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Old 03-31-2013, 11:22 AM   #1
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Question Switching to sand substrate

Hello everyone!

I've been in this hobby for sometime but have never used sand as substrate. I have used gravel and pebbles in all my tanks.

I'm getting a 400 gallon tank made in December and want to use sand as substrate. Since I have no experience, I thought I'll change a small 40 gallon from gravel to sand to get used to the new substrate. I'm planning on using pool filtration sand as I have read it sinks to the bottom quickly without making the water cloudy.

I'm running atman 2218f (It's not 2x the filtration rate for my 40 gal but keeps the tank clean with weekly water changes) and a UGF (It will have to come out) in the 40 gallon.

I have 2 hybrid synos, 1 featherfin, 1 blue acara, 1 firemouth and 4 redtail barbs in it.

These are my questions;

1. I read that pool filter sand traps particles in it and it's as hard as gravel substrate when it comes to cleaning. Is it true? If its not suitable, what sand do you think I should use?

2. My tank is up and running for more than an year (1 year and 2 months to be precise). Is it ok for me to change the substrate part by part with the fish still in the tank or should I take them out?

3. Can I use my internal filter with sand or will sand ruin my filter? (I'm afraid my cichlids and the synos will stir up the sand and it might end up getting sucked up) I'll be dishing out a lot of money for my 400 gallon so I can't afford to buy a canister for this 40g at the moment. Will sand get in to the propellers?

4. Will it be ok if I place the filter 4" above the substrate and use sponge as filter media (inside) to stop sand from getting in to the propeller?

5. How hard is it to clean sand substrates when it comes to routine tank maintenance?

Thank you in advance for taking your time to reply to my questions. Hope it's not too long
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Old 03-31-2013, 11:27 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevy89 View Post
Hello everyone!

I've been in this hobby for sometime but have never used sand as substrate. I have used gravel and pebbles in all my tanks.

I'm getting a 400 gallon tank made in December and want to use sand as substrate. Since I have no experience, I thought I'll change a small 40 gallon from gravel to sand to get used to the new substrate. I'm planning on using pool filtration sand as I have read it sinks to the bottom quickly without making the water cloudy.

I'm running atman 2218f (It's not 2x the filtration rate for my 40 gal but keeps the tank clean with weekly water changes) and a UGF (It will have to come out) in the 40 gallon.

I have 2 hybrid synos, 1 featherfin, 1 blue acara, 1 firemouth and 4 redtail barbs in it.

These are my questions;

1. I read that pool filter sand traps particles in it and it's as hard as gravel substrate when it comes to cleaning. Is it true? If its not suitable, what sand do you think I should use?

2. My tank is up and running for more than an year (1 year and 2 months to be precise). Is it ok for me to change the substrate part by part with the fish still in the tank or should I take them out?

3. Can I use my internal filter with sand or will sand ruin my filter? (I'm afraid my cichlids and the synos will stir up the sand and it might end up getting sucked up) I'll be dishing out a lot of money for my 400 gallon so I can't afford to buy a canister for this 40g at the moment. Will sand get in to the propellers?

4. Will it be ok if I place the filter 4" above the substrate and use sponge as filter media (inside) to stop sand from getting in to the propeller?

Thank you in advance for taking time to reply to my questions. Hope it's not too long
First off, I'm doing the change today I think. Just make sure you rinse it REALLY good.

1. Not that I'm aware off.

2. I'm leaving my fish in...

3. I think it should be fine.

4. Yes that's fine. Just every waterchange get all the sand off the sponge.

Andrew
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Old 03-31-2013, 02:20 PM   #3
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Hi Stevy and welcome to AA.
I have always used sand in my tanks, 10g, 15g and 55g. In Ireland, we don't have a lot of pools, so I can't advise you on pool filter sand. I use kids play sand. The best advice I can give you on using sand is to wash it really really well. Then when you think it's clean, wash it again. This is super important BEFORE you add it to the tank. Washing it before you add it will get rid of any light, floaty sand that cause's clouding. If I swirl my sand now, it settles in seconds. If I didn't wash it, it would cloud for hours. You will love sand and will probably NEVER use gravel again. I bet you'll be shocked when you remove the gravel and UGF. The amount of gunk and crap those things hide, no matter how much you vac, is amazing. Pool filter sand is extremely popular with fellow members and I believe there is different granule grades. I'm sure someone else can advise with on that. So to answer your questions;

1. I read that pool filter sand traps particles in it and it's as hard as gravel substrate when it comes to cleaning. Is it true? If its not suitable, what sand do you think I should use?
Easier to clean, everything sits on it, so it is easy to vac out

2. My tank is up and running for more than an year (1 year and 2 months to be precise). Is it ok for me to change the substrate part by part with the fish still in the tank or should I take them out?
Personally, I would remove everything. So much easier and you can give the whole tank a good clean, especially when you see all the gunk from the gravel and UGF. Remember to keep everything wet with old tank water during the change. You don't want to lose your BB.

3. Can I use my internal filter with sand or will sand ruin my filter? (I'm afraid my cichlids and the synos will stir up the sand and it might end up getting sucked up) I'll be dishing out a lot of money for my 400 gallon so I can't afford to buy a canister for this 40g at the moment. Will sand get in to the propellers
That's why washing the sand really well beforehand is so important. This will eliminate this problem. The sand they stir up will be 'heavy' so will settle back down instantly and not be sucked up. You will always get a tiny amount of sand in your filters, but I have never had ANY issue's with my filters. Putting some Polyfil in your new canister will trap any of this.

4. Will it be ok if I place the filter 4" above the substrate and use sponge as filter media (inside) to stop sand from getting in to the propeller?
I have my internals and externals(pipe) 2" above the substrate with no issues. 4" is no problem...

5. How hard is it to clean sand substrates when it comes to routine tank maintenance?
Easy. Just hold the vac about 1/2inch above the sand and it'll suck up any junk. It may also suck up a tiny amount of sand. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

To wash the sand, get a large bucket. Fill a qtr full with sand and wash it. If you have access to a garden hose, it is best to use this. Blast the sand and give it a good stir. Keep doing this until the water run clear. Put in the tank and keep repeating until you have enough sand in the tank. You will lose maybe a qtr of the total amount of sand you buy. When filling the tank with water, carefully place a plate or bowl in the tank and pour the water into this. This will stop any clouding....
Hope this helps. Trust me, you won't regret it!!!!
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Old 03-31-2013, 11:45 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Ian086 View Post
Hi Stevy and welcome to AA.
I have always used sand in my tanks, 10g, 15g and 55g. In Ireland, we don't have a lot of pools, so I can't advise you on pool filter sand. I use kids play sand. The best advice I can give you on using sand is to wash it really really well. Then when you think it's clean, wash it again. This is super important BEFORE you add it to the tank. Washing it before you add it will get rid of any light, floaty sand that cause's clouding. If I swirl my sand now, it settles in seconds. If I didn't wash it, it would cloud for hours. You will love sand and will probably NEVER use gravel again. I bet you'll be shocked when you remove the gravel and UGF. The amount of gunk and crap those things hide, no matter how much you vac, is amazing. Pool filter sand is extremely popular with fellow members and I believe there is different granule grades. I'm sure someone else can advise with on that. So to answer your questions;

1. I read that pool filter sand traps particles in it and it's as hard as gravel substrate when it comes to cleaning. Is it true? If its not suitable, what sand do you think I should use?
Easier to clean, everything sits on it, so it is easy to vac out

2. My tank is up and running for more than an year (1 year and 2 months to be precise). Is it ok for me to change the substrate part by part with the fish still in the tank or should I take them out?
Personally, I would remove everything. So much easier and you can give the whole tank a good clean, especially when you see all the gunk from the gravel and UGF. Remember to keep everything wet with old tank water during the change. You don't want to lose your BB.

3. Can I use my internal filter with sand or will sand ruin my filter? (I'm afraid my cichlids and the synos will stir up the sand and it might end up getting sucked up) I'll be dishing out a lot of money for my 400 gallon so I can't afford to buy a canister for this 40g at the moment. Will sand get in to the propellers
That's why washing the sand really well beforehand is so important. This will eliminate this problem. The sand they stir up will be 'heavy' so will settle back down instantly and not be sucked up. You will always get a tiny amount of sand in your filters, but I have never had ANY issue's with my filters. Putting some Polyfil in your new canister will trap any of this.

4. Will it be ok if I place the filter 4" above the substrate and use sponge as filter media (inside) to stop sand from getting in to the propeller?
I have my internals and externals(pipe) 2" above the substrate with no issues. 4" is no problem...

5. How hard is it to clean sand substrates when it comes to routine tank maintenance?
Easy. Just hold the vac about 1/2inch above the sand and it'll suck up any junk. It may also suck up a tiny amount of sand. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

To wash the sand, get a large bucket. Fill a qtr full with sand and wash it. If you have access to a garden hose, it is best to use this. Blast the sand and give it a good stir. Keep doing this until the water run clear. Put in the tank and keep repeating until you have enough sand in the tank. You will lose maybe a qtr of the total amount of sand you buy. When filling the tank with water, carefully place a plate or bowl in the tank and pour the water into this. This will stop any clouding....
Hope this helps. Trust me, you won't regret it!!!!
Welcome to the forum Stevy, Ian couldn't say it more precise. I just changed out my gravel to sand this past week. I bought mine from petco online (got a good deal). I took everything apart and was easy transition. I will never go back to gravel.
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Old 04-01-2013, 01:49 PM   #5
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Hey guys!Thanks for all the replies

I went to my local pet shop today and bought a big piece of drift wood to be the center piece. I'll be getting my pool sand most probably on Wednesday and the plan is to do the conversion during this weekend. I will upload pictures when it's done

before I do this I have some more questions (I know I ask a lot of questions, please bear with me)

1. I'm a little paranoid about losing all the beneficial bacteria when taking my whole tank apart (emptying my tank). I have used a lot of gravel and pebbles along with small pieces of drift wood in my tank. When I'm changing the substrate I plan on removing all my gravel, pebbles and most of the small pieces of drift wood leaving only the prominent ones in the tank (mostly about 4 to 5 pieces). I will be throwing away my old plastic plants too.

I will only have sand and the prominent pieces of drift wood along with one or two plants in the tank after I'm done switching to sand.

My question is this. Since I'm not running a canister filter all my beneficial bacteria are in the gravel, plants, drift wood and my internal filter. If I take my whole tank apart and throw away the gravel, pebbles etc wouldn't it take a long time for the tank to cycle? I hate losing fish and I'm dead scared of doing this. What can I do? Will it help if I introduce a little bit of old tank water in to the new set up?

2. For how long should I let the sand settle before introducing the fish and turn on the filter?

Thanks a lot guys!I'm doing this for the first time and I want to do it right!

Have a good day!Cheers!

Stephen
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stevy89 View Post
Hey guys!Thanks for all the replies

I went to my local pet shop today and bought a big piece of drift wood to be the center piece. I'll be getting my pool sand most probably on Wednesday and the plan is to do the conversion during this weekend. I will upload pictures when it's done

before I do this I have some more questions (I know I ask a lot of questions, please bear with me)

1. I'm a little paranoid about losing all the beneficial bacteria when taking my whole tank apart (emptying my tank). I have used a lot of gravel and pebbles along with small pieces of drift wood in my tank. When I'm changing the substrate I plan on removing all my gravel, pebbles and most of the small pieces of drift wood leaving only the prominent ones in the tank (mostly about 4 to 5 pieces). I will be throwing away my old plastic plants too.

I will only have sand and the prominent pieces of drift wood along with one or two plants in the tank after I'm done switching to sand.

My question is this. Since I'm not running a canister filter all my beneficial bacteria are in the gravel, plants, drift wood and my internal filter. If I take my whole tank apart and throw away the gravel, pebbles etc wouldn't it take a long time for the tank to cycle? I hate losing fish and I'm dead scared of doing this. What can I do? Will it help if I introduce a little bit of old tank water in to the new set up?

2. For how long should I let the sand settle before introducing the fish and turn on the filter?

Thanks a lot guys!I'm doing this for the first time and I want to do it right!

Have a good day!Cheers!

Stephen
I had the same worries as you do, a week ago I changed over to sand and completely removed everything except for my hob & canister filters ( I added another canister since I will not be using ug filter). I checked my water parameters two days later and then over the weekend and there almost perfect. Ammonia & nitrite is 0 & nitrate is between 5-10.
As for your other ?, I let the sand settle for about an hour and started the filters. I did thoroughly washed the sand beforehand. After the filters were on for 1/2 hr I started putting fish in. I put an bacteria additive to help in the loss of BB. Hope this helps.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:48 PM   #7
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I think you will love sand as substrate!!!

When I changed from gravel to sand I took out all of my fish and décor. I put the décor with the tank water that was cycled. And yes, I kept pretty much all of the previous tank water to put back into the aquarium when I was ready to fill it back up. I don't have a canister filter either. I kept all of the old media in though.

After I set it all up and the sand was in, the décor was in, and my filter was back on and heater back on, water in, I tested the water, my water params were pretty much the same. I put the fish in approximately 30 min after the tank was set up. I tested the water a lot for a while after I had done the change, if there were any spikes (which weren't too bad) id change out water until it tested correctly.

I think you will be fine, just try to keep some of your tank water (from the established tank) and keep ur BB on your décor by keeping them wet and don't change ur filter media.

I do have a large pleco in my tank and he stirred up the sand a lot at first, I did get some in my filter, but my filter is fine still, if you think your sand was stirred up you can check your filter and take the sand out. But as said above, usually if cleaned well enough, it settles quickly.
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:13 PM   #8
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With the BB, cut up any media-sponges you have in your old filter and put them in your new canister. You can add your gravel to the canister also, put it in a mesh bag or a pair of pantyhose or even lose. This will transfer BB to the new media. Rinse both in old tank water beforehand and DON'T allow to dry. The water, you can dump, little to no bacteria in it. BB is not free floating. Adding water to sand, if you wash it super well, there will be very little clouding(for 1hr max).
The sand shouldn't need to settle, use a bowl or plate in the tank and pour the water onto this. This stops any water turbulence, therefore no sand will be stirred. If it's washed really well, no sand will float. It'll simply fall immediately back down. I have Kribs, who love to sieve the sand and my water is crystal clear. Get some Purigen and cheap floss(polyfil) for your canister....
PS...With the plate or bowl. Make sure you place it securely on a flat surface!!!
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Old 04-02-2013, 02:19 AM   #9
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In case you haven't bought your sand yet, I just want to mention that I just switched and found a cool way to get black sand. I went to menards and bought a couple 50 lb. bags of black blasting sand for $8 each. IMO, it looks very nice and really makes the colors of the fish pop. A lot of fish also enjoy a darker colored substrate.

Ammonia levels also went up slightly for a day or two in my tank and then went back to 0 after the switch from gravel.
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:52 PM   #10
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Thanks a lot for all the advice guys! Appreciate it!

cmw9787, I already bought a 50 lb pool filter sand bag. Thanks for the idea though. I'll try that out in some of my other tanks.

I will post picture when it's done. cheers!
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