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Sand In Your Tropical Fish Aquarium


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#1 The-Wolf

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 11:03 AM

Sand and the aquarium
© 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.

Silver Sand.
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.
Aquarium 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.
Marine sand
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.
Builder�s sand
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.
Tahitian moon
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.
Beach sand
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.


#2 Ben

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 11:07 AM

very very good work :nod:

PIN IT!!!!!

DD

#3 phillippa42

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 11:09 AM

What would you do if you have gravel in your aquariam which you want to keep and you just want to add a sand corner?

Would you need to empty all the water from your tank to put the sand in -_-

thanks
pippa

#4 The-Wolf

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 11:18 AM

What would you do if you have gravel in your aquariam which you want to keep and you just want to add a sand corner?

Would you need to empty all the water from your tank to put the sand in -_-

thanks
pippa

I would pre-wash the sand move the gravel with my hand, creating the sapce for the sand.
put the sand in a plastic bag, such as you get at the lfs when you buy fish. lower it gently to the area prepared and slowly pour it out. hopefully this would work, but as it has not been asked before and i have not done it myself i really don't know.

#5 Phantom Thief

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 11:20 AM

Phillip, it would not be a practical thing to do. Gradually, the sand and gravel would mix together and produce a horrible looking mixture. You could, of course, make a type of barrier, but really, hardly worth the effort.

Paul, excellent article :thumbs: . However, you should add that instead of manually stirring the sand, another way to do it is to use malaysian trumpet snails, since they are inobtrusive (nocturnal) and spend most of their time burrowing.

P.T.

#6 rich

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 12:43 PM

When I clean my sand with a syphon, I find that some sand is left in the bottom of the bucket. Can I get the poo and not the sand if I continue to practice my technique?

#7 pnyklr3

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 02:54 PM

One thing I've always wondered about having sand: Is it best to put any heavy dcorations down first, and then the sand? I was curious if putting heavy stuff on the sand would compact it (causing the anerobic stuff) and then harm the fish if one were to move the decoration.

#8 BobK

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 02:56 PM

Wolf, this is great! I've been looking for this type of detailed information as I want to do this in my 10 gallon. Thanks for the great article. Hey mods, can you pin this?????

#9 Barday

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 04:33 PM

V.Good article wolf, looks like you put a lot of time and effort into it. :clap:

Thanks!

#10 OohFeeshy

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 04:42 PM

V. good, I was wondering how you change from gravel to sand. Harkee, thou mods, pin this topic.

#11 SirMinion

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 04:50 PM

Excellent post Wolf!

One thing though. Very important thing to do before syphoning out the water.

Turn off the heater!

#12 Dubby

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 05:50 PM

Thats great stuff, Wolf. Now the next thing that needs to be written is 'Sand vs Gravel' :)

#13 Discomafia

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 08:01 PM

Great article! :D

The gravel to sand part should have been made long time ago though... -_- And since you said that's the way YOU did it Wolf, you can also add that they're a lot of threads covering how to change gravel to sand, you just have to do a forum search. That way people can read up a bit and decide what's best for them. :)

#14 Sky042

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 03:37 AM

For washing the sand I had the best luck doing very small amounts like taking a gallon just(think like rubbermaid gallon pitcher) and then taking a large drinking glass like maybe 24 ounces or so and getting one or two scoops putting that in the gallon pitcher and washing that way. Running your hands through speeds up the process of getting the clay and fine particles out. took me only about an hour to get enough sand done for my 54G and when I filled it there was hardly any noticable cloudiness.

#15 Griz

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 06:29 AM

This may not be practical for everyone, but I cleaned my sand outside with a garden hose and a 5 gal pail. I filled the pail about 1/3 full of sand and I stirred it with my hand while running water into it and dumping it every so often, until the water ran clear. Doing smaller batches seemed to work better. I was able to clean enough for a 33 gal tank in no time at all.

Edited by Griz, 16 January 2005 - 06:34 AM.


#16 Elgonte

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 08:04 PM

Philip: Actually, I have a mix of gravel and sand, it starts with a slightly higher elevation of gravel and lowers to mostly sand, while the two do mix together, I think it looks quite natural.

#17 schizo_fish

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Posted 27 January 2005 - 11:26 PM

i read the post and dont know if i missed anything, but what sand do rooted plants prefer? such as different types or grain size???? and does it really matter about having laterite or anything like that aswell?

#18 BlueIce

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 01:15 AM

I believe you made a mistake...

Marine sand
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 low pH such as cichlids.


It doesn't lower ph,it raises it.Some cichlids need higher ph and using crushed corals etc is a very effective way to raise the ph...BUT not all cichlids require a higher ph.

#19 The-Wolf

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 04:11 AM

I believe you made a mistake...

Marine sand
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 low pH such as cichlids.


It doesn't lower ph,it raises it.Some cichlids need higher ph and using crushed corals etc is a very effective way to raise the ph...BUT not all cichlids require a higher ph.

I'm pretty sure my original stament is true.
corals and shells are made up of mostly calcium
this is an alkali, therefore adding any alkali to water will lower its acidity.


I really want this to be accurate so perhaps a science guru can clarify this point
perhaps with some evidence.

#20 yvez9

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 04:17 AM

wolf, if it makes water alkaline, it raises pH.... :P

african cichlids require alkaline water, thus a high pH (7.5 - 8.0)

american cichlids require a lower pH, therefore not all cichlids will benefit from marine sand.

you should maybe clarify that in your post.

Edited by yvez9, 28 January 2005 - 04:19 AM.


#21 The-Wolf

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 04:21 AM

ok, thanks to both of you for helping on this point
now changed to the correct info.

#22 DannyBoy17

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 04:29 AM

Might I suggest adding something to the play sand part? It clouds the water with even the most thorough cleaning, is difficult to maintain, and will, in most cases, find its way into crevasses in your filter.

#23 Dubby

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Posted 02 February 2005 - 12:25 PM

i read the post and dont know if i missed anything, but what sand do rooted plants prefer? such as different types or grain size???? and does it really matter about having laterite or anything like that aswell?

Sand by itself provides just the anchorage for the plants and maybe a few nutrients. Ideally you should have a lower layer of laterite or plain soil to provide the iron and other nutrients.

The grain size of the sand should not be too fine as this can result in compacting leading to anerobic pockets. The grain size of playpit sand is quite suitable. Besides the grain size you need to look at the roughness as well as this could affect some bottom dwellers which like to burrow in the sand.

#24 redtailblackshark

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Posted 05 February 2005 - 07:54 PM

I am scared to use sand, I am afraid that it will all dissolve and then I won't be able to se my fish!

#25 jflowers

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Posted 05 February 2005 - 08:30 PM

I am scared to use sand, I am afraid that it will all dissolve and then I won't be able to se my fish!

hehe, it won't. I changed my 200L community over to sand yesterday, the others already are. The fish prefer sand (most anyway) especially cories.

Jon

#26 Fishcious

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 12:10 AM

No worries!! :clap: :wub: :D

I started out my new 20 gallon high a few months ago with just play sand from Home Depot, works great!! :thumbs: Just need to wash it very thoroughly before putting it in your tank. My cories, kuhli loach, and horsehead loach ALL seem to very much appreciate it!! They are constantly "changing" the way the sand lays out on the bottom, making their OWN modifications as they see fit!!

I also have several live plants that seem to be doing just fine with just a sand substrate so far....wish I had changed over sooner! :hyper: :*)

Edited by Fishcious, 06 February 2005 - 12:21 AM.


#27 jflowers

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 09:18 AM

I went with the play sand too. I started by going to the LFS to buy my sand, but it was £5 for 4kg!!! Dropped in at Hombase and got 25kg of play pit sand for £2.09. Took a lot of washing though.

Jon

#28 Opcn

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 09:30 AM

Play sand from home depot Might be magnetic, that happened to me, i tried a magnet to clean the glass and can't get the Darn sand off of it!

#29 metfan581

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 08:07 PM

Great reply Wolf
However
i have a 20H
with a penguin 330
if i would want to change to sand...
would the sand be cought in my filter

#30 Dubby

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 12:19 PM

Play sand from home depot Might be magnetic, that happened to me, i tried a magnet to clean the glass and can't get the Darn sand off of it!

That should be even more wonderful (if unusual) :) You wont have to add iron tabs for plants!!!!




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