Using sand from the ground a bad idea?
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Old 10-05-2013, 05:10 AM   #1
Wannaberooted
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Using sand from the ground a bad idea?


I'm going to be setting up a shell dweller tank soon, and I was going to use silica sand from a building supply store. Cheap, quartz, and, well, quite white. However, my town is Sand City, it is everywhere. It's a nice light brown color, much more natural looking.

This will be a non-planted tank. Could I dig some up, wash it, sift it, bake it, give it the evil eye, and make it safe for the fish?

Thanks much for any input.
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Old 10-05-2013, 06:00 AM   #2
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Most likely, but most hardware stores sell pool filter sand. I think I paid 4-5 bucks for a 50 lb bag rinsed it and dropped it in. PFS also has large particles so they are hard for a filter to pick up and the sand doesnt go everywhere during a water change.
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Old 10-05-2013, 04:35 PM   #3
Diana
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I would try the local sandy soil.
See if it alters the water parameters by putting a few handfuls in a jar of water and testing GH, KH, pH and TDS.

Then do this test:

Start with a straight sided jar with a good lid. (pint or quart canning jar is good)
Put a piece of masking tape on it from top to bottom.
Fill it about halfway with the dirt you want to test. Break up any clods or lumps.
Mark on the tape how full the jar is.
Add water until the jar is almost full.
Add a tiny bit of dishwasher detergent. (The non-sudsing stuff for the machine)
Shake. A lot. Shake some more. And more.
Did I say to shake it? Well, shake it some more.
Sit the jar on a level surface and time it. Watch how the soil settles out of the water. Mark the soil level at the following times:
30 seconds
2 minutes
1 hour
overnight.
Do some math and convert these to % of the total soil.

How to interpret the results:
All the sand will fall out of suspension in 30 seconds. A good aquarium soil could be over 50% sand and that is OK.
All the silt will fall out of suspension in 2 minutes. I would want almost all the remaining soil to be silt. So if the sand is 50% I would want the silt to be 40-45%.
The larger clay particles will fall out of suspension in 2 hours. This sort of clay is OK in small amounts, under 10%.
If the water is still muddy there is much finer clay in the soil that could cloud the tank.
If the water becomes clear overnight then the soil will probably be OK in a tank with no digging fish. (ie: Do not use it for shell dwellers)
If the water is still not clear the next day then do not use it. The soil contains enough colloidal clay that it will never clear. The minor motions created by filter, powerhead and even the fish swimming around are enough to keep the soil in suspension. These particles are held up by Brownian Motion. NOT something you want in an aquarium!

If th tests are OK, then go ahead and use it.

Make sure you get it from an area that has not had any pesticide (including herbicide) sprayed on it.
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Old 10-06-2013, 03:08 AM   #4
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That test Diana described is great for getting a basic idea of the composition of the soil. A lot of times you will even see a clear gradient of large>small particles when it's all done and settled.

I'd just try and gather the stuff a decent ways away from roadsides, farms, industrial areas, etc. - just to avoid runoff pollutants, pesticides, etc.
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:27 AM   #5
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I've used job site sand, which is local quarry product. I think current price is $12 a ton?

I'm using PFS these days at $7.99 for 40#s. Two fast rinses is enough to get the dust out. I was rinsing the free sand for hours. My time & water were not worth the effort for the free sand.

As long as you feel good there was not Toxic dumping were you collect I wouldn't worry too much about playing Sand CSI scientist.
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:41 AM   #6
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My thanks people!

I could chip off a little chunk of detergent from the block on the machine at work, I hope that will be ok. If not, I can ask some people if they have a machine dishwasher. I do not. I'm looking forward to the experiment.

The sand would come from the front yard. A new water line was just put in, plenty of exposed earth still. Grass barely grows it's so sandy. The contractor thought it might be an ancient beach, when the Chippewa River was much wider. No poisons or ferts have been added for at least 10 years as far as I know.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit, what about agitating the soil, wait a couple minutes for the sand to settle, and pouring off the cloudy water. Repeat as necessary? I didn't really think about a clouding issue, I was more concerned about rotting organics and harmful bacteria.

Again, thanks.

PS, thanks Dogfish, your post came in while I was typing. I'll keep the rinsing in consideration and don't want to spend all day coming up with 50 pounds of sand. Also, what color is pool filter sand?
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Old 10-06-2013, 04:48 AM   #7
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"I was more concerned about rotting organics and harmful bacteria."

Don't freak out over that, it's a non-issue.
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Old 10-06-2013, 05:06 AM   #8
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Cool, thanks. Oh yeah, you are the creator of the Toxic Ten, I love that thread. Can I bother you one more time for the color of pool filter sand?
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Old 10-06-2013, 01:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wannaberooted View Post
Cool, thanks. Oh yeah, you are the creator of the Toxic Ten, I love that thread. Can I bother you one more time for the color of pool filter sand?
I get mine from Menards, it's up front by the checkout line. It looks like the normal beach sand you see in Wisc./Ill/Mich. Very light tan, uniform in grain size.
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Old 10-06-2013, 09:56 PM   #10
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You can skip the detergent, it just helps to separate the grains of sand, silt and clay.
Just shake it really well.

If the test shows colloidal clay, and the water stays cloudy overnight, then you will be doing a LOT of rinsing. To the point that you will think that running down to the pool supply or hardware store for a bag or two of PFS is well worth it.
PFS may be any color. It is a sand that has been sifted so all the particles are the same size. The one I have is off white, sort of cream with black specks. It is OK, sort of too light IMO, but very clean. I have used it right out of the bag, no rinsing and had only a slight haze to the tank that clears in a few hours.
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Old 10-07-2013, 04:23 AM   #11
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I have Magic Sand.

It's ancient volcanic, mineralized without being over calcified and has tiny iron filings in it- that I discovered by accident when I had a magnet roll over a pile of it on my dining room table. The crayfish in the river at the bottom of my yard get about 8 inches or more - they are huge!

The river is 99% safe to drink- snowpack run off.

I put a thin layer in all my tanks- including the Walstad. Red plants are very red- new growth is very red. Haven't dosed Iron once.

Sand + Iron filings from just passing the magnet through it:





Alternantheria r. - came to me emersed form, greenish red; all new growth is very red:



I would say it's certainly worth a try using your own. Just make sure it's clean.
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Old 10-18-2013, 05:27 AM   #12
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Default Things have changed.

I was told our soil has a high clay content, so I ordered a nice tan colored pool filter sand from Ace Hardware. I think it's a nice granule size, not nearly as fine as some play sand I looked at at Menards. I was happy for a time.

Then, I finally tested my GH due to the arrival of a new API test kit. I don't know why they even make just a KH kit, but that is all there is in Eau Claire.

So after testing the pH of my tap water for over a year, it is 8.2-8.4. KH has been 4-6. The newly tested GH is 7, about half of what I need for the Multies from what I read.

Ack, I don't know how much of what to add to the substrate, maybe some crushed limestone at the bottom? I've read Nestle's related thread, so I know what to do to the water before a change, thanks Diana.

I have almost everything for this project, a 30 gallon breeder arrived yesterday. This and the stand are the only things holding me up to start cycling. I found a shop in the Cities that has Multies in stock, YAHOOOOO!

Thanks folks.
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Old 10-19-2013, 01:27 PM   #13
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If you like the look of the sand and do not want to blend it with anything, then add coral sand or oyster shell grit to the filter. I use nylon stockings for media bags.

Go get some oyster shell grit. It is sold in pet stores for small caged birds. It might look enough like the sand that you are willing to mix it.

Your water tests a lot like mine:
GH and KH are low, but the pH is high because the water company keeps it that way to avoid corrosion in the pipes. I ignore the pH and set the GH and KH where the fish want it.
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Old 10-20-2013, 02:52 AM   #14
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Thanks yet again Diana. I ordered a 20 pound bag of CaribSea African Cichlid substrate, called Sahara Sand. It looks pretty close to the same color as the PFS, I'll mix it in and hopefully it looks like I want it. I checked a substrate volume calculator, I needed the 20 pounds to add to the 50 pounds of PFS to get to about the two inch depth I wanted anyway. I'm assuming if a bag of this stuff in the filter wll work, 20 pounds will be OK.

Now, making that pesky stand...
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Old 10-20-2013, 03:39 AM   #15
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Yes, a blended substrate will work.

I mixed coral sand with Turface for a Lake Tanganyikan tank.
Turface removes the KH from the water.
Coral sand adds it right back.

A 50/50 blend held the KH, GH and pH stable.

For a water change I would prepare the water by adding baking soda so the KH was right, and Equilibrium so the GH was right.
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