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White sand in "new" planted 55g keeps forming crust and clumps

2458 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  discuspaul
I started a 55 gallon planted tank back in February and have slowly been cycling it, stocking it with plants, and introducing a few fish (at the moment a male and female lyretail mollie and a bunch of ghost shrimp.

The current scape I have has a mixture of black diamond sand and seachem flourite on the left 2/3's of the tank with all the plants at the moment: A giant anubias, a giant and regular amazon sword, some bacopia, cabomba, italian val, corkscrew val, and dwarf sagittaria.

The right 1/3 of the tank is fine white petco brand sand which I've used in previous non-planted tanks to good effect. There are Seachem root tabs buried throughout the substrate on both sides and I've been giving a bit of Flourish and Excel while using the 24/7 cycle on my Finnex planted+ SE, my filter is a Fluval C4 with the included filter sponge, some floss I got from Walmart (quilt batting, no additives, and Biomax).

The plants have been doing fairly ok, with a little of the melting of leaves and sprouting of new ones, and just in the last few days I've been getting some brown algae (diatoms?) on my glass which the shrimp have taken to.

My main question though is about a week ago (before any algae) I noticed while doing a water change that my white sand had an "odd" look to it. When I poked at it a bit with my siphon, I found that the entire top layer of white sand had formed a thin crust, almost like the top of a creme brulee. Poking at it broke it up, and sifting it with my hands returned it to mostly the soft look I expected of the fine sand. However, after a day or two I've noticed that small balls of sand will start to form and if left alone, another crust will form as well. None of this is happening on the side with the black diamond/flourite mix.

Anyone have any idea what might be leading to this? The crusty look is quite unappealing and I'm about to consider removing the white sand and replacing that portion with some tan pool filter sand I have.

I've attached 2 shots, one of the tank overall and one hopefully that gives a small idea of how the sand is looking even after being broken up a day or so ago.

Thanks in advance, and sorry for the look of my tank, I was originally going for a natural maybe forest jungle look but eventually fell into this layout just cause my eyes liked it.


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Where did you find the aquatic cat? I've been looking for one for years!!
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That seems to be a really odd reaction by a store bought aquarium sand - never seen or heard of anything like it.
Something within the sand (or even outside of it but within the tank) seems to be affecting it's composition.

Yes, it's probably a good idea to remove it & replace it with the PFS that you have.

If you wish white sand, a good pool supply store should have PFS available in white, or you can order a white PFS from, which usually carries 2 or 3 brands of white PFS. Some big box stores may also have it.
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