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FAQs on Cleaning Coral Skeletons and Decor

Related Articles: Cleaning Decor, Marine Maintenance, Cleaning Aquariums

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Residual chlorine kills all life.  Anampses twistii

Coral skeleton problem   3/21/07 Hi <Hello, Brandon here.> I am a teacher at a school and we just got a saltwater tank.   <Cool.> As we were setting it up some students were suppose to rinse off the coral skeletons and apparently used soap in the process we are trying to find out what we are suppose to do...is there another way to clean the skeletons off and safely put it in our tank. <I would soak the skeletons in bleach for a day or so, and then leave them out in the sun for about three days, afterward rinsing it with very hot water.  To see if the soap is still there, and capable of contaminating water, I would place the skeletons in a saltwater solution for a few days, and then test that water for NH3, NO2, and NO3.  If these results come up within acceptable ranges, i.e. zero, then you can go ahead and add it to the tank.  You can probably cut a few days out with the sun drying, and the sitting in water parts, but I am paranoid, and I would do it the other way.> Thanks, <You are welcome.  Brandon.> Tanya Anderson

Cleaning Coral Skeletons   2/20/07 I had a salt water tank ten years ago and I have some dead coral that has been in storage since then.  I want to clean it and I see your article recommends chlorine bleach.  I am preparing to start a tank up again and assuming I wash the coral and let it air dry for a week or so, is the dechloraminator necessary? Paul <It's a good idea. I like to soak anything cleaned with chlorine in a solution with dechlorinator overnight or for a couple of days and then air dry in the sun. HTH, Leslie>

Cleaning Bryozoan skeletons   9/1/06 Hello WetWebMedia Crew, <Adam> Firstly, I've read through your articles on cleaning coral skeletons and have a good idea of what to do but I still have a few questions. I recently collected some dead calcareous Bryozoan skeletons from the beach which had been washed up after a storm and I would like to clean them and use them as decoration in my seahorse tank. They were definitely dead but there was still some organic material from where they had been attached to seagrass rhizomes as well as dead sponges, ascidians etc attached to them which I picked out with a pair of tweezers. <Good> I soaked them for two days in clean fresh water, then boiled them and they are now sitting on a wire rack in the sun. I was a worried about using bleach because of their very porous nature and thought that it might be difficult to ensure that all the bleach was completely washed away. <Not so much an issue as the conjugate acid nature of bleaches... dissolving these calcium carbonate based skeletons...> They still smell very strongly of rotten sea life, will this go away after they have been left to bleach in the sun? <Possibly not for quite a long time...> Also, some of the pieces are a very attractively coloured in a deep purple colour, will the sun destroy this and if so would placing them under shade to dry out be ok? <Mmm, won't likely result in their being "cleaned"> Is there anything else I should do to make sure that it is safe to place in the aquarium? <I would "experiment" with dilute bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solution (either that used for clothing/washing or the pool/spa industry), with different dilutions... and rinse/soak for a day after exposure, change the water out (for all new/fresh) and dose with a "dechlorinator" (or make your own...) a few concentrations more than directions... let soak another day... This should do it... though you can/could test for free chlorine still present...> Here is a link to a photo of the type of thing am dealing with. http://bio.fsu.edu/~bsc2011l/bryzoan_images_sum_04/Calcareous-bryozoan.jpg Yours Sincerely Adam Harbeck <Bob Fenner>

Cleaning Coral Skeletons, 4/6/06 Aloha WWM crew. Great site you have here.  I actually have two questions I am hoping you can answer for me.  Question number one:  Can I use the bleach cleaning process on colorful dead coral skeletons without affecting the natural color?  The second question:  I live in Hawaii and here it is illegal to import live coral.  Unfortunately (but understandably), it is also illegal to take any live corals out of the ocean.  Do you guys happen to know of any other way to obtain coral legally for a hobbyist that wants to learn more about it?  Thanks very much, and again GREAT site! -Mark <Aloha Mark, Ryan with you today.  I would use a 1/10 Bleach, 9/10 water solution with a brush of sorts on the coral skeletons.  That should do the trick without too much color loss or damage.  As far as the coral situation, I'd give Indo-Pacific Sea Farms a try.  They have an excellent stock of aquacultured soft corals, but I'm not sure if you can purchase without shipping.  Not sure which island they're on, but they're in Hawaii!  Thank you for the kind words, Ryan> <<Are on the Big Island... call Gerald Heslinga re... RMF>>

Protein Skimmers/Cleaning    3/29/06 I've just bought a second hand Deltec MCE600 skimmer. It could do with a good scrubbing! Any tips on cleaning this baby down?  <Vinegar works well in removing lime/calcium deposits, may have to soak awhile to loosen up. Do rinse well when finished. James (Salty Dog)> Johnny

Bahamian Skeleton Man  11/15/05 Hi Bob <Please learn to/use your spelling, grammar checkers...> I recently returned from the Bahamas, with coral skeleton and two piece of coral rock that I would like to add to my salt water aquarium. the beach was quite secluded.  I know that I need to clean all debris from the coral ,but it seem extreme to boil ,chlorinate in bleach , leave in standing water for weeks. I have read about parasites that can come from coral rocks , like what, is there any beneficial thing that could come from adding the rock directly from the wild.  Emmanuel <Not enough to interest me over the risk of introducing pests, pollution. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm.  Bob Fenner> 

Coral bleaching 8/13/05 I was wondering if you might/could shed some light on bleaching white corals once they lose their luster. To clarify, I am talking about the pieces that you might would see in a souvenir shop. My LFS store told me that they could be re-bleached if you soak them in water for a couple of days before placing them back in the tank. What do you think? Safe or not! <Can indeed be re-cleaned. Please see the Action Plan here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm Bob Fenner>

- Coral for Decoration - I'm glad I found such an interesting site, and especially could ask you a question. Today I found red reef in Hudson River (I don't know the name of the reef) and would like to dry it out and place on the shelf. I need your advice PLEASE <You should be able to soak it in a weak bleach solution (say 10:1) and let it sit for a day or so, then rinse and let soak in fresh water for another day. After that, let dry and enjoy the coral skeleton. Cheers, J -- >

Freshwater tank Sorry to bother you <no bother> but this is my last resort no one around here at the pet stores seems to know what this white mold like thing is growing in my freshwater tank. It is growing on a fake plant that I have in the tank. I is fuzzy about the size of a lima bean. Do you have any idea of what this is and if so what do I need to do? <Could be just a piece of food that got stuck on your plant & is rotting, causing fuzzy bacteria to develop.  Take the plant out & rinse it off in hot water (no soap!).> My fish seem fine and healthy but I am still concerned.  I thank you for you time and would appreciate any feedback. <No problem--Pufferpunk> LeAnn

Aquarium Cleaning 101 >I was told that the only way to clean an aquarium and the fabric plants in a tank was to wash them in a solution of Clorox water. >>"Fabric" plants?  The fabric plants I'm familiar with aren't really suitable for aquarium use.   >I have never heard this before can you tell me if it is correct.   >>Well, for the most part yes, and in certain situations no.  It's the best and most often used method of sterilization.  Also does a great job of removing encrusted algal material.   >I recently purchased a used tank from a second hand dealer and would like to clean it before I set it up.  Thank you for your help. >>Ah, then yes, I would fill the tank with water, and add approximately 1/2 Cup of chlorine/5 gallons.  Let it soak a while (a couple of hours should do it), then rinse clean, allow to dry.  Smell it for a chlorine scent, if you can smell it that means it can't be used till the chlorine is either allowed to dissipate naturally or you dechlorinate.  Best of luck.  Marina

Dead Coral (cleaning) I have several pieces of dead coral on display in my bathroom.  They can get quite dusty, how do I clean them? <You might be able to just take them outdoors on a warm day and blast them clean with a hose... but do take a look at this action plan for cleaning them: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm Bob Fenner>

- Cleaning Dead Coral - Just a quick question, what is the best way to clean dead coral that has been in the tank for about a year... nice way of saying it's got lots of algae on it :) Thanks again. you guys have been wonderful!!! <A soak in a weak bleach solution... followed by a serious rinse and then a soak in the sun for a couple of days. Cheers, J -- >

Dead Coral Hi Bob, <Hello there> Can you help us?  We were given some 15 year old dead coral.  We boiled it for 1 hour and now have placed them in our 33 gallon saltwater tank. Will these dead coral pieces harm our tank, fish, shrimp, anemones, and sea cucumbers? <Should be fine. Will likely soon have a mix of brown, green "spots" (mostly algae) and after a while an entire coating. You can use the protocol for periodically bleach-washing these skeletons posted on WetWebMedia.com if you'd like. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Monica

Cleaning Corals Hello Mr. Bob, Before I start I want to thank you for this helpful site. Thank you. I just want to know ,is it ok to boil dead corals  for half an hour rather then treating them with Clorox???? <Yes, this can be done. Do consider just rinsing the skeletons in freshwater and setting them out in the sunshine for about a week to clean them rather than boiling... High heat can dissolve quite a bit of the structure. Bob Fenner> Thank you Mr. Bob, Do you mean that I should clean dead corals by rinsing them with clear fresh water and setting them in outside the home for a week! That's it no need for Clorox? <Yes my friend. This will kill off most all algae, other discoloration on the outside of the skeleton> any way I had already boil them today and they will be added tomorrow, is it ok? <Should be fine. Bob Fenner> thanks.

Cleaning Used Rock Hi Bob, <Steven Pro this evening.> I know you addressed this in one of your articles, but I had a few more questions. You mention giving used rock, in my case lava rock, a bleach rinse and then dechlorinate. What I wanted to know is can I put lava rock in my tub, <Do you mean your bathtub? You must be single or have not told your significant other about your plan yet.> fill the tub with water and add say 1 cup of Clorox bleach, let the rock sit in there for an hour or so, then rinse with cold water, then fill the tub again and add a dechlorinator. <Sounds good. I would recommend allowing the rock to soak in the dechlorinated water for several hours.> Just to let you know, I am doing this with a fair amount of rock, enough for a 150 gallon tank. Also, this is my first saltwater tank so I am being a little more cautious. <You are planning a fish only tank, right? Lava rock is not my preferred material, but marginal for fish only.> Thanks for any help you can give. John <Good luck. -Steven Pro>

Dead Coral (skeleton use) Bob, I have a pagoda coral that died a couple of months ago. Luckily I removed it from my tank before it died so it didn't pollute the whole tank. All the skin came off and what was left was the hard coral which looks like a giant mushroom. I have left it outside since it died. I was wondering if I could place it back into my tank?  <Yes, you can> I wanted to propagate some mushrooms onto it and place it back into my main tank but I am not sure if it is safe. Is there some procedure I should follow before placing it back into my main tank? Gianluca Carpinelli <If you were overly concerned you could "Bleach Wash" the skeleton per the instruction set of the same name on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com... this is the sort of protocol the folks in the service side used to follow for the "bad old days" when we just had such artifacts for decor. I would likely just freshwater rinse and place it. Bob Fenner>

Cleaning: Dead Corals Dear Bob, Recently on my trip to the Dominican Republic (wonderful experience) I collected several dead corals from the beach. I would like to put them in my 40/g SW tank but I am not sure how to safely proceed. Can you offer any advice regarding ridding these dead corals of any harmful bacteria. Thanks a lot, Chris <Yes. Please refer to the "Bleaching Corals, Shells, Decor..." something like this section on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com  This is an archived action plan from how our old service company completely cleaned such materials. Bob Fenner>


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