Cleaning sand bed?

Discussion in 'New To The Hobby' started by Stammer, Dec 29, 2011.

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  1. Stammer

    Stammer Bristle Worm

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    Having come from a freshwater tank where I routinely vacuumed my sand bed, is it not a good approach for a saltwater tank with live sand and live rock? Just curious... I have a small (kind of lazy) clean up crew made up of a few different snails and a couple different small crabs. The sand bed just doesn't seem to get disturbed or sifted around enough to keep it fresh looking?
     
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  3. rocketmandb

    rocketmandb Ocellaris Clown

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    You really don't want to disturb your sand bed very much. Get some sand sifters (like nessarius snails) to make sure it gets turned over naturally.

    Some people will replace a portion of their sand bed on an annual basis, but that's about it.
     
  4. Ashevillian

    Ashevillian Pajama Cardinal

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    i wonder the same thing too. I have a few area's that collect detritus, am I to just leave this for the "bugs" and "critters" to play in?
    (i've watched amphipods chase down snail poop lol)
     
  5. cosmo

    cosmo Giant Squid

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    Maybe rearrange your rockwork or increase your flow so you don't have those areas! i struggled with that for a bit too!

    But i'd say messing with your sand bed is not a good idea!
     
  6. silor

    silor Sea Dragon

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    I have a shallow sand bed I have to vacuume mine or I get red fluffy algae that grow on it real weird.
    So far no increase in no3.. And I got a lot out of my sand but it's mixed crushed coral and sand about 1-1/2" deep

    I'll ad it may not be a good idea but I do ...I also use a baster and get the nooks and cranies of my rocks
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  7. Thatgrimguy

    Thatgrimguy Flying Squid

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    sea cucumbers do a great job of keeping a sand bed white and shiny!! I hear they can put off some poison when they die, so if that happens then do a water change. But no more risk than an anemone from what I understand.
     
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  9. Ashevillian

    Ashevillian Pajama Cardinal

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    I wonder if this applies to fresh water. Should I not vacuum my planted tank's gravel? Gets kinda scary when I do, plus I have sooo many plants and very good substrate I feel like it's more less a soil at this point along with very good substrate like I said

    cosmo: i'll give that a try but my LR's are pretty large and crammed in tightly - I'll see if I cant pull it away from the glass more so flow gets across
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2011
  10. Reef-a-holic

    Reef-a-holic 3reef Sponsor

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    The following is paraphrased from a post from a reefer on a different forum...but it very much sums up my feelings on sand beds.

    As with every thing else in this hobby, there are benefits and draw backs to using sand as the substrate in a reef tank. Much like the great lighting debates there are die hard DSB (deep sand bed) people and die hard BB (bare bottom) people, so depending on who you talk to you’ll get a lot of conflicting information. When DSB systems became popular many people jumped on the bandwagon of the latest craze and followed the rule of the day. This rule was that you are not allowed to disturb the sand, ever. However, after several years of accumulating detritus in the sand, problems begin to arise. Corals stop growing (or even die), nuisance algae begins to take over, and the overall health of the system plummets. A BB person tells them that it’s the sands fault, so it should all be removed. In the process of removing the sand the whole system gets a good cleaning. The surviving corals bounce back, coralline algae begins to cover surfaces that were once dominated by hair algae, and a new BB person is born. This scenario plays out over and over again in this hobby. Was it truly the sands fault though??? No, of course not, but the sand gets the blame. Several years of accumulated detritus was the real problem. The detritus was removed along with the sand which is why these systems improve.

    The real problem here is that popular thinking about DSB husbandry is greatly flawed. It is believed that the hobbyist should not disturb a DSB, but rather you should have tons of critters that are constantly disturbing the sand for you. Many false explanations have been offered up for why we should not disturb a sand bed. One of them is that we can release harmful or even toxic substances from the sand. Well, guess what, there is no invisible barrier between substances in the sand and the rest of the system. If harmful substances are building up in the sand, it will only be a short matter of time before they begin effecting the rest of the system. The only cure for this problem is to keep the sand clean so that problem causing substances don’t have a chance to accumulate. In other words, break out the gravel vac and clean that sand bed.

    Another part of the DSB myth that people buy into is that critters can keep a sand bed clean. This is impossible! It takes a lot of detritus to support a relatively small population of detritivores. Sure there are some animals that can help stir and clean a sand bed, but they also leave a lot behind and in the end they are only breaking things down into smaller pieces. A small amount of this may be removed by filtration and/or skimming, but in the grand scheme of things most of this waste is still not going to leave system.

    Then there is the whole oxygen gradient setup that will get disturbed if you mess with a sand bed. It is true, the lower areas of a DSB are home to denitrifying anaerobic bacteria, but should we really be concerned about disturbing this? Not in my opinion. Bacteria are very resilient organisms. If they weren’t companies like Clorox and Lysol would be out of business in very short order. We are not going to kill off all the bacteria in a sand bed simply by vacuuming it with a gravel vac. Sure, some of the bacteria will be displaced, but with the vast population of bacteria in a mature sand bed, they will recover very quickly.

    The benefits to having a DSB include the fact that they do supply an environment for denitification, less lighting may be needed, many of the critters we keep do much better when sand is available and many people find them visually superior to BB. This last one is a biggie for me. All the places I’ve been or seen that have coral reefs all have beautiful soft white sand bottoms. For most of us, myself included, keeping a reef tank is an attempt to mimic the mesmerizing beauty of what God has created in the natural reefs of the world. To me not having sand would be like not having rock or water. It’s just a part of what makes a reef tank look natural.


    So in summery, I'm a firm believer that cleaning a sand bed is the right thing to do. A sand bed that is never touched is going to "crash" at some point. Cleaning it with some regularity will, IMO, greatly extend the life of the sand bed...in most cases probably longer than of the "average" tank.

    With all that said, if you have a sand bed that has not been touched for quite awhile, I think I would suggest going slow with the first few cleanings. Personally I try to give my sand beds a fairly thorough cleaning at least once a month.
     
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  11. Mr. Bill

    Mr. Bill Native Floridian

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    Wow, wow, and wow!

    Well, with all that in mind, should we be using live sand at all? After all, anything that feeds produces excrement. The ls infauna just happens to be depositing theirs deeper in the sand bed. :-/

    Furthermore, what purpose does it serve if we're to vacuum the sand periodically anyway?
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2011
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  12. Mr. Bill

    Mr. Bill Native Floridian

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    Actually, that's an excellent idea. Whenever performing maintenance, one wants to remove all the detritus possible from their tank. Blasting it from the rocks allows it to be sucked into the filter/sump/skimmer and/or removed during a water change.