? How so 'are you supplementing?>> Neither level seems very high <<Not excessively, no>> '¦why do I continue to have this problem? <<Not sure'¦ Perhaps the clumping is due to abundant microbial activity (organic bonding), rather than a result of mineral deposits. Also, it seems I've heard/read that excessive precipitation of Phosphate can 'bind' a substrate as well>> How do I prevent this? <<Determine the true cause'¦ Stop supplementing Alkaline substances (if indeed you are doing so) and see what happens. Increase water flow'¦ Reduce Phosphate'¦ Stop dosing Kalkwasser'¦ Back-off on the Calcium reactor'¦>> I have added a few Nassarius snails to help out. <<A larger bio-turbator may help 'something along the line of an Engineer Goby (e.g. -- Amblygobius phalaena)>> I can try to break up the sand every few days, but should this be occurring? <<Ideally, no>> Does everyone have this issue? <<Many do experience such issues 'but not 'everyone'>> Thanks so much for you time. Paul <<Well Paul, I don't think I've been a lot of help here 'but based on the information you have provided I don't see any immediate red flags 'it will likely take some more investigative work to determine the root of the problem here. Regards, EricR>>

Sand bed nutrients and Hydrogen Sulphide, Maintenance 1/7/08 Hi guys - and thanks for a very informative website! <Hello> My 400L reef tank has been running about a year. I confess to having never done any water changes but everything I test for (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, iodine, calcium, salinity, ph, alkalinity) has always been fine. <Much much more going on here, many substances that are not being tested for that need to be removed or replenished. I can't stress enough how beneficial water changes are, and how difficult it is to be successful long term without them.> I have 8000lpr flow, skimmer, WaveBox and 70kgs live rock. Load is fairly low with 8 fish. <Depends on the specific fish.> About a month ago I added a sand-sifting starfish. <Mistake, consumes most beneficial sand-bed micro-fauna and then typically starve to death. They are not really sand-sifters, more like sand-sterilizers.> Very soon after brown algae started growing on the sand's surface (it's not a mat, and can't really be picked up). <Diatoms perhaps.> Whilst investigating the algae I poked about in the sand - which is about an inch and a half deep - and found nasty black sand about half an inch down. <A repository of biological waste.> I now have ammonia a bit high (0.25) and nitrite too (0.05), though nitrate still zero and I am getting some whiffs of hydrogen sulphide (or similar rotten egg smell). <All symptoms of a build-up of organic materials, results of the lack of water changes honestly.> All critters are accounted for and seem ok... but the corals are all withdrawn. <Due to the drop in water quality and release of organics. Also to keep on the water change war-path, corals produce and release quite toxic substances, which is used in chemical-warfare with their neighbors, and need to be removed by water changes.> What do you suggest??!? More powerheads? Vacuum the gravel? More sand-shifting inverts? Any help gratefully received!! Thanks Richard <At this point it may be hard to recover the sand bed. I would remove the sand-sifting star, and start weekly water changes. More flow may help as well in "flushing out" the sand, and getting the waste into the water column where the skimmer and water changes can remove it.> <Chris>

Re: Sand bed nutrients and Hydrogen Sulphide, Maintenance 1/7/08 Great, thanks for your help. <Welcome> I'll take out the offending star I think to try to stop the problem getting worse (back to the LFS for that!). <Good> Is it worth me vacuuming the gravel or should I just leave it well alone until things have settled down? <You could do small areas at a time, but I would not go to nuts with this, no more that 25% of the gravel in any one cleaning, lets the bacteria recolonize quickly.> Cheers Richard <Chris>

My sand bed, maint.  -01/05/08 Hello! First, your site is quite informative, I love it. I have finally got my hands on Anthony's, Coral Propagation book and love it! Please let him know. I'm not a farmer just yet, but his book is great for all levels of Aquariology. That being said, I have a 5.5 gallon mixed reef. I have various Zoanthids, Leathers as well as Blastomussa and Micromussa. My tank has app. 12 lbs of mixed live rock- I like all-. I have a 1 inch mixed sand bed of Florida crushed coral aragonite and fine white sand. My filtration, along with the live rock consist of an Aquaclear mini, with sponge then filter floss and carbon, a remora nano skimmer and a micro-jet powerhead for a little more movement. My livestock, other then the mixed coral consist of 3 Blue-legged Hermits, 3 Astrea snails, 1 Cerith, an Emerald crab for bubble algae removal, and a Bluefin Damsel ( he has another home once he's no longer juvenile). The tank has been up and flourishing for 10 months, with coralline and Chaeto flourishing. Everything is covered in purple. My levels are- Cal:500, alk:9, phos:0, nitrate:0, nitrite:0, ph:8.4, and salinity:1.26. I do every 3 days a 5 percent water change. My question after all this, will my 1 inch mixed sand bed give me problems further down the road? I have an alarming amount of life throughout it. Various worms, sandsifters, pods, snails. <The sand bed should be fine so long as the benthic populations stay healthy. However, being so shallow, it won't likely function as much of a nutrient filter/nitrate reducer.> I do not siphon my sand bed, but when I perform water changes I blast it. I take a turkey baster and blast the sand with it. In a way I think of it as a storm in the ocean stirring everything up. <...not a bad idea.> I have noticed on occasion that some of the sand bed seems to be fused together, not like a clump but as a loose clump. <Very small, loose clumps probably won't hurt anything.> Thank you for your time. Also on a side note I had a chance to get my hands on the elusive Blane's Purple People Eater Zoanthid and it since has budded. <cool... congrats.> Thank you again, and happy reefing, Joe <Best, Sara M.>

Substrate Help please!! - 10/07/2007 Good afternoon guys, Howzit? Hope everything is going well. Summer is over already?! <Hello! Where does the time go?> Anyways, I just have a quick substrate question. I have a 46g reef tank. 5 months old. Alk-8.6 Cal-450. Everything good except I now have STICKY sand. When the sand gets stirred it clumps together in small balls of maybe 10-15 grains of the sand. I have never seen this before and very confused. Is my calcium to high and its somehow effecting the sand like that. Let me know what you guys think. Thanks. <This is a common occurrence with sand clumping. It happens in systems with both deep Sand Beds and Plenums. The sand is calcifying together thru precipitates. Simply rake thru the sand and break up the clumps. You can increase the number of sand dwelling creatures like Cerith snails to help stir the sand bed. Some gobies also work well as sand sifters.-Rich...aka Mr. Firemouth>

Black Sand? Joseph and the Multicolored Sandbed 8/1/07 Hi, <Hi Joseph, Mich here.> I love your site, and have found quite a bit of good info. Recently I was looking under the cabinet of one of my aquariums, and I looked up to see that the sand around the overflow has turned black, not a lot of it, but it worries me, just a couple of small mildly blackened areas about 3/8² by 2². I set this aquarium up about 4 months ago. It is a 45-gallon tall tank, with about a 4² sand bed, it also has a converted 18 Gallon tall tank converted to a refugium. I have never had readable levels of ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. I haven¹t disturbed it as I¹m worried that it may poison the tank. I was wondering if there is a safe way to clean this, or if I even need to be concerned. Please advise soon. I¹ve been told not to worry, but I wanted to check with you to be sure. <I do not think there is any cause for worry... won't change anything anyhow. Just vacuum the area gradually over time.> Thank You, <Welcome, Mich> Joseph

Vacuuming sand bed 7/5/07 Hello <Hi there. Mich here.> I have CaribSea live sand ( very fine sugar grade [ I believe between 4 to 5 kilos] ) in my nano reef with live rock and an Eheim external filter for filtration (the smallest in their external filter range). <OK.> Sand bed residents are three Nerite snails and many tiny snails I haven't identified but don't grow more than 2 millimeters long and the microscopic fauna typical of a sand bed. <OK.> Other inhabitants of the tank are X1 clown fish X1 brittle/serpent star 6lbs of live rock Colony of brown mushrooms Sea grass (used as nutrient export) <OK.> My question is should I periodically vacuum the sand bed? <Yes. This should be done periodically, a small portion at a time, not the entire bed at once.> I don't want to upset the microbial balance of the sand or stop it acting as an efficient filter yet I don't want the sand bed to produce toxins. Cause for concern is darkening of the sand in appearance with areas of deeper depths of 3 inches. Colouration is a light coffee brown. Would this be bacteria/algae/organic matter? <Any are possibilities, and not likely cause for concern.> Many thanks <Welcome! Mich>

Question... New substrate dust-cloud, SW -- 07/01/07 Hi Crew, many an hour spent on your site, thanks ! I have been researching a possible answer for my question but have not found one yet, I'm sorry if I missed out on something or just plain dumb... I have been gradually setting up a 55gl FOWLR for over a month, letting rocks and sand establish with a couple powerheads heater etc. I have recently decided the sand depth was not adequate, as my aquarium is long the inch per 1.5lb was not deep, so I purchased some CaribSea crushed coral to mix in with the sand... I "lightly" rinsed the coral in a bucket in the shower, put in the aquarium which has now been totally clouded and full of dust for over 12hr. visibility is close to zero. <Needed to rinse more...> i removed the rocks this morning and put them in buckets with saltwater, because I'm afraid the sediment might harm them (there seemed to be many little growth developing) have executed a %50 water change and wiped the glass which was totally dusty inside. I left powerheads on. What else can I do ? <Mmm, run a Diatom (tm) filter might be best... Check with your LFS to see if they have such for rental, loan> do you think the rocks are damaged or should I just leave them in the tank? <Mmm... hard to impossible to say from here... but likely not irreparably harmed...> Also, btw, when I removed the largest rock it had a very strong sulphuric odor (like a rotten egg). <Not necessarily associated with the dust storm...> Thanks, I hope you have some advice and I would like to warn people to rinse their products very, very, thoroughly. <Thank you... Another simple route is to gravel-vacuum all... a few times... over a week or two's time... Again, do ask your local fish stores re the Diatom filter use/borrowing. Bob Fenner>

Re: Preventing Sandstorms/"Rubble Bottoms" (Cont'd.) 6/22/07 Hey there again :) I have questions on your comments below: <Okay!> I've ready on WetWebMedia that having rubble bottoms is a no-no because of nitrate production. <I disagree. Live rock and rock rubble still harbor bacteria capable of denitrification. I have ran systems with "rubble bottoms" for years without any detectible nitrate. The keys ARE brisk circulation, careful feeding, and consistent maintenance...like in any system. No magic here.> However, you talk about husbandry <More like "ramble..." LOL> .. if I clean up detritus by sucking everything up with a vacuum, won't I also suck up the good critters also? Jason <Potentially, sure. My point is NOT to suck up every drop of detritus in the system. Just some of the obvious excess. Think about it. What exactly is the point of keeping the aquarium "sterile"? We're not doing surgery or delivering babies in our aquariums, after all! In my opinion, this belief harkens back to some of the bad interpretations of the "Berlin School" of marine aquarium husbandry, in which many hobbyists obsessively siphoned out every bit of detritus in their systems in an effort to maintain high water quality. Unfortunately, in recent years, some reef hobbyists have continued to perpetuate this belief on the message boards with "bare bottom" methodologies, live rock "cooking", etc. Think about it for a moment. What exactly is so bad about some detritus in a system? Much of it is essentially inert material, already broken down by organisms within the aquarium. Some is not. Regardless, many organisms that we keep (corals, fishes and other inverts) utilize these materials as nutritional sources. It's perfectly okay to have some in your system. It's all about balance...The point is that you should not allow large quantities of uneaten food and fish waste to accumulate in the system. Regular manual removal of this stuff through siphoning when you conduct your weekly water changes will help export it out of the system. If some remains, it's not the end of the world, IMO. In an otherwise healthy system, fishes and other organisms will utilize it as a supplemental food source. Okay- off my soapbox now! Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.>

Bleaching sand  -- 5/13/07 Hi.   <Hello!> I have sort of a crazy question, not the first one you've received I'm sure.   <Heee!  You're correct there!> Is it possible/safe to bleach sand that will be used as the substrate in a reef aquarium?   <Hmm, I don't know.> I know it sounds a little crazy, <Yep!> but I'm asking because I found some sand at a local Wal-Mart that I was going to use in the display tank.  It's silica based of course and has a very yellow color.  I found similar sand at a pet store that costs literally more than 10 times as much and is also silica based but pure white and looks much nicer, IMO.  I'd much rather spend $8 on the sand as opposed to $90 but really like the look of the white sand.  So could I bleach the yellow sand to make it whiter?   <I would not do this.  There are better alternatives out there that are not only white, but also not silica based.  Silica sand tends be abrasive to bottom swelling creatures.  I would avoid using this in the display for the welfare of your tank inhabitant.   Look for formerly Southdown, now Oldcastle play sand it is inexpensive, can usually be found at you local home improvement store and is aragonite/calcium carbonate based.  You can test for this by putting a pinch of sand in some white vinegar and it bubbles you have a calcium based sand.>   I could then let it soak with a dechlorinator for months if need be to removed any residue from the bleach.  I'm only using about an inch of this sand in the display and have another 6-8 inches of aragonite for the refugium, so I am not concerned that it is silica based and has no buffering properties.   <Why not use the aragonite based sand that you are using in the sump.  It would be a better alternative in my opinion.> I also thought of using peroxide.  I know it's used to whiten bones or teeth sometimes, not sure if it would have any effect on silica based sand.   <I don't know if either peroxide or bleach would have an effect, but again I would encourage you to use an aragonite-based sand.> It's purely for aesthetic reasons, but I read on the back of a filtering product (Purigen) that it can be recharged by bleaching and then using a dechlorinator to make it safe for the aquarium.  I figured why not try it on the sand and see if it turns whiter.  Any thoughts, other than this is a crazy idea? <Definitely agree with the latter part!> Thank you again for your help and wonderful site. <Welcome! Glad you like the site!  Mich>

White Spots on Sand   4/24/07 Hello, <Hi> My Question is: My tank has been up for about 5-6 weeks now, with 2 damsels, I have notice that the are white furry balls on the sand, some are flat and the water has a yellowish tint to it.  <Sounds like rotting food or other decaying organic material.> I have done 20% water change to see if that cleared it up, but it didn't. <Seems like a water quality problem, keep changing out 20% or so, every few days if possible.> I'm wondering, is all this part of the cycle, I'm a truck driver and my wife don't even want to put her hands on the tank, so I do everything when I get home, please let me know what is going on, because I can't get her to take the test for amm. and nitrite and all the other one, she makes me so angry. Please help, thanks <Seems like you have water quality problems, my guess is that if you can get these under control you will see the water clear.> <Chris>

Sand Bed, clumping...  3/28/07 My sand bed in clumping together. I have anywhere from small to very large chunks of sand clumping together like a rock.  What may be causing this? <Most likely mis-adding supplements... though... there are organisms, just chemical situations in which "cementing" occurs...> How can I prevent this in the future? I have a 90 gallon tank that has been set up for 3 months. I have Carib Sea Arag-Alive Reef sand (1.0 - 2.0 mm) to a depth of 5 inches. 100 lbs of LR. My turnover rate is 26 times an hour. My alkalinity is @ 11 dKH, calcium @ 360 ppm, phosphates @ 0, ammonia @ 0, nitrites @ 0, nitrates @0, & ph @ 8.3. I have not touched the sand bed since it has been in the tank for 3 months (stirring or siphoning). Please Help, John Ucci     <John, do you add alkalinity, and/or biomineral products? If so or not, I would do a periodic stirring, perhaps gentle vacuuming to this sand bed... one half/side per time when you're doing water changes. Bob Fenner>

Sand in Sheets? BGA problem...   3/4/07 First, <Second...oh we're not playing that game, sorry.> let me say thanks in advance for any help you can provide. <You are welcome.>   My sand is starting to from sheets on top.  I have started noticing this a few weeks ago after 15 months of operation.  A week ago, I scooped a bunch of it out during a water change.  It seemed to be stuck together in sheets by some sort of greenish/brownish algae. <Sounds like blue-green algae, Cyanobacteria. What is your source water? Water chemistry?>   What could be causing this? <Phosphates, nitrates and nutrient problems in general. Also water flow and lighting spectrum.>   I have 3 Maxi-Jet 1200's in the display for water movement.  My sump/fuge is a 25g aquarium with a fuge section in the middle with 4-5 inches of live sand, Chaeto, live rock rubble.  The return is a RIO 3100. <Careful with this pump brand.> Lighting on the display is from 2 Iwasaki 14k bulbs each powered by an Ice Cap electronic ballast.  I run them about 10 hours per day.  One comes on an hour earlier and goes off an hour earlier than the other. <Why don't you respond with the questions I asked above and we can try to figure it out from there, also see the WWM: FAQs on the subject. Also at what depth is the sand and what is it's make-up? Thick (crushed coral) or small (oolitic)?>     Thanks,   Gerald Gibson <Adam J.>
Re: Sand Bed in Sheets; BGA issue  3/5/07
Thanks for getting back to me. <Of course.> Here are some test results; pH 8.0 Nitrite  0 Nitrate  0 Ammonia 0 <ph is too low for marine aquaria but other than that looks good.>     I used the instant ocean test kit.  My lighting is the 175 Iwasaki 14k, 2 of them.  They sit about 6 inches from the water surface.  Substrate is about 22 inches below water surface.  Corals, clams, and fish are fine, except the frogspawn.  He looks ok except he doesn't come out really far.  I get my water from the water machine at Wal-mart. <So it's likely RO, better than tap at least...most of the time.> Hope this help you to help me. <A few more questions Gerald, at what depth is the substrate and what is the particle size like...crushed coral or oolitic? (That sounds familiar did I ask you that last time?) What is the water-flow like in the sand bed area?> Thanks, <Of course.> Gerald Gibson <Adam J.>
Re: Sand Bed in sheets  3/6/07
Sorry about that. <No problem.> Substrate is about 22 inches below the water surface.  It is mostly small particle size. <That is good.>   Most of it is Carib Sea Arag Alive Fiji Pink.  There is a little bit of crushed coral and very small shells, 98% Fiji Pink though.  Water flow down at the substrate is not particularly strong. <May want to increase it as you can...without causing a Sahara sand storm.> My reasoning behind that is that I have a teardrop maxima down there.  I have always thought that they don't like a whole lot of flow.   <Not particularly a lot not.> What do you think though? <Sounds like you could stand for a little more. Another thought though it doesn't happen very often is "cementing;" sometimes happen with aragonite bases substrate when calcium levels are high and alkalinity and pH are out of whack. Does the sand appear hardened or solid?...Having said that I still think it likely some type of diatom based algae.>      Thanks,   Gerald <Adam J.>

New tank-nothing but water, sand and ammonia??? Dear All! Thanks for being such an inclusive resource for me in my year of planning and saving and stressing about my first saltwater tank! It's been a terrific resource, however, I didn't find any info about the issue I am currently having. I am in the process of converting a 42 gallon hex freshwater  tank into a marine set up (ideally a reef set up once I am out of my apartment).   <Heeee!> This is a plan that has been in the making for over a year and I'm finally in the final stages, <Very exciting> however, my water quality seems to have gotten ahead of me somehow.  I don't have an RO/DI system yet, so after cleaning the tank  (just water) I filled it up and let it sit for two weeks before adding  sand.  The sand was added another week and a half ago. I just added the  salt last night (expecting to get my live rock shipment) but that's not going to  be shipped at least for another week now. <Good...> I tested the water this morning just  to get a baseline so I could track the cycling process and was shocked at the  results. The temperature of the water is at 79 degrees Fahrenheit, my pH is  at 8.2, my specific gravity is at 1.024-1.025 and my alkalinity is at  3.5,  however,  my ammonia is at 3.5 ppm, my nitrites are at 0.15  ppm, and my nitrates are at 3.5 ppm. <Good that you have a mix/spectrum of all stages of nitrification> Why did this happen? How did this happen?  Could it be residue from the previous freshwater set up or the result of some  stray cat hair? <Heeeee! Not the last... very likely this material came in/about from either the salt mix and/or the sand... and not to worry... Should actually assist you in establishing cycling and curing your rock> Has it begun the process of cycling with on it's own? <Ah, yes> Do I need  to start from scratch and bleach the tank? <No... I would not> My tapwater does not flag any of  these things when tested, and I haven't had any of these issues with my  freshwater tank. Do I need to pick up some pieces of live rock from my LFS while  waiting for my Tampa bay rock to come in so that the TBS rock doesn't get an  ammonia dip? <No... not likely to be an issue... some further decomposition from the new LR will likely contribute more ammonia... see WWM re curing LR... Water Quality FAQs for the same> Or am I worried for no reason and everything will be ok. <Very likely the latter> This  is my first saltwater tank (I've been lusting after them ever since I was six  and lived in Monterey Bay) and I really want it to go well. I've also had two  Aquaclear 20 powerheads running, I have an Excalibur hang on skimmer (rated at  100 gallons and purchased used) running just so I can figure out water movement,  and I am also planning to set up a 12 gallon nano as a refugium for the hex. The  sand is 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep (forty pounds of aragonite) <Mmm... oh, I see this below> and I am also  getting in another 30 pounds of live sand for cycling and to flesh out a proper  DSB. <Ah, good> I have two CoraLife 96 watt quad fixtures set up (I couldn't  go HQI because of a 15 pound cat who has been known to go fishing in this  particular tank) and have been testing the water with red sea test kits (yes, I  know I need something more precise- I'm not happy with their saltwater  ranges at all).   As I mentioned, I am also waiting for live  rock to come in (85 pounds- one piece for my hex (tall, skinny and about 70  pounds) and the rest for my planned refugium. Sorry about my long winded e-mail,  I just want to make sure that all the system specs are provided.  Thanks  for the help and I am eagerly awaiting instruction.   Lee <Nothing really to be overly-concerned about here... Enjoy the process! BobF>
Re: New tank-nothing but water, sand and ammonia???  2/12/07
Dear Bob, <Lee> Thank you for your really fast reply. I thought I was over reacting a bit, but I wasn't entirely certain. I retested this morning and I think I'm losing  that mix of stages for the process. My nitrites dropped to 0.1,ppm my nitrates are down to 2.5 ppm and my ammonia is at 3.0 ppm. Since the process has begun,  what is the best way to keep it going until I get my rock? <Just leave all be> Or should it just  keep on trucking without me? <Ah, yes> I'm really not a neurotic fishkeeper, I just have  been obsessing over this process for so long- a major stage is finally coming to  a close and I think that part of me doesn't want the anticipation and excitement  of this first step (the planning) to go away.  Would it help to toss some  beneficial bacteria in the tank? <Wouldn't hurt... but likely would produce no discernible difference> Or should I just be patient and wait for my  rock? <This is what I would do, yes> As an aside, I am planning on setting up (ideally and in a perfect world) a refugium that looks good/nice and am thinking that plumbing a nano would work very well. It's going to sit on a shelf under the tank and be as visible as the  tank itself. I can't think of anything unreasonable about that, can you? <Nope> Or is  there any reason this would not work as I intend it to? <...> And thank you again! Your book and your site have been so helpful to me and to be able to ask a question like this and to get a response is awesome.  I feel like I am very much on the right track with this tank! Lee <Real good... BobF>

Sand Trouble... dust, in the tank... dude!   11/30/06 Morning fishy folk... <And a good morning to you as well, David. JustinN with you this morning.> I have a newly installed 3" CaribSea Aragamax Sugar Sand sandbed in a new 200gallon setup.  The package says little or no rinsing required.  I put about 10lbs at a time into a bucket with some freshwater, stirred it up and then scooped off all the particles as well as the cloudy water.  Then I'd repeat again until the water produced no particles, yet stayed a little cloudy.   <Ok> Anyhow, I have a sump system and am using a small Fluval filter with sponge material to help clean out the water.  I read in your FAQ's a few times there was the mention to NOT filter out the sand dust.  In other FAQ's you providing tips on how to filter out the dust.   <Simply the result of many minds working together here, difference of opinions. The finer dusts are more soluble into the water column as freely buffering the solution. Both methods will work fine, its all in your patience levels *grin*> It's been about 10 days and I can JUST now see through to the other side of the tank.  I imagine that the majority of the results are from filtration, and partly due to some of the dust settling. <Likely a balance of both here> At this point, all I have is the sand, the salted water running through my sump/pump, and a small Fluval helping to clear it up.  I think if I put in my liverock to aquascape it will cloud up again because of the disturbed sand.  I'm wondering if I should stir up the top layer of my sand to cloud the water a bit in hopes of the filter cleaning it up a bit more for me and getting rid of the settled dust? <Mmm, too likely to 'make things worse' here> Or if I should just proceed and likely let the water cloud up again when I place my cured liverock?   <Bingo> The water is milky, not gritty... my pre-rinsing seems to have taken any fine particles. One of the first critters I wanted to introduce is a Snowflake eel and I'd imagine that it'd stir up the sand a little.  I guess I'm afraid of it stirring up the sand frequently throughout the day and me not being able to view the tank for a week or so after the fact. <Of little concern here, once all settles> Of note, I am currently using that tiny Fluval which is rated for tanks up to 40gallons... again, it's only being used to clean up the dust (it's the filter I use on my quarantine tank).  I wonder if it'd be worth while for me to dish out the $150 for a filter that could handle up to about 200 gallons?   <Mmm, I would not, with your existing sump. Canister filters can become nitrate factories very quickly.> With an eel, a lionfish, and other critters, I'll have messy eaters... The bigger filter would allow me to better handle carbon, etc... if needed in the future?   I see also on your FAQ's the mention of using DE Filtration?  It seems uneconomical to purchase a DE filter from a pool company just to clear a tank and none of my retailers have or rent out filters. <There are specialty filters for aquarium use that will do exactly this, I believe they are known as diatom filters.> In short, once my tank clears should I be fine just placing my liverock and living with a bit or a lot of dust until it eventually all filters out over a month or so?  Or, do you think I should make the purchase of a larger filter?   Any harm in a lot of dust with critters in the water... i.e. them stirring up the sand to create the dust?   I've noticed the dust is like a minor smog in my aquarium room... you can't see it, but you can smell it.  My external pump also has a fine light white colored dusting on it. <I would simply add the rock here, and stay the course. All will settle with time. Do be sure to blast any sediment accumulation on your rock away after all clears up.> Oh, going off on a tangent here.  I was at my retailers two weeks ago. At the time, a guy was trying to sell back a Zebra Moray of substantial girth (it must have been a few years old?).  I was quite curious as I've been interested in either a snowflake or a zebra... so I watched the retailer staff member place it in an empty tank (which had no cover on it).  The eel swam at the surface for about 30 seconds before it started to jump/spill out over the top where this staff member goes to grab it with his bare hand behind it's head to push him back.  The eel clamped onto the underside of this guys wrist to create quite a bit of a mess of this guy.   <Ouch! That's one mistake you don't make too many times...> In short, even with just the molar crushing teeth... seems like these guys can still deliver a pretty nasty bite.   <Indeed> I'm building my chain mail glove as we speak... hehehe. Dave <Hehe, even with chain mail, it would likely still 'hurt like the dickens!" I would stay the course with your tank as you are currently going, add your rock when you feel comfortable, and don't sweat the sediment settling. It will eventually clear, no matter how cloudy it seems. As a tip, when I've filled tanks after adding oolitic sand, I simply use a trash bag to cover the surface of the sand, held in place by a dinner plate. I add the water to the surface of the dinner plate, and when done, remove all from the tank. I still get a bit of kick-up, but using this method I was able to add about 30 pounds of sand to my 40 gallon tank without rinsing, and the water was clear within a day! Hope this helps you! -JustinN>        

New sand settlement in a 180   11/24/06 I have a quick question that I hope you can answer. < Will surely do my best! > I started my new 180-gallon tank and put CaribSea Alive Bahamas Oolitic and now the sediment is in the water. < You can rinse this stuff for days and still end up with cloudy water. > How long does it normally take this to settle out of the tank? I have the wet/dry, Tunze 6060, and all of power heads working. I have two bags of Chem-Pure, PURA pad, 200lbs of live rock and some filter floss in the sump. How long do you thing this will take to clear? < It will take a few days to clear, and plan on cloudy days every time your stir the sandbed up for a while. Change mechanical filtration daily as well as cleaning everything else until it clears up. Your skimmer will probably need a thorough cleaning once the silt has settled.  > I have the fish in a 20-gallon tank and they seem fine, but I know this is excessively close of quarters for the fish and would like to put them in as soon as possible. < You didn't mention what fish are in the 20 so it may or may not be an issue. In any case you can add the fish as soon as you can see from one end to the other in the 180. Crystal clear would be best, but not a must. > Thank you for your guidance and assistance on this project. < You're most welcome and hope you and your tanks prosper. -- Emerson > Scot
Re: New sand settlement in a 180
  11/30/06 Thank you for your response and it has cleared up a lot since the e-mail, but I now have other questions about the sand and stocking. <I'll give them a go Scot, JustinN with you today.> The Fish that I have in the tank so far is the following: 1 - Huma Huma (Rhinecanthus aculeatus) (2") 2 - Ocellaris Clowns (Amphiprion ocellaris) Tank Raised (1 - 2") 1 - Blue Angel (Holacanthus bermudensis) (3") 1 - Blue Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) (2.75") <Ok> Questions 1. What should I use for a sand sifter with this tank? <I like gobies of the phylum Amblygobius personally, the Amblygobius phalaena is a personal favorite.> 2. Can I introduce cleaner shrimp and peppermint shrimp or would they become food for the other inhabitants? <Introduce the shrimp before the trigger, and I give it.... 50/50 odds. I know that's not too reassuring, but its likely worth the try. With the size tank you have, I would give them at least a fighting chance.> 3. I know that I should put snails into the system, but I have a concern about their ability to reproduce at an exponential rate and that they simply take over the tank. Is this a concern with the introduction of cleaner snails such as Cerith Snail - Cerithidae genus, Astraea Snail - Astrea species, or Turbo Snail Mexican - Turbo Fluctuosa? <Mmm, no, is of little concern with marine snails. They typically don't reproduce at those speeds, and if they do, you can always trade/sell them to other reefers!> 4. Could I also introduce crabs like Blue Leg Hermit Crab - Phimochirus operculatus or Scarlet Hermit Crab - Paguristes Cadenati? <Sure, just don't add too many of these opportunistic, but interesting, feeders.> The only other fish that I would like to add is a Rectangular Trigger - Rhinecanthus rectangulus. I have received a mixed message whether I could do this with the Huma Huma. Is this a intelligent move or should I stay with the stocking I have at this point? <If it were me/mine, I would stick with the current stock. Perhaps an interesting wrasse species would be a good addition?> The following are the specifications of the newly created system. 180 Gallon with sump system 2 - Tunze 6060 4 - Aqua clear 70 (Came with the system) 2 - AquaC Remora Pro�s both with a Mag3 and an overflow 5 Liter collection container 2 - Ebo Jager 200W heaters 2 - Coralife 36 Inch Aqualight with 1- 65 Watt Dual Actinic 03/7100K Blue SunPaq            PowerCompact Bulb - / 1- 65 Watt 10000K White PowerCompact Bulb 3 - Bags of Chemi-pure 1 - PURA Pads over the top of the wet/dry system <Sounds good> Until it is clear, I have put filter floss in the down tube for the sump and change it every day. <Ok> Thank you so much for the invaluable information that you all have provided in my transition from a 55 to a 180 gallon system. <No problems, Scot, is what we're here for. Good luck on your new tank, I think you've got a good plan, and you'll do just fine! -JustinN> <Previous correspondence is as follows, sender edited the reply and merged the letters together. -JustinN> I have a quick question that I hope you can answer.< Will surely do my best! >I started my new 180-gallon tank and put CaribSea Alive Bahamas Oolitic and now the sediment is in the water.< You can rinse this stuff for days and still end up with cloudy water. >How long does it normally take this to settle out of the tank? I have the wet/dry, Tunze 6060, and all of power heads working. I have two bags of Chem-Pure, PURA pad, 200lbs of live rock and some filter floss in the sump. How long do you thing this will take to clear?< It will take a few days to clear, and plan on cloudy days every time your stir the sandbed up for a while. Change mechanical filtration daily as well as cleaning everything else until it clears up. Your skimmer will probably need a thorough cleaning once the silt has settled.  >I have the fish in a 20-gallon tank and they seem fine, but I know this is excessively close of quarters for the fish and would like to put them in as soon as possible.< You didn't mention what fish are in the 20 so it may or may not be an issue. In any case you can add the fish as soon as you can see from one end to the other in the 180. Crystal clear would be best, but not a must. >Thank you for your guidance and assistance on this project.< You�re most welcome and hope you and your tanks prosper. Emerson > Scot

Rinsing Sand/Eliminating a Back-Siphon -- 11/21/06 I was reading your FAQ's and have a question from one of your responses to the FAQ. <<Okey-dokey>> I forget the article subject header/date etc... but don't think it is needed.  The gist of it was adding new sand to a new aquarium and the crew's recommendation to not filter or rinse because the dust in the water is beneficial to a new setup. <<Ah yes, when using aragonite sand the 'fines' as they are called are readily soluble/contribute readily to the mineral content of the water...though can be a real mess/pain to clean off equipment.  But 'rinsing' the sand is no fun either>> Currently, I have my new tank circulating saltwater at the appropriate salinity and temperature and I am using a sump.  My sump is empty.  In short, it's simply water circulating over my new 2" fine aragonite sand bed. <<Ok>> Although the sand has pretty much settled I still have a cloudy mess. <<Been there...>> Am I correct in saying that I should simply let it run for four or five days as is... before adding my cured live rock? <<I would...only to prevent settling/covering up of any emergent life on the rock>> I will be using live rock in my sump as filter media...shall I leave this out as well for the 4 or 5 days??? <<Might as well, yes>> Second question:  I'm super paranoid about overflowing a tank or my sump in my 200-gallon tank and 55-gallon sump. <<As you should be...but this is easily taken care of by assuring water/drain levels are set to allow the sump to hold all transient flow when the power is off>> So, to be safe I do test runs and what do ya know...I have a system that cannot overflow. <<Excellent>> So, I put together a manifold for water coming into my tank from the sump with 'hang-down' type 90 degree elbows to give me 4 mini-powerhead like nozzles. <<cool>> They hang down about 4" below the manifold and about 3" below my overflow box...see where this is headed???? <<Mmm, yes...the manifold is draining too much water for the sump to hold>> So after a 24-hr no-leak test run...I shut my pump off to mix my salt....and the phone rings. <<Uh-oh>> I'm upstairs for about an hour on the phone to come back down to my aquarium room/sump flood! <<Indeed>> Obviously, the pump back-siphons the water to the level of the manifold nozzles 3" below my overflow box. <<Indeed>> After wet-vac' ing up the water I realize that this is what has happened.  I figure it would only back-siphon to the first nozzle exposed to air...nope...it back-siphons water to the lowest nozzle that is fully submerged. <<Curious...I too would have thought once any nozzle was exposed the siphon would be broken>> Although I am fully aware of this now... I'm sure there is a simple fix to correct this from happening unexpectedly but not quite sure what it is.  Obviously I could use a shallower nozzle that when running, would just barely hit the water surface so when the pump turned off it wouldn't back-siphon much at all, but this wouldn't give me the flexibility of range in my water flow. <<Understood...but this may be your best/only option>> Any suggestions? <<Can you get/fit a larger sump to hold the extra volume?  Can you set the 'running' water level in the existing sump lower/low enough to handle the extra volume?>> What about drilling a small hole in the top of the manifold and using a very small hose shoved down inside while keeping the other end of the hose up and out of the water? <<Might be worth a try; just be sure to have the hose inside the pipe pointed 'downstream' to keep from jetting water all over the room>> Would this keep air in the water supply manifold that prevents all back-siphoning? <<Maybe...but you might find you have to do this at each nozzle>> I just don't want water shooting outta this small hose while the pump is on. <<Indeed>> Any advice? <<Before trying the hose idea, I would try drilling a small (1/8') hole just above each nozzle opening about a half-inch below the water-line (where the water-line is when the tank/everything is 'running').  This should break the siphon when the water-level falls and should have little effect on the operation/efficacy of the manifold.  But, if you do this, do make checking/clearing these holes part of your regular maintenance routine>> Regards, Dave Brynlund <<Cheers, Eric Russell>>

Vacuuming Substrate, Algae, Dead Fish, LFS Water Testing - 05/30/06 Hi crew, <<Hello!>> Ok, I have read all the vacuuming FAQ's and still have no definitive answer to the question of whether I should be vacuuming the substrate in my 46 gallon reef tank. <<My preference is to NOT vacuum the substrate in reef setups...many beneficial organisms will be destroyed/removed.  If your substrate is of a fine material and you have good strong flow it should be of little concern as detritus should stay in suspension long enough to either be eaten, or removed by your filtration system>> It is brownish on top and I have a sand sifter goby that works his buns off (although he does dump his sifted sand on my live rock mostly, I hate that), also various crabs and snails. <<I know what you mean about the goby "crop dusting" your rock/corals...is typical of many of the "Sleeper" variety (Valenciennea sp.).  I can suggest you try a Dragon goby (Amblygobius phalaena).  In my experience these gobies will usually not sift/dig so deep as the sleeper gobies, and tend to stay lower/closer to the substrate while sifting meaning less "fallout" on your rock/corals>> I don't know what kind of snails but I am pretty sure they aren't Astreas since I couldn't find any to buy.  I also have a considerable amount of "Green Algae" that I think is hair algae. <<Hmm...do you filter all your top-off/salt make up water?>> I have a good skimmer that works well, my water parameters are as follows:  Salinity 1.021 to 1.023, <<I would raise this to NSW levels of 1.025/1.026>> Temp 79-80, Ammonia-0, Ph 8.2, Calcium 470, <<You're flirting with the upper limits here...I would let this fall to about 400ppm>> Alk 3.5, Nitrite and Nitrate-0, Phosphate reads 0 but I wonder if the algae isn't taking it up so it doesn't show on the test. <<A possibility.  Perhaps you can add some Poly-Filter to your filter flow path?>>>> My normal water change regimen consists of 5% twice a week and I only use RO/DI from the LFS for top off and prepared salt water from the LFS for changes. <<Mmm, a couple thoughts here.  Change your regimen to one 10% change per week, or even a 20% water change every two weeks...more effective than the tiny frequent changes in my opinion.  Also, test the water (both fresh and salt) you are getting from the LFS.  I'm not suggesting they are doing anything wrong, but YOU need to be confident this water is not causing you any problems>>   My bio-load is small just the goby, a lawn-mower blenny (that isn't mowing much), a shrimp and a frogspawn coral.  I had other fish but over the past three months they have all died mysterious deaths but that is another email I guess. <<This would seem to indicate more than just an algae problem>> In case you are interested they were two clowns (died at different times), a royal Gramma, a yellow tang and a six lined wrasse, all died about a week to two weeks apart.  No clue from the two LFS (they also tested my water several times and always pronounced it wonderful) I use on why because my water parameters are stable at what you see above except the alk gets a little low from time to time. <<Still, all those fish dying means something was/is poisoning your system.  The low alkalinity is likely due to the extremely high calcium...the two are generally considered mutually exclusive, I'm surprised neither LFS has said anything to you regarding this.  Please do some reading here and among the indices in blue at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/alkalinity.htm >> The two clowns looked a little like they had developed HLLE but were eating Mysis shrimp and Cyclop-eeze with garlic drops and Selcon almost up until the end.  The others looked perfectly healthy, just slowly got listless and died, no spots, etc.  If you do have any ideas I would be interested to know them. <<As stated, it sounds like some environmental/poisoning event...might even be the fish were "damaged" when you acquired them...do you employ any chemical filtration (carbon/Poly-Filter)?>> So I am waiting a few weeks to try to add more victims and in the meantime am trying to take this time to get the tank and rocks as pristine as I can.  So I think I am doing everything right except I don't vacuum the gravel because my LFS has told me not to. <<I am inclined to agree>> He says the goby should do the job.  He apparently needs help. <<Perhaps the substrate is too "course" for the goby>> Should I be vacuuming the gravel or not. <<If this is a shallow substrate (less than an inch) of course material then yes, you can go ahead a lightly vacuum during water changes...if this is a fine substrate, if you have a DSB, then no, I wouldn't vacuum, it is not necessary in the first instance, and is not desirable in the second>> Thanks for your help then, now and in the future. Debi <<Debi, all things considered, I strongly recommend you get some test kits of your own and test the water you use from the LFS...if for nothing else but your own peace of mind.  Regards, EricR>> Sand Beds/Maintenance   6/9/06 Hello, I currently have a 90 gallon FOWLR tank.  The current inhabitants are 2 yellowtail damsels, 2 clowns, a hippo tang, a royal Gramma, a skunk cleaner shrimp and an assortment of crabs and snails.  All live in relative harmony.  I recently wanted to add a good sand sifter because, even though my Nassarius snails were doing a good job, I wanted something to more actively clean the surface of the sand.  I went out a purchased a diamond goby.  God bless the little guy because from the moment I put him in the tank he went right to work.  The problem I have is the tank is a little cloudy now because he is always at it.  Will the constant cloudy water have any ill affect on the rest of the inhabitants in my tank? <Could very well, if the sand bed is stagnant, that is, not enough critters to keep it stirred up.  If that's the case, the goby may/will cause hydrogen sulphide gas to be released into the tank. And this, is not good.  Is a good practice to vacuum the sand bed during water changes to prevent this and improve water quality.> And of course thanks in advance and for the great site. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks Craig Dirty Sand 6/5/06 I have a brown red film that will go away at night and comes in about 2 hrs after the lights come on. What would be causing this? Is it the lighting I am using. I have a power compact 260 watt with 2 actinic blue and 2 12k lights? <Most likely Cyanobacteria, a photosynthetic bacteria.  Can indicate a nitrate or phosphate problem.  Also common in new tanks and will often cycle out after a while with no action needed.> <Chris>
Dirty sand Part II 6/6/06
Thank you for the quick reply. <Sure> Also the bacteria looks like it is covering the live rock I used a soft bristle brush to remove what I could. I have had nitrates staying at around 10-20ppm I just started protein skimming Sunday. <Will help lots, hopefully a quality skimmer.> I am feeding 2x a week right now.  Is there any other suggestions? <Water changes, nutrient export.> My LFS said to leave the lights off for 2 days. <Treats symptoms, not cause.> But I have a Sebae anemone will this harshly effect it. <Yep> Also is SeaChem's Purigen a good nitrate reducer.  <Water changes and a deep sand bed are better.> <Chris>
Dirty Sand Part III 6/7/06
Well I hope it's a quality skimmer it's made by Red Sea the Berlin-airlift 60 it seems to be working great. <Check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i1/protein_skimmer_impressions.htm for more on skimmers.> Slow moving thick foam... Also how deep is deep? <3+ inches.> Which L.S. is a good choice? <Sugar fine calcium based sand.> Thanks you so much! <Welcome> <Chris>

Maintenance/Substrate Cleaning   7/18/06 Your site is great & have used it for about 8 months now, learning so much.  Thank you. <You're welcome.> Have done searches & FAQ's, but have these Q's: 1) When I vacuum <vacuum> my substrate (Caribbean product, I believe aragonite?), I think I may be sucking out too much of the substrate itself.  How much, if any, of the substrate should actually be removed from the tank when siphon cleaning? <Very little, if any.> I started with about a 2" deep bed 5 months ago and am now down to about 1/4". <Ah, a substrate guzzling tank.> 2) I have not been regularly rinsing & reinserting the sand I've removed (too lazy after cleaning red slime off of live rock), <Can't be lazy in this hobby.> so now I have a bunch of sand that has been sitting in a bucket for weeks/months.  I want to put that back in the tank (slowly, parts at a time) but think I should probably clean it since it's not completely dry.  What is best way ?  Should I use a bleach/water combo, rinse , and then let it dry in the sun ? <I'd put the substrate in a five gallon pail and just keep rinsing with water, no bleach or other chemicals.  Fill the pail with about two inches of substrate at a time, much easier, quicker. I like doing this outside with a hose.  Shouldn't say "I like", rather, "doing this outside".> Thanks, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Paul

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