Feeding a Deep Sand Bed

In the salt water aquarium a [tag-tec]deep sand bed[/tag-tec] (DSB) is a very positive addition to the system. In addition to its filtration capabilities, it is interesting in its own right.

Why so interesting? This is because, if the DSB is functioning properly, it will have a population of tiny life forms that have made it their home. In fact, a population of these creatures is important as this assists the DSB to function correctly.

It can seem a little strange to consider feeding a sand bed. However, life and population numbers depend, among other things, on food supply. It is no different with a [tag-ice]DSB[/tag-ice]. If the life forms are short of food, then the population will decrease. If food supplies are adequate, then the population will be sustained or even grow.

The first thing to consider is this: is there any life in the DSB? Obviously, if there isn’t any life then there isn’t any point in feeding. The DSB should be checked, particularly at night after lights out, and the life forms will be seen if there are any. If there aren’t any, then they can be purchased. Or speak to a fellow aquarist who has a DSB with a good population. It is without question that the aquarist’s DSB must be healthy. A scoop or two of sand placed without delay in the target DSB will work wonders. Another option is to obtain one or two pieces of good quality ‘live’ rock and place them in the DSB. These rocks must not compact the sand, so small ones will probably be best.

The second consideration is: is it necessary and/or wise to feed the DSB? If observations show that the resident population is high in numbers then they must be getting food from somewhere. I hope it is not overfeeding of the aquarium!

The final consideration: is the DSB showing any signs of problems? For example, is there any blackening of the sand at the surface? Is there any blackening, or partial blackening, of the sand or parts of it when it is observed through the side of the sump/aquarium? If there are signs as described, then feeding the DSB may accelerate developing problems. There is a danger of dead areas where dangerous gases could develop. Any possibility of this must be removed.

Right, we’ve introduced some or more life forms to out DSB. Maybe there is already a good population and we want to try feeding. Feeding a DSB is the same as feeding anything else in the aquarium…overfeeding must be avoided. So, start slowly.

There are suitable feed items that can be purchased, such as frozen lance fish etc. Frozen food intended for aquarium use is probably the best. Flake food and the like is impractical. Some aquarists (including myself) have even used fish fingers intended for human consumption. (I have never had a problem with this. However, cut off any breadcrumb covering and be aware that additives may have been used by the manufacturer. Take care!)

Cut the fish when frozen (its probably easier frozen) into small cubes, about 1/4″ or so. A little larger does no harm. This supply can be stored in the freezer. When required, defrost in a little RO (Reverse Osmosis) water. Just defrost one or two cubes to start with.

Obtain a few clean and rounded sea shells that the cubes can be placed under on top of the DSB. The food should be on the sand with the shell above it. Put the first one or two cubes under shells spaced apart. Put them at least 12″ apart. Ensure there isn’t any air trapped under the shell. These small food cubes should disappear quite quickly. In fact, the hungry little beasts can usually be observed going for their meal if they move across the surface, others may well come up underneath the food. If this is successful, feed the same way but not every day. Once a week is fine. If the DSB continues in good health continue. Hopefully observations will eventually show a population increase. If required, increase the feeding by putting in food on an extra day. Is the DSB healthy? Are the creatures plentiful? Continue in this way but there is no need to feed every day. I suggest twice a week is quite ample. Do not continue to increase the food supply. Each time food is placed onto the DSB, move the positions around.