New sand forms balls and floats

Discussion in 'Freshwater Substrates - Gravel, Sand' started by retlaf, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. retlaf

    retlafNew MemberMember


    I'm starting up a 29 gallon tank. It's my first. I love corydoras and this tank is pretty much going to be built for them. As such, I got a really nice, fine sand: the Estes ultra reef stuff. I've seen it recommended a lot and it feels great to the touch, super soft! But, I can't get it to properly settle for the life of me. :( The water isn't cloudy, but the sand forms a bunch of balls around air bubbles on the bottom of the tank and they float up when touched (by me, it has no fish in it right now).

    The problem is, no matter how many times I think I've gotten all the balls to float up and skimmed them out, the second I start to stir the sand a little, hundreds of new sand balls form again and the same thing happens.

    I'm sure that all the sand has been fully soaked. I've had it for over 2 weeks in water the entire time. I've stirred the stuff for hours, and I've even sifted all of it through a fine strainer to make absolutely sure that no sand in the tank is dry or has bubbles. Even after all this, when the sand sinks to the bottom, touching it forms these bubble balls - hundreds of them! And they continue to float to the top.

    I've tried removing about 5 pounds from the tank and adding it to a medium sized bucket. I tried getting only this small portion of sand to stop bubbling, but I can't - after stirring, sifting, even after siphoning out all the bubbles resting on the sand, the same thing happens afterwards.

    I'm kinda stuck. Has anybody had this kind of experience before? Are there any ideas for how to deal with it?

    Of note, it seems like the Estes sand comes in two brands: the Ultra Reef (which I have) and the Stoney River. The Stoney River stuff seems to be coarser. The guy at the fish store insisted they were the same (but they clearly aren't). Does anybody know anything about this? Maybe I need the Stoney River stuff. Is it ok for corys too? The only real alternative is Tahitian moon sand and that stuff is super sharp feeling. I've heard pool filter sand is good, but it doesn't come in black.

    Any help would be extremely appreciated. Thanks!
  2. Yeoy

    YeoyWell Known MemberMember

    You definitely want softer sand so your corys "whiskers" don't get damaged. As for your bubbling... Sand does trap air. I don't use samd but I know some people keep MTS (Malaysian Trumpet Snails) because they live in the sand and release gas pockets slowly. Maybe try aearching this site for similar problems?

    P.S. Welcome to Fishlore!
  3. Tigress Hill

    Tigress HillWell Known MemberMember

    :sign0016: to the forum! Perhaps it needs longer to be left undisturbed?
  4. Quinn_Lamb98

    Quinn_Lamb98Well Known MemberMember

    i read about the same problem on another forum, don't know if it is the same sand though. the person was battling it for upwards of a month and the only way he could fix the problem was take it out, throw it in the garden, and go buy some pool filter sand (or whick ever you prefer).
  5. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    Apparently Estes has had some complaints about that and started coating their sand with paraffin. You may have to switch sands.
  6. fishaddiction

    fishaddictionValued MemberMember

    By a new sand if it is such a pain I would do the same thing if needed. Hope if you get a new sand you don't have the same predicament.
  7. OP

    retlafNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the quick replies and the welcome everybody! I'll be sure to return the favour to this forum when I become more experienced. :)

    I think you guys are right, a new sand is probably best. It's only 30 gallons so it's not an excessive waste of money.

    On that note, can anybody recommend a good, black sand for corydoras? I don't think play sand and pool filter sand come in black. I sent Estes an e-mail about whether their Stoney River brand would be good for corys. The reason I want black is because I've already stocked up on ornaments for a black substrate tank. The price of the sand isn't too important (unless it's like 2$ a pound or something crazy).

    Thanks again.
  8. OP

    retlafNew MemberMember

    Update: I ended up keeping the fine sand to see if I could make it work, and for those who have the same problem, I think I found a solution.

    My problem was that I wasn't running the filter. Just letting the sand soak in still water wasn't getting rid of the balls, but when I ran the filter and got some current in there, the balls seemed to go away after a few days. I scooped out any balls/sand that did naturally float to the top from the current. If I stir the substrate some balls still float up from under, but not nearly as many as before. The only problem is I'm running a hob so I kinda had to sacrifice it, but I cleaned it out every day and it still seems to run okay.

    So, if your fine sand continues to ball and float, try getting a current going. And it's probably best not to use a hob filter to do so. :) Then scoop up any sand that float to the top.

    The fine Ultra Reef sand looks really nice, so I'm glad I stuck with it in the end (lots of trouble, though). Really fine and should be wonderful for corys, too.
  9. Eienna

    EiennaFishlore VIPMember

    Glad it worked out for you!