Sand dead spots

Discussion in 'Freshwater Substrates - Gravel, Sand' started by Kimberly4403, Aug 3, 2015.

  1. Kimberly4403

    Kimberly4403Well Known MemberMember

    How do you guys go about stirring your sand substrate when you have a planted tank to stop dead spots forming? Usually when i gravel vac i stick syphone into the sand if its not too close to plants (i have pool filter sand so it falls straight back down) but currently my tank is only lightly planted but im slowly adding in more plants over time.. So how would you do it in a heavy planted tank or due to plants roots dead spots are not an issue??

    Also if your tank is planted do you ever remove or lift up driftwood/rocks etc to vac underneith? I noticed on some threads people do lift things up to vac under on a rotational basis but in a heavily planted tank can you do this?

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  2. Shortfuuzze

    ShortfuuzzeValued MemberMember

    Great question and I can't wait to see the responses. I'm currently putting together a 55g, I'd like to use sand in this tank. I've never used sand as a substrate I'm sure this will be important!

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  3. alink

    alinkWell Known MemberMember

    I dont worry about it my tank, but I am very lightly planted. I like the dead spots as they make cleaning easy when it all piles up in one or a few spots. I dont stick the siphon in the sand, i just gently swirl it above the sand, which stirs it up into the water and I can suck it up from there. I do pick up my driftwood, not so much to siphon under it, but to level out the sand again because my pleco and my catfish like to dig caves in the sand underneath this stuff, and I dont want it to cave in. So I pick it up, flatten the sand out and replace the wood, and the process starts again with them digging under it lol.
  4. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Do you mean dead spots within the sand? I think in a planted tank you don't really have to worry about it because the roots do an amazing job working their way throughout. I pulled up a plant or two here and there and was amazed at far they had gone in only months.

    Also, there are always the Malaysian trumpet snails who will more then happily live in your substrate and keep it aerated for you. There seems to be people who love them and people who don't. Because they can reproduce singularly you sometimes cannot control how many you end up with but I think thats not really true as they will not readily populate a tank with no food and you can always get an assassin snail to clean up if you do. I have seen one come out in my tank but my fish eat ALL their food so I wouldn't suspect over population. I'll have to come look closer tonight when the lights are out as they're nocturnal. They really are great for your substrate though and eating algae.

    Lastly having a sand bed thats not deeper then a couple of inches helps too.
  5. TexasDomer

    TexasDomerFishlore LegendMember

    I do the same as alink. My 55 has sand, and I hold the siphon an inch or two above the sand to pick up the poop. I pick up my driftwood once a month or so to pick up the poop that gets stuck beside it where my siphon can't reach.

    I should also mention that I only have java ferns, both on my driftwood and in mats that sit on the surface.
  6. OP

    Kimberly4403Well Known MemberMember

    Oh cause ive heard so much about toxin build up in sand substrates that they can kill your fish if you expose them once built up?

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  7. TexasDomer

    TexasDomerFishlore LegendMember

    Then you might want to get a snail or fish that burrows in the sand to stir it up. I manually stir up my sand every few water changes just to make sure nothing builds up.
  8. OP

    Kimberly4403Well Known MemberMember

    I already have a few bottom dwellers and dont think i can have anymore.. In my 75g ive got 6 sterbai cory 6 SAEs and a BN.. Not too keen on snails i dont want it reproducing like crazy

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  9. DanB80TTS

    DanB80TTSWell Known MemberMember

    Unless you have a substrate that's 3+ inches deep you shouldn't need to worry, also pool filter sand from what I have heard is a mix of irregular sized grains and doesn't compact as tightly as other sands such as play sand (which I have in my tank) Malaysian trumpet snalis do an amazing job at keeping the substrate nice and loose, but a few will turn into a few hundred in no time. I wouldn't be shocked if I had 1000 of em in my substrate, I know there is at least a couple hundred little ones in there but it keeps my tank pretty clean.

    As for fish waste I hardly mess with it, I have a decent amount of plants so it makes food for them, and I think most of the waste ends up in my canister anyway so I just clean that out every so often.
  10. junebug

    junebugFishlore LegendMember

    People overreact.

    In a planted tank with sand, the plant roots are constantly growing, and therefore the sand aerates as they grow.

    It's possible for deep or very fine sand beds to result in anaerobic pockets - a few MTS will prevent that from ever happening. I've also heard of people "raking" their sand during water changes, but I would be hesitant to do that, as stirring up the sand isn't a great plan.
  11. SilverMIssy

    SilverMIssyValued MemberMember

    Why wouldn't raking and stirring up the sand not be a good plan? I'm curious as I have a small section of fine sand for my plants. About 2 inches deep.

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  12. MtnTiger

    MtnTigerWell Known MemberMember

    I've only been a member here for six months or so but I read many posts before setting up our fist tank and "sand toxins" is not a problem that happens often if at all.

    Don't over feed, conduct weekly water changes, check your water parameters, buy healthy fish, don't over-crowd and most "problems" will be avoided.
  13. Shortfuuzze

    ShortfuuzzeValued MemberMember

    SilverMIssy I think stirring up the sand is bad because it can scratch the impeller in your filter if it is sucked in........

    As for any other reasons I'm not sure! But we'll hear more responses soon

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  14. junebug

    junebugFishlore LegendMember

    MtnTiger that was my point. It's not that it can't happen, it's just less common than it's made out to be.
    SilverMIssy stirring up the sand can get it sucked into your filter, which in turn can eventually fry the motor or cause it not to turn over as quickly, reducing the flow and efficiency of your powerhead.
  15. Jsigmo

    JsigmoWell Known MemberMember

    This is partly correct.

    Pool filter sand (as with any sand meant for filtration), consists of grains of fairly uniform size.

    The idea is that by having grains that are all just about the same size, they cannot pack together and "plug up".

    Imagine a jar full of gumballs, or BBs, or ball bearings that are all the exact same size. No matter how you stir or shake the jar, you always have spaces between the balls. The jar cannot plug up because there are no smaller pieces to fill in the spaces between the same-size pieces.

    Thus, it cannot "compact". You always have void space between the grains. This is essential for a filter because you need to have that void space to create porosity so water can flow through it.

    On a bag of pool filter sand, you will even see a number specifying how uniform the particle size distribution is. That way, you can know how good that sand is in this regard.

    The closer all of the grains are to being the same size, the better for filtration use.

    On the other hand, something like play sand is not processed to guarantee uniform particle size. So it can have a wide range of particle sizes. This allows it to "plug off" and not allow water flow through it.

    The varying particle sizes mean that smaller particles can get between the larger particles and smaller-yet particles between those, and so on, until you have all of the space totally filled. And now, the sand bed is virtually the same as a solid piece of rock for the purposes of letting water flow through it! You have "low porosity".

    Of course, that means that type of sand won't work as well for a filter. It also means that it will compact and block the flow of water through it in an aquarium, and can more easily form dead pockets where oxygen can become depleted, leading to anaerobic bacteria which can produce hydrogen sulfide or other toxic goodies.

    How much of a problem that might be would depend on a lot of factors.

    I like the idea of using pool filter sand if you want to allow water flow through the substrate.

    Or, you can very thoroughly wash your sand, removing all of the finest particles. By doing that, you are "grading" the sand yourself. This is tedious, time consuming, and uses a lot of water. But you can "wash out" the fine particles if you work at it hard enough. That way, you remove the very fine particles that could plug off the spaces between the smallest size particles you allow to remain in the mix.

    That's what I have done for one tank I have. It was a lot of work, but gave me a "natural-looking" sand that still cannot plug off.

    Also, the lack of very fine particles in the mix helps keep abrasives out of my pumps, etc. The finest particles I left in the mix are still large enough to sink rapidly.

    But using plant roots and snails to keep things stirred up or naturally aerated, etc., also works, even with dirt, or "bad" sand. I just like the idea of using filter sand or thoroughly washing the fines out before adding it to the aquarium to save trouble down the road.

    I like to deeply, and thoroughly vacuum down to the very bottom of my sand, but you can't do that where you have plants, obviously. But then, the plant roots are likely preventing problems right in their area, anyhow.

    When I vacuum my sand bottom, I get clouds of fine debris out. I figure that reduces the bio-load in the tank, so I like doing it periodically. But there are all kinds of different ways to make this all work.

    I do this vacuuming when doing water changes. Thus, I already have my filters switched off, since the water level will be going down a lot. So that prevents any sand dust from entering the filters. Plus, I do not allow any of the stirred-up crud to enter the tank water if possible. It all gets sucked out through the vacuuming tube.

    Further, since my sand was thoroughly rinsed before I added it to the aquarium, there should not be any "fines" in it, anyhow. So any sand particles that do get stirred-up during the vacuuming, and escape into the aquarium, will be larger grains that drop to the bottom immediately. The organic debris is non abrasive, of course.

    Finally, every time I deep-vacuum the sand, I am removing any fines that may still be present. So the sand just gets better, or at least doesn't degrade, as time goes on.
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
  16. SilverMIssy

    SilverMIssyValued MemberMember

    I don't mean to hijack the thread, but instead of getting MTS that could possibly overrun your tank couldn't you just gently stick something like a chopstick or finger to loosen/aerating the sand? Or is that not even needed?

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  17. junebug

    junebugFishlore LegendMember

    MTS can't overrun your tank without your help :) No snail can lol. If you don't overfeed, the MTS population will level off at whatever level is appropriate to the bioload of your tank.

    Also that's why I mentioned the raking. They make sand stirrers, I've occasionally seen them for sale at aquarium stores. But any pronged thingy would be fine for stirring sand if you wanted to go that route.
  18. SilverMIssy

    SilverMIssyValued MemberMember

    So basically, and long as you lightly siphon the visible junk from the top layer and leave anything else. You're fine?

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  19. CindiL

    CindiLFishlore LegendMember

    Yeah. The idea with sand is that it shouldn't sink beneath the top layer the way it does gravel.

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  20. OP

    Kimberly4403Well Known MemberMember

    But still needs to sink enough to provide nutrients for root plants but then the roots would take over aerating that section of sand anyway?

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