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FAQs on Reef System Operation/Maintenance 27

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Related FAQs: Reef Maintenance 1, Reef Maintenance 2, Reef Maintenance 3, Reef Maintenance 4, Reef Maintenance 5, Reef Maintenance 6, Reef Maintenance 7, Reef Op. 8, Reef Op. 9, Reef Op. 10, Reef Op. 11, Reef Op. 12, Reef Op. 13, Reef Op. 14, Reef Op. 15, Reef Op. 16, Reef Op. 17, Reef Op. 18, Reef Op. 19, Reef Op 20, Reef Op. 21, Reef Op. 22, Reef Op. 23, Reef Op. 24, Reef Op. 25, Reef Op. 26, & Marine Maintenance, Reef Systems 1, Reef Systems 2, Reef Set-Up 1, Reef Set-Up 2, Reef Set-Up 3, Reef Set-Up 4, Reef Set-Up 5, Reef Set-Up 6, Reef Tanks, Reef Lighting, Reef Lighting 2, Reef Filtration, & Reef Livestocking, Reef Livestocking 2, Reef Feeding,

Small Marine Aquariums
Book 1:
Invertebrates, Algae
New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
ook 2:

New Print and eBook on Amazon: by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Small Marine Aquariums
Book 3:

New Print and eBook on Amazon:
by Robert (Bob) Fenner

General Maintenance of SPS Tank       4/23/15
Dear WWM Crew,
Thanks for all the help you've provided me with in the past few months (Bob); I suspect my corals and critters would tell you they are very grateful for it if they could talk.
<You're all welcome>
My tank appears to be in a reasonable state and the various corals I have all show some signs of growth, although I suspect there is certainly room for improvement. I was thus wondering if I could ask some questions relating to general/long term maintenance of my tank, to see what I can do better.
First, a summary of tank conditions:
Main tank is 240L (60gal) containing 25L of LR (measured by displacement) and an SSB; with upstream refugium of 80L (20gal) containing a 4in DSB. It has been running for about 7 months since I moved it from its previous home. Tank is inhabited by a number of "SPS" colonies and a Diploastrea, along with 6 Lysmata spp. shrimp (keeping an eye on them) and a Centropyge acanthops (it seems to be settling in fine, is not nibbling my corals at present but will also keep an eye on
it), as well as some grazing and scavenging snails. I have large populations of filter-feeders (including many sponges/tunicates, mysids and feather-dusters) which are still increasing and particularly so in the refugium, as well as large populations of at least 15 different species of macroalgae. I do try to keep the latter trimmed but I think it is nonetheless a bit out of control since I have great difficulty removing enough to expose the LR and stop it touching my corals. That said, I do not have any BGA and my last Dinoflagellate outbreak was 4 months ago.
Flow is provided by three powerheads and a return pump servicing the refugium, main tank flow rate in excess of 12000l/hr and as "homogeneously chaotic" as I can make it, refugium turnover is 1500l/hr with an additional 2000l/hr powerhead to improve flow over the DSB.
Lighting is provided by a DIY LED system strong enough to grow Acropora. Nutrient export is provided by a Tunze 9006 skimmer, which I assume is within capacity as it does not skim all day (pattern is indeed diurnal but perturbed by what time I actually put food in) and produces no more than 150ml of dark skimmate per week; I do not use any chemical removers. I dose calcium and alkalinity using a 2-part method with an auto-doser (I also add NaCl-free salt) and on average change 7-15% of the water per week. Water parameters are: Ca 400-430mg/l; Alk 7-10dkH (2.5-3mmol/l); Mg 1300mg/l; NO3 always less than 0.2mg/l, often undetectable; PO4 never more than 0.05mg/l (yes, I'll say it for you: "chemo/photo-synthates need measurable levels of both" :) ),
<Heeeee! Good>

I don't have a DOC test, but there is a certain smell to the water and it definitely has a slight yellow tint, so I guess there must be some present. I feed a home-made ration to my tank, which I grind in a pestle and mortar after thawing. It is hard to say how much I actually put in there, but the water is on average noticeably turbid with food for about 0.5-1 hours a day.
Hopefully that's enough info!
I guess most of my head-scratching relates to the fact that I am concerned my poor corals still don't seem to be getting enough food, but yet, I want to balance this with not over-polluting my tank and suppressing the macroalgae a bit more (if this is possible). I have managed to get the answers to most of my questions from various places separately, but many of the systems referred to are quite different from mine (particularly with a low fish-load) and I must say I am having difficulty putting all the answers together to come up with a coherent maintenance strategy. Might you be able to help me with the following questions?
<I'll try>
1) First off, do you think I need to increase the amount of food I put in? If so, should I feed more frequently or is once daily enough?
<I'd try doubling the food by feeding the same amount twice a day>

I know increased frequency is generally recommended (although perhaps for fish more than corals), but might my corals not get their share if the food is too dilute/doesn't hang around long enough because of the other competition for food?
<Possibly... do you ever look... see if they're open/ing during the night? I'd delay the second feeding to when tentacles are open>
I occasionally try to target-feed, but only my Diploastrea really appreciates it and my Acroporas in particular seem to hate the combination of high-density food and low flow.
2) Is it worth thinning the populations of filter feeders manually (for example, easy targets would be the feather-dusters and visible sponges on the glass and rocks)?
<I would not thin here>
Alternatively, I actually have a few predatory organisms (e.g. Seastars) in the refugium that are consuming some of them (particularly the sponges): I currently get rid of the predators when I see them, but should I keep them instead and allow them to act as a more natural control mechanism?
<Yes; this is what I'd do>
Or would it in fact be better to nurture my filter feeders as much as possible to act as competition for the macroalgae and provide zooplankton?
<Mmm; as above>
3) On the subject of predation, I've also recently had an explosion of Vayssierea felis eating my significant Spirorbid population (I thought they looked cool and attached a couple of pictures;
<Very nice>
I managed to ID them because of their specialised diet). Are they likely to pose a risk to my tank when the population crashes in the near future due to lack of food?
<Not at all likely a problem>
4) I have considered reverse-lighting my refugium to see if I can get the algae to grow in there rather than the main tank but if I do this, will I lose the sponges, tunicates and other organisms living on the sand, rock and glass because of exposure to light?
<You will not lose them; and I would utilize RDP there>
If I do set it up, would it be worth buying in a specific alga for this purpose (e.g. Gracilaria) or should I simply leave the LR to grow whatever algae that comes in from the main tank?
<The latter>
5) Are there any relatively reef-safe grazers that would be able to tackle some of my macroalgae for me?
<Mmm; yes... though one or any might go further than you'd like. I'd try either a Salarias, Atrosalarias sp. blenny, or a Ctenochaetus tang>
I had thought my dwarf angel would do this, but I guess it doesn't eat enough to make a noticeable dent in the population. None of the smaller grazing organisms and fishes I've come across as part of CUC crews seem to consume enough macroalgae to be worthwhile or be "safe" with sessile inverts, and I guess my tank is far too small for any of the larger herbivorous grazers, such as tangs, for example. I suspect the answer is going to be no, and *I* have to do the grazing ("the time-honoured routine", as you say), but I'm being lazy and just wanted to make sure.
6) I know you already said in a previous query that raised DOCs are not likely to be harmful to my corals, particularly as both NO3 and PO4 are low, but would it still be worth trying to lower them a bit in terms of slowing algae growth?
<Not IMO/E>
I have considered using small amounts of carbon regularly, but would it contribute to my coral starvation?
<Not likely; no>
What about ozone: is my tank and bioload too small to consider using it?
<O3 is always worth considering using. ALL systems of "enough" worth (money, emotion) can/will benefit>
I was considering getting an ORP meter anyway, but then again, given that things seem to be okay, I wasn't sure I would actually benefit from monitoring RedOx.
<The more data the better>
7) I did tell myself I only wanted one fish (which I have now), but would a couple more help in terms of waste production, or is the extra pollution/risk of disease not worth it?
<I would add more; as stated above for grazer/s, and some others to add color, motion to your system, provide foods via wastes...>
I have no quarantine system, and appear to have gotten away with it for my Centropyge, so I guess more fishes might be tempting fate anyway. What about more LR; would this help, or can you have too much of it (given my low nutrient situation)?
<Add more LR in yearly, half yearly increments, but just a few pounds to augment diversity, solubility>
And finally, a slightly different maintenance question:
8) I have estimated my total tank consumption of calcium and alkalinity to average at 0.25mmol/l/d of CaCO3 equivalent (which is 10mg/l/d Ca and 1.5dKH/l/d Alk; for the whole tank, this corresponds to about 5.5g/d of Kalk) I have considered getting a Kalkwasser reactor/doser because I really can't dose this much manually (and is the reason why switched back to two-part - too much work right now),
<I vastly prefer the two part over Kalk, and calcium et al related reactors to all>
but I was also looking at calcium reactors and wonder if it might be a better investment in the long run,
<Oh! Tis>
particularly as after the initial set-up, they seem to be much less work. Do you think my consumption rate is high enough for it to be worth considering such a large investment/ongoing maintenance?
<Up to you... but I would get a large enough unit to service your next (bigger) system>
If not, in your experience, at what consumption rate would you start to consider such a calcium reactor worthwhile (if you can say such a thing)?
<Again; to and for me more a matter of "value" the aquarist puts into their experience>
I understand the basic principles of how calcium reactors work and the pitfalls associated with them, but can't work out if it would be worth it in my case: my system is small but I do have noticeable consumption.
Thanks for your help, and your time.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>


Re: General Maintenance of SPS Tank       4/23/15
Dear Bob,
<Big W>
> Thanks for all the help you've provided me with in the past few months
> (Bob); I suspect my corals and critters would tell you they are very
> grateful for it if they could talk.
> <You're all welcome>
Thanks for the fast and helpful reply as before. I've sent over a small token of my appreciation by PayPal.
> 1) First off, do you think I need to increase the amount of food I put
> in? If so, should I feed more frequently or is once daily enough?
> <I'd try doubling the food by feeding the same amount twice a day>
> I know
> increased frequency is generally recommended (although perhaps for fish
> more than corals), but might my corals not get their share if the food
> is too dilute/doesn't hang around long enough because of the other
> competition for food?
> <Possibly... do you ever look... see if they're open/ing during the
> night?
> I'd delay the second feeding to when tentacles are open>
It's half and half. Some of them definitely are more expanded at night (after 1hr lights-off), but others tend to be almost completely retracted. I think the feeding responses also vary between different corals,
<Oh yes; and change>
for example, my Acroporas often retract the polyps (for whatever reason) and extrude mesenteric filaments, while my Pocillopora has very sticky polyps that do grab things and no such filaments. I guess as you imply, I'll have to figure out the best regimen to maximise responses in all of them.
> 4) I have considered reverse-lighting my refugium to see if I can get
> the algae to grow in there rather than the main tank but if I do this,
> will I lose the sponges, tunicates and other organisms living on the
> sand, rock and glass because of exposure to light?
> <You will not lose them; and I would utilize RDP there>
> If I do set it up,
> would it be worth buying in a specific alga for this purpose (e.g.
> Gracilaria) or should I simply leave the LR to grow whatever algae that
> comes in from the main tank?
> <The latter>
Excellent. Will give it a shot.
> 5) Are there any relatively reef-safe grazers that would be able to
> tackle some of my macroalgae for me?
> <Mmm; yes... though one or any might go further than you'd like. I'd
> try
> either a Salarias, Atrosalarias sp. blenny, or a Ctenochaetus tang>
> 7) I did tell myself I only wanted one fish (which I have now), but >
would a couple more help in terms of waste production, or is the extra
> pollution/risk of disease not worth it?
> <I would add more; as stated above for grazer/s, and some others to add
> color, motion to your system, provide foods via wastes...>
Oooh. I must admit, I wasn't expecting you to suggest any species in particular (or for that matter, more fish - you're usually saying the opposite!): it's quite exciting. I'd not considered Ctenochaetus because I was concerned the tank just wasn't going to be roomy enough for a full-size individual, but do you think it could work?
<... yes>
As for the blennies, your article mentions that they particularly like filamentous algae, and "These fishes are algae eaters par excellence, but not all algae... Often, with aging of a captive system, there will be a shift in the make-up of micro- and macro-life that predominates... and a valuable lesson for observant aquarists in the loss of fodder for such grazers as
these blennies". I was concerned that although I do have some hair algae on the glass, most of the rock is already colonised with macroalgae, so there might just not be enough edible algae around for it (most of it is some branching Rhodophyte and next most common is a couple of species of Caulerpa; I don't know if the blenny will eat such things). That said, now you have brought it up, I'll go off to do some more reading/research!
> 8) ... Do you think my consumption rate is high enough for it to be
> worth considering such a large investment/ongoing maintenance?
> <Up to you... but I would get a large enough unit to service your next
> (bigger) system>
Ahahaha. My "next (bigger) system". That made me LAUGH! Oh dear. I think I could do it. What do I tell the family when I turn up with my new tank? "It's not my fault: Bob Fenner made me do it." :P .
<Am glad to be this "excuse">

PWC QUESTION... NO3 in reef maint.       11/5/13
Hello sir,
I have a 210 gallon reef with 29 gallon refugium connected to a 20 gallon sump. The tank is 1.5 years old. I recently had a nitrate spike due to a cleaning " overdue" from the canister filter (Fluval FX5). The reading was almost blood red! Since then I did away with the canister and changed water of 70 gallons each weekend (twice) and now the reading is 40.
<Mmm, ppm... even as Nitrogen as Nitrate, not a problem...>
Is it OK for me to do a 100 gallon water change this week or this is way too much stress on the corals?
<I myself would hold off for now on changing (more) water... the NO3 will likely "go down" on its own a bit here. I would have you read on WWM re other methods, avenues of metabolite control:
and the linked files above>
 I would like to get the nitrate to
about 5 as it has been in the past. I only have easy to keep corals such as GSP, mushrooms, xenia, pipe organ, zoos... Thank you for your reply.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Dry rock question
Now Temperature, ideally     10/25/13

Hello Mr. F.
How are you?
<Fine; thank you>
One question about temperature: ( I would have changed the subject of this email but this new yahoo mail is so strange .. ) on my 250 g SPS reef tank what should be the ideal temperature?
I have installed the refugium in the basement where is cold, so I put some heaters inside, then on the return line there is a chiller connected.

 If I setup the chiller for 26 degrees ( 78.8 F) on my Apex I see that in the mid sump where the sensor is I got 27 degrees and pretty much stays there. And during night goes to 26.3. That ( the 27 ) seemed high for me so I tried setting up the chiller to 25 degrees, so I got 26.4 when the MH are on and 25.4 during night. Is this ok? Which situation is better?
<The first; 27 C is likely fine... for whatever mix of life you have... the diurnal change (fluctuation) in temperature is better kept to the smaller range>
Should I install the heaters in the mid sump located upstairs under the DT?
<I wouldn't >
thank you very much, your advice is always appreciated.
<Cheers, BobF>

Algae Problem on SPS tank     9/30/13
Hello again Crew
<Big K>
After a lot of searching at WWM I can not find something similar so I am sending you over some photos and info.
This is a 120 lt display tank for SPS only.
TMC V2 skim 500
No sub
External filter with Boyd enterprises Chemi pure elite (carbon-antiphosphate)and API's biostars.
120 Watt Led module (Chinese type :):) ), half white half blue and 2 x T8
20K Kelvin lamps.
<I'd have/use lower K... rationale gone over and over on WWM. Too blue, not useful expenditure of energy, money, time on power relative to 8700, to 12k... And not attractive to me>
6000 litres flow by 3 Tunze Turbelles
Ph: 8,1-8,3
NH3-NH4 : 0
NO2 : 0
NO3 : 0
PO4 : 0
<... "Corals" need some/measurable nitrate, phosphate... will be starved w/o... not good>
Measured with Hanna's photometers
1026 SG
<Missing a decimal point>
I am using AquaVitro Salt and Red Sea's Color program A,B,C,D daily.
I dose with Fauna Marin KH , Ca , Mg
KH: 9
Ca: 440
Mg: 1300
Dosing daily (and many times per day) with marine magic triple doser.
What type of algae is this??
<? Is what? An algae, culture? See WWM re the use of for nutritional reasons... Oh, I see your comments below. No pic attached>
I remove it manually at the day of water change , every 3 weeks , but it comes back some days later.
<Oh, need pix... microscopic>
What should I check and how can I prevent it??
I used to feed with live phyto and frozen zoo (TMC Gamma Nutra Plus) but stopped it 2 weeks ago with last water change in case that was the problem.
Forgot to mention that only a Pseudocheilinus hexataenia and a Salarias fasciatus are living in there.
Thanks in advance
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

RE: Algae Problem on SPS tank     9/30/13
Hello Mr. Bob
Thank you for your fast reply.
<Welcome: Kalós orísate>
I would agree with you about lighting but as a display tank , it looks better for the customers.
<Ah, to each their own... am more in favour of what the customers are likely to have; what is more functional>
Yes I know about PO4 and NO3 that was why I kept feeding zoo every other day , but I stopped it... told you why. I will start doing this again as soon as I solve this problem.
<Real good. Can be provided exogenously as "raw" chemicals... if foods themselves are problematic. I would add some fishes to this system... Ctenochaetus, Zebrasoma, Perhaps a Naso tang... Maybe some blennies... of the genera Salarias, Atrosalarias>
Here are the pictures , sorry for that
Expecting your reply anxiously
<Not too much so I hope/trust>
Best regards
<Kai, B>
RE: Algae Problem on SPS tank     9/30/13

Hello Mr. Bob
<Msieu Z>
Ahhaha nice try to speak Greek. Let me help you on that. Kalos orisate is more like "Welcome to my house" , Welcome as a reply to Thank you is " Parakalo" :):)
<Ah yes. Don't know if I related to you... my first wife was of Greek parents... Helena Marta Kostanopoulos>
I tried to add fishes like Fox Face , Ctenochaetus strigosus , but was too much flow for them , so they couldn't even swim easily and they are going to die if I didn't remove them. I was shutting down the Turbelles at the time of feeding but only for a couple of minutes until everyone ate.
So what you believe about the algae on the photo , sorry but not microscopic view!! Do you think that you can make a suggest based on these pics??
<Some sort of filamentous green... >
More anxiously than you hope for sure. It is the 3rd time this happens and almost kill the corals. The algae is so much higher than the frags. The first 2 times I thought it was nitrate and phosphate or even red sea's coral program but now I do not know what to say. Now I am hoping in your suggestion
Best regards
<The blennies I mentioned... they can take the current. BobF>
RE: Algae Problem on SPS tank     9/30/13

Hello Mr. Bob
That is nice. The "poulos" ending on the surname means that her family comes form the same "state" - place . Pelloponisos as my family does !! ;)
<I see>
Thank you for your help , I will check on WWM for filamentous green
.     9/30/13
<Ah, good>
Best regards
<And you, B>

Sudden water cloudiness - allelopathy or something simpler? Mmm, Reef maint., cloudiness troubleshooting f's   6/19/2013
Hi to the WWM crew,
I am in need of a little guidance on a new issue (cloudy water) that has arisen very suddenly/"out of the blue" (pun intended). Tank is a 75g with 20g sump, temp is steady around 81, parameters on NH4, NO2, NO3 are 0,0 and 20ppm respectively. In the sump, just running a Reef Octopus NWB150 skimmer as well as a simple HOB filter with Chemipure Elite (basically just
activated carbon with a bit of GFO mixed in).
<Mmmm, am not a fan of much "rust" use... Do you really have an HPO4 issue?
I'd pull this for now... it may well be that the cloudiness issue is indirectly related to a lack of phosphate, over-abundance of Fe here>

The tank looked great up until yesterday. Had previously been battling some GHA
<Green Hair Algae for browsers>
 but finally defeated it several weeks ago; haven't seen a hair of algae since then. Water was crystal clear, good parameters, all livestock looking healthy, etc. Actually, all livestock still looks just as healthy, and the parameters are still good. It is just cloudy water (almost foggy, but I can still see from side to side and front to back pretty well).
<Mmm; me no like>
On Monday, we had a scheduled power outage for electric company maintenance (from 10-2pm PST). There were no issues with overflow of the sump, etc. (I planned for that situation carefully). However, I found out when I got home from work Monday night at around 7:30 PST, I noticed that the return pump had failed to start back up. So, no water was leaving the sump, and no water was draining from the DT for about 9 1/2 hours. But, the HOB filter and skimmer were still running in the sump. I removed the (seemingly bad) return pump, and later that night, tried plugging it in again just to see what would happen. It came back to life, so I put it back in the sump, connected the return and let it go. Water in DT was still clear at this point.
<Okay; with you so far>
Last night (Tuesday), I got home around 6:00 PM PST and the water was cloudy in the tank. Did a 15% water change, but no noticeable improvement in cloudiness. Besides the power outage event, the only recent change (added Sunday) was the addition of a Kenya tree coral. I can only figure three possible reasons for the cloudy water, but cannot pinpoint which direction I should be looking. Here are the suspects, from what I can ascertain:
1) allelopathy being caused by the Kenya tree - although I know they are capable of emitting toxin, I doubt it's got enough power to cloud up an entire 75g tank.
<Oh no; by releasing enough materials, disturbing other life... it could, can cloud up much, MUCH larger volumes>

And, it is all by itself on the left side of the display. On the right side, there are a few Zoa frags and a three-head hammer coral. The hammer might be considered an enemy, but I doubt the Kenya would be aware of its presence from opposite sides of the tank.
<Does "know" of this Euphylliids presence; and the Zoanthids... Does the water have a smell to it? Vaguely of turpentine?>
2) bacterial bloom - a common cause for cloudiness, but can't think of any reason this would have happened/be caused by a power outage and return pump failure for less than 10 hours.
3) maybe the HOB filter containing the Chemipure Elite dried out during the power outage, and when turned back on, any particulates/dust/etc. in there got washed out into the sump, and then pushed to the display tank when the return pump was restored to service?
<Doubtful; but could be that microbes living in/on the media triggered this event as well>
Would appreciate any thoughts/suggestions here.
Thanks much,
<Well... when/where in doubt: Water Changes! And I'd pull the GFO for now; make sure there is always some measurable [HPO4] present... necessary for all chemosynthate life. Bob Fenner>

Re: Tang ID / Coral ID & Advice... Reef sys. self-made issues      5/31/13
Thank you (as always) for sharing your wealth of knowledge. My delayed response was to do <due, homonym> <to> some additional reading, observing, and correcting. I would like to follow up with you now rather than have additional regrets later.
As for the Sinularia, we have paid attention to your concerns / identification of Zoanthid life I had mistaken as polyps. We separated the mushrooms from the other colonies by breaking up a few of the rocks and moved in the tank to allow spacing.
We have no traceable amounts of either nitrate or phosphate as per the test kit.
<... need these>
 It is salient to note the use of
ferric oxide granules to remove large amounts of phosphate (2.0 ppm mg/l) about a month ago. I used in for 2 days and promptly removed when phosphates reached zero. At that point, I have been diligent to rinse food, etc. Is there anything else we should do to hasten these animals back to health?
<The usual iodide-ate double dose and administration of a simple/hexose sugar>
We do have a variety of additional stinging cell animals, including two tube anemones.
<... Not compatible. See WWM re... trouble>
One moved this morning to where it was touching a toadstool leather (Sarcophyton sp) and left it with a great deal of yellowish tissue.
<!? Burned>

Of course, I moved it to another location and fed it some zooplankton in the hopes of making him happy with his location.
<... these Ceriantharians need to be elsewhere; now>
My calcium seems consistently high (480) using the titration test kit.
<Perhaps too high... out of balance/ratio w/ [Mg]>

Finally, the Zebrasoma has been acting a bit 'out of sorts' and a lateral line seems to be more visible (on both sides) than previously.
<Suffering from the ill effects of warring, allelopathy twixt the Cnidarians, perhaps the water quality...>

By out of sorts, his breathing seems more labored than usual and he is spending increased time "sulking" near the bottom. No other physical presentation is evident. Your site indicates nutrition or water quality as a likely culprit; however, he feeds well omnivorously and water parameters are still "good." 0,0,0 Ammo, Nitrite, Nitrate, respectively.
<... sigh... your autotrophs/photosynthates... "corals" need soluble/measurable NO3.. HPO4.>
I am running carbon in both (2 out of 2) overflow sock filters due to the possible coral battles, aforementioned.
Appreciate, as always, any thoughts you may have.
<You need to read, understand, correct the deficiencies noted here, ASAPractical. Bob Fenner>

Recovering a Fish Tank, reef maint. f'     9/8/12
Hello all,
I have a question today that addresses the recovery of a reef tank.  It's fairly general and I didn't see anything specific to this in your FAQs.
I've recently found myself in the possession of what was once a reef tank.
It has been neglected for so long that I'm not really sure where to begin.
Here's what I've got:
Inhabitants:  1 false percula clownfish, 1 red-legged hermit, some yellow polyps which are shrunken and dying and some mushroom polyps which are shrunken and dying.
Tank:  55 gallon long.  Once had a canister filter but apparently that broke, so it has a hang on the back filter.  Also uses a CPR BakPak skimmer.
Parameters:  Salinity - high off top of any measuring tool I've used, pH - 8.0, Calcium - high off the charts using two testing kits, Nitrates - 0ppm, Phosphates - 0 ppm (these are the only tests that I've run so far)
<Mmm, I'd be reading on WWM re NO3 and H/PO4 if you intend to keep photosynthates>
The tank is totally overgrown with bubble and hair algae, my guess is because it simply hasn't been tended to for so long. 
<Could well be>
So here's my plan.
Rather than try to adjust this tank with chemicals, my plan is to do a 50% water change using high quality salt and add Super Buffer dKH per instructions.
<Mmm, well, IF this were a service account... I'd just go ahead and break it down completely and start over... The partial approach could take months to get you where you're wanting to go>
 I then plan to do daily 10% water changes to try to bring the levels of this tank back into something manageable, again using appropriate levels of buffer.  I plan to continue testing the tank with the tests above, plus adding iodine, strontium/molybdenum, and magnesium tests.
My question for you all is -- does this seem like a reasonable plan to try to recover this tank?
<Is one way>
 Are simple water changes with high quality salt enough to rebalance this tank? 
<Not likely; no... at least not in any short period of time; but a safe/r method, and one that will highly likely prove to be educational for you>
I'd love to see the corals come back and eventually add some macro algae and other softies.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

Marine Tank Questions/Marine Set Up, more gen. reef op.  8/26/12
Mr. Fenner,
<James with you today Justin>
It has been a long time since I wrote in but I have recently changed up quite a bit in my system and wanted to check in. First off, as is my usual prologue to questioning in order to butter you up for a positive response to questions  you have answered too many times ;) ;
<Beer is a good butter upper. :-)>

thank you all for everything you do, and the breadth of information you make freely available to us all.
 It is selfless and incredibly helpful for us less informed to the intricacies of marine habitation.
For a couple of years I have had a 50 gallon tank pretty much filled up.
I had a canister filter... ugh... and too small of  a tank to safely, or humanely rather, put in most of the fish or variety of corals I would really like to. Hence the recent upgrade. About 3 months ago I purchased a 90 Gallon, overflow tank with sump/refugium set up. The new tank went where the old tank was, so I drained the old tank, took out all the rock, moved it 10 feet to its temporary home, and put everything back in. After three months of it being in the middle of the living room, the wife is more than ready for it to leave.
<Mmm, are you telling me the new tank has to be moved again?  Ewww.>
I put in a few large pieces of live rock, and a clean up crew in the new tank and let it go until early this week. It had a full cycle, diatom bloom and die off. After the parameters all returned to appropriate levels + a week more, I moved everything over. The question I have is about the new setup, what if anything should I do differently, and how you feel about the setup.
It is a 90 gallon, 2 large Koralia 2 power heads, and 1 small power head just to change up currents. It is an overflow system that falls through a sock, with an Octopus sump protein skimmer, housed in a 29 gallon sump/refugium.
<A good skimmer choice.>
Misc. other items, such as heater, auto top off pump, etc.... First question would actually be regarding the auto top off, it uses about a gallon per day. Everything I read states this is normal but just confirming.
<I use darn near that in a 65, not unusual but I have an open top, no glass lid.  Fish have to be carefully chosen to avoid placing known jumpers in the system.>
 I am aware that it is too difficult to answer this question intelligently due to humidity, lighting heat, surface area, splash, etc.... just want a feeling.
<As above.>
I have T5 HO lighting.
(2) 48" - 12,000K 54W Sun Wave Bulbs
(3) 36" - 39W Super Blue
Actinic 460 Bulbs
(1) 36" - 39W Super Violet
(1) O3 Actinic 420 Bulb
<I would have chose four 14K lamps and leave the remainder the same which still leaves you
with 3 lamps in the 420-460nm range.  Blue lighting has a lower intensity (PAR) than white lighting so you are lowering the PAR/PUR ratio for little benefit.>
Probably Close to 200 Lbs of live rock, half of which is now from old tank that was performing optimally. I have stony and soft corals from the old tank and am wondering if I am limited at all by lighting for any potential corals/mushrooms, for the new tank.
<As with most systems, corals requiring lower light levels should be placed on the bottom and gradiently work up with
more light demanding corals.>
In the old tank I have gotten into the very fun hobby of coral fragging. I especially enjoy the Zoanthids, and stony (common name here I know) Bird's nest. It is amazing how fast the stony coral really grows, and I usually have 4-5 frags a month I bring in to the LFS and trade for another piece of rock, or maybe a cool new coral.
<A good trade off.>
I supplement the tank with iodine, calcium, alk, etc.
<Does the etc. include magnesium?>
The fish are all fed with a frozen food, Rod's food (maybe local I believe so you may not have heard of it), it is a blend of Mysis and brine shrimp, some algae, and other healthy products.
<I've heard many good reports on Rod's Food.>
I just break off a little chunk and set it in some tank water, then pour it in when it thaws out nicely. The fish love it, they almost turn up their noses when I am in a hurry and feed them flakes now. (Spoiled!)
Final question, which is actually two. I have a mated pair of tomatoes - (successfully hosting a pink tip Haitian), six line wrasse, algae blenny, and red spotted Hawkfish... plus inverts. I love triggerfish but have always assumed the entire line inappropriate for my tank.
The fish store says that a Niger, or Blue-Jaw <Throat> trigger would be acceptable. Even if from an aggression standpoint these two would be ok, it is responsible to get a fish now knowing that in 2-3 years it would outgrow the tank and I would have to bring it back to the fish store?
<I would not.  Too much stress created in removing them.  Would likely have to remove most rock to net them.>
I have heard mixed opinions on this with many saying the only irresponsible thing would be to leave it in a tank that is too small in 2 years. I would like your opinion on this before I made any moves towards getting one.
<I would not want Triggerfish in a reef tank.  Crabs, shrimp, etc will all become meals and triggers have
a habit of wanting to move rock in hopes of finding a morsel of food.>
Thank you again and I hope everything is going well for you all. Have a great weekend!
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
*Justin Morton

saltwater tank Qs, reef maint.     8/20/20
I came across your website a few days ago and have been fixated ever since! My saltwater tank has been up and running for 8 months, I have gone through some speed bumps, but that we learn right. Of all the research I have been doing to get my questions answered your site has been the most resourceful. But there are few unanswered questions that still have me puzzled I would like to ask. To start off, this is my tank: I have 4 fish. A 1 ½ inch Blue Tang,
 two Ocellaris Clowns, and one Blue Reef Chromis (used to be three but the other two died the week I got them and the one that survived seems to be happy with his other tank mates). I have a few coral frags, one purple lit anemone (been there for 7 months!) tons of live rock, feather dusters, and a red fire cleaner shrimp. I also have a few marine plants like different Caulerpa species, and some different red algae. All of this is in a 57g tank. I do have a little horseshoe crab that unfortunately is not doing well.
<They don't... in anything other than "specialized systems" (substrate, feeding, chilled)... see WWM re>
 I only have 1-2 inches of live sand, and after reading some articles on your website, my tank is just not big enough to hold enough nutrients for the little guy,
 I wish I would have learned this sooner, but where I get my livestock don’t inform me of this, so now, I try to do my own research before blindly buying something, be it cheap or not.
  I don’t have a protein skimmer, but I do make small water changes one a week to keep the water levels at bay.
<Can be done>
So now that you know a bit about my tank here are my questions:
Now, after doing research I know a horseshoe crab is not a good choice for sifting and cleaning the sand, but I would still like to have something in there to keep the sand clean and free of unwanted algae growth. What would you suggest?
<Quite a few choices. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsiftfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. Likely some snails or a goby...>
 I feed my invertebrates and fish a variety of frozen Mysis shrimp, some trace minerals every other day, some “new era” Algae pellets (which they all love) and I put some of the garlic extreme with the food as well.
Another question is my blue tang. I bought it knowing that they are notorious for getting Ich, which he is on the verge of. I see him rubbing against a live rock
<Not necessarily indicative>
sometimes and he swims near my cleaner shrimp in hoping for a little cleaning I suppose. So I'm not one to dose my tank with medicine to treat Ich if it will do harm and stress to everything else living there.
<It will/would>
 What I have done to keep the Ich at bay
is lower the salinity to 1.022, bumped up the temperature to 82.6,  adding the garlic extreme to his food to boost his immunity and just making sure he get a variety of foods to pick on so he stays plump and healthy. Am I on the right track?
<One of them, yes>
I don’t see the Ich, but the rubbing
against a rock concerns me. Perhaps feeding it different types of food?
<Look into Spectrum (small) pellets>
I am open to anything.
Last question. At some point I would like to add some more fish. Of course I don’t want to cramp the fish (especially if my tang is going to get bigger). I love tangs in general, but I know they don’t get along for the most part within their own species. Do you recommend any tang that could possibly live peacefully with my blue tang?
<Not in this volume, no. I'd stick w/ one specimen>
I was also thinking of getting different Chromis. I’m concerned to get more blue reef Chromis because I saw how my surviving one bullied the others into hiding spots. Could I get a different type of Chromis with out aggravating the one I have?
<Likely a different genus would be better... See WWM re Pomacentrid stocking/selection>
I am trying to be very careful of getting fish because a couple months I had a six line Japanese Wrasse that took out his entire tank mate with his bullying.
<Ah yes... a common behavior for this Pseudocheilinus>
Thanks for the help!
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: saltwater tank Qs     8/21/12

HI Bob,
thanks for responding so promptly!
I know my Blue Tang Is a small little guy. I was warned buying Blue Tangs that small Is kind of a hit or miss but I added him with the two clowns after I finally caught the Wrasse so there were no fish In my tank then. That's why I'm so happy my Tang Is thriving In my tank and I just want to do anything I can to keep It healthy. Its good to know that him rubbing against a rock isn't a sign of Ich, for the most part I guess. I was getting worried.
<Not to be so; and I have collected (and released) PYBTangs of less than 1/2" in length>
Ok, I forgot I had the spectrum small pellets, I got them when I first set up my tank. thanks for the tip!
So on the topic of food, I recently learned that tangs graze all day and Chromis like to eat through out the day as well. I was told to not feed the fish too much, I was feeding them once every other day, but now I don't know what to do. should I feed a little bit through out the day or every other day like I did before, I just don't want my water levels to spike. This Is when a protein skimmer always pops In my head.
<Just feed very small amounts... but more frequently>
So I was looking Into different foods to feed the fish and I started reading about Reef Pods, Tisbe and Tangerine. From what I read It looks like It would not just benefit my fish but the invertebrates living In my tank. Would you recommend this for a tank like mine?
<Mmm, would rather see folks culture their own... in designated areas of tied-in refugiums>
for my tang I was looking at Cultured Red Gracilaria. From what I red It seems like It would benefit the health of my tang, but I don't want to make an impulse buy and have my tank wiped out.
<This "Ogo" is an excellent choice all the way around. Will not at all likely cause troubles>
I was also told that
Aquacultured Caulerpa sp is something that would benefit everything In there as well. What do you think about all this???
<Posted on WWM... I'd avoid in most all circumstances>
relating back to the sand sifters. A while back I had a diamond back goby cleaning my sand (I think that's their name). It was at the time I had the Wrasse, because after a few months It stopped sifting and eventually died. Maybe It had nothing to do with the Wrasse but the nutrient levels In my tank. Every week when I get a water change I always get my water tested
<Should just do yourself... samples change w/ time, transport>
and when I acclimate fish (whether they require It or not) I always do the drip method for like two hours. I guess I figure being extra precocious cant do any harm right? So I don't know why my goby died and nervous of getting another. I was looking at the sand sifting sea star, just one. But I'm not sure the amount of live sand would be able to keep the star fish healthy. Your thoughts?
<.... again, are posted/archived.>
A question I forgot to ask before relating to my purple lIt anemone.
Its probably my favorite thing In the aquarium, I've always been a fan of anemones, and I'm glad Its stays In one spot now away from my corals :) Lately Its been closing up and I heard that Is normal every now and then but I remember It was more lively and I think bigger the first few months I got It. Maybe I'm not feeding It properly?
<...see/read on WWM re this species and the word allelopathy>
 I feed It the same stuff I give my fish but I never see It Ingest It. Is there a specific way to feed them or certain foods they like?
<...... please, learn to/use the search tool (on every page) on WWM. B>
also, and I able to house two anemones In the same tank. I had a sea bay (not sure how Its spelled) anemone 4 months ago with my other one. It never seemed to flourish and In a month died. not sure why, I thought maybe anemones have the same Issue like most fish that you normally cant put two of the same species together or they will attack each other. Am I on the right track or just making this stuff up? :p
Thanks for the help!
Re: saltwater tank Qs, using WWM, reef op. f     8/22/12

I appreciate all the help. I have been searching through out WWM and have found my answers skimming threw all the articles. Why I asked previously about choosing an appropriate sand cleaner is through out my research on WWM looking at cucumbers, sand sifting sea stars, etc, all would seem to delicate to add to my tank. I was going to look into the sea star because they seem to do a great job but in of the articles I read they need a lot more space and sand than what I have, my 2 inches in my 57g. Am I correct?
<... depends on species employed and at what size starting... I am not a big fan of the standard ones offered in the trade as they are "too efficient">
I am stumped with picking the appropriate animal to add it seems that everything I read is taking me in circles.
Now what I've concluded so far, between what is already in the tank; the little snails and cleaner shrimp, etc., there might not be enough nutrients for them.
<In the form of foods, yes>
 This morning I found that my red fire cleaner shrimp died, I was surprised because he was doing really well I thought. I read through you sight and found on this link http://www.wetwebmedia.com/L.debeliusF.htm with the title Two Feather duster worms and blood shrimp gone on same day. A light bulb clicked when WWM posted: not enough food in a system to sustain tube worms and cleaner shrimp and supplemental feeding must be done.
<Almost always necessary unless one is employing a large, established refugium for food production>
 I tried to find through the suggested links and my own search what supplemental feeding I could do to sustain them both for the future because I have 3 feather dusters (one has been closed for 2 days). I have not had much luck finding an answer. Its probably right under my nose, perhaps if you know which link to go to, to point me in the right direction?
<... use the search tool: "Featherduster feeding">
 There is a lot of great information on WWM, but it is a lot, and I get a little lost in the site, so its a bit hard to find the information I'm looking for is all.
Appreciate the guidance!
<Take your time... have you read Eric's tutorial re using WWM, here?: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ericshowtoart.htm
Re: saltwater tank Qs    8/22/12

Thank a lot! I've tried re-wording my key words in my search, and end up stumbling onto what I was looking for.
thanks again :)
<Welcome... if you have suggestions for improving the site... Please don't hesitate to send them along. I well realize the covered topics are HUGE, and hence the arrangement a bit intimidating; with familiarity it becomes much easier to search, understand. BobF>
Re: saltwater tank Qs... WWM, reef. op gen., chatting > bb      8/23/12

Hi Bob,
Honestly I wouldn't change anything. As confusing it is to find the information I'm looking for I end up stumbling upon other information that I find useful. I've been going on the site daily, with hours passing!
<Ahh, I see>
I seem to understand my own aquarium better but now I am debating on the next step. I am going to the fish store I normally go to for a water change and to get my water tested. I was going to look at some new "live" food that would benefit the nutritional value in my tank. I was reading through WWM and found different foods like live cultured phytoplankton, some live algae for my tang (i see a little bit of Ich :( not sure if I want to medicate him, maybe see if he fights it off?),
different foods from Indo Pacific Sea Farms (perhaps one for my tang and one that would benefit other organisms I have) or AlgaGen PhycoPure Copepod Blend?
 I just jotted down different foods that other people use when I was reading the articles. I read about refugiums and how to build one, not sure if I will be able to, from where my tank is located I don't really have the extra space, so with out one, would I still be able to use live foods?
 I think by next month though I will invest in a protein skimmer. It will help my tank overall and I wont have to do so many water changes right?
<Uh huh>
Back to the fish though. This started to happen today: My one Blue Reef Chromis that was doing great the past two week, being social and eating, but now has stayed in this little nook in one of my live rocks all day, didn't even eat. My Blue tang goes in there every now and then (I see him in there now) to be with the Chromis. He doesn't seem to be aggressive, but I'm not 100% sure. I did read (in WWM) that Blue Tangs is the least aggressive of Tangs, so perhaps he is just helping him come out of hiding? Im concerned he is not going to come out and starve. What should I do? Any links you would suggest me to read on this topic?
Thanks :)
<Just to keep reading... and to chat on our bb: http://wetwebmediaforum.com/forum.php

apology to Mr. Fenner... Cardinal stkg., skimmer use, coral ltg. lamp sel.     4/17/12
Dear Mr. Fenner,
    Firstly, I want to apologize for my previous email. I should have done research before bothering you
. Secondly, for a 55 gal. reef would a school of four Glass Cardinals be avid consumers of amphipods?
<Likely so>
Also, are there any positive features of not having a protein skimmer?
<A few... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toskimornotfaq.htm
My uncle keeps arguing that the one we have really does nothing.
<Some makes/models do little extraction...>
Also, my lights are soon due for a change. I currently have three 10k and one actinic. I was thinking about getting two 50/50 and two 10k power compacts 65 watts. For a Candy Cane Coral, Bubble Coral, and Duncan Corals, would this be adequate, or should I just go with four 10k? Thanks,
<For me, the latter. BobF>
Unique gastropods... rambling. Reef op.      4/19/12

Dear WWM,
   I recently decided to get more live rock. It had been in the LFS's tank for several months so I got it home and found a bristle worm which I removed. However, several days later I found some small snails. They were eating algae so I didn't worry about it. However, I have recently found some slug type creatures. They are speckled grey in color, and seem to
just wonder around the tank. Is there a great chance they are going to be avid consumers of my pods?
<Not likely>
 Will they hurt my corals?
<Can't tell w/o ID>
 I noticed that they are attracted to my Bubbly Coral. Also, my Bubble Coral lost most of its mass several months ago. It still has patches of tissue on its septa that have developed mini bubbles and formed a ring shape. Can these encrust to some
of the live rock?
Also, my next question is over skimming, and possible corals to add. I removed my skimmer because it wasn't picking up any(very little) protein. I read that they are more affective in reef garden tanks and over stocked systems. I have neither. Just a small Four-Stripe Damsel, Yellow Watchman Goby, Pistol Shrimp, Scarlet Shrimp, 2 Hawaiian Feather Dusters, 7 Duncan Polyps, 1 Bubble Coral, 1 Candy Cane Coral, 1 Serpent Star, 1 Pencil Urchin, 1 Pincushion Urchin. I was wondering what steps I would need to take to attempt to keep Goniopora.
<See WWM re>
I currently feed Mysis, mashed fish soln., Kent Zoo Plex. Would Phyto be a good thing to add?
<And this>
I have a sand bed about 3.25 inches deep is this enough? I keep the tank under four 65 watt power compacts. Should I just consider a different coral? If so, what would be most compatible with my current mix? I would like to stay with Brain or LPS. Thanks for your time and have the best week ever!
<... B>

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