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FAQs about Aquascaping Marine Systems 2

Related Articles: Marine Aquascaping, Potentially Toxic Materials, Live Rock, Placement, Marine SubstratesLive Rock,

Related FAQs: Marine Aquascaping 1, Dead Coral and Shells, Marine SubstratesFaux CoralsFaux RockLive Rock, Backgrounds for Marine Systems

A beautiful Acropora  & Dascyllus pic by DianaF in N. Sulawesi.

Dead Coral Question      5/18/15
Hi, I have a ton of dead coral that has been only skeleton with no tissue dead coral skeletons because they leech nitrates.
<Mmm; no. Without the tissue, what is left is almost all CaCO3... a form of not very soluble limestone>
I always thought they would become live rock and harbor beneficial bacteria. What is correct?
<You much more so>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Paint   2/25/14
I've got an Eheim AquaBall which is green is there a safe paint I can use to make this black so it matches my background better?
<Hard to get paint to stick to the polyethylene; but you could try latex enamel... I'd just hide it behind some rock, other décor. Bob Fenner>
Re: Paint   2/25/14

Thanks Bob
<Welcome Andy. B>

Metal tank decoration... Not in SW     2/7/14
HI everyone.  I have a saltwater 75 gallon tank and have been having issues with ammonia lately.  I emailed your staff last week and got some good advise.  Something that I have been wondering about however is that my girlfriend knows nothing about the hobby except what looks " cute " or "pretty".... That said, she ran off and bought me a metal ship to put in the tank.  It has been in there for about a month now.  I'll tell you that I do not know what type of metal it is except that it is not stainless steel. It is about 14" long, looks pretty cool cause it's made to look like it was crashed/sunk.  Anyhoo... am I reaching here or could this be contributing to my recent ammonia spike or to the overall water quality that could have contributed to the recent outbreak of Ich in my tank?
What's your take on metal decorations in a saltwater tank?
<Maybe... I'd remove it>
I should tell you that she DID purchase this from a LFS not just at some hardware store which is why I initially thought that it would be okay but now I'm beginning to wonder.....
<Well; the item might be coated/sealed in some way; but... eventually, not to be trusted in seawater. Bob Fenner>

Decorating With Dead Sponges?    9/12/13
Hi WWM Crew! I'd like to thank you guys again for having such a wealth of knowledge on info on this site, it has time and time again proven to be an extremely valuable source of information for me, especially now as I'm in the process of overhauling and rebuilding my saltwater aquarium.
<Ah! What an adventure!>
I'm using an aquarium that used to be an old Eclipse style set up, and I believe it is slightly larger than a standard 20 gallon aquarium. I've recently gotten the idea of using a few dead sponges (the kind that can be found at craft stores and the like) for decoration in the aquarium, but I have a few concerns. Is using these sponges inadvisable?
<Mmm, don't know... I'd be "doing a bio-assay" test... soaking one or all of them in freshwater, having a test fish, invertebrates in with them to see if they're outright toxic. Am wondering how you intend to "sink" them... I suspect air trapped inside will make them float>
Would they cause any adverse effects to water quality, etc.
<Could; especially if "treated" somehow to render them useful for humans... again, I'd test them myself ahead of actual use in a marine setting>
 I was planning to use some aquarium safe epoxy to glue the sponges to a piece of rubble rock to keep the sponge from floating.
<Oh! I see>
My last question is even if the sponges would be safe, would they be a pain to clean algal growth and the like off of?
<Might be; but then again; perhaps they'd have beneficial qualities... aid in harboring "good" small organisms, aiding in denitrification...>
 I was hoping/thinking
that placing the sponge on a piece of rock in the path of a current would dissuade algae from growing. I've tried to search on the internet for decorating with dead sponges, but all the info I've found has been in regards to care for live sponges. Thanks again guys! -Ray
<I'd not encountered their use as décor... and now am curious. Please do write us back w/ your further experiences, observations, speculations. Bob Fenner>

Slate in a saltwater tank?  Attn Bob F (if at all possible)     3/20/13
Hello there,
My name is Dave.  I have done quite a bit of research on this subject and cannot seem to find an answer to this question.  I am hoping that your site will give me the final word so that I can either proceed or nix the idea altogether.
I am considering cutting natural slate tiles (uncoated and unglazed as you would find at a home improvement store) into smaller tiles in order to attach coral frags to them.  What I do not know, however, is if this would be harmful to the corals, fish, reef, tank or what have you.  I would certainly hate to be the cause of the detrimental wipe out of an entire system, whether it be mine or someone else's. 
<Mmm, please go here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/aqscamarfaq2.htm?h=slate
See the upper right "further define" search tray? Put the word "slate" in it, hit enter, and scroll down...>
I am looking at this for three reasons.  1)  It would be cost effective. 
The tiles sell for under $2 apiece for 12x12.  Do the math and it is pretty dang cheap.  2)  The natural dark color of slate would allow the colors of the corals to be more vibrant.  3)  When placing in a tank against most rock or sand, it would tend to look more natural than your common ceramic or aragonite tiles and plugs.
<Mmm, yes; and though there are cautionary remarks to be made...
Some slates are composed of volcanic ash that in turn comprises a bit of "heavy metals"... to be avoided; but most in use (for freshwater and marine) appears to be relatively safe>
Thanks in advance for your advice and expertise.  This site is great for anyone from the beginner to the expert.  Looking forward to your response.
<The yes/if response: I might use slates personally (in my own tanks), but wouldn't employ them for sale to other aquarists. Bob Fenner>

Floating Coral (skeleton) attn: Bob  1/2/13
Hi Bob,
<Hey Nathan>
I took some pictures of the piece of floating coral i mentioned. I attached one picture, and included links to the others below.
I have an additional piece seen here, it almost floats.
<Yes; I see this in your images>
That is coral correct?  Or is it possibly pumice?
<Appears to be a coral skeleton of calcium carbonate, bio-accumulated by the coral itself, the holes being vestiges of corallites... possibly boring organisms though their very-regular array discounts this. Likely there's a good deal of trapped air/gas inside>
Happy New Year,
<And you. Thank you for sending this along. Bob Fenner>

adding freshwater plants to saltwater aquarium      11/6/12
Hi Crew,
<Hey Danielle>
Is it safe to add freshwater artificial plants to a saltwater aquarium? My concern is that the saltwater fish may get tangled in plants they are not used to seeing in their environment.
<Ah yes; tis fine. Those made for fresh and marine are composed of Polyethylene, chemically inert. In fact, many folks, and public aquariums use the fresh water as marine... Vallisnerias and Sagittarias resembling various seagrasses quite closely.
Bob Fenner> 

Alternative<s to> liverock <for marine decor>    6/16/11
Hi there. I've been thinking 'outside the box'. Would there be a market for items to be used for decoration in a marine tank besides liverock? Im talking about glass bottles, chains (of course plastic), pvc pipes all covered in coralline algae. Like things that you would find at a shipwreck site. Not an entire shipwreck, just pieces of it.
Maybe even do a part of a wreck as a theme in a fish only tank. The idea is not to replace the live rock, just to add some items of interest for owners and their fish. What are your thoughts? And by the way you guys are doing a great job!
<I do think there would be such a market... or that one could be made... for "safe" materials that are "ready to go" into a system... and if imbued w/ life on/in them, all the better. Have seen folks selling different types of woods on the Net for decor... by the piece as in WYSIWYG... I think I'd try this route first, rather than gearing up, trying to sell to/through distributors in the trade. Bob Fenner>
Re: Alternative <to> liverock   6/20/11

Thanks for the encouraging words. So if one were to set up a system for such a venture, how should one go about it... In terms of lighting (intense, not intense, natural?)
<I'd say more natural>
fish (necessary or not)
<Maybe some for algae control and culture for sale>
and if yes, what fish?
<See WWM, the Net... search tools>
And filtration of course.
<Some sort of rapid step up... likely either wet-dry/trickle or best: fluidized bed>
I expect the bioload to be minimal since the object would be growing coraline algae. Your help is really appreciate
<Welcome. BobF>

Belmar Beach?? DIY coll.  4/4/2011
<Hello Mandy>
We went to Bel Mar beach today, my hubby found some green kelp and we brought some home with a little sand and a sea cleaned clam shell. It's amazing how different the green color is of things that grow under natural sunlight, compared to the Caulerpa in my tank, which is a dark green...
However, the blenny wasn't interested in it. If I was being sentimental, I'd say he is homesick,....and dying of it.
<Really not a good idea bringing life home from the beach and placing into your tank. You may be
bringing home problems. James (Salty Dog)>

Is Tufa Rock My Problem And What Can I Do About It? 02/18/11
My question pertains to a 6 month old Reef aquarium in which I cannot beat bad algae problems.
<<Not uncommonand do realize that a 6-month old tank is still quite new and likely still finding its balance, especially if the initial stocking was rushed>>
The problem is a combination of algae on the tank glass (mostly green, occasional brownish) and extensive green long hair algae.
<<Been there my friend>>
The glass I have to clean at least twice a week and the hair algae I cant keep up with it. What Ive read in a few of your other replies and the fact that most of the hair algae is growing on the Tufa rock (now spreading to the live rock though) leading me to suspect this as the cause.
<<Quite possible, yes. Ive read that depending on where it formed/was collected, the Tufa rock may contain a significant detrital componentthis, and my own personal experiences with this rock, does lead me to believe that it can be quite problematic re excessive nuisance alga growth>>
What are your thoughts on this,
<<As just stated>>
is there anything else I should look at as well?
<<There could well be other factors at play here as you would have seen perusing our site (did you look here and among the associated links? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algnutrcontrolfaqs.htm ), but I would replace the Tufa with good live rock as a start>>
If you feel the Tufa is at fault is there anything I can do other than remove it (its the base with live rock all cemented on top of it)?
<<Nopewill require removal>>
Will the Tufa eventually leach out all its phosphates?
<<At some point it may (months? years?), but changes to water chemistry (e.g. - drop in pH) can start it again...best to remove and replace>>
Is there any product that will neutralize it (without harming tank)?
<<Theres no magic bullets here>>
I really dont know what else to do here,
<<You do>>
I was going to get a PhosBan reactor, but the way things are going I feel it a waste of money at this point.
Im very confused, as most sites suggest Tufa rock in combination with Live rock,
<<Indeed Ive also used man-made rock (i.e. cement based rock)another bad decision. Its my opinion that if a reef hobbyist feels the need to use other than quality live rock, the best options are dead/dry reef rock or rock made of a chemically inert ceramic material>>
your site is one of the first that seems to raise concerns about its use.
<<Experience has shown>>
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
<<You have minereplace the Tufa rock with something better>>
Ive detailed my tank and my efforts below in case it helps.
My Setup:
55 Gallon Aquarium (48l x 12d x 20h) with 10 Gallon Sump
(New) SWC 160 Cone skimmer and UV filter (9W)
Two 2 strip T5 HO lights (48) 1 on for 9 hours other for 3 hours over noon
Substrate combo crushed coral and live sand
Approx. 30 lbs Live Rock built on top of approx. 20 lbs Tufa rock
2 Clown Fish
2 Banggai Cardinals
1 Yellow Tang
<<The tank is too small for this fishplease see WWM re>>
1 Flame Angel
1 Blue Damsel
1 Scooter Blenny
1 Peppermint shrimp
Approx. 15 snails (various)
Approx. 20 Hermit Crabs
1 Bubble tip Anemone
<<Not a good choice for such a young/un-balanced systemand always questionable when placed with sessile inverts in such confined space>>
1 Zoanthus
8 green mushrooms
1 (small) Tree Coral
1 (small) bunch Star Polyps
Here is what I do and what I have done to combat the issue:
Water change once per week, 10 to 20% depending on need, includes vacuuming of substrate.
<<Will do little to help until the root problem is addressed>>
Tap Water for Salt mixed water changes and De-ionized Water for the fresh water top up (dont have an RO system). Tap water seems low in Phosphate (around .01 or so).
<<Phosphate is not the only concern. Its not always required, but for the most part, reef hobbyists should invest in some type of tap-water treatment methodology>>
Clean glass twice per week. Pluck Hair Algae at every water change. Taken out and left out smaller loose rocks which were covered in hair algae. Charcoal in Sump. Various Phosphate products in Sump over last few months, including ROWAphos, Phos Guard and Phos-Zorb. Tried reducing lighting even more (only one strip 7 hours a day), doesnt help.
<<Nopeand maybe more damaging to your desirable organisms than to the nuisance alga>>
Reduced feeding to once per day, very little if any ever reaches bottom. Testing: Nitrate, Nitrite and Ammonia all 0, Phosphate hard to get accurate test but seems to be one side or the other of .05, pH, calcium, and carbonate all normal
Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to provide
<<You can try to ride it out, but I think youre in for a long battle if you leave the Tufa rock in place. EricR>>

Reef tank decor. At BP's expense    5/25/10
Dear Neptune,
Where can I find a nice big scale model of an offshore oil rig I can put right in the middle of my reef tank? It would be really sweet if I could keep real crude inside of it somehow. Of course, the model would have to be well-designed to insure that it could never leak into the water. I don't want to have to plan for that scenario.
<Oh! I've got a/the sol'n for that leaky hole... a reverse fish pond, built on the shore... with a valve in the top middle... built atop a mound of sand... then liner, reinforcing mesh and shotcrete... the sand removed, the whole thing pushed, floated out to sea, dropped over the source, and the valve closed. Voila! For you, perhaps a call in to Petrobras or such, to see if they've a scale model for sale. Bob Fenner>
Re: Reef tank decor.   5/25/10
:-) You're a good sport, Fenner-san. I don't know how you keep going with some of the wacky emails you guys get (the recent "brackish-Molly-boy-from-Texas-A&M incident is probably the worst I've seen).
<They come and (hopefully) go>
Seriously though, watching this tragedy unfold is so difficult. How bad do you think it ultimately will be? Between this and my recent read of Veron's "A Reef In Time", I'm more and more pessimistic about the future of the
planet, and the oceans in particular. It's depressing.
<Mmm, this too shall pass... there have been much larger leaks geologically>
Thanks as always for what you do here--from me and the inhabitants of all my aquariums.
<A mighty fine time indeed! Be chatting, BobF>

Hi Bob, Antler decor, SW  2/23/10
I am in the beginning stages of putting together a 90 to 120 gallon saltwater tank. Yes, I am planning to take my time. The closest store(s) are in Albuquerque for all my aquarium needs (3 hour drive.). I bought several books from Amazon suggested by your website which I have read cover to cover.
<Good for you!>
Very informational and a lot of different conceptions from a few years ago! I have had several tanks approximately 10 years ago and miss having one! Of course, they were decorated with bleached coral, etc. (no color and no live rock) setup. I am planning step by step for the aesthetics of this tank and would like to have a Snowflake Eel along w/a Vol. Lionfish for sure. I have tried to research this question but cannot find it anywhere else I know you will be able to tell me. My whole house is decorated in the elk/deer genre and I want to put a very clean deer antler (shed) in the tank for décor along with live rock. I think it would be an awesome decoration but of course dont want to do something to harm my tank. When you have a minute, would you please peruse this for me? Your website is very informative and appreciated! I await your response..
Donna Carmichael
<I do think this antler will be fine here. Should be chemically inert, and though the tips/points are likely quite sharp, they are upturned and the fishes will very likely avoid impalement. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Bioactive sand turning brown
Coral cleaning and Tangs sys 8/23/09

My nephew lives along the Texas coast and he went to a shell shop and bought me some coral - it is not the common type that washes up on the beach down there - which the common coral looks like long fingers - this is white and very heavy and has more flat type of "fingers", can I soak this and put this in my 55 gal salt water tank?
<I take it that this is just coral skeletons? If so it should be fine.>
He also bought me a shell assortment of conchs and scallops what do you think about these?
<Assuming they have not been treated with something they should be ok, although they may start to dissolve with time.>
Also I heard that tangs have to be in tanks in odd numbers either one or three is this true? I'd like another tang but dont want problems in my fish family
<I would not recommend any tangs for a 55, it's too small, but tangs can usually be kept in any number as long as the tank is big enough. This is not to say that multiple tangs always works, aggression can be an issue any time you have more than one, especially from the same family.>
Thanks for all your help
Cecilia Lester
Paris Texas

Dried Florida Sea Fan Added to Tank: Not a Good Idea. Marine Aquascaping: 6/1/2009
Dear Bob/Crew:
<Hi Aleasha.>
I have a natural dried Florida sea fan that I want to place in my tank to camouflage a piece of in-tank equipment. Can I do this?
<Not a good idea. Too much potential to introduce pests, disease, or just pollute your tank.>
Do I need to take any special precautions? Will it stay intact, or disintegrate?
<There are several 'fake' corals and sea fans that are available they would serve you much better.>
<My pleasure>

DIY Live Rock Arch
Avoiding Fallen Arches (Aquascape Construction) 4/14/2009
Hi WWM (Wet Wise Men (and Women)),
<Scott F. your man today!>
Hope all is well with everyone and also hope that Bob is not getting into trouble with giving croc hunters wedgies (I miss the original.) or facing down a frisky red kangaroo on a golf course (Anthony shares a lot:-) ).
<And that's just the "G" rated stuff!>
I am a five year beginner in the hobby and have a 72g bowfront reef tank with 90lbs of LR. I am trying to build an archway out of four small pieces of LR and cannot get anything to bond them together. I have tried All-Glass Aquarium silicone, HoldFast (This didn't stick to anything.) and Superglue.
I was going to try concrete mix but wanted to know what would be safe. Bob had mentioned that Aragocrete by GARF was too toxic and that was what I was going to try to find per suggestions on-line. Other suggestions were QuiKrete, Portland concrete, and Sakrete. What would the crew recommend?
<Well, this geek is a big fan of using cable ties to hold pieces of rock together. You can use a drill with a masonry bit to carefully bore a couple of holes into the rock, then secure your assembly with the cable ties.
You'd be amazed at how well this works, and you won't even notice the ties after some time under water, as they become encrusted with coralline and other life forms. Although there are a number of materials you can try to bond rocks, I've found over the years that the old drill and tie method works great for me....Give it a try!>
Water stats are:
NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=20ppm and PH=8.2 using Saltwater Master test kit and
Quick Dip test strips.
Tank mates are:
1 3" Imperator Angel
<I hope a much larger home is available for him/her in the future..This fish gets HUGE!>
2 Percula Clownfish (1" and 2")
1 4" Squareback Anthias
1 3" Orange-spotted Goby
5 turbo snails
1 blue hermit
4 Nassarius snails
2 sand dwelling snails (I forgot the name but they are 2" long.)
1 Banded Coral shrimp
1 Tiger Pistol shrimp
1 purple tube Anemone
72g BF with 3.5" to 4" DSB with CaribSea Arag-Alive sand (Wish I would have read about the Southdown sand first. $)
Circulation = Hydor 3 and Hydor 1 Koralia power heads
48" bubble wand
<I love Bubble Wands!>
Mechanical/chemical filtration = Magnum 350 Pro with Fluval activated carbon, Kent nitrogen sponge and bio-wheels.
<Be sure to regularly replace the media in the Magnum for optimum performance>
Bio-filtration = 20g converted wet/dry to sump/refugium with a 7" DSB in a 9.5" x 10.5" area. It contains LR rubble, Chaetomorpha, and seeded copepods with an Aquaclear 10 power head. The skimmer, located on the intake side, is a Turboflotor 1000 Multi. In main tank, here is 65lbs Fiji LR and 25lbs Marshall LR.
Lighting = 2 21" 10,000k 65w compact fluorescents and 2 21" dual blue actinic 65w compact fluorescents
<Sounds good. Glad that you're utilizing some macroalgae in the sump for nutrient control and export.>
I know this is TMI but I would rather have too much than not enough.
<It's great to have the extra information. Helps us zero in on any potential issues.>
I also know that I will be called out on the tank size and wanted to assure you that I am actively looking for a quality used 240g+ tank. If you know of any, I am in the central Florida area. :-) Thank you for your help
and all of the support you give to the aquarist community.
Regards, Ethan
<Don't know of any tanks in your area off hand, but perhaps some of our readers might. Glad that you're looking for a larger aquarium for the future! By the way, if you can, you might want to join Bob, myself, Anthony Calfo, and Eric Borneman at the Orlando Reef Caretakers Association Southeastern Reef conference on July 10 in (of course) Orlando. Should be a great event- hope to see you there! _ Here is the link to the event:
Regards, Scott F.>

Avoiding Fallen Arches (Arch Construction- Pt. II)  4/19/09
Hi Scott.
<Hello again!>
That was a quick reply! The cable ties worked great!!
<Great! Glad to hear it! Those ties work very well and can help you really "defy gravity". >
I had already drilled holes which had acrylic rods in them that I cut myself. They did not have enough flex and some broke. Following your advice, I bound the rocks with the ties and PERFECT!! I went a step further and super glued small pieces of LR to the ties which I had from shaping the rocks. You couldn't tell they were there. It turned out great!! Attached is a picture of the end result. Thanks again for the info and I may see you and the rest of the crew at the conference (My wife said I can go :-)). You guys rock!!
Thanks much, Ethan
<I'm really glad to hear that they worked out..It's a really simple method, and it does take some time to do- but you created a really cool arch! I can attest to the need to take your time on this- I was demonstrating using cable ties at a conference this past weekend, and managed to slap something together, but to do it right, you really need to plan carefully and take some time. And you can get great results; like you did! Looking forward to seeing how your arch "fills in" over time. We'll see you in Orlando in a few months! Regards, Scott F.> 

Cinder blocks in saltwater tank   4/9/09
Hi. I have a question about using some cinder blocks in the saltwater tank I'm setting up. I know that it's generally not recommended to use them in aquariums due to any harmful chemicals, but I have three or four blocks that have been inside my small pond for a year or more with no harmful effects to my goldfish. I've been using them to hold some plant containers, though I have no idea why I thought to use them in the first place when I'm so anal about what goes into my other tanks. Anyway, I was wondering if at this point they'd be safe to use in a saltwater tank. I'm wanting to use them as a foundation for my live rock, since anything buried under the sand will be wasted, both visually and biologically. Thanks for your advice.
<I have seen such blocks in use on several occasions... Again, just a few weeks back visiting Dick Perrin's "Tropicorium", where he employs them to support fiberglass sheets to bring culture trays permanently to the
near-surface, making a space underneath for water movement, placement of actually tons of carbonaceous material. IF your system is large enough, and particularly, as you state, the blocks not new (and likely therefore leached of most alkaline material that is easily soluble), I don't think there will be problems. Bob Fenner>

Aquascaping Prep and Tank Repair
Simulating Ruins Without Ruining an Aquarium! 04/07/09

Good evening Crew! Hope all is well with you.
<And a good evening to you. Scott F. at the keyboard tonight!>
I have two things for your attention tonight. First, I'm getting ready to do the aquascaping in my first marine tank now that my live rock is cured and the tank is cycled.
<Yaayyy! The best part of the process, IMO!>
I have a couple of polystone statues that I'm going to incorporate (I'm going for a ruined civilization feel) and I just wanted to confirm that my understanding was good on how to prepare them. I've read conflicting ideas. According to all I've read I'm going to:
1. Scrub well with vinegar solution and a toothbrush
2. Soak them in circulated water (fresh or salt?) for a few days at temperature.
3. Give them a final dust/rinse off to get rid of any loose material and then add to the tank.
<All sound good...I'm not really certain about the possible toxicity of this material. If it is specifically made for aquarium use, I'd be a bit less concerned. On the other hand, if it was specifically made for aquarium
use, it would probably be twice as expensive, huh? Decisions, Decisions! By the way, you absolutely HAVE to forward a pic of this aquascape when it's done for my "Aquascaping for the Aesthetically Challenged" presentation that I do at clubs and conferences. This is just too tempting for me NOT to
I won't be adding any livestock for 3-6 weeks after the aquascaping is done. I figure that would be enough time to let the tank stabilize or find any problems.
<Well, you do want an aquarium to cycle, of course, and perhaps the extra length of time will help determine if anything is leaching from these decorations. Perhaps continuous use of Poly Filter and/or activated carbon could remove much of whatever leaches out of these items.>
Second, a quick question about tank repair. I have a 65G tank that is sitting empty (my display is a 75). I had bought it used and didn't notice until I filled it to check for leaks that there was a large chip in one of
the front corners on the inside. It goes a good bit under the silicone seal and I wondered if you thought it could be repaired with silicone. I've attached two pictures, front and side. If it can be repaired I plan on
using it as a QT. Thanks for any and all suggestions. If knowledgeable people in other fields shared half as much of their expertise as you folks do, the world would be a far better place.
< Thanks for the kind words! Corey my instincts tell me that it might be possible to fix this with a careful, healthy bead of silicone, but I will defer that one to Bob, who's probably forgotten more about tank repairs
than I ever knew. Although I've probably broken more, he's definitely repaired more! Bob, what say you?>
<<I do agree... Might be fine as is... but attaching strips of glass with Silastic... for sure. RMF>>

Re: Marine/Set-Up/Disease... lava rock   2/27/09 Dear James, <Devesh> Thank you for your valuable advice. You were the only one to understand & recommend me. <You're welcome.> I send inquiries to many experts but failed to receive any feedback. <We respond to all queries.> As you referred to swap I have changed the setting to the below. Please advise if this is OK. 1st chamber Red Lava rocks (where the water overflows the tank & falls in this chamber). <Lava rock, depending on origin, can contain levels of iron and other heavy metals. It can also leach phosphorous and sulphur, as lava rock is volcanic in origin. Without being sure of the make up, I would remove.> 2nd chamber Bio-balls 3rd chamber layer of Seal shells & layer of ceramic rings 4th chamber Zeolite (small pack) & carbon 5th chamber only Protein Skimmer (3200 power - from Jebo 520) & pump the water back in tank. <I suggest you put the protein skimmer in the first chamber as I mentioned in the previous email, and as I mentioned above, remove the lava rock.> Best Regards, <Cheers. James (Salty Dog)> Devesh Dubai, UAE

Tank Setup Question... backgd., foam et al. rock work  – 02/12/09 Hello Bob <"Loving one"> Thank you for taking time to read this, my husband absolutely swears by you and lives on your site. We are taking another go at our saltwater tank!! This time with much more knowledge and research. I just wanted some reassurance that we are not headed for disaster. We found a great idea and want to run with it. <Ok> Our plan is to take small pieces of dried live rock to make a rock wall to cover nearly the entire back of our wall. We are going to glue the pieces with silicone to the front of a plastic light diffuser. The next step is to reinforce it with Beckett's pond foam. The idea then which is where my concern comes in is to cover the foam with Bondo Brand All Purpose Fiberglass Resin and while still wet mixing in crushed coral/sand. The idea is to cover the foam up and in return getting an all natural looking background. I have seen pictures and it looks beautiful. <Mmm... this could work... w/ or w/o the Bondo> My concern however lies in toxins. We would allow it to dry assuming it will dry non-toxic. Then cure it for about one to two weeks with small water changes. Then do a complete water change set up our skimmer and cure for another two weeks before introducing any live stock. We have also cornered off a section of our tank to build an in tank refugium. I guess my question to you is do you see a big "NO" in our plans thus far. I am a research guru myself and want to make sure we are not setting ourselves up to fail after all the thought and planning and research we have put into this. Thank you and sorry for the short story!!! Amanda Phoenix, AZ <Do take pix of your progress here... With curing, this should be fine. I would do this work out in the garage... Bob Fenner>

Cement Background  11/05/08 Hello all! <<Hiya Jay!>> Quick question about cement backgrounds. <<Okey-dokey>> I made a background from Great Stuff foam, dead rock, and type II Portland cement. <<Okay so far ?though you could have omitted the cement and just gone with rock/coral bits and the Polyurethane foam>> It looks really great, but the gray color is boring. <<Will change, with time in the system>> Is there a pigment that I could add to the cement that is safe for marine fish? <<There are pigments that are meant to be used with cement that are suitable. Most home centers (Lowe's/Home Depot/etc.) will carry these, though you will likely be limited to terra cotta, black, or tan. These are usually a dry powder that is meant to be added to the wet cement at time of mixing. There are also liquid pigments available that *might* work to dye a finished/cured piece ?but I don't know how well this would hold up under water>> I was too nervous about using a pigment before, but the background has been up and running for 3 months now with no ill-effects to the fish. <<The biggest danger with cement products is the very high pH of the initial mix. But "curing" in freshwater will leach out the pH elevating compounds and render the product relatively safe>> Thanks, Jay <<Hope this helps. EricR>>
Re: Cement Background  11/05/08 Eric- <<Jay>> Thanks for the quick response! <<Quite welcome>> I did cure the background in freshwater for 2 months and then saltwater for 1 more, so the pH is stable. <<Excellent>> What I would like to do now is attach some replica corals (Natures Image or another quality brand) to the ledges for color and hiding spaces. I thought that I might use an epoxy (any suggestions?) <<An aquarium safe epoxy putty should suffice. You can buy from your LFS/etailer ?or pick up some RectorSeal epoxy putty in the plumbing section of Lowe's/Home Depot/etc.>> to attach the "corals" and then cover the epoxy (once it dries) with a thin layer of colored cement to make it look more natural. <<The epoxy will attract Coralline and other settlers rather quickly, really. And adding a fresh and wet cement mix to your system, even in small quantities, may cause pH/other issues. Do be aware?>> I did buy the dry mix tan and black color additives from Home Depot, (though I never used them because I could not find any info on their use in marine aquaria). <<As far as I know these oxides are not harmful to aquatic life. Although, I have only ever used them before in freshwater settings. But like the cement itself, I would think them to be safe after �curing� to leach any possible toxic compounds>> Thanks! -Jay <<Happy to share. EricR>>

Marine Aquascaping…Building Large Rock Structures – 03/01/08 Are there any products or substances such as mortars, plasters, or plastics that can be used in marine aquariums to fuse together pieces of dead or live rock and build large rock structures? <<There are…though for building a structure from “live” rock you will be pretty much limited to “mechanical” fasteners of some type (e.g. – Acrylic rods inserted through holes drilled in the rock) as using something like a hydraulic cement; though it could be applied “submerged”, will raise the pH of the water too high (about 12.0) and destroy the life in/on the rock>> I am looking to build a rock structure to hide a series of standpipes and returns in the center of a tank that will be 48" tall. <<Will require some thought/planning…but can be done>> I am worried that just gluing together the pieces will not be stable enough at this height. <<Indeed… Best to use some type of “skeleton” or frame upon which to attach the rock…and easily crafted from PVC pipe and fittings>> I have heard that products like Thorite are better than "standard" cement for this type of application. <<About any good “concrete” mix used with a plasticizer admix should work, I would think. But going this route, the end product is going to be VERY heavy>> I have also heard that there are water-proof plaster products that can be used however my goal is to use products that do not require long term curing due to leaching. <<I don’t know that a “plaster” would have the “strength” needed…as that provided by a concrete (aggregate) product>> Any suggestions are appreciated. -Adam <<I think for both performance and to lessen weight, a foaming Polyurethane adhesive may work best for you. The Polyurethane foam will not only form a chemical (glue) bond, but will “expand” in to the irregularities of the rock creating a mechanical bond as well. The Polyurethane is amazingly “sticky,” and is inert, as well as surprisingly strong, once cured (about 24hrs). You can get it in “black” from aquatic (pond) sources, or use the slightly less expensive GREAT STUFF insulating foam found at most any home center/hardware store. I suggest you build the structure in segments outside the tank and then assemble/glue the structures together with more foam in the display. Don’t forget to use a PVC framework to support the rock and foam…and do be especially cautious if using the foam in/around an acrylic tank as it may disfigure/etch the acrylic on contact. I used this material to build some large rock structures on PVC frames for my 375g reef some four years ago, and the foam/structures have held up very well. Regards, EricR>>

Reef Aquascaping…Do I need All That Rock? – 02/20/08 Hi, <<Hello>> I have a 75g tank. It has about 75-80 pounds of rock. 30 pounds of it are 3 gorgeous 10 pound Marshall show pieces. <<Nice…though maybe a bit large for this size tank (matter of opinion)>> I am sure you know how costly that was, well at least to me. <<Indeed>> A friend keeps pushing that I need to buy a lot more rock, and it must be purchased at one time, before I can hire his service to redecorate. <<…?! Hmm, I wouldn’t be too quick to do this…I think we hobbyists often add “too much” rock to our systems; only to discover effective water flow throughout the tank is difficult to achieve , corals have no room to grow, fish have no room to swim/exhibit normal behavior , etc. The rock you have now will likely handle your bio-filtration needs just fine…and if you have a substrate, this too will provide much benefit/support re. Much better to not overfill the system with rock, in my opinion>> Why? <<Perhaps misguided advice…perhaps trying to make a sale…don’t know really>> I am disabled and the rock I bought previously, I bought a little at a time at another store. I need the reasoning behind this statement. <<If the rock is not cured, buying and curing all at once (outside the system) reduces the repeated hassle…but there is no reason you can’t also do this piecemeal. Of course, buying fully-cured rock from a reputable source you trust takes away this argument as you can add as little or as much at time as you want>> Am I just being pushed for sales? <<Is “your” friend…what do “you” think?>> Also, since Marshall is lighter weight, is the poundage weight equal to what is needed by another type of rock, or is less weight ok? <<The lighter more porous rock should provide more benefit/bio-filtration per pound than a denser heavier rock, yes>> I have had my tank up for a year. I have gone very slowly. <<Ah, patience! A very rewarding virtue here>> I have ONE percula clown, a brittle star, a few snails and hermits. I recently added my first corals, two tiny little frags. <<”Slowly” indeed…>> My other question. I have received so many conflicting information regarding tangs, from others. <<Ah well, the hobby is rife with opinion…and you won’t find it any different here [grin] >> Some say 75 is not large enough and recommend a 100g. In Fenner's book, page 304, he states at least a 50. <<…and then dependent upon species>> This book was revised in 2001. Has he changed his opinion on this since? <<Let’s ask him…Bob?>><Is posted... RMF> I hope he still agrees with that statement, since I would love a tang in my 75g. <<If you stick to a small aquarium hardy species, and overstock the tank, then yes, I feel you would be fine adding a Tang to this tank. I think either Zebrasoma flavescens (Yellow Tang) or Ctenochaetus strigosus (Kole Tang) would make a suitable addition>> One more question. <<Okay>> Since the tang will be in a 75g, will it be more prudent to have more open swimming area at top, or is it ok to keep stacking rock. (Remember I have 75-80 pounds) <<”More open swimming area” gets my vote>> On a final note, I was thrilled to find this site. <<We too are happy you found us>> I cannot read Mr. Fenner's book enough. It stays on my coffee table so I can pick it up whenever I want, and guests find it a lovely sofa table book. Stacey <<I’m sure Bob will be pleased to know. Regards, EricR>> >Better than Oprah? RMF<

Sponge... Adding A Dried Tree Sponge To A System... Not A Good Idea! – 09/14/07 Hi. Is it safe to put a dried Red-Orange branching sponge (Ptilocaulis sp) to a saltwater tank for decor purposes only? I have a 55 gal. FOWLR and I find it attractive to put one of these together with my live rocks. Thanks. <No. This is not safe. These can be quite toxic when they die and can wipe out your system. A dried dead one sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.> Larry <Cheers, Mich>

Clay in aquarium?    8/30/07Hi there, I've been browsing thru the site and it looks very helpful. I was wondering, i have a small clay pot which I'd like to put in my marine tank as a decoration, is this a bad idea? Could dust / particles be dangerous at all? <If it's an un-painted ceramic pot, it's probably fine. A lot of clown fish breeders use un-painted ceramic pots. On the other hand, some aquarists fear that heavy metals might leach out from the clay. There might be something to this worry since clay has a great capacity for absorbing heavy metals. Then again, some clays are highly valued for their ability to absorb, retain and stabilize heavy metals. So, either clay is toxic and to be avoided, or, we should be using it as a filter. Does that answer your question? LOL j/k Ok, seriously, if it's un-painted, commercially fired, well rinsed and hasn't been used for anything else, then I'd say it's fine (especially if this isn't a reef tank).> Kind Regards, K. <Best, Sara M.>

Making inserts for large aquariums, materials  – 06/15/07 Greetings! I've been checking out your site and am really stoked on you're wealth of information! I have built several large scale tank inserts over the years and I am always looking for new products. <You've seen the "natural" backgrounds made in Europe?> Currently we have a large insert project getting underway and I was looking for a texturing putty to apply to polyester resin forms. Typically we will sculpt a positive shape and apply many coats of resin an fiberglass over the form to make a 3/8" to 1/2" thick insert. We have used an epoxy coating in the past which is very tedious to mix and there are numerous curing steps after the application. <Yes... these are all I'm familiar with... unfortunately> Is there a polyester resin friendly putty type of product out there? <None that you can put underwater permanently as far as I'm aware> I need a product that is fish safe, sculptable, easy to mix and apply and preferably minor curing steps. The epoxy product we've used in the past is good for end result but very labor intensive. Just wondering if you guys have come across anything worth testing? Thanks so much for your time. Mike <Are you familiar with CRF's? Concrete Reinforced Fiberglass? For very large projects this is what we used for artificial habitat base. Bob Fenner>

Styrofoam, Next Time PVC, perhaps Starboard.   2/20/07 Hello! <Hi there MJ!  Mich here.>      I have searched high and low using specific search strings for this question.  "Is Styrofoam safe for inside the aquarium?"  I have a 200-gallon half cylinder that I placed some blocks of Styrofoam in to prop up the rockwork for aquascaping purposes.  I used 2" rigid wall insulation for this purpose.  The sticker on the insulation says that it is chemically inert.  My fish are healthy and my hermits love life.  Refugium is growing well.  Should I worry about this Styrofoam breaking down over time and releasing nasties into my tank? <Sounds like a nice system.  To be perfectly honest I don't really know the answer to this question.  I would be a little leery as I have kept this type of insulation in the basement and over time it gets a little crumbly and nasty.  That being said, if it's not causing you any obvious problem right now I think I would just leave it alone.  RMF comments?  <<Mmm, Styro is chemically inert... but does tend to fall apart too much to suit me. RMF>>  I do have a suggestion for the future.  PVC piping is commonly used to support rockwork and I think is a better option as it won't react or breakdown. There are multiple ways of doing this from actually constructing frames to simply cutting large PVC piece with a saw.  There is also a product called starboard that is used in the hobby and is know to be inert which is good if you are lining the bottom of the tank.  Good luck!  -Mich> MJ

Unidentified rock   12/29/06 Hello Bob & Company, <Hi there Brian! Mich here tonight> I'm taking my first stab at saltwater aquaria, and I'm grateful to have your site as a resource. <Welcome, glad you found us!> I recently found a chunk of rock in a box of miscellaneous aquarium supplies (picture attached). Since I'm not sure what kind of rock it is, I was hoping you could help me identify it and tell me whether or not it's safe to use in my tank. <I would not use it. It doesn't look porous enough to be terrible beneficial as a filter.  Plus, this rock may have been exposed to any number of potential contaminants.  I do not think it is worth the risk.  If it were me, I wouldn't put it in.> The rock itself is made of a combination of smooth, chalky layers, and rougher cement-like layers; some of the outer surfaces have a rusty orange color to them. I can see what appear to be small pieces of clam shell embedded in the cement-like layers, leading me to believe that this is some sort of reef rock, but I can't be sure. Does any of this seem familiar to you? <Mmm, not so much.> Also, as a more general question, are there any types of rock in particular that are inadvisable to use in salt water? <Most rock is inappropriate.  The benefit of rock in a reef tank is getting living rock, known as live rock.  This very porous rock is typically teeming with massive volumes of microfauna, bacteria and the like, which aids in the breakdown of nitrogenous waste.  This is the rock that is so highly valued and sought after, more because of the inhabitants of the rock, than the rock itself.  Hope this helps.>   Thanks in advance, <You're welcome.  -Mich>
Brian O'Donnell

Tufa rock and Mexican food <Anthony Calfo here whilst Bob makes his way to the land of Oz and a little magic on the Great Barrier Reef (as I understand it, the "magic" part is an all you can drink beer party after a week of diving)> Thanks for the unbelievably swift response. <that's easy for Bob... he types fast because he is usually incontinent from the amount of water and spicy Mexican food that he consumes> Well, the Tufa isn't in the tank yet so we haven't done any damage. We are growing a prolific crop of BGA though.  <skim aggressively, my friend and increase water flow if possible. A good dark cup of skimmate daily for a couple of weeks will knock out the BGA without you lifting a finger> Not enough $ to bring the LR load up to where it should be, I suppose.  <bummer about that Canadian dollar thingy> Is it safe to let the tank proceed with its cycle without any changes other than to increase the photo-period?  <sure, just go easy on the feeding an bio-load until more live rock possible> To siphon off the copious quantities of water necessary for mechanical removal will really stress my septic system as well as my wallet. The system is only two weeks old at this time with a 2"crushed coral substrate and a few pounds of live base rock. Usual drilled tank (most expensive gift I ever received), sump box, wrong inline pump, 79 degrees water, S.G. 1.023, Sal 31, yada yada yada. Thanks for everything. The improvements are proceeding forthwith (already returned a replacement silent one this AM.) Cheers, Fred. <best in your endeavors, my friend. Anthony Calfo>

Tufa has been removed Thanks for the informative response the other day.  <always welcome> The Tufa rock has been removed, not only from my tank but also from my property. The vendor kindly refunded my purchase price on the returned goods. <a good way to honor/keep a customer> This evening I was again reading the FAQs and noticed with alarm that I have one of the well advertised and less well loved Lifegard pumps. It is presently on its second motor. <yes... the "Not-so-stainless steel" shaft that leaks> It will not receive another. Given that the life expectancy of this circulator is certainly limited I am in the planning stages of replacing the thing. <a great pump for freshwater though> The manufacturers rate the capacity of their pumps in the face of various head losses. Without going to engineering tables, what do you use as a rule of thumb to add head restriction for 90s and other fittings in addition to the easily measured physical lift from sump to tank? <add one foot of head for each elbow, valve connection and ten feet of horizontal run in addition to the height> My tank is 48 x 18 x 20 inches and came equipped with a 1 1/2" standpipe. I built an 18 Gal sump to increase the water volume a bit and to have a place to add essentials. Would you be so kind as to recommend the appropriate MagDrive (as they are available locally) to hustle all of the water around at the required rate? <I believe that there is a mag 1100/1200 that would be quite comparable to your Lifeguard if you are otherwise pleased with the flow> I sincerely enjoy the fruits of your collective labors. Cheers, from B.C., Fred. <thanks kindly, northern friend! Anthony Calfo>

Wood in salt water tank?   8/11/06 Hey Crew, <Hey there!>         I have a 45 gallon salt water set up. It consists of local North East fish and crustaceans caught in NJ, and Long Island waters. I enjoy making realistic decorative environments. It has been running for two years. I have new miniature wood lobster trap which is unfinished. My question is can you put wood in a SWT? I know I would have to soak it for a while to get it to sink. Thanks for your help. <I wouldn't, but you could.  Make sure that the wood isn't treated in anyway.  However it a tank, just like in nature, it will start to break down.  It could also be a harbor for algae, bacteria, and start to pollute the tank.  In other words, it won't last long before it starts to have detrimental effects on the chemistry (not to mention visual) aspects of your tank.  I would try and find more inert decorations.  Have a good one, Jen S.> John M.

Aquascape... Mixing crab-eating morays, using a Jeweled Damsel from the TWA, Moray system/s, acclimating new livestock...   8/3/06 Morning, <Now the afternoon here... Yikes, got to "kick out the jams"... whatever that means> Just a quick question... or at least they always start out that way.  I'm looking at doing a 200gallon predator tank that will include both a snowflake and zebra moray eel, a Russel lionfish, and a couple of others. From reading your FAQ's, it sounds like in that large of an aquarium the two morays should be ok together?   <These two species, likely so> I also just bought a jeweled damsel on the advice of on of your FAQ's... since this fish will eventually get to be around 6", a good fish to cycle my new 200gallon tank and should be ok with a lion and the morays? <Mmm, likely okay to cycle, will get along> My damsel is pretty brown looking with the diamonds on his back... does this sound like a jeweled damsel to you? <Of mid-size/age... okay> Anyhow, my question.... Ok, my third question?   With a fish only tank, I'm thinking a crushed coral bottom hiding a small network of 3"pvc piping to create a more interesting habitat for the morays.  The pipe will open up in a two or three caves that I will make.  Sound like a good idea? <Shore> I just hope that a) a fish won't get down there and gobbled by the eel <Mmm, the two species listed are largely non-piscivorous... see WWM re Foods/Feeding/Nutrition of these two... I have penned, placed articles re...> or  b) something big doesn't die down there.  Would be pretty nasty disassembling my aquascape to remove the pipes to get a dead eel out.  Your opinion?   <Sounds pretty nasty> The real question is (this is number 4, isn't it?) am I ok using a nice black/grey slate to build up the backside of my tank and for the caves? <I wouldn't use slate in marine systems... too two-dimensional with all the drawbacks of same... too likely to have some chemically negative effect> I was thinking of using aquarium poxy to get a nice firm rockwork and like the appearance of slate.  I was also going to use about 100lbs of liverock to get a mixture.  Do you foresee any problems with this? <Yes> Just a note on the 'freshwater dip' for new fish.  Sounds simple, but maybe it is me that is simple? Haha. <?>   After floating the sealed bag in the tank to get the temperature matching for about 20 min.s, I then open the bag and slowly introduce some tank water via a cup without mixing store water into my tank.  When fish is ready, am I correct in saying simply dip the net with the fish in it into some room temperature fresh water for a couple of seconds and introduce new fish from net into my tank? <Mmm, one method... not one I'd use. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm and the linked files above.> Regards, Dave Brynlund <Keep reading. Bob Fenner>
Re: Aquascape   8/3/06
Thanks Bob... <Welcome> And did I mention I finally bought your book?  Why on earth didn't I buy it 3 years ago? <Man! I could've used that 28 cents in royalties way back... devalued now, rats!> What can you recommend as a cheap rock that is attractive? <Mmm, see the various etailer re what's available from the S. Pacific... in bulk, box order quantities...> One of the fish retailers mentioned travertine? (sp?) <Mmm, no... we have this on some of our floors... is made up of various chemicals... formed in nature by "swamps/hot springs"... you don't want this...>   It's white, really porous...  I've read a number of people using the slate for marine aquariums... I guess I trust ya! <Up to you... BobF>

Live Shell Collecting?...Banned Or Not? Salty's go   7/6/06 Hi Bob and Crew. Hello Lloyd> I have a question I haven't seen addressed on your website (although I suspect its there somewhere - you have a very comprehensive website).  I know that there are state and federal bans on the harvesting of wild live rock.  Most of the definitions I have found for "live rock" relate to marine life growing on coral structure and rocks.  I like to snorkel with my kids (I'm fortunate enough to live in South Florida, hurricanes aside) and when I do, its not at all unusual to find large shells (no snails inside) that are encrusted with coralline algae, as well as all kinds of other stuff.  I'm not aware of any general ban on the collection of empty shells.  Would it be your opinion that shells, after becoming encrusted with coralline algae, would be considered "live rock", and if not, is their any reason they couldn't perform the same function in a marine aquarium? <Lloyd, in my opinion, a shell is not a rock, so I'm thinking it would be legal.  Folks go shelling along the shores and this isn't banned.  I like going shelling at the seaside taverns...One large shell of Bud, please. OK, I am thinking that, should the conch shell have soft coral(s) growing on it, this could present a problem.  To be on the safe side I'd go here (Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation) and click on the "ask FWC".  http://myfwc.com/ Mr. Fenner may know if this is legal.  What do you think, Bob?> I've attached a picture of a horse conch shell I found a few weeks ago off Florida's gulf coast.  If you look closely, you can see (in addition to the gorgeous purple algae) two fan worms (I think) on the bottom to the lower right of the hermit crab, and another three at the top. <Neat!> Thanks for your thoughts, you guys perform a very valuable service. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>

Re: Live Rock (shells)   7/6/06 Thanks for your help, James.  I've e-mailed the Florida FWC, and will let you know their response.  Now that I know how easy this is, I have another quick question (or two).  Can you direct me to a single location that lists the acceptable high/low range for the various factors that determine marine aquarium water quality (i.e., PH, copper, calcium, phosphate, alkalinity, nitrite, nitrate, ammonia, etc.), and what steps to take if your readings are above or below those ranges (i.e., what to add and how much)?  Obviously, nothing's going to apply in all situations, but there must be some kind if "norm."  Is it safe to say that if you use RO/DI water and a commercially available salt mix, there shouldn't be a problem with the water going into the tank, and any water problems arising after that would be the result of other things being introduced into the tank (waste, excess nutrients, medicine, biological pests, etc.)? <Lloyd, this info can easily by found on our site.  Do look/search. I'll start you off here.   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm> Thanks again.  Lloyd <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
Live Rock (shells). RichardB's response   7/6/06 Hi Bob and Crew. < Hello! > I have a question I haven't seen addressed on your website (although I suspect its there somewhere - you have a very comprehensive website). < Your flattery will get you everywhere! > I know that there are state and federal bans on the harvesting of wild live rock.  Most of the definitions I have found for "live rock" relate to marine life growing on coral structure and rocks.  I like to snorkel with my kids (I'm fortunate enough to live in South Florida, hurricanes aside) and when I do, its not at all unusual to find large shells (no snails inside) that are encrusted with coralline algae, as well as all kinds of other stuff.  I'm not aware of any general ban on the collection of empty shells.  Would it be your opinion that shells, after becoming encrusted with coralline algae, would be considered "live rock", and if not, is their any reason they couldn't perform the same function in a marine aquarium? < There is not restriction on the collection of empty shells, and unless you are intentionally collecting them with intent to sell, there should be no problem. In small numbers, the shells can be a beautiful addition to an aquarium. Unfortunately, the stagnant water inside of the shells may cause problems in the long run, especially if there are too many shells present in too small of a body of water. The "live rock " has much more surface area, and can therefore house more bacteria for more biological filtration. The surface of a shell cannot compare in that aspect. Piles upon piles of shells would also become a sink or deposit of detritus and mulm over time, thereby even further increasing the risk of oxygen depletion. One or two would not be a problem. Ten or twenty would. > I've attached a picture of a horse conch shell I found a few weeks ago off Florida's gulf coast.  If you look closely, you can see (in addition to the gorgeous purple algae) two fan worms (I think) on the bottom to the lower right of the hermit crab, and another three at the top. < The shell is beautiful. It must be wonderful for your kids to be able to grow up with a "backyard" such as South Florida. > Thanks for your thoughts, you guys perform a very valuable service. Lloyd < Thank you for your compliments, I know everyone here appreciates them! RichardB >

Venus Flower Basket... biological old-timey bathroom sponges as decor   6/23/06 Good day Crew...hope all is well. <About as well as...> Might I have your insights on putting a Venus flower basket skeleton back  in the marine environment? <Mmm: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/~nhi708/treasure/venus/ a demospongian> Seems that they are made up of mostly fibre  glass <Silicate> so I ponder if there would be any concern housing it in a home aquarium  for a long period of time as decor. Thanks....take care. <Shouldn't be a problem... are almost entirely chemically inert... Will likely want to take out, "bleach wash" to clean occasionally (see WWM re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm). Bob Fenner>
Re: Venus Flower Basket  6/23/06
Thank you Bob, I'm glad to know I can use it in some of my saltwater set ups....I look forward to trying it. The link you provided does not seem to work, would you concur? <Mmm, works for me: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/~nhi708/treasure/venus/ > Thank you so very much for the advice, it's good to know. Be well. <And you my friend. BobF>
Re: Venus Flower Basket  6/23/06
There we go, that linked worked, I may have been doing something off,  prior. Thanks again. <Welcome> I look forward to trying this out in a marine environment, would you think down the line there would be some sort of breakdown present, after having it   housed for the duration of the aquarium being up and running? thanks. <Some deterioration over time, yes... but likely slow, virtually undetectable. Bob Fenner>

Driftwood problem  6/21/06 Hello crew, I love the site, it has helped me see how little I knew a few months ago. <Ahh, good... Justification for all the resource expended/invested> I couldn't find anything related so here goes:  I have a 55 gallon, emperor 400, Superskimmer, (2) MaxiJet 1200's, and about 50 pounds of LR.  I started out with the idea of an all local estuarine tank. <Neat>   I had a black sea bass and a rock sea bass <I hope these were quite small...> and many local hermits.  The local fish get too large and I decided to restart and let them go.  The big problem is, I had a big piece of driftwood (I know that was dumb) and some local calcareous rocks.   I didn't realize it, but little pieces of wood were breaking off and are all over the substrate. <Yes... interesting material, but needs to be carefully prepared...> I suspect the wood was lowering my ph. <Very likely, yes>   Now, I've switched to live rock with the idea of doing a more typical setup, but I am having a heck of a time getting this wood and other debris vacuumed out of the tank. <Needs to be so thoroughly "vacced" that I would suggest taking the tank down and rinsing and rinsing in a bucket in five or so pound aliquots> Substrate is a mix of aragonite and Tahitian moon sand.  Nitrates are sky high (80 ppm), and I need them to decrease before I add any fish or cool inverts.  Any advice for making this transition and getting this tank clean and healthy. Ammonia and Nitrite have tested at 0 since the initial cycle.  Its funny how little you know when you start in this hobby (and I'm a marine scientist). Thanks, Matt <I'd re-start... this is about the only way to clean out the vast majority of the wood and its ill-effects. Bob Fenner>

SW Lace Rock  ??    6/14/06 Hi Eric or Crew, <Daniel> I was wondering what are your thoughts on using lace rock in the salt water aquariums. Is there any special way I need to clean it? <Best to really "blast" it with pressurized water to remove organic material (most is dug up out of soil...). See below. I have half of my tank set up with live rock and thought it would be a good contrast to use lace rock on the other side. It is a 135 gallon fish only with live rock ..so far. Any info. would be great - Thanks -daN <Mmm, a chance for a more complete "answer" here... I am not a fan of using, or at least carte blanche endorsing the use of "lace, also often labeled/known as Tufa rocks" for marine aquarium use (though more so for some types of FW... e.g. African Rift Lake...) as the descriptive term is not accurate... Some of this rock is calcium carbonate based (principally), derived from sedimentary processes... perhaps from lime-rich hot springs (we've just installed travertine flooring in part of the house... similarly derived)... other sources for this material include pyroclastic volcanic ash that has solidified into rock... The largely calcareous material may be safe, adding carbonate (raising pH, alkalinity), and the volcanically derived material may be largely inert... composed principally of silicate (SiO2, Silicon Dioxide)... but both may have "other components" that may well be to a degree problematic, toxic. If it were me/mine, I'd either stick with "pure" sources of said decor, or at least have questionable ones thoroughly tested. Bob Fenner>

Aquascaping 01-01-06 Hello and thank you for your time, <Hello> I own a 29 gallon bowfront reef aquarium with approx. 8 lbs of live rock and 8  lbs of lace rock. My problem is that the rock I have bought is very dense and  square. I need to know how to aquascape to create a beautiful theme for my eyes  and a practical home for my inhabitants (currently 1 colony of star polyps and  one snail after the death of my neon goby). My live rock consists of a square  piece with a colony of green star polyps growing on it, and 2 rectangular shaped  pieces. I have a cave centered in my aquarium ( 12 in by 8 in) of lace rock with  a hole centered in the middle. I would love a theme of stacked rock with casting   shadows as a result by my power compact lighting. I know I need to buy more live   rock, particularly lighter and more varied pieces, but I need a lot of help with  exactly what kind and how to stack it. <Your best bet will be to search this site and many others on the internet for pictures of other individual's tanks. You can then borrow some of their ideas and make them your own. I would also suggest using smaller pieces as they are much easier to shape and position. I personally think a "lagoon" style would look great in a bowfront. All you do is make 2 stacks of rock, one on each end of the tank. This leaves the middle area open for your fish to "cruise" and it is a great break from the traditional "wall of rock" reef design. Another benefit is the ease of cleaning and increasing flow in a tank this style. My last piece of advice, never stack rock against glass as it will cause dead spots. Travis>                                                                 -B. F.

Painting on a Background (9-16-05) Hi there! Good evening, Leslie here with you this fine evening.> I am getting ready to set up a 60 gallon FOWLR system. I am considering painting on a background. Using your search feature, I found that you recommend using water-based latex paint. I was just wondering if you had a recommendation on the type of brush to use. <I find rollers work well. I use a thickish one.> Also, if there are any drawbacks or risks associated with painting on a background, could you please share them with me? <Nope there are no risks I can think of. I do however have a few tips…  Be sure the tank back is clean and dry before applying the paint.  The paint should be applied to the outside of the tank. Let the paint dry thoroughly between coats. Do also be aware that the paint can peel and chip especially with the use of hang on the back equipment.> Thank you in advance for your counsel. Pat < You're most welcome, Leslie>

Driftwood in Marine Setup  8/16/05 Crew- <Craig> I have a 30 gallon mini-reef with a 5" DSB. Would you advise removing a sizable piece of driftwood that has been in the system since setup (approx. 8 months)? <Mmm, if it's taking up space you'd rather use in another way...> The tank is stocked with 45# of LR, one Fu Manchu lion (3"), one four-stripe damsel (2"), and one blue velvet damsel (2"). <Surprised the Lion hasn't sucked up the damsels as yet> The invertebrate life includes 2 dozen Nassarius, a handful of Trochus and astrea, and a recently (~3 weeks ago) added colony of green star and button polyps. I do not have water quality problems and I am confident my filtration and lighting are all adequate (from reading and researching your site and others). The driftwood was purchased from my LFS with assurances that it would be fine in a marine setup. I am not so convinced these days, and have concerns that as the system continues to mature, the driftwood will contribute excess nutrients to my system, thus promoting nuisance algae and depressing my pH. <Likely so> Could you spell out the probable impact of driftwood on a marine system? <Mmm, let's see... the descriptive term "drift and wood" is too vague... there are definitely woods that I would not employ in captive aquatic systems (fresh, brackish, or marine), some that "if cured" are safe... even gorgeous... but do all to some extent continue to decompose chemically, biologically... as you state, mal-affecting water quality to extents> The driftwood has a slate base, and removing it will definitely be a significant disturbance on the DSB. Should I drain the tank halfway into a quarantine, moving the livestock to this tank before removing the driftwood and allow time for the system to settle back out? <Yes... a very good idea... Likely a giant mess...> I am not really into making extra work for myself, but given my circumstances, what would you do? <I'd plan on having to drain the whole tank, make a few change-outs of water to remove the likely anoxic mess that will be about the base of the wood> If my concerns are non- issues, that's alright, I would rather be safe than sorry. You know, a Conscientious Aquarist. <!> Thank you for your time Craig     <And you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner, another one>

Sculpted backdrop for 120 gallon tank 8/9/05 Any suggestions for building a background that will sit behind the tank ( wont have to be limited on material as it will not be in water ) <Oooh, yes... some really neat possibilities here... can be fantastic or attempt to continue or expand on a theme inside the tank itself...> I wanted to build a rock wall with a diver on it and then the top would be a sandy beach with a Lego boat backing into the water. <Neat> I plan top use some of the base gravel that will also be in the tank to blend the two together. My question is if I need to fill it all with clear decoupage or some material to mate it to the rear glass of the tank will it look realistic? <Mmm, likely not... though once it's all up and placed, you might want to add some matching lighting over it to blend in with the tank> Any suggestions.   <Do send a pic or two! Bob Fenner> Thanks for the notes, I'm off to the workshop <In our day we made many such dioramas... for Public Aquariums... some with mirrors on their walls that gave the impression of infinite depth... all were great fun, interesting projects. Enjoy yours! BobF>

Plastic bins as reef structure? 8/6/05 Found some nifty black plastic inter-locking storage bins to support my reef structure.  They are manufactured in Jordan and are for office storage.  My chances on the dyes staying intact and inert......?????  < I'd say they are fine if you like the looks and think they are structurally what you are looking for. > Can I soak them in saltwater for a couple of weeks and determine anything?  < Maybe but I'm not worried. > Not food grade, ok... what are my chances. MJ <  Blundell  >

Crabs and shells from ocean 8/4/05 Hi Crew, <Christy> Can I put hermit crabs or empty shells from the ocean in my saltwater   aquarium?  Do I have to do anything to the empty shells first?   Thanks for any help you can offer. Christy <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm Bob Fenner> How to build a live rock cave? 8/1/05 Hello, Can you please point me to explicit instructions (diagrams might help) of how to build and support a cave of live rock?  I've read that such caves should be reinforced with PVC, but am uncertain how to do this exactly, and how to support the whole structure -- e.g. does it require a complete under-sand scaffold?  I'm new to this hobby, though have read a lot so far.  The tank is 40-gallons (it has 36" longest dimension), we'd like a cave about 12" deep, 10" high, with sand on the floor. Thanks so much for any info you can offer! <Mmm, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/lrplacingfaqs.htm and the linked files above... do give a look/see at Anthony (Calfo's) "Book of Coral Propagation" for graphics, more/better explanations. Bob Fenner> Wood in saltwater Good Morning! <Yawn!!!> Once again I've come by to pick your brains! Kind of an odd question but, I have a 75g saltwater tank in the works and I'm wondering if you can put wood inside the tank? (Not driftwood BTW) Does it need to be sealed, and if so what would I seal it with? <Mmm, not a good idea in the long haul... coatings break down... pollution> Something like a polyurethane varnish?  <My favorite material for furniture!> I have a really cool and unique idea for decor in there but I want to know if this will be safe for the fish... Thank you once again for your most valued help!!! Barbara <Worth experimenting perhaps, but realize you will likely have to discard all the contents of the system when the finish fails. Bob Fenner>

Artificial turtle grass? Mr. Fenner, < Blundell here tonight. > I am looking for a supplier of artificial turtle grass. Can you help me?  < Artificial? You mean plastic? I'd maybe look into having a store order you this http://www.naturesimageonline.com/NI-125.htm or just look in local pet stores in the freshwater section. Unfortunately I don't know any product that is specifically made to replicate turtle grass.> Thanks, Gary < Blundell >

Base Rock Query 4.26.2005 What do you call "dead" live rock and can I sell it? I have about 150 lbs of it. <Dead Rock is an expression that is applied to Live Rock that has been dried, and the symbiotic life has perished.  It can be re-colonized, but can take years.  Many aquarists purchase this dead rock/base rock to use in refugiums, etc.  Good luck, Ryan>

Mirror finish on aquarium wall 3/22/05 In using the search tool, was not able to locate anything more about mirrored tint, other than on the back. I have a Question regarding the use of one-way mirror tint to put on aquarium. Would this in any way hinder marine fish? I find that as I'm cycling the aquarium using damsels, I have a green damsel that likes to hide under the rock, they all hide when the lights are out. Also have read that several species of fish are shy. Would putting the tint on the front and sides assist in having them swim around instead of rushing to hide anytime someone goes near the aquarium? And also help in reducing the stress on them? <I agree with the notion that the fish will be less shy and less stressed if they cannot see outside of the tank, however seeing their own reflection in the walls of the tank would lead to disaster. Most fish will act aggressively toward their own reflection as if it were another fish! This will lead to more stress as well as injury as they try to attack the reflection.> I'm thinking it would be a good idea, and also an aid in additional light getting to the bottom of the tank with the reflective nature of it. Plans are eventually to upgrade to 48" 4x65W 50/50 10k/03 actinic with moonlight for a 24 hour lighting on 55 gallon 48" long and keeping moderate lighting requirement corals.  <Using quality fixtures with well designed reflectors is much more important in ensuring good light penetration through the water. Reflective surfaces inside the tank would contribute little (aside from the problems with the fishes). 4x65W PC lighting is plenty of light for most corals.> Much appreciate the assistance, and the presence of this website, I like so many else have mentioned, only wish I seen it before purchasing the skimmer, a SeaClone 150. But, I will be getting an Aqua C Remora soon, as well as 45lb live rock. Thinking the SeaClone will handle the curing of the rock in a Rubbermaid 16gallon container. Other filtration being used are Marineland Penguin 350, Fluval 204 with bio-media and pre-filter foam. <Thanks for the kind words about the site. The aqua-c will serve you much better than the sea-clone. I would cycle the rock with the aqua-c and then replace the sea-clone after the rock is cycled. The power filters that you mentioned are fine, but must be cleaned AT LEAST weekly.> Have about a layer of Aragamax and crushed coral with a layer of fine sand on top of it? 200W heater, also getting another 200W to use while cycling the rock and getting temperatures right for water adding and 10% changes weekly, using Oceanic Salt. In your opinion, do you think I'm on the right track of switching from South American Cichlid over to a marine aquarium with "moderate" coral? The coral are probably another six months to a year before adding.  <It sounds like you are very much on the right track. Be sure to maintain alkalinity and calcium. Kudos on your patience. Running the tank for a few months before adding corals will give you time to learn and practice maintaining water quality and will add to your success! Best Regards. AdamC.>

Questions on Rock Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2005 Hello Mr. Fenner <Just Bob please George> My name is George Vitale. I am a 45 year old male who is changing careers from welding to teaching school. <Outstanding> I have always enjoyed biology and most especially marine biology. My wife and I recently got back into aquaria and I am reading as much as time will permit. I am very grateful and thankful for your book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist which I have read in its entirety and I am recommending it to others. <Ahh, glad you found it useful> I am writing this email hoping to pick your brain about lava rock and Florida mined limestone. In your book you mention that lava rock has long term negative effects on the system. Would you please tell me what those effects might be? <Principally the possibility of metal contamination... but secondarily the fact that this material is "too smooth" (siliceous) and not calcareous... that its presence won't add much to biological filtration or dissolve, rendering calcium, carbonates... buffering pH> Is it the concern over leaching phosphate, and if so would macro algae keep up with those levels? <It might> Also what are your thoughts about using limestone in a large sump (300 gallons) for the biological filter for a 150 gallon tank? <Can be done... crushed coral and other "sea material" is better in that it releases a proportionate amount (about three times) magnesium... other useful molecules> Any help that you might be able to give would be much appreciated even when unable to repay the kindness. George Vitale <Thank you for writing, congratulations on your career change. Bob Fenner>

Eel and Shark 3/11/05 Hello, Can you tell me if Lava Rock would be ok in a tank with a Snowflake eel and bamboo shark? <likely safe... but always some risk/extra algae with terrestrial rocks><<Mmm, too sharp... little help with biofiltration, water chemistry. RMF>> My tank is 65"X25"X25" My filtration has around 100 lb of live rock in my sump 1 canister filter 1 protein skimmer. I can't seem to find anything about Lava rock in fish only salt systems. Can you please help me. Thank you <go to our index page at www.wetwebmedia.com and simply type in "lava rock" in the Google search tool. Enjoy the journey. Anthony> 

Painting underwater? Nope/ 2/25/05 Just a follow up from yesterdays email.  I will go the route of working with glass to make the overflow. My question is, I would like to have the glass be opaque to hide the bulkheads, water churn, etc. Can I use that aerosol spray on the glass that makes it look frosted?  <yikes! no... toxic risk, and not durable underwater. Just ask for art glass instead... any color, texture, opacity, etc> Do you know if it is inert once cured?  <scary list of chemical ingredients> Or is there another solution that would accomplish the same thing?  <art glass like stained glass artists use> Also, not sure if you saw the second half of my email yesterday... would you mind emailing the portion of your book that covers the horizontal overflow. It would be much appreciated.  Thanks! <buried with e-mail/work my friend... and simply have not had the time to dig through shelved archives for the digital file copy. My apologies. Anthony>

"Lava rock" Good day, I obtained an aquarium which was used for many years as a freshwater tropical aquarium hosting parrot fish and Malawi's.  The aquarium has a lot of "lava rock", which is a reddish-brown colour, in it.  I want to change the aquarium to a marine aquarium.  Can I use this "lava rock" in the marine aquarium with African live rock?  If yes, should the "lava rock" be cleaned and how. Thanks. Willie Deysel <Good question... well, most volcanic, igneous "lava" rock is not to be carte blanche trusted in marine aquariums... due mainly to concerns with possible chemical leaching... but... as this rock has been in long use in an aquarium application (albeit freshwater) I am inclined to trust it enough to try and use it. It can be "cleaned"... likely should be... perhaps as far as bleach washing... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm Bob Fenner>

Terrestrial rock marine safe? 1/16/04 This is a follow-up to my original question I posed on your forum one year ago, about using Lace Rock as base rock. Dis-illusioned with the reply's I received, I decided to use said rock as base. The Lace rocks have been in the tank approx: 1 year and are now covered in red coralline, (actually, some even have more then my Fiji rock), and tons of mini feather dusters. At this stage, it would be hard for a novice to distinguish between this rock and "live" rock. <superficially yes... and good to hear overall> After many attempts, I have yet to see any coral/anenomes settle on any of the rocks....even after I have placed them on the rocks, they eventually (with hours) move. <it is an unnatural surface... many marine creatures are very sensitive about the matter, to the extent that certain larvae will only settle out on specific species of other matter (types of corallines for example)> I will follow up with more info later as I will keep experimenting.... <thank you for this input/follow-up. Indeed, we assume some risk with using terrestrial rock. Seems harmless here but still a bit of a challenge. Anthony>

Paint question... <Hello Rich> First off, thanks for all the help you give everyone. I know I appreciate it. Here is my question. I just finished putting some touchup paint on to a rock wall that I was building using lace rock, egg crate and great stuff. The little great stuff that I did need to paint I used an outdoor/indoor gloss acrylic enamel paint from a hobby store. It's water based so I assumed I was ok since I had done some research into the paint prior to buying it. This stuff was attractive because it was listed as water resistant. Well after using it, my daughter read the label (I know, I didn't) and yelled at me because the label does state that this paint should not be used where food comes in contact with it. It also said not to use within 2cm where your lips may come in contact either. So now I am concerned. The bottles are 2 oz bottles and if I used a total if 1/5 of that 2oz total would be a generous estimate. I used very little to say the least. It's going in to a 220 tank, should I be worried? Should I seal with some other coating? The exact brand is PLAID, plaidonline.com black, real brown, and grey. Thanks for any advice you can give.<Water resistant does not mean waterproof.  That paint will probably dissolve in due time.  The only paint I would safely recommend would be an epoxy based paint that is allowed to cure the correct amount of time before submersion in water.  James (Salty Dog)> Rich Hunziker

PVC Use in Aquarium Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! Does it make sense to use PVC pipe as sort of a skeleton for aquascaping?  I am building two towers of live rock, and I thought I might use PVC pipe in the center to hold them together (i.e. mount the PVC onto a flat board of some kind, burry the board underneath the substrate, and drill holes in the pipe so that I may use ties to hold the rocks in place).  Make sense?  What might I use to mount the pipe to the board? <Use a drill with a masonry bit, in combination with a PVC structure and fuse it together with zip ties.  The rock can be easily drilled to create holes- Then the zip tie should be inserted through, and secured to the tower.  Encrusting algae will cover anything in time!> Thank you very much, I always appreciate your insight! <Good luck, happy reef-building! Ryan> Daniel

Painting acrylic tank If so, what sort of paint would be safe to use? <My understanding is that you can paint acrylic tanks with acrylic paints.> Thanks! Jeff -

Waterproofing Styrofoam - We are currently making an accessory for our aquarium.  The accessory will be made of Styrofoam.  We have heard that epoxy is safe for use in aquariums but need an epoxy that is easily spreadable. Please let me know if you know of an epoxy that spreads easily or if there is another product we can use. <Well... I would think that fiberglass resin, which is really epoxy resin... the fiberglass is a secondary application to the epoxy resin. The resin alone is quite spreadable as well as chemically "hot" which means you'll need to test with the Styrofoam you're using. You might find that stock epoxy resin melts your Styrofoam. Just give it the full amount of time to cure and work with it outdoors and you'll be fine.> Thank you. <Cheers, J -- >

Red lava rock? hi, <Hello there> Thank you for the response about my lighting and gorgonian question. <Welcome> In the past I had bought some porous rock from the local fish store to supplement the live rock, and it's done very well and is covered with polyps and coralline algae.  I recently bought some more rock - but got a porous red lava rock without realizing it wasn't what I had bought originally.  Before I introduce it into the tank, I was hoping to get an opinion if this is ok or a mistake!  This is a 30 gallon reef tank w/ lots of polyps, soft corals, clownfish, pajama cardinals, etc. Thanks, Ben <... Have seen/experienced red lava rock that was both fine for marine aquarium use AND other types that were disastrous chemically, physically... I would at the very least "do a bio-assay" with boiling a bit of water with some of this rock in it, letting it cool, and subjecting some fish and non-fish life to its presence for a few weeks before placing it in my/your main/display tank... You can get/use test gear for iron content... The real, short answer is I would not use it. Bob Fenner>

Can sandstone be used in a saltwater tank? >>>Hello Monte, Sure, you can use sandstone. Don't expect it to transform into true live rock though, it's much too dense. Also, if you're talking about a reef tank, or any tank where coralline covered live rock will be introduced, the sandstone itself well become covered in coralline algae eventually. So, might as well just use live rock. If you're setting up an "old school" fish only tank with no live rock, then coralline algae will not be an issue. Jim<<<

Aquarium backgrounds Good A/F                     I'm  looking to paint the back of my tank. Do paints differ for glass made for  aquarium. Are there any type of texture paints or type of paints out there  specifically made to enhance the color of fish?                                                                        TY <I like water-based latexes... for ease of application (best applied when tank empty, laid down on...), lack of fumes, ease of removal, permanence... black and darker blues are my fave colors. Bob Fenner>

Algae Aquascaping? I have seen salt water tanks with macro algae purposefully placed in for a more natural look. It looks nice, I'm just wondering if it is a good idea. << I think it is a wonderful idea.  Better to have than coral (but don't tell Calfo I told you that). >> I have a 125 gal. that is going to be a reef tank. Would it be ok to use some for aquascaping in a tank with corals? << Oh it is highly recommended that you do.  It provides many benefits. >> If so, what kinds of macro algae could I use and how far away from the corals should I keep them.<< My algae and corals grow right on top of each other.  I would use any of the Dictyota species, and most Caulerpa.  Just not C. racemosa because it is a little too prolific of a grower. >>  A blue tang is on the list of possible tank occupants. I have a feeling it would eat any of the macro algae's placed in to the tank even if supplied with adequate amounts of Nori to graze on.<< Even more reason to have the algae, it provides a great secondary food source. >>  Any input is appreciated. Thanks, Shauna. << Hope it all works out well. >> <<  Adam Blundell  >>

Re: Algae Aquascaping? Lol, I won't tell Calfo. << That is for the best. >> What a coincidence, my algae is growing right over the top of my live rock like it does your corals, who would of thunk it :) I thought it would be a great for tang grazing I just hope it doesn't eat it all before I have a chance to enjoy it.<< Yes this can be a problem.  Here is an idea (although not the most visually attractive idea).  You can place plastic baskets over your algae in some areas to prevent your tangs from eating it all.  Just get some of those green plastic baskets at the supermarket which they use for strawberries.  Then move the baskets around every week or so to cover another patch of algae. >> I should probably keep some extra aquascaping algae on hand for this reason. << Another advantage to having a sump. >> I wanted to make my tank inhabitance feel more at home, any other ideas that would achieve this? We already have a DSB, lots of live rock stacked around acrylic shelving supported by sturdy PVC legs. It creates lots of hidey holes, spacious caves and a cavern behind the LR stack that you can see in to. We are going to add a wave maker and now the algae, corals are coming soon as well as better lighting for them, moon lights, different stages for the lighting to simulate sunrise and sunset. We saw this on a couple of tanks and it looked pretty cool. The people that did this both said they noticed better coral growth and color when they started the different light stages. Any other creative ideas is appreciated, thanks again,<< Well I'm not one to ask for help on "creative ideas".  What I do is throw a bunch of stuff in a tank, and hope it grows and looks good.  I really like hands-free natural tanks. >> Shauna <<  Adam Blundell  >>

Re: 150 gallon fish only tank Thank you for the advice Mr. Fenner, I appreciate very much the time and effort you and your team put into helping rookies like me out.  By the way, I'm a San Diego resident, and the fish store I mentioned in my last email is Octopus Garden.  Your friend/tenant Ron is an...interesting person. <Ah, yes... an original for sure>   My question is do you know a good place around here to get good aquascaping supplies?? I was planning on using lots of live rock, and maybe some synthetic corals.  Also, if I do run a DSB, can I use beach sand from, say, La Jolla shores?.  I can't wait to design and build the interior of the 150.  <I would skip collecting your own sand unless you have a good deal of time to prep. it (rinsing and drying mainly... to avoid pest and pollutants). The aquascaping supplies can be had through local retailers like Ron and Aqua fauna/Aquatic Warehouse... or you might want to make some contacts through the local marine society, trade or hoof it up to L.A. sometime with them for a buy-a-thon. Bob Fenner>

Are Non Living Red sea Fans Aquarium safe? 4/28/04 Hello: I recently purchased some Red sea fans (non living, decorative) to use in my aquarium.  I was told by another person that these cannot be used in the aquarium because they will fall apart. I was also told that the Red portion of the Sea fan was the animal. Are these non living sea fans aquarium safe? Thank you <it depends... if the tissue has been stripped away and the gorgonian (woody) stem has simply been dyed or painted... then it may be safe. If there is still dried red tissue on it... then there will be some rotting. If the sea fan was packaged wrapped in plastic, then I suspect it was/is safe. Anthony>

Are They Safe?  >Hello:  >>Hello.  >I purchased some Red sea fans (non living) to use as decorations inside my aquarium. Someone told me that these are not aquarium safe because the Red portion of the sea fan is the dead animal and will fall apart in water. Are these sea fans aquarium safe? Thank you  >>Hhmm.. well, if you purchased them from an aquarium shop, where they're being sold with the express purpose of being used in aquaria, then even if they *did* fall apart I wouldn't worry. However, if you purchased them anywhere else, then one has to wonder if they've been treated with anything. That would be of greater worry than something that grows in the sea coming apart in water (unless we're talking certain other living organisms, another issue entirely). If you purchased them at, say, a novelty shop, then I cannot recommend using them. Marina

Lava Rock for marine tank? 4/6/04  Do you guys think lava rock should not be used at all in a marine aquarium?  <it can be used... best in large tanks with regular water changes and strong chemical filtration. Not so much out of fear of contaminants, but rather to control the excess algae likely from using dead/uncolonized rock>  I have a fish only tank, and I plan on aquascaping with Live Rock, using Lava Rock as the base.  <you might try building a hollow structure (sawn milk crates or a PVC structure/shelf) to avoid dealing with (nuisance) algae succession on dry/dead (lava) rock>  If I use Live Rock as the base, won't those base rocks die due to no light, and release ammonia?  <ahhh...no. rock rubble zones are deep in the wild my friend. Like... tens of feet deep/thick in the ocean! :) I strongly encourage you to use clean, cured live rock in quantity for a natural and stable system>  Thank you very much for your time! Daniel  <wishing you the best of luck, Anthony>

Lava Rock for marine tank? II 4/6/04  Anthony, Thank you very much for your quick response, and insight!  <always welcome>  One other thing- Like most of us, I am learning as I go, with many mistakes being made along the way. I am taking your suggestion of using PVC pipe for my aquascaping (building two 'towers').  <it is a good way to build large, attractive structures that do not weigh or cost too much (if solid rock)>  I used a piece of PVC pipe once in my quarantine tank- and all the fish died.  <there must have been some contaminant on it... PVC is patently safe>  I found that the PVC pipe had a very, very faint smell of oil...(I know, YIKES!) How can I 'cure' PVC pipe? Boil it?  <no need to. Clean PVC is completely safe. New pipe can generally be used right off the shelf. Do rinse to be safe. Your incident was an unfortunate fluke (someone spilled something on the pipe at the warehouse perhaps)>  Thanks again, Daniel  <best regards, Anthony>

Lace rock and holey limestone 3/29/04  Greetings crew,  <greetings>  While performing my daily ritual of reading the daily FAQ's I noticed Chet Andrews question about lace rock. I'm thinking it may be what I have leftover from my freshwater days, and if I could chunk it in my 125 FOWLR it would be nice.  <not worth the risk, albeit small>  The stuff I have is gathered locally (central Texas) and is sold as "holey limestone". Please see attached photo.  I still have the 3 pieces pictured, and thought they would be fun for my wrasse and pseudo to play in....that is if its ok to put them in. Thanks! Emo  <my advice is the same as stated in the message you cite: the rock is not recommended as it is of undefined composition/quality. Problems can range from harmless but messy fast dissolution to actual contamination depending on how/where it was collected on land (deposits, pollution, etc). Terrestrial rock does not get my vote here for your marine aquarium. Anthony>

Lace rock testimonial? 3/26/04 Hi Crew, I wanted to reply back to the question below, but couldn't figure out how.......maybe you can help.. ----------- I have personal experience using "Lace Rock", (FYI: Its a lava rock that has a lot more "pores" then regular weight lava rock)..... I have used it in both my 165 and 85 gallon reefs as a base rock. They work great as base rocks. <Hmmm... there are advantages and disadvantages to using such dead rock, the latter (disadvantages) including the fact that the matter is uncolonized and in many tanks will first be settled often by nuisance organisms. Furthermore, studies have shown that "culturing" live rock really never does compare to wild rock in terms of quality/bio-diversity. Still... it does have places/uses> I have tons and tons of worms (typical small feathers) "growing" on them. They are not calcareous, and thus no "boring" animals will be found. <this is not correct... the rock is calcareous> They will grow various forms of algae, but I have yet to find coralline type on mine (been in the tanks for approx: 1 year)..... <this is a common problem... slow to colonize> They don't leach (as long as they are cleaned before use). <yikes! another incorrect and unqualified statement. These and any mined rocks practically are of variable quality. In some areas of given deposits, there can be considerable contamination> Bleached, sun dried, and then rinsed out multiple times.....(and repeat). I don't think boiling them would hurt..... <agreed> They will not/not good host anenomes or soft corals, due to the extreme sharp (even down to a microscopic level) edges on the rock. <this is incorrect... and a bizarre statement> As an overall rock to use as base/foundation for "live" rock. I personally recommend this rock, as it is cheap, available everywhere, and most important (for me), has zero impact on the destruction of natural coral reefs. <I'm not sure why/where this testimonial is coming from... but it is grossly in error. This last statement most of all. Lace rock is mined from ancient reef formations which are a non-renewable resource (dead). Live rock is a living and renewable resource of vast quantity/potential. Getting the facts straight :) Anthony>  

Lace rock" and "holey limestone" 3/27/04 Greetings crew, While performing my daily ritual of reading the daily FAQ's I noticed Chet Andrews question about lace rock. I'm thinking it may be what I have leftover from my freshwater days, and if I could chunk it in my 125 FOWLR it would be nice. The stuff I have is gathered locally (central Texas) and is sold as "holey limestone". Please see attached photo. I still have the 3 pieces pictured, and thought they would be fun for my wrasse and pseudopod to play in....that is if its ok to put them in. Thanks!  Emo <using terrestrial mined rocks is a matter of variable risk. Even with carbonate substrates like this, their "safety" is not assured as some are of risk depending on where in the deposit they are minded from aside from issues of pollution from land-based/human activities. If you intend to use it... test it in a QT tank with a hardy fish first perhaps. Anthony>

Using Dead Coral Skeletons I have acquired some large coral skeletons from a marina development site - they are very clean and white & have been in the sun for months. Is it ok to add it to an established tank all at once (there is nothing living on/in them so no die off)? If not -why? Jeremy <Well, Jeremy- there are a lot of reasons why we don't recommend using un-prepared coral skeletons in aquaria. Sure, there might be noting living on them, but there is also the potential that they have been exposed to toxic compounds that can slowly leach into the water. There are no guarantees. The preparation of coral is a careful process, that involves multiple steps of bleaching, etc. It can be done by the home hobbyist, but you really need to test as you go. Do a search on the WWM site using the Google search feature to hear more. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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