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FAQs on Vacations & Marine Systems

Related Articles: Maintenance of Marine Systems While You're on HolidayPreparing for Vacation, Keeping your tank safe in your absence By Justin Norman Reef Maintenance, Marine System Maintenance

Related FAQs:

A very good idea to leave (only) pre-measured sealed food containers for "fish sitters"...

Hi there Bob,

I have kept my first reef tank for the past 6 months and up to now everything is going very well. The only thing which is concerning me is when it comes to me going on holiday, which I plan on doing late August. I will be gone for 2 weeks in total and although I'm on good terms with my neighbours I don't want them to feel too responsible for my new pride and joy. Have you much experience with automatic fish feeders? I was thinking this could be a possible solution. I would still like to get my neighbours round a couple of times just to check up on everything, but I also don't want to impose on them. I have an R.O top-up system in place already and I will leave them contact details of my LFS in case of any emergencies.

I would also be interested to hear if there is anything specific and basic I should be telling them to be looking out for, as they know nothing of marine fish, and also what type of preparations are advisable for me to take before going on holiday (water testing/changing etc).

With much appreciation,


Hello Clive, and allow me to help ease your mind lest you over-worry during your upcoming holiday. Yes, I am very familiar with some makes of auto-feeders; have used them for many years. In particular, the Eheim range, though there are other manufacturers of reliable units. I would get/use one of these, practice setting it up, portioning food/s'¦ I use Spectrum brand pellets in mine exclusively. I encourage you to have whatever device you employ set to feed sparingly, perhaps twice a day. Do ask you neighbours in addition to feed a small bit (pre-measured and labeled by date by you) and to simply 'count up' your fish livestock when proffering this food.

          Other than obviously stressed animals or water on the floor, I would not ask the folks next door to test for water quality, nor adjust. Your idea re the local fish store name and address (taped to the front of the tank) is best, with someone there identified specifically (who is familiar with your system if possible) even better.

            Do know that little actually goes wrong with up and going reef systems even almost unfed during such an interval as two weeks, and enjoy your trip.

Need Advice, Sm. SW maint. f'      5/15/13
Hi Crew, I have a 24 gallon with LED lighting, six fish (2 Pajama Cardinals, 2 Kaudern cardinals,
<These may bicker, fight with time, growth>
 a Firefish and a Clown Goby), LPS corals.12 Acans, a Cynarina, a Lobophyllia, a Trachyphyllia (over 6 inches), a large candy cane and a Blastomussa wellsi with over 10 heads. I feed the fish regularly once a day and sometimes twice a day. I spot feed the corals once a week. I change a gallon a week unless I see some problems and then I change 2 gallons a week.
This set up is over 8 years. The fish have been replaced over the past 2 years. Most of the corals are over 3 years. I am planning to do some traveling over the next year and am tempted to shut it down. Currently if I go away for a weekend I just leave it as is.
<No worries>
For a week I will set up a feeder. I was wondering if it would work out to just get rid of the fish and let the corals try to survive for 2-3 weeks at a time without any care other than have someone replace the evaporation once a week. In general what changes would you suggest if I remove the fish without going on vacations. Thanks, Sam
<As this system has been doing fine for you as it is, I wouldn't change anything... If it were me though, I'd have a larger volume. Bob Fenner>

How long can fish/shrimp go without being fed?     4/6/13
Hi wonderful experts!  My wife and I have not had a vacation since I got three smallish saltwater tanks about three years ago.  We have the following significant livestock (not all in the same tank!):
Ocellaris clownfish
Royal gramma
Blue-green reef Chromis
Flame Hawkfish
Spotted Hawkfish
Three-stripe damsel
Blue velvet neon damsel
Skunk cleaner shrimp
<Will eventually be eaten by the Neocirrhites>
We just don't have anyone we can trust to feed these guys correctly.  I'm wondering how long we could be away without feeding them.  Any thoughts? 
Thanks for any advice!
<You could (I would) use an automated feeder to offer some pellets daily in your absence; but these fishes and shrimp could likely go sans feeding for a week. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/vacfaqsmar.htm
Bob Fenner>
Re: How long can fish/shrimp go without being fed?    4/6/13

Thanks, but the shrimp are not in the same tank as them.  They are in separate tanks.
<Ah, good. BobF>
Re: How long can fish/shrimp go without being fed?     4/6/13

Bob - Thanks!  We plan to be away for just five days, and I'll have a friend dump a little pre-measured food in the tanks in the middle of our away time.  So if you think a week is reasonable, we should be safe.  Great news, especially for my wife, who is coming to resent the fish because they keep me tied to home.
<Even better! B>

vacation plan, SW, fdg.    2/25/11
Hello again crew,
Hope all is going well with you.
<Thank you David>
I am getting ready to go on vacation in a month, and I had a question. I am running a 75 gallon FOWLR with 90" of live rock and a 4" sugar fine sand bed. Other filtration is an AquaC remora pro, a few powerheads, and a MarineLand hot magnum that I run only occasionally with Seachem Phosguard and matrix carbon. The livestock is a 1" tailspot blenny, 3.5" banded sleeper goby (Amblygobius phalaena), neon goby, and a skunk cleaner shrimp. I also have an assortment of snails. I already have a plan to have my roommates watch the tank.
<Do leave them w/ your number, the name and number of someone, perhaps a clerk at your LFS that they can call w/ questions, concerns>
I will use freeze a mix of rod's food and spectrum pellets(seems to please everyone in the tank) in an ice cube tray with r/o water and just have them feed 1 cube daily. Between then and now I plan to monitor my top off water so I can tell them how much to add daily. Does that sound like a good plan for being gone just a week?
<Mmm, am tempted to suggest no feeding during this seven day interval.
Given the livestock, set up you describe, this is what I would do. That is, not have anyone add anything>
I also have a large HOB Aquafuges that I have not yet set up. I could get that up and running with some macro algae and pods.
<I would put this up>
I am a little weary about setting something up and then leaving, but it would give the fish another source of food in case my roommates forget a day.
<There is sufficient forage on, as your live rock... No worries>
Also I had thought about just adding some macro algae directly to the display. Any thoughts or suggestions?
Thanks in advance,
<Mmm, read here for further input if you'd like: http://wetwebmedia.com/vacfaqsmar.htm
and Bon Voyageeee! Bob Fenner>

Macro algae selection and long holiday 2/2/2011
I recently purchased some Codium edule for my refugium. Is this a good selection for such purpose?
<This is an algae that is fine for refugiums. (and it is edible too!) I do like to have more than one variety as some grow better in different setups and have different benefits. There are several pages of FAQ's on macro algae in refugiums, here is one to start with
I have a large CPR HOB refugium with 10000k florescent compact light on top, it is the one that come with the CPR HOB refugium as a package deal.
Will the light be too strong for the algae?
<Strong implies wattage, but you didn't give the wattage. So I assume you mean to ask if the color temperature is good. Algae do best in the more red-yellow ranges, so a 6000k would be ideal. The 10000k won't hurt it, it just isn't optimal for growth vs. power input.>
Should I run the light all the time or on a cycle?
<Either way you like. If you are getting good growth on 12 hours, that is fine. It can a good idea to run the light on a cycle opposite the main tank light if pH swings are a problem in your tank. (many of the FAQ's discuss this - keep reading)>
Do I need to add some live rock in the refugium? I already have ten pound of live sand in the refugium.
<I would add some live rock but you don't have to.>
My tank is 75G with about 75 pounds of live rock and about 5 inches of live sand. It's running a large HOB Remora skimmer and a large Eheim Classic canister filter. I have 1 clown fish, two Bartlett Anthias, one royal gamma <gramma>, one blue damsel, one pastel green wrasse and six bubble tip anemones. All fish about 2-3 inches long. Is this a good setup?
<This sounds like a nice selection to me. You don't mention your lighting.
I assume you have good lighting for the anemones. If you are not sure, please read up pronto...
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/anemonelightngfaqs.htm >
I am going on a trip for three months, should I surrender all my fishes to a LFS?
Can I keep any of my fishes or anemone if I have someone to feed them but not water change?
<This depends on how stable you feel your system is. If you have had this setup for a while with no equipment or livestock changes, that would help with deciding to leave them at home with a sitter. Three months is a long time. But if it has been stable for several months already, I would feel ok leaving them in the care of someone you trust to use good judgment. If any of the animals are new, I would consider returning them to the LFS. For a lightly stocked system as yours, 3 months without a water change
should be ok, although you wouldn't normally go that long between changes. The things I would worry about are whether the caretaker will know how to handle things like an equipment failure, power outage, or a wandering anemone. Will they be able to change filter media if needed, top off fresh water, or check water chemistry? Make sure they know not to overfeed. This seems to be the biggest problem with guest feeders. Besides forgetting to feed them at all. Travelling and having aquariums at home can be risky. It
depends on how stable your tank is and how responsible your fish sitters are.>
Sorry for all the different questions, <no worries...> and thanks for helping out a fellow fish keeper.
<You are welcome!>
Happy Chinese New Year!
<and a Happy Chinese New Year to you!
Macro algae selection and long holiday  2/4/11

Dear marine aquarium expert:
I have a quick question.
<I answered your questions on Wednesday. Please see the Daily FAQs and check your junk mail folder on your email account.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/daily_faqs3.htm - titled "Macro algae selection and long holiday 2/2/2011">
Will running a 10000K 36W florescent compact light too much for Codium edule in my HOB refugium?
<Thank you for providing the wattage this time. This does sound like a high wattage for (I assume) a smallish refugium. I would probably go for a 10W 6000k if it is a couple of gallons. But, in the meantime, it is easy enough to just tone it down with some shade... fabric or mesh that cuts the light down some. Shade half of it and see which side does better. Or raise the light high above it so that less is directly on it. And the algae will tell you if it is unhappy. I would put some of the algae in the tank also.
It is pretty, and you can see which location it does better in and adjust the lighting accordingly.>
Is it better to have it on 24x7 or on 10 hours cycle?
<This is up to you. With the wattage you have, I would go with the 10 hours for now. >
My tank is 75G with about 75 pounds of live rock and about 5 inches of live sand. It's running a large HOB Remora skimmer and a large Eheim Classic canister filter. I have 1 clown fish, two Bartlett Anthias, one royal gramma, one blue damsel, one pastel green wrasse and six bubble tip anemones. All fish about 2-3 inches long. Is this a good setup? I am going on a trip for three months, should I surrender all my fishes to a LFS? Can I keep any of my fishes or anemone if I have someone to feed them but not water change?
<see answer from Wednesday. I forgot to mention the feeder needs to be able to handle the protein skimmer as well. (I turn mine off when I have a sitter, as I don't want to bother them with it. Although Remora is so simple, you should be fine.)>
The tank has been with me for about 2 years now.
<This is good news. This answers your "is it a good setup" as a happy tank after 2 years must be good. And a stable tank is more likely to do fine with a few months of reduced maintenance. I was unable to change water for a long time in my tank, and it was fine. I have a plenum setup and don't have trouble with nitrates building up.> Thanks for your help, you are part of the reason why I feel comfortable keeping up with this hobby.
<You are welcome. This site also helped me immensely and that is why I am here today. Cheers, Alex>

Sun coral feeding during a 2 weeks vacation  6/6/10
Dear WWM crew,
First of all, congratulation for this great site. It has been a source of excellent info in the past for me. The time has come however to ask my own question.
<Well okay!>
In one month from now I will be going on vacation for 2 weeks and I am worried about feeding the tank.
Here is some basic information on the tank.
Main Tank: 60 Liters
RDSB: 10kg Ocean Direct sand with prefilter
Frag Tank: 15 Liters, In-line. At the moment empty with only live rock and no lights
Refugium: 20 Liters, Chaeto, Reverse Daylight Lighting
2x Percula
2x Lysmata debelius
Tubastrea (healthy, small colony, alternated feeding with Mysis, brine, krill, Cyclop-eeze every other day, expands for multiple hours per day)
The system has been running for more that half a year (RDSB 2 months now) and I can see a very good population of pods in the tank an hour after the lights go out.
As you might have guessed, the main problem is related to the feeding of the Tubastrea. Although I could ask family members to care for the tank, I do not feel comfortable in asking them to come multiple times a week to feed the sun coral (rather labor intensive especially if you dont know how to do it).
My question is, what would you recommend me to do to keep the sun coral happy (placement in refugium etc etc), given the minimum effort by friends/family in feeding the tank.
By the way, do you think that feeding the tank with Cyclops-eeze 2 times per week would be enough for the Tubastrea?
<Yes, and for here, the vacation, I would risk having someone who you practice with feed the Tubastrea just twice while you're gone... i.e. once per week. This should be sufficient and not "that" risky. Bob Fenner>
Thank you for you help
I. Mylothridis
Re: Sun coral feeding during a 2 weeks vacation  6/6/10
Thanks Bob,
I guess I will start the lectures soon to be on time lol.
<Good idea Ioannis!>
Thanks for you reply
I. Mylothridis
<Welcome my friend. Cheers, BobF>

Goin' on a Holiday -- 11/09/2009
re: one week holiday

Hi guys.
<Hey Matthew! JustinN here!>
Hope you are well.
<Quite well, thank you. I hope the same for you.>
I have a 100 gallon tank with 2 clowns, 1 Hawkfish and recently added 1 fisher's pygmy angel and 1 Klein's butterfly.
<Sounds nice! Centropyge fisheri is one of my faves!>
Before the butterfly was introduced I used to only feed my fish 4 times a week but now I am feeding 2 times a day. The Klein's butterfly is fantastic! He was eating as soon as he was introduced and he eats everything. He even picks at the green hair algae.
<Amusing AND functional!>
I have a decent crop of Halimeda and another of Rhodophyta on my live rocks. This group of fish gets on amazingly well, they don't even acknowledge each other's presence!
Well i am going on holiday for one week at the beginning of December.
Usually I top the water right up before I go and this is sufficient for the week without any top ups. The feeding is my concern. On previous holidays i had my brother call in to feed the fish just once in the middle of the week but with the butterfly in there now I'm not sure this would be enough.
<Mm, should be ok, especially with mature rock available.>
I'm also not very trusting of my brother's feeding procedure hence why I only got him to feed once a week.
<Understandable -- until you've managed your own tank, the amount of food seems counter-productive usually.>
Another option would be to leave a rock out of the tank with some dried Nori weed tied to it and when my brother call in all he needs to do is drop the rock in the tank. Is that a good plan?
<Absolutely, sounds like a winner to me.>
There is plenty of live rock in the tank and the butterfly likes to pick at the Halimeda but not the Rhodophyta. What would you do in this situation?
Thank you.
<I would do exactly what you are planning to do -- 3 days on either end of the week would not be the demise of those in your care. Have them fed during the middle of the week, perhaps a bit of the preparation your brother would normally feed, in addition to the Nori rock, and all should be fine. A bit of self-promotion here, have a glance through my article on exactly this subject:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i5/Vacation/Vacation.htm Enjoy
your holiday! Cheers! -JustinN>
Re: Goin' on a Holiday -- 11/09/2009
Your advice is much appreciated Justin.
<Glad to be of service>
I would have given up the hobby long ago if I hadn't discovered WetWebMedia.
<Thanks for the kind words! We're glad to help those in and around the hobby.>
I have numerous dodgy LFS in my area and because of your site I feel I am more knowledgeable than them. I certainly know better than to put a Red Emperor fish into a 100 gallon tank! :/
<It is unfortunately the case in most places -- the almighty dollar typically wins out over good judgment. There are exceptions, and these exceptions should be heralded and supported, in my humble opinion.>
<Take care! -JustinN>

Vacation Nightmare 8/24/09
Hello Crew! Hope all is well.
<All is well here.>
I just returned from a wonderful vacation in Alaska where I was lucky enough to closely observe humpbacks and orcas.
<Sounds great.>
However, upon my return, I learned that my skimmer had overflowed onto my MH ballast causing it to "fry" (3 fire engines responded). There was also water damage to the floor and ceiling in the finished basement below. The tank's heater also shorted out.
<Yikes, a guess a real nightmare for sure. You don't live on Elm street by chance, do you?>
My system is a 46 bowfront with a BTA hosting 2 clowns, a Coral Beauty, a damsel, cc starfish and Pencil Urchin that have been living in harmony for over one year. It also has a 4 in. DSB and 60 lbs.+ live rock. Luckily everyone survived. My daughter was caring for the tank but must have forgotten about the skimmer (Bak Pak 2). The skimmer also overflowed earlier this year when I was unexpectedly hospitalized. Can I safely turn off the skimmer next time I am away from home without risk to the tank? I have no other equipment due to space issues, just keep Chaeto in return chamber of skimmer.
<Yes, you should be fine doing this on a temporary basis.>
Thanks for all of your help.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Re Vacation Nightmare 8/25/09
Thanks. You are all so dedicated and inspirational.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Vacation - Power Failure - Nuclear Holocaust - 09/14/08 Dear Crew, <<Hello Andy>> I hope everyone had a good weekend. <<Always have good weekends mate>> I returned yesterday from a week's vacation at the beach to find that something tripped my circuit breaker while I was away, killing every living creature in my 90 gallon reef tank. <<Ugh, very sorry to hear…and I can very much relate, as I experienced something similar myself a bit more than a year ago>> I'm talking nuclear holocaust. <<Yes…>> I can tell from the decomposition of my fish (and the smell in my basement) that this outage happened early in the week. I lost 5 fish and 20 or so SPS and other corals. I don't even want to think of the money I've lost … <<Mmm, indeed… Mine is a 375g display…trust me…I can relate>> I have my theories on why the circuit tripped, none of which is system related, but that's water under the bridge at this point. <<Yes, but what are you doing to prevent a similar mishap in the future? In my case…I now have two sump-return pumps running on "two separate circuits">> I guess from now on I'll be hiring a neighbor to check in on my tank every few days. <<Always a good practice; but as in my case, a power loss overnight (about 10 hours, actually) is all it takes in some instances…best to have someone check on the system and feed the fish daily>> Anyway, I have some questions about how to proceed. <<Okay>> My ammonia reads 0.25 ppm, and my nitrites are pretty low (can't remember the number) as are my nitrates (1.0 ppm). The tank is new but old--my 110g sprung a leak about 3 or 4 weeks ago so I transferred everything to a new 90 gallon reef ready. My 110g had been set up for about 14 months before the leak. I got as many/much of the decomposing animals out as I could, and trashed all my coral skeletons. I also siphoned the substrate to remove as much detritus, fish mess, dead worms, pods, etc. as I could. <<Excellent>> I did a 50% water change last night when I got home (that was all he water I had on hand last night) just to get the smell out of the house. The water is finally starting to clear up. <<I would do one or two more 50% water changes>> I'm running my AquaC EV-180 and it's pulling tons and tons of black skimmate, and I've also placed about 1.5 cups of carbon in my media reactor. <<Very good…though be aware the carbon will be "used up" in hours to days and require replacement>> I realize that I have 100 lbs of uncured live rock and 30 lbs of uncured aragonite at this point, so I need to let this tank run a complete cycle. <<Indeed>> I've always bought fully cured LR from the LFS, so I've never had to cure uncured live rock, much less in a tank. <<Not a big deal and not uncommon….but patience is key right now>> Interestingly/fortunately, my fuge seems to have done alright, and my Chaeto is still alive and very green. <<Ah, fortunate indeed>> I believe my fuge does have some live snails, etc., so I'm hoping that some pods/worms survived in the fuge. <<Possibly so>> 1. Should I continue to do water changes, or leave it as is so that the tank can re-cycle? I was thinking of doing a 75% change tonight. My thinking was that maybe there's a chance that not everything is dead, like in my fuge. Maybe there is some bacteria, pods and some worms that made it that I don't see, and my thought was that I should get as much ammonia out of the water to give these things a fighting chance. My hesitation, however, is that I might prolong the cycle if I remove all the ammonia. <<Prolonging the "cycle" is of small consequence right now…go with your gut and do the water change in my opinion>> 2. What's your recommendation on restocking my tank with worms and pods? <<A cup or two of substrate from your LFS/other hobbyist's tanks will be a good start>> I guess the pods are easy--I can just buy a bunch from an on-line vendor, but it's the other stuff that normally comes with rock that I'm worried about. I am not about to throw out 100lbs of premium rock and replace it with new rock just to get pods/worms/etc. I was thinking of asking my LFS if I could scrape the bottom of their LR tanks to get some of the grunge and put it in my sump. <<A good strategy…or maybe just exchange a "few pounds" of rock in the display with new rock to re-seed the tank>> 3. Is there anything else you would do to the tank that I haven't thought of above? <<It seems you have it well in hand…naught to do at this point but wait and let the tank find its "balance" again>> When this thing settles and my param.s are stable, I've decided that I'm going to run it fishless for a good 4-6 months to get a nice pod population and to just let things stabilize. <<This is a very good thing…you will definitely benefit in the long term>> I didn't have a heavy bioload to begin with, but still… As always, thanks for your valued insight/help. Andy <<Sorry to realize your loss…please do let us know how things progress. Regards, EricR>>

Salt Mixes And A Fish Nanny 3/7/08 Hi again, <Hello Peter> I have recently use the Corallife Sea Salt mix for 2 years, and I have Red Sea Salt mix. Can I use the Red Sea Salt mix over the previous salt mix I use? <If you mean mix the salts together, no, I would not. Just changing brands is fine.> Also I'm going away for 3 weeks.... I need some advice how to maintain the tank for safety for that long. What can control the light, automatic on, and off? Is it the programmable timer? <Yes, available at any hardware store.> Do I need the automatic feeder thing in my tank? <Your best bet is to get a fish nanny/friend. You will have water evaporation in this time span that will more than likely cause your filter to fail and possibly burn up. As for feeding, the auto fish feeder will be fine. I would use a high quality food for this purpose. An excellent choice would be the New Spectrum Pellet food. The 1mm size works great.> Thanks <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Peter

Help!! Reef maint.... & Vacations!  - 09/14/07 Hi, <Howdy> How come disasters always happens when you are away? Don't answer that. <Okay> I live in California and am currently in New York city for 1 week vacation. I have a 175 gal reef tank and I had my neighbor to check on it daily and supplement the auto feeder with frozen shrimps Phytofeast. Yesterday, they noticed that I have an inch of water on the floor and the pump was pushing air into the main tank. <!> We were able to diagnose the problem to my wet/dry where the top filter was clogging causing it to overflow onto the floor. Anyways, they fixed the leak and replenished the water level in the sump with the 6 gallons of already mixed salt water I had sitting around. <Thank goodness for planning> So, they got the circulation back running. But, the top off system was probably dumping RO/DI water into the sum for don't know how long. The SG is now at 1.013 instead of the normal 1.023. <!!> I have a total water volume of about 210 gallons. So, my rough calculation of (0.023-0.013)/0.023*210=91.3 says I have to add salt for 91.3 gallons of water. That is 46 cups of salt! <Mmm, about this, yes> My question is how quickly should I be adding the salt to bring the SG back to 1.023? <Depends on how stressed all looks... I'd start raising a .001 per day if all seems fine otherwise> It will be another 4 days before I get back home. I told my daughter to add in 2 ? cups of salt to the return chamber of the sump twice a day. <Mmm, should be okay> I am wondering if that is too fast or too slow. Should I also add super buffer as well to maintain alkalinity? <I would leave off with the supplements> I have hard and soft coral, many anemone and fish. My daughter said the anemone and soft corals were looking pretty sad and shriveled up. My clam seems to be gone. Just the shell and scallop stem is left. After 5 cups of salt, the soft corals are looking a little better the next morning. Regards, Sammy <I do hope you can salvage what's left. Bob Fenner>

Vacation Coverage for Beginners. Vacation Coverage 101 7/25/07 Hello everyone, <Hello> I stumbled on your website when I Googled "snowflake eel behavior" today, and I'm hooked on your site already. We are saltwater beginners (started tank Jun 11) and will be in Vietnam for 2 weeks in September. <Sounds fun.> We want to be good "parents" by planning way in advance and I've read through all of your vacation postings, so only have a two questions remaining? We have a 125 gallon UniQuarium, 12 lava rocks, live sand, two corals (not the living kind), and 4 damsels remaining since we started (lost 4 when the temp got too high and have since adjusted). Even though our trusted shop told us to wait 6 months to cycle before putting in our wish-list of species, my husband couldn't wait, resist adding 1 adolescent snowflake (8") and 1 Nigerian trigger two days ago. <No QT?> Even though it's probably premature to say, so far everyone seems to be acclimating well and even eating within just the first day. (The eel is a real character and very entertaining.) All of our levels and Ph thus far are right on target. A little golden-brown algae is growing, but only in areas that do not receive direct flow from the pump. My main questions are: 1. what and how often should they be fed while we are on vacation? <The eel, once or twice a week, the niger and damsels ever other day or so, although if the niger gets hungry it may just take a damsel.> and, 2. did my husband jump the gun by adding the two larger species this soon? <I think so, at least with the trigger, they can be quite aggressive, although the niger is less so than some other triggers.> We will put the lights on timer, pre-measure food, and advise our sitter how to refill water in case of evaporation. Thank you for any and all valuable feedback you have! :) -Green-But-Enthusiastic Salties Chris & Jean, San Diego, CA <May want to look into a auto-top off system, I have run into problems with trying to instruct people how much to top off the tank.> <Chris>

First-time Reef Hobbyist Question - 29 Gallon Skimmer? Tank unattended for 5 days - 07/03/07 Hi Guys- <Hello, Mich here.> I am in San Francisco and services charge $100 an hour and up for maintenance - a bit steep for a simple feeding; I am wondering if my 29 gallon new reef tank set up will be fine without me for 5 days. <Should be OK, unless St. Murphy comes to visit.> I leave tomorrow (Tues) night and return 5 days later (Sunday during the day), so really it will only 4 calendar days without food. Temp is steady 79, SG 1.024, and all other metrics were tested and passed at my trusted LFS today. <OK.> I have a small reef with 2 mushroom corals and a green brain coral and the lighting on a Coralife power center timed with phased in "dusk" and "dawn" actinic etc. <OK.> The tank is new but cycled, I just performed a water change and I only have a 3 inch Niger Trigger (3 inch body, longer with tail perhaps 4-5") <Your system is entirely too small to happily house this fish. Please reconsider keeping this animal. Should be in a system of at least 75 gallons or more.> and a 3-4" Maroon Clown fish; both get along well but I am concerned the Niger Trigger might take to the corals if he gets hungry (perhaps she?) <Niger Triggers (Odonus niger) are generally harmless to corals.> -- Any suggestions for me to leave them fat and happy or is 5 days simply too long a hiatus for feeding? <Five days should be fine, though an automatic timer would be a welcome addition.> (I should note that I sometimes take freeze dried Nori seaweed from my supermarket's Asian food aisle, tie it to a rock so it sinks, and the algae strand usually lasts a day before being consumed by crabs, fish etc.) <OK.> Thanks in advance!! <Welcome!> I have already left so if need be I may fed ex my keys to a friend... <No need as far as feedings go. Relax and enjoy you time away! Mich>

Vacation Question  3/6/07 Afternoon all! <David> Not too worried about my 90Gallon (almost) reef tank.  I have a 200 gallon tank with Rabbitfish, Yellow Tang, Dottyback, and mature Snowflake eel.  I'll be heading out on vacation on a Friday and returning late the following Saturday.  I'll have someone handle water top off...   are these critters fine without food? <Yes, likely so...>   As this is a fairly new system (just over 3 mo.s), I have little in the way of algae growth. Your thoughts? <I'd pre-measure, label some foods in little cups with snap lids... give the "top-off" friend written instructions, and your contact phone numbers...> Leave the Moray and flake feed the fish a couple of times? Leave the entire tank unfed? Regards, Dave Brynlund <I'd feed all but the Snowflake... unless it is accepting some frozen/defrost-able food that same friend can offer. Bob Fenner>

Vacation Disaster! 1/24/07 Hi, <Hello> I have been running a mixed fish and reef tank in a 55 gallon tank with a 15 gallon sump/refugium, skimmer, etc.  I had 1 blue tang <To big for a 55>, a brown goby, a damsel (forgot what kind, its black with blue and white accents), 2 small clownfish, and a neon blue goby (very tiny)  As far as inverts go I had some various polyps and mushrooms, plus bumble-bee snails, Astraea snails, Nerite snails, a skunk cleaner, a tiger pistol shrimp, a few very tiny hermits, and a serpent star. <Sounds nice.> I received the call on the cab ride from the airport yesterday that the tang had jumped out and was found about 15 feet away... <Uh-oh> On closer inspection the tank was very murky, and I could see the cleaner shrimp was dead for a few days it seemed.  I then noticed that the new pellets I had purchased that should have lasted a year were almost gone, and in all the spaces between the rocks and on the sand was brown mounds of food... <Not good, the reason the tang decided to vacate and the shrimp's demise.> Quickly I mixed some new water, heated it and aerated it with an air stone.  I set up a 5 gallon hex tank I had used in the past as a quarantine tank, and was able to at least temporarily save the 2 clownfish, the damsel, the brown goby, the pistol shrimp, the starfish (though I doubt it will live), a couple of hermit crabs, and all of the Nerite snails except for the newborn ones (very tiny and were born maybe only a few weeks ago). <Good.> The live rock was mostly white for whatever reason. <Effects of the poor water conditions.> The tank and pumps were to caked with food and algae that in the cold Chicago weather its almost impossible for me to clean it... <I hear you. I scoop until I get almost everything out, then goes into the tub.  A real pain but best solution I have found, no nice weather in the upcoming forecast.> What are my options to keep these fish alive, and to also setup a new system? <Few different methods.> I was thinking that I could change 50 % of the water in the 5 gallon every day until I get a new system up (because this tank was not been cycled).  I did not put any of the live rocks in the tank because they looked pretty bad, but did place to mangroves in the tank. <Ok temporarily, but I don't think you can keep it up in a 5 gallon for long.  Maybe get a food grade Rubbermaid container from Target or the like and move some of the fish into it.  Would be ok for a while with a sponge filter and heater.> I did not however have time to place any substrate in the tank as it looked to me as a matter of live and death for the fish...  <Probably best, would have made keeping the water quality up really difficult.  If possible go try to fin some Marine Bio-Spira, will help cycle the 5 quicker.> I was looking into possibly getting an AquaPod 24 gallon nano tank, cycling it, and placing the inhabitants into it, and also maybe even getting another of the same with metal halide lighting for corals only. <Could, expensive though.>  The reason I am thinking so small is that we are planning on purchasing a new house sometime this year and do not want the hassle of setting up and moving a larger tank. I would rather move the 2 smaller tanks or 1 smaller tank, and setup possibly a 90 + gallon tank the way I want it to be (have its own dedicated utility sink/water supply/drain/reverse osmosis in a closet right next to or behind it). <As someone who moved 3 tanks in 1 weekend let me tell you the tank itself is not the problem, its the water and rock.> Just looking for some ideas or suggestions to 1) get a new system up and running that could support the remaining fish and inverts.  2) keep these animals alive in an un-cycled 5 gallon tank until its safe to move them to a new system. <On the right track, the issue now is to keep up the water quality and try to give these guys a little room.  For future use, whenever I am going out of town I make little baggies of food, 1 for each day so a non-fishkeeper does not need to guess how much to feed them.  Kind of a pain but worth it.> Thanks, Dave Sheehan <Good luck.> <Chris>

Vacation Disaster! Part 2 1/24/07 Hi, <Hello again.> One more thing - I might add that it was my brother in law who does not understand my feeding instructions and thought you could just dump in a whole bottle of food. <Did you slap him?  Just kidding (kinda).  Maybe you just found out who is cleaning the tank outside with the hose.  That should get the idea across. Or maybe a good job for my brother-in-law.  I'll send him over.> Thanks, Dave Sheehan <Chris>

Dosing Additives While Away - 12/24/06 I need to be gone from home for six days next month.  I have already portioned out frozen food in small pill bottles so that my "babysitter" will not over feed. <<Wise of you>> I have even made plans for the addition of water so that evaporation is not a problem. <<Also good...>> Now what I want to know is what should I do about adding my customary chemicals? <<For six days?  I wouldn't worry with/about it>> Each day, I add 5 drops of iron to my 75-gallon tank.  I also add strontium every 4 days. <<You are testing to determine a "need" for these additives I hope>> Finally, I add 2 tsp. calcium every other day to maintain my calcium level at 410. <<Is this calcium chloride?  If so a word of caution, as the continued "regular" use of this product can result in alkalinity issues in the long term (1-2 years)>> Is it possible to add these chemicals together and partition them the same way I have done with the food? <<Mmm, possibly but I wouldn't...the chance for misapplication/abuse is far greater than any deleterious effects on your system from not dosing for six days>> Will these chemicals freeze? <<...?>> I am very new to this hobby and particularly new to the chemistry. Your tank will be fine minus these additives for the time you will be away.  Do water tests and "slowly make adjustments if needed" upon your return.  And if you haven't already, start reading here and among the indices in blue at the top of the pages: h http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcalkmar.htm >> Thanks in advance for your advice. Sue in Houston <<Happy to assist.  EricR in Columbia>>

Dry <vacation> food for sharks and rays?   12/6/06 Hi Bob, <Joe> I would like to ask a question regarding the feeding of my sharks and rays. I have baby Port Jackson, baby Wobbegong and small Epaulette shark, as well as a small masked ray. All have been doing well for the past 6 months. <Ah, good> My dilemma relates to my upcoming holiday in which I will be completing my scuba diving certificate. I will be away for one week, <A blast! Congrats!> and I'm trying to find out whether there are any dried foods (like pellets) for sharks and rays which I will be able to place in my automatic feeders for the week I am away? <Mmm...> All the specimens are healthy looking and are by no means under-fed. I am of the opinion that my sharks will easily be able to last the week without food, but I am concerned for my ray, as she is quite a hungry little thing, and as I understand, rays have a much faster metabolism than sharks. What are your recommendations for the feeding of these animals when I am away? <Just gauging from your apparent "sophistication" from this email, I would rather (myself) "risk" consequences of skipping feeding these animals for the week (maybe turn down their temperature between now and then a few degrees C... to slow their metabolisms), rather than risk overfeeding or related troubles with having someone come in and feed them... As far as I'm aware there are no dried foods of use for the purpose you have in mind> Regards, Joe Sydney, Aus. <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Water Changes While Away 9/27/06 Hey guys... have a quick question for you. <Sure>  I have a 29 gallon reef with a 15 gallon refugium with some live rock, and a nice big soccer ball size of Chaetomorpha underneath. <Nice>  I have a small hand full of small corals I can list them if you need, I have 2 clowns, a fire fish, and very very small red line angel.   My question is this.  I am in the military and am deploying for just round 30 days to the middle east. <Good luck and please be careful.>  I usually do 15% water changes every week and am usually very on the spot for the husbandry of the tank.  My problem is I really don't have anyone that I can trust to do water changes and siphoning while I am gone. I can have my brother feed them because all you have to do is get some tank water and thaw a small chunk of the frozen food and feed the anemone a cut up silver side 2 times a week. <Make sure he also knows to top off with fresh water when necessary.>  I will be gone 30 days with a max of 45.  Could I go the max 45 days without a water change? <Probably, but obviously no guarantees.>  Or possible just try and train my little brother to come over and do 1 larger one half way though the month?   <If you think your brother can handle it, I would pre-mix a couple of buckets of salt water and have him make a couple of 5 gallon water changes.  Otherwise it might be worth trying to find a service company and pay them to do a water change or two for you, but depends on cost.  Otherwise your tank will probably be mostly ok, may have some algae problems but otherwise ok.   Make sure your brother does not overfeed, maybe feed half as often as you normally do.>    Thanks <Anytime and be safe.> <Chris>

Vacations and Your Systems article, for your approval   7/31/06 Bob, I've decided to take it upon myself to start at the missing article on vacations. <Outstanding!> I fairly quickly flowed this one out, if there's anything that you feel needs to be added, just let me know. <Will do so... later today hopefully. Got's to fix, move all the dailies about, post...> Call it a 'rough draft'. If the slightly corny reference to National Lampoon's Vacation at the beginning is unwanted, I can gladly remove it, I just feel that a lighthearted approach tends to keep people interested. I get the sense that you write in much the same way, as everything of yours I've read has kept me grinning. Awaiting your comments, -Justin <On their way! BobF>

Vacation and Lionfish and Trigger and the Bears, Oh My!  11/20/05 Crew, I hope everyone's doing well.  <So far so good.> My question relates to Thanksgiving vacation. Will a lionfish and trigger survive 5 days without food in their new 120 gallon home?  <I'm sure they would be fine. Wouldn't want to go much longer than that.> From the FAQ's, I gather that some Lionfish go on feeding strikes for weeks, so I assume that 5 days without feeding and adult supervision should be ok. A few days after picking up my lionfish (and maybe my Picasso trigger) --  which are being quarantined at the LFS -- and conducting a FW dip with Quick Cure, I go on a 4-5 day Thanksgiving vacation. Except for two damsels that I've had for a few weeks, the Lionfish and Trigger will be the first fish to be added to the tank.  <You may be missing a damsel or two when you return.>  << <giggle> Ya think?  MH>> Tank has been cycling for a couple months. Ammonia and nitrites are low, but nitrates are ~50ppm -- which is why I'm waiting to add my snowflake eel. I think the high nitrate level is due to the filter pads I had on the Wet/Dry tray.  I've removed them, I now I only have a Poly Filter in there.  <Filter pads are fine as long as they are changed/cleaned on a weekly basis.> Will the fish be ok while I'm away, or am I overly concerned about fish stress and lack of feeding (assuming the lionfish doesn't try to eat the damsels)?  <If they are in good health when you leave, they should be OK.>  Am I also being overly concerned with the snowflake's reaction to a ~50 ppm nitrate level?  <I wouldn't add another fish until your return where you can monitor it. Fifty ppm of nitrate is kind of high but shouldn't cause any health problems for the eel. If you like keeping the big eaters/big messer- uppers I suggest adding a good protein skimmer.> Thanks in advance!  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>  <<The Lion may be gone as well... RMF>>

Floaters, or Sinkers? Floating food or sinking food 10/25/05 Hi crew,  <Hello Marc> So my question for this week concerns the use of floating food vs. sinking food in my reef tank? I notice that regular flake food floats initially gets sucked into my overflow very quickly leaving little time for the fish to get to it. Plus leaves a lot of uneaten food in the sump! I've taken to sinking the flakes by hand and the fish seem to eat better. However I now worry about pollution. I typically underfeed my tank if anything (my fish are always ravenous). The other problem I face with this is, unfortunately I have no viable alternative but automatic feeder for a few vacations I have coming up. (I bought a LifeGuard and have tested it over a week per your recommendations). I'm comfortable with its delivery and quantity, but not comfortable with the fact that most of the food will simply get pulled down the overflow. Any suggestions short of putting the main pump on a timer so water stops overflowing when the auto feeder goes off? I thought about using sinking pellets, but I'm not so sure on these either?  <I would suggest the use of a timer to shut down the pump during feeding. I'd go with a good quality flake food (Ocean Nutrition). Pellets can contribute more dissolved protein than flake. James (Salty Dog)> 

Disease/water quality 10/7/05 Hi Bob,  <James today> {300 Litre tank containing 2 Longhorn cowfish, 1 Regal tang, 1 striped Sailfin tang, 1 Copperband butterfly, 2 Percula clowns, 1 domino damsel, 1 Mandarin, 1 scooter blenny, 2 cleaner shrimp, 2 red legged hermits, 1 pink lobster, 1 Atlantic anemone - before my trouble started . } I have had my present 300L (+25L wet/dry sump) system up and running for about a year now with no problems until recently. I went on holiday a month ago just for a week, and had someone feeding the fish to make sure they were looked after.  <This is where your problem started my friend. We get many emails very similar. Problem is most nannies overfeed by a wide margin. My wife in fact thinks I starve my fish. I would hate to have her feed them if I'm gone.>  On return I noticed the water level in my sump had lost around 5 litres with evaporation, (which is not uncommon with my system but topped up regularly with RO water) so I topped up and noticed a couple of days later that my ammonia level had spiked to around 1.2ppm.  I did a 60L water change and cleaned out my biological filter (siphoned) and stopped feeding. Within 48 hrs my levels were returning to normal but I have had some difficulty getting my nitrate reductor (reactor) to normal. It is allowing through 30ppm nitrates which is about the same levels as in my tank ( I know, too high! Add 2 scoops of Denimar powder as a nutrition source for the bacteria daily).   The main problem here is that after I did the initial top-up, approx 2 days later I started to notice a fungal infection developing on my cowfish. I thought let's jump on this baby quickly and treat with Octozin due to me having a couple of inverts. After no joy my LFS said to try Myxazin, which again after a full course again no joy.  After these 2 treatments I noticed my domino started to lose colour and my mandarin showed signs of what I can only describe as lesions. I asked for another recommendation and was advised on a more natural remedy known as PimaFix (an off shoot of MelaFix) and as with all medications turned off protein skimmer an UV sterilizer as instructed. Next morning I waved good bye to my mandarin in a bitter and frustrating loss.  I had a spare 180L aquarium that I was going to sell, but as an inspiration I decided to set this up as a QT, so after bringing up to temperature and adding about 1L of matured media from my own tank, transferred across my 2 longhorn cowfish and the damsel and began treatment with the copper- based Cuprazin. Last night my damsel departed on day 3 of the Cuprazin treatment (@ 12ml daily) <12ml means nothing. A copper test kit should be used to insure a safe and effective treatment level.>  and I noticed fin erosion on it, and also developing now on the smaller of the cowfish ( also the smaller cowfish has brown flecks which from reading I believe may be marine velvet ?).  My ammonia level in the QT tank had risen to 1.2 ppm so I did a 33% water change with water from my main display tank (fully matured again) and added 4ml Cuprazin to compensate for the change. Also added another Litre of matured filter media from main display tank into a Biolife filter to try to combat the levels. My copper level in the QT tank is at 0.25 - 0.5 ppm on day 4 and has a canister filter, a Juwel internal filter and a Biolife filter, bare otherwise. And to top it all I have lost 1 of my clowns this morning with what appeared to be a very minor appearing start to something fungal. Appetites on fish in all tanks now at an all time low with barely anything being consumed. Have you got any suggestions other than finding a new hobby ? :)  Yours Trevor in UK <My friend, as above, your problem started with your nanny in my opinion. Water quality was drastically reduced causing a rise in ammonia levels. The poor water quality reduces any immune system that fish may have, and in the case of saltwater fish there is little or no immune system as these fish never had to adapt to poor water quality as it doesn't exist on the reef.  Right now you have several layers of problems stemming from this.  The major concern right now is to get water quality back on top. Do you employ a protein skimmer? A very good investment. I would use a filter media such as Chemi-Pure to help remove dissolved proteins etc.  Do 10% water changes weekly using a gravel siphon to remove detritus etc from your gravel/sand bed. I wouldn't add any more medication to the display tank. The Chemi-Pure should remove any medication present now. Remove the fish from main display if treatment is necessary.  When I go on a vacation my fish eat strictly Ocean Nutrition flake food. I buy one of these weekly pill reminder containers, put the amount of food I want my nanny to feed daily into the compartments, and remind the nanny no more additional food, I don't care how hungry they look. I've pasted a link here that will be good reading for you. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/watrqualmar.htm.  Have patience my friend and all should be well. James (Salty Dog)>

Vacation, reef system 9/21/05 How's it going Crew, <Fine Kiran> I was going to be leaving town for a week or so and was worried about evaporation in my 90 gallon reef system.  I know that there are several different automated top-off systems available but I wasn't sure which to choose.  Price is an issue and I'm just looking for something that will maintain the water level for the week.  I don't have any friends or family that I would trust this task to so an auto doser is my best bet.  I would appreciate it if you could help me out on this one. <Mmm, a simple plastic jug can be arranged that will "burp" water into it with dropping water level... if your evaporation rate is not "that" high... Practice... inverting it, supported, near water level, with part of the opening underwater> oh yeah, I was also wondering how long I could leave a royal Gramma, bristle tooth tang, "starry" blenny, two scarlet cleaner shrimp and an arrow crab without food. <You have a good deal of live rock? I would not worry re just not feeding at all for a/the week. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Kiran

Vacation Blues (Returning To An Algae Problem)  9/5/05 Hi everyone, <Hello there! Scott F. here today!> I am a long time listener and first time caller.  First, thanks for the great resource! <Glad that you enjoy it! We certainly enjoy bringing it to you!> I have a question regarding Star Polyps, Frogspawn Coral and my sump/refugium setup. I was away from the tank for a few days on a business trip and had a friend take care of the tank. I know, big mistake. They did ok, but I think they over fed the fish due to what I found when I tested the water and the fact that my dog face puffer in my other FOWLR tank now looks like a fat baby harp seal. <Yikes!> I noticed brown algae in my reef tank and checked my water parameters. Here is what I had pH 8.4 Nitrite 0 nitrate 10 ppm Ammonia 0 salinity 1.023 temp 81 F.   This is in a 75 gal reef tank with 95lbs of live rock 5 inch sand bed along with a 30 gal Sump/Refugium with an additional 15lbs of live rock and 3 inch sand bed growing Chaetomorpha algae. Ok, now where to start with the questions. I needed to knock down the nitrate level so I completed two 15 gal water changes one on Sat and one Wednesday and added 2 8oz bags of Chemipure to the return baffle on the sump/refugium. My Nitrate is now down to 0.   <A surprisingly quick drop in the nitrate level! Remember, your continued good husbandry will help keep it at undetectable levels.> I should also add that I ended up changing my lights from a Jebo quad 65 watt 10k and 03 actinic power compact and Orbit quad 65 watt 10k and 03 actinic power compact to an Outer Orbit dual 130 watt actinic with dual 10k 150 watt HQI. The reason for the change was the Jebo died on Sunday, I did not like the looks of having two sets of lights on the tank and I figured from reading on your site that the HQI 10k lighting would be better or the coral, especially the Frogspawn, in the long run. I have started with 3 hours of light from the HQIs and am working up to 10 hours slowly. <Good...slow acclimation is best for any new lighting system.> However, my Frogspawn and Star Polyp have closed up. I am thinking that the brown algae bloom is from the over feeding. <A distinct possibility.> The algae is on the star polyp.  Any idea on what I can do to get then back out? <Well, it's hard to say. The fact that they are closed up indicates that something is not to their liking. I don't think that it's just the algae on their tissue that is the problem. It can be a number of things. At this point, I suspect that it could be a reaction to the stress of acclimating to a new lighting regimen. Given time and continuity in your lighting, they should be able to make the adaptation.> Or is it just a matter of time before they return to normal.  I have read that the carbon addition, the nitrate and the lights could all be the culprit. <I would suspect the lights, first. Nitrate, in and of itself is not a coral killer. It is, however, a good "yardstick" for measuring overall water quality, so keep an eye on it.> I have added a second set of 18watt 6700k lights to the sump after reading on your site that the 6700k works better than the 10k lights. <A generality, of course- it really depends on the animals the lighting is intended to serve.> I also switched my original set back to the 6700k. I have the sump lights on 24/7 in hopes of getting the Chaeto algae to take off and help with the brown algae.  Should this work am I doing this right? <You could, but I prefer a regular day/night cycle, run opposite of the display tank's lighting.> Also I was thinking of adding another 3 inches of sand to the existing 3 inches in the sump to help with de-nitrification, thoughts on this? <You could. Sandbeds do require some consideration before use, so do read up on them on WWM and throughout the internet.> Thanks in advance, Jeff <MY pleasure, Jeff! Hope that things continue to improve on your reef...Just hang in there and keep doing what you're doing! Regards, Scott F.>

Fat barb, dropsy, feeding blocks 8/20/05 Hi, <Hello there> We've just returned from a week out of town where we left a ten-day dissolving feeder in our tank. <Mmm, a re-comment re... these are almost always more potential trouble than their intended worth nutritionally... far more often pollute the water, providing nil in the way of food...>   When we returned, our fattest tiger barb was looking even fatter than usual and very lethargic, sitting near the bottom.  After a few hours, he began "bumbling" around the tank, swimming up to the top, flipping himself, and seeming to generally struggle (getting pushed by the stream of the filter, etc) and my wife noticed that his scales were protruding.  Before he died he was struggling and floating upside down.  Is this indicative of some kind of infection and/or what course of action, if any, should we be taking with the rest of our fish? <The general term for this symptomology is "Dropsy" or a "dropsical condition" (ascites)... internal body fluid pressure so elevated that the fish's scales stick out at an angle to their body... the cause/s can be several... most often, inappropriate to toxic water quality, conditions, improper nutrition... leading to adventitious bacterial problems... Bob Fenner> Greg and Debbie

Re: fat barb 8/22/05 Thanks for the info.  Regarding the time-delay dissolving pellets, what do you recommend for long trips such as those? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/vacfaqsmar.htm Bob Fenner>

Vacation Question: LFS babysitting or tear down 8/23/05 I need to go on an extended trip (approx. 4 weeks) and would like to know which is the best way to handle my reef system. I have a 20 gal. tank with 15 lbs. of live rock.  I also have the following fish and inverts: 1 blue damselfish 1 3-stripe damsel 1 pink spotted watchman goby 2 ocellaris clownfish 4 blue-green damsels 1 Condy anemone 1 bulb anemone 1 feather duster I have had this setup for about a year and a half, and was thinking about upgrading to a bigger tank. So, I'm wondering if I should just tear this one down and start from scratch when I return from my trip or use my LFS as a babysitter. Please advise on what would be best. <Sandra, the 20 gallon tank is overstocked right now.  If it were me I ask the LFS if I could bring him my stock and have him take care of it while I was gone.  Upon return I would set up a larger tank and retrieve my stock when the tank is ready (cycled).  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks, Sandra Chicago, IL

Abandoned tank, not passion. Taking care of a marine system in absentia Hey Guys,     I have never posted but read through your  recommendations all the time!   You guys are great, I hope you can   help me with my problem/question.  I have been into saltwater for a long  time, since I was 12... I am now 18 and enrolled in college next fall.  I  broke down my 125 gal reef and my 55 gallon reef, but don't have the heart to  break down my 46 gallon bow front tank.  The back of the tank is a wall of  live rock that comes out around 8 inches... It has been set up since I was 12,  my first saltwater tank.  It has 2 Gold Banded Maroon Clowns, a really cool  goby, Hermits, and snails.. Xenia like you would not believe, polyps of all  sorts and a small plate size rose tip anemone, A few brain corals, some bubble  corals and even a sweet HUGE green frog spawn... I have 2 65 watt actinic PC's  and a 175 watt Halide (might be 150).   Everything is perfect, but I also  baby this tank like you wouldn't believe.  My scare is this, if I am going  to college an hour and 45 min.s away is my tank gonna fall apart.  It seems  stable, but who knows? <No one>   I have it set up on timers and am looking into a  drip system. Is there any hope? <A tough issue... how much better/worse is human monitoring, intervention here? I would not "auto pilot" this set-up... Encourage someone at the house to like, love this small world, help teach them... to at least carefully observe the critical elements (the livestock, gear, testing...)... and make it imperative that they contact you if something appears amiss> It's in my room so my Mom is not gonna  bother with it, or even look at it while I am gone... <... why?> I might be coming home  twice a month but again, who knows?  I guess I am looking for a yes it may  work or a no break it down and wait for college to be over... Maybe I don't want  to know the truth!  Please help. Thanks so much, you guys are awesome. (I also work at a saltwater store, so don't be afraid to use the big words)  :) <Heee! In shooting for dynamic equilibrium (akin to military intelligence) here I would do so with the assistance of one of your siblings, guardians... Bob Fenner> Summer Time Tank Maintenance 5.4.05 Hello, My son's school has a 10 gallon tank. We are wondering what to do with it over the summer break. There will not be anyone there on a regular basis for maintenance. I don't want to move the entire tank. If I bring the two fish home, can the tank then be left unheated with filtration running to maintain the biofilter? Is it better to turn the entire system off? Would the tank need to cycle again in August before the fish are added back?  I'd appreciate your help. Thanks, Jennifer <I'd be tempted just to take the tank down for the summer break and set it up when school begins, an excellent opportunity to teach kids about cycling an aquarium and the nitrogen cycle.  I do not like leaving things plugged in if there is no one around to check on it.  Also, with evaporation you might lose enough water stop a "hang on the tank" type filter.  If there will be someone there from time to time to top off the tank and make sure nothing is on fire leaving it  running would work as well.  Hope that helps in your decision, Best regards,  Gage>  

Marine System Emergency help needed I have a 29 gallon reef tank with 55lbs LR 20lbs LS. 2 firefish, 1 coral beauty, 1 small Ocellaris clownfish. They have been going good for months. Last week I went away for the week. I sent up an automatic feeder twice a day.  <Eeek not something I recommend doing with a saltwater tank. Just too many potential problems.>  I cleaned the filters and setup the skimmer as usual. Everything was great when I left. When I came back, the coral beauty and one firefish were dead. The others are barely alive. My soft corals won't open. Mostly polyps. They seem just to stretch up. The mushrooms are crunched up and stretching up. Even the toadstool leather has not opened up. My candy cane "Trumpet" coral never looked better. One big feather duster dropped its crown and the other big one's "gills" look really thin. I cleaned off the salt from the 130w Power compact, maybe not receiving enough light but still no change. Even my Banded Coral Shrimp is coming out in the light when it only came out in the dark.  <You don't mention? Did you keep the lights on a timer? Some indications of the corals seem like they needed some additional lighting, for instance the mushroom reaching up.> I performed a 5 gallon water change Sunday afternoon. Everything is running properly. My Nitrites are 0 ppm, ph 8.4, Ammonia 0.25, and my nitrates 0 ppm. Still using DT's and normal food. HELP- don't know what to do!!! I don't want to lose anything else.  <Its possible that while you were gone too much food went into the tank and you had an ammonia rise that has since been taken care of by the water change and the tanks natural bacteria. I think that all your corals are pretty hearty and should recover with time but I would encourage you to have someone come in and feed your tank if you leave. Its too much time and too much effort to not have someone at least check it halfway through. Please keep an eye on your tank levels and if things don't settle out in a week or so please let me know and we will work on some other options. Of course if you start to have more problems with the corals please let me know immediately. Good luck, MacL> 

Vacation disaster Hi: <Hello> I am new to the hobby, and have a 10 gallon tank, standard filter, immersed heater, no live rock etc.  <Something stands out here. "Standard" filter, "no live rock". It sure sounds like you do not have effective bio-filtration. I believe you are getting ammonia spikes which is causing your problem.>  It had 1 small green Chromis in it, 2 small false percula clowns, one serpent star, 2 snails, and a very small Gramma. Everything was going fine and everyone seemed happy. I went on vacation. Before leaving, I installed a timer on the light, bought an autofeeder... <Most of these autofeeders feed way too much food, another problem>  ... and had it feeding the fish every 2nd day. I also did a water change and gravel cleaning just before I left. I lowered the salinity slightly (measured using a swing arm measure) because I knew there was going to be some evaporation. <Should have left salinity alone, the gradual evaporation would have been safer. Problem with small tanks is that parameters can change too fast. Lose 1/2 gallon of water and that equals a 5% change.> I don't think the salinity change was any different from how it usually is when I change water. When I returned, both clowns were dead, and the Gramma had disappeared. I am assuming the Gramma died and was eaten by the snails/other fish. All of the levels of nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, salt, pH in the tank are *fine*. I expected them to be off just because of the dead fish, but they are all OK. I have tested them myself several times, and have them tested at the shop. A few days later, the Chromis began to behave oddly. It began to swim in a very agitated and erratic fashion as if it was having spasms. <Are these changes taking place right after a water change? May be something in your makeup water?>  A couple of days later it also died.  None of the dead fish have any markings or discolorations on them. They look fine. The snails seem to be OK, but the serpent star is acting oddly--it keeps itself raised off the gravel when it hides under rocks, and occasionally sits on top of rocks (usually it always hid underneath). I bought two new clowns and added them to the tank -- one seems fine but the other is swimming in a frenzied and erratic fashion. I may just now be over sensitive to fish dying, but I know how clowns normally swim and this one seems even more erratic than that. I do not know what is going on. The water is and remains fine. The heater is fine. There is no evidence of disease on the fish. They did fine before. Do you have any idea what's going on?  <Zimran, I'm posting a link here you should read as I believe your problems lie in your biological filtration. And, four fish in a 10 gallon tank greatly contributes to this problem your having. THREE small fish at most. My rule of thumb is one cubic inch of fish per five gallons of water. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your help. <You're welcome> 

Vacation disaster - Zimran Wants to Hurry the Process, Can't Hi Salty Dog:  <Hello> * <Zimram, I feel you are moving too fast, not giving the biofilter time to cycle, cleaning lady could have added to the problem, slow down a little.>  Agreed. I am just going to leave the tank alone for a good long time and see what happens. I'll keep changing the water regularly, I now use distilled water and will attach a filter to my tap if I go back to using tap water. In a few months we'll see how things look.  <Good idea. The best tool in this hobby is patience. Good Luck. James (Salty Dog)> 

- Tank Sitting - I am watching a saltwater aquarium for some friends while they are away and have a problem.  I know very little if nothing about saltwater aquarium or any kind of aquarium besides what they told me for feeding. The tank has once sea anemone and one colt coral Cladiella (I think)  When the sister left I think she left the switch on for the strong bubbling thing in the tank.  it was on all day and longer and I don't know how long it should have been on for. <Probably not much more than eight hours.> Anyway by the time I turned it off the anemone looked pretty tired (all its arms resting low)  and the coral had fallen over and its arms are shriveling with little brown nubs. Now I know that the little shriveling brown nubs will go away eventually but the coral is now lying on the aquarium floor for 24 hours.  I tried to push it up but it keeps falling over.  Should I prop it up? <No... leave it to its own devices.> How?  and How often does the bubbling thing (I think its the filter) need to be running for. <Probably should be running 24/7.> If you could help it would be great.  I'm in so much trouble with this!!!!! THANKS! <Cheers, J -- >

Leaving the tank while on vacation Hi I was wondering if you can tell me how long I can leave my marine tank unattended while I'm on holidays. << Well for food, many days.  But for adding water I'd say one day.  Without a doubt the best thing to do is to get another aquarium friend (like a friend in an aquarium club) to watch your house.  That is what I do (as do many others) and it has prevented many bad experiences. >> If it makes a difference, I've got a flame angel, lawnmower blenny, bicolor blenny, painted coral goby, and two percula clowns as well as a Goniopora, a devils finger leather coral, a bubble coral, a couple of coralimorphs, and various smaller corals growing on the live rock. << A better question is how much do you do when you are home?  If you have an auto top off and timers, maybe you aren't doing anything to your tank anyway. >> One other question, my tank is 30g in volume so is my stocking level too high? << Not for corals, but at the limit for fish. >> I'd say the fish are full size except for the bicolor and clowns which still have a bit of growth left I think. The tank is about a year old, and all parameters are stable at about the levels recommended on this site. Thanks Matt <<  Blundell  >>

- Top off During Vacation - I'll be going out of town for a little bit this summer and I'm leaving a relative in charge of my tank. <Hooo boy!> I'm not so much worried about feeding but more so about evaporation and the specific gravity. <Yes... is perhaps one of the more difficult things to have non-experienced folks maintain while out of town. I've been burned this way more than once.> I'm preparing about 15 gallons of water, and am going to make it easy on my caretaker to just top-off the tank to a designated level every week. <Yes... easy to just put a piece of tape on the outside of the tank or sump to show the desired water level.> If my Specific Gravity is at 1.0235 what should the specific gravity of the water to be added be? <0.000 - You want top off water to be freshwater.> I'm thinking around 1.020 range, as last time I had a spike in my specific gravity. <Not a good idea... your tank salinity will slowly creep upwards if topped off with saltwater.> Suggestions? <Freshwater will be fine... just add a small amount every day or perhaps every other day.> Thank you very much for your time. -David "A man who goes to sea without a reason would go to hell for a holiday." <Cheers, J -- >

- Going Out of Town & Puffer Feeding - I have a 125 gallon fish tank with a large Naso Tang.  I wanted to get a Yellow Dog Face Puffer and a Porcupine Puffer.  I go away usually 1 week to 10 day at a time.  Is there any processed food such as pellets they will eat or can they be left for a week at a time without food and without attacking each other or other fish. <Puffers wouldn't willingly go that long without food - but I'd be more worried about the Naso. There are pellet foods around that the puffers would eat, but again... the Naso might not take to there. You'll need to get them used to these foods before you leave town.> How often must they be fed? <At least once a day - the Naso probably twice to three times with small portions.> Any suggestions. <Perhaps look for a maintenance service to care for the fish in your absence.> Are these 2 fish compatible? <Yes.> Michael <Cheers, J -- >

Vacation feeding - 8/29/03 Hey Guys, <Hey Paul here readying for a long weekend with my bestest friend from Palau> I've checked your site but I can't seem to find info regarding Time Release Food Tablets. <I couldn't find much either. Not to say that it isn't there......just couldn't locate it....> I'm going on vacation for a week. <Where to?> What do you guys think about these Time Release Tabs to feed my fish for a week? <Nah! More than likely the fish can survive a week without foods. Feed them well before you leave. A better idea is to get one of those dosing pumps with a dispenser with multiple bins, and dose the food out over the week. (I like this idea a whole bunch!) If not, maybe a friend could stop buy? Give him/her concise instructions, maybe even pre-package the foods for each day and let them know not to touch a thing. (hide the rest of the food) and tip them well. ;-) > I have a Flame Angel, 2 Clowns, and Bicolor Pseudo in a 55 gallon, with various corals and about 50-60lbs of live rock. <Good luck and bon voyagee! (Bugs Bunny reference in case you didn't get that) Paulo>

Re: Established Tank - need more friends :) Is it a big deal that we feed them twice to 3 times a day - and the person feeding can only come once? <Although it's not ideal, they should be OK with only once a day feedings. Ronni>

Fish in tank order and vacation issues >Dear Bob and Crew: To keep this short. I have fallow my main display for 30 days now because of an ick outbreak. All the fishes that made it are in my QT and all free of parasites (at least that is what I can see).   >>Unfortunately, because ich can remain in a subclinical state, you can't rely on visual analysis.  Allow a 6 week minimum, eight is better.  You haven't mentioned utilizing one of the two proven methods of curing ich outbreaks in the q/t's--hyposalinity or copper. >In this month, I changed 60-80 gallons of water, my tank is 125 gallons and siphon the top layer of my sand substrate and cleaned with freshwater.   >>Not necessary to clean with freshwater if you're leaving it fallow.  Water changes don't hurt as long as you don't go crazy with the gravel-vacuum. >Just to be safe. Within this month, I also added about 100 lbs of live rock. And a devil hand soft coral. >>Not sure I understand what you mean, mate.  But no harm in adding l/r. >I added appropriate supplement keep water conditions as best as I can. I am intended to wait for another 2 weeks before I start adding fish back in there. This is the third time I have fallow my tanks so I have to get this time right. I would like to ask you about the order of fishes that I put in. >>If this is the third time, then allow another 30 days.  I know it's a pain, but you're clearly having trouble with this parasite.  Also, it's not the order of fish you put in that will determine whether or not you'll have success eradicating the ich.  You can go through the whole thing and with the addition of the last fish you could end up with a new outbreak.  There's really no need. >1st. 2x2inch Palette tang for 14 days (because tangs are ick magnet, I put them first to see if the ick has gone away). >>Please don't.  Just let the tank lie for another month.  This is unnecessary and stressful for the fish. >2nd.  Clowns (tomato and common), Firefish and Scooter blenny, and a 2 inch squirrel fish. >3rd.  Rusty and Coral Beauty angels (2.5 inch). >4th.  clown tang (4 inch). >5th.  shoal tang  (6+ inch). >>Do these fish get along already?  That's my first concern, truth be told.  Even if you have perfect tank parameters, the stress of harassment could sufficiently suppress an animal's immune system to allow ich a toehold. >I am intended to keep other fishes, Powder blue tang, Harlequin Tusk, Queen angel,  and a clown trigger. >>I'll tell you right now that it appears that you're putting together a volatile mix.  Your tank is well stocked as it is.  I feel that you cannot add any more fish, especially because you need to first slow down and get the fish that you already have well, and well on their way for a minimum of 3 months before you consider adding to the mix.  Do NOT mix Pomacanthids unless you have a system of very large dimensions--I'm talking thousands of gallons here.  Also, expect the trigger to eat any inverts, and for large angels to eat or at least nip at corals.  Therefore, knowing that you've only got a 125gal tank, in my opinion you may actually need to thin your numbers.  Do not purchase any more fish for this system. >(These I have not bought) Maybe Emperor angel (juv),  Asfur angel and Regal angel. >>Read above.  You're asking for trouble here.  I wouldn't mix these fish in a system of 3,000 gallons. You cannot safely add more fish to this tank. >Questions >1. Is the order right?? How long should I wait between introduce another group into the main? >>Refer to above.  You must always follow proper quarantine protocol (freshwater dip once acclimated by drip to the quarantine system, then q/t for 30 days minimum), as well as ensuring your tank is properly cycled *before* you add fish. Then you *must* add them slowly (I encourage folks to allow 2-3 months between additions--this allows the addition to get through q/t and the tank to adjust well).  I personally would add the clowns first, as they're more hardy and will survive hikes in ammonia or nitrites better than the others. >2. Should any future fishes (the ones I have not buy) be put into the main before the Shoal and Clown tangs?? >>No.  Absolutely not.  Stop buying fish.   >3. I am thinking I should get the powder blue the bigger than the other 2 tang.  Any thought?? >>Yes.  Again, stop buying fish--especially this mixing of tangs, it's tricky and can be problematic even for folks with experience.  You are buying fish of differing sizes, but that does not ensure harmony.  Your tank is well-stocked (indeed, overstocked in my opinion) as it is. >4. Not related. If I feed the fishes fresh clams, is there a chance that the clams carry ich into my tank?? >>No. >5. I am trying a kind of seaweed that I bought in a Japanese food store to feed my tangs. My Shoal and Clown tang are living at a separate q/t for now (due to size of QT). The kind of seaweed is used to make sushi. >This is called "sushi Nori".  It is very good for tangs, though Hippocampus like much more meaty food.  I would also free feed romaine lettuce, and offer krill soaked in a good quality vitamin supplement (Selcon is good).  You can also soak the Nori in the supplement as well.  Then, see them get fat. >Do they justify to be fed to my beloved fish?? The Shoal actually prefers this type of seaweed over brine shrimp mix meaty stuff. >>This is very good for them, I would free feed the Nori as well.  I would stop feeding brine, it's nutritionally deficit.  Mysis, krill, small bits of squid, clam, and shrimp are better (go for food grade here). >Will the seaweed kill my fish if they are lightly salted??? I am not sure if they are salted. I tasted it and they are kinda lightly salty. Please help. >>Because sushi Nori is seaweed, it will indeed have a salty taste.  I doubt that it's salted, and wouldn't worry.  Check the package for ingredients.  Be sure to offer the romaine.  They'll poop like mad, but it allows them to graze all day (they're much like horses that way) and it's both physically beneficial as well as psychologically. >6. If my synthetic sea water has low pH values (8.0-8.05) using Instant Ocean, what should I do??? >>This is not a terribly low pH.  If the pH fluctuates by one tenth of a point, then yes, use a buffer.  It could be bumped up a point or three, but you *must* be very careful whenever making any changes to pH, otherwise it's an exceedingly quick way to kill fish and other aquatic animals. >Should I add pH buffer first then put into the main? Or is that other alternative? >>Yes.  If you decide you need to use a buffer then it should be added when you mix the new water, in that container, and allowed time to dissolve and incorporate.  This way, if there are any problems you will have the ability to test it before it's added to the main display. >Lastly, want to ask about holiday/vacation issues.  I am going away for about 2 months for the summer (Thailand/Malay snorkeling, >>Lucky you! >and I need some instructions as to how my tank is going to survive this period. >I have read your FAQ's and most of them are not applicable, so I would like if you can give me some comments about my plan. >>I'll do my best. >(1. Evaporation) First evaporation is replenished via a automatic top off system using float switch and Rubbermaid container and a powerhead (28 gallon), so.. I usually evaporate 3-4 gallons a week. That should last at least 3 weeks. >>Then if you're going to be gone longer you'll need to ensure you have sufficient for that time period, and allow for at least another week for emergencies. >(2. heating, temperature) Second, I will only turn on light for 10 hrs. I have 4 fluorescent lights and afraid overheat tank water.  I will turn on a fan and install it at the water surface, turn on during the middle of the day. Might even do a little controller for it.. ( :-) ) Usually this is not a problem, but error on safe side. >>That seems prudent if overheating is a problem where you are.  If you haven't used a fan on the tank before, this will cause much higher evaporation rates than what you normally see.  Install the fan at least a month before you leave (assuming you have this much time) and see what happens to your evaporation rates.  If you have photosynthetic animals, please try to keep the photoperiod to natural time lengths: 12 hours on, 12 off. >(3. feeding, additives) Feeding is left minimal. Will measure amount of food and feed every 2 days. Additive are keep minimal. PA and PB additives added weekly. Will dosed in vial and let my friend add for me. >>Sounds like a plan, however, with all those tangs they really can't go very long without regular feedings.  Otherwise they'll grow thin and you'll end up with a new set of problems.  If you can get an actual house sitter (or something similar who'll be there daily) that would be safer. >(4. water changes) Water change will be made after the first month with the help of my LFS owner (20-30 gallon).   >>Then before you leave do a massive water change--60% or more.  This will allow you a bit of a buffer. >Is that a good plan?? Any comments?? >>With a system that's experiencing troubles, I would feel more comfortable with someone taking closer care, along with regular testing, etc. >Sorry for taking you so much time.  Your help is greatly appreciated. I spread the words around in Calgary ( a place for stampede in Canada) for your website!!!! Confused and help is needed.  Eric. >>Never be sorry to ask for help!  We're here to help (let's face it, folks like you make us possible, eh?)  I've heard of the Stampede, what a show!  Just watch where you walk.  Marina

Vacation Time Hi Bob and everyone: We are going away for approx. 2 weeks, and after reading your vacation information, I still have a couple of questions. The person who will be here taking care of my two tanks and dog knows nothing about fish. <Yikes... do hide the foods... don't let them "change anything" like water, temperature... And do make sure and give them the names, numbers of other folks (even stores) who know their stuff for emergencies, questions... Even ours!> Can the fish get by for 2 weeks without a water change? I usually do about a 15-20% change every week. My tanks are not over-stocked. <Yes, no problem... or much, much less problems> If I put flakes in packets meted out for daily feedings, will flake food be enough? <For what species? Are they accustomed to the food/s? Should be fine... you have live rock?> There is a fish store in San Francisco who charges $100 just to walk out the door, but can be called on in an emergency. <Yikes, don't let them walk unless absolutely necessary> We also have a gasoline powered generator we have to train the sitter on incase of power failure. <Okay... these can be automated...> Should that do it? And Bob, we are going to Hawaii- Kauai and the Oahu areas. Are there any special snorkeling areas you can recommend?? <A few... depends on prevalent weather though... I ask the dive shops, and check it out myself... if locals are there, generally okay> We're not leaving for a month, just need to be prepared. <Agreed. Have the "keeper" read, write us. Bob Fenner> Thanks to all. Connie Cavan

Re: Vacation Time Dear Bob, <Hello Constance> You have so many fans I'm sure you can't remember all of us, but I have two tanks, one with two lazy clowns, which is getting ready for the entrance of a dither fish at your recommendation. (28 gallon) No live rock. <I recall> The other tank is a reef tank with about 44# of live rock. (60 gallon) Its inhabitants are 1 juvenile clown, 1 baby clown, l pygmy angel, 1 royal Gramma & 3 dither fish at your recommendation. They are also tiny. All my fish get Spirulina flakes in the a.m. - in the p.m. they all get some fishy thing or your recipe from your book. I figured we could cut down to just the flake food which I will measure for each tank in individual packets. <I would, yes> Both tanks have skimmers and Fluvals w. carbon in place. They all love the Spirulina and I thought if I made individual packets it would be okay. If they can go two whole weeks without eating I'll do it if you say so but that seems like a long time. Would every other day be better? <Battery operated feeders (I use Eheim's, but there are others) would be best... daily by person second> Our LFS is Nippon in San Francisco ($100) but I'm sure they would answer any questions. If anything serious should happen, leaks, breakdowns, etc. he will be instructed to call them. <Nippon is excellent... I have known Steve and co. for decades> What sayest thou, oh knowledgeable one? <Bon voyage!> By the way, my paintings are now in St. Thomas, will bring fish ptgs with me when I depart in January for that nice little island. <Ahh, perhaps we will see them there. We're on our way to the USVI next week... and had some interesting conversations at a trade show (DEMA, Vegas last week) with folks there and St. Croix.... Bob Fenner> Connie Cavan

Planning for a Christmas trip Hello Mr. Fenner, <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob returns from 2 weeks in Indonesia and looks to acquire a "jaws of life" instrument to extract sand from various crevices of his person> My wife and I are going to visit relatives for Christmas and I am in the midst of planning for my tanks maintenance while I am away. I have a 125 with approx. 100 lbs of LR and 2-3" DSB. The tanks inhabitants are a 4" Powder Blue Tang, 2" Juvenile Emperor Angel, 2" and 3" Perculas, and 1" Domino Damsel. I am going to set up an automatic top off system using some type of dosing pump from a 35 gallon Rubbermaid container,  <very good... a simple pump and float switch will suffice> an automatic feeder,  <not really necessary or recommended if a house sitter will check in just a few times. The fish will be safer fasting and can easily go over a week without a bite to eat> and I am looking at power sensing battery operated air pumps to oxygenate the tank in the event of a short power failure.  <good> I am going to make arrangements with my brother in law to check the tank at least once or twice a week, <very fine... put individual food portions in Ziplocs and mark by day so that there is no chance of overfeeding. If you feel that you must use the auto feeder... run it a month in advance to debug it and put fresh batteries in before you leave> and I am going to try to get a neighbor to start my generator in the event of any extended power outages. Any recommendations on how to rig the top off, types of feeders, and whether you consider the air pumps to be a viable option would be greatly appreciated.  <as per above. And the top off is a simple matter of having a float switch in the sump that runs a pump set at or below the sump water level (else a metered solenoid will be needed instead). Pump evap water up to the top of the aquarium and be sure to squirt it in ABOVE the water level (else a back siphon can occur). Do run this setup a month in advance too, to tweak> Also, if you can think of anything that I seem to be overlooking please don't hesitate to point it out to me.  <very thorough and kudos to you for considering so far in advance. Just relax about the daily feeding. The risk of overfeeding and wiping the tank out is far greater than underfeeding the fishes> I hope to get started on this project right away so that I can test it for flaws before I really have to put it to the test. <excellent!> Regards, Mike <best regards, Anthony>

Holidays and Feeding and things! Hi Anthony and Crew, <Steven in this morning.> Hope you are well, I have been reading the WWM pages practically daily since our last chat(s) but have not needed to ask you anything else until now. I am going away for two weeks on Holiday (Italy, I cannot wait!). <It is lovely! I have been there twice and want to take my wife for a third trip.> As a quick recap I have two 5 foot tanks, one FOWLR containing 1 Lipstick tang (7"), 1 yellow tang (3 1/2"), 1 pyjama tang (3"), 1 green wrasse (7"), and 2 clowns 2" each. The other tank is a reef with Various Mushrooms, Pulsing Xenia, Leather Coral, Colt Coral, a blue Carpet Anemone (the rehousing into a species tank as you suggested is planned for after my return from holiday) a cleaner shrimp, scallop (not my choice, an unexpected present, I have since found this is not good but I have to try now!) and 5 small fish (2 clowns, 1 red hawk, 1 Firefish and 1 Gramma). Also 3 Sally Lightfoots plus red legs and turbo snails. I plan to do my routine 10% water changes the day before I leave. I have made arrangements with a friend to mind the tanks for me and have shown them how to feed the Carpet Anemone and everyone else as best I can, but how often is the least the Anemone, the fish, and the other inhabitants of both tanks can be fed. <I would feel comfortable with a schedule of every other day. Please leave for tank watcher premeasured portions and literally hide the rest of the food. The film cans for 35 mm rolls work well as do the pill boxes with each day of the week marked (my favorite).> I normally feed the FOWLR tank twice a day (dried in the morning, frozen at night, and bits of fish for the wrasse plus algae strips for the tangs). The invert tank is as you know more involved with the different foods needed (i.e. small bits of fish for the Carpet, Sally's, Cleaner Shrimp, and Red Hawk, dried and frozen for the Firefish and clowns and Marine Snow for the Corals and Scallop etc.). This sounds a lot when I read it but all params are o.k. except for Phosphate and Nitrate which is in my source water until I get my RO unit as discussed with you already. <It also could be coming from your feeding as it sounds like a lot to me, too.> All planned for when I get back! I want to avoid the risk of over feeding and polluting the tank by cutting down on this while someone else is doing the feeding. Can you suggest a reasonable minimum that will keep everything alive and sort of happy until I return? <See notes above.> Your help is much appreciated - many thanks. Jenny <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Long Weekend Break Greetings again Wet Webbed Ones! <<And greetings to you.>> I've managed to go a whole two months without asking a question of you, oh great oracles of the ocean!  Just a quickie this time - we are going away for a long weekend soon (Friday to Monday). Normally when we go away for a week or more, we ask a fishy friend to feed our babies for us. As this is a much shorter break, however, I was wondering if the fish would be ok if we just fed them on the Friday morning before we left and then again on the Monday evening when we returned. I suspect we have a tendency to slightly overfeed our babies anyway. What do you think?  Our tanks are: (1) 75 (UK) gallon marine reef tank (a year old now) with live rock and assorted corals, yellow tang, Chromis (5), yellow tail damsels (2), black and white clowns (2), long nose hawk fish, royal Gramma, flame angel, fire fish, scooter blenny and a neon blue cheeked goby (a lot of fish, I know, but purchased before we discovered your wonderful site!) The invertebrates are two cleaner shrimp, two dancing shrimp, three star fish, a brittle star, 3 red legged hermits and assorted snails. No livestock has been added for six months and no more is planned (you'll be relieved to know!) It has lots of coralline algae growth. Water: amm 0, nitrites 0, ph 8.3, dKH 11, nitrates (unsurprisingly high) 50+ppm. (2) 15 gallon freshwater planted tropical tank with platies, guppies, cardinal tetras, Otos and a galaxy plec. A strange mix I'm told but unproblematic in the 7 months it's been up and running. Water: amm 0, nitrites 0, nitrates <10, phosphate 0; and finally: (3) 15 gallon freshwater planted tropical tank with dwarf puffers, Otos and two Peckoltias (neither of the latter having puffer-tempting finnage!) Water parameters as above. We do 10% weekly water changes on all the tanks. I think the nitrate levels indicate that we do overfeed (but those cute puffers look so beseeching!) In your opinion, is it ok to leave these tanks unfed during our short break? <<I think they will make it, but going unfed for that period of time will be a break in the routine, and might cause some stress. This is always tricky, and I've done this myself before, but I can't honestly say that I wasn't worrying the whole time I was gone. You may want to find the help, or even someone to feed just one of the four days [perhaps Sunday] so you can have the peace of mind and relax during your time off.>> (sorry, wasn't such a "quicky" after all!) <<No worries.>> Many thanks, as always! Lesley <<Cheers, enjoy your long weekend. J -- >>

Tank at School During Spring Break Hi WWM: After a few weeks my tank(20 g)( has like 10 lbs of LR) was cycled, so I returned the blue damsel to the LFS and decided to get a Tomato clown (he was there like 3-4 weeks), he is doing fine. My problem is the next: I'm a medicine student and the university is in another city( like 40min from my home) my tank is in my student room and now in a vacation period, How long can the tomato go with no food? <3-4 days and remain healthy.> Would he eat from the LR? <Somewhat, but 10 pounds in a fairly new tank does not provide for much food.> What should I do? <I would drive out a few times and feed him. Also, double check that the dorm building does not have the electricity shut off or heat drastically reduced. Mine did and forced me to move my tank, back when I was at college. Boy, do I sound old and I am only 28.> -Steven Pro>

Building a Nano-Tank & Going on Vacation - Jason forgets to introduce himself... Robert- I am in the process of gathering information and supplies to start a small reef tank (28g). I know its kinda small so I plan on starting with just Live Rock and Live sand and slowly stocking it. I am in an interesting situation and would appreciate your opinion. <<so far, so good - with diligence, one can keep a fine 28.>>  First off, the only things I currently have are a 28 gallon tank, 2x55 watt PC light hood, 2 x Hagen 301 pumps, CPR backpack IIR Skimmer, and a 150 watt heater. I do not plan on keeping a sump, so basically I only have to purchase Live rock (~45 lbs Fiji), live sand/aragonite mix (~60 lb), salt, and some test kits for the initial setup. <<call me crazy, but with that much live rock and sand, were you going to put water in this aquarium? Best to do one pound per gallon on each of those.>> Now for the problem. I can have everything up and running in less than 2 weeks. However, I will be on vacation for two weeks at the end of Dec. into the begin of Jan. There will be nobody around to watch the tank at all. Now I'm not sure whether or not I should wait until I get home in Jan to start, or if I should do it now. <<if you are only putting live rock in the tank, I think it would be no big deal... not like it's going to jump out, need to be fed or something - easy.>> From what I understand, the first month after adding live rock/sand is pretty slow. <<certainly in a tank of this size, you should be going very, very slow anyway.>> So since I'll be away for some of that time, I won't have to resist the temptation to tamper. <<this is true, but you'd better start working on resisting.>> I have asked some people and they seem to think that leaving the tank with just the pumps and heater running (no lights or skimmer) would be fine. <<I would run the lights like normal, perhaps a little less.>> The only problem might be evaporation (can I cover it tightly? or would that inhibit oxygen exchange). <<you could... mix your salt very weak, say 1.018 or 1.019 and let it go... by the time you get home, it will be higher, but not too bad. No to the cover, yes to oxygen inhibition.>> Should I put the lights on for only a couple hours of the day using timers? <<ah yes, now we're cooking with gas!>> Would I need to add something to decompose (somebody suggested a small dead fish) to build up the ammonia levels? <<no, likely the live rock will take care of this for you.>> Should I run the skimmer (but then I would need somebody to empty the cup)? <<yes, probably the one thing you wouldn't want to leave unattended for two weeks. It can wait until you get home, just keep in mind that some hideous stuff may collect when you fire it back up.>> Also, a bit off of the topic, but, the CPR skimmer comes with optional accessories. A bubble trap, a surface skimmer, or a combo of the two. I didn't know if my tank would benefit from any of these. Do you have any experience with this product? Do you recommend any of these accessories? <<in fact I do, I have the surface skimmer box for my BPII, and as the case with any protein skimmer, there is a layer of "stuff" just on the top of the water that is very reactive in the skimmer, if only you could get it there. The surface skimmer helps do this and makes the BPII more efficient. As for the bubble trap, you have a IIR - where the R is for reef - this has additional channels in the design which are supposed to help with bubbles - you should probably wait and see how well things work until you get this item.>> Thanks for your time, I hope to hear back from you....... Jeff <<No problem. Cheers, J -- >>

holiday disaster Dear Bob, All has been well, thanks to your kind tutelage, and then we went on vacation. <Oh, oh... this sounds like a lead-in for a horror movie...> We left our Naso tang and 4 damsels with an avid animal lover who promised not to overfeed. We came back a week later to see flakes COATING the bottom! <!> We had called while we were away and the woman was insisting on leaving the lights in the tank on all the time because it was COLD OUTSIDE!  <Say what?> First thing, we did some measurements (ammonia=0, nitrite=.1, nitrate=30, salinity=1.021, temp=75) and they were far better than I expected but those nitrites...The fish has a line of abnormal skin--like lateral line disease along with a few spots elsewhere (he gets occasional ick). I was thrilled to read in both your and Dakin's books that this is due to poor water quality and poor nutrition. That amazes me because there was food everywhere (the fish only eats directly from our fingers--once it floats, he won't touch it). We spent 5 hours taking out and vacuuming around our live rock (about 75 lbs in our 125 gallon tank), netting the stuff, did a 15 gallon water change. We have a hospital tank where we've been storing another 25 lbs of LR we recently cured.  <Ah, fortunate> We changed our DLS, mechanical filter, dumped the protein skimmer (pretty full!!! Gotta love it!).  <Glad I skipped breakfast> We also have a trickle filter. We ran out and bought 2 cleaner shrimp just in case (the last one mysteriously died 5 days after this animal lover cared for it--since we could not figure out a mechanism, we discounted it and I still don't see a way she could have been responsible). Our problem now is that there is still a fine layer of flakes on the bottom which does not seem to be pulled into our normal filtration system. We also need to treat our tang who ate sparingly yesterday. We kept the tank dark most of the day between feedings. By the way, the fish hates Selcon. Someone recommended getting little blue legged hermits to eat the stuff on the bottom. Will that work or will our setup manage this? <Mmm, I wouldn't rush out to get the Hermits> Sorry for the very long message. We were scuba diving and watching the tangs in Hawaii. Man, they're constantly grazing on the bottom on the LR. Now I feel more sorry our little fellow is away from home, starving. Happy holidays and thanks, Allyson <All should do well now that you're back. Bob Fenner>

Re: holiday disaster Ah, relief. Yep. When I looked more carefully this morning, the lateral line problem looked like it was gone. Do you think that SLEEP can cure this?  <Yes> The poor little fish doesn't have eyelids...how the heck is he supposed to sleep with those darned LIGHTS on??? <"Internal eye-lids"> I guess it's good to have the cleaner shrimp. The scary part is that our tank took 2 weeks to start cycling so we'll monitor it carefully. If chemistry in this tank goes ballistic, we'll move the tang to the hospital tank (we're trying your strategy of having grow stones-growing greens on LR and replacing it in the tank). So you think we shouldn't try to vacuum out that last bit of film on the bottom or get new creatures to eat it? <Leave it for now. Bob Fenner> Allyson

Re: holiday disaster Oh Bob. Last night we got the worst ammonia spike we've ever gotten in the tank. It was 2 days since we came home and found the flake disaster. I'm sure ammonia was over 1 or 2 and possibly maxed the scale. The fish wasn't acting like he was in distress (eating and swimming well)  <Don't feed! Wait till the ammonia (and nitrite possibly) has dropped back to zero> and the cleaner shrimps acted OK so I was puzzled. We did a 15 gallon water change (we prep our water at least a day ahead and add Prime to dechlorinate) and that cleared up the ammonia, and nitrite. It's now the next morning. Ammonia and nitrites are still zero--nitrates are off the scale.  <Don't be overly concerned about this for now> There are still some flakes that are hard to retrieve. We see them when we vacuum and stir things up. Is the Prime is covering temporarily or did we cycle? <The product may be rendering a false negative... or the system may have quickly cycled> Given the high nitrates, I'm thinking that the cycling ran its course. Is this cycling going to happen repeatedly as hidden flakes rot?  <No> Is the bacteria population probably growing to compensate? <Yes> We plan to monitor the chemistry closely until the system becomes stable and if it gets bad, keep doing major water changes daily if necessary to get out the flakes. <Don't overly worry re the flakes... they will go> It's possible that it's a cycle that has to run its course and we just need to take the fish out and let this happen. Alternatively, we can kick this thing by fighting the cycle. Alternatively, we get something that loves rotting food flakes to eat them. <They'll soon be "gone"> We have 3 inches of fine crushed coral where our Nassarius (spelling?) <Correct> snails like to stay. I'm hoping the snails are eating some of this stuff. Should we get rid of this sand and snails or keep it?  <Leave all as is> I'm hoping that there are helpful bacteria there so I just disturb the surface lightly where the flakes are. Should I go deeper? Adding inverts (e.g. little crabs to eat on the bottom) may be stupid if the tank is cycling. Any other suggestions? <Ignore the system for a few days, weeks. Bob Fenner> Many thanks, Allyson

Re: holiday disaster Thanks. We're deeply grateful for the moral support and advice. <Glad to be of help. Bob Fenner> Allyson

Vacation marine tanks I am planning on a week long trip and was wondering what I can do to keep the quality of my tank in the same or very close specs. I was trying to look at you article on saltaquarium.com  <Mmm, don't know this site. Here's the FAQs section on ours: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/vacfaqsmar.htm> and it wont load up for me. If you would please email me back I would really like to get some tips. A friend of mine told me that your article has helped him in the past. <I would like to know more about your system, livestock ahead of making specific recommendations. By and large you're best off rigging up a minimal feeder that is automated, hiding your foods and supplements, and having a learned fellow reefer just stop in to check things out every other day or so. Bob Fenner> Thanks A lot Eric

Re: Vacation Disaster Hi Mr. Fenner. All of my parameters were fine since 8-24-01 and I added a small flame angel to the mix on 8-29-01. My Ammonia is 0, but my Nitrites have risen to .5 since.  <Please wait a few more weeks before adding anything more... your system has not really "fully cycled"... you should have zero, zip, nada nitrites> I guess my question is this: Whenever Ammonia or Nitrites spike be it due to adding livestock, overfeeding accidents like I had during my vacation, etc., is it best to not feed the livestock any food whatsoever until parameters return to Ammonia 0 and Nitrites 0?  <Yes, well put... and such events/spikes should serve as impetus to finding/solving their cause/s... Is filtration, aeration, circulation adequate? Are foods readily consumed? Is there sufficient bio-conversion capacity?...> How about cleaning diatoms from glass?  <This should be fine... but green algae, corallines would be best left in place during these pressing times> Also should any skimmer or UV sterilizer be turned off until parameters are acceptable?  <Once engaged, better to leave an ultraviolet on at all times... except during some medications use, maintenance of the unit.> Thanks again for taking the time to help us. <An honor and privilege my friend. Bob Fenner>

Emergency trip Mr.. Fenner, I have been reading your web-site about taking vacations and what should be done with a persons aquarium. I just got a call and have to take an emergency trip that should last about three days. The only problem would be the top-off for the evaporation that is needed daily. If I had the time I would set up an automatic top-off system but I am on the run. I have a 80gal. reef set up with a 20gal sump. I have a pump in the sump (say that five times fast :) <Will try> that would run dry if I neglected to refill with water. Could I for the three days just stop the wet/dry system and not cause and damage to the main system. <Hmm... maybe... but you could easily rig a "2 liter plastic bottle" upside down that would automatically feed into this system with time, evaporation...> Would the SG be affected by the evaporation (about1-2 cups a day) and cause harm? <Not much in a system of this size> I have a huge fear of risking it but an even worse one if I asked a friend to come over and top-off for me. Very poor planning on my part for not thinking of this in advance! I am disabled and am home 95% of the time so I never would have thought of this happening. I should have. :( <No worries... such an accomplice might be given EXPLICIT instructions to add NO MORE than 2-3 cups of water any given day...> Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. I am sorry for being so abrupt and not giving more info. It's just that I have 13hrs before I need to get to the airport. I hope you will forgive my seeking advice in such a way. Thank you so much. Matthew <I understand my friend. Either approach... neglect, some sort of inverted bottle in the sump, or a standardized topping off regimen will work out fine. Enjoy your trip. Bob Fenner>

Re: Vacation Disaster Hi again Mr. Fenner: My ammonia dropped back down to O. Nitrates are at 0. Nitrites are at approximately .5. Should I continue the NO FOOD approach until Nitrites also drop to 0 or can I give the livestock a tiny amount of food (either flake or frozen)? Thanks again! <Do still wait. Bob Fenner>

Vacation Disaster Hi Mr. Fenner. Thanks again for taking the time to answer all of our questions. <An honor and pleasure my friend> I recently went away for 4 days. Not a long time, but a needed rest. Before leaving my parameters were as follows: 90 Gallon Fish Only, PH 8.2, Salinity 1.023, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5. My livestock is a Hippo Tang, a 3 Striped Damsel and a Blue Devil Damsel. I am in the process of stocking my tank. I am running a Skimmer, a UV and a Wet/Dry. I asked a close family member to check my tank once while I was away and to dump a small round Tupperware of food into it containing mostly brine shrimp. While away the family member mistakenly dumped a large rectangular container of brine shrimp into the tank. I would approximate the amount as 10 tablespoons. <Yikes... I generally suggest no feeding at all for only a four day trip... or at most "individually prepared" (I like film canisters) labeled feedings (and hiding any, all other foods!) to prevent such fiascos.> Upon my return I found a lot of diatoms and my parameters are as follows: PH 8.2, Ammonia .25, Nitrite .5 and Nitrate 10. The Hippo and blue damsel look fine. The 3 Stripe is struggling for air and not breathing. <What have you done since?> Please let me know how serious this mistake was. I had only recently completed cycling the tank. Is there anything I can do to speed up the return to more acceptable parameters?  <Yes... don't feed of course, extend the light period a few more hours a day, don't wipe down the algae till ammonia, nitrite are zero, add some more "cured" live rock, perhaps add some macro-algae, increase aeration, circulation> Is this something simple time will take care of?  <Yes. Hopefully the pollution won't kill your livestock and/or enthusiasm in the meanwhile though.> What kind of time frame am I looking at?  <A few days to a couple of weeks> Is there anything I can do to aid the 3 Stripe Damsel? <All the above> Thanks for your time and assistance. <Steady on my friend. All this will work out. Bob Fenner>

Aquarium Transfer Hi Bob, Hope all is well. My mother-in-law has a 50 gal., fish only, tank with a Shark wet/dry filter. She is moving for 2-3 months and taking her fish with her to an already established tank. <Okay> What does she need to do to her regular tank to make sure it's operating efficiently when she brings her fish back? I told her she should just keep it going normally. Any input? <Yes, please refer or print out for her our "Moving Aquariums" section: http://wetwebmedia.com/movingaq.htm and associated FAQs file, and aid her yourself if you can in this transit. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Rich Aylward

Re: Aquarium Transfer (more like vacation) Bob, I read your website file on moving aquariums and the associated FAQ's file but they deal with either moving an aquarium from one location to another, or relocating the fish from one aquarium to another. I'm wondering if there is anything special that needs to be done to an aquarium that is vacant of fish for 2-3 months. The fish will be moved to a different aquarium, but the original aquarium will be left up awaiting their return, unless you feel it would be wise to dismantle the aquarium and reestablish it down the road. I was hoping that wouldn't be necessary. <Oh, sorry for the confusion. Not much really to do with such a vacant system... I would keep all the mechanicals running (including the heater/s) and give the tank a "pinch" of food about once a week to keep the beneficial microbial populations (like nitrifiers) going. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Rich

Vacation???? Bob, This is going to be the first time I am going on vacation since I have set up my salt water fish tank. I have a few questions. I will be gone about 4 days. Should I leave my white light on when I leave or my coral light or no lights on when I leave? <Hmm, both should be on timers.> Should I be concerned about food? I have a bi-color angel, lemon peel angel, black-back butterfly, fuzzy lionfish, a sleeper head goby, and a anemone. <Not in my opinion... four days will not be a problem if these animals are in good condition currently... and the chance that "something" might go wrong is too great relatively... If you're concerned, do look into an automated feeder that will deliver dried foods to your fish life/system on a timed basis. Eheim makes a great one of these that is battery operated. And, bon voyage. Don't worry. Bob Fenner> Please Help!!!!! Pat

Going on vacation Hello Robert, Last time I contacted you I mentioned that spring had descended on Vermont. Well, since then we have been pounded twice by snow. I should have known that mentioning Spring would have such consequences. <Yes...> I have looked through everything I can find on WetWebMedia in reference to leaving a system unattended for a prolonged length of time and am more concerned than previously. I have a 55 gallon primarily fish only system with some live rock and a 3" crushed coral base. I also use a bottom of the line sea Pharm protein skimmer and U2 UV sterilizer. My filtration system consist of the large Penguin, hang on the back, with bio-wheel and cell-pore inserts replacing two of the cartridges and an under gravel filter powered by air stones. Pretty much the basic system you describe in your wonderful book. My tank is occupied by quite small representatives of the following species: trigger, Toby, wrasse, dwarf lion, flame hawk, hippo tang. None of these fish are over 3" long, most much less. <Okay> My dilemma is that I must be away for two weeks, live way out in the sticks and do not have anyone capable or not to look after things. I have read that often the best thing to do in such a situation is nothing compared to exposing your fish to a well meaning but inexperienced person. However, these fish are all potential heavy waits, so to speak, and with a big appetite anything could transpire. <Lots of possibilities...> Is there anyway they could be left for 14 days and not expect disaster? Bob, What can I do? Thank You, Steve Browne <Add a bunch of new/live rock... attach an automatic feeder (or two) to the system... have someone come by and add just labeled fish food for that day... with the number to friends, LFS to call is something seems awry... two weeks is actually not a long time... as you will find. Bob Fenner>

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