I have been doing some research on the web looking for this stuff. For anyone out there who was like me and confused about this a few days ago, read this.
WHAT IS THIS STUFF?
Southdown, Old Castle and Yardright are all distributors (or were) of the same thing - TROPICAL PLAY SAND.
If it says TROPICAL it is argonite sand from the exact same quarry as the $20 per little bag argonite sand at the LFS
. From what I have read, there is only ONE place it is quarried, that is on a Key in the Caribbean.
"Regular" play sand is not "bad", but it is made of something else - silica. Silica is what the glass in your tank is made of, so it won't cause your water to turn brown (your glass does not do that, right?), or your animals to all die. HOWEVER - some of the inverts we all want in our DSB
don't like the sharper grains of silica, and here is the important part, ONLY ARGONITE will buffer your tank's PH - forever. We lazy guys (and gals) like it when we don't have to worry about one less thing going bad in our tanks.
You don't want any silica sand that has any additives to it, like pesticides or fungicides for some garden applications. Read the bag, it will let you know (and the price will be higher) if it has any.
Any TROPICAL play sand that says "not for aquarium use" is just a contractual legal BS thing on there because CaribSea is the distributor of ALL agronite sand from this quarry for the aquarium trade.
A couple of pointy-headed guys did tests on tropical play sand and the Caribsea stuff. You can't tell the stuff apart under a microscope, they both look like little white balls of the same stuff. The silica sand looks like clear, sharp, shiny quartz, because it is quartz. Silica may also have trace amounts of tar in it, according to the pointy-headed guys.
IF IN DOUBT ABOUT IT, TEST IT IN VINEGAR. Argonite sand will foam up like alkaseltzer in the stuff. Silica will just sit there and do nothing.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Tropical play sand runs from $3.84 to $5.00 or so for a 50 pound bag. Caribsea runs from $12.00 to $25 for a 15 pound bag or so at the local fish store. I can't remember exactly how big the bag was, but it was small. I have found PETCO sells this stuff the cheapest. However, this is why you want the tropical play sand, it is the exact same stuff and is only a fraction of the cost. If you need 6 inches to cover a 150 gallon tank, you can see the reason so many people are looking for the tropical play sand.
HOW MUCH DO I NEED?
if you just want to buffer your tank or keep wrasse (or other burrowers happy and alive) an inch or two will be fine. In my experience, the ONLY way to keep burrowing wrasse happy and alive is on sand. I have kept "expert only" wrasse for 5 years (and counting) on sand, and let me tell you, 5 years ago, I was experienced, but no expert. I just knew to keep them on sand. You can stir this sand all up to get the nasty stuff out if you need too. Even five years later, there is still some silt from it.
- Deep Sand Bed. 4-6 inches of sand. If you want more info on this, google it or search this site. Just don't stir the sand up, let it get all compacted. That is the point of the DSB
. Your critters can stir up the top layer, but the common thread I have read is that you don't want major upset of the bed. This upsets the chemical process that go on in the DSB
WHERE IS THIS STUFF?
Most, if not all, of the TROPICAL play sand on the market is sold in the North East USA. If you are south of VA, or west of Ohio, you may be out of luck. I have not found any outside of these areas.
HOW DO I GET THIS STUFF IN MY TANK?
ALL SAND, silica or argonite, will turn your tank milky for a bit with silt. This is not indicate the stuff is bad. There are ways around this. Prewash the stuff a couple of times in a bucket, use pantyhose to screen it, drop clumps of it in a PVC
pipe to "pipe" it to the bottom of your tank, or use a ziplog bag to transport it down there. The silt is just the very fine particles of sand that are too heavy to just fall to the bottom. There are ways to minimize this silt, but no way to eliminate it. I also use a very fine mesh net to mechanically skim it off the surface. You can put a few extra powerheads in the tank to keep it in suspension longer and most will be deposited in your sump. Just don't point the powerheads at the sand - that would be bad. Putting it in your tank is easier if you don't have any animals in there, but it can be done to a fully stocked tank with fish and corals, you just have to be much more careful about the silt. DONT EVER JUST POUR IT FROM THE BAG INTO THE TANK WITH LIVE ANIMALS IN IT. Your fish will not like you, but should be fine, but your corals will get a heavy coating of silt, which may cause them to close up for too long, or produce massive amounts of mucus which may be toxic stuff depending on the coral. Stress is bad, and the silt will stress them, so don't do it - minimize the stress.
WHAT SHOULD I USE? SILICA OR ARGONITE?
Silica sand is just fine for your tank, however, ONLY argonite sand will buffer your PH because it disolves at PH 8.2. Even dolomite and crushed coral only disolve at PH 7.8, so, argonite sand is the BEST for keeping that PH stable and where you want it - at least 8. No muss, no fuss PH. I like that. I like that a lot. TROPICAL PLAY SAND is argonite sand at a fraction of the cost - you can put 6 inches in a 150 gallon tank and not even spend $30 to do it. Walk into a LFS
and tell them you want to do a deep sand bed and you can see the $$$ in the clerks eyes. A lot of these guys get commissions. It can run into the hundreds of dollars.
If anything I have posted is known to be complete BS please correct me on it. This info is just what I have gathered over the past few days of searching the web and calling stores. Most of it I know to be true because I have been there, done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it.
Hope this helps anyone as confused as I was about TROPICAL PLAY SAND....