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*Amanda*

Poking sand

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I've heard a bit about the need to poke sand in order to release the hydrogen sulfide gas that builds up underneath. I've heard the process described as using a straw to poke the sand when the water level is low so that the gas is released above the water line rather than into the tank water. But going through my entire 50 gal aquarium, poking every square inch of sand with a tiny straw, seems like a huge undertaking - not to mention I'd surely miss a spot. Would a Python work just as well (without the suction - otherwise the sand gets sucked up?).

My substrate is a ~2"-deep 50/50 mix of CaribSea Moonlight sand and Activ-Flora pea gravel, but the gravel has sort of migrated toward the front, leaving some parts of the tank nearly all sand. I saw a few small bubbles in the sanded area, and smelled a faint sulfurous odor when burying a plant last week - nothing too strong, and the tank water was quickly replaced as I was in the process of doing a 90% water change. My tank is pretty heavily planted now.

I'm thinking I might be missing something, because just jamming the entire Python deep into the gravel bed during my weekly water change seems so much easier than poking sand with a little straw, but a lot of people say sand is easier to take care of than gravel! Any advice would be much appreciated.

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I have sand too, and my fish move it around on the surface sifting for food...not sure how deep you are supposed to poke though.

Water change time, I use the python to move sand about.

Doesn't the sand settle and get compact? :idont

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I would gently vacuum the top of the sand to get all the debris off and then use the python to stir it up a bit.

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I have sand too, and my fish move it around on the surface sifting for food...not sure how deep you are supposed to poke though.

Water change time, I use the python to move sand about.

Doesn't the sand settle and get compact? :idont

Yeah, the surface definitely gets moved around - it's the layer below the surface that I'm worried about. I also hover over the surface with the Python to get debris during water changes.

The sand does compact, but still leaves a few air bubbles that I can see when I look at the side of the tank. The rotten egg odor I smelled when burying a new plant was what really freaked me out, and thinking I needed to get to that bottom layer somehow. I didn't see any reaction in my fish, but I'm still not clear on whether the hydrogen sulfide gas can remain in the water and harm them if I just stir the sand, or if it automatically rises above the surface when released.

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My fish do it for me. :idont:

Sometimes I'll poke at it with one of the long bamboo but they take care of it most of the time.

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I was reading about substrate on another forum recently, and a very knowledgeable guy said this a myth, and he ranted a bit about people keep repeating the same "facts" when there's no evidence to support it. He says the depth in an aquarium is simply not deep enough for this to happen. Anyhoo, I thought I'd share that. :idont

 

Edit: I never have poked my sand or stirred it up -- not because of what that guy said. I just never have. I have plant roots in there!

Edited by ShawneeRiver

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It only takes a very small amount of oxygen to eliminate the formation of hydrogen sulfide.

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There is no need to do anything to the sand.  As said before, your fish will be working the sand.  Most of the natural lakes and ponds on earth have deep sand bottoms and production of toxic levels of H2S is extremely rare, occurring sometimes in swamps, extremely eutrophic lakes/ponds, and very deep lakes with anaerobic layers a dozen or more meters deep.

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Thanks everyone, I feel a lot better now! So just to clarify, the next time I bury a plant if I smell sulfur it's nothing to worry about, right?

I do have one more related question, about anaerobic pockets forming - I have heard many people say that a fish could stumble on an anaerobic pocket and get very sick (some have even said die) if substrate is not poked or stirred regularly, but I've heard other people say this isn't a problem with the substrate depths used in home aquaria, and because fish are constantly sifting through the top layer anyway. Just curious about this!

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What you heard "other people" say is simply nonsense.  

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Thanks everyone, I feel a lot better now! So just to clarify, the next time I bury a plant if I smell sulfur it's nothing to worry about, right?

I do have one more related question, about anaerobic pockets forming - I have heard many people say that a fish could stumble on an anaerobic pocket and get very sick (some have even said die) if substrate is not poked or stirred regularly, but I've heard other people say this isn't a problem with the substrate depths used in home aquaria, and because fish are constantly sifting through the top layer anyway. Just curious about this!

 

 

It is true with SW tanks as they have a lot of rocks and sand  in it... may be this is the confusion.

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I poke my sand with every wc :idont just to be safe :) obviously, I don't get every sq in of my 55 but certain areas are kinda "murky" and have quite a bite of gunk. So while I'm pretty sure I have no sulfurous pockets (my sand is more like 1 in deep), I feel like this is beneficial. Just MHO ;)

I use a long handled spoon

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Thanks everyone, I feel a lot better now! So just to clarify, the next time I bury a plant if I smell sulfur it's nothing to worry about, right?

I do have one more related question, about anaerobic pockets forming - I have heard many people say that a fish could stumble on an anaerobic pocket and get very sick (some have even said die) if substrate is not poked or stirred regularly, but I've heard other people say this isn't a problem with the substrate depths used in home aquaria, and because fish are constantly sifting through the top layer anyway. Just curious about this!

It is true with SW tanks as they have a lot of rocks and sand in it... may be this is the confusion.

Yeah, I have heard it mentioned a lot in reference to SW tanks/deep sand bed. I've also seen the formation of anaerobic pockets mentioned here numerous times as a reason not to have substrate that is too deep (not sure what the cutoff depth is for that to start becoming an issue, though). I also recall a member lifting an ornament out of their tank - it had not been moved in a long time, and when they lifted it there was a foul odor and one or more fish got sick, if I remember correctly. I too smelled a foul, rotten egg odor, and that's why I was concerned - it reminded me of that, even though none of my fish got sick.

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Thanks everyone, I feel a lot better now! So just to clarify, the next time I bury a plant if I smell sulfur it's nothing to worry about, right?

I do have one more related question, about anaerobic pockets forming - I have heard many people say that a fish could stumble on an anaerobic pocket and get very sick (some have even said die) if substrate is not poked or stirred regularly, but I've heard other people say this isn't a problem with the substrate depths used in home aquaria, and because fish are constantly sifting through the top layer anyway. Just curious about this!

It is true with SW tanks as they have a lot of rocks and sand in it... may be this is the confusion.

Yeah, I have heard it mentioned a lot in reference to SW tanks/deep sand bed. I've also seen the formation of anaerobic pockets mentioned here numerous times as a reason not to have substrate that is too deep (not sure what the cutoff depth is for that to start becoming an issue, though). I also recall a member lifting an ornament out of their tank - it had not been moved in a long time, and when they lifted it there was a foul odor and one or more fish got sick, if I remember correctly. I too smelled a foul, rotten egg odor, and that's why I was concerned - it reminded me of that, even though none of my fish got sick.

Well Hollow anything in the tank will cause this problem... Sand if very deep can too. But your normal bed of sand shouldnt have an issue and if you make sure the ornaments has enough holes or closed up it shouldnt be a problem either.....

I have seen ppl with like 3" of sand or rocks... thats a bit much in my opinion if you dont have live plants to eat the debris in the sand....

Make since?

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Thanks everyone, I feel a lot better now! So just to clarify, the next time I bury a plant if I smell sulfur it's nothing to worry about, right?

I do have one more related question, about anaerobic pockets forming - I have heard many people say that a fish could stumble on an anaerobic pocket and get very sick (some have even said die) if substrate is not poked or stirred regularly, but I've heard other people say this isn't a problem with the substrate depths used in home aquaria, and because fish are constantly sifting through the top layer anyway. Just curious about this!

It is true with SW tanks as they have a lot of rocks and sand in it... may be this is the confusion.

 

Yeah, I have heard it mentioned a lot in reference to SW tanks/deep sand bed. I've also seen the formation of anaerobic pockets mentioned here numerous times as a reason not to have substrate that is too deep (not sure what the cutoff depth is for that to start becoming an issue, though). I also recall a member lifting an ornament out of their tank - it had not been moved in a long time, and when they lifted it there was a foul odor and one or more fish got sick, if I remember correctly. I too smelled a foul, rotten egg odor, and that's why I was concerned - it reminded me of that, even though none of my fish got sick.

 

Well Hollow anything in the tank will cause this problem... Sand if very deep can too. But your normal bed of sand shouldnt have an issue and if you make sure the ornaments has enough holes or closed up it shouldnt be a problem either.....

I have seen ppl with like 3" of sand or rocks... thats a bit much in my opinion if you dont have live plants to eat the debris in the sand....

Make since?

 

 

Thanks Koko, that makes sense. :) Sounds like it's just not an issue with the substrate depths most people keep in goldfish tanks, which is a relief to hear. That smell just freaked me out even though my fish seemed fine, and I'd heard about anaerobic pockets before. It can be hard to separate fact from fiction (or fact only in certain types of tanks, like you mentioned). 

 

My 50/50 sand/pea gravel mixture is about 3", but I have plenty of live plants. I tried making do with a smaller amount, but it just wasn't working - the plants kept floating up to the surface since there wasn't enough substrate to hold them down. Although when I started out fishkeeping I had a 6" layer of gravel! :yikes

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I always stir-up just before a WC it doesn't harm anything, more than likely most if not all of our freshwater sand beds are "nonliving". So besides the fish moving mouthfuls at a time it's good measure to help release trapped waste by giving the sand a gental comb through.

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