Deep Sand Bed vs. ?

Rovert

Premium Member
Per another message, I'm returning to the hobby after nearly 15 tankless years.

Back "in the day", deep sand beds (DSB) and 'Plenum' systems were quite popular as it was claimed the anaerobic layer aids in full nitrogen cycle (breaking down nitrates) and even phosphate cycle breaking down PO, thus reducing the need for additives.

In times past, I've had a 72g Bowfront mixed reef and 55g FOWLR both with deep sand beds to which I attribute my success in never having ick (ich) or other parasites plague the animals. I also happen to just like the looks of a sand bed, a bare bottom just doesn't appear natural to me, so there's going to be sand in there one way or another.

My next tank will be ~250g mixed reef and I'm debating between the Waterbox and the Cade aquariums. Both are quite similar in features and price, but what concerns me is that the low weir inlet of the Cade does not allow for a deep sand bed which is typically at least 4"-6" in depth.

Can you folks share your viewpoints on DSB and any new - which is to say in the last 10+ years - research which goes either way? It seems DSB has fallen out of favor and if that's the case, I'd like to understand why - is it the cost of the sand? New research? Perhaps something else?

Thanks in advance!
 

reefing102

Who Am I Here?
Premium Member
Most people run a 1-2 inch sand bed (me being one of them) it seems. For me, a lot is the look. I don’t like the algae that grows between the sand and glass and I also try to vacuum my sand bed when I can (defeating the purpose of that undisturbed layer for anaerobic purposes).

I think for most it’s just the look of a DSB. I’m sure there’s more too it. @Timfish may have some good articles on it but I’m not big into studies about it. I was always told put what looks good to you in it
 

kharmaguru

Premium Member
I think people no longer run them because they trap a lot of ditritus and they waste up to 6 inches of display space that could be filled with creative rockwork or corals. It's also fairly easy to manage nitrates with other methods these days, with a lot of people ending up low in nutrients rather than high. There was always the risk of a hydrogen sulfide release but I'm not sure that really happened to a lot of people unless they did it completely wrong. I think if you like the method go for it.
 

Genetics

Hands deep in water
Team RC
Premium Member
DSBs had an advantage of anaerobic regions that really kept nitrates low. The worry with them when disturbed was complete death of the aquarium. Either from the change in pH of metals that accumulated.
 

Paul B

Premium Member
I run a reverse undergravel filter and I never had any disease problems either. And I don't have to quarantine. My tank is running 51 years so far. No problems yet but I think they creep up after 52 years. :unsure:
 

Timfish

Timfish
Premium Member
Hmmmmm, put on the spot. Haven't seen much per se looking at the advantages or disadvantages of deep sand beds beyond what Delbeck and SPrung wrote about Jaubert's methodology. Ron Shimek did have a different view than Jaubert and wrote his own book on it. I can say there's stuff on endoliths growing in the surfaces of carbonate substrates and that will be going on in carboante sands too so I will always have some sand in my tanks. As far as detritus we've been taught it's bad stuff that needs to be gotten rid of but it's an important part of reef ecossytems and at the very least contributes to the carbonate cycle. My main reason fo rnever really messing with it is takes up a lot of space in a display tank but one option if you want to use it is set up a large sump or refugium with a deep sand bed.
 

shred5

Premium Member
There is nothing wrong with deep sandbeds and they do not nuke tanks. I known people who have run them 15 years and they are not detritus traps either if set up right and maintained right. I ran one for 10 + years.

They just are not used anymore because the tide has changed in the hobby. Most people fear what they do not know just like live rock. Most of what happens in this hobby is done because of what is the trend now. Trends in equipment and in what we keep change.

The main reason for a deep sandbed was nitrate reduction. Nitrates with the new equipment are really not a issue. The newer skimmers and other methods of reducing organics in the tank are just so efficient a DSB really is not needed. We are starting to see the opposite issue. Actually in some tank nitrates and phosphates can be a issue of being to low for some coral. There is nothing wrong and if you want a DSB go for it, they are great if you want to keep certain things in the hobby like garden eels, jawfish and other burrowing critters. They certainly can add to the biodiversity of the tank especially with live sand. I am setting up a mangrove tank tied to my lagoon and it will have a deep sanded. I am going to have those mini sand stars that are like the size of a dime, spaghetti worms, etc. in there.

The real issue is people think they nuke tanks. That does happen because like with anything they are not set and forget and also need to be set up right. There are people out there that didn't set them up right or maintain them. It is like driving a car 50,000 miles and not changing or checking the oil and complaining because the engine seized up.

Another is live rock all of a sudden people are searching for it again because they found out that biodiversity is important and these sterile environments are more of a issue for some. Fact is most people end up with pests anyway and all this bare rock leaves all this space it be colonized by dinoflagellates, bubble algae, vermited snails etc. First thing to colonize is always something you do not want. I mean we had all these back in the day they just didn't go crazy like they do today. they were for the most part kept in check by all the life that came in on the rock.

All I am saying is if you want a dsb it can be done right but they are not needed. There are so many ways to do a reef aquarium and do what makes you happy. I have been in the hobby so long and I have seen so many trends come and go and have to laugh at some. Do what makes you happy and do not worry about others. One thing that has changed is so many on social media think their way is the only way.
 
Last edited:

kharmaguru

Premium Member
Most of what happens in this hobby is done because of what is the trend now. Trends in equipment and in what we keep change.
Like cone skimmers. Reduce the reaction volume and make it so touchy it goes from foam in the neck to a cannon with the smallest adjustment. Suddenly water depth and air intake become huge factors. Still can't dial it in? - you need a controllable DC pump. We used to drop cylinder style skimmers in and they just worked with minor fiddling. Arguments that the new skimmers are quieter are true but it's only because of the pumps and air silencers and that I would say has been the advancement. That's my digressional rant...
 

Misled

RC Mod
Staff member
RC Mod
So, as a fan of deep sand beds, let me chime in. One thing to keep them not only safe, but clean, is the correct clean up crew. Cucumbers and various snails are a must. They will keep the bed clean and free from going bad. It's pretty neat to see the cukes work when you wake up in the morning. I nice pile of sand pellets all cleaned and just waiting to be moved about the tank.
 

Rovert

Premium Member
Ron Shimek did have a different view than Jaubert and wrote his own book on it... it's an important part of reef ecossytems and at the very least contributes to the carbonate cycle. My main reason fo rnever really messing with it is takes up a lot of space in a display tank but one option if you want to use it is set up a large sump or refugium with a deep sand bed.
I met Ron on at least a couple occasions, if memory serves at least once at MACNA in Baltimore (Circa 2002-ish?) and have interacted with him on the forums, mostly here. I consider his viewpoints to be a go-to reference... but then again we're talking about 20-ish years, so things change... hence this post.

Given the lower of the two weir intakes on a Cade tank, I'm thinking of maybe 2"-3", possibly more if I make an open top 'box' to raise the available height of the lower return (basically an overflow-within-an-overflow) siliconed on to the back wall to at least give me the option later of changing my mind and raising the amount of sand at the bottom. That said, much of the feedback here has been compelling and I do admit that the bubbling and various coloration of the anoxic layers of the DSB in my 72g tank were... distracting. Technolgy advances... nature can be tricked. ;)
There is nothing wrong with deep sandbeds and they do not nuke tanks. I known people who have run them 15 years and they are not detritus traps either if set up right and maintained right. I ran one for 10 + years.
The real issue is people think they nuke tanks.
Agreed. Lots of opinions from those without firsthand experience.

There are people out there that didn't set them up right or maintain them. It is like driving a car 50,000 miles and not changing or checking the oil and complaining because the engine seized up.
Boom. Read. Think. Read again. Think some more. It's a long-term decision. A mistake up front can cost a lot of money, and livestock, in the long term.
Another is live rock all of a sudden people are searching for it again because they found out that biodiversity is important...
The last I was in the hobby, real live rock was pletiful. I remember ordering from Premium Aquatics, Inland Aquatics (detritivore kits) the fella in Hawaii (whose name I forgot) and others to ensure a bio-diverse ecosystem.
All I am saying is if you want a dsb it can be done right but they are not needed.
If today's technology is a suitable surrogate for DSB, then I'm happy to leave it behind and create more room for display.

Thanks to all for the feedback. It's exactly the kind of support I've come to expect from this communtity and I'm grateful for your opinions.

Seems a Cade 1800S2 just found its way into my shopping cart.

EGADS! Prices have changed. ;-)
 
Last edited:

Rovert

Premium Member
So, as a fan of deep sand beds, let me chime in. One thing to keep them not only safe, but clean, is the correct clean up crew. Cucumbers and various snails are a must. They will keep the bed clean and free from going bad. It's pretty neat to see the cukes work when you wake up in the morning. I nice pile of sand pellets all cleaned and just waiting to be moved about the tank.
So, were you the one who initially posted... CUCKS? ;-)

In any event, agreed. But with limited sand bed due to tank return design, I need to consider all options...
 
Last edited:

vlangel

Premium Member
I have been in the hobby since 1997 and all my tanks have had DSBs, including the 6 year old tank I have now. I maintenanced tanks (2005-2010) for a lfs that I worked at. All those tanks were set up with DSBs, and several that I know of are still running with the original sandbeds. None of my personal tanks nor any of our maintenance account tanks ever turned toxic.

So, if you like the looks, have the space then a DSB is still a very viable option. It efficiently does the same thing as equipment but with less work and electricity. The main thing it needs is aeration, which the tank needs anyway.
 

Rovert

Premium Member
The Cade tank has a pretty large sump. I'm wondering if using a section as a DSB and refugium might be the answer. Obviously not as effective as using the entire tank due to the sump's limited total volume, but it might add something, even if only microfauna that require deeper layers.

PR2-1800-B12.jpg
 
Last edited:

Uncle99

Crab Free Zone
Premium Member
DSB is a detritus trap.
Good for some applications though like diggers.
Small 1-2” layer looks great, and we can keep it clean easier.
 
Top