Advice needed on transferring LR + sand bed to future tank

VA Reef

New member
New to the Forum and gotta say this is a great community with great information; thank you for your contributions!

Apologies in advanced if this is long winded; I'll try and keep it short but provide the pertinent details.

I need to buy a new house and move in the near future. However I need to do something ASAP about my 55 gallon 1/2 dead reef tank in my living room. Currently I have a beautiful Blue Hippo Tang and Clownfish that have proven to be the survivors of my tank fallout (long story- i'll spare you) along with my live rock and sandbed (these are the object of my question). The system has slowly deteriorated due to equipment failure: currently I have only one light working on a 4-bulbed compact florescent hood and my filtration is only live rock with a 4" sandbed of mostly crushed coral and a little live sand on top of an undergravel filter w/ 2 powerheads. It has been at this status (filter/light-wise) for over 3-4 years; the tank itself was started 12 years ago and has never been taken down.

I have a 90 gal wave-front tank that has been setting in storage for a couple years that I picked up from a friend in a move. Apparently it was used for chic-lids and had brackish water- said there was an oscar in it when they tore it down but I ended up getting a good 50-75 lbs of dead coral/white dry live-rock along with the tank. Some of that rock was in the tank and has a little green algea on it and the rest was white/dry in a box. That rock combined with the liverock from my current 55gal tank would be enough for a reef in the 90 gallon. I would like to set up the 90 gallon in my new home once the time arrives (this could be 4-6 months from now). I would like to use the rock and sand bed in the new tank to help cycle the new system and the dead rock I have in storage (i have some questions about that I will get to in a min once I give some more details).

My 55 gallon tank is over 11-12 years old and has seen a plethora of livestock including various soft corals and polyps, a couple anemones, cleaner crews, etc. To my eye, other than the rock, sand bed, and 2 fish- nothing is alive/survived. My fish appear extremely healthy and have thrived in this tank for over 6-7 years; however, I occasionally see a spot of ich on the tang every now and then. My local fish store will take my fish; but on to the important stuff:

The live rock currently in my tank: *
This is my biggest area of concern- after so many year and being exposed to such a variety of life I have to believe if I currently take my live rock and put it under lights I would see all kinds of live reemerge. There are small amounts of red and green algae on the rock (along with sponges and everything else)- what is the best way to salvage the rock? I dont want to just let it die- it would be great to seed the white rock i have in storage- but we are talking months down the road. If I put it in a big rubbermade tub with saltwater/ pump/ heater but without light wont it die off and cycle? Or is it better to just put it in a box/ cut my losses and reseed all of it when time comes for the new tank?

The sand bed currently in my tank:*
Is primarily crushed arganite (the white crushed coral type) mixed with live sand on top of an undergravel filter. From what I read; all I need to save is a few coffee cans of it and use to reseed a new substrate (in the new tank). If I scoop some out with some water will it keep for a long time or will it die if not heated/lighted/water conditioned? Is it worth keeping more to all of the current substrate?

My 55 gallon tank once it is fishless:*
With the occasional appearance of Ich on my Tang I have to believe that there is a small amount of parasite in my tank. I believe if it goes without fish for two weeks most of them would die. In addition to Ich I am sure there are LOTS of worms and other little critters that are thriving in my live rock- what is the best way to ensure unwanted critters dont make it into my new tank?

The dead/white live rock from the new 90 gallon tank:*
Being that some or all of this has been exposed to another setup, I am assuming that I should treat this before entering it into the new system and seeding it with my current live rock (if that is possible). Is the best way to rid this of foreign toxins and/or other bad stuff to soak it in freshwater for a while and then cure it? Should I cycle it with my current live rock that I have in my 55 tank or what?

Basically I am looking for the cheapest and most time efficient way to transplant what I have into a future tank and not real sure how to go about it and if my efforts to salvage my old ecosystem are in vain. Should I just drain it all off, store it dry and restart when the time comes? Or is there a way I can store some of this in order to kick start my new tank and save some of this? As I said above this old 55 gallon system saw a ton of life and it would be a shame to loose all the variety. Your thoughts and advice are most appreciated! Thank you for your time!
 

NVTE

Active member
Hi welcome to forum.
I recommend start over everything since your old tank is setup for a while and collect all kind of detrius in the sand, and rock. It might be bacteria like you said too.
If you like your fish. I suggest find good LFS to keep the fish for you. For Rock: I would do Muriatic acid wash will take out all stuffs in the rock. for sand I would buy new dry sand (not live sand, cause it is cheaper and will eventually turn into live sand when bacteria growth inside).
If you keep just fish only with rock and sand. I would get a new led strip light. more energy efficient and long life.
Forget about undergravel filter and start looking into sump and protein skimmer.
 

emcmilla

New member
Welcome to the Forum!
Soon I will be facing a similar situation. I will be moving my 150G reef tank about 9.5 hours away. I was told by my LFS (and verified from my own research) not to reuse the live sand. The reason for this is primarily to prevent an ammonia spike.
The way it was explained to me: if your tank (like mine) does not house an animal that regularly sifts the sand, the top layer of LS has a lot of detritus on it. The problem is that once that sand is disturbed, the detritus will be moved as well. This apparently will cause (or has the potential to cause) high ammonia spikes that could endanger your animals. As live sand sits on the aquarium floor, the very bottom layer of it turns into a flour-like substance. In other words, it grinds down into nothing. So, after moving the sand the layer that will be on the top in the new tank will inevitably be some of that flour-like "nothingness".
While I have not had to make the move yet, I would definitely purchase new live sand. Live rock should be fine so long as it stays in saltwater. This is just my 2 cents based on my research.
Good Luck!
 

VA Reef

New member
Hi welcome to forum.
I recommend start over everything since your old tank is setup for a while and collect all kind of detrius in the sand, and rock. It might be bacteria like you said too.
If you like your fish. I suggest find good LFS to keep the fish for you. For Rock: I would do Muriatic acid wash will take out all stuffs in the rock. for sand I would buy new dry sand (not live sand, cause it is cheaper and will eventually turn into live sand when bacteria growth inside).
If you keep just fish only with rock and sand. I would get a new led strip light. more energy efficient and long life.
Forget about undergravel filter and start looking into sump and protein skimmer.
Thanks Daniel,

Thanks for the advice; yeah I have no intention of continuing the undergravel. I had a protein skimmer but it died around the same time as my lighting did. I am not sure I understand your comment about the acid bath though: are you saying to use that on the dry/white rock i have in storage or the live rock i have in my current tank. Not real sure about using the acid though- is there another way to treat the dead rock?

Also what are your thoughts about keeping the liverock i currently have in my 55gal tank? Do you think its possible or worth the effort to try and save it or you think let it die dry and cure after clean?
 

VA Reef

New member
Welcome to the Forum!
Soon I will be facing a similar situation. I will be moving my 150G reef tank about 9.5 hours away. I was told by my LFS (and verified from my own research) not to reuse the live sand. The reason for this is primarily to prevent an ammonia spike.
The way it was explained to me: if your tank (like mine) does not house an animal that regularly sifts the sand, the top layer of LS has a lot of detritus on it. The problem is that once that sand is disturbed, the detritus will be moved as well. This apparently will cause (or has the potential to cause) high ammonia spikes that could endanger your animals. As live sand sits on the aquarium floor, the very bottom layer of it turns into a flour-like substance. In other words, it grinds down into nothing. So, after moving the sand the layer that will be on the top in the new tank will inevitably be some of that flour-like "nothingness".
While I have not had to make the move yet, I would definitely purchase new live sand. Live rock should be fine so long as it stays in saltwater. This is just my 2 cents based on my research.
Good Luck!
Thanks for sharing your research Emcmila! I agree and that makes total sence; I have had nothing turning the sand for years and it would def be mush if i fooled with it- I will be just discarding the sandbed and getting anew.

What do you think about the rock I am trying to save? Better to let it die/dry and store vs like putting it in a couple big trash cans with saltwater aeriation/ light/ filtration- or do you leave it dark and do water changes? Not sure which way to go- its about 50lbs of Live rock with lots of sponges and stuff growing on it- if its more trouble than its worth I may just let it die and re-seed it when the time comes
 

emcmilla

New member
When I moved my tank before I had live rock too. I ended up storing it in my garage for 2 years after I let it dry out. In fact, now I'm working on reseeding it...the process takes a long time....I can say if you're looking for a time effective method, seeding (at least for me) is a slow process.
If the ich itself is the concern, once you move LR into a garbage can w/ water, it would be in a fishless environment so after 72 days the ich would be gone. You could also add all your LR together and the dry stuff would be seeded from the other and there would be no ich on any of the rocks.
If I were you, I would at least try to save it and see how it goes. If you notice a lot of die off, you could always then decide to let it dry out (cleaning it really really well to minimize leaching when reseeding) and reseed later.
 

amutti

New member
You're going to need somewhere to keep your fish for a while during the move. In my case I set up a bare bottom tank at work (I have a wonderful job) a few weeks ahead of time to cycle, and then moved the fish there for 2-months while I got the new tank established at my new house. Maybe you have a good friend or family member that has a little space in the basement? Otherwise a good LFS might help.

Now the sand. There is no good way to keep the sand "good" during a move and it's probably just too dirty and not worth moving. It fouls very fast. Get new sand for the new tank or no sand if you're going bare bottom. If you already had the tank setup at the new house then maybe transfer a few cups of sand if it was full of pods and worms to the new tank, but most should be new.

The live rock . . . . more difficult to answer. One option is to sanitize it, acid bath it, and store it dry until you're ready to use it. Of course you have good "live rock" without any known hitchhikers, so you probably would like to keep it alive. It's pretty easy to do as long as you can keep it in water, at a reasonable temp (>69F) and can keep water circulating during the transition. Yes, some stuff will die off, but a lot will live . . . and since you're not too worried about a cycle when you re-establish the tank since you have the fish elsewhere, what's the big deal? HERE IS THE CAVEAT -- How are your phosphates and nitrates now? If they are relatively low, especially PO, I'd try to keep it wet and warm in some rubbermaid containers. It will be reasonably happy for a few weeks this way (and easy enough to transport). If they are high then chances are the rock has soaked up alot of phosphate and will slowly release it into the new tank later on, which will cause issues later on (algae and cyano issues). In that case the clean, sanitize, acid bath and dry option is best.
 
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