Reef Central Online Community

Reef Central Online Community (
-   Advanced Topics (
-   -   DSB in a bucket for nitrate control (

Hobster 05/18/2005 11:12 AM

DSB in a bucket
Hi Anthony,

I had posted this in a previous thread but appears to have been buried. My question is below your quote. This method is discussed in your Book of CP? I have RI and did not see it there. Will this method work for de nitrification even without the square footage and DSB animals that is recomended by others???:confused:

Originally posted by Anthony Calfo
no worries... theres a mention of DSB buckets in threads on RC here (this forum too I think) as well as in my coral prop book.

But it is as literal as it sounds: having your DSB in a large bucket or garbage can rather than in a display. It can stay unlit and needs little or no servicing. Just a stream of water flowing atop it. The vessel is to be filled nearly to the top with only a few inches of water running above it. A five gallon bucket will hold about 60lbs of oolitic sand and service perhaps a 90-120 gallon aquarium (larger tanks with lighter bioloads too). Big displays often use a non-toxic plastic garbage can (or food barrel) with more sand of course.

Using this method, is there no need then for sand bed animals as others claim to be so important? The water will diffuse (if that is the correct term) all the way down the 5 gal bucket and this will provide enough denitrification? amazing


Anthony Calfo 05/18/2005 12:32 PM

it is a modest strategy and dependant on bioload of course. But so cheap to employ, and easy to remove if you don't like it.

My LFS finally tried this with a 55 gall tank full (nearly to the top) of sand with a good stream of water traversing the length of the tank. It was staggering how fast it reduced nitrates on a nearly 2K gallon system.

A 5 gallon bucket with a 60lb bag of sand filling it can do similar/remarkable work on say a 90-120 gallon tank. A larger plastic garbage can (kitchen size... 20 gall or so) with a couple hundred lbs of sand, etc.

The goal here is denitrification and buffering (if using aragonite).

There are not many other benefits... and not many risks either. Unlit and with a strong stream of water over it, its a fairly brainless application :p Cover it and keep it dark... there is little to maintenance to speak of for it. You can imagine that with the good water flow (key) or even mechanically prefiltered water... there is no way for this to practically become a nutrient sink, as the small fast volume of water cruising over it do not allow the settling/sinking of much solid matter over time.

Hobster 05/18/2005 02:37 PM

How would one plumb such a bucket? If this is in your book, please let me know and I shall go order one.:thumbsup:

Anthony Calfo 05/18/2005 02:44 PM

just get a curved-wall bulkhead (US Plastics Corp or the like) and tap the bucket very high up (near the top). The filled bucket will have just a few inches of water atop the sand (overflowing the bulkhead back to the sump for example)

grim 05/19/2005 03:32 PM

It's refreshing to see such an interesting new implementation come up after what seems like years of debate over every variation thought possible.


Kelmen 05/20/2005 03:30 AM

I just read that the surface volume of the DSB would play a factor for its effectiveness as well.

Looks like bucket is too small.

Alfalfameister 05/20/2005 06:52 AM

Hmmm... I do have a question regarding DSBs in a bucket/drum/other container.

Would it be better if you had a "raceway" type remote DSB setup? Say for example, a container that is 4 feet long, 8 inches high (water level), only 4 inches wide? With DSB 6" high (meaning that the water above the DSB is only 2"?

Also, with only 2" of water above the DSB, then that would be (whips out calculator...)... 1.66 gallons of water... and therefore flow should be fast enough (good enough water flow that Anthony says is key).

An analogy would be taller skimmers being able to provide more contact time, so a longer container could provide more "contact" time, too (vis-a-vis DSB in a bucket).

But as Anthony is out (come back! We're more fun than discus! :) ), anyone else want to chime in their comments?

P.S. Anthony, please schedule a trip to the Philippines, too... :)

Hobster 05/20/2005 07:23 AM

A question that still remains with me is: If the water is flowing over the top of the sand, once the sand is saturated how does water diffuse down into the depth of the sand bed/bucket? It seems it would just run over the top. How then does denitirification take place? This is a very different then the method of large square footage and lots of sand bed critters to keep the bed active.

dmirza 05/20/2005 10:14 AM

my understanding (from reading this and other expert forums) is that a remote DSB does not work because the DSB does not get enough food to sustain a reasonable infauna. Why would a DSB in a bucket work, when a DSB in a 25" X 15" refugium would not?

IF we had a buckets worth of sand in a small refugium, would that make the small refugium DSB usefull in reducing nitrates, or does this have something to do with the configuration of DSB in a bucket?

Thank you for the help in advance.

Hobster 05/20/2005 10:39 AM

It appears we will have to remain in suspense untill Anthony returns from his trip. Poor guy, all that work, work, work :D

walt13 05/20/2005 01:49 PM

I am no expert but I believe different types of DSB's work differently depending on grain size, depth, water flow and lighting. I may be wrong but I believe the denitrification is helped with the lack of lighting and high flow rate in this case. Most fuges and other DSB are lit. I do not know why this works but reading this and some of the other threads, leads me to make this guess.


DownUnder-Reefer 05/20/2005 07:28 PM

Quote - My LFS finally tried this with a 55 gall tank full (nearly to the top) of sand with a good stream of water traversing the length of the tank. It was staggering how fast it reduced nitrates on a nearly 2K gallon system.

Hello Anthony, just out of interest from placement of the above DSB how long did it take to "Kick in" and start denitrification?

Anthony Calfo 05/20/2005 07:46 PM

cheers, all :)

I haven't stepped on the plane yet... :p

Indeed, yes... increased surface area has its advantages, but we need to be crystal clear here on our (limited) expectations for a restricted DSB like this:

It will become biologically active on a microscopic level of course... but not much more than that.

This really is about reducing nitrates... and not much more.

The lack of "food" in the form of solid matter is the very thing that prevents such deep, fast flow beds from becoming nutrient sinks. Yet we can still enjoy (or cannot stop) the possible denitrifying faculties from pulling from the constant stream of dissolved matter in the water always above the bed.

That pet shop 55gall DSB noticed nitrates dropping in less than a month.

As far as the question of "how does diffusive movement occur"... I would ask the following question in reply: how does it not occur? In a rather wacky analogy... do consider if at the bottom of your DSB bucket, barrel or tank... you first poured gasoline enough to fill the vessel 1/10th. Then you fill the rest of the vessel with dry or live sand... and turn it all online. Would anyone like to venture a guess if the gasoline at the bottom of that vessel will ever make it to the surface, or diffuse otherwise to the extent that it influences water quality? :p

I think it will :D

The DSB is not so literally sealed off from or isolate from the system water. It is fluid - literally... actually, with the delightfully unstable nature (round) of oolitic grains of sand in the case of aragonite.

The application summarily has limited benefits, limited risks, limited expense... and limited baggage (long-term). Its just a deep bucket of sand :D If you have to buy bucket and sand new... the bucket will cost you more :p

Worst case scenario... it doesn't work, and you wasted $10. It won't be the first $10 you waste on your reef tank. heehee :)

But I have honestly seen this simply application work many times. For a normal (not over)bio-load... it can make a difference.

Let's find someone here online that has consistently struggled with some reasonable (readable on a test kit) levels of nitrate, to just try it... take readings at the beginning of the month, than again after one month... after a second month or more if they are willing. And let us know some details about that particular case. Bucket size, sand amount, system size and bioload, feeding/fish/coral load... etc.


Anthony :)

dmirza 05/21/2005 12:24 PM

thanks Anthony,

That makes a lot of sense now.

wrassie86 05/22/2005 10:12 PM


Is there any worry of a cycle happening when starting the bucket up right away.I have a small nitrate issue on a BB tank and am giving this a try.


emora 05/25/2005 03:48 PM

Interesting thread.

I saw one of these working at a shop in Seattle called Coral Beauty. I talked with the owner about it for a couple of minutes. He was very enthusiastic about it and said they work very well.

I thought it was brilliantly simple. Cheap too.

botp2k1 05/26/2005 08:43 AM

Nice discussion here, really like the idea of this, always thought a large surface area was needed. Tagging along.

fishdr 05/26/2005 10:17 AM

so this would be used to reduce nitrates???

Wouldn't there be any problems with having a bucket of sand that is 24" deep. I would think that no oxygen would make it that far down.

emora 05/26/2005 10:23 AM

If I am not mistaken Nitrate reduction occurs in the absence of oxygen. The bacteria that populate the anarobic (low o2) and anoxic (no o2) spaces are adapted to use nitrogen.

PUGroyale 05/26/2005 10:24 AM


Originally posted by fishdr
I would think that no oxygen would make it that far down.
:lol: that's the idea...

fishdr 05/26/2005 11:01 AM

I always thught we were looking for low O2, not no O2.

When I had a DSB it turned black at the bottom. I thought that was because I did not have enough flow in the tank, so the DSB was getting no oxygen at all

mwood 05/26/2005 02:30 PM

Is the covering of the bucket just removing light, or also removing a source of oxigen.?

I'm curious, a friend said he read that a study found high oxigen content 12' below the ocean floor. That would imply that our dsb's don't reflect what is found in nature. Can anyone confirm or contradict this?

emora 05/27/2005 01:02 AM

The argument surrounding anoxic metabolism is because nitrogen is consumed and hydrogen or rather hydrogen sulfide is produced. Some people are scared that one day the hydrogen sulfide will somehow escape and kill everything.

I had the opportunity to move a tank with an old established dsb with plenty of dark pockets and other purported nasty things. People had scared the dickens out of me saying it would be a catastrophe, that the system was a time bomb, and lots of other unfounded opinions. I found no rotten egg smell and suffered no deaths. Amonium, Nitrite and Nitrate levels were undetectable immediatly after the move and over the next weeks.

This direct experience motivated me to read everything I could about DSBs and the metabolic processes that take place in them. All I found was a lot of myths about bad things in DSBs and A LOT of sound science in their favour.

Hobster 05/27/2005 07:23 AM


This direct experience motivated me to read everything I could about DSBs and the metabolic processes that take place in them. All I found was a lot of myths about bad things in DSBs and A LOT of sound science in their favour.
Dr Ron and Anthony would certainly agree with that!:)

km133688 05/28/2005 06:24 PM


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 09:27 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.3.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2022 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.