Advice for changing sand on established tank with sand sifter

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
So my uncle passed away back August and left behind several of his tanks, only one saltwater tank with life in it. It’s a biocube, but he was pretty weak towards the end and admittedly it got a little out of hand. I somehow managed to drive the tank and fish from Colorado to Washington and keep mostly everybody alive and now I’ve begun the process of trying to save the tank. I have no clue what I’m doing.
Currently I have several hermits, a bunch of snails, an emerald crab, a fire shrimp, pink waving hands, a clownfish (not sure which one she’d be considered), a starry blenny, a sandsifter star, and various anemones that I’m not quite sure what they are, but I know they are unhappy and I’m desperate to try to fix this tank before the nuke it. I’ve done a couple deep cleans and water replacements as well as keeping up with weekly touchups. The guy at the fish store recommended maybe a sand change. Unfortunately I have no information on when or if this has even happened in the tank. I also read so much about how important the sand is so I’m very intimidated by this process.
Can I leave my fish in as I change the sand? I’ve read some people say do it in parts and some others said do it all at once because your filter area should have the bacteria it needs. Thoughts? How do I be mindful to the sand sifter star? I also noticed there are lots of tube like critters that come up from the sand (I believe the eat using 2 mucus strands I forget their name), so do I need to worry about these guys?

Here are some pictures. I know this is probably pretty rough, but I’m doing my best! It’s way better than it used to be!!
5C464138-1906-4914-BF2B-3CDB714761A4.jpeg

16DE0E8A-E9E9-48A5-91F6-1748A9C1BE0A.jpeg

0A1E7989-4D96-4F16-9477-CB148D2574AE.jpeg
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
thats truly amazing in its maturity, potential after a little surgical guidance and coral health

we can bring back those with an increased feeding focus for sure, they're tough.

here are two threads. one is how to change a sandbed out all at once without killing the system:

the other is the biology and action of undoing old tank syndrome, which that reef has / it's easy to fix. the sand swap was 95% of the matter. detailing the rocks clean using metal tools and peroxide outside the tank, in the air like a surgical run, is the other 5% work then the system will skip cycle all back together in an awesome way we show.


*notice there is no testing of parameters nor bottle bac used in any of those jobs. the key to fixing the tank and losing nothing is complete bed swap + pre rinse of the new bed, always pre rinse sand like we do to pure cloudless state verified before placing in the tank, and detail the rocks clean using a sharp knife tip then using peroxide in the scraped-clean places.

it's like that tank is an old mouth and we're doing dental work on it
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
thats truly amazing in its maturity, potential after a little surgical guidance and coral health

we can bring back those with an increased feeding focus for sure, they're tough.

here are two threads. one is how to change a sandbed out all at once without killing the system:

the other is the biology and action of undoing old tank syndrome, which that reef has / it's easy to fix. the sand swap was 95% of the matter. detailing the rocks clean using metal tools and peroxide outside the tank, in the air like a surgical run, is the other 5% work then the system will skip cycle all back together in an awesome way we show.


*notice there is no testing of parameters nor bottle bac used in any of those jobs. the key to fixing the tank and losing nothing is complete bed swap + pre rinse of the new bed, always pre rinse sand like we do to pure cloudless state verified before placing in the tank, and detail the rocks clean using a sharp knife tip then using peroxide in the scraped-clean places.

it's like that tank is an old mouth and we're doing dental work on it
Thank you so so much for walking me through this process! And those links are exactly what I need. I’d rather talk to experienced tank owners than just someone trying to sell me something.
It is embarrassing to show because I know it needs so much help, but this tank and it’s occupants are so important to me and keeping them alive is a must!
This might also be a silly question, but is this something where you think there is hope or would it be better to replace all those rocks? Probably not right?
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
no you should keep them, they're highly valuable

in the most unkempt condition they only selected for common easy to fix green hair algae that says they're really good rocks, not bad ones

that could have been dinos, but they're not selected for in that system it's only hair algae in the near total eutrophic state, which remarks well on the system's balance. you want to keep the rocks and don't add much else from a pet store now

it just has too much organic waste, that's all. it's at the full mass point, see the sandbed cross section

once we clean it a maximum lifespan will be imparted all over again, but you can feed really well from the clean condition which regenerates those corals leftover faster. the goal is regenerating those corals, the ones he had vs carrying new ones for a while in my opinion.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
we should run a controlled rip clean on your system I'll link your build thread across several work threads.

this is the high point

lift out rocks ahead of time and work a few back to fully fixed and just set them back over the dirty sand. try not to stir any up

but when your rocks are mostly cleaned manually you then do the disassembly cleaning like we did in every job above

take down

sand rinse, install new sand into a totally cleaned out empty glass tank

set the rocks back that you've been detailing + finalize any remaining areas, for totally cleaned rocks back on the new sand


refill with water matching old tank's typical salinity and temp.

put animals back in

take after pics in 24 hours/post

when rinsing sand in sections in tap water, you take samples and put them in a clear glass of water and view at the level so you can see if it's cloudy still

if you truly deal in verified no cloud rinsed substrate and cleaned rocks simply set back on clean sand in 100% new water, the whole thing will skip cycle because the main bacteria still remain attached to the rocks, even after the light peroxide work. the filter bacteria are that strong.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
no you should keep them, they're highly valuable

in the most unkempt condition they only selected for common easy to fix green hair algae that says they're really good rocks, not bad ones

that could have been dinos, but they're not selected for in that system it's only hair algae in the near total eutrophic state, which remarks well on the system's balance. you want to keep the rocks and don't add much else from a pet store now

it just has too much organic waste, that's all. it's at the full mass point, see the sandbed cross section

once we clean it a maximum lifespan will be imparted all over again, but you can feed really well from the clean condition which regenerates those corals leftover faster. the goal is regenerating those corals, the ones he had vs carrying new ones for a while in my opinion.
That makes sense and makes me hopeful on this rescue mission! I will definitely not make any new additions until I can get everything in check, I think I’d feel to guilty! You are the person I’ve been needing for all of this! I’m so sorry for all the questions! It is so appreciated though and my fishies appreciate it too!
 
Last edited:

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
yes

for sand sifters you just give them a food pellet after the cleaning work

each tank is rinsed sand, either reusing the old sand perfectly cleaned or they're using all new sand, perfectly cleaned

my way is in sections in a medium sized kitchen bucket, using a spatula to turn over sand and pour out as tap water runs all through it. cast out the mud, rinse 20 times over and over each section until perfectly clean, set aside that lump for use.

final rinse each section in saltwater, to evacuate the tap. cup test certain sections to spot check rinse quality

set the cleaned rocks back on top of perfectly rinsed sand, fill with new water matching old temp and salinity/all set.
 
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
we should run a controlled rip clean on your system I'll link your build thread across several work threads.

this is the high point

lift out rocks ahead of time and work a few back to fully fixed and just set them back over the dirty sand. try not to stir any up

but when your rocks are mostly cleaned manually you then do the disassembly cleaning like we did in every job above

take down

sand rinse, install new sand into a totally cleaned out empty glass tank

set the rocks back that you've been detailing + finalize any remaining areas, for totally cleaned rocks back on the new sand


refill with water matching old tank's typical salinity and temp.

put animals back in

take after pics in 24 hours/post

when rinsing sand in sections in tap water, you take samples and put them in a clear glass of water and view at the level so you can see if it's cloudy still

if you truly deal in verified no cloud rinsed substrate and cleaned rocks simply set back on clean sand in 100% new water, the whole thing will skip cycle because the main bacteria still remain attached to the rocks, even after the light peroxide work. the filter bacteria are that strong.
Oops just saw this one okay this answers everything I believe!
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
another reason you're aligning the tank this way is for future access

since these rocks ran unchecked a while they have some retention of plant cells no matter how much we work, some sprout areas might happen in the weeks after the rip clean. if so, lift out those rocks, use a knife tip externally to tooth-scrape each algae area completely free of invasion then peroxide on the cleaned parts then rinse all the mass away, set back. make all the algae control physical, like dentistry vs chemical test and guess and it'll work better, for longer. lower the light levels in particular areas of regrowth, you can lower the light levels and still grow corals if the feed is really good once the tank is fully cleaned.
 
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Thank you so much! I’m going to start readying up the supplies to start this process but I definitely feel a lot more confident heading into it now.
I did just think of one last question though, do you have any recommendations on sand or what I should be looking for in a sand? I didn’t realize there were so many different varieties out there
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
View Badges
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
29,656
Reaction score
23,703
Location
tejas
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
what I always use is caribsea arrive alive bagged sand, ocean direct.
 

jda

10K Club member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
14,325
Reaction score
22,148
Location
Boulder, CO
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
There is some nuance to this. If the sand is performing biological functions then you need to slowly change it in parts or that biological function will disappear - I am not talking about basic processing of fish waste which is not important once your tank is more than a few months old, but rather phosphate buffering, finishing the nitrogen cycle by converting no3 into N gas, supplying food for critters, housing critters, etc. If the sand is not needed for this, then you can do it all at once. There is no one-size fits all approach to this and nobody should be selling you one.

If you do change it all at once, any sand sifters and critters can starve. You cannot simply overfeed the fish and have them eat. Some sand sifters are specialized eaters.

I guess that since this is all new to you that you don't know the history, parameters and all of that? That might help with the decision.

Before you make your decision, look past the simple advice that the sand is just a biological filter - sand is part of the biological system, but it is much more than this. The people telling you to do it in parts are talking about sand beds that are part of the ecosystem and other biological process whereas the ones saying to do it all at once don't have sand that is part of this process or just don't know - neither are wrong, but the situations are different. Choose wisely.

Lastly, consider vacuuming the sand in small patches over time. This can remove any built-up inert gunk that is in there while leaving plenty of area for the sand critters to live and eat. Like 25% every 3 or 4 months is a good place to start and allows the vacuumed areas to repopulate before you move on.
 

vetteguy53081

Well known Member and monster tank lover
View Badges
Joined
Aug 11, 2013
Messages
91,683
Reaction score
202,310
Location
Wisconsin -
Rating - 100%
13   0   0
So my uncle passed away back August and left behind several of his tanks, only one saltwater tank with life in it. It’s a biocube, but he was pretty weak towards the end and admittedly it got a little out of hand. I somehow managed to drive the tank and fish from Colorado to Washington and keep mostly everybody alive and now I’ve begun the process of trying to save the tank. I have no clue what I’m doing.
Currently I have several hermits, a bunch of snails, an emerald crab, a fire shrimp, pink waving hands, a clownfish (not sure which one she’d be considered), a starry blenny, a sandsifter star, and various anemones that I’m not quite sure what they are, but I know they are unhappy and I’m desperate to try to fix this tank before the nuke it. I’ve done a couple deep cleans and water replacements as well as keeping up with weekly touchups. The guy at the fish store recommended maybe a sand change. Unfortunately I have no information on when or if this has even happened in the tank. I also read so much about how important the sand is so I’m very intimidated by this process.
Can I leave my fish in as I change the sand? I’ve read some people say do it in parts and some others said do it all at once because your filter area should have the bacteria it needs. Thoughts? How do I be mindful to the sand sifter star? I also noticed there are lots of tube like critters that come up from the sand (I believe the eat using 2 mucus strands I forget their name), so do I need to worry about these guys?

Here are some pictures. I know this is probably pretty rough, but I’m doing my best! It’s way better than it used to be!!
5C464138-1906-4914-BF2B-3CDB714761A4.jpeg

16DE0E8A-E9E9-48A5-91F6-1748A9C1BE0A.jpeg

0A1E7989-4D96-4F16-9477-CB148D2574AE.jpeg
Before changing sand as i did for someone during the holidays, siphon back half well, then a week later siphon front half well and then add liquid bacteria such as Micro Bacter 7 or XLM.
Im going to try and get a pic from him but tank is Much improved
Keep filters clean and maintain proper maintenance schedule (water changes, etc)
 

jda

10K Club member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
14,325
Reaction score
22,148
Location
Boulder, CO
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
The only reason to actually change out aragonite sand is if it is bound up with po4 that corals are dying and suffering. Otherwise, gravel vac cleans it too. Without knowing a trend of phosphate tests, this is hard to know.

My guess, and this is just a guess, is that the po4 is not too bad or else the starfish would have died.
 
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
There is some nuance to this. If the sand is performing biological functions then you need to slowly change it in parts or that biological function will disappear - I am not talking about basic processing of fish waste which is not important once your tank is more than a few months old, but rather phosphate buffering, finishing the nitrogen cycle by converting no3 into N gas, supplying food for critters, housing critters, etc. If the sand is not needed for this, then you can do it all at once. There is no one-size fits all approach to this and nobody should be selling you one.

If you do change it all at once, any sand sifters and critters can starve. You cannot simply overfeed the fish and have them eat. Some sand sifters are specialized eaters.

I guess that since this is all new to you that you don't know the history, parameters and all of that? That might help with the decision.

Before you make your decision, look past the simple advice that the sand is just a biological filter - sand is part of the biological system, but it is much more than this. The people telling you to do it in parts are talking about sand beds that are part of the ecosystem and other biological process whereas the ones saying to do it all at once don't have sand that is part of this process or just don't know - neither are wrong, but the situations are different. Choose wisely.

Lastly, consider vacuuming the sand in small patches over time. This can remove any built-up inert gunk that is in there while leaving plenty of area for the sand critters to live and eat. Like 25% every 3 or 4 months is a good place to start and allows the vacuumed areas to repopulate before you move on.
Thank you! Yes unfortunately I am painfully new to all this and his passing was not expected, so I have very minimal information on it or how to proceed. I’ve had to do a ton of research to even figure out what the critters were. I’m probably the wrong person for this tank, but I’m determined!
When you talk about vacuuming sand, are you saying to clean the old sand or replace with new in sections? The sand sifter was definitely my concern and I know there are some weird tube like snails sticking out too that I’m not sure if anything would affect.
I know I can go have a saltwater place check my water, would that help give y’all a better picture?
Thank you again. I’m learning so much
 

jda

10K Club member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
14,325
Reaction score
22,148
Location
Boulder, CO
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
Gravel Vacuum. You vacuum the sand in the tank while changing out some water. Any LFS or PetCo type places should have them.

Just do small sections and wait a while to move on. This allows the stuff to redevelop in the places that you vacuumed.

If the LFS is competent and will do some tests, that might be OK. They are not all great, so ask around to some locals for the best ones.
 
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
The only reason to actually change out aragonite sand is if it is bound up with po4 that corals are dying and suffering. Otherwise, gravel vac cleans it too. Without knowing a trend of phosphate tests, this is hard to know.

My guess, and this is just a guess, is that the po4 is not too bad or else the starfish would have died.
I unfortunately can’t find any notes of his about the tank other than receipts I think he used to remember what he had living in there (dementia). Are there tests I can do now?
I honestly didn’t even know that you could change the sand and then it was suggested to me by the guy at the pet store. I thought it kind of stayed for the life of the tank. I’ve had freshwater and cleaned out gravel but sand is a whole new scary thing
 

jda

10K Club member
View Badges
Joined
Jun 25, 2013
Messages
14,325
Reaction score
22,148
Location
Boulder, CO
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
You are OK or else the inverts would be suffering or dead. Just go slow and learn some stuff along the way. No need to be hasty.

A panel of tests at the LFS might be a good first step. Have some salt mix on hand for emergencies. All of the rest can be figured out as you go.
 
OP
OP
N

newbie1995

New Member
View Badges
Joined
Jan 16, 2024
Messages
8
Reaction score
2
Location
washington
Rating - 0%
0   0   0
we should run a controlled rip clean on your system I'll link your build thread across several work threads.

this is the high point

lift out rocks ahead of time and work a few back to fully fixed and just set them back over the dirty sand. try not to stir any up

but when your rocks are mostly cleaned manually you then do the disassembly cleaning like we did in every job above

take down

sand rinse, install new sand into a totally cleaned out empty glass tank

set the rocks back that you've been detailing + finalize any remaining areas, for totally cleaned rocks back on the new sand


refill with water matching old tank's typical salinity and temp.

put animals back in

take after pics in 24 hours/post

when rinsing sand in sections in tap water, you take samples and put them in a clear glass of water and view at the level so you can see if it's cloudy still

if you truly deal in verified no cloud rinsed substrate and cleaned rocks simply set back on clean sand in 100% new water, the whole thing will skip cycle because the main bacteria still remain attached to the rocks, even after the light peroxide work. the filter bacteria are that strong.
Oh hey suggestions on all my critters attached to the rocks when I clean them? There’s the one really sad bubble tip, some waving hands, and a bunch of these little tiny anemone looking guys. Can I save them?
 

Clear reef vision: How do you clean the inside of the glass on your aquarium?

  • Razor blade

    Votes: 162 61.6%
  • Plastic scraper

    Votes: 69 26.2%
  • Clean-up crew

    Votes: 91 34.6%
  • Magic eraser

    Votes: 45 17.1%
  • Other

    Votes: 69 26.2%
Back
Top