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Deep Sand Bed vs. Bare Bottom


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#1
Christopher Marks

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Deep sand bed or bare bottom? Which method do you use for your nano reef? What substrate do you prefer? Have you tried one and later switched? Discuss your ideas and experiences.
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#2
lgreen

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Deep sand beds are not even an option for nano tanks. Straight from the mouth of Dr. Ron Shimeck, deep sand beds are worthless in nanos due to the lack of large surface area.

Plenums are also probably worthless in nanos since that too requires some surface area.

That leaves shallow sand beds and bare bottom.

I'll leave it at that. I see how both would be beneficial and problematic, but I prefer a shallow sand be of about 1" with good maintenance.

Come on guys....fight to the death. And lets see some scientific literature!

#3
saltwater232001

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Can it be dangerous to my tank if I have a DSB?

#4
dhoffroad

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well I have to agree with lgreen....

it was hard for me to decide which way to go on my new 20l, BB or shallow sand and well the "cosmetics" of the shallow sand beat out the BB for me...BTW not saying that BB tanks dont look good, they just are'nt for me (well atleast this tank).....

oh yea one more thing my psychic powers are telling me that this is just gona start a back and forth bickering match...LOL

#5
audiocontrol

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DSB's just look rediculous, considering it eats up a good chunk of space. Barebottoms...I dont mind them, but think they only look good if you have alot of live rock and coraline covering the bottom.

#6
lgreen

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Originally posted by saltwater232001
Can it be dangerous to my tank if I have a DSB?



Yes. If not maintained correctly, basically there only function will be to store nutrients, and therefore cause algae problems.

According to Dr. Bob Goeman, Ph.D, author of Live Sand Secerets, only about the first inch of a sand bed is really effective at doing anything. Everything else is just a place to store nutrients and therefore essentially worthless.

I really don't understand the idea behind dsb's. They sound like trouble to me.

personally i prefer shallow sand beds and like plenum systems too (w/ about 4" of substrate) for larger tanks.

If you ask me, plenum systems are the most efficient, but I really don't know if they would be effective in nano tanks.

#7
steelhealr

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This may sound stupid, but, barebottom may be the 'wave of the future' and easier to gravel vac clean, but, IMO, my tank looks like what the sea floor/reefs did, staring at it from behind the tempered glass of my US Divers mask at 40 feet. Case closed for me. SH

PS 1-2" sandbed.

#8
NEVER SATISFIED REFFER

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i had a dsb in my 29, didnt take long and the tank had a foul smell coming from it. the only way i could get rid of it was to run coal all the time. corals where fine, just had a bad smell, which i guess if i hadnt removed it, the tank would have crashed. now i just have enough sand to cover the bottom. setting up a new fuge, will put about 1" in it.

#9
NepTuNe-UsD

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I agree with steelhealr, I want my tank to look and emulate a natural reef system as much as possible and the BB idea just looks so fabricated. Also,there are certain livestock that prefer to have a SB in order to create a makeshift dwelling. As far as the DSB goes, Ive had a 3" SB in a 20R for 2 years now and have never had problems with water quality or algea.

#10
ebin

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I just set up my 29 and originally wanted to go BB however it looked a litle hoakey si I lightly dusted the bottom of the tank with some black sand and it looked better but i then heavy dusted the bottom and am happy with it. I ran a heavy sand bed in my nano-cube with no problems but I hate dirty sand so I really want to stay away from it.

I have seen alot of bare bottoms lately and it is becoming more and more popular. (imo)
great thread by the way
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20 L frameless broken down and sold but a good build nonetheless.
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#11
Pigup

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Deep sand beds are out of the question for the very reasons stated above. I've also read reports of some sort of poisonous areas developing on them, something like black spots ejecting some sort of florine compound that's harmful to reef inhabitants. Don't quote me on that.

I also agree that bare bottoms don't look as natural as tanks with a shallow sand bed. I also believe in the benefits of having sand in the aquarium: bacterial growth essential to the nitrogen cycle, a place for inhabitants like crabs, shrimp, sand sifting fish to look for food/hide/dig and other such activities. As far as tank setup is concerned I think a sand bed brightens up the look of the aquarium. Also, I imagine that aquascaping my rocks in a BB tank wouldn't work out as well as i'd like, as I wouldn't have the sand to set my rocks in varied orientations. Shallow Sand beds all the way.

#12
Daemonfly

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I also agree DSBs just don't work well in nanos. Also, for a DSB to work in a proper sized tank, it requires better flow than most people use, especially with most reefers going with only a few high-output powerheads, etc...

BBs work, but I hate the look, so I go with around 1" of fine grained sand.


The DSB bucket threads on Reefcentral kinda interested me though. They're a DSB blocked off from any light as well as fed only pre-filtered water strong enough flow to keep anything from settling. I applied the theory to nano size, modded a Hagen CO2 reactor chamber and filled with sand. Running it on my 20g long for now to get it seeded. Then will be able to test how it works.
3g long: Wow, found my first tank thread (retired)
5.5g reef: 96w Quad 50/50("rigged")| AC500 full modded fuge. (retired)
2.5g reef: Complete DIY 2.5g acrylic tank & hood (retired due to split seam ;_;).
20g long prop tank. 10g sump, 175w MH.

Coming soon! 2.5g dubbed "Pulse".

#13
saltwater232001

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I have ran a dsb in my 29 for over a year now I have never had a problem. I want solid evidence that it is harmfull and I will change it right away, I would never do anything intentional to harm my tank and I will listen to anyones advise but I need to know for sure if it will harm my tank in the long run. Does anyone have any hard evidence that proves that it is harmfull?

#14
lgreen

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I would recommend reading a book called "Live Sand Secrets" by Dr. Bob Goemans.

Basically in his opinion any sandbed greater than about 2cm is worthless except in a pleum system.

The reason why a dsb is worthless is because it essentially acts as a storage place for nutrients. If not properly maintained, nutrients continue to build up, and can eventually develope dead spots and release some nasty stuff in the tank.

I don't know that this would warrant an instant change of your sandbed though. I am also a huge supporter of "if it is working good, then leave it the heck alone".

#15
saltwater232001

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I respect peoples advise on this site (that is what keeps me here!)I'm moving soon and I will probably take 1/2 of my sand out of my main tank and x-fer it into my fuge which is in progress as we speak.

#16
DRZL-sauras

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I think DSB and SSB both dont work, the worse due to length of time to implosion=SSB.

w/ DSB the bomb takes time to get to the top and cause problems as the anaerobic bacteria are overwhelmed and PO4 is being stored, SSB the fuse is much shorter, T Minus ?

BTW people still confuse "clean BB" w/ sterility and that just isnt so.

Originally posted by Pigup
[B] I also believe in the benefits of having sand in the aquarium: bacterial growth essential to the nitrogen cycle, B]



The rock is what contains the life and the bacteria that convert waste. Your just giving them a huge help by getting rid of the sandbed which is giving it more then it can process, thus giving them real efficiency,
When People cook rock they are getting rid of algae/ and p04 by letting the Nitrogoneous bacteria take over in a non-lit more competitive setting, The crap you see come out is actually the bacterial end product of the nitrogen cycle at work, Its coming out because at a microscopic level its breaking it down, It's not just detritus dust that couldve just been shaken out.

In a BB the crap that falls out rocks (it will for years, even after lengthy cooking) the crap your fish/snails/crabs and other tank inhabitants ( go BB and you'll be surprised how much clean up crews crap!) Is just NOT giving it a new home to fester, Its taking it out before it even decomposes! It's taking care of it at step 1 rather then step 6.

I know some may find it unnattractive to each his own, but as much as you wish to emulate nature some things just won't work. I beleive Sandbeds are one of them.

Doing it like nature does it, doesn't count unless you also have thousands of feet of sand beneath your display, and a sump w/ trillions bajillion fafillions gallons of water which could dilute all the crap that builds up by letting "nature take its course".

Damn im tired now.....I'm outti.

#17
GreenUku

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Here are some links to the only experiments I've seen looking at different substrate setups. The tanks they used were 3 gallons each, so this should be relevant to nano reefs. They seem to conclude that shallower sand beds are worse and that plenums don't do anything noticable.

These are by Rob Toonen in Advanced Aquarist:

An Experimental Comparison of Sandbed and Plenum-Based Systems. Part 1: Controlled lab dosing experiments

An Experimental Comparison of Sandbed and Plenum-Based Systems: Part 2: Live Animal Experiments

Skip down to Overall Summary for their conclusions.

Also Eric Borneman wrote an interesting article here:

The Old Becomes New, Yet Again: Sandbeds and Vodka

#18
Undertheradar

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I started with remote plenums on larger tanks. For nanos they dont work however and just sit there making nitrates. Then I tried that sugar-aragonite on nanos which claims you can have a dsb in as little as a couple inches it is so fine. That is a crock. Although it might be so fine it can have anaerobic zones, it also cant breath and so you end up with those toxic black deposits in your sand. And since you only have an inch or two..all it takes is a decent sized snail or hermit to dig up the whole stench and destroy whatever is going on. You need a deep bed, 5" at least IMO, with 2-5mm sand. But in a nano, Schimek is 100% correct, they dont have enough area to facilitate the formation of temperature gradients that are the primary source of flow in a DSB/plenum. There just isnt enough space for variations to develop.

Then I decided to go the 'low-organics' route and eliminate the sand all together...aka BB. I liked it at first. It was easy to clean. But no matter what you do, pockets of detrious form and no matter how much flow you use or times you try to get it all with vacuuming...you just cant get it all. So it sits...and without any sand there is no bacteria to process this mulm. So it sits, decomposes in the open, and gives off phosphates. After a while it became worse than any sand bottom tank I ever had.

I have now settled on one way. Use a 2-5mm sand in a 1-2" layer with critters. This layer will catch detrious, sure, but I also have breeding colonies of nassarius snails which eat it all. I also use sand-sifting gobies as if God ordered me to. 2-spot gobies and diamond sifter gobies do an amazing job of cleaning sand. And just for good measure, I do have some other snails in the sand...super tongans and ceriths. They keep the sand very clean and constantly cultivated. It has been the least problematic of any substrate I have had.

For those who want nitrate reduction, a wonderful method that does work in any size tank would be a mud filter. GARF does alot of work with this, but you may not want a mud bottom in your main tank...so in a sump or fuge is the best that can be done...leaving you with a choice for the main tank still. Also, refugiums with macro algaes, skimming to remove it up front, and live rock are still the best methods.

OR, there is a newer method that has been getting results...and it even doubles as a calcium buffer. Unlike denitrification reactors before, sulphur + crushed shell reactors have been showing excellent results and ease of use.

#19
lgreen

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so what do you think about plenums on bigger tanks?

#20
JayReefer

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I think this says it all:
"Our results suggest that stocking level of the aquarium, and any animal deaths, have a much greater effect on the overall water quality than the specific design of the aquarium set-up you chose to follow".
So either way BB or DSB, keep your bioload down people :)

#21
pineomt

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I dont have any real scientific reason for my sand bed. A year ago when I got into the hobby this is one topic I read about. The information I found was exactly what we see here. Its like 50/50 for and agaisnt. So I went with a 1 inch deep bed for the following reasons: I think bare-bottom is ugly, DSB may be a risk and 1 inch of sand is easier to clean then DSB.

#22
DRZL-sauras

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UTR,
did you cook your rock before you went BB?

If you have pockets of crap that can't be collected you did something wrong. Another thing people undermine in a BB is keepin the aquascape open, having as little contact w/ the bottom as possible. If your having problems accesing anything in your tank then your rockscape isnt conducive to ease of removal.

BTW
could you elaborate on how GARF mud is a "wonderful method of denitrifcation" as opposed to sand? Its still marine sediment is it not?

Remember phosphates are much more lethal to SPS or any coral for that fact, then nitrates, at much lower concentrations.

Remember dentrification= reduction of nitrogenous compunds (nitrogen cycle).
You said that this sediment(garf mud) performs denitrifaction. How do you process that w/o at the same time creating nutrification?= the sinking, storing, and lastly release of nutrients in the form of phoshorous compunds.
How is this any different than sandbeds? It still ruled by the same principles being that it is a sediment.

#23
queball

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I have kept BB tanks since I gave up on undergravel filters 12 years ago. I have never had a tank crash and have been fairly sucessful compaired to friends using sand in thier tanks.

#24
Killagoby

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I don't believe in a DSB in my tank so I used 20lbs of coarse live sand in my 29 gallon which is less than an inch just for looks. I used coarse sand so it does not blow around, and so I don't suck it up when I clean it. In my fuge I do use 2" of Mineral Mud but I will remove 50% of it once a year so I don't create a nitrate factory.

#25
onthefly

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Jeez, late to the party:)

Well, I had sand in my 5.5 and now my 20L is BB.....and I have a DSB/plenum in my 45ga.

So, from personal experience.....the BB takes the cake! If you don't like the look, I totally understand. However, the other day my wife who was "angry" at me for not using sand, told me, the best thing I did was "not use" sand. She loves it now. Also, the the shear amount of waste that your LR alone sheds is amazing! It isn't for everyone. I had to siphon crap out every 3 days for almost a month. Since having a BB tank....no cyano, no diatoms, no hair algae, no PO4, no NO3, just a bunch of corals who have gained alot of color since the switch.

JBNY's empirical "glass cleaning" test for nutrients is also a good indicator. In my 5.5ga, I had to clean the brownish haze from the glass every 2-3 days. I can go 2 weeks now without cleaning, and at that point it is a faint "white" film, which I've been told is a bacterial film. In both tank, no fish and the water tests showed no PO4 or NO3 in either tank. The main difference.....one had sand.