Switching from Sand to Gravel
Our Stars and Stripes Puffer Fish, Shamu, is a terribly messy eater. As a result, there is detritus all over the sand bed. I can't seem to siphon it out of the tank without taking a lot of sand with it. The tank looks like a snow globe every time he dives for food and sends a flurry of... what must be old food parts, old fish parts, etc., up into the water. It's keeping me from really having pride in our tank.
I would like to switch to gravel so that I can effectively vacuum all of the junk off the bottom of the tank, and I imagine I could easily siphon detritus off of/out between from gravel without sucking up the gravel as well.
Would switching from sand to gravel be ok? Would it be safe for Shamu who likes to put everything in his mouth? I was told, at least when we had our reef tank, that the sand bed offers benefits to the water quality. Would getting rid of the sand and replacing it with gravel adversely impact the water quality to any considerable degree?
In a nutshell, is it ok to switch our saltwater fish only tank from sand to gravel? If so, does the fact that it is saltwater necessitate or foreclose any particular type of gravel, or will anything at the aquarium store do?
Thanks so much,
I personally like the sand over gravel cause the detrius stays on top of the sand as opposed to falling down intothe gravel where it is much harder IME to get out. It becomes a measuring exercise in how close to the gravel to put the syphon to get the debri and not the sand. An observation I have made is the Phython does not have the vaccum that the old style vaccum that required sucking or some other method to get it to begin has. I have a discus tank that I take a fine meshed net and gently herd the majority of detrius ,poo,etc to one corner and then use the old style vaccum to remove it. I then use the python to remove x= gal. of water and to refill. The longer hose on the python no doubt affects the suction as opposed to the shorter hose on the old style. If you do switch to gravel I believe I would opt for the finest gravel as opposed to some of the larger stuff as food, detrius, etc is more easily trapped and able to fall through the larger size. I'm sorry I don't know squat about saltwater and have no idea if gravel would pose a problem other than what's been mentioned. Hope some of this helps.
I agree with 1077 i would get the finest grade of gravel if you did get it, it'll be like having crushed coral as your substrate just not a good idea.
Thank you very much for the replies, 1077 and Kellsindell. It sounds as if I may be better off sticking with sand after all. Not what I'd hoped for, but what can you do.
Our filter currently draws water in from the top of the tank. Might adding a filter that draws water from toward the bottom be a good idea since it might then be able to draw in detritus the puffer kicks up?
Here are a few pics of the fish kicking up detritus. Tomorrow morning is tank time, so please excuse the algae, etc.
He is a cute fella! In a virile sort of way. Perhaps drawing water and detrius from the bottom would lend itself to the possibility of also drawing up sand considering how much he appears to kick up. You could always place a sponge over the uptake but not sure you would achieve the desired results in that way. Maybe the use of a power head and drawing the water from say the surface and mid depths might help. The power head pushing the detrius to one end?
Judging from the reflection in the background, it appears that your sand bed is about 1'' deep. Is this correct?
If it is, then there will be almost no benefits from leaving it in place. To achieve any sort of denitrification effect you would need a good 3'' of sand. Given that you only have 1'', your sand bed is simply a detritus trap. As detritus accumulates, organic breakdown occurs, causing phosphates to rise and carbonates to deplete. This strains your alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium levels, requiring increased water changes to maintain a stable environment.
Because this is a fish only system and not a reef, I am making the following recommendation.
1) Remove the sand and replace it with aragonite. Use the smallest grain size you can purchase that will not be removed during water changes.
2) Place a power head near the bottom of the tank to circulate the water above the aragonite. This will help keep detritus from settling and allow your hang on filter time to remove it more effectively.
3) Consider adding a 2nd hang on filter to help remove this waste before it settles. It is extremely important to the long term stability of the system. Perhaps you can use a strainer extender to extend the intake near the bottom of the aquarium.
Finally, there is not a full view picture of you tank, so take this with a grain of salt.-) Make sure your Puffer has something to gnaw on. Small shells, artificial acropora branches, etc. The teeth of this fish grow very rapidly and the fish needs to grind the teeth to prevent this growth. Hobbyists who neglect this often find that long term success requires a visit from a dental aquatic vetrinarian.
Thank you for the replies and additional advice, 1077 and Pasfur.
The depth of our sand bed is inconsistent throughout the tank because the puffer pushes the sand out of his favorite part of the tank no matter how many times we redistribute it. I would say that at it's deepest, though, the sand bed is two inches.
As for replacing sand with aragonite, I've googled aragonite substrate only to find aragonite sand substrate. Is aragonite in non sand form possibly called something else, or is there another term you would recommend I search for?
I also thought of adding back our fluval which extended far down into the tank and drew water from there. I will definitely do it now that you've recommended the same.
Is there any particular size/type of power head you would recommend we place near the bottom of our 55 gallon tank to help keep the detritus from settling? I haven't used one before.
Finally, we give the puffer fish hard shell cockel regularly to help keep his teeth in check, though it doesn't take him long at all to bite through them. I will look into artificial acropora branches.
how could you resist a face like that :)
Most "crushed oyster shell coral" that you find at the LFS will work for your purpose. You don't want "old school" crushed coral, such as the kind used in African cichlid tanks. It is hard to tell the difference in aragonite, crushed coral shells, and crushed oyster shell, because it is all marketing.
I prefer Maxi Jet power heads because they mount to the aquarium very easily and effectively. The MJ250 or MJ500 should do the trick.
I'll pass your compliment on to Shamu, Willow. :-)
Thanks, Pasfur, I'll look into crushed oyster shell coral and the MJ powerhead series.
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