Traditionally reefkeepers have associated the term Live Sand with aragonite sand harvested from the sea and shipped in seawater, or at least shipped damp, with a live coating of bacteria. But actual coral sand is in short supply globally, so Aquaforest has decided to take a totally different path and provide reefers with a kind of live sand in kit form.
AF Bio Sand is made from mined grains of calcium carbonate with a grain size from 0.5-1.5mm. You buy enough to cover the base of your tank, just like you would with any other marine substrate, and it’s shipped dry in a sealed bag, just like any other non-live sand product. Rinse before use to remove any dust, as normal, but then the similarities stop there.
Just add water
Next, you prepare three liters of full-strength seawater, open the bag of sand, and take out the two bottles inside – one containing live nitrifying bacteria and the other, food for the bacteria to help it grow and multiply. Pour the contents of both bottles into the water, then pour the whole 3 liters into the open sandbag purple packaging. Mix sand and water thoroughly, leave for 24 hours, then add the now live sand to your tank. It’s DIY live sand.
Providing you don’t slash the bag while opening it, throw away the packaging, or are an installer in a hurry, AF Bio sand is an interesting take on live sand, and in a way, it’s no different from what we’ve been doing with dry rock and bottles of bacteria for years since we stopped using live rock.
Unlike live rock, however, natural live sand never brought in any hitchhikers, although there is no need to take sand from the ocean when 4% of the earth’s crust is made up of calcium carbonate, and it’s literally there for the taking. You don’t have to live by the sea to collect it or ship it all around from tropical beaches to colder climbs when it can probably be attained easily and cheaply from much more local sources. The sand itself is beige/white in color and the casual onlooker wouldn’t be able to tell if it’s actual coral sand or not.
Would you still need to dose with a filter maturation agent after adding AF Bio Sand? In theory, not, so whereas before you would maybe add dry sand, dry rock, then water and bacteria, with this product you add dry rock, wet live sand, then water. You’re still adding nitrifying bacteria but in a different step of the tank setup.
Unless the world runs out of natural live sand or bottled maturation fluids, AF Bio Sand is not the most necessary marine product in the world. Especially when Aquaforest already provides a maturation fluid in bottle form called Bio S that can be used with any rock and sand. But we do applaud the different take on the existing reefkeeping norms as it’s what helps the hobby to evolve. Especially as natural marine resources become more scarce.