Jun 2018

How does your substrate look?

By: melev | Tags: sand, substrate, benthic | Comments: 2

In case you haven't been told, newer aquariums go through a series of algae phases, which include things like diatoms (good, normal, food for bacteria), cyanobacteria (normal, undesirable, can be frustrating to remove), detritus (normal, made up of fish waste or decaying food), or lastly dinoflagellates (awful, something you'll never want to deal with).

If you have good flow in your aquarium and a healthy clean up crew to keep the sand stirred, your substrate should look relatively clean. Nassarius snails are good critters that move through the sand, sand-sifting gobies filter sand through their mouths/gills keeping it loose (and in piles that may even cover up corals you care about), serpent starfish are good while sand-sifting starfish are not good in a reef tank, and kole tangs will snack on things off the sand.

A healthy sandbed should have all sorts of cool critters living in the substrate, some of which is food for pod-eaters like mandarins, others that will eat decaying matter. You may observe a variety of different worms: bristleworms, spaghetti worms, polychaetes and spionid worms. You may even note some tiny brittle starfish in the sand, if the wrasses haven't noticed them first!

Additional reading: Clean Up Crew critters


Marc, do you have a recommendation for positioning of VorTech pumps? Meaning...if they are going to be positioned on the short sides of the display, should they be placed in the middle, near the top, etc.? You reference water flow as a contributor of keeping substrate clean, so have you found a best practice for locating the pump, or do you have any other recommendations? Thanks!
melev's picture
I usually install them halfway down the wall of the aquarium, which is a good way to get midpoint flow and avoid disturbing the sandbed. Vortech pumps have about 8 different modes you can select too, some more aggressive (nutrient export mode) and others more mild (like lagoon mode), and the trick is to keep the sand where it belongs. The area in my reef in front of the yellow scroll coral is always shifting, and about once every week or two I have to level it out again.

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