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FAQs on Brackish Components, System Set-Up

Related Articles: Brackish Components, FAQs on Brackish Salty Water, Brackish Water System Set-up Brackish Water Aquaria: 20 Questions; Yours Questions Answered by Neale Monks

Related FAQs: Brackish Substrates, Brackish Filtration, Brackish Water Systems in General, Cycling a Brackish System,


BW Substrate Questions  5/5/07 Thanks for the help again. <No problem!> I have gotten a root from PetSmart today and it looks great. I am going to go with the crushed coral to help  buffer the PH and also I like the bright colors of my GSP. That is when I realized I had a couple more questions. The first is: how to I calculate how much of the crushed coral I will need in lbs? My aquarium is 30long x 12 deep x 18 tall. <About 1lb/gallon.> The second is: I bought a few plants online and noticed they have a ceramic base to them, are they ok to use in the tank. <Shouldn't be a problem.> My last question is: When I change to the crushed coral should I leave some of the old gravel underneath? <I wouldn't.  Change it all out.> Once again thank you all, I get tons of info for myself and for my daughter's freshwater and I always recommend you all to anyone I run into that needs some help. Thanks again and keep up the great work. <Glad we're so much help to you & your young'n!  ~PP>

Substrate sand....small brackish  - 12/02/2012
One more quick question before I disappear again for a while.....
I plan to put the two baby 1/4" balloon mollies into a true brackish environment.
I will acclimate them gradually of course.
<No need. Assuming specific gravity is going from freshwater (SG 1.000) to low salinity brackish (SG 1.002-1.003, ample for Mollies) then you can literally dump them into the tank!>
(They were kept with aquarium salt before I knew better. I plan to use the marine blend salt this time, and I'll use the meter to check the salinity.) I decided to do the brackish in a smaller tank that I have, and then I'll restock the 29 gallon with another type of fish to start out.... I'll probably choose the simplest kind of fish for the 29 gallon this time around.
I'm interested in using sand in the brackish tank. I read your article on WetWebMedia on substrate, and I also read this other article that gets a little more in detail on the handling of sand substrate on a cichlid site:
I like the idea of sand for the look, and it's nice for the small shrimp that will be the 2 baby mollies' only tank mates in the smaller tank. Black sand seems cool.
<Can be; shop carefully though. If you plan on adding any digging fish (say, gobies) then some "sharp" black sands, like Tahitian Moon Sand, aren't ideal. On the other hand, midwater fish and shrimps will be fine with whatever black sand you choose.>
Fish tend to like a dark substrate and it's attractive. Though, I also like the idea of coral sand that you mentioned in your article which is excellent for buffering.  White also sparkles nicely.
<But yes, with freshwater fish, the colours fade a bit. Not an issue with Mollies since the colours are hard-wired into them, but it's noticeable how (some) cichlids for example "fade" in tanks with a white substrate. Not all by any means, but some species.>
Either color works for me.  (I just don't have undergravel filter like you suggest though, I use a regular submersed one.  So it could work out differently I suppose….) (Would coral sand be too bright for mollies and shrimp, would it be likely to stress out my fish?)
<Will be fine. For one thing, the sand de-colours with age, becoming more off-white, even greenish.>
Also, the that stuff this guy in the cichlid article mentions about gasses building up worries me a little, I don't know.....  !  You have to disturb it periodically.  As I'm a beginner, I don't want to mess up the tank's chemistry accidentally!  Sounds like he is not afraid of it though.
<Quite so. The "deadly gas in the sand" idea is mostly a myth. It's theoretically possible if you have, say, 8 cm/3 inches of sand. But if all you're doing is adding enough sand to cover the glass, then gas isn't likely to accumulate to any great degree. Even where deep sand beds *are* used, this deadly gas problem just doesn't seem to happen, and in fact, there are positive benefits to deep sand beds!>
SO, my questions for you regarding a proper substrate are:
1) would mixing a little coral sand with fine gravel like you suggest avoid a buildup of gasses that using a straight coral sand for substrate might incur?  Maybe this is the simplest approach that would give me some sandy look, but be lower maintenance than a thick sand bed that tends to compact in the absence of burrowing species?
<Personally, I'd go with 2.5 cm/1 inch of sand, maybe with some coral sand stirred in if you want. Easy to clean and risk-free.>
Or--2) would using a bare minimum of coral sand, or even just the black sand, and just using it in a thin layer (perhaps 1/2 inch) and then stirring it a bit weekly, help to avoid a gas buildup under the sand?  My main concern with sand substrate is if I accidentally allowed too much gas to accumulate and then the fish become ill or die.
<Just doesn't seem to happen. The deadly gas is hydrogen sulphide, but in practise, this gas becomes oxidised so readily when it emerges from the sand that it's hard to get enough in the water to stress fish. Look at ponds; they have thick, anoxic mud, yet the fish are fine.>
It sounds like the trick to vacuuming sand is to stay a half inch above....maybe I could disturb the sand all around, and then wait till it settled and do the vacuuming about an hour later to catch excess debris I stirred up?  Or is there some important reason that the article I read says you should wait 8 weeks in between disturbing the sand substrate?!?!
<I have no idea. I don't bother. I put the sand in and leave it there. But I do tend to use snails and/or plants to keep the substrate biologically "active".>
Those are just guesses of mine, but you know the actual science...I feel that possibly using sand sparingly with regular agitation might be a lower maintenance and safe way for a beginner to work with sand, but I don't truly know. With gardening I've always strived to take the easiest approach.  Perhaps that really IS just plain old gravel in fish keeping.
<Can be. But sand has definite plusses.>
But if there's a way for a beginner to keep sand without a lot of trouble, I'd like to try it in my smaller brackish setup.
<Hmm… do read more on substrates, here:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Substrate sand....small brackish  - 12/02/2012

Thanks, this is very helpful.
Have a nice week and happy holidays too.
<You too, Neale.>

Styrofoam Background for Brackish Tank  3/8/07 Dear WetWebMedia, <Pufferpunk here with you again, Ben.> I recently  contacted you in regards to a large corner brackish aquarium 230 U.K. gal tank and water level at 180 U.K. gal. I want to plant mangroves in the tank and I also want to make a sloped structured background in the tank at the rear corner. I  have seen some articles on a Malawi website that used Styrofoam and glues and paints to create structured background. I am hoping  to make it so it has large cavities in it to plant the mangroves going up the bank. Do you know if using normal Styrofoam to create a structure is safe in the  aquarium? I find it hard to believe the glue and paint is but that is what it said on the site cichlid forum.com. I recently read of an eco friendly marine retailer in the U.K. who creates live rock by using a type of cement and then growing the organisms on it.  Thanks for any advice you can give on safe materials to construct a background <Styrofoam should be fine for a background.  Here's one site I found: http://www.csd.net/~cgadd/aqua/art_other_netmax_styro.htm I'm sure if you do a search, you'll find many more.   You might also want to search sites on home-made live rock or go with the fellow you found.  ~PP> Best Regards,  Ben

Old Florida Crushed Coral Safe For Brackish Tank?  2/14/07 Hello, <Hi Tom, Pufferpunk here> I love your site! Could you tell me if it is alright to use Florida crushed coral (the bags are about 20 years old, from a saltwater system I was going to do that long ago, and didn't)? It is white, not like the yellowish substrate they sell now. <I don't see why not, as long as it hasn't been used before.  Make sure you rinse it well, to avoid too much clouding of the tank.> I'm planning to have 1 mudskipper and 2 or 3 small mangrove seedlings I have (I have a bunch of seedlings I grow in pots around the house in fresh water) in a 20 gallon aquarium. <Make sure that tank is a 20 long, not a 20 high.  A 30g would be even better.  Try for one of the smaller species of mudskippers.  I always worry about a skipper climbing up the mangroves to the outside.> Would you suggest just rocks to build up a beach effect for the fish or what? <Rocks are fine.> I have  a few flat rocks that look like red sandstone (or at least they are dark red and heavy) and one that looks like something out of a King Kong movie (the rock formation he dreams of. :-) Do you think these are safe for a brackish system? I tried splashing plain vinegar on them and didn't see any bubbles (remembered from Earth Science days in High School a million years ago). <Sounds OK to me.> What would be some alternatives? Thanks for your time and again I love your site! <If you wanted to set it up for biological filtration, find something to hold gravel back behind the rockwork & bury a powerhead with a prefilter attached under crushed coral/gravel, making a waterfall from the output.  This looks great but would need to be torn down & cleaned every 4-6 months.  The larger the tank, the less poop will clog this system.  This is the powerhead I was thinking of: http://www.bigalsonline.com/BigAlsUS/ctl3684/cp18554/si1382178/cl0/marinelandpowerhead660r  ~PP> Tom

BW Tank  11/24/06 Thanks for all the information but you didn't answer my question  about filtration is my penguin 330 enough or do I need to get  another filter?   <I actually did answer that question.> And you said you like to use crushed coral  how much would I need for my  tank? < It depends on how deep you like your substrate.  I think I used about 50-60lbs but that was some time ago.  ~PP>

Eyes Bigger than Tank?  2/14/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Hey there, me again. Thank you for all your previous advice. VERY bad news, though. My tank is now broken (All fish are A-OK)! So that new tank might be coming sooner than I thought... Anyways, my point is, next year I was considering getting a ~100 gallon tank, and making it an archer fish tank. I was thinking six common archers (not seven-spot) in the bottom 75 gallons, and a cricket part on top. <As archers grow to a foot, I would say you could maybe keep 2 in a 100g tank.  That's it.> Would I be able to get ~4 scats that my LFS says will stay around 4 inches as well? <Scats grow as large as a dinner plate, not 4".  Again, you could keep 2 in there, that's it & no archers then.> Or maybe some gobies too... do you have any compatible suggestions of interesting fish for a brackish tank? It will be very well planted with tons of driftwood to simulate mangrove roots and have lots of java fern. <If you are using real wood, then it is not recommended in a BW tank.  It will release tannins & lower the pH.  You want to keep the pH around a steady 8.  Best done by using crushed coral or aragonite substrate & no driftwood.  Petsmart makes really nice fake mangrove roots for a tank like that.> Any fish/plant/decoration suggestions would be appreciated. Also, I cannot find any suggestions on how much salt to use! What salinity level should the water be at and how many tablespoons of Kent sea salt will I have to use per gallon? <We are not talking teaspoons but more like cups.  It takes "roughly" a cup of salt/5g to raise your SG .005.  Depending on what kind of fish you get, some (like scats) need to have the SG raised over time, to eventual marine conditions, as these fish mature.  Always premix overnight & test with a hydrometer.> I was also looking at freshwater lionfish for the tank (toadfish). Good choice, or not? <If you're considering any gobies, the toadfish will eat them.  BIG mouth! I would suggest either 2 archers or 2 scats, or 1 of each.  Then if you want, you could keep a few knight gobies in with them.  There are lots of smaller BW fish, like figure 8 puffers, green or red Chromides, etc.  Just remember, some prefer high-end BW/SW as adults, others don't.>    If you have any suggestions, please tell me. Also, I was wondering if you could recommend  any filters for this tank. Remember, I am pretty much limited to canisters as other filters would not reach the low water level. <I am only familiar with Eheim filters.  Have been using them for >20 years & still use the originals.> Thank you, and take your time with this, as I am in no rush to begin this future project. Thanks again. -Eddy <Yes, take your time to research different species--water requirements, adult sizes, etc.  Sounds like a fun project!  ~PP>

Making Brackish Water   1/26/06 Good Evening!! <<Good Evening to you too.>> Is it alright to use the same salt used in saltwater tanks, for brackish water tanks?   <<Not only is it alright, but it's the only way to make brackish water.  Lisa.>> Specific gravity for a Brackish Tank 4/06/05 <Pufferpunk again> That is an approx for a 20 Gallon tank - correct?? lol just making sure <I use a rough estimate of a cup of marine salt/5gallons, to raise the SG .005. You'll have to do some math & be sure to check with a hydrometer a couple of hours after mixing into tank. Premix into a bucket 1st, to dissolve. ~PP> 

Brackish system filtration 2 Michael:  <That's me! I think...> The Emperor 400 with the two bio-wheels is my only filter. <Should be ample for a 30 gallon brackish aquarium> It has been about one week since the ammonia spiked. The nitrIte and nitrAte spiked around the same time.  The ammonia then dropped below .25ppm and has remained there.  <Probably because the tank still has some nitrifying bacteria> The nitrAtes have remained below 10ppm except for one day late last week when it spike to 80ppm but it fell back below 10ppm within 24 hours. The nitrItes, however, have remained a constant immeasurable high. At the time I added the Puffers, I didn't realize that brackish water had it's own special brand of bacteria.  <Depends on the salinity> Because of this, I was expecting the cycle to remain stable as it had done in the past when I shuffled freshwater occupants to different tanks -- as in removing 7" worth fish from a tank and then adding 7" worth of different fish into the tank.  <However, you waited a month to do this - more than ample time for most of the bacteria to starve> I know better now. I have read that making frequent large water changes to save fish will not harm the biological filter. Is this not true?  <Removing wastes before the bacteria have a chance to process them is essentially starving them, thus interrupting the cycle> As far as lowering the salinity goes, I was told to do so for the Bio-Spira to work. I thought this would be okay since it was both advised and was such a small amount, only 002.  <To allow the freshwater bio-Spira to survive, lowering the salinity might have been necessary. However, it will still stress the inhabitants and the current population of nitrifying bacteria> Yes, it is nitrItes not nitrAtes.  <Odd!> I WISH it were the other way around. <So do I...> It was the nitrItes that soared when I added the Bio-Spira.  <Bio-Spira might only introduce the bacterial strains that convert ammonia to nitrITes. I will have to contact Marineland regarding this issue> There is no possibility of anything non-microscopic decaying in the tank.  I feed krill to my Puffers with tweezers and bloodworms with a turkey baster to ensure little waste and I don't overfeed. I make sure to net anything they miss (which is always nothing). All four puffers are accounted for. My only plants are the four Marimo Balls and they are in excellent condition. There have only been two Gobies and they were both moved to a temporary tank. That tank, by the way, is having the exact same problem as the Puffer tank. There is no undergravel filter. The only possible dead organic matter is a little algae on the fake driftwood. Yes, the nitrite spike is still occurring. Unfortunately, I can't move my Puffers to a different tank as I only have one other and it is having the same problem. I have not been cleaning the gravel or changing the filter media for the last two weeks.  I have been trying to give the bacteria a little peace. When I change out the water and the water level get to low for the filter to continue running, I turn it off and float the bio-wheels in the tank until I start refilling the tank with water. During cleaning and water changes is the only time anything connected to my tank is off. Okay. Let me see if I understand what you want me to do. I am not make anymore water changes at all.  <In order for your tank to cycle correctly, you will need to not interrupt the process> No matter how high the toxins get. Won't I end up losing my Puffers before the tank works its cycling problem out?  <Quite likely - pufferfish should not be subjected to the stress of a cycle.  If I were you, I would see if a friend or a LFS will hold them for you.  If not, move them to the other tank, and treat that tank with Amquel+ daily and use a Poly-Filter to keep down the ammonia\nitrite levels.  Fishless cycle your 30 gallon or put in a couple of feeder fish, and allow the cycle to run it's course.  It should cycle faster than ordinary due to the bacteria introduced by the bio Spira.  Monitor the water levels, and when you see 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and a nitrate spike, the tank is cycled.  Do a 25% water change and introduce your puffers then>   What if I make smaller water changes?  <Water changes of any type will affect / delay a successful cycle> I am also to clean my filter cartridges daily.  <Daily really isn't necessary during a cycle, you don't want to remove most of the waste and starve the bacteria> I thought the fibrous surface of the cartridges was a good place for the bacteria to develop.  <It is, but it's purpose in an aquarium is mechanical filtration, and it should strictly be treated it as such>  Don't worry about the bio-wheels, I don't clean those.  <Good> Please let me know if I understand your suggestions correctly and thanks for the help!  <No problems, good luck, and next time cycle your tank first!  M. Maddox>

New heater Hi, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I just got a new heater today for my 55 gallon brackish system.  It is submersible, and the old one was not.  I found a good place for it behind a log in the back of the tank, but then I had second thoughts about it.   <Sounds ok to me> I have a puffer who seems to be either very sensitive to changes in light, or is just very groggy when he wakes in the morning.  He is very awkward, bumping into everything and resting on the logs and  rocks for about 5-10 minutes every morning.   <Common behaviour> I have tried very gradual light changes, but it doesn't seem to help.  I am worried that he will clumsily bump into the heater or rest on it.  If he does, is it possible that he could burn himself?   <I don't think so, as long as there is a log between the heater & the fish.>   Is the best place for this heater on the glass where the old one was, out of the way, even though it is submersible?   <I'd be more concerned about a hot spot being created by the heater being "enclosed" by the log.  No water will be circulating across the heater.  It may damage it (I'm not really sure), you might want to ask the manufacturer. There are also heater protectors made for this reason, if you were to mount it back on the glass.  Some puffers burn themselves by laying against it, or even between the heater & glass.> Thanks very much for your advice, Dave <Your very welcome--Pufferpunk>

Brackish sump question (10/11/03) WWM Crew <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I currently have a 37 and a 29 which are both brackish and I and planning on putting the fish together. <Hopefully they're all compatible...> I am ordering a 120 All Glass this week and was wondering if I should get it drilled for the extra $45 and go with a wet dry sump system.   <I would.> I would use canister systems as I have now (and get the tank not drilled) but I would like something with more water flow and easier access to the media, not to mention my Fluvals have broken several times. <Yikes! Nasty stuff can build up in a canister filter when the power goes out, and then if the filter comes back on later, said nasty stuff can harm the fish in the tank -- it's a tale I've heard about a few times.> I want to build a sump myself and was wondering where I can find good plans with pictures on how to do this. I was thinking of a 20 gallon tank with acrylic dividers, but I'm not sure where to begin.   <More info here and the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diytksfaqs.htm -- and there are probably several links to pages with pix or plans for sumps. Also check out http://www.thekrib.com for more do-it-yourself sump ideas.> Any help would be appreciated. Thanks Jason PS-The following link is something I have been looking at.  Is it sufficient? http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2351772054&category=3212 <The design looks good to me -- though with a 120, you may want more volume than that one has (that's equivalent to a 15 gallon tank, and I usually hear 30-40% of display tank volume as being a good sump volume). Depending on the specific gravity you run your tank at, you might also experiment with a nitrate-exporting refugium. Look at marine refugia, and where they have live sand or live rock and Caulerpa or Chaetomorpha, substitute your planted tank substrate of choice and a Vallisneria species. Then again, if you run a tank with an s.g. above 1.015, you could probably try the Chaetomorpha. Do have fun with your new system! --Ananda>

Switching UGF/Powerhead set-up from Normal Flow to Reverse Flow Hello WWM Crew!   <Hi! Ananda here today with the brackish questions....> I have a UGF and a supplemental HOTB-type power filter in my sixty-five gallon light-brackish tank.  I have two powerheads on the UGF uplift tubes.  I thought about setting up the UGF with reverse-flow when I first started, but for some forgotten reason went with normal flow. The tank has been stable for the past month after cycling the month before.  It is now populated with two F8 puffers, one GSP, four mollies and two silver scats.   <Watch out for those puffers...they may decide to snack on the mollies' fins.> Tests indicate Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, pH 8.2, temp. 80 F., SG 1.004.   <Sounds good for now... the scats and GSP (green-spotted puffer) will want more salt as they get older.> Substrate is coarse gravel on bottom, medium-grade gravel on top of that, and a top layer of crushed coral.  Total depth of substrate is 3" in front sloping up to 4" in rear. <This is a bit deep for an undergravel filter. If you ever need to tear it down a bit, I'd remove some of the coarse gravel on the bottom.> I think switching the system to reverse-flow will improve the system by preventing UGF clogging and making gravel vacuuming easier, more productive. <Actually, you're more likely to get clogging because your powerheads cannot circulate the water at nearly the same rate when they're in reverse-flow mode. That leads to dead spots in the gravel bed, A Bad Thing in an undergravel filter system.> However, won't it cut down dramatically on H2O circulation? <Yup.> What effect would switching to reverse-flow have on the bio-filter? Would the tank re-cycle?  Or would the beneficial bacteria population remain practically unaffected? Or would it be a good thing, and why? <The bacteria will still be there, so you shouldn't see another cycle.> Thanks for your time!  65 <hah! I'd wondered if this was you... I didn't answer this one on the forums 'cause I don't have much personal experience with UGF systems. I consulted with Ronni on this one, since she's got experience with UGF filters, both regular and reverse flow. --Ananda> Canister filter on a brackish tank...with live rock? (Java ferns, revisited) Ananda, Thanks so much for the quick advice.   <No problem -- always happy to see someone else doing a brackish tank!> I forgot a couple of things about my  brackish tank, though.  Do you think I could similarly try running it with only a canister filter, or is the salt going to complicate the water too much? <I don't think the salt will have an effect on the canister filter; I've heard of people running them on saltwater systems without too much trouble...though they can build up some nitrates in those systems.> And I was reading the WWM brackish section, which says you can try live rock in brackish tanks.  Does this mean live rock from marine settings? <Yeah, it does, but I wouldn't try it in anything but a high-brackish/near-marine tank...the critters that make it live rock are unlikely to survive anything below 1.015, if they make it that far.> Thanks in advance. Andy B <You're welcome. Do check out our brackish forum on the WetWebFotos chat forums! --Ananda>

Re: wood for aquascaping First of all let me say I am very impressed not only with your site ( boy am I getting an education).   Second, thank you for tour incredibly quick reply to my last question about velvet.  It remains to be seen whether my fish (scat) will make it.  Without your advice the chances would have been zilch.   My question:   I need to provide more cover/structure for my fish to get out of each other's way (especially my Chromides).  I like the look of wood over rock.  However, the wood I am considering, labeled "Mopani wood", is indicated on the label to help soften the water.  My understanding from what I've gleaned from your articles & FAQ's is that brackish aquaria should be fairly hard water. ( I believe our local tap water is considered to be quite hard). <I would test it for hardness> "Wood" it be a mistake to use wood? <I believe so. Look to types of rock (carbonate, Tufa...) that impart alkaline earth materials (calcium, magnesium...), alkalinity to the water> Also, in an effort to increase pH slightly (was about 7.6 - trying to get to 8.0 or so) I have started using baking soda (I'm cheap).  However some of the commercially available products apparently use a variety of bicarbonate salts and claim this is superior.  Is there a problem with adding only the sodium bicarb? <No problem other than it will only raise pH to about 7.8> Thanks a bunch (still crossing my fingers on the scat - he doesn't look too well at the moment) <Hang in there. Bob Fenner> Andreas

Brackish 55 Hello, Dr. Bob <Anthony Calfo in your service> I'm writing you from Alberta, Canada where it is difficult to get any info on Brackish or Marine systems. My problem/question is regarding my 55 gallon brackish tank (Specific gravity ~1.010). I currently have 4 scats (2 silver, 1 green, 1 red tiger)(1.5 - 2 in), 1 spotted puffer (1in) and 2 Monos (1in) as you probably know they are all very messy creatures, and I will be adding more fish (bubble bee gobies, archers, more Monos..)  <I have to say that you already have enough/too much fish for a 55 if you are going to be considerate of their adult sizes. Furthermore.. the smaller gobies will be eaten in time by any number of the aforementioned fishes> They are raising the nitrates to very high levels in a matter of days, with very little to no excess food (frozen blood worms, frozen brine shrimp, algae tablets).  <overfeeding doesn't always mean left over food. They may simply be eating and passing more food than they need (or in this case if they are larger... then there are already too many fish). Still... the nitrogen is the same in the end whether is passes through the fish or not> The tank is fully cycled. I have a penguin 330 filter with BioWheels (330 GPH), and a quick filter (~170GPH). I've been researching different methods of filtration, in search or a better way to keep nitrates down, and the Miracle Mud is looking very good (except for the $$$).  <I would favor water changes and better filtration by far over anything marketed as "miracle" anything> I will eventually make this tank or another larger one full marine, due to the fact that the scats and Monos require full marine as adults, plus I would like to have corals.  <which are not compatible with at least the scats> What you recommend for a good filtration system that can handle brackish and marine? If you have any suggestions for this tank or a future marine tank it would be much appreciated? Thank you. <the nitrates are going to continue to be a problem for many reasons... however, better filtration will be obtained from a wet/dry filter while the tank is brackish and from live rock and deep fine live sand once the tank goes marine. Best regards, Anthony>

Brackish Question Dear Mr. Fenner, I'd like to start by complimenting you on your book, "The Conscientious Aquarist". It is my favorite pertaining to marine systems. When I wanted to take the leap from fresh water to a marine system, your book came highly recommended as a starting point. I have had no major difficulty (yet) with my marine system, but over time I find myself rereading sections as I have questions. <The joy and luxury of book-length manuscripts> The question I have, pertains to my brackish tank. My tap water here in Phoenix has a pH of 7.8 and I add Jungle Laboratories Aquarium Salt to bring the salinity up to about 1.003, so that both my Spotted and Figure 8 Puffer fish and my Loaches will be able to coexist (when I get a larger fresh water tank I will transfer the loaches: a skunk and a yo-yo, to that tank). My problem is that when I add the salt, the pH jumps to 8.2. <You might try simple sodium chloride, even table salt, but kosher, ice-cream salts will get you around the iodide added if that bothers you... and won't elevate pH> I only recently decided to check the pH, because my Loaches were getting slow and I had run out of ideas as to why. This is where I learned that it was the salt that was bringing the pH up. Should I switch to R.O./D.I. water or a mixture of R.O./D.I. and tap and add the aquarium salt?  <If you'd like... but I would try the solution mentioned above... Your livestock need the mineral content that R.O and/or Deionization of the tap would remove> I am concerned that the salt in such a low concentration wouldn't have enough of the minerals the fish need.  <Ah! You are correct> Or should I use the tap water and Instant Ocean?  <A good choice... but will also elevate pH slightly> I have experimented with putting a little Aquarium Pharmaceuticals' 7.0 buffer to bring the pH down to 7.8 and the Loaches are much happier, but I am concerned that without dumping a bunch of the buffer in, it will wear-off shortly and the pH will jump right back up and the fluctuations will irritate the fish even more (the puffers don't seem to care one way or another).  <Again... you might have taught chemistry?> Another possibility could be to use the tap water and Aquarium Salt as I have been doing and use some 7.8 buffer (if there is such a thing), but this is starting to get to be more of a cocktail than may be sensible. <Agreed> I have a cheap outlet for R.O./D.I. water which I use in the marine aquarium, so I usually have some on hand and I also have plenty of Instant Ocean around, and I buy the Aquarium Salt specifically for the brackish tank and my stepdaughter's goldfish. Knowing what I have around, would you have any suggestions for creating the best water for my brackish fish? <The protocols you mention are worth investigating... I would likely just add a source of sodium chloride (maybe to a slightly higher spg of about 1.005, and leave it at that. Bob Fenner> Thanks much, Joe Scioscia

Cheap skimmer in brackish water. Hi Bob, I have never seen such a collection of information on skimmers in one place. Maybe you can answer a couple of questions for me. <I'll try> 1. I am looking to build a marine tank in a couple of years but currently I have a tropical and brackish water tank. I have heard that protein skimmers can be used with fresh or salt water (use with full marine being the most efficient).  <Yes, all so> I have purchased a (simple) Sander protein skimmer, and have placed it in my brackish tank with the aim of learning the use and benefits of such. One of the items that struck was the fact that the protein skimmer works on the ability of the bubbles to hole their shape relevant to the amount of sal dissolved in the water, do you foresee me having an problems operating the skimmer with 10ppm or less(1.006SG) or using it with fresh water? <Mmm, some... as you state, all-marine systems are easier to skim... and the simpler Sanders units (they make much larger, more sophisticated units) don't "foam much"... BTW, Sanders even has "Pond Foam Fractionators" that employ low partial pressure on the collectant side (a partial vacuum) to hasten collection of foam... and there are chemicals that can (I would not) be added to the system water to enhance collection...> 2. When I set up the skimmer the bubbles where adjusted to about an inch from the top of the spill for the cup, initially I set the bubbles to burst at the top (large bubbles) but found all I was getting was slightly yellow water. Do you have any tips re: low/no salt usage for aquaria? <This is likely about all the good this unit can/will do you in the brackish application... still worthwhile...> 3. The skimmer has a wooden air stone, how often should I replace it and where may I get spares? <Need to experiment a bit in your setting... but likely about once a month... try blowing through it (lung power!)... if it's hard for you, it's hard for your pump... replace it. Oh, and I'd order the replacement wood diffusers through an e-tailer that specializes/offers the Sanders line (Quality Marine is their major importer in the U.S.> my set up is as follows: Brackish tank 24x12x12. UGF with powerhead. specific gravity fluctuates between 1.000 and 1.010 tank has been cycled and is stable, 6 months old, setup with spare aged bio filter from tropical tank. population: 2 x figure eight puffer fish 1.5 inches each. 2 x shark catfish 1 of 4 inch and one of 5 inch 2 x red Chromide 2.5 inch each 1 x gibbiceps pleco 6 inch 1 x Bristlenose pleco 3 inch 1 x bumble bee goby 1 inch <Sounds nice. Am working on brackish writing (more on plants today) the next few weeks. Bob Fenner> Alex 

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