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FAQs about Toxic Water Conditions: Unknown Causes

Related Articles: Marine Toxic Tank Conditions , General  Marine Maintenance,

Related FAQs: Toxic Situations 1, Toxic Situations 1, Toxic Situations 2, Toxic Situations 3Toxic Situations 4Toxic Situations 5, Toxic Situations 6, Toxic Situations 7, Toxic Situations 8, Toxic Situations 9, & FAQs on Toxic Water Conditions by: Endogenous (from inside, e.g. Internal, Organic Causes), Foods, Nutrients, Venomous/Poisonous Tankmates, Wipe-out Syndromes/New Tanks e.g., Exogenous (from outside, External, Inorganic, e.g. Metals), Marine Algaecide Use/Chemical Control, Toxic Copper Use Situations/Troubleshooting, Insecticides, Cleaners, & Troubleshooting/Fixing,

Some livestock is touchier than others.

I'm flummoxed and hoping for help       9/9/19
Hi WWM Crew,
<Hi Craig>
My question first: What would cause my Yellow Tang and Regal Tang to display display what looks like difficulty in breathing (mouths open and fast gill movement), and my Royal Gramma to open and close its mouth too?
<Normally, oxygen deprivation>
I realise this is a question with broad possibilities, so what follows are the circumstances... Four weeks ago upgraded from a 4ft to a 5ft tank. I used ATM Colony and transferred all fish on the same day. Ammonia spiked briefly at 2ppm or so the test kit suggested, but did drop gradually over the next 7 days. It is now undetectable (or under 0.1ppm) using a Salifert test kit and another I cannot remember the name of. Unfortunately, when I transferred the inverts a week later my small BTA who seemed to have had a purchase met it demise in a gyre that evening leaving nothing to clean up.
I immediately placed carbon in the sump and left it there for a week. I experienced a waterborne algae bloom which lasted a week while all fish were in the tank, helped along with a UV steriliser. Things were uneventful for the next two week aside from algae growth on rock and diatom on sand.
Then I introduced three additional Anthias. Three days later the additions were dead as well as another. Then my shrimp goby died. My fish are the two tangs, two clowns, royal gramma, a wrasse, 4 Chromis and 1 remaining Anthias - not a huge bioload, or is it?
<Not a huge bio load but this system is clearly not mature enough.>
At the same time I noticed the difficulty in breathing. I immediately caught all fish apart from the Chromis and remaining Anthias and put them back into my old tank and they returned to normal within hours.
I have plenty of surface movement created by two gyres, but had turned off the skimmer due to over production of bubbles two weeks before this incident.
<I would not have turned it off>
I turned it back on when I thought this might be an oxygen issue. Noticing that the Chromis and Anthias were unaffected overnight, and that the other fish had recovered, I transferred them back again. Within hours the Regal had its mouth open and gills going, as did my Yellow Tang? They are now back in my old tank - apart from the Chromis and Anthias which still appear to be perfectly healthy. They have now recovered in my old tank. I have had what appears to be the beginning of dino, although my Mexican snails seem unaffected, as do my conches, so without putting it under a microscope I cannot be sure. Both tanks are as follows: Salinity 35 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 PH 8.2 KH 8.3dkh Ca 410-430ppm Mg 1410 - 1430ppm New tank has undetectable NO3 and PO4 Old tank has undetectable PO4 and NO3 at 5ppm I have decided to leave things as they are, let the system mature for a few weeks before I try anything again but cannot put my finger on what might be causing the breathing issue?
<Good call, leave it for at least a couple more weeks without introducing anything, be sure to keep the skimmer operating at all times and do a water test ahead of placing your livestock back and if needed, do a partial water change.>
Any pointers would be welcomed. Many thanks, Craig
<Hope this helps, cheers. Wil.>
Re: I'm flummoxed and hoping for help       9/9/19

Thank you very much for your input Wil, much appreciated.
<Glad to help Craig. Wil>

Persistent Flashing      11/16/18
Hope all is well. I am having an issue with a few of my fish that are in QT. They are continuously flashing and am not sure why. I have had them for 3 weeks and my QT process is as follows:
<Mmm; flashing can be... "just natural" to extents, due to irritants of a wide array: Water quality and parasites most commonly>
Freshwater Dip to check for flukes
7 Day Metro GC for flukes and worms
14 Days of copper than ttm into display
<Ahh, could be just the copper exposure>
Problem I am having though is my fish show no signs of white spot but are constantly flashing at the gills. Tough to explain but my fang tooth blenny is also spinning in a semi-circle to clean its tail. Not sure what else to do? Is it a reaction to the copper, Healing from Ick or velvet, some copper resistant parasite?
<Could be any of these. I wouldn't be overly concerned. With conditions and health returning, the flashing behavior should subside>
Thanks for taking look.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Slime coat      7/20/17
I have a 180g fish only no live rock sw aquarium, 40g wet dry, protein skimmer and 57w uv filtration. 10 inch orangespot Rabbitfish, smaller Foxface, 8 yellow tail damsels, a small purchase clownfish and 6 cardinals. When I clean the tank or even in between there is slime coat floating around.
<Mmm; well Siganids are quite slimy... and stress does make them produce more body slime>
I don't see fish scraping. I do see little bugs crawling around the tank at times. It got bad once and I added copper and the amount I saw scaled back. Circulation is at the moment a Mag 12 but I will be adding a Mag 9.5 next week. Cleanings are bi weekly with 35 percent water changes. Here are some photos of what I see. Some of the little bugs are actually on the slime also. This is during a cleaning. A queen angel was in this tank for a year and a half or so from a small 4 inches to 7 inches , one week got an infection on head that spread to one side of its body along the lateral line. Few weeks ago saw labored breathing and blood coming out of the gills as it was breathing in and out.
<?! Something wrong here.
I'd skip using copper... What is your procedure for water changes, supplement, media use here?>
Tanks has been up for 6 years. Ph is at 8, nitrates are high I can't give you a number ATM, no detectable nitrites or ammonia. I think its irritation from the bugs but I haven't found what would get rid of them.
<See WWM re arthrocides used for crustacean diseases. Bob Fenner>

Sudden fish kill    10/7/13
Please Help,
I have a 125 gallon marine aquarium, been keeping for 11 years. Woke up the other morning to find all but 2 fish dead. I have never had a water parameter  or temperature problem.
<Mmm; some sort of "wipe out syndrome"... there are a few noted/speculated causes>
This happened to me once before about 6 years ago and I just can't figure it out. LFS stores no help.
Deceased fish: Yellow Tang, Sumatra Regal Angel, Venustus Angel, Snowflake Clown, 2 Pajama Cardinals, Lantern bass, Cleaner Wrasse, Six line Wrasse and a cleaner shrimp.
Survived:  1 Snowflake Clown, Watchman Goby, Blueleg crabs, snails, and corals
<Mmm, good that you list what died and didn't...
this reads like the more oxygen needing, more chemically sensitive fishes, shrimp perished... the less dependent didn't... Could be a film on the top of your tank water (very common) created a hypoxic condition... or some sort of metabolite generated in the tank triggered a "cascade effect"... generally w/ microbes producing toxic analogs...>
Sending pic of dead fish just in case it might help.
Thank You in Advance,
<We have a collection of such accounts that you should read; archived here:
the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Sick Fish and I Have No Idea Why, Mysterious SW losses     2/4/13
Thank you so much for your time.
<Welcome Katie>
I have a 55 gallon reef that's been up for over a year with 80+ pounds of live rock.  I have three wrasses (blue sided fairy, yellow, melanurus), two clowns, a Firefish and a blenny. Yesterday morning, I fed everyone as usual, and they were active all day. I came to do their weekly water change last night and one wrasse, the Firefish, and the blenny were all on the sand breathing heavily. One wrasse was missing, I'm assuming buried in the sand. The clowns and yellow wrasse are acting totally normal. I tested the water immediately and ammonia was 0, nitrite 0, nitrate less than 10, temp 78, salinity 1.023, and pH 8.1. All as it has been. I haven't added anything to the tank in months. The only thing different was the addition of a hang on skimmer (Eshopps) last week, and a new powerhead today. They have no sign of disease
<http://www.thereeftank.com/forums/tags.php?tag=disease  >,
and I have no idea what is going on. I changed 10 gallons last night,
and while I was doing that the blenny and blue sided fairy both died, without a mark on them.  I unplugged the skimmer and took out the new powerhead in case the new equipment had anything to do with this.  The few corals have and snails, hermits, and conch are all acting normal.  This morning they are all still sleeping or hiding but I can see my melanurus wrasse on side half buried breathing quickly.  The clowns seem ok.  Should I try and mix more water and take him out or leave him there?
<IF you have another system going I'd move all the livestock there. If not I would add some chemical filtrants here... Activated carbon and Polyfilter... in the water/flow path... to discount the possibility of chemical poisoning>
 Do you have any thoughts on what is causing this? 
<Some type of poisoning likely; but could be many things>
Could they have gotten shocked? 
Low oxygen?  Something bad in their food?
<If any of the three above all fishes would be affected>
 All they got yesterday morning were Ocean Nutrition formula one pellets, and everyone ate.  It was probably two hours from when they started acting odd to when they started dying.  I am heartbroken and very discouraged watching them die and having no idea why.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.
<Please have a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sick Fish and I Have No Idea Why  2/4/13

Thank you so much for your reply.  Is it possible that the new, stronger powerhead blew something toxic out of the live rock?
<Mmm, not really possible to guess (w/ much confidence, certainty) as to "cause" here... More likely "something" upset biologically that started a "cascade event" of other organisms competing chemically... As you'll gain a sense of when reading where you've been referred>
 I'm might just be grasping at straws with that.  Can you discount the powerhead and skimmers involvement?
<To a good/great degree, yes. They are made of chemically inert mat.s...>
  I'm kind of afraid to turn them back on.  The melanurus wrasse is still on his side not looking well.  I do not have another system running, all I could do is take him out and put him in a few gallons of water I've had circulating for a few hours for another water change. 
<Not worthwhile at this point. More likely to cause trouble>
Would it be best to do that or leave him there?  I had forgotten to mention, I did put activated carbon in last night.  Is there anything I can do to save the wrasse?
<Read. BobF>
Thank you,

Long tentacle anemone... env. dis. f'      4/19/12
Hi there
Thought I would share a recent experience/mishap
<Please do>
I have a LTA now for about 6 months hosting two ocellaris. In the tank are two freshwater mollies, some Chromis, yellow tang, and a few reef safe wrasses.
Waking up Good Friday morn the water was like milk All the saltwater fish, crabs, and some snails were dead But after water change, the only things alive were the LTA, a few small blue legged crabs, strawberry conch, few Mexican turbo snails, AND  the freshwater mollies!
I was not expecting the mollies to survive if the saltwater fish died Any thoughts, I might add this to my grad research
<Mollies, LTAs et al. are (obviously) more resistant to some types of "troubles" than other marines. Bob Fenner>

Dying Fish: Looking for help with next steps, SW, troubleshooting... toxicity of some sort   11/27/10
To whom it may concern:
I have been in the hobby for about 18 months now. I am grateful for the help your website has been to me during that time. Thank you!
I am currently running a mixed reef set up, although I have very little SPS. Here is the info on my current set up:
* 80g Acrylic display tank
* 20g sump
* ASM g-3 skimmer
* T-5 lighting
* MP-40 for flow
* I am also running an ATO system that helps maintain stability
Here are my Current Parameters:
Ammonia - 0
Nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 0
Calcium - 440
Magnesium - 1300
pH - 8.1
Temp - 77.9
Salinity - 1.024
Here is my dilemma and question:
Several weeks ago, I found my Blue Spotted Jawfish had died. He had been in the tank for about 3 weeks and I observed him eating the evening prior to the morning I found him dead. His color seemed
somewhat faded. He had been sucked up against my powerhead so it was not possible for me to determine if he had been attacked. I tested water parameters immediately and everything was fine.
<Mmm, this species, Opistognathus rosenblatti is actually not easily kept in almost all hobbyist settings. I am attaching an as-yet unpublished article re. Please do not circulate this piece>
A couple of days later, I woke up to find my cardinal fish had died and one of my Blue Reef Chromis was missing. The cardinal fish was up against the powerhead and the chromis was no where to be found.
Again, I had observed both eating the prior evening and there were no other signs of sickness I could see. Again, I tested parameters and all were fine.
Over the course of the next several days most of my fish died: my other cardinal, two other chromis and a Tailspot Blenny. My pair of clownfish (both tank raised), my red Dartfish and my green banded goby
were all that were left. I then noticed one of my clownfish beginning to show signs of sickness. This is the first fish that showed any signs of being sick. She was getting lighter in color, more "stationary" in her swimming but still eating. The other clown looked fine and both was eating normally. Researching on this site and others, it appears to have been Brooklynella.
<Mmm... this would not mal-affect your other, lost fishes>
The Dartfish and goby have now been in the tank alone for two weeks.
They both appear to be perfectly healthy, both are eating and actively swimming.
I suspected a predator at first but have not seen or been able to catch anything at this point.
<I suspect some sort of (insidious) poisoning/toxicity... From your good accounting of what you lost in turn, the more susceptible life ahead to tougher has declined, perished>
I have received various opinions about what to do next. Some have suggested removing the fish and "nuking" the tank with interceptor while treating the two remaining fish with Formalin.
<Mmm, I would not do this>
Others have suggested setting another trap and trying to catch a predator. Others have suggested it was just "bad luck with a bad fish."
<Too much coincidence for me to put stock in this last>
Through all of this my corals have been very healthy. There is visible growth on the SPS, LPS and my Zoanthids.
<These last can be problematical. Please read here:
I have increased the frequency of my water changes and continued to monitor the parameters.
<Good... I would avail yourself of chemical filtrant, as you'll find in the above cited reading>
It seems odd to me that a very small goby and a Dartfish would be unaffected by a sickness that killed to clowns I have had for such a long time and have had no issues?
<Mmm, not really. Again, the possibility of allelopathy... the bottom dwelling fishes are more resistant to such...>
They both seem like they would be more "fragile" than the clowns. I am also confused, if it was Brooklynella, why the clownfish were one of the last fish affected?
<Not Brook, assuredly>
I just don't know what to do next . I am not sure what, if anything, I should treat the tank or fish with. I am not sure if I need to take the entire set up down to catch the two current fish and QT them even though they seem healthy. I am not sure how long I should wait before adding fish.
<Do the reading for now... add Carbon...>
I am hoping for a clear trustworthy voice in the midst of the hundreds of opinions. I have searched Wet Web for hours and have found good suggestions on how to treat the various potential illnesses that may
have killed my fish but I am not sure what I am treating for and learned long ago not to act or react to quickly in this hobby.
I am grateful in advance for any help or direction you can offer.
Thanks again for your time.
<Glad to assist your efforts, offer compassion. Bob Fenner>
Re: Dying Fish: Looking for help with next steps   11/27/10

Thank you for the quick reply. I will read the articles you attached and will not distribute the article on the jawfish.
<Thank you>
I didn't think to include it in my original e-mail but I am running some chemical filtration already. I have a Phosban reactor and a bag of Chemi-pure elite running in the sump.
<Ahh! The latter greatly discounts my theory of endogenous poisoning of some sort. Still, this is the principal line of investigation I would seek out. Please see here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm
the many linked files above>
I will replace the media in both of these to make sure they are not depleted of their benefits.
I am not sure if that makes any difference in the diagnosis or how long I should wait before adding anything to the tank.
<It does make a difference... I would hold off on "adding anything" for now>
Are there specific signs I am looking for in the tank before I add any fish?
<The usual, distressed behavior, miscoloration, non-feeding>
<Again, I don't think it likely that your losses are due to a pathogen/parasite... else the order of death, symptomology would be different. BobF>
Re: Dying Fish: Looking for help with next steps   11/27/10
I just finished reading the article you sent and the section on Zoanthids and allelopathy.
Both very interesting and helpful. Actually, the article on the Blue Spotted Jawfish is shocking when compared to the information commonly shared about this fish. Not only do people on the forums speak of them as good tank inhabitants, they speak of them as a "hardy" species.
<Yes... I am aware.>
That article makes me wonder if the jawfish started a chain reaction in my tank. I am in California and purchased the jawfish prior to a few very warm days where my tank did rise in temperature. Nothing outside of "normal" ranges but certainly higher than it could have tolerated. He was also in a tank that was overstocked for its needs.
In regard to restocking. I don't want to experiment with new fish to see if the tank is ready for fish. Is there something to test for or look for that would indicate it is OK to begin adding fish again?
<Nothing other than what I've broadly mentioned, no. There are actual tests, gear for assessing more, but these are not part of the hobby>
My plan was to add a pair of clowns first. Let me know if it would help to see my full stocking list plans.
<Would help>
I am happy to let the tank sit with just the two small fish for as long as I need but I am not sure what I am waiting for or what I should be watching for?
The current inhabitants are both seem very healthy (i.e. - eating, active, exhibiting normal
Thanks Again,
<If nothing else, I'd wait, hold off a few weeks before trying the new Clowns... the possible "toxicity" might have been transient... ammonia from a kitty litter box, an aerosol cleaner, a bug/insect that got into the tank, a bit of warfare twixt Cnidarians... but best to wait a bit here. B>
Re: Dying Fish: Looking for help with next steps   11/28/10
OK, so my plan at this point is to wait a few more weeks before adding fish and in the meantime:
- make sure the Zoanthid colonies I am currently stocking have their own space
- continue with frequent water changes
- continue running chemical media
- monitor current fish for any signs of problems
- enjoy researching a new stocking list
- if I don't see any signs of stress in the current stock and my levels stay "normal" then I can get some clowns for Christmas
Here is the list I have put together. I have asked for advice on several forums but I have a feeling I may get some different input here.
- Pair of Percula clownfish
- Tailspot Blenny
- Pearly or Goldenheaded Jawfish (replacing the Blue Spotted)
- Red Dartfish (already in tank)
- Green Banded Goby (already in tank)
I know I won't find a fish that will school in a tank my size but I was hoping for a "group" or possibly a "harem". I have been looking at:
- Blue Reef Chromis or
- Anthias (possibly Lyretail)
- Flasher Wrasse (McCosker's or other)
<In an eighty gallon, the Chromis would be your best bet of the choices above>
I have also recently looked at the purple tang but read various opinions on the space they need.
I also like the dwarf angels but don't trust them :) I prefer smaller, peaceful fish that will bring a lot of activity to the tank to larger species. My kids do, too.
<See my piece on "Dwarf dwarf angels" on WWM>
I would love any advice you have on specific species and the number of fish I can house in my system. ( I realize I have not so subtly moved into a new line of questioning so I would understand if I have reached my quota).
<My input is archived on the site re these species. Bob Fenner>

Mass fish die-off 11/8/10
Dear Crew First let me thank you for your excellent and helpful site. This is the first place I go when I need useful accurate information on reefkeeping.
<Service to you!>
I am writing because of a tragedy that happened in my tank yesterday that has me totally stumped. My tank is a 75 gallon mixed reef, + about 15 gallons in sump for total of 90 gallons. Roughly 100 lbs of Tonga and Fiji Rock. Euro reef skimmer run at all times, change 15-20 gallons of water every 2 weeks (use Reef Crystals salt).The reef has been running for over 5 years and I have never had any major issues (in fact I joke about the fact I never seem to lose fish). Yesterday during a routine water change something went horribly wrong. I have been battling algae for awhile now and showing good results with the usual recommendations (water changes, reduced feeding, aggressive skimming, manual removal). I mention this because the only thing I can think of is that I was a little more aggressive that usual with the cleaning stage and pulled more algae and blew more stuff off the rocks than usual. While I was adjusting my skimmer I noticed that one of my chromis had gone over the overflow (something that had never happened before but just one of those things). I immediately netted him and put him back in the tank. He jerked around crazily then fell to the bottom, dead! In shock I netted him and tried moving him gently to make sure he wasn't just stunned (and keep the water flow over his gills) but it was obvious he was gone. It was then that I noticed my Kole tag hanging on the bottom breathing heavily. I considered netting him and taking him to quarantine but decided not to panic, that maybe he was reacting to my netting the chromis so I let him be.
<Yikes... I would have moved all, stat!>
Long story short, in the space of 1/2 hour I watched as my 2 chromis, tang, Talbot's damsel, and then orange spot shrimp goby all did the same thing, swam and jerked crazily then fell to the bottom dead. I did try netting the goby and moving him to quarantine but it was too late and he died in seconds. This morning I found my little yellow coral goby dead. Only one fish survived, that is a pyjama cardinal.
<Interesting... I do wish this was more of a clue to me... Let's see, this Apogonid lives more towards the surface than the other fishes mentioned/lost...>
I have had some of these fish over 5 years! And they have survived several moves. Needless to say I am a sad panda today. I have tested my water, Temp 77-78, SG: 1.025, Ammonia (maybe a trace..hmmm), Nitrates:0, Nitrites:0, Alk: "normal range" (best my red sea kit can do), PH: 8.2-8.3. Phosphate 0. All my corals (Tubinaria reniformis, Small green sarco, yellow polyps, Pachyseris, small torch, small Acan frag, Duncans, Caulastrea, small Porites, large Platygyra brain, xenia) and inverts (tiger pistol, skunk cleaner, hermits, turban snails) are fine. I don't know if there is enough here to hazard a guess but ANY idea I could have disturbed that would wipe out ALL of my fish but leave everything else intact? Any ideas no matter how speculative would be appreciated! Sincerely, James
<First off, sorry for your trials/tribulations. I do suspect some sort of chemical/biochemical poisoning from the algae here. Not often discussed (sufficiently) but some types/species are/can be extremely toxic... and differentially so as in your case here. Hence my standard admonition to keep such pest populations in check. There are numerous other instances of this on WWM, in much recorded lit. elsewhere. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mass fish die-off  11/10/10

Hello Bob
Thanks for your feedback. Hindsight of course tells me I should have pulled the tang and anything else I could catch right away but everything happened so quickly that by the time I made that decision it was too late. I thought I had an injured chromis and a stressed out tang, not a full blown wipeout.
If I can bother you again I do have a couple of follow-up questions:
1) Could chloramines in water cause this?
<Mmm, yes. Municipalities at times "pulse" much more sanitizer into potable water supplies... To be absolutely safe one needs to test for such before using new water... But generally pre-mixing and storing suffices>
I have been using RO (no DI) water (and mix, aerate, age, buffer etc) but never worried about that
<Your, the RO device should removed all Chloramine. If there is measurable residual in the made water, you should check/replace your cartridges>
Could my source water have changed? Could that cause this kind of rapid death? Could this somehow mix with organics and cause a reaction?
<Could on all three>
2) Some of the rocks I blew off had kind of a brown rust deposit, could these be Dinoflagellates or some other toxic substance?
<Something, but who knows how toxic? You could do a sort of bio-assay with this material if curious>
A huge irony here is that we just installed a new 180 gallon in wall with a dedicated fish room and I had spent the morning prepping the space including hooking up my RO/DI and working on the new plumbing. Included in the plans are a remote DSB (ala Calfo) and a 30 gallon or so dedicated refugium for nutrient export. Have been working hard at getting the husbandry down pat before moving up to the new big tank and I was aggressive with the rock cleaning because I was trying to decide how much rock to try and use from the old tank and how much to replace.
I realize I will probably never know for sure what happened but definitely have learned what NOT to do
at tank maintenance time. Thanks again for your time.
<And you, BobF>

What have I done? SW wipe-out... heat stress, nicotine, new sand/DSB? 12/04/08 Hi. I am literally in tears over this one... <:-( Been there...> Have two month old 100G FOWLR. At least, right this second... Am afraid to look and see that I have only a LR. Had a Louti Grouper, Panther Grouper, Foxface and Humu Trigger. I wanted to add another two inches of sand to my three inch sandbed. Perhaps, should have asked more specifics on overall procedure... But it seemed simple enough. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to rearrange the aquascaping. I came home from LFS with a 50lb sack of dry reef sand and a new Hydor Koralia 4 powerhead. I put 20 gallons of tank water in a brand-new Rubbermaid container. Added the powerhead for circulation. Added the heater just in case this took more than ten minutes (ha). Threw in a few select top pieces of liverock. Pulled the rest of the liverock (another 100lbs or so) and placed in another, larger container. I then netted the four fish and transferred to the first container. After initially hiding, the fishes began to swim about, business as usual. I wont go into too much detail about the next course of events and I suppose we have all been there, but... Oh MY god... You ever end up praying to the universe for mercy? Anyway, at about 4:00 AM, after I had rewired the plug on my Iwaki pump, soaked up as much water as I could from the carpet and convinced my girlfriend that this was all just a bad dream... I got back to the aesthetically rewarding act of decorating. I thoroughly rinsed the new sand and slowly added it to existing sandbed. I gently mixed it in, resulting in a nice, consistent five inch DSB. Now, about an hour before, I had loosely placed the lid on the container holding the fishes (cats started getting too curious). <Unfortunately, even a "loose" lid might have kept sufficient air from circulating inside the container.> Does the Powerhead generate that much heat? In a small amount of water, I suppose? It shot up to about 90 degrees from the stable 80 I keep the tank (and heater) at. Everyone still seemed okay except for the 5" Louti Grouper. I noticed his color had changed to some obvious stressed, mottled look. I immediately turned off the powerhead and slowly started adding water from the cooler main display. Was this a mistake? <Depends how quickly you did this...> I brought it down to about 82 in an hour or so. <A bit fast, but shouldn't have been devastating.> I suppose I should mention this, as well... I smoke. I always wash my hands before doing anything with aquarium... Except this time (slightly stressed/rushed - me). I read something somewhere on WWM about nicotine toxicity to fish. <This is probably not what caused their deaths. I used to smoke when I first started a marine fish tank... never had an issue with it.> Anyway, my cigarette-laden hands were in their water. Bad? Ten minutes later, with cooler water, Foxface was dead. I was waiting for main display to clear up a bit before I put the rest back. I found the Louti dead with his gill cover things sticking way out. I tested the water in holding container: Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, PH down to 8.0, and I didn't bother testing for Nitrates under the frantic circumstances. The main display tested identical, so I floated the Panther in a plastic bowl to acclimate temperature (tank was about 78 after partial water change). Now, the 2" Humu wedged himself in to a rather large piece of liverock during this ordeal. There was no way to float or acclimate in any way the entire rock... So, after reaching my own psychological threshold, I put the Trigger/rock in the tank. He stayed there... I woke up this afternoon. Panther dead and Trigger looking okay... Swimming around, poking at stuff. What all did I do wrong? <Honestly, I'm not sure... you did a few "little" things that could/would/might stress the fish out (lid on the container, heat spike, sharp cool down, etc)... but to cause them to suddenly die like this? It seems very odd... I wonder if there wasn't a residue of something toxic in the Rubbermaid container (maybe cleaner used by the store or manufacturer?) I don't know... can you rack your brain for anything else that might have come in contact with the fist, water or container?> And please go easy on me... For what it's worth, I believe I had always kept the best interest of my Fishes in mind... I feel utterly and totally defeated. Thanks. <I'm so sorry for your loss. I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but we've all had this happen to us. I had it happen to me when an exterminator came to my apartment (I thought I'd taken protective measures, but I hadn't done so well enough)--I cried for days. And once, I worked at a very nice LFS with a beautiful 200g reef tank that was over 20 years old... one morning we came in and all the fish were just dead (we never found the cause). Even Eric Borneman's tanks have crashed at least a few times. So... unless you feel like you did something terribly irresponsible, I wouldn't beat yourself up too much about it... though, believe me, I know it hurts. :-( Feeling for you, Sara M.>

Re: What have I done? 12/04/08 Thank you, Sara. It's amazing how much one can become attached to each individual fish. But, it's also the overall feeling of failure and lack of control. As much as I would like to learn from this... In a way, it almost feels better to NOT know what went wrong... Meaning, if YOU don't see anything obvious... <Maybe if I'm missing something here, BobF will chime in... <<Would, If I had something more to contribute. I don't. RMF>>  but the only thing that "alarmed" me (other than what I already mentioned) was that you stirred up an established sand bed... sometimes this is dangerous. But you say you removed the fish... ? For future reference though, do NOT stir up an established sand bed. This is not necessary to add new sand. You can just add the new sand on top of the old sand.> Maybe it was not completely my fault... Sort of. Ultimately, they were fine before I started messing with things, but I was thinking long-term (DSB, aquascaping, etc.). Although I am not that experienced with Rabbitfishes, they seem more fragile than a lot of other families. But, I always thought of Groupers and Triggers as, more or less, indestructible (barring the obvious). As both Groupers seem to have succumbed to something respiratory (breathing heavy, then found dead with gills protruding?)... Are Triggers less vulnerable to oxygen issues? Other than locking himself into a hole, Humu didn't bat an eye... I'm afraid to jinx it, but his color looks great and he is out and about. Anyway, one more semi-rhetorical question... Tank seems currently stable: 0 for Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. Ph back up to 8.2. Temp 79. I reiterate that I didn't add new "live sand" from a bag with potential for die off. I did mix in dry (rinsed) reef sand. Would you expect any type of mini-cycle from disrupting my sandbed? <Possibly> And could I add (feel guilty using the word "replace") some fish? I'm watching a 2" Trigger in 100G tank. I know... Be patient. I'm trying to make myself feel better. Thanks, again <I would wait a few weeks just to be safe... then be cautious (since you/we still don't know for sure what caused this). I understand how awful it is to look into an empty tank though... it sucks. But if you get another fish and it dies, you'll just feel worse, trust me... as you guessed, try to be patient. Best, Sara M.>

Dead, and don't know what to do... Read  - 1/24/08 <?> Hi Ok here is my situation. I have an 85 gallon tank, reef lighting (Current) , a euro reef protein skimmer, a Megaflow sump filter model 4. Live rock, two sea anemones, <... likely trouble. See WWM re Actinarian comp.> one brittle star fish, one sea urchin, one fire shrimp, a cleaner wrasse, <...> a six line wrasse, a mandarin Goby and small clown. My lights on a timer so 2 hours in the am and then 6 in the evening. OK so every time I add a fish that is a little bigger (Naso Tang or an Arugula Butterfly) they die. <...> The last one was a Naso tang, I drip acclimated him and for three days <!?> he was great he zipped around the tank and then on the third day he is on his side no spots or nothing struggling to stay alive and then dead. Water levels are all in zone. <What zone?> What is going on ??? help? Thanks Jim <... Water tests? Filtration, maintenance... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/cnidcompppt.htm and on to Env. diseases, Marine... You have a toxicity problem... likely from the Cnidarians here... but... w/o test results, knowing what gear you have... more data, can only vaguely guess. Bob Fenner>

Reef help, coral wont survive.   2/11/08 Hi, my name is Bryce. I live in the Cincinnati Ohio area. I have been in the hobby of saltwater aquariums now for 6 years and have had many reef tanks mostly nano's. I have been slowly purchasing my equipment for a bigger reef setup and yet am having trouble. For 2 months I have been struggling with my reef tank and need some help. Any coral I add never opens at all and dies or withers away. I first tried a finger leather, then I tried a silver branch xenia followed by a green star polyp colony and cant get anything to open. 3 months ago I took down my 150 gallon FOWLR tank and setup a 75 gallon tank I intend to make a reef. The tank is 48 inches wide and about 22 inches deep with the water column about 22 inches high give or take. I moved all my fish, rock, and inverts (no coral)...just blue and scarlet leg hermits and such once the new 75 gallon was setup. I moved 75 gallons of water from my 150 to start and two weeks later did a 25% water change like I usually do. My 75 gallon tank has a 1/2 inch thick Aragonite based sand bed, about 150 to 200 lbs of live rock and 50 or so hermits and snails. Lighting is supplied by 2, 150 watt 14k metal halides and 4, 65 watt actinic 03 compact fl's. I change my MH's every 6 months with Ushios, and the actinics with Corallife bulbs every 8 months. The MH's are 12 inches above the water surface, actinics are 6 inches. It is an open top tank. My circulation is from 2 Hydor Koralia pumps at 1200 gal/hr each and then my sump return of about 500 gal per hour. I have a siphon box which empties into a refugium tank with just Chaeto macro algae and a shallow sand bed with 10 lbs of live rock. It is lighted by a 50/50 65 watt compact fl. bulb. I let hair algae and green and what ever else grows grow in my refugium tank and clean out the hair algae once a month. I don't have any nuisance algae in my main tank. From my refugium my water pours over through a 25 micron filter bag and into my 20 gallon sump. I have an aqua-c ev180 protein skimmer, a Corallife 36 watt uv sterilizer, JBJ Arctica 1/10hp chiller, aqua-c rx-1 calcium reactor, a DIY anaerobic denitrator, <What is this fed with? The source of carbon or?> and an auto top off unit connected to a solenoid through a ro/di unit recently tested at 7ppm total dissolved solids. My water changes come from this ro unit and I use reef crystals as my salt mix at a specific gravity of 1.025 measured with a hydrometer. My parameters are as such. Water is 79 to 80 degrees, nitrates 0ppm, nitrites 0ppm, phos 0ppm, magnesium is always around 1250ppm, calcium is about 400 to 420 ppm, ph is 8.3, KH is 10 to 11, ammonia is always undetectable. I dose with only magnesium and use Carib sea A.R.M in my reactor. When I got my 75 gallon tank all setup and running I had 2 ocellaris clowns, 1 blue tang and 1 royal Gramma. All the fish had been in my 150 gallon tank for at least 6 months, the clowns over 3 years. My trouble started when I noticed my Gramma was always in hiding. I thought since the acclimation maybe he was stressed. He died 2 weeks after the tanks was setup. Then my blue tang died of what appeared to be an Oodinium infection as did my clowns shortly after. I have no idea where the Oodinium came from as my newest fish .. the blue tang ... was quarantined for 3 weeks before going in the 150 gallon tank and lived there for months without any problem. <Somehow got by...> I assume that there must have been a very small number of the parasite in the water and the immunity of the fish was able to keep it under control until the stress of a new home maybe lowered their immune system. I don't know. But that added to all this frustration. It leads me to believe there is an "unseen" problem with my water quality. <I agree... Your set-up reads as fine... but there is a chemical, perhaps bio-chemical anomaly here somewhere> I had several thoughts about what may be wrong. I thought maybe H2S from my denitrator was getting in my water. <Mmm, this, or...> Effluent out of the unit doesn't smell and it is at a constant drip rate into the sump and the tank is very well circulated. The denitrator has been running now for 4 years on whatever tank setup I have at the time. I have never had any problems with it. <This gear can/does change...> Sand bed is shallow...so I ruled out h2s in my mind. Plumbing was all new with pvc and I used aquarium grade silicone with standard pvc cement for all joints. Perhaps some chemical is getting into my water? <From? A cat-box near by? Someone spraying glass et al. cleaner in a too air-tight house?> Perhaps the first coral I introduced died and released some chemical toxin my other subsequent coral attempts did not like? <Most real possibility mentioned yet> I thought maybe my RO/DI unit was malfunctioning in some way... I tested the water locally at a dealer of units and total dissolved solids was 7ppm.. id like it at 0 but with Ohio river water as my starting point I think it is working ok. I changed my carbon pre and post filter every 6 months along with my DI resin. My skunk cleaner shrimp, all my crabs, my snails, everything is alive and well and seems to be doing great. <A good clue> Just cant get my corals to open up. I acclimate them slowly using standard bag floating methods. <Mmm, see WWM... I'd acclimate Cnidarians differently. Posted> I always start with my lights off and proceed with only actinics for one day. Then each day have my MH's on one more hour until I am up to the full 8 hour photoperiod. I typically use my actinics from 8am to 9pm and my MH's from 11am to 7pm. I have had many corals in the past and have never had a problem quite like this one. I always had a minimum amount of lighting and equipment though. I have never had such an elaborate setup as I do now and yet cant get any coral to live. I don't know if my Oodinium problem was related to bad water quality in some way or if it was just stress from the move. <Also agreed> Sorry to write a book but I just wanted your professional help and opinion as to my next move or next thing to test for. I don't want to keep trying coral without knowing why they don't open up. Something is not right. Could I be filtering my water so well that it is devoid of what the coral needs to open and thrive? <Mmm... not likely> Is it all just happening too fast after I setup my 75 gallon tank and things just are not quite in balance? Please help, thanks BRYCE. <Could be the source of the livestock/corals even... I would try setting up another system to acclimate them in... move some of the water from the 75 once some are settled in (a few weeks to months)... to test the "poor water" hypothesis... Then... I would systematically remove one element at a time... My first choice, the denitrator. Bob Fenner>

Re: reef help, coral wont survive. 2-12-08 We have a cat box downstairs about 6 feet from the 30 gallon top-off water tank. I guess this could be my issue. What is in the cat litter that would cause my problem? <Mostly thought to be ammonia getting into solution... can be measured if present> I guess I should move one or the other. <And do consider the systematic water and gear testing protocol mentioned previously. BobF>

Marine... Ebola?!   7/25/06 I've agonized over writing you, <Why? We're very approachable> but I'm loosing <And losing?> my grip on saltwater and thought you might be able to help me.  These are my tanks: #1 100 gallon - 6 months - 2 medium Lionfish, 2 Wrasses, 1 Tang, 1 Trigger. #2 100   "       - 2 months - 1 Foxface, 1 Marine Betta, 1 Blue Tang. 180        "       - 4 months - 1 medium Puffer, 1 Yellow Tang, 1 Red Breasted Wrasse I have two 20 gallon, two 10 gallon quarantine tanks for new fish and any sick fish.  I have 165 gallons of curing saltwater that is left for a week or more before using. <Good> Each of the tanks water tests are identical.  PH 8.2, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 10 ppm, Salinity 1023.  All fish are compatible.  Water changes are timely.  No overfeeding. <Sounds good> Here is the problem.   At any given time a new fish, whether he is in a quarantine tank or in #2 100 or the 180, developed gross looking eyes, parts of their bodies turn dark, and die within 48 hours. <... yikes....> The established fish are not affected at all. <Habituated...> The interesting part is that # 1 100 tank has never had any health issues, but I have never introduced any new fish to what is already there.  I'm at a loss.        Bob    <Sounds like Mycobacterium... maybe M. marinum... take a read on the Net, WWM re... Bob Fenner>

Re: Marine... Ebola!   7/25/06 Thanks for your reply, Bob.  I should confess that I've lost 17 fish from three different providers, causing me to believe my environment had to be causing the deaths. <Me too... something (universal) is very off... Perhaps a household spray cleaner use? Some contaminant in the decor/type of rock you're using in all three systems?. I would place a unit of PolyFilter in the filter flow path of these systems... see if you can't "pick up" some definitive color> Most of the fish were either small (clowns, dwarf lion, spotted puffer, Sailfin, etc.) or fragile fish (butterflies, angels, etc.)    <Mmm, all should not perish at this quick rate...> My quarantine tanks and equipment have been bleached.  My thought now is to bring an adult, more durable fish to see if it survives. <Or... if I may suggest to your plan, slowly adding system water to the Quarantine tank... to see if this "acclimatizes" the new specimens> If that works, from now on bringing in one fish at a time.  What do think of this game plan?  What fish would you recommend? <Too many to make general statements... though, being a cheapskate (family Rajidae?), likely some species of hardy damsels... Dascyllus...> Why this hobby is so important to me, I'm a 74 year old retiree who not only enjoys fishkeeping, but needs it for mental health. <... I as well> Thanks again, Bob <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Used Tank Just curious about a 115 Gal DAS tank that I used to own.  Every thing I put into it other than fish would die almost immediately.  I bought the tank used <Could have been that a toxin/poison had gotten into the tank. Even soap is difficult almost impossible to get out of a tank...and it will kill, depending on how sensitive your animals are to that particular toxin> and when I bought it the LFS in Alabama had some dead rock in it.  Should have started me looking right there, I know but was new in the marine business.   <Also...Did you test the water and wait until cycling was finished before adding any critters to the tank?> I used RO/DI water exclusively and tested the tank weekly and did all my water changes.   <Sounds good> If I put an anemone in it died within an hour. <Anemones are bad for just about everyone's tank. They just don't survive> I tested for copper using the Seachem kit and it read 0.   <Doesn't mean there weren't trace amounts> Snails and shrimp also died VERY quickly. <Sounds like copper poisoning or soap> All water qualities were in parameters.  PH, Salinity, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, and phosphate were zero. Couldn't keep any inverts at all alive.  It's been really bothering me over the years.  Any ideas???????? <You got 'em! Sounds like a classic case of copper poisoning! David Dowless>

- Re: New Sump, New Problems - This in reply to Jason C who asked me a few questions. <Well... I'm back.> Before I had a emperor 400. No I did not clean it before I installed it. <The sump... well...> I am kicking myself today for that. It was new so I didn't even think about it. <Call me paranoid, but I clean everything before I put it in my tank.> Since last night I lost my Kole Yellow Eye, and he was the only one who wasn't showing any signs of rapid breathing. <I'm sorry to hear about your loss.> I have a new cap 2200 pump with all new plumbing from prefilter to drain line to return pump. I have messed up big time with something. Good news is my False Perc clown and blue tang who was laying on their sides last night seem to be doing better. <Ahh good.> I did a 50% WC last night and ran 18 oz of carbon last night and replaced it with fresh 18oz of carbon this morning. <Good plan, I'd even do another large [50%] water change again soon - let the new water a day or so to mix before you add it.> Even my button polyp was affected by this. It swelled up and has yet to come back to normal. Bristle stars and hermits seem to be unaffected as well. <Interesting.> Do you think it was me not washing the new equipment out? <A distinct possibility. Again... going on the fact that your nitrogen-cycle tests indicate there is nothing toxic in the tests, you need to look for other 'instant' contaminants. The fact this all happened right after you installed the new sump is the best clue you have.> That seems to be the only thing I can think of. <Or related - perhaps something you had on your hands when doing the work.> What a stupid mistake if so. <It's an honest mistake, and potentially one with regrettable consequences, but not the type of mistake that is often repeated afterwards.> Thanks again, Jason <Cheers, J -- >

Can't keep fish alive - 55g. Hi Bob <Kevin here today!> This is the first time writing to u but have used your website for many answers. I have a new saltwater tank 55g it has been cycled for at least 2 months and everything tests at 0 the salinity is 1.022 and the temp around 78. I cant get anything to stay alive in this tank except a few turbo snails and a few hermits, when I put fish in they stay swimming at the top and after a few days they die I have done an almost complete water change after the last deaths put in a Green Chromis and it did fine so I move in a Maroon Clownfish he is now swimming at the top of the tank. Anything u can tell me would be great because I'm ready to tear it down ! <Whoa. First thing to do is verify your test results by comparing them with a different kit (Fastest/Seatest, Salifert, etc) and make sure that you have no pH, ammonia, or nitrite problems. Second, establish a quarantine tank, the fish you are getting could be sick from the get-go. I'd like to know how this tank is set up, what equipment is used, and what kind of maintenance you do on it. Also, how do you acclimate these fish? Do you see any slime, dust, bumps, or spots on the fish? Do they breath very hard? Do they die with their gills wide open? Let me know, we'll get to the bottom of this! -Kevin>

- Fish Issues - Hi, I have had real trouble keeping fish alive, my reef tank is close to a year old, 55g, 3" sand, AquaC Remora, 4x65w PC lighting.  All water parameters are fine, my corals are fine, and my snails and cleaner shrimp have been in there forever. <Interesting.> The fish keep dying after a few weeks, they really don't look sick either.  Mostly dwarf angels, tangs etc. so not really small fish, I don't believe I have an attacker somewhere. <Most likely there is an issue with your supply - have you bought these all in the same place? I'd be wanting to blame them, or at the very least their supplier.> I have done small frequent water changes, even a close to 100% water change (no fish anyway).  I use RO/DI for water and buffer with Seachem.  Could any of my corals be producing something toxic to the fish?? I am out of ideas.  My corals are a multi-mushroom polyp, Galaxea, umbrella mushroom, Goniopora, frogspawn, type of brain, large star polyp and an Acropora. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, this is getting way to expensive! :-( <No doubt - I'd work with a local store to procure, and then put a deposit on any fish you might want - let them keep it for two weeks before you take it home. Check up on it several times and make sure it's eating. That should make a difference.> Thanks! -Brian <Cheers, J -- >

Dead Fish Bob  I have a 8 month old, 75 gallon reef/fish tank that consisted of 4' yellow Tang, False Percula, Clark's Eye, Potter Angel, Orange Chromis and a Royal Gramma. In addition, to this I also have an long tentacle anemone, 3 cleaner shrimp and a Coral banded. I run 2 Emperor 400 and a protein skimmer and 60lbs of live rock. I added 20lbs of live rock and within 4 to 5 days my nitrate went from 15 to 40 but everything else stayed at 0. And within 24hrs the Clarks Eye, Percula, Orange Chromis and all 3 cleaner shrimp died. I did a 10% water change the first day and then a 25% water change till the nitrate came back down and things stop dying. Do you have any idea as to why my organisms died? Thanks in advance Doug >> Two general possibilities... some sort of poisoning from 1) outside or 2) inside the system... the nitrate being a big clue. The "life" in your system (including the very real possibility of much of the uncured, or re-stabilizing live rock) started to die from whatever the initial cause was/is (a spray cleaner from outside, nicotine on some smoker's arm in the tank... a lack of oxygen in your system, overfeeding event, curing live rock...) and triggered the losses... Moving on to the more important question here (I can't bring back the dead... yet). "How to prevent such mortalities in the future"... Do consider placing some live macro-algae in your system to use up the nitrates... and adding an airstone to increase oxygen availability.... And possibly boosting your lighting to increase photosynthesis on your live rock (and the macro-algae)... that will accomplish both diminishing the nitrates (and other nutrients) and increasing gaseous exchange. Bob Fenner

Help me!!!!!!!! marine aquarium problem  I have a 60gal. marine tank that has been set up for 2 months now. I have 2 Featherdusters, 40lbs. of live rock, sand bottom, 3 damsels, 1 percula clown. For filtration I have a canister filter (w/ BioChem stars, pads, carbon filtration), U.V sterilizer, and a protein skimmer. I have a triton bulb for lighting which is on for 11 hours daily. I do water changes every week by tap water threw a water purifier its for drinking) then add Amquel, reef crystals salt), and let sit for overnight while heating up with a heater. The problem is that I loose every fish I introduce into the system in about 3-5 days!!!! I lost 2 Kole, hippo, yellow tangs, x-mas wrass,2 percula clowns, pigmy, bi-color, and flame angels, lemon seed butterfly, fox face and probably others that I cant remember. The ph is 8.2-8.4 . Salinity is 1.022 . Temp is 78 . ammonia, nitrates, nitrites are always at 0 ( I test every 2 days). There seem to be no aggression with new or old tankmates. Am sure there is no poisonous display material in the tank because there is only liverock, fake coral, and some pieces of coral that were bought from a aquarium store and ran under water( hot and no detergents) before introducing. I tried many ways of introducing new fish including floating bag method, drip method, water swap method etc. Most of the fish that died looked very healthy and eating hours before death although, the Kole, hippo, and bi-color angel developed what looked like ick in 2 days after introducing then died 2 days later. All other fish just died after looking very healthy just days before. Please help!!!! I am very discouraged but want a marine system badly. Money and patients are running low.  <Something is very wrong here... could be simply a metal contaminant (check for a clamp, bit of metal in your substrate, a thermometer?...), maybe just a lack of oxygen!? Please see our website: www.WetWebMedia.com on the Marine Index, the sections on "Toxic Tank Situations", "Acclimation", "Circulation"... At any length, I strongly encourage you to pre-mix your new seawater per the protocol stored on the WWM site under "Using Seawater", to add a powerhead or two to increase circulation and aeration AND to add more lighting... to boost the metabolism/photosynthesis of your live rock organisms... We will find the root cause of your difficulty here and solve it. Bob Fenner>

Ocellaris clown and mandarin (and anomalous toxicity) Bob, I've got a 37 gal tank...nitrates, nitrites, ammonia and pH all look good, salinity is ~1.023 and temp is ~78F. I have an ocellaris clown, a spotted mandarin , some mushrooms, snails, hermit crabs, a Featherduster and some sponges (along with about 40 lbs of live rock). The problem started about 4 weeks ago. I bought a kauderni cardinal and watched as it absolutely refused to eat anything I fed for about 2 weeks. It looked healthy otherwise, normal respiration, no spotting and swimming normally. Then after about two weeks it started swimming funny (sinking near the bottom, I took that as a bad sign) and it was gone in the morning. I assume it made its way into one of the live rock crevices and was never seen again. A few days later I noticed a couple of spots on my clown and pseudo springeri (I didn't mention him earlier, he is no longer around). I medicated the tank with Marin Oomed...I used it once before a couple of years ago with good results. My luck seems to have changed though, the springeri got worse and died 2 days ago. The clownfish is starting to look bad (more white spots) and looks to be breathing a little heavy. I've gone through the Marin Oomed cycle twice now and it doesn't appear to be working.  <No. I don't think your problem is treatable in this way... don't think it's parasitic, but environmental...> The mandarin has also developed a couple of spots as well but seems to be by far in better shape. Unfortunately I do not have a quarantine tank.....what should I do next?? I've had the clown fish for over 5 years and really don't want to lose it. Thanks for any help. <I suggest the "standard" "drop back and punt" routine here of a succession of water changes, cleaning of filter gear, gravel vacuuming, and running a pound or so of activated carbon in your filter flow path... that and ceasing whatever "supplement" activity you're currently involved in... Bob Fenner> Chris

Toxic tank Hi, Having a difficult time with a new 90 saltwater tank. Turbo snails die within ten minutes of being put in the tank. A Yellow tang within two days. A small hermit crab lasted one week. <Mmm> Currently living happily are 1 Percula Clown 2 tomatoes 1 Damsel As of two days ago- a lunar wrasse and a domino which I wrongfully accused of causing the problem and gave them back to the LFS. ammonia - 0 nitrites- 0 nitrates- 10 ppm ph 8.6 no live rock <The live rock would help a great deal to modify, stabilize water quality, provide cover, forage... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm and beyond> lighting 65 watts 10K & 65 watts ultra actinic CF Wet/dry 2 ft ^3 with t1000 protein skimmer in the sump. 1.023 SG The tank is 4 1/2 months old. I cycled it using damsels and a yellow tang. After 3 months purchased an emperor angle and everything started going wrong. The 3" long emperor died two days later. Then the yellow tang which helped cycle the tank became very thin overnight and died the next day. Waited a week and tried turbo snails and a hermit crab and a Koran angle. Turbos died after a few hours, Korean died the next day, and crab lasted a week before dying. Waited two weeks and did a water change and added a turbo snail and a yellow tang. Snail died after a few hours and tang became very thin by the next day and died. Thinking that it might be a toxin, put a large bag of carbon in the sump to try to save the tang but it didn't help or was too late. <There is "something" chemically either "too much" (like a metal) in your system or "too little" like alkalinity (do test for this)> It seems like a toxin somehow got in the tank. Things that I suspect have all been in the tank since day one, but I will list them. I used 1000 shot gun shell wads as the bio media as I have heard of other people doing this. <Yes, for folks who utilize wet-dry filtration> (I boiled them in water before putting them in the sump) Used black Plexi glass in the tank around the bottom drain to control the water which feeds the sump. Used vinyl tubing in the filtration system. Used polycarbonate plastic (Lexan) to make the sump. Everything else in the tank is very standard and purchased at the local pet store. One other questionable thing I do is mix a small amount of Novaqua conditioner to the "new" salt water before adding it to the tank during water changes. I have added no other medicines/chemicals and am very careful not to introduce pet store water into the tank. <Good accounting of your actions> I still have the carbon bag in the tank. I am thinking of doing a massive water change, say 90 gallons, to the tank but would hate to do this without knowing what went wrong because I don't want to do it again. I was in the process of buying 50 pounds of LR when all this went wrong, but cancelled the order as I didn't want to kill all that rock. <Don't worry here... the LR will not all die... but will/would change the water for the better> Any thoughts or suspicions? Thanks for the help your (recently discovered) site has given me. Scott Buske <I would go ahead with the addition of the live rock, get/use an alkalinity test kit... and likely get rid of the shotgun wadding (and not use any wet-dry media...) ultimately changing the sump to a refugium style filter. Bob Fenner>

Can't figure out what it wrong Hello, We have a 150 gallon tank that is about 6 months old. After going through the maturation process we tried to stock it with fish, we would add the fish and they would be fine for about a week and then die. We keep a close eye on the ammonia, pH, nitrate, and nitrite, all were zero when we added them and it was zero when the died. Every time we add fish they look really healthy eat good and swim with no problems, but with in a week to 14 days they all die. What are we doing wrong? We have read several books can't find anything to help. It seems the only thing that I can keep alive is a pacific cleaner shrimp, and he looks kind of small in this big tank all by himself. Thank You, M. Pinkston <Somewhere, somehow something chronically to acutely toxic has made/is making its way into your tank. A few ideas come to mind. Ammoniated "window" cleaners being sprayed around, soaps/detergents coming into contact with your water (through a communal bucket, sponge...), "tramp" metal sneaking in through your gravel, décor (some "lava" rocks cause this, and often an iron test kit will reveal it), even a metal thermometer... any metal contact... I know it must be discouraging (to put it mildly) to keep losing your fish... so I would make the big move: Dump the tank, remove the gravel, clean and dry it, spread it out and look for signs of metal introduction. Re-set up the tank, add some live rock (this will really help) and put the shrimp back in. Wait about a month and introduce some fishes. If the new fishes seem to be going sideways, add some PolyFilter in your filter flow path and get back to me about what color it changes...Bob Fenner>

Dying fish... Bob- HELP!! I can't keep anything alive for more than several weeks. I have a 125ga with 130+ lbs of LR covered with coralline algae, 1-2' of crushed coral substrate, wet/dry sump, protein skimmer, Eheim filter, UV filter, 2 powerheads, 2-24' blue actinic bulbs and 2 trichromatic bulbs. The tank has been set up for about 18 months. For the first 6 months or so, I had a juv. Imperator, a yellow tang and a blue tang. The imperator died of unknown cause, but the tangs continued on. Since then I have killed 2 powder blue tangs, 3-4 flame angels, 3 Auriga Butterflyfish, 2 Longnose yellow Butterflyfish, Koran angels, juv French angels, gobies, etc, etc... I have been able to keep the 2 original tangs alive for 18 months or so, and I have had pretty good luck with the 'clean-up crew'. Those that have died, I assumed became dinner for some lucky fish. None ever appeared to be diseased with ich or any other parasite, they generally would stop eating and be dead within a day or so. 3 weeks ago, I got an Auriga from FFE, and it did fine in the quarantine tank. It was in the quarantine tank for 2 weeks and died 2 days after being in the main tank. The night before it died, it was eating and acting normal. Because of its aggressive behavior, I put the yellow tang in the small tank when I put the Auriga in the main tank. The tang died this morning, after having it for 18 months. The fish have been purchase from local shops as well as FFE. I feed 1-2 times a day and have used small amounts of Ocean Nutrition Formula One, Two, frozen as well as live brine, dried red and brown algae. All the food is gone within several minutes. I have done 10-20% water changes using RO water from a local 'water store' the entire time the tank has been up. The water has always tested within normal ranges. For the last 6 months or so, I premixed the water in a large trash can for 2-3 days. Prior to this, I would premix it in the 5 gallon containers. I put de-Chlor and 'Prime' in the water. Most of the time when I did water changes, I would vacuum the substrate. Having talked to several local shops, they all said to cut back on the vacuuming. The last time I did was several months ago. Since then, the nitrates have been lower than normal, 10-20 instead of the usual 30-40ppm. The skimmer has been foaming more than usual though. I wash my hands every time before I put them in the tank. The only thing I can think of that would contaminate the tank would be the usual household cleaners used in the same room as the tank but, not on the tank itself. I clean the Eheim every 3 months, changing the charcoal and rinsing the pre-filters. I've used Poly Filters in the overflow for the last year or so. The quarantine tank was set up with gravel from the main tank and the water changes are done with water coming out of the main tank after the new water has been added. I've kept a log for the last 8 months and have found no connection to anything. When I talked with the local shops, and they suggested cutting back on the vacuuming to allow for the biological filter to build up, I got a dozen damsels to help 're-cycle' the tank. All but 4 died within a week. As I mentioned earlier, I haven't noticed any parasites or any 'mystery worms' or strange inhabitants as I have read about so many times in your daily column. There has been an occasional 'scratching' on the rocks but nothing that would indicate any other sign of stress. I have read and re-read CMA until I think I have it memorized. Should I start all over? I hate to get rid of all the LR if I don't have to, but at this point I am willing to do most anything. A friend has 3 smaller tanks and never does so much as a water change and they are all doing great. Please help! This is really frustrating (and expensive). I'm sorry this is so long but I wanted to give as much background as I could. Thanks. Andy Lange PS. During the writing of this, I took a break for dinner and noticed the remaining long time surviving blue tang, acting strange. <Thank you for writing... and supplying necessary information... I do suspect some form of chronic poisoning as you hint... Can you tell me, what color, if any, the PolyFilter pads change to?  It's possible that there are some toxic organisms also that could be slowly poisoning the system... we will get rid of them as well: And if we can't find the root cause... not cleaners in your case... their effects would be direct and immediate... but some sort of "tramp metal"... like a rusting clamp, some ferrous trash that came with your rock, substrate... a break in a coating on a metallic component in your filtration... (I would take some of your water into a dealer that has a sensitive iron test kit... this is the most common metal element that causes trouble)... then I would definitely go a/the extreme route... as I'm soon to list: Do consider taking the tank apart... This is not such a big job as it may appear at this point, and will indeed be satisfying... in solving your mysterious death problems. Take out and freshwater rinse your live rock, and stack/store dry (i.e., not underwater) out of the way... Drain the tank to the near bottom, but with some water above the gravel, and apply a good gallon of "swimming pool" bleach (sodium hypochlorite)... carefully so you don't stain anything... stir the bleach water in and around your substrate. Let this whole mess stand for an hour or more... with your windows open on a "nice day". Add freshwater, drain, add freshwater, drain... and then take out the gravel, rinse it, store it, and return it to the tank... re-set the whole thing up... with synthetic salt mix... and replace the live rock in about three/four days... Yes, not a typo. Let the rock air-dry this long... Much of the desirable life on it will come right back... and the not so desirable will be dust. Let this whole system run for a month... before starting your re-stocking...and one last item: cease using the Prime product... it probably has not much to do with your situation, but is unnecessary. Bob Fenner>

Help! My Entire Tank Is Dead! Hi Bob, I bought a fish that started showing signs of sickness a couple of days after I put him in my tank. Whatever this illness is, ended up killing off my entire tank. Here's what happened: My fish started looking like they had dead skin hanging off of them. My local fish store suggested RxP so I started treating the tank immediately.  Within 24 hours, half of my fish were dead ( 2 within hours of adding the RxP) and the other half started looking even worse. They were all eating just fine throughout all this massive death.  Anyway, I've tested and retested my water and everything looks fine. However, now there is all this white tubular stuff on my live rock and just today there are little white things on the glass of my tank that look a lot like smaller versions of these long tubular white things. Honestly, most of this stuff looks like mold! Some of it is even on the plants of my live rock and it wasn't there before.  I bought 20 pounds of Fiji live rock a couple of weeks before I got the fish that was the first to become ill. Didn't know if this had anything to do with it. So after being so long-winded, I suppose my question is: What in the world went wrong and where do I go now to get my tank back in shape for more fish? So I'm back to my original statement: Help! My entire tank is dead! :) Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Apryl Duncan <Yeeikes! Let's go back a few, make that all steps... Don't know, can't say what the problem was, the root cause(s) or if the medicine hastened your livestock's' demise or you did from overdosing... And at this point, don't know from your description what the tubular bits are... but they might well be decomposers... they are of little consequence. At any length, I do know what I would do at this point: Take about a third of the water out and replace it with freshwater...as in tap... and let the tank run for a month like that... Much of your "live" part of rock may die, but so will about all of the possible disease-causing organisms that might have been there...  After the month, raise the specific gravity back to about 1.022 and try a few damsels... and then we'll talk again. Bob Fenner>

Appended: Unexplained Fish Deaths? Bob, I sent you another message this morning (attached) asking about some unexplained fish deaths. At lunch today as I looked into the tank and saw a greyish/white translucent slug looking thing with antennae perched on a rock spewing something into the water. I left the room for just a minute and when I came back it was gone. Do you know what this could be and could it be my fish killer.  Thanks again, John <Not a/the fish killer you might believe... But likely some sort of snail, worm reproducing (or maybe just eliminating), in response to (one last gasp) to poor environmental conditions... ADD NOTHING MORE TO THIS TANK for a few weeks... it will settle down... Then we'll talk about spiffing up your water quality... Maybe take a look at this issue, skimmers.... at my site: www.wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner>

Within about two hours, every fish in our tank died (Firefish, Percula clown, Mandarin). We also lost all the snails, almost lost our shrimp and polyps and mushrooms too, but we got them out in time. None of the fish had looked sick. No spots, discoloration, or any weird behavior. If you would have looked at the tank, the top of the water almost looked like it had suds on it and our protein skimmer was bubbling over. We had our water tested and everything came back perfect. I was wondering if you have any ideas as to what could have happened and what we need to do to get our tank back up again. Nicki Kubes <Something, very, acutely toxic... either started from outside (an ammonia based cleaner, soap/detergent on a hand, a cigarette butt...) or inside... A cascade of events... from the organisms you list, likely the mushrooms... poisoning their tankmates... A type of chemical warfare that goes on "in the wild" regularly... but with a much larger dilution salvation....  To prevent or forestall such future problems, regular water changes, the use of chemical filtrants periodically, keeping the mushrooms clearly separated from other sessile invertebrates... plenty of circulation, aeration, growing macro-algae in the system or a specialized sump (mud/rock/algae) filter... all help. Bob Fenner, who is sorry to hear of your losses and directs you to the "Toxic Tank Conditions" and "Environmental Disease" areas of www.wetwebmedia.com for more information.>

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