How to Clean Old Sand for Reuse

You feel like starting over…You feel all hope is lost…

STOP!

There are a few times when an aquarium will hit a disastrous level. Maybe it was due to a power failure beyond our control. Maybe an equipment failure was to blame. Maybe a storm hit and there was no way to save your tank babies. We put so much time, energy AND MONEY into our tanks that if something drastic happens, it is often thought…to quit!

DON’T! If you are anything like me, you love this hobby way too much to throw in the towel!

I had a reader reach out to me explaining that her tank took a nose dive after a power failure over the summer. Her entire saltwater tank crashed and she was unable to save any of her livestock. The tank started to smell really bad and she thought everything was dead and gone.

Sidebar

Quick Story: I had a similar situation a few months back with a new project tank I was working on. When I picked the tank up, the sand smelled horrible as it had been sitting for quite some time. Now anyone who owns a saltwater aquarium knows, the sand holds all of the filter feeders…and what do the filter feeders eat?…POOP (and other dead stuff)! Ha! So just imagine that foul smell sitting for months undisturbed! And here you go…disturbing it! Yuck! It’s enough to clear a house let me assure you. But after filling the tank up with salt water to clean the tank, I got lazy, and it sat over the weekend. Who would’ve thought that on Sunday morning, I would have little snails and crabs crawling around. HEY! Where did you guys come from and where were you hiding? It was insane!

20140124-133131.jpg

Back to our reader (I haven’t forgotten about you…I get side tracked sometimes)..

When cleaning the sand, the easiest, and I do mean easiest way to do so is:

  1. Get a five gallon bucket (you may need a few of them)
  2. Fill the bucket about 3/4’s of the way with your nasty dirty sand
  3. Run clean water through it until the water runs clear
  • You will need to stir the sand every now and then to get the large debris.

I recommend some heavy duty gloves to do the stirring…

I use the ones below – I got them from Amazon –> Click Here

IMG_5551

This is called “rinsing the sand”. It will take a few times…and your arms will be tired (I warned you).

You do not necessarily have to let the sand dry completely before reuse. Some recommend it to kill off any additional bacteria. I personally do not follow that method. The reality of it is, you will have to cycle your tank again (for about 6 weeks) regardless when you start over, so fear not.

ANOTHER METHOD

Another method I have also used is a little more time consuming. You fill the tank up with RODI Salt Water and siphon the water out as you stir the sand bringing all the debris to the top of the tank. This one is a little more time consuming and also takes a lot more water. I have used both methods listed personally.

download

DO NOT, and I do repeat DO NOT use any type of soaps, detergents, cleaners (including peroxide solutions) to clean your sand. Clean running water will do the trick. Those types of solvents get absorbed into the sand and will later harm your livestock.

After cleaning your sand and reintroducing it into your tank… I recommend starting off with crabs and snails when you begin your tank cycle. They will get anything that you missed.

I hope this helps!

HAPPY REEFING!

Comment below on your thoughts, questions or methods you have used to clean your aquarium sand for reuse…

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “How to Clean Old Sand for Reuse

  1. I have 4 saltwater tanks. I use a gravel vacuum. I fasten a thick filter sock on the waste end and put it in my sump. (This prevents loss of water). I slowly vacuum my sand bed and stop every so often to clean the sock out. When I clean the sock out I go through it carefully and rescue any of my live pods that may have got vacuumed up. It’s time consuming but it works for me and I don’t have to tear my tank completely down.

    • That’s awesome. Usually a siphon and sock will work wonders. This particular person had already broken everything down. Thanks for the insight! May do another post about cleaning sand while a tank is still up and running. Would love your input.

  2. This came from a presentation by Kevin Kohen. Liveaquaria uses 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water and soaks the sand for a couple hours, then uses a chlorine neutralizer (sodium thiosulfate). You could just use Amquel Prime. This is done for their wrasse quarantines between every batch of fish that arrives to make sure any parasites living in the sand where they sleep are killed. I’d only use this method if you had sand that was sitting in a bucket in the garage for a period of time.

  3. Thank you so much for your help and concern. I would have definitely contaminated my sand if not for your help. I do agree with bleach as well. I have two little girls with asthma and the smell can set them both into an asthma attack.
    Thanks Again,
    Jenni

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s