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Good plan, already well underway. Seems like you're doing just fine.
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Looking at the cloudy water from the pictures when you first put the water in, can I ask did you pre rinse the sand before putting it in the tank?I'd suggest you need to consider is the detritus now settling atop the sand? If so, I certainly wouldn't let that settle as it will only build up and eventually go anaerobic which is when problems will arise later on; for example untouched sand can cause an ammonia spike if stirred up after a long time stationary.If it was me, i certainly wouldn't let it settle. I recently took my sand out of my tank to clean, kept in a dark box. Whilst my tank has been bare, it's surprising how much detritus builds up daily.Do you turkey baster your rocks just before water change?A.
+1 on the conch. Mine is doing great work on the sandbed.Other thing to consider is your flow. Make sure your power head helps water back to the filtration.
Good stuff, btw if it is diatoms then you definitely do have silica in your water. If you're making your own water, it might be worth double checking the DI stage is working properly 😉