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FAQs on Marine Environmental Disease:  Environmental Deficiencies... Set up Issues 

Related Articles: Environmental Disease, Establishing Nutrient CyclingMarine Water Quality, Maintenance,

Related FAQs: Environmental Disease 1, Marine Environmental Disease 2, Marine Env. Disease 3, Marine Env. Disease 4, Marine Env. Disease 5, Marine Env. Disease 6, Marine Env. Disease 7, Marine Env. Disease 8, Marine Env. Disease 9, Marine Env. Disease 10, Marine Env. Disease 11, Marine Env. Disease 12, Marine Env. Disease 13, & FAQs on Environmental Disease By Cause/Types: Oxygen/Gas Problems, Poisoning, Mis-stocking: Psychological Challenges, ( Aggressive Behavior, Territoriality, ), Physiological Challenges (e.g. Metabolites, Allelopathy, Stinging), & Troubleshooting/Fixing

A very common cause of trouble.

Played dead. Trigger... shipped w/o pure O2       6/23/17
Hey Bob,
I had this happen to me last night, never experienced this before, want to see if you think this is a bizarre, rare occurrence, or just the fishes trick of the trade.
<Let's see>
I bought 2 fish last night from local shop, a red tail or sargassum trigger, and pink belly wrasse. They were both at lfs store for over a year, ate well etc.
I drive home, about 1.5 hours, bring them in and prepare a freshwater dip.
I then remove wrasse from lfs bag, dip, then into quarantine. Next up the trigger.
He was upside down in bag, motionless. I open bag, lift him up by hand, and the fish is stiff, not moving , no movement whatsoever.
<Mmm; these fishes were bagged w/ oxygen I hope/trust>
Angry, I started throwing items around me, them confused. No drastic temp changes in bag, was in there for less than two hours , and so on.
Debating whether to toss or put him in freezer in case lfs wanted to confirm (they don't guarantee anyhow) I just tossed the fish in the quarantine till I could figure out what to do.
3 hours later I come home, and he's moving his fins, but not much more.
This morning, swimming, although not aggressively, that just may be how some of these triggers are, more benthic then water column Anthias type fish.
Did I witness a reborn, or is this a tactic?
<I suspect more the former. Balistids will swim upside down, and many species are given to swimming into holes, crevices and wedging themselves in to avoid divers, predators... But this situation reads as more likely a matter of too-low oxygen; common with larger, metabolically active fishes in small volumes. Best to ship triggers in doubled or tripled 4 mil bags... WITH O2 (little ambient air), IN THE DARK (as in a Styro fish box), and process/acclimate ASAPractical. Bob Fenner>
Thanks bob
Re: Played dead      6/23/17

Thanks bob. Oxygen was not used, just ambient air "caught" in the bag.
<Ahh, a huge mistake. Not only does the straight O2 help boost DO and sustain pH, it also anesthetizes fishes in transit to a degree>
He was in there for all of an hour and a half, next time I will invest in battery powered bubbler and use bucket for larger fish.
I was ready to toss him in trash, stiff as a rock, and slowly he came back.
He's hiding now, hoping whatever damage oxygen or lack thereof of did does not effect quality of life going forward.
<Me too>
Thanks again , bob
<Thank you for sharing. B>

Hubby brought home 2gal saltwater cube with Clarkii clownfish...trying to figure out how to keep him alive & what tank to upgrade to      1/21/14
Your blog is great & I've been referring to constantly it since mid October. That's when my husband bought a great looking 2 gallon salt water tank for our 7 year old from a local pet store. Now Mama is keeping it alive! Unfortunately, it has been harder than I imagined.
<Small systems, volumes are hard to keep stable, optimized>
 It had a Sebae anemone,
<Eeyikes! Won't live here>
a darling Clarkii clownfish, a turbo snail, a live rock & a crab. The anemone lived for about two weeks & died in early November. I was making hourly water changes for days & slept by the tank, so I managed to save all other creatures! Yay! After that, I read a lot. I now realize the tank is WAY too small, and I'm so mad the local fish store would ever put this tank together!!
<Dismal; yes>
But now that we have it, I want it to survive!  I have monitored it with test strips & regular water changes & all was well until January 10th when the crab & snail died. The Nitrite & Nitrate levels were totally normal during this time. The Clarkii is seemingly happy, hungry & has made a new home by brushing away all the sand behind the rock at the back of the tank, where he hides from my loud 4 year old & sleeps at night. He is a delight!
The weird thing is, my Clarkii clownfish seemed to try to bury the crab (& snail when it was low enough) with sand, every chance he could. Is this normal? Did he kill them?
<Is normal; did kill it>
 I need to get another snail to clean this small tank until I can decide on which size/type larger tank would be best.
I want to be able to accommodate the Clarkii clownfish, a Sebae anemone (he LOVED his last one & I feel awful seeing him rub up against the hard rock & attempt to feed it!), a crab & a cleaner shrimp. There are so many different tanks & I am overwhelmed (especially since neither hubby nor 4 & 7 year old tykes will be helping with maintenance). I can't let this poor fish stay in this small tank with only a rock as a friend! But, I need the smallest one that will keep my Clarkii happy. Please Help!
Warmest Regards,
New Fish Mama
<I want to see you be successful here; but again, saltwater systems of small size are VERY hard to do. I strongly encourage you to convert this small system to freshwater... See WWM re stocking such for ideas; OR look into a larger system (tens of gallons) for keeping the one clown, sans anemone... Do go w/ the freshwater conversion for now to "practice", gain the basics of aquarium keeping. Bob Fenner>

snowflake eel and fish in shock    11/27/12
We came home from a week long vacation to find that our heater quit working and our tank was extremely cold.  Our snowflake eel and fish are in shock.
Our eel is stretched, leaning backwards, and looks as though he is breathing only from the right side.  Our tomato clown and trigger are really lethargic, and laying sideways. We did a 50% water change out and got the temp back up to where it should be.
<Very good.>
Our PH, nitrate, and ammonia levels are where they should be.  Is there anything else we should do? Please help.
<Do measure ammonia and pH once or twice per day for the next few days.
Cold temperatures can kill off bacteria as well as (in)vertebrate life, which can lead to high levels of organic pollution and a new cycle of the system. If you have any corals or other larger invertebrates in there, which seem clearly dead remove them. Also have enough salt at hand in case this happens. If you measure any ammonia do another water change and provide sufficient oxygen supply, because of apparent decay processes.
Severe die-off and a new cycle is one extreme of what can happen. If you are lucky you may notice nothing or only a small diatom bloom and might find you fishes back to their old-self within a day or two.>
Thank you,
Cassandra Gaskins
<Good luck. Marco.>

Paracanthurus hepatus stuck in power head! 4/4/09
<Hi Mick, Lynn here this afternoon>
This is my first time writing so I hope I do this correctly.
<Oh good, fresh meat! Heeee! Just kidding, everything looks fine.>
Yesterday I purchased a very small (approx. 3/4") Paracanthurus hepatus.
<Say hello to my little friend!>
I freshwater dipped and put directly into main tank. Within minutes he was picking at algae on the back glass and rocks.
I offered a small amount of flakes and he also was eating them. The lights were turned down for an hour then turned off for the night. This morning when I checked on him he was stuck to the intake grid of my Maxi-Jet 1200 power head.
I shut the power head down and he worked himself loose. He swam quickly around the tank for a few minutes then slowed down and has been swimming around slowly. His right side looked like a waffle.
<Poor little thing>
He has been loose for about an hour and a half and seems OK but sluggish. He doesn't appear to have any open wounds.
<Ok, good>
The "waffling" seems to be getting better slowly. Is there anything I can do for him? What are my options?
<The best thing you can do at this point is keep an eye on him and make sure he's in stable/optimal water conditions, that none of the other inhabitants are picking on/at him, and that he's getting a good quality food (no frozen brine shrimp -- very little nutritional value there). If you've got any vitamin supplements around (such as Selcon), use that (as directed) with whatever food you're offering (flake/pellet/seaweed sheets, frozen formula foods, etc). If you don't have any Selcon (or similar) around, no worries, a good enriched/varied diet should suffice. Hopefully, with continued good care, your little fish will pull through just fine and learn to steer clear of intakes! By the way, if it looks like the intake is going to be a continuing problem, you can always cover it with a pre-filter sponge until the fish either figures it out or gains a bit of size. One issue though, with those, is the need to keep them clean. They can get clogged fairly quickly and significantly reduce outflow. As far as where to obtain one of these pre-filters, you might well be able to find them at your local fish store. If not, they're widely available on the 'net. Just Google 'Maxi-jet pre-filter sponge' and you'll find a list of vendors.>
Thanks very much. Mick from St. Charles, MO.
<You're very welcome. Take care - LynnZ from Everett, WA.>  

Catastrophe, what next, electrical f'... env. dis...  8/13/08 Hi guys, <And gals of course, hello.> It is a sad, sad day that I have to write this to you. And a terrible thing for me because, in an admittedly short perusal of your site, I didn't come across anything quite as terrible, and catastrophic as what has happened to me. Which makes me feel like even more of a failure. I won't belabor the lead up to why this all happened, as I already feel terrible about the things I should have done, or could have done to prevent this, but focus instead what I need to do moving forward. I recently returned from a one week vacation to find that my circuit breaker had popped and my tank electricity had gone out. It was a soup. Everything, but everything had died. It was terrible. Corals, Fish, snails, shrimp, stars everything Even the worms that had come in either with the rock or sand). A terrible terrible loss. The kids were devastated, I was devastated. All our little critters, whom we had named and loved were gone. The time, the dedication, all gone. <I'm sorry to hear this, that's horrible.> I really want this to work again before I give up for good, it was such an wonderful addition to our family. I called my local LFS and he said that he thought my rock and sand would come back with some seeding. <I would reuse it too.> So I cleaned up the mess, sucked out all the water and did a clean of rocks and glass (not in fresh water though) I cleaned all pumps filters etc and filled it back up with fresh salt mix water. Knowing I was going to have to cycle it again, and not wanting to damage the rocks and sand any further by leaving them dry I just used tap water (Pretty good but a little high in phosphates- but much quicker than my little RO system can deliver) <It's fine for these purposes.> Since then I have done a 25% water change every day, assuming that the natural filters are dead too, so just to get the bad water that might be left out. I ran some tests this morning and found my Ammonia to be 4.0 or better (can't tell the colors are so similar on the card) no Nitrites no Nitrates, no surprise if the filter is indeed dead. Salinity is 1.026. So my question is this. In order to seed the sand, can I put new live sand right in there now? <I would just continue water changes and give it time. Your biofiltration will come back, perhaps adding some new live rock when your water quality has improved for diversity.> Or is the Ammonia too high and will just kill the bacteria in the sand? <The ammonia is too high, this level will continue to kill whatever may not be dead yet on your rock, adding to the problem. Water changes and likely quite a few of them. It is going to be just like curing it all over again, perhaps a bit worse with the sand. > Should I also get a little new live rock and put that in there too? <I would wait to add anymore rock until the ammonia is down, any life on that rock will be susceptible, adding to the problem.> Should I keep up with the 25% water changes daily until the ammonia comes down first? <Yes> (Though I assume stuff will keep seeping from the sand and falling off the rocks for a while) I started with Carib Sea Agra Live, can I just put more of that in? (I was thinking another 20 LB bag) <If you have not already you will want to scoop out what sand you can and rinse.> Also should I bother running the skimmer and powerheads during the renewed cycling phase? <Definitely, this will only help your water quality.> And lastly, do you have any suggestions on how to bring this all back? I know better now how to circumvent the electricity and other issues I believe led to this crash, but am unsure if I can start with this rock and sand, and not have to start from total scratch. It is really depressing to walk into that room now. What was once a robust and growing, colorful glowing reef system, is now barren rock and sand. <Just give it cleaning, water changes and time. Once your levels are okay, you will want to consider a bit more live rock to reseed some of the fauna that did not survive.> Thanks for your help. <Welcome. Scott V.> (Tank is a 40 gallon reef, 40 lbs of rock, 40 lbs of sand, a Millennium 3000 HOB filter, an AquaC remora (not running currently) and 2 powerheads (not running currently) and a Jager heater. I use Instant Ocean salt mix, and am leaving the lights off during the renewed cycle phase.)

Puffer Trauma... another intake injury I ve been referred to you by to very smart people.  Last night I arrive home late, to hear a loud noise coming from my 45 gallon tank.  When I tried on the light, my puffer was caught in my uv sterilizer pump.  normally he's around 4inches long, but when I first saw him he was the size of a baseball. The pump caught about 2 cm behind his side fin, at first he was dazed and messed up, then my lion came out and start picking on him, well I solved that and the lion is no longer in the tank.  Its been around 20 hours, he still swimming slow but is now back to normal color, only this one side is all white, looks like necrotic tissue. <May well be> He wont eat and is apparently hurt, this fish means the world to me! I have a 45 gallon, with some live rock and only 1 small star polyp, other fish include small Picasso trigger, new yellow tang, and two damsels.  I have a 15 watt uv sterilizer, back pack protein skimmer and AquaClear filter, lighting I have 440 watt ice cap with VHO's.  Please help Thank you very much <The only real course of action is to keep the system stable and optimized, and hope... plus of course put a screen cover over that pump intake. In all likelihood, if this puffer is alive at this point, it will heal... though it may not eat for several days more. Bob Fenner> David White University of Michigan School of Dentistry Ann Arbor MI

Low Salinity Stress? Hello Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo here...fellow Pittsburgher, and happy Steeler fan today!!!> I am new to the hobby and have about 6 months of experience in saltwater and my 55 gallon tank is also approximately 6 months old. I have read the WetWebMedia boards in search of something related to this, but I could not find anything that I thought could help me. I had a problem a month and a half ago with a Yellow Tang who developed, or was infected with parasites when I got him. I gave him a freshwater dip and quarantined him for approximately 3 weeks and he seemed to be doing good in the qt tank. One morning I woke up and turned on the light and he was dead. Anyhow, the store I bought him from had me do all the tests on my main tank where he originally was, and all the readings were ok. They said to drop the salinity 2 pts per day until I reached 1.10 S.G..  <Severe. Only acceptable in systems without invertebrates/live rock and dubiously extreme. Just because some fish are strong enough to survive it doesn't make it right. This methodology has sprouted from an anecdotal article which included the support of a the old Pittsburgh Aqua Zoo curator who does consult a local store. Very controversial.> They also said to hold it there for a month to make sure that if there were parasites in the tank, they would not survive. < conditionally, but not guaranteed> Anyways, I did that and the fish looked great, but the live rock looked like it was dying and all of the worms were gone. <not a surprise...obviously and visibly damaging to everything but the fish> At the end of the 1 month period, I started on Wednesday slowly increasing the salinity by 2 pts per day. Everything looked ok except now my Coral Beauty seems to be refusing to eat, but my False Percula Clown is still chowing like a pig. The Coral Beauty will not eat flake, freeze dried brine, Pygmy angel frozen food, of Sea Veggies. When the clown starts to feed he swims around with him but will not eat anything. I do not know if my rock is dead or dying and it is causing ammonia to rise and that is affecting the Coral Beauty or what.  <surely damaged your biological filter...to what degree remains to be seen> I am also confused on why my levels are what they are. Could you please try to help me out and tell what I should do. <at this point patience, resumption of normal routine and water changes> Some of the live rock has turned white during the drop in salinity. I thought that the algae dying on the rock could also have led to the Coral Beauty to stop feeding, because he grazed on it a good bit. <a small stress... the salinity was principal and more severe> I don't know if I should pull the rock, or it will come back on its own as the local fish store says.  I would sincerely appreciate your professional opinion on this matter. Thank You, Jim. Pittsburgh, Pa <it will come back on its own. After the water chemistry is assuredly stable, add some fresh live rock to inoculate the damaged rock and all will be OK in time. Best Regards, Anthony Calfo>

My problem is horrific brown slime algae growth. Lava rock, not for marine aquariums I have a 60 gallon tank with a sea clone skimmer, AquaClear 300, hot magnum, and two powerheads running an undergravel system. I have a Percula clown, a clarkii clown, a tomato clown, and a blue damsel. I also have two pencil urchins, three hermit crabs, and three turbo snails. My problem is horrific brown slime algae growth. I am curious to know if it is caused by the lava rock in my tank. Some one told me that lava rock was okay in marine aquariums because it is lightweight, porous, and can hold a lot of bacteria. I also realize that much of the earth's crust (including reefs) are basically lava rock correct? So is this a suitable rock to place in marine aquariums? One pet store guy told me no because there may be phosphates or other minerals in the rock. That would explain my horrific algae having already attempted lava rock in my aquarium. I would be grateful for any help! Bryan Gabitzsch >> Interesting query... Well, most reefs are made up of calcareous rock (principally calcium carbonate, CaCO3) and even if there is lava rock at its base, this is generally covered completely over... Some lava rock does contribute to algae problems... and you could easily test for phosphate in your system... but I suspect the nutrient levels in your tank may be high just from feeding, and your type of filtration... If the rock has been in there a long time, I wouldn't remove it... if you are curious, you can boil some water with a piece in it and test for phosphate... Otherwise, do look to other sources of algae food, and seek to control them through filtration and maintenance. Bob Fenner

High Nitrates  In my established set-up my nitrate levels are off the charts. I' ve done a complete water change in hopes of improving these levels. I have 3 small Damsels, a  Cat shark, a yellow butterfly, and 2 hermit crabs. All are completely healthy, and have been with me for some time. I'm afraid to add any new plant or animal to my system until I can get this problem under control. Thanks >> Do consider using the following to lower your nitrates... a difficult thing to do with big, messy eaters like the Shark providing the starter compounds of ammonia: 1) Adding live rock in large quantity. 2) Adding anaerobic filter media to your filter gear (like Siporax, Ehfi-Mech) 3) Making an natural nitrate reduction system in a sump or your main tank. 4) Incorporating some macroalgae to use up the nitrates 5) Removing your wet-dry filter media to reduce nitrification. 6) Putting in a algae and mud filter in a lighted sump. Bob Fenner

Cloudy water... bio. anomaly Hi there. How are you doing? I hope that you are doing well and that everything is going well for you. I have a question about my saltwater fish only tank. It's 110 gallons in size and is now 10 weeks old. Ever since I set the tank and have had it running it has never completely cleared up. I have never had this problem with my other saltwater tanks at all (37 and 75); they have always cleared themselves up after a few days of start up and remained crystal clear. My 110 is now 10 weeks old and nitrites are zero, ammonia is zero, not exactly sure of nitrates, salinity is 1.022, and the pH is right at 8.3. The temperature stays anywhere from 76 to 79 degrees. I only have a flame angel, a raccoon butterfly and 4 damsels in the tank. I feed them once a day only as much as they can eat in a few minutes. I did a partial water change of 23 gallons just yesterday and premixed the water days in advance to allow adequate salt mixture, water clearing, and pH stabilization. I thought that by doing a partial water change I would remove some of the haze or at least "dilute" out some of the haze. Well, my tank still has a slight white haze to it and I just do not understand why! Since the tank has never really cleared up from the beginning it has me thinking that it's not nitrates or overfeeding but then again I could be wrong. As far as the decorations in the tank I have a three artificial pieces of coral that I bought from the fish store I work at and the rest are all what at one time were live corals. If you have any suggestions as to what might be causing this haze then PLEASE let me know...It's getting very frustrating and annoying. Thanks a bunch! Brian >> Sounds like a biological anomaly to me... some little critters having a field day in your water... And I would just wait them out at this point... and NOT do any more water changes till the water clears. If you want to optimize your chances and shorten the time to clearing, do place some live rock in the tank (yes, even though it is fish-only). Bob Fenner

Cloudy water, re-cycling event I have a 75 gallon aquarium. I have live rock, live sand, an Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel, a CPR Bak Pak II skimmer, and two power heads. My livestock includes 1-Kole Tang, 1-Desjardin Tang, 1-Clown Tang, 1-Clown Fish, 1-starfish, and 4-Gobies. My tank has been up and running for a little over a year. Also, I have 2-110 watt VHO for my lighting. I added the live rock about 3 weeks ago. I purchased cured rock from a local fish store where I have purchased my fish. Here is my problem. When I checked my ammonia yesterday morning before leaving for work, it was off the charts (a dark, dark green color). I came home at noon and put 10 gallons mixing with an air pump and air stone. At about 7 p.m., I changed 10 gallons of water. I moved my live rock around a bit to make sure none of the Gobies were dead because 3 of them only come out when the lights are off. I added my calcium supplements, changed my bio-wheel filters, added Cycle and did all my usual weekly maintenance procedures (wiping down the from glass, rinsing the air stone, checking the power heads to make sure they are working, etc). This morning, my water was extremely cloudy. I checked my ammonia level and nitrite level and they are both off the charts. And on top of that, my Desjardin Tang is looking extremely ill. (He's been that way for about 3 days.) What am I doing wrong? The water change should have brought it down, right? I don't have anything dead because all my creatures are present and accounted for.  Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Audrey LeLeux >> Nothing you are doing is wrong... your live rock (new, cured or so-so) is "re" cycling... At this point, if you have the flexibility I would move all your livestock and leave the rock et al. to re-center itself... If you can't move the livestock... you will have to risk metabolite poisoning... as you've been doing with water changes... holding off on most all feeding... and letting time go by... Do move at least the larger fishes (to a hospital/quarantine system? Friends tank?) Bob Fenner

Noise? I am curious to know if noise off of a powerhead and the water coming from the pump noise hurt fishes ears? Does all that noise under water bother them? Also since I put a powerhead in the fish seem to stay in its current ALL THE TIME. Is that bad? Thanks Tim >> Good observations, and good question... Some powerheads and other gear can become quite noisy... But I doubt if much of the ongoing "tank noise" is of much concern, problematical for marines... The oceans are actually quite a noisy place as well... And about the current "hanging"... You may have a situation of poor gaseous exchange... and need more aeration, circulation... or the animals may just "like" to swim against and in the current... I'd add another powerhead, internal pump. Bob Fenner

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