Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): Bare Bottom = No Ich?

Terrible Advice Tuesdays: If you don’t use sand in your saltwater tank, your fish will never get ich.

The rest of the story: There’s a bit of grey area on this one. Part of ich’s life cycle takes place off the fish. In this phase, ich is known as a “tomont” and spends its time reproducing while attached to a solid surface like sand. However, it can attach to any solid surface including rocks or even the sides of your tank.

Therefore, not keeping sand in your tank will reduce the areas ich tomonts can attach.  No sand = less surface area = less places for tomonts to attach. However, relying on the absence of sand to prevent ich is a terrible idea as there are still plenty of great places for ich tomonts to attach and to prepare for the next stage in their life cycle. Take for example all the live rock in your tank. There is a lot more surface area on live rock than there is on the top layer of sand.

Also, as discussed in my quarantine guide, ich tomites hatch at night. Most saltwater fish sleep in one place which means when the tomites hatch, your fish is in close proximity and probably holding still. Can you say “infection”?

Bottom line: Run sand if you like it and QT all incoming fish for at least 30 days to help prevent the spread of diseases like ich.

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Comments for this article (6)

  • Pierre Bouic says:

    The bare bottom tank can only give one upside, ease of maintenance, by less likely detritus build up in the substrate,
    The negative side of a substrate bottom being a detrimental accumulation waste turning into a soup of phosphate at best at worst in a tank that is not cycled well comes the possibility of Nitrite, Ammonia. The bare bottom look is just that bare & boring, but if inexperienced at keeping a healthy deep sand bed bare is healthy especially if circulating pumps are aimed in a way that brings all detritus back to the over-flow weir, or intake of a filter. My LFS guy has a very nice 150 gallon display tank but in the interest of business, time constraints & setting a good example has gone bare bottomed.

  • Ivan says:

    I’ve went a few months ICH free on my new tank. New rock, sand, all fish where QT with Tank transfer prior to being added. My new achilles was able to get nice and fat, all ICH was removed during TT. Short lived when I tossed a wrasse that didn’t go through entire QT, to save the wrasse. Achilles got ich, and gets it on and off over a month now. He has tripled in thickness and has noticeably grown, very hungry fish.

    Is it true that as long as he is fat and eating, his immunity will grow or put up with the ICH? Mainly shows up when I stick my hand in and add corals.

  • Harry says:

    Hello Mark,
    What’s your take on 3 days transfer method? I have a lot of people who swear by it in my area.

    Keep up the good work!!


  • Great article, Mark! My first saltwater aquarium and 55 gallon. It was bulletproof and I really couldn’t do anything wrong (or so I thought). This gave me a false sense of security with my fledgling saltwater aquarium keeping abilities. When I upgraded to a 90 gallon I had some aquarium husbandry opportunities and I had a constant battle with Ich. I eventually had to restart the aquarium to correct some issues. Good aquarium husbandry is second to none.

  • Guy says:

    Hey there would you mind sharing which blog platform
    you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely
    unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had
    to ask!

  • Guy….I use WordPress

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