© By P.Roots
There are many questions involving sand for the aquarium
I will try and cover all eventualities here.
What kind of sand should I use?
There are many types of sand available, when deciding what type to go for you should consider; aesthetics, consistency and suitability and of course budget.
The most common sand used seems to be play sand AKA silver sand. Silver sand is relatively cheap but has the tendency to compact more than, say, pool filter sand.
Pool filter sand.
Pool filter sand is some times referred to as silica sand.
This would typically be silica sand that may or may not be artificially coloured. Most of the bags of aquarium sand I've seen seem to be a slightly larger grain than silver sand but they are 10 times the price.
This tends to made from crushed corals and or crushed seashells, the effect of this type of substrate would alter the pH of you aquarium, not what is required for most tropical fish. However marine sand is a suitable substrate for fish that require high pH such as African cichlids.
Sand blasting sand
Again another large grained silica sand. I have found the prices to be comparable with pool filter sand. This type tends to be of a darker colour.
This has the likelihood to have chemicals, such as bonding agents, added to it to help with creating mortars and the like. I would not use building sand in any aquarium.
This is a relatively new product and has been over hyped, IMHO. Having said that if you are looking for something different then try it. Available in black.
Sand found on most public beaches will have a great amount of salt in it, this is nearly impossible to totally eradicate. You could use beach sand for marine or brackish set ups. However bear this in mind. It is a sad fact that many beaches are polluted in some way; this could have deadly consequences in your aquarium. Many local authorities consider the taking of sand, gravel etc from public beaches to be theft, always ask before you take sand from public places.
How do I change from gravel to sand?
For an existing set up this is the way I have done it.
1; Take out all decorations, plants etc.
2; Using a siphon slowly empty the tank, siphoning the water in to container that held approx half the tanks volume (a large waste bin, brand-new and not been used at all is ideal for this.)
3; When the tank is half full of water and empty of decorations, catch the fish putting them into a suitable container of tank water.
4; Add a heater to keep the temp up to the same as it was in tank, you may or may not add a filter, this is up to you.
5; This is an ideal time to scrub all the sides of the tank and give everything a good clean in the tank water so as not to kill the bacteria.
6; Remove the gravel to a bucket big enough to hold half of it and fill with the dirty tank water (containing the bacteria).
7; Dispose of the rest of the tank water. Ideal for gardens or house plants.
8; Make sure all sides and bottom of the tank are free from slime, algae etc.
9; Added your chose type of sand(pre-washed before hand), re-decorate and landscape as required.
10; With the help of another person, carefully, raised the bin with the fish and water up higher than the tank. This is so you can siphon the water back into the tank, slowly. In doing this it should not disturb the sand too much.
11; When the bin is 3/4 empty, catch the fish and reintroduce them back to the tank. Then continue to siphon the water into the tank. Top up with clean water that has been conditioned as required.
12; Put the saved gravel in a stocking and lay this on the sand for two days. After which you can remove the gravel without any mess or fuss. Doing this the bacteria will migrate into the sand.
13; Job done!
I'm not saying this is the way you must do it! It is just the way I did it.
Can I keep my fish in the tank whilst I'm changing substrate?
IMHO it is best to remove the fish during this process. This keeps the stress to a minimum.
What can I do with the gravel now I've changed?
You could keep it for your next tank or do what I did, sell it on ebay.
Ok I've changed now how do I keep the sand clean? There is lots of fish poo on top of the sand!
You can use your gravel siphon to clean the sand; the technique is a little different and takes a bit of practice to get it right.
Holding the siphon tube approx 1" from the surface of the sand move it in, small, circular motions. This creates a small eddy and pick ups the waste matter which is then sucked into the siphon and into your bucket.
You have mentioned pre-washing the sand, how do I do that?
To pre-wash your sand you can fill a bucket half full and add a hose, then run the water until it becomes clear. Be aware that this can take hours to do each bucket load.
How deep should my sand be?
This all depends on whether or not you have live plants. If you do then a minimum depth of 1" and a maximum depth of 1.5" is recommended.
If you don't have live plants 1" or less will be ok.
Depths of over 2" could cause anaerobic bacteria to build up in pockets and create toxic gasses to from, like methane and high levels of CO2. these would be devastating to aquatic life.
How do I keep this from happening?
As stated above do not go over 2" in depth, additionally bi-weekly stirring of the sand would release any gases before they reach toxic levels. To do this fingers are best but you could use any safe thin implement. Use caution around plant roots when stirring the sand.
I have an UGF can I use sand and still use my UGF?
To put it bluntly no. The gap under the UGF will soon fill up and small holes of the UGF will become blocked. This would render the UGF useless.
Ok then, is a canister filter safe to use with sand?
Yes, providing the filter intake is at least 1" above the sand.
Edited by The-Wolf, 08 June 2007 - 03:23 PM.