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Choosing and maintaining sand

Posted 05/20/2014 at 10:50 PM by Sk8r

Sand: buying it, keeping it.
Avoid silicate sand. Go for aragonite, which is basically calcium carbonate and safe.
Fine or medium? I can only tell you personally, with an sps reef, in a re-set-up, I tried fine, and spent the next 2 years removing it, after it killed corals. I'm definitely on the medium side. The fine sand, though amply bacteria'ed, would not settle, blew like mad, irritated corals, and was a mess. The medium sand has enough 'shape' to it to enable jawfish to build (I like those guys!) and doesn't blow. It's not as photogenic as the fine stuff, and will get a little cruddy. Several things help with that: a cleanup crew that includes nassarius and one fighting conch per 50 gallon. And if you have necessary exposure to a window, which is almost certainly going to provide a little red cyano on that exposed sand edge, you might just get a band of broad black ribbon or paper that you can place from time to time, covering the exposed sand while not looking too bad on its own. Lack of light will discourage the cyano...which lives on light.

Sand care? I run a deep sandbed, and I do NOT vacuum it: I do have nassarius to do that job. Kicking up your sandbed can kill your tank, and the worse your sandbed is, the more likely it is to crash your tank if disturbed. The little snails work without that overturn. If they aren't getting it, try the ribbon, and add more nassarius.

Buy 'live' sand or not? I never have; but it's ok---watch your expiration date. And if you buy dry sand, put 2-3 lbs in a bucket and run the garden hose in it until the water runs clear instead of milk-white. You can do this an amazing length of time. When you do have all your buckets of sand clean, which can take many bathtubs of water---you can remove the chlorine of the tapwater with a dose of Prime or other such product.

This does NOTHING to remove the phosphate that may arrive with rock and sand---or the remnant of city water; but you just hope it's not too bad.

If there does turn out to be a horrendous hair algae bloom, a fuge won't help you enough in phosphate removal. And never mind a phosphate test: it'll tell you you have none, while your tank is buried in 6" strands of hair algae...and WHY does it lie? Well, it's because there's a ton of phosphate locked up inside that algae and it can't 'read' phosphate that's not in the water.

The fix? Install a GFO reactor. It's cheaper in the long run. And there's pretty well no way to fix it but keep the reactor going, and expect it to take 3-6 months. You can also help kill off algae by pulling it off by hand and tossing it, and also by flipping bad rocks over to expose their unalgaed side. This kills off the algae so the GFO can get the phosphate it's hiding. Some tanks can be so bad the GFO 'saturates' in a week; so judge for yourself when to change the GFO. I've had it so bad it took 3 changes. Ultimately you see the green hair algae start to look yellower and less healthy, and you know you're getting it...but the rock and sand just go on releasing more phosphate until they run out and the GFO has got all of it. Above all, in this situation, you should not be using tapwater: city water supplies are loaded with phosphate.
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