Was sand the worst idea?

Laurabhspt

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When I set up my 450l tank I used play sand as recommended by a few on here as I have yoyo loaches. And on the whole it looks lovely and they are constantly burrowing and moving stuff around and having a whale of a time.

My issue is, it means the tank is constantly “cloudy” with stirred up sand as they are really quite boisterous with their landscaping. I have an internal filter with just floss to try and minimise this and it’s already brown after water change yesterday, and whenever I clean the external filter it’s always filled with sand🙈. I’m concerned that my tank never looks clear, and also that I’m going to blow my filter… any tips?
See pics for comparison of my gravel tank vs sand…
 

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It looks like you used unrinsed sand, but even with that, it will settle. It will just take a while.
 
It looks like you used unrinsed sand, but even with that, it will settle. It will just take a while.
Thanks for your reply - was definitely well rinsed - I took days over it lol. It’s been set up ages, but I never get more than one to two clear days as when the loaches chase each other, or re landscape after it’s been cleaned loose sand goes everywhere. Also, I can tell it’s sand being stirred up cos it gets in the filters and I sit and watch the feisty monkeys chucking it everywhere 🤣
Such A shame it’s a lovely big tank, I don’t really want to swap to gravel cos the loaches like to forage around…(aka destroy it)
 
Just for reference, it can look lovely and clean until they start digging caves🤭
 

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Someone likes male swordtails :)

You can try turning the air curtains off and moving the filter higher up so they don't help circulate the fine sand. If that doesn't work you might need a different filter with filter floss/ wool in to trap the fine stuff. However, that could lead to the filter dying early if the sediment gets through the filter floss and sits in the impeller area.
 
Someone likes male swordtails :)

You can try turning the air curtains off and moving the filter higher up so they don't help circulate the fine sand. If that doesn't work you might need a different filter with filter floss/ wool in to trap the fine stuff. However, that could lead to the filter dying early if the sediment gets through the filter floss and sits in the impeller area.
I inherited the small tank off the in laws - started with 3 swordtails and when I inherited it it had more like 60!! So I gave a lot away, and then to keep control of the breeding I split the males into the big tank (more of them) and the females in the small tank - so can’t really say it was my choice of fish lol!
I may lift the intake up see if that helps, that’s a good shout, see if it helps. I do have that little one with the fine filter floss to try and catch most of it, but the amount that was in the external filter was alarming 😬
As for the air curtains, how will I oxygenate the water if I turn them off? Or do you mean temporarily? I have moved them half way up the tank wall already…
Thanks for the advice :)
 
With two filters running on the tank, that should be enough to aerate the water. Even the external on its own should be enough if the outlet is positioned so that the water flow moves across the tank just under the surface. I don't use anything in my tank which makes bubbles, the filter is all I need. I would turn the air curtain off and see if it makes any difference.
 
With two filters running on the tank, that should be enough to aerate the water. Even the external on its own should be enough if the outlet is positioned so that the water flow moves across the tank just under the surface. I don't use anything in my tank which makes bubbles, the filter is all I need. I would turn the air curtain off and see if it makes any difference.
Thanks for the clarification. If I can’t get it so it runs along the surface, if I just turn the air curtain off will it hurt them just to see if it clears?
 
The main thing is having the water moving around the tank. Gas exchange - oxygen in and carbon dioxide out - takes place at the water surface. Usually the filter outflow moves the water round the tank, bringing water from the bottom of the tank to the surface and surface water down into the tank so that more gas exchange occurs compared to totally still water. Bubbles from an air curtain help to churn the water up rather than oxygen dissolving from the bubbles.
 
The main thing is having the water moving around the tank. Gas exchange - oxygen in and carbon dioxide out - takes place at the water surface. Usually the filter outflow moves the water round the tank, bringing water from the bottom of the tank to the surface and surface water down into the tank so that more gas exchange occurs compared to totally still water. Bubbles from an air curtain help to churn the water up rather than oxygen dissolving from the bubbles.
Ahhh ok. So as long as the filters are moving the water then the gas exchange should be ok?
Out of curiosity then, wave makers… I’ve heard swords can quite like them as they like a strong current and I toyed with getting one for them, would they churn less than an air curtain (if placed near the top)?
 
Some fish come from waters with strong water flow; others come from slow moving water. If all your fish are from fast flowing water, then yes something like a powerhead will not only help with gas exchange but will also suit the fish. But if there are any fish from slow moving water, they won't be happy if there's too much water flow.
 
A lot of people recommend play sand for substrate. It can be an alternative to expensive specially processed sand. I have used it. But there is no specification of what play sand really consists of, additionally it is a heavy item and companies that produce aggregates ship as little as possible, which means your sand is likely different than the persons who recommended the sand, even if you used the same company.

Further the play sand is treated in different ways before being packaged and shipped. Most is somewhat screened selected runs but the biggest concern the manufacturer has is ensuring no contamination is found in the sand, but that doesn't mean it can be made with a lot of clay silt and mud in it. Which to an extent play sand needs at least some of these fines to give it the characteristics that make play sand appropriate to play with.

Overall, what I am saying is that play sand is a highly variable product which will have a varying degree of fines in it. Additionally there is no control over the shape of the sand particles. The last time I used play sand I rinsed batches of it in wheel barrow first before doing bucket amounts of rinsing. During this process I found chunks of mud and clay in the sand, and I lost 20 to 25% of the initial volume of sand during the cleaning.

My rant over, I found that once the sand was in the tank you can remove the fines by carefully vacuuming the surface of the sand after the tank has settled a bit (reduce the currents for a day or so before the vacuuming). Then use a polishing filter to remove what ever is left. You might have to do this multiple times. Additionally the real fine stuff can be difficult to remove, the easiest way to do this, is to ignore it. Each particle floating in the water is a point where algae and other microorganisms will collect and eventually the filter will take them out. In a couple of cases I have had strong algae blooms associated with sand, and these speed up the removal of the fines. Eventually you will find the tank clearing up of its own accord unless the entire depth of the sand is being disturbed. An alternative might be to add a flocculant, clearing agent, to the tank then filter heavily. I haven't done this with a tropical tank so I cannot fully recommend this method personally.

Substrates I have used and the relative amount of fines and other particles not desired in the substrate:

Play Sand - Worse of any I have used (used for 3 tanks)
Black Florite Sand - For a commercial product this has a massive amount of fines, also the particles are slightly magnetic making them hard with the typical impeller driven filters (used 4 times, works good with air driven sponge filters)
Personally collected gravel - What I used to do always many uses, generally pretty dirty to start, but easy to clean.
Personally collected sand - Usually cleaner than the gravel because I has smaller pore spaces (I believe) but still pretty dirty.
Chicken grit - Dirty but easy to clean, not appropriate for most tanks. Too sharp
Commercial Fish Sand (Natural) - Only done this a couple of times but the sand was pretty clean.
Commerical Fish Gravel (Natural) - Only done this a couple of times but the gravel was pretty clean.
Sand Blasting Silica (20 mesh) - Very clean semi rounded particles, I found it too light both in appearance and ease of stirring up might work better if mixed with 30 mesh. In the end I used this without rinsing. Twice as expensive as play sand but I believe it to be a better choice.
Crushed Glass (20 mesh) - An experiment, particles very light, product very clean, did not like the looks and worried about the fish and my hands. Did not affect my hands, plants and fish did ok with it but would not use it for bottom dwellers.

None of these are perfect, but each has its niche. I would wait for your tank to clear, it will eventually, and next time spend more time rinsing your substrate. Not do not rinse Aquarium Soils, you will destroy them.
 
A lot of people recommend play sand for substrate. It can be an alternative to expensive specially processed sand. I have used it. But there is no specification of what play sand really consists of, additionally it is a heavy item and companies that produce aggregates ship as little as possible, which means your sand is likely different than the persons who recommended the sand, even if you used the same company.

Further the play sand is treated in different ways before being packaged and shipped. Most is somewhat screened selected runs but the biggest concern the manufacturer has is ensuring no contamination is found in the sand, but that doesn't mean it can be made with a lot of clay silt and mud in it. Which to an extent play sand needs at least some of these fines to give it the characteristics that make play sand appropriate to play with.

Overall, what I am saying is that play sand is a highly variable product which will have a varying degree of fines in it. Additionally there is no control over the shape of the sand particles. The last time I used play sand I rinsed batches of it in wheel barrow first before doing bucket amounts of rinsing. During this process I found chunks of mud and clay in the sand, and I lost 20 to 25% of the initial volume of sand during the cleaning.

My rant over, I found that once the sand was in the tank you can remove the fines by carefully vacuuming the surface of the sand after the tank has settled a bit (reduce the currents for a day or so before the vacuuming). Then use a polishing filter to remove what ever is left. You might have to do this multiple times. Additionally the real fine stuff can be difficult to remove, the easiest way to do this, is to ignore it. Each particle floating in the water is a point where algae and other microorganisms will collect and eventually the filter will take them out. In a couple of cases I have had strong algae blooms associated with sand, and these speed up the removal of the fines. Eventually you will find the tank clearing up of its own accord unless the entire depth of the sand is being disturbed. An alternative might be to add a flocculant, clearing agent, to the tank then filter heavily. I haven't done this with a tropical tank so I cannot fully recommend this method personally.

Substrates I have used and the relative amount of fines and other particles not desired in the substrate:

Play Sand - Worse of any I have used (used for 3 tanks)
Black Florite Sand - For a commercial product this has a massive amount of fines, also the particles are slightly magnetic making them hard with the typical impeller driven filters (used 4 times, works good with air driven sponge filters)
Personally collected gravel - What I used to do always many uses, generally pretty dirty to start, but easy to clean.
Personally collected sand - Usually cleaner than the gravel because I has smaller pore spaces (I believe) but still pretty dirty.
Chicken grit - Dirty but easy to clean, not appropriate for most tanks. Too sharp
Commercial Fish Sand (Natural) - Only done this a couple of times but the sand was pretty clean.
Commerical Fish Gravel (Natural) - Only done this a couple of times but the gravel was pretty clean.
Sand Blasting Silica (20 mesh) - Very clean semi rounded particles, I found it too light both in appearance and ease of stirring up might work better if mixed with 30 mesh. In the end I used this without rinsing. Twice as expensive as play sand but I believe it to be a better choice.
Crushed Glass (20 mesh) - An experiment, particles very light, product very clean, did not like the looks and worried about the fish and my hands. Did not affect my hands, plants and fish did ok with it but would not use it for bottom dwellers.

None of these are perfect, but each has its niche. I would wait for your tank to clear, it will eventually, and next time spend more time rinsing your substrate. Not do not rinse Aquarium Soils, you will destroy them.
Thanks for your detailed reply. My sand regularly gets completely turned over due to the loaches. And it’s been up and running for months and months and it just seems to get worse so I think it’s more the way the loaches constantly turf it through, but thanks for the input and it’s certainly something I will refer back to if I ever change the substrate :)
 

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