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BB Pimperator
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Going Barebottom 101.

I wrote this tutorial some months ago so it may need some sprucing up.
I will do that shortly.

I have decided to share my experience and experiences on the way I perceive to be the safest (not necessarily easiest) way to go barebottom.
Instead of pointing out flaws or good points in any single way of converting I will break down the situation in how I feel is the safest way to do it.
There are MANY ways to skin a cat, I prefer starting at the tail and…
Please feel free to chime in and correct any perceived mistakes.
First thing you need is the commitment to go all the way.
Second, is the realization that unless you have a powerful skimmer and good flow already you will need to purchase that equipment.

The reasoning behind having powerful flow in a barebottom tank is simple. You can. :D
LOL Seriously, it is to make it possible for your circulation to be strong enough to lift detritus off the bottom of the tank -> over your overflows -> and to your skimmer.
It is what I like to call the "Poop Loop"
(This is a copyrighted term. ;) )
These are pretty necessary equipment upgrades that need to be done.
If you are not going to upgrade your equipment and are just going to let the things rot and break down in your tank you are MUCH better off keeping a DSB.
After all, that is what the DSB is for.
Two other nice to have (but not needed drastically) pieces of equipment are an ozone generator and/or UV sterilizer (both should be rated for your system.
I have both and like it that way.
Either is fine, but if you get an ozone generator I highly recommend you purchase an ORP monitor with probe, or better yet an ORP controller with probe (though I do not feel the controller is totally necessary).
The last items I would suggest to have before the conversion is started are as follows (I may miss a few):
1. ¾" or 1" PVC pipe with a handful of "T" and 90 degree fittings, zip ties and a drill. And a sheet of egg crate (light diffuser). These supplies are to make coral racks with. (Remember, this is how I suggest it to be done only :) ). The coral racks should be built and set aside long before anything is done to the tank in regards to removing rock, sand, corals. If you have a larger tank with braces, make smaller racks instead of one large one. Easier to fit into the tank. I would also suggest not making them too tall. Leave 10"-12" from the water's surface to the top of the rack.
2. Airline tubing, I like the ¾" ID as it gets good flow through it. This will be used to remove sand AND later on, detritus.
3. Starboard or similar type material to line the bottom of your tank. Now this is not a necessity either but it does offer protection against landslides. If you do choose to use Starboard, remember to have it cut so it does NOT sit up on the silicone bead inside your tank. You want that sucka' to lay flat. Better to cut it, or have it cut, a little smaller than larger. A little smaller is actually beneficial as detritus tends to accumulate in those spots ands makes for easy siphoning. Also, if you have a larger tank with braces from front to back, have them cut it into two pieces so you can fit it in. Whether you choose to buy this (it isn't cheap but it isn't expensive either) or not, do not use Lexan, plexiglass, acrylic or any other clear material for several reasons. 1. It warps and detritus WILL get under it. 2. It is transparent. Now you have detritus and algae "under glass". Nasty thick, wafer like algae or whatever it is will grow under there becoming a larger and larger nutrient sink. I know this from experience. The Starboard does not need to be purchased at this stage. It can be gotten later, before your rock is to be put back in the tank.
4. Filter socks. Once again, not necessary but I feel that in the beginning stages of a BB tank, when shedding is still taking place, they can catch a lot of crud that ends up in the sump. Most reefers do not have an elevated sump (glancing at Bomber) so it is not that easy to siphon. These do, however, need to be changed at least every third day and cleaned thoroughly. I use my washing machine and bleach. Double rinse, hang dry. Others soak in a bleach bucket with water and hang dry. Still, others just blast them with a garden hose and hang dry. Your choice.
5. A nice coralline algae scraper. Your tank is going to be virtually empty so take this opportunity to get those hard to reach spots that have been nagging you into your reefing nightmares. I use the handheld paint scrapers from Lowe's. They cost under $2 and work a thousand times better than anything Kent ever made. Just remove the blade and rinse under tap water and pat dry when you are done or the blades will rust up rather quickly.
6. A few Rubbermaid totes (enough to hold your rock).
7. A couple of clean and sturdy plastic dustpans. They are awesome at removing sand.
8. A few friends who are obsessed like you, owe you big time, or really have nothing better to do.

Ok, we have our supplies so it is on to the show.
The problem that others have had after converting to BB is elevated nitrates.
I believe this is due partly to not having flow and skimmer setups needed for a BB tank and largely to putting their "dirty" rock back in their tank after scooping the sand out.
The same rock, back in the same system without the parachute of the sandbed to absorb some of it will lead to elevated levels.
The way to prevent this is to clean your rocks.
How? I thought you would never ask…by cooking them of course.
Calm down, no heat or ovens are involved in this process; it is just a slang term for letting them sit in the dark (oversimplification). It takes dedication and some work but man oh man the rewards are worth it.
Here is cooking rocks in a nutshell followed by two really good threads.
It is an old quote from a thread awhile back, I have cleaned it up a bit to better suit this thread.

So that is "cooking rocks" the reef keeping way.
I personally believe that it is probably the single most important thing you can do to your tank.

I suggest cooking your rock even if you want a sandbed.
So now that is out of the way and you have your rock racks built, your Starboard ready and cut to specs (if you chose to use it), your Rubbermaid's in place in front of your tank (on top of towels), many buckets and some airline tubing, and friends milling about, you are ready to go.
 

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BB Pimperator
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117 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Here is how I recommend that people convert to a BB tank:
1. Have a lot of saltwater made up. I mean a LOT! You will need enough water to replace all the volume taken up by your sandbed and rocks. PLUS the additional amount to swish your rocks and store them in the containers they are to cook in. A lot of water. Get it to aerated and to temp.
2. Remove the hood from your tank after unplugging all ballasts etc.
3. Turn off all circulation to your tank let it drain to the sump you want this water.
4. Drain water into a few of the Rubbermaid's, no more than half full at this point. If possible, I recommend a small powerhead in each container to be turned on, breaking the water's surface to circulate and aerate the water.
5. Start removing corals. Start with the shortest one, Zo's Ric's, all the low-lying ones that are not attached to larger rocks, and place these corals in the container. We want these first to raise the water level in the container to lessen the air exposure time to other, taller corals. I know they can be exposed to air but the less stress the better. Remember to grab all the snails and hermits you see.
6. Once these corals are removed go for the larger ones. You may have to make some hard decisions at times. If a coral is encrusted on a large piece of rock you have to decide whether to NOT cook that rock. Personally I would chisel it off and remount it onto a clean rock. In a healthy tank it will encrust again in no time.
7. After all of the corals have been removed from your tank, it is time to siphon as much of the tank water you can into buckets. As you do this rock will be exposed to air, take this opportunity to move them into one of the empty containers. There is no need to fill these containers with water at this point. Try and siphon as much clean and not cloudy water as you can into the buckets. After all, the main selling point of a BB system is getting the dirt out.
8. Once all the rock is out you can concentrate on catching the fish, shrimp and any leftover snails and hermits you can find. Toss them into a coral container.
9. Now the hard work begins. Sand shoveling time. Using the dustpans, and as much labor as you can get from your friends, up on stools you go. Scooping the sand into buckets, taking buckets outside to dump. I caution to not fill a bucket more than 50-60% full at a time. Wet sand is heeaaavvvyyy! *** To ease the pain of this chore, weeks out you can begin siphoning the top layers of your sand bed out during water changes.***
10. Once you have most of it out, if possible use the garden hose to refill some water back into the tank. This makes it easy to siphon the last bit on the bottom. Take this time to coralline scrape and rinse as well. Siphon out the remainder of sand, coralline scrapings and tap water. Don't be overly concerned with a little bit of tap water that is left, but if you are, use a towel as a sponge to take it out.
11. By this step, you should have a tank that looks virtually brand new. Time to make sure your Starboard fits. So put it in. lol If it fits right…awesome. If not, jigsaw time for the corners and table saw time for the long sides.
12. Your Starboard is in place, now the coral racks. Place them in the tank to be sure they fit right. If they are too tall, cut the legs down. If you feel they are way too short, add some couplings and raise them up. *****Remember to keep an eye on the water temp your corals and fish are sitting in.*****
13. Start pouring all the water in the buckets back in the tank. Then start your return pump and add your sumps water (remember to not let your return pump run dry.) Add enough make up water to fill your tank and sump. Start your return pump and let it all start circulating and heating (cooling - if that is the case).
14. After ensuring that your tank water's temp and salinity are the same as the containers holding your corals, fish, and inverts etc. begin placing your corals onto the racks. Whenever I remove corals en masse from my tank, I place the Rubbermaid's left-center-middle. That way the corals get back to the same approximate lighting they are used to. If you have corals that are on the sand bed…place them on the Starboard.
15. Now that all your corals are back in the nice warm womb of your tank, start any additional circulation devices you may have: powerheads, waveboxe's, closed loop pumps etc. For the next few minutes watch to see if any corals are not seated securely. If they aren't adjust them. If everything seems good time to move on to the next step.
16. Put the hood back on your tank. Plug everything back in and let your light cycle commence.
17. Now the fun begins. It is time to start cooking your rock. See above lol.
18. You will know when the rock is done cooking when it no longer sheds all that crud in the cooking bins.
19. As for your main tank, welcome to the wonderful world of siphoning. :) Keep check of your waters parameters, especially calcium and alkalinity.
20. After a week or two you may notice some small brownish-green film algae growing on the PVC. This is natural. The PVC is leeching phosphorous. Now would be a good time to bump up your cleanup crew. Astrea and Cerith snails are an awesome choice. (See my signature line).
21. When your rock is done cooking, I recommend putting it back in 1/3rds, on top of PVC racks keeping it off of the bottom to allow flow to freely move about. Take care putting it back in. You do not have any sand to mush it into. lol Be creative. Make ledges, plateau's, valleys, whatever you want. Drill holes thru two pieces and use zip ties to hold them secure. Steer away from the "Berlin" wall. It inhibits flow, limits coral placement, and quite frankly, it's been done to death.
22. When putting your rock in, make up some water, heat, and salinity the same. Corals into a container with water in it, remove the racks (that is why you don't want one long rack). Place your rock rack down, aquascape, mount your corals. Use epoxy. It holds well and can easily snap off when you want it to. But TAKE YOUR TIME and do it how you want it. Don't settle.
23. Next week do another third and then the last the week after that.
24. Once again, you may notice a few bits of filmy like algae creep up here and there. This is a signal of an understaffed cleanup crew. Remember, you no longer have a DSB as a safety net (or to fill up and betray you - checks and balances) you are relying on mechanical means (skimmer, flow, UV, ozone and siphoning) to remove waste and organic (bacteria, inverts, fish) to process and break it down into more skimmable forms.

To reiterate some things that may have gotten lost in all that jumble I typed...or to state it for the first time, as I am getting old timer's disease I think, here are some "tips" on good husbandry techniques, BB style:
1. Siphon regularly. If you see many piles of sand/silt detrius on the bottom of your tank, it is PAST the time to siphon. It can be a pain, but you get used to it quickly, and over the course of a few months it gets less and less needed.
2. Blast your rocks regularly with a powerhead (or turkey baster-but seriously that is a LOT of pumping ; use a powerhead.) ). A good old maxi-jet will slam a lot of the detrius off your rocks and get it down to the skimmer where it belongs. This too will, overtime, yield less and less. But still do it.
3. Wet skim. Your aim is to not get the really bark skimmate. Get it a tea colored (light brown or green). The purpose of this is to get the crud out BEFORE it breaks down.
But to do this effectively, the neck of your skimmer must be wiped down regularly. I have a roll of paper towels next to my skimmer. Every couple of days I just wipe it down while still running. No need to dissassemble it and take it to the sink that often.
4. Get and KEEP up a good clean up crew. Life is short, snails die, replace them!
5. Flow, flow and more flow. Your tank does not need to look like a whirlpool. Your flow needs to be kind of powerful and WELL DIRECTED though. Make sure you can get the crud off the bottom and into the overflows or, if not, at least have your flow in such a way that it will pool your detrius for easy removal. This will take some adjustment to get rock.
6. BUILD ROCK RACKS! Man oh man does this make life easier. I used ¾" gray PVC I got at Lowe's. Most of it is already encrusted in coraline, and I like gluing Ricordia to the exposed parts. It looks good.
With rock racks, you get good flow under your rocks, especially as they continue to shed detrius.
There are more tips which I hope others will share.
I am not a marine biologist or chemist. And to be quite honest, I do not undrstand the intricacies of a lot of the chemical reactions and biological functions that occur.
Sure, I can regurgitate what I have read as easily as the next, but I have gotten to the point where a little more of the "harder" stuff is making sense. I guess I am being educated...and my high school counselor said that couldn't be done. :)
My point is, though I do not quite understand the EXACT reasons why many of this happens as it does, I do know that it works.
As I said at the beginning, this is how I advocate the DSB to BB conversion. It is a safe, painstaking way. And it works.
I am not, by any means, saying BB is the only way.
I sincerely hope this has answered some questions.
hth,
Sean
 

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Starting Bare Bottom

Its been two years, four months since the last login.
Bringing the tank back, after more than a year in storage, with the live rock stored in a 32 gallon container in my master bedroom (pumps on 24/7).....

No DSB this time. I can actually see how much waste is generated. So far, I like it.

Thanks for the good info, really great stuff.

Jerry.
 

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Here is how I recommend that people convert to a BB tank:
1. Have a lot of saltwater made up. I mean a LOT! You will need enough water to replace all the volume taken up by your sandbed and rocks. PLUS the additional amount to swish your rocks and store them in the containers they are to cook in. A lot of water. Get it to aerated and to temp.
2. Remove the hood from your tank after unplugging all ballasts etc.
3. Turn off all circulation to your tank let it drain to the sump you want this water.
4. Drain water into a few of the Rubbermaid's, no more than half full at this point. If possible, I recommend a small powerhead in each container to be turned on, breaking the water's surface to circulate and aerate the water.
5. Start removing corals. Start with the shortest one, Zo's Ric's, all the low-lying ones that are not attached to larger rocks, and place these corals in the container. We want these first to raise the water level in the container to lessen the air exposure time to other, taller corals. I know they can be exposed to air but the less stress the better. Remember to grab all the snails and hermits you see.
6. Once these corals are removed go for the larger ones. You may have to make some hard decisions at times. If a coral is encrusted on a large piece of rock you have to decide whether to NOT cook that rock. Personally I would chisel it off and remount it onto a clean rock. In a healthy tank it will encrust again in no time.
7. After all of the corals have been removed from your tank, it is time to siphon as much of the tank water you can into buckets. As you do this rock will be exposed to air, take this opportunity to move them into one of the empty containers. There is no need to fill these containers with water at this point. Try and siphon as much clean and not cloudy water as you can into the buckets. After all, the main selling point of a BB system is getting the dirt out.
8. Once all the rock is out you can concentrate on catching the fish, shrimp and any leftover snails and hermits you can find. Toss them into a coral container.
9. Now the hard work begins. Sand shoveling time. Using the dustpans, and as much labor as you can get from your friends, up on stools you go. Scooping the sand into buckets, taking buckets outside to dump. I caution to not fill a bucket more than 50-60% full at a time. Wet sand is heeaaavvvyyy! *** To ease the pain of this chore, weeks out you can begin siphoning the top layers of your sand bed out during water changes.***
10. Once you have most of it out, if possible use the garden hose to refill some water back into the tank. This makes it easy to siphon the last bit on the bottom. Take this time to coralline scrape and rinse as well. Siphon out the remainder of sand, coralline scrapings and tap water. Don't be overly concerned with a little bit of tap water that is left, but if you are, use a towel as a sponge to take it out.
11. By this step, you should have a tank that looks virtually brand new. Time to make sure your Starboard fits. So put it in. lol If it fits right…awesome. If not, jigsaw time for the corners and table saw time for the long sides.
12. Your Starboard is in place, now the coral racks. Place them in the tank to be sure they fit right. If they are too tall, cut the legs down. If you feel they are way too short, add some couplings and raise them up. *****Remember to keep an eye on the water temp your corals and fish are sitting in.*****
13. Start pouring all the water in the buckets back in the tank. Then start your return pump and add your sumps water (remember to not let your return pump run dry.) Add enough make up water to fill your tank and sump. Start your return pump and let it all start circulating and heating (cooling - if that is the case).
14. After ensuring that your tank water's temp and salinity are the same as the containers holding your corals, fish, and inverts etc. begin placing your corals onto the racks. Whenever I remove corals en masse from my tank, I place the Rubbermaid's left-center-middle. That way the corals get back to the same approximate lighting they are used to. If you have corals that are on the sand bed…place them on the Starboard.
15. Now that all your corals are back in the nice warm womb of your tank, start any additional circulation devices you may have: powerheads, waveboxe's, closed loop pumps etc. For the next few minutes watch to see if any corals are not seated securely. If they aren't adjust them. If everything seems good time to move on to the next step.
16. Put the hood back on your tank. Plug everything back in and let your light cycle commence.
17. Now the fun begins. It is time to start cooking your rock. See above lol.
18. You will know when the rock is done cooking when it no longer sheds all that crud in the cooking bins.
19. As for your main tank, welcome to the wonderful world of siphoning. :) Keep check of your waters parameters, especially calcium and alkalinity.
20. After a week or two you may notice some small brownish-green film algae growing on the PVC. This is natural. The PVC is leeching phosphorous. Now would be a good time to bump up your cleanup crew. Astrea and Cerith snails are an awesome choice. (See my signature line).
21. When your rock is done cooking, I recommend putting it back in 1/3rds, on top of PVC racks keeping it off of the bottom to allow flow to freely move about. Take care putting it back in. You do not have any sand to mush it into. lol Be creative. Make ledges, plateau's, valleys, whatever you want. Drill holes thru two pieces and use zip ties to hold them secure. Steer away from the "Berlin" wall. It inhibits flow, limits coral placement, and quite frankly, it's been done to death.
22. When putting your rock in, make up some water, heat, and salinity the same. Corals into a container with water in it, remove the racks (that is why you don't want one long rack). Place your rock rack down, aquascape, mount your corals. Use epoxy. It holds well and can easily snap off when you want it to. But TAKE YOUR TIME and do it how you want it. Don't settle.
23. Next week do another third and then the last the week after that.
24. Once again, you may notice a few bits of filmy like algae creep up here and there. This is a signal of an understaffed cleanup crew. Remember, you no longer have a DSB as a safety net (or to fill up and betray you - checks and balances) you are relying on mechanical means (skimmer, flow, UV, ozone and siphoning) to remove waste and organic (bacteria, inverts, fish) to process and break it down into more skimmable forms.

To reiterate some things that may have gotten lost in all that jumble I typed...or to state it for the first time, as I am getting old timer's disease I think, here are some "tips" on good husbandry techniques, BB style:
1. Siphon regularly. If you see many piles of sand/silt detrius on the bottom of your tank, it is PAST the time to siphon. It can be a pain, but you get used to it quickly, and over the course of a few months it gets less and less needed.
2. Blast your rocks regularly with a powerhead (or turkey baster-but seriously that is a LOT of pumping ; use a powerhead.) ). A good old maxi-jet will slam a lot of the detrius off your rocks and get it down to the skimmer where it belongs. This too will, overtime, yield less and less. But still do it.
3. Wet skim. Your aim is to not get the really bark skimmate. Get it a tea colored (light brown or green). The purpose of this is to get the crud out BEFORE it breaks down.
But to do this effectively, the neck of your skimmer must be wiped down regularly. I have a roll of paper towels next to my skimmer. Every couple of days I just wipe it down while still running. No need to dissassemble it and take it to the sink that often.
4. Get and KEEP up a good clean up crew. Life is short, snails die, replace them!
5. Flow, flow and more flow. Your tank does not need to look like a whirlpool. Your flow needs to be kind of powerful and WELL DIRECTED though. Make sure you can get the crud off the bottom and into the overflows or, if not, at least have your flow in such a way that it will pool your detrius for easy removal. This will take some adjustment to get rock.
6. BUILD ROCK RACKS! Man oh man does this make life easier. I used ¾" gray PVC I got at Lowe's. Most of it is already encrusted in coraline, and I like gluing Ricordia to the exposed parts. It looks good.
With rock racks, you get good flow under your rocks, especially as they continue to shed detrius.
There are more tips which I hope others will share.
I am not a marine biologist or chemist. And to be quite honest, I do not undrstand the intricacies of a lot of the chemical reactions and biological functions that occur.
Sure, I can regurgitate what I have read as easily as the next, but I have gotten to the point where a little more of the "harder" stuff is making sense. I guess I am being educated...and my high school counselor said that couldn't be done. :)
My point is, though I do not quite understand the EXACT reasons why many of this happens as it does, I do know that it works.
As I said at the beginning, this is how I advocate the DSB to BB conversion. It is a safe, painstaking way. And it works.
I am not, by any means, saying BB is the only way.
I sincerely hope this has answered some questions.
hth,
Sean
 

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Registered
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Sean,

What do you suggest when starting a fresh tank with rock that has been sitting for about 8 years? I have a 29 gallon tank now, but plan on upgrading to maybe a 90 gallon later on. Is there any equipment I could buy for my 29 gallon that would also work for the bigger tank later on?
One more thing. Do you know where I could information about customized tanks and pricing? I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks for your time.
 
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