Cleaning the sand bed during water changes?

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pgsonier

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I’m a member of a few reef and marine aquarium groups on Facebook and someone just posted that they lost their entire tank from a crash because they may have stirred up too much detritus while cleaning the sand during a water change. I was always under the assumption from info I’ve gotten in the past from LFS’s that you’re always supposed to clean and shift the sand around during water changes? Is this information wrong? Are you only supposed to swap out water during water changes and leave the sand bed alone? What do you experienced reefers recommend and how do you perform your water changes and/or clean your sand bed, if you ever do?
 
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EvanDeVita

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I’m only a year and change into the hobby, but it is to my knowledge that if you consistently stir the sand while doing water changes from the beginning, you should keep it up. If, however, you don’t stir the sand for a long period of time you risk unearthing something like the tank crash you mentioned.
I am personally running an experiment that may answer your question. I stirred sand for my first year, but now I’m not. I’m going more hands off now. I plan on making a post with my observations in around 6 months!
 

Reef.

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I’m only a year and change into the hobby, but it is to my knowledge that if you consistently stir the sand while doing water changes from the beginning, you should keep it up. If, however, you don’t stir the sand for a long period of time you risk unearthing something like the tank crash you mentioned.
I am personally running an experiment that may answer your question. I stirred sand for my first year, but now I’m not. I’m going more hands off now. I plan on making a post with my observations in around 6 months!

sounds interesting, but thinking about it what are you expecting to find out?
 

EvanDeVita

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sounds interesting, but thinking about it what are you expecting to find out?
Thanks for asking! I have a theory that sand only builds up so much detritus, so I will do my normal sand vacuum procedure at low pressure after six months without vacuuming, and I will take a clear video of the sand, detritus, etc.. and compare it to a video I took a couple months ago. It is to my belief that the videos will be identical, showing that at a naked eye level the amount of crap in the sand bed will be the same when you vacuum the sand once every other week vs when you vacuum the sand every six months. I know this goes against common knowledge but I’ve never seen anyone actually “bust” or prove this.
I know it’s not a good experiment cause I have sand dwelling creatures, but I’m doing it anyway.
 
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Reef.

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Thanks for asking! I have a theory that sand only builds up so much detritus, so I will do my normal sand vacuum procedure at low pressure after six months without vacuuming, and I will take a clear video of the sand, detritus, etc.. and compare it to a video I took a couple months ago. It is to my belief that the videos will be identical, showing that at a naked eye level the amount of crap in the sand bed will be the same when you vacuum the sand once every other week vs when you vacuum the sand every six months. I know this goes against common knowledge but I’ve never seen anyone actually “bust” or prove this.
I know it’s not a good experiment cause I have sand dwelling creatures, but I’m doing it anyway.

does it matter if the eye can see the detritus or whatever the sand releases, we can be fairly confident that after 6 months the sand will be releasing stuff you don’t want in the water.
 

EvanDeVita

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does it matter if the eye can see the detritus or whatever the sand releases, we can be fairly confident that after 6 months the sand will be releasing stuff you don’t want in the water.
Perhaps. But what could the sand be releasing that hadn’t already polluted the tank? The danger people seem to think exists is simply an enormous amount of detritus. My experiment is to see if the amount of detritus build up is substantially different after the two time periods. Recall I have creatures that sift through sand too.
Remember I am a high school student - not a scientist so my experiment isn’t close to perfect or even acceptable.
 

HB AL

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I haven't done a water change in over 4.5 years and have not cleaned my sand bed. My triggers do stir it up some looking for worms to snack on. I dont have much sand that is accessible, just in the very front of the tank as you can see in the pic so "cleaning" it isn't really an option for my reef tank and it doesn't seem to matter at all.
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jarviz

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Perhaps. But what could the sand be releasing that hadn’t already polluted the tank? The danger people seem to think exists is simply an enormous amount of detritus. My experiment is to see if the amount of detritus build up is substantially different after the two time periods. Recall I have creatures that sift through sand too.
Remember I am a high school student - not a scientist so my experiment isn’t close to perfect or even acceptable.
Right... i never understood how disturbing the sand could lead to more detritus or nutrients back into the water. I would think whatever is in the sandbed (even a 3" or 4" deep one) is already in the water column.
 

mike550

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I’ve heard similar stories. My tank is about 1.5 years old. I vacuum 1/4 to 1/3 every few water changes. Other times I’m trying to get algae off rocks or other nonsense
 

Uncle99

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I haven't done a water change in over 4.5 years and have not cleaned my sand bed. My triggers do stir it up some looking for worms to snack on. I dont have much sand that is accessible, just in the very front of the tank as you can see in the pic so "cleaning" it isn't really an option for my reef tank and it doesn't seem to matter at all.
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Sometimes I must wonder if we all are being fooled in regards to the water change issue.

When I see tanks like above that have never seen a water change in 4.5 years....I think....OMG.....am I working to hard.....Am I just throwing money out on salt......this issue mystifies me...

What a beautiful tank......you sure got that dialed in...WOW.
 

Reef.

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Perhaps. But what could the sand be releasing that hadn’t already polluted the tank?

The detritus in the sand is trapped, it is not polluting the water, once it’s released it then kicks in, in this very thread the OP talks of a tank wipe out, you then go on to explain exactly the correct approach, to keep cleaning the sand regularly or leave it alone but then go on in another post to say you believe there will be no difference between a vacuumed sand bed and a non vacuumed sand bed after 6 months, sorry not trying to be difficult here, I’m just a little lost in what your experiment is trying to achieve.
 

brandon429

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The best way I’ve learned to see it without detracting from the work of non cleaners like that fantastic tank above is one way has extremely tight outcomes/keeping a clean sandbed isn’t associated with any losses I can find at all, vs keeping the classic Berlin method where variations simply happen and a small % of reefs die from the method. Not a huge portion, but such that I collect a loss thread on the matter once every three months or so. A pattern of small but total fish loss can be found the longer we keep using a handful of old sand in tank transfers, or moving / upgrading tanks without rinse preps, or from keeping a basic aged Berlin style sandbed and something shifts it.


for clean beds, or preventatively-stirred ones, we have zero losses on file. That doesn’t diminish the in-place ones at all, cleaner setups are just a bit safer for the masses that’s all. Here’s my three most recent loss posts collected:




and there’s another one but I’m not posting it because i feel bad my friends tank had stress it’s worth about ten grand. It wasn’t killed by sand disturbance but it was kneecapped. scary. close


someone has posited it may not be ammonia doing the rare tank wipeouts, it could be bacterial compounds and or toxins that just present for some systems and not others. Either way, so closely tied with sand events. Google has a few more old ones from reefcentral.com
 
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mslabonik

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I haven't done a water change in over 4.5 years and have not cleaned my sand bed. My triggers do stir it up some looking for worms to snack on. I dont have much sand that is accessible, just in the very front of the tank as you can see in the pic so "cleaning" it isn't really an option for my reef tank and it doesn't seem to matter at all.
20210224_155005.jpg
20210224_155511.jpg
20210224_155811.jpg
Hello, beautiful tank first of all, but my question is about the trigger fish, which ones do you have that is reef safe? I kept only aggressive fish tank for 10 years and now trying my luck at coral, loved my trigger fish before, I thought about niger trigger but don't want them to eat coral? How are you keeping them with coral?
 

robert teseo

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before i do a water change, i take a powerhead and go around the whole tank blowing rocks and sand stirring up a storm. after it settles i do a change from the sump.
 

drblakjak55

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I’m a big fan of powerhead blowing out the rock crevices every week or so. A water change every couple months right after stirring stuff up. I stir the sand between mushrooms with my finger and blow out the rest. On the weekly turkey baste of the fields of zoas a lot of junk builds up between polyps. Can’t be good. The ocean washes this stuff away. So can we
 
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