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Diatoms on sand

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20 Dec 2019
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South Carolina
Really struggling with keeping my sand clean. Detritus is inevitable and I take care of that each week, but the diatoms are aggravating. This is not something that just goes away for me, it’s persistent. Is there a solution or am I just asking for it with weekly sand removal and replacement? If that’s the case I will just get rid of the cosmetic sand and create a carpet instead.
 

Jaceree

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Its strange you could set up two identical tanks, and only one of them would have a major Diatom issue, although there has to be obvious triggers for some tanks to have problems with it. I set up a tank once with fine black silica sand from JBL. I had to strip the tank down after 3 months as the diatoms were a joke. The plants were covered in it. I set it back up with normal aquarium sand and not a single issue.
 

Mr.Shenanagins

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Yeah I had similar issues in my previous setup, the only difference was that sand was finer “playsand” and this sand is crushed quartz pool filter sand. It just aggravates me my plants stay clean but the sand is ugly brown.
 

Wookii

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Do you have any clean-up crew in the tank?

I would have thought a healthy population of snails and shrimp (and possibly Oto's if you can accommodate/look after them) would have made short work of cleaning that sand.
 

ceg4048

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Really struggling with keeping my sand clean. Detritus is inevitable and I take care of that each week, but the diatoms are aggravating. This is not something that just goes away for me, it’s persistent. Is there a solution or am I just asking for it with weekly sand removal and replacement? If that’s the case I will just get rid of the cosmetic sand and create a carpet instead.
Sand itself has nothing to do with the rise of diatoms. I don't know how many times we have to repeat this.
Having said that, diatomic algae is associated with "new" substrate. There is a kind of abstract chemical warfare going on in the substrate which results in the proliferation of certain compounds and the reduction of others. The rate at which compounds rise and fall are trigger mechanisms for diatoms. As the bacteria and other microorganisms in the sediment increase their populations to normal levels they use the various compounds and keep the production rate in check. The diatoms then typically go away - unless there are fundamental problems in the tank such as poor CO2 or excessive lighting etc. If that's the case then diatoms will hang around like tiresome relatives.

I'm not sure if I read the posts correctly, but it seems as if you are removing and replacing portions of the substrate on a cyclic basis? If so this only exacerbates the problem of adding new substrate devoid of the correct populations of microorganisms. If you want to replace the substrate then keep the new substrate in a bucket of water in the dark, stirring every now and then to get oxygen down to the bottom, for a month or two to allow the bacterial populations to rise properly.

This method works especially well for substrates enriched with ammonium based nutrients, such as ADA Aquasoil.
The method is referred to as "mineralization" as through the action of the microorganisms NH3/NH4 based compounds get oxidized to NO3 based compounds. Although, actually, the quick way to mineralize Aquasoil is to just throw it in the oven for a few hours at a temperature of 350F-400F. Oven method doesn't work with inert or unenriched substrates like sand or volcanic gravel though, unfortunately... booo.

Cheers,
 

Mr.Shenanagins

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@ceg4048 To my defense, never said sand was the cause of the problem. It just happens to collect there the most and my snails do not clean it like they do the hardscape or plants. I have only removed the cosmetic sand around my “island” and replaced it with fresh sand to remove the diatom infested sand. I’ll take into account your advice about replacing the sand.
 
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Wookii

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@ceg4048 To my defense, never said sand was the cause of the problem. It just happens to collect there the most and my snails do not clean it like they do the hardscape or plants. I have only removed the cosmetic sand around my “island” and replaced it with fresh sand to remove the diatom infested sand. I’ll take into account your advice about replacing the sand.

I think a nice horde or cherry shrimp would be your best bet (providing they are something you'd want of course). I watched mine last night on my Silver Sand substrate - they stand there picking up a grain at a time, cleaning it and putting it back down, non-stop. I wish I could source such industrious workers in the human world!
 

Wolf6

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I struggled with diatoms on my sand for a long time, I started off with a thicker layer of sand and just hovered down the diatoms and now its become a layer of only a few mm thick, but the last few months diatoms have stopped appearing. Perhaps its just a matter of patience. It took about 5 or 6 months of just accepting it though.
 

Mr.Shenanagins

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@Wookii yes I have been wanting to get cherry shrimp but haven’t splurged on a colony starter yet. I’ve been routinely getting nerites every 4-5 months as some begin to die off. When they are active they polish the crap out of my tank, literally. I’ll accept the ugliness for now until the tank matures. It’s on its way to 3 months in, substrate is a mixture of mineralized topsoil and reedsedge peat soil capped with black diamond blasting sand. Picture below is two weeks ago, now it’s a brown disaster lol
FDAC4A9E-D15A-49C1-91DC-E36DD29603BB.jpeg
 

Wookii

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@Wookii yes I have been wanting to get cherry shrimp but haven’t splurged on a colony starter yet. I’ve been routinely getting nerites every 4-5 months as some begin to die off. When they are active they polish the crap out of my tank, literally. I’ll accept the ugliness for now until the tank matures. It’s on its way to 3 months in, substrate is a mixture of mineralized topsoil and reedsedge peat soil capped with black diamond blasting sand. Picture below is two weeks ago, now it’s a brown disaster lolView attachment 171890

That's looking great!

Personally I'd go for Ramshorns over Nerites, then you have a self sustaining population for zero cost!

You may struggle with some predation of cherries with those fish species, so the snails might be a better long term option. If you do get some cherries, introduce them right into the bottom of the plants (a plastic tube might help), otherwise the fish will think its a very special feeding session!
 

Mr.Shenanagins

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@Wookii yes that was a concern with the rainbows, When I do try them I’ll take your advice. I’ve been wary of ramshorns due to their prolific breeding, do they eat plants?
 

Wookii

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@Wookii yes that was a concern with the rainbows, When I do try them I’ll take your advice. I’ve been wary of ramshorns due to their prolific breeding, do they eat plants?

No, they don’t eat plants at all, as far as I’ve been able to tell.

They may have a mini population explosion when first introduced, but their numbers have a strange way of self adjusting and levelling out after a couple of months, and the babies are very cute!

As algae eaters I rate them better than nerites for the simple fact that, whilst nerites may be gram for gram more efficient at eating algae, you’ll end up with 10 times the number of Ramshorns to nerites, and they can simply cover more ground.
 

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