Deep Sand Bed (DSB) in Refugium [Maintenance Guidelines]

There are many different types of the refugium. We will be talking about refugium with deep sand beds (DSB). To understand the best maintenance practices, we must first understand how they work.

A deep sand bed refugium is a separate tank that attaches to a larger aquarium tank. It is like an overflow tank. It will create a microclimate that will help maintain the health of your aquarium.

The sand is usually at a depth of 6 to 8 inches. However, this is different in a reef tank. 

How deep should a sand bed be for a reef tank? 

Consider inserting sand at a depth of 1 3/4 to 2 inches. The sand will act as a great base layer for rocks and corals.

If using a Live Sand Filter technology, you will want to make your DSB 5 inches deep.

Some of the benefits of deep sand bed (DSB) refugium include:

  • Easy ability to take offline and clean.
  • Allows microalgae to produce Oxygen.
  • Controls PH levels.
  • Provides a haven for vulnerable creatures.
  • Allows bacteria to create essential nitrates for water health.

Essential Considerations for a DSB Refugium 

It is best to use live sand. Aragonite is the number one recommendation. However, you can use silica and non-carbonate sand as well.

Be sure to add sand sifters. You will want to use small, less active creatures to sift the sand. If you use larger sand sifters, you risk over-sifting your DSB. Sea stars, sea cucumbers, and snails make great sand stirrers.

Avoid adding hermit crabs, conches, or similar creatures to your DSB refugium. They will clean your tank a little too well. They eat the beneficial bacteria and smaller sand sifting creatures essential to the health of your deep sand bed (DSB). When you add these creatures, you will lose the beneficial creatures that help maintain the integrity of the ecosystem you have created with your aquarium set up.

Sand sifters will help keep harmful gases from forming at dangerous levels.

Does a Refugium a Need Substrate?

Using sand is not a typically preferred substrate for your aquarium. It can cause issues related to a lack of oxygen in your tank.

When your tank experiences lowered oxygen levels, the bacteria present will convert nitrates into nitrogen. Varying levels of gases will put your water out of balance by removing the nitrate.

Proper nitrate levels are essential for your aquarium health. Too low or too high of a rate can be detrimental and cause health problems for your fish. The ideal level is between 5 to 10 ppm. 

While live sand is preferred (if you are going to use a deep sand bed), your refugium does not need a substrate at all. You want substrate, especially if your goal is to grow and harvest macroalgae. Or, if you are an owner of a reef tank.  

Why is my Refugium Dying?

One of the main culprits for a dying refugium is a tank that is TOO clean. One way to avoid this is to make sure you do not add animals that will overeat bacteria or smaller creatures in your refugium. 

Maintenance Guidelines for a Deep Sand Bed (DSB) Refugium 

  • Never stir the sand yourself. Allow for your tiny sand stirrers to get the work done.
  • You will notice some darkening in your sand after a few months. This darkening reflects depleted layers of oxygen in your DSB refugium. Depleted oxygen is an undesirable characteristic to form in your DSB refugium. You will see algae form on the glass in the location of the sand. It is because your tiny creatures cannot get to this algae. 
  • To maintain algae growth, add snails to your deep sand bed refugium. You can also harvest and prune the algae regularly.  
  • Worms and copepods also help preserve the integrity of your aquarium. They will eat bacteria and then add beneficial waste to your system. 
  • One of the best things you can do to maintain your deep sand bed refugium is to practice a reverse photoperiod. 

How to Accomplish a Reverse Photoperiod.

To accomplish a reverse photoperiod, turn on your refugium’s light at night while your main tank is in the dark. The reverse photoperiod will allow microalgae to produce oxygen. It will control low PH levels and help you avoid reduced oxygen levels in your tank. These reduced oxygen levels occur at night. You can combat this with the reverse photoperiod.

Summing up Maintenance of a Deep Sand Bed (DSB) Refugium

There are many benefits to using a DSB refugium. Including control of pH, bacteria, and macroalgae. They are pretty helpful for harvesting algae, so make sure to prune them regularly.

When you add sand sifting creatures, you increase the ability of your tank to stay clean. You are also balancing out the oxygen, nitrogen, and nitrate levels in your tank. It is vital to add sea life that does not overconsume within your tank. 

If you do not remember this important consideration, your tank will become too clean and therefore imbalanced. It will cause stress and a lack of health for your water, plants, and animals.

The best practice would be to add snails, sea stars, or sea cucumbers. Avoid adding conches or hermit crabs. Worms and copepods are also great to add.

Remember to use live sand in your DSB refugium. Aragonite is the best live sand to use. 

A DSB is desirable because it allows for oxygen production, macroalgae production, and the maintenance of unhealthy gas production. It can also benefit you because it will help maintain the pH levels in your tank.

Our favorite aspect of a DSB refugium is that it can provide refuge for vulnerable creatures. If you are an aquarium owner or seeking to acquire one, you probably love water beings. A DSB refugium is excellent for keeping your precious animals safe.

Maintenance of a Deep Sand Bed (DSB) Refugium (in Short):

  • Add snails, sea stars, or sea cucumbers to your refugium (avoid hermit crabs and conches).
  • Practice a reverse photoperiod.
  • Prune algae regularly.
  • Add worms and copepods.