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FAQs on Brackish Water Quality

Related Articles: Brackish Water Quality, pH, Alkalinity, Water Changes

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kH in Brackish Water     6/20/18
"Everything happens for a reason" is one of my favorite sayings (although I find "Everything" to be a bit too broad) and the case of the failure of my filter hose in my Goby tank is an example. Before the hose split, dumped all that water (and my biological filter) onto the floor, and threw the tank into a mini-cycle, I thought everything was fine.
<Indeed! Sounds quite the crisis.>
But I've been struggling to get the tank to re-cycle again.
<So long as the substrate didn't dry out, there should be plenty of bacteria, albeit dormant, in the filter and/or substrate.>
I'm using Prime consistently, so the fish are not being affected, but the ammonia has been "jumping" around from .5 one day, to 2 ppm a few days later; I'll get a slight rise in nitrite, but then it goes away without increasing the nitrate (of which the test shows is less than 10) - it has been very frustrating.
<I would imagine. Nonetheless, I'd still have an optimistic approach here.
The filter bacteria will be there. There's no reason that damp filter media should lose all its bacteria, and indeed it should 'regenerate' into something useful within a few days. Of course do multiple water changes, perhaps 25-50% a day for the first week, and don't add any food. But there's no reason for a whole 6-week cycling process that I can think of.>
But I learned a similar lesson with my 125 gallon tank so I decided to check the kH of the tank and discovered there is none - no kH at all (if that hose had not split and caused the cycling problem, I might not have discovered this until the fish had been affected and might not have put it together even then). I put one drop of the test liquid in the test tube with the tank water and the water remained clear. After putting three drops of the test liquid the water had a slight tinge of yellow (yes, I know it's supposed to turn blue). I had to put in 10 drops of the test liquid before it turned a solid yellow and as I added more, it turned a light orange. I think that what is happening is that the amount of Instant Ocean I'm using to achieve an SG of 1.005 cannot provide sufficient kH because 1) I'm using RO/DI water (human remains in the water), 2) I'm brackish, not full salt, and 3) I'm low end brackish (1.005).
<I would agree with this analysis. Nothing a bit of baking soda can't fix!
Something along the lines of 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per 5 gallons/20 litres should do the trick, but feel free to increase as necessary. Use a KH test kit to keep track, and adjust the dose
accordingly. Experiment with a bucket of water first and see what works. If you want to raise GH, then 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) per 5 gallons/20 litres can be used as well.>
When this same situation occurred in my 125 after I re-homed my loaches, I started using Seachem Alkaline Buffer to bring up the kH (I'm not chasing a pH, just working to establish a healthy kH.
The kH in all the tanks is 8 and that's just fine) and it has been working perfectly in all the tanks. But then I found myself in a quandary - I know Seachem make a Marine buffer, but I'm not keeping a marine tank - just low end brackish, and I was afraid the calculations and proportions in the directions on the Marine Buffer would only apply to full salt tanks.
<Should work, just go 10-50% dosage, as seems appropriate with your KH and/or GH test kits.>
So I decided to use the same Alkaline Buffer I use in my freshwater tanks.
I calculated the amount needed to bring the kH up to 8 like in my other tanks and split the dosage into three parts (I didn't want to do it all at once because I know it will affect the pH - I didn't want to inflict a radical change on the fish). I added the first dosage earlier this morning and when I tested this afternoon the test showed a kH of 3. Unless you think I'm doing something wrong, or you think the Goby and the Mollies need a higher kH, I'll put in the next two doses over the next two days. So that's the purpose of this e-mail - do you seen anything wrong with my thinking or my plan to correct this problem?
<Nope; it's a good plan!>
*Renee *
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: kH in Brackish Water      6/21/18

Great! Thank you!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

think i fixed nitrate prob. but still more questions, BR       5/17/12
Hey Marco, in previous emails I had mentioned about my nitrate rise (thinking it may had been caused by the sick eel) and you reassured me that was not the cause. I just want to let you know that you were right. After another water change, with ammonia at 0, my nitrates were still through the roof so I went to my LFS and talked to the girl (who actually knows what she is talking about) and explained my situation. She asked if I use city water (which I do) and if I had done/added water to the tank after a heavy rain (which I did). She said that especially after a heavy rain fall, our crummy city water is loaded with nitrates and that the water conditioner only removes chlorine from the tap water and nothing else. She referred me to a product called Prime made by Seachem and said to remove nitrates, add three times the amount that you would if you were establishing a new tank. Well it worked. Nitrates are at 0 and now I know about my city's water. Have you ever heard of that type of situation?
<Yes, heard of it. It's always a good idea to check the water you use for water changes if strange water parameters occur. I think/hope this was mentioned in earlier emails about water changes. Glad you found the exact source. Don't think of Prime as more than a temporary solution with regard to nitrates, though, I'd still recommend to upgrade your filtration when you reach marine salinities. Too bad your water supply does not deliver a constant quality product.>
The new baby eel that I had purchased after the "sick eel" is absolutely doing great! He is eating and is a feisty little guy. My big eel used to pick on him and I would have to break the up a few times, but now I believe that my big eel knows that the little guy isn't going down without a fight. I do have a question though, near the little eel's tail, there are two small white patches the same look and color that his belly is. Please do excuse me, I am trying to get a camera that can take a good picture. It is not Ich, and does not resemble a fungal infection. He is not scratching on anything and is acting completely normal.
<As long as it does not grow, don't worry.>
I was just wondering if they may go through different color patterns/colorations during the growth cycle?
<Yes, but not such bright spots. Usually the golden speckles become less with age, older G. tile are completely grey with a light grey belly. I've seen such brighter spots on G. tile that never changed or in other cases vanished and don't think this is a disease.>
Any advice you could give would be great and trust me I know it is hard to diagnose with out a picture, but I am trying so hard to find a camera to get a good picture. Once again thanks and take care, Alyson
<Cheers, Marco.> 
BIG ammonia problem, need your expert advice again :(    4/15/12

Hello again it's Alyson and I have a BIG problem! I monitor the ammonia level in my tank daily and a week ago to my surprise, the level jumped to 2.5! I treated it with ammonia remover to see if that would lower it and it did to about .50 Well everyday after that it would go back to 2.0 would treat it and would go down. Well two days ago I tested it and the ammonia level was a whopping 4.0 so immediately I did a 50% water change and have been slowly raising the salinity level back to the previous 1.020-1.024 that it was. The fish seemed a lot happier (of course) and so I tested the ammonia level again last night and it is back at 2.0
<You started at 4.0, after a 50% water change you have 2.0, the math seems to be right. It also seems your tank is not cycled properly.  In addition, you note you raised the salinity level after the water change. You should not change the salinity more than about 0.002-0.003 within a week to avoid a die-off of bacteria, which remove ammonia and nitrite. Those bacteria cultures need time to adapt to new salinities, therefore  the changes should be limited to 0.002 per week, swings during a water change should be avoided. If you change water, be sure that the addition of new water does not change the salinity of the tank too much by addition of the proper amount of (marine) salt. Your morays won't be stressed by somewhat faster salinity changes, but ammonia removing bacteria can die.>
and now the ph level (which I've never had a problem with before) has gone down to about 6.5....What do I do?? Should I purchase a skimmer and have that along with my filter (which by the way is a whisper 200)?
<At marine or almost marine salinities a skimmer is always a good idea with regard to oxygen supply and waste removal.>
I am so lost. Along with the water change I also cleaned the gravel very well and was sure this would help my problem.
<Don't do this now. Gravel is also a habitat for bacteria. Cleaning it removes a lot of them, so you should only do that if your other filters can buffer this loss, which is no problem in a well established tank, a stage your tank apparently has not reached, yet.>
If you could please give me some advice or maybe if I'm missing something important I would be very appreciative and I know my fish would too.
<Carry on keeping ammonia down with water changes with proper salinity (use salt for marine aquariums and water with no ammonia) until your bacteria colonies have grown to a sufficient size, which will result in dropping ammonia. Feel free to add well cured live rock and/or a skimmer to accelerate the process by introduction of bacteria with the rock and/or removal of organic matter as one source of ammonia by the skimmer.>
Thanks again.
<Good luck. Marco.>

Re: BIG ammonia problem, need your expert advice again :( - 4/17/12

Thanks a lot Marco for your advice. I did not add any salt while continuing with my water cycling.
<You should add water of approx. the same salinity as the water you removed. Anything else will not be helpful for the cycling process. The salinity should be kept about constant throughout water changes.>
After doing countless water cycles, I got the ammonia level to 1.0 ( yeah I know, all of that hard work for a little change lol) I added some Ammo Lock and my ammonia is zero thank goodness! Now I am just slowly but surely adding salt back to the aquarium. Before all of the water cycling it was 1.024 now I am working with 1.010.
<This is a salinity swing, which could have been avoided by adding water with the same salinity as the water you removed. See the last email. You make it quite hard for ammonia removing bacteria to live and grow in your tank.>
So I have to raise the salinity slowly again (fun). In regards to adding live rock, the only pet store here that has it does not take good care of their animals at all and I am NOT going to buy anything from them. Also, In regards to the protein skimmer, would you guess that the two places that carry them are out of the size I need...So needless to say I'm going to
order a skimmer online and be happy with my current ammonia level! Thanks again!
<Cheers, Marco.>
Re: BIG ammonia problem, need your expert advice again :( - 4/17/12

Hi again Marco, I think when I originally wrote you what I was trying to say was that the water I was replacing was with marine salt, not that I was trying to raise the salinity level. I guess I misunderstood when you wrote back thinking I was not to add salt with the new water lol.
<Sorry, if I didn't write clear enough.>
I was confused because I was thinking why am I not to replace the salt water with salt water and after reading your latest email I think I didn't originally explain myself the right way. Needless to say, lesson learned and thanks again for walking me through it.
Have a good one!
<You, too. Marco.>
Too much stress for my Gymnothorax tile??    4/27/12

Hi again Marco, Its Alyson again (the one with the piggy eel blah blah)
<Hi Alyson.>
I have some concerns/questions that I'm hoping you could provide me with your expert advice on. Well last week I upgraded to a 50in long 75 gallon tank so that I could transfer my fish into.
<Okay. Good size.>
It cycled for 5 days and yesterday I added the GSP, flounder and Gymnothorax tile to it. The puffer and the flounder were easy to move, the eel however was a different story. I removed all decorations (except for his cave) first and thought of an idea on how to move him. I had a half gallon  milk container that I use a lot with water changes and put it in the tank thinking that when I removed his cave he would look for a hole to go into. Well....I took out his cave and he went nuts of course, he went into the container once, but before I could put the lid on and run him over to the new tank, he swam out. So, I put his cave back in and he immediately swam into it. I gave him about 10 minutes to calm down and tried to remove his cave again. He had wrapped himself inside the circumference of his cave (he was not coming out) so I got a bucket, filled it with his water, picked the cave up with him still inside and held it halfway in the water and ran him over to the new tank. (yeah it was a nightmare) I was very careful not to hurt him and does not seem to be injured in any shape or form. I know that it will take a few days or even weeks for him to "forgive" me. He is in his new tank (which has sand in now, no more gravel yay) staring out of his cave. Anyways, before this whole change he had already been on a hunger strike for 6 days and I know he will more than likely continue with it due to the stress of the move. So will he be ok continuing with this hunger strike?
I know they can go weeks without eating, but when should I start to concern about his eating?
<As long as the water parameters are in line and no signs of any disease occur (heavy breathing, changes of the skin or eyes, spasms...) you should not be concerned at all. Your eel was fed much too much in the beginning and likely has a lot of fat it can burn. Even one or two months is no problem as long as everything else is ok. Just offer something to eat every few days.>
Also, he is a lot darker now....I read somewhere that low salt can cause darker coloration, is this true?
<Not in my experience. The color can depend e.g. on illumination, at night many eels have a lighter color in general.>
Level is at 1.014 now. Any advice would be great. I really appreciate your site and all of your help that you have provided me with so far. My fish are lucky I found you because if not they could have been dead by now lol.
Thanks again!
<Sounds like you are doing fine. Check your water parameters regularly, since the tank is quite fresh and slowly rise the salinity. with time. Good luck. Marco.>

Brackish Tank Nitrite Trouble.. /Neale    4/6/11
Dear WWM Crew,
I recently set up a 55g brackish water tank, about four days ago actually. This will be our first Brackish tank though we are fairly well versed in FW aquaria. It is being cycled with six Sailfin Mollies. We plan, at a later date, to add more Mollies.
I have a few questions for you guys.. First a few more details. I use well water as we are located in the country.
<Should be fine.>
In our tank we maintain a constant 80 degrees, nitrates at 20 ppm, (which after testing our water straight from the tap we find to be normal and consistent) ph is a bit neutral for Mollies at a 7.0 (also maintained consistently in the well water) which brings me to my first question: What is the safest most efficient way to slightly raise the ph without causing undue stress on my fish?
<Marine aquarium salt mix should do this automatically, so I wouldn't worry about it. Assuming you use enough marine aquarium salt mix rather than plain vanilla "tonic" or "aquarium" salt, i.e., the stuff sold for marine aquaria, the pH should be raised to about 7.5. If you still find the pH is too low, add 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) per 5-10 US gallons/20-40 litres of water. You should find this works very well.>
I did expect to lose some during cycling but so far all seem to be doing more than fine.
<Yes; Mollies are extremely hardy in brackish water, and widely used to mature marine tanks in the past for precisely this reason.>
Our salinity is a bit low as we want to have a few plants, though we may change our minds as the Mollies happily destroy them.
<Hmm do try plants Mollies won't harm. I'd recommend a few Crinum bulbs and some Anubias and Java fern mother plants as the basics. Vallisneria is another excellent brackish water plant. These will thrive up to around SG 1.003, which is the optimal for a planted brackish water tank. It's about 6 grammes per litre, or 0.8 ounces per US gallon, marine salt mix in the water.>
It has a constant (bearing in mind the tank is Very new) sg of 1.005,
<Bit high, and liable to stress your plants.>
bringing me to my next question: How swiftly would you advise raising the salinity for we've about given up on plants and are leaning more towards a higher salinity so as to have a bigger selection of truly brackish fish.
<Hmm now, if you want plants, aim low, SG 1.003 is ideal. That's fine for brackish water fish that don't enter the sea. So things like Mollies, Orange Chromides, Knight Gobies, Glassfish, Wrestling Halfbeaks, Spiny Eels, etc. will all thrive here. Only go higher if you plan on the big, marine species such as Monos and Scats and Colombian Sharks.>
Our water is very, very soft and low alkaline, next question: How can I safely and efficiently over come these obstacles?
<See above.>
But my most important question is: I am having trouble with Nitrites. They are NOT in my well. They are however very present in my tank though the fish are showing no signs of health issues, yet.
<Would try another test kit, if you can. Also try not feeding for a couple of days. Nitrites should drop to zero within about six weeks, possibly slightly longer in brackish water tanks where the salinity is fairly high.>
Despite several fifty percent water changes (which are a big hassle to keep up with temp and sg)
we have not been able to lower the nitrites at all. Actually it seems to get worse. Every check on my well water says no nitrites. Could this be caused by the decoration in my tank i.e. rocks, gravel or wood?
As I said our water is not ideal for Mollies, same with anything, that can be overcome. I am however stumped as to why my nitrites remain high despite best efforts to eradicate them. Am I doing something wrong?
<If the Mollies are fine, I'd merely cut back food to half rations, and do you usual 20% water change in the weekend. Let nature takes its course re: cycling. Salt detoxifies nitrite, so the risk to your Mollies is very low.>
We've been reading WWM articles on brackish tanks and are still new and learning. Any information and help would be so appreciated. We know what a beautiful tank it could be but are stumped as to how to proceed. Thanks again, Kayleigh
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Tank Nitrite Trouble..   4/6/11
Thank you for the wonderful information.
<Glad to help.>
As for keeping a planted tank we have decided to go ahead though we do plan on sticking to one plant species for a more natural feel. <Cool.>
We will be setting up a 29g for the Mollies and letting it cycle for sometime before adding. Upon reading more about Brackish livestock I have about decided that a nice school of Bumblebee Gobies with plants would be quite attractive.
<Can look lovely, especially the schooling species Brachygobius aggregatus, if you can get it. Most are territorial though, so they mostly chase one another about rather than school together. In any case, SG 1.002-1.003 is ample.>
Again thanks for all the help! WWM has been more than helpful in our quest for healthy tanks and stock. Any tips or warnings about the Gobies or potential tank mates would be appreciated.
<BBGs are easy to keep, except [a] they jump out of uncovered tanks; and [b] are tricky to feed. Won't take freeze-dried or flake foods. Frozen, fresh and live foods essential.>
Have a good one!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Tank Nitrite Trouble..   4/6/11
Excellent! The Gobies will do nicely as we've had some finicky eaters in our past fresh water tanks! Thanks again and a bunch!
<Cool. Enjoy your fish! Neale.
Brackish Tank Nitrite Trouble.. /BobF   4/6/11
Dear WWM Crew,
I recently set up a 55g brackish water tank, about four days ago actually.. This will be our first Brackish tank though we are fairly well versed in FW aquaria. It is being cycled with six Sailfin Mollies. We plan, at a later date, to add more Mollies. I have a few questions for you guys..
First a few more details. I use well water as we are located in the country. In our tank we maintain a constant 80 degrees, nitrates at 20 ppm, (which after testing our water straight from the tap we find to be normal and consistent) ph is a bit neutral for Mollies at a 7.0 (also maintained consistently in the well water) which brings me to my first question:
What is the safest most efficient way to slightly raise the ph without causing undue stress on my fish?
<Mix in "some" (a few teaspoons, experiment) of baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) in new change-out water... very safe, effective to a pH of about 7.8>
I did expect to lose some during cycling but so far all seem to be doing more than fine. Our salinity is a bit low as we want to have a few plants, though we may change our minds as the Mollies happily destroy them. It has a constant (bearing in mind the tank is Very new) sg of 1.005, bringing me to my next question: How swiftly would you advise raising the salinity for we've about given up on plants and are leaning more towards a higher salinity so as to have a bigger selection of truly brackish fish.
<About a thousandths of specific gravity (0.001) a day maximum>
Our water is very, very soft and low alkaline, next question: How can I safely and efficiently over come these obstacles?
<The obstacles? Your water softness and low Alk.? Please read here:
and the two articles linked above re water hard/soft-ness>
But my most important question is: I am having trouble with Nitrites. They are NOT in my well.
<... this system is days old, cycling>
They are however very present in my tank though the fish are showing no signs of health issues, yet. Despite several fifty percent water changes (which are a big hassle to keep up with temp and sg) we have not been able to lower the nitrites at all. Actually it seems to get worse. Every check on my well water says no nitrites. Could this be caused by the decoration in my tank i.e. rocks, gravel or wood?
<Possible; but much more likely fish wastes from food...>
As I said our water is not ideal for Mollies, same with anything, that can be overcome. I am however stumped as to why my nitrites remain high despite best efforts to eradicate them. Am I doing something wrong?
<Maybe. What have you done to spur on cycling? Read here:
We've been reading WWM articles on brackish tanks and are still new and learning. Any information and help would be so appreciated. We know what a beautiful tank it could be but are stumped as to how to proceed.
<Welcome... take your time... keep reading. Bob Fenner>
Re: Brackish Tank Nitrite Trouble..   4/6/11
Thanks for the info. Since posing this question to the crew my husband and I have been steady reading and learning. As I said we are new to Brackish tanks. I am certainly going to keep reading and we are planning on adding another sizeable Brackish tank and my husband is becoming very interested in marine tanks. Thank you for all the info. Have a good one!
<Thank you, B>

How to reduce Nitrates in a Brackish water tank? (Plus some Poecilia (Mollienesia) spp. problems)  8/21/10
Hey WWM,
Thanks to you all, in advance. I am hopeful that you can help me
<Will try.>
I have a few questions, so here goes. I have 2 tanks, one is 26 g BW and the other is 10 g BW (hospital tank) Specific Gravity in both tanks are 1.007 and all livestock are various types of molly fish.
<This is rather a high salinity for just mollies. If nothing else, I'd take the specific gravity down to 1.002 to 1.003 at 25 C/77 F over the next six weeks. Do it slowly so that the filter bacteria have time to adjust. The chief benefit will be that you'll be able to add some fast-growing floating plants tolerant of slightly brackish water -- Indian Fern, Brazilian Pondweed and Hornwort all spring to mind. These will absorb nitrate as they grow.>
Hospital tank has 1 Dalmatian (male). Community tank has 1 baby black Sailfin, 2 Gold Sailfin, 1 Dalmatian, all of which are male. I don't want any breeding to take place and they seem to get along pretty well except for the occasional chasing... My levels in BOTH tanks are as follows:
Ammonia=0, Nitrites=0, Nitrates=40 (give or take a few).
<This nitrate level is actually not that serious. In freshwater, yes, it would stress Mollies. But in brackish water it's fine.>
I've done several water changes on both tanks, cleaned the gravel through and through and I can't seem to get the Nitrate levels down much...I'm at a loss.
<Firstly, what's the nitrate level of your tap water? If your tap water has a nitrate level of 20-30 mg/l, then realistically, the average community tank is going to have a nitrate level of around 40 mg/l even if properly kept. But if your tap water has a nitrate level of 0, but the nitrate level in the aquarium stays around 40 mg/l, then yes, there may be a problem. Overstocking and overfeeding are two commonest explanations, but other problems include excessively dirty gravel and poor filter maintenance -- canister filters in particular being described by some as "nitrate factories" if left uncleaned for more than 6-8 weeks at a time. On the other hand, water changes remove nitrate, as does denitrification in deep substrates and rapid plant growth.>
I know they have products to reduce ammonia. Are there any products that can help reduce Nitrates?
<Not really economical. Nitrate-removers are primarily for use in marine tanks where the nitrate level is already very low, typically 5-10 mg/l. Furthermore, marine tanks aren't heavily stocked and usually have some sort of denitrification going on anyway, usually via live rock, deep sand beds, or the use of algae in refugia. Either way, all the nitrate-remover needs to do is add a "polish" to the water. Your situation is completely different, and the use of nitrate-removing media will be extremely expensive. Strong lights and fast-growing plants will do the job much more cheaply, which is why nitrate-removing media are almost never used by aquarists keeping freshwater systems.>
Are there any other suggestions you have for reducing these Nitrates? The Dalmatian molly in the hospital tank is darting and shimmying sometimes (this one is recently purchased. I am acclimating him to the salt and quarantining him to prevent contamination with my community tank) Could this behavior be due to Nitrates?
<I doubt it; I'd look more towards things like bullying between males and consequent stress.>
I am treating this same fish for Ick, he has been bouncing off rocks, heater etc. I am treating him with Aquari-sol.
<If you really do have a specific gravity of 1.007, you shouldn't have Ick. So something is amiss here. Check you are using your hydrometer properly. Try weighing out the salt before use. For SG 1.007, that's 11.5 grammes of marine salt mix per litre of water; for SG 1.002 you need 5 grammes per litre.>
I have raised the temperature to 84 degrees. Could this shimmying be due to the Ick or more likely the Nitrate level or something else?
<Hard to say.>
I don't want to overmedicate, but I don't want the fish to suffer either.
Any suggestions would be helpful.
<Hope the above is useful.>
One last question. One of the gold Sailfin mollies in my community tank is starting to act different. He is not as active, his colors are beginning to dull some, and he seems to float more than swim, if that makes sense. Sometimes, he seems to be more vertical than horizontal when floating. The Dalmatian molly was recently added to the community tank and tends to chase all the other fish. This has been going on for 2 weeks or so and the gold Sailfin didn't seem to mind. I am wondering if the Nitrates in the tank could be causing these symptoms or possibly something else? Is the fish stressed out due to chasing? They don't fight or anything like that. Just chasing. Any suggestions??
<Chasing *is* fighting, and within the confine of an aquarium chasing can lead to stress. I personally do not recommend keeping Mollies in tanks less than 30 gallons in size, and even in 30 gallons, that'd be 1 male, 2-3 females. I'd never keep two males because there'd be dominance issues. If I wanted a group of males, I'd keep at least 3, and in mixed sex collections, 3 or more males to at least twice as many females.>
The diet of all fish consists of Veggie Flakes, and about once or twice a week I feed them either dried bloodworms or brine shrimp for some extra protein. I read on your site that too much of bloodworms or brine shrimp can build up and cause a internal bacteria. Are the symptoms I described synonymous with symptoms of this type of infection/bacteria?
<Not really.>
I appreciate all your help. You guys rock!
<Yes we do, though Bob F. more than most, by all accounts.>
Thanks again,
<It does need stating because it's often not said by retailers, but Mollies aren't easy fish. Never have been. They're very beautiful, which is why people keep them, but their social behaviour is awkward and their environment requirements demanding. I suspect a 26-gallon tank with more than one male Molly will never work, and you'll eventually end up with just the one. Cheers, Neale.>

Water parameters, my first brackish tank. 4/20/10
<Hello Matt,>
My first brackish tank just got done cycling. Nitrate, Nitrite and ammonia all at 0. It is 20G, I have an Eheim 2232 canister on it.
<All sounds fine.>
It has a 1 inch bed of aragonite sand.
<Rather too much. By all means mix 10-20% coral sand or aragonite sand into a plain gravel or silica sand substrate. But there's no need to make the entire substrate calcareous. Indeed, as you've seen, this will raise the pH
substantially, making it difficult to grow plants. Those species that prefer slightly brackish water may well find an unusually high pH disagreeable.>
The PH is about 8.2-8.4.
<High, but not dangerous.>
Ideally where should my Hardness and Alkalinity be in this system.
<For low-end brackish water species, like Figure-8 puffers and Bumblebee gobies, pH 7.5, 12-18 degrees dH/200-300 mg/l CaCO3 will be fine.>
They both seem very high to me when I test them, always at the upper side of my test strips. The exact numbers escape me right now, at work, but when I look at my test strips both those values are pinned far above the recommended 80-120 value that it says for freshwater. Any recommendations on where my kH and gH need to be at to maintain a stock of bumble bee gobies and a single puffer in this brackish tank?
<Wouldn't worry about it. Remove about 80% of the substrate, and stir in plain vanilla gravel or inert smooth silica sand, whichever you like best.
Assuming your tap water isn't too soft, then just adding marine salt mix will take care of the pH and hardness automatically.>
Sorry, I forgot to add that I have lowered my salinity from 1.005 to <1.002 using water changes over the last week because the bumble bee gobies at the LFS are kept in freshwater.
<Unnecessary. Keep the specific gravity where you want it, I'd recommend 1.003 at 25 degrees C, which is about 6 grammes per litre. This will minimise the stress on the filter bacteria by exposing them to a constant salinity. From SG 1.005 upwards you start getting marine rather than freshwater bacteria, and if you keep messing about with the salinity, the filter will never really settle down. So, choose a salinity and stick to it! Each time you buy some fish, acclimate them to the new salinity across half an hour or so. This will not stress them in the least.>
This did not seem to drop my gH and kH that noticeably. What is the proper range that I need to maintain to sustain healthy brackish aquaria?
<Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Water parameters, my first brackish tank.
Great recommendations, I was going to do a mix of aragonite and gravel before I started this tank but decided to go with just sand.
<There's nothing wrong with using all-calcareous sand if you're keeping high-end brackish water species like Scats, Monos or Colombian Shark catfish. But for the low-end stuff that lives in places where the influence of the sea is slight, it tends to be overkill. Remember, you're essentially after a freshwater aquarium that has something like 10% the salinity of the sea. Water chemistry needs to be more on the moderately hard side than very hard.>
I went home last night and checked everything to make sure, the sand bed isn't even an inch, more like .5 to .75. Also I tested the water parameters last night, first time I've tested them since the big water change I did this weekend, MUCH MUCH better.
<Do understand pH will go down at water changes and then up between them.
When you remove water, the pH drops because the carbonate hardness is reduced. Over the next week or two, the calcareous substrate reacts to, and dissolves in, the water, and the carbonate hardness and pH go up. So just because a water change resets the pH, doesn't mean it'll stay down.>
PH is right at 8.0 and hardness and alkalinity were so much better. It seems to me like all the excess calcium and what not just needed a couple water changes to straighten itself out.
<No, it's not straightened itself out at all. The chemical reaction between the water and the calcareous substrate is an "equilibrium reaction", if you remember what you learned at school. The substrate reacts to water changes.
Every time you do a water change you reset the system, and the equilibrium is disturbed and then returns. While hardly likely to upset the fish, it may cause problems for the filter bacteria. I strongly suggest removing 80% of the calcareous substrate if you're wanting a low-end brackish water system. There's no need to dispose of the excess substrate. Indeed, you'll get better value hanging onto it. Why? Because over time the calcareous media in the substrate will get so covered with algae and bacteria it'll stop reacting to the water. Think of the candy coating around an M&M, and how that coating stops the chocolate from melting. Same basic idea. By having a reserve of clean calcareous substrate, you can throw out 50% of the old substrate every year or two, and replace this with a mix of clean gravel and calcareous substrate. Alternatively, you can replace the entire substrate with something inert, like gravel and/or silica sand, and then use a cupful of calcareous substrate in a media bag stuffed into the Eheim filter. Every 6 months you can throw out this stuff because it'll be too dirty to react with the water, and replace with another cupful of clean calcareous sand. You can play around with this and use less or more calcareous substrate until you get precisely the pH and carbonate hardness you want. A much more predictable, professional approach.>
I'm hesitant to mess with anything right now, everything seems perfect.
<"Seems" is the operative word here. Trust me.>
I will continue to monitor and if anything changes I will swap out some of my sand bed with plain sand. The water quality is amazing, clearest bluest water I've ever had. Man these Eheim Ecco pro filters are wonderful.
<Yes, these are good filters. While Eheim products may seem expensive, especially in the US where prices seem absurdly high even compared to the UK, Eheim products to tend to work well and last a long time, twenty years even.>
I'm running Purigen and a half unit of Chemipure in it along with Eheims biological media and its remarkable how well they work. I just started in this hobby not too long ago and I would not have the success I'm having if not for this website. Neale you have been excellent. Thank you so much.
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Water parameters, my first brackish tank. 4/20/10
Best way to remove some of the aragonite sand without disrupting the water too much?
<If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well, it were done quickly -- to quote from Macbeth. In other words, bite the bullet. Move the fish to another bucket, drape a tea-towel over bucket to stop anyone jumping out, lift out any rocks, use a net to scoop out the substrate, add the new substrate, stir it all together, and then put the rocks back, and the put the fish back.>
I know I should probably turn off my filter until it settles again, but the way I remove gravel is with a net, that's not going to work with removing sand.
<Would leave the filter running. No real point to switching it off. Would remove the fish though. Have managed to kill a pufferfish by replacing substrate. They tend to settle down on the bottom when alarmed, and in the cloudiness of the water, it's all too easy to bury them. Same with the gobies. It'll take 24-48 hours for any silt to settle out, but it will do.
Change 25-50% of the water if you want, that'll help. So will rinsing off the media in the filter 12-24 hours after doing the substrate change, just to rinse away the silt. Have replaced substrates MANY, MANY times. It sounds a big job, but really isn't. Actually, some fish LOVE it when the water is cloudy. My Glassfish always seem very happy, and you can see just how invisible they must be in the wild.>
Your thoughts? Again, thanks for the info.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia and nitrite problems, with a GSP 4/16/08 Hello, <Hi Eric, Pufferpunk here> I started a 10 gallon tank about six months ago. I bought a spotted puffer and every thing went well. Two and half months ago I decided to buy a 50 gallon tank with a whisper power filter 300 gallons per hour, a submersible 200w heater. <Good move--adult GSPs need a minimum of 30g. He should be very happy in that large tank.> I made the mistake of putting my fish in before the tank cycled. Luckily he made it. <A single, young GSP in a 50g tank shouldn't prove to be too much of a problem, as his wastes will be diluted & will cycle within a month or two. As long as you do proper water changes, the puffer should be fine.> Three weeks ago I took my water and had it tested. <Best to have your own test kits: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH & a hydrometer to check the specific gravity for your brackish puffer.> My ammonia nitrate and nitrite levels had all dropped. I bought two more fish. What they called leaf fish and a wild card. <Hmmm... never heard of a fish called, "wild card".> I was going to get another fish so I had my water tested first. My pH had dropped to 6.2 and my ammonia level was up. <Good thing you didn't get another fish!> They suggested I buy pH test, pH up and Amquel. I treated the tank with the Amquel and the pH up. My pH didn't go up. I went to a different local fish store that had been around for a long time. I brought them some tank water. My ammonia was still up pH was down. They sold me some pH up buffer. My pH has gone back up. I also bought a freshwater test kit. My ammonia is still up. This was the point when I started doing the thing I should of done first research the web. <Definitely! While Amquel may put a Band-Aid on the problem, it is only a temporary fix & actually will hinder the cycle. pH buffers again, are only temporary & will cause the pH to fluctuate, which is more stressful than a low pH. The best way to solve your problem is with large, frequent water changes.> I was only changing 5 gallons of water a week. 5 days ago I changed 5 gallons of water. 3 days ago I changed 10 gallons. I'm still not testing good. My pH is 7.5. My ammonia is 1.5ppm. <Anything over 0 is very toxic to your fish, same with nitrite.> My nitrate is 15ppm. And now my nitrite is at 0.25ppm. I used a API liquid test kit. I was thinking about changing more water but afraid if I change to much I might mess up the biological filter. What should I do? <The biological bacteria necessary to establish a balanced system does not live in the water column. It is on surfaces: glass, decor, substrate, filter media. You can change as much water as necessary to keep the levels from being toxic. (I change 90% weekly on my discus tank.) You may want to start with 25%, 2x/day & then do 50% or more daily, until the water parameters are good.> Upon researching WWM I realized that my puffer should be in a brackish tank. <Correct> Had a couple of questions. My tank is a glass tank, will the salt corrode the silicone seals? Not at all. These are the same tanks used for keeping marine fish.> I have had my puffer for 6 months he is still doing fine. Do I need to change my tank to brackish soon to save my puffer? <The answer is yes. 6 months is a very short time for a fish that can live into it's teens. If not kept in brackish water (high-end BW as an adult), it will develop a stressed immune system, causing problems with disease & shortened lifespan.> I do realize that the other two fish will have to go into another tank. <You are right. They will not appreciate any salt at all (well, I can't say anything about the "wild card" fish...)> Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. <In case you didn't see this article on GSPs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm Another good site on puffers: www.thepufferforum.com. Enjoy your puffer! If fed & cared for correctly (eats crustaceans) you should have a darling pet for years to come. ~PP> WWM site has been helpful. Thanks Eric

Ammonia in a puffer tank 4/8/08 Hello, I have a cycled 20 gallon long aquarium with 2 filters, a BIO-wheel 150 and a Whisper 10. The tank is at a SG of 1.003-1.004, temp is 80F, Ph 8.0 and is moderately planted with Anubias, Val.s, Java fern, Sags and Onion plants. The tank inhabitants are a grape sized F8 Puffer , 2BBG's and a 2" Knight Goby. I feed the tank once a day sparingly, frozen krill or frozen bloodworms, enough for the puffer to supplement his daily snails and leave manageable scraps for the gobies, who all seem to be getting plenty of food, plus the Knight Goby munches algae quite a bit. I always rinse the frozen cubes in a net and never let the "juice" into the tank. All the fish are active and healthy. <All sounds fine, but Knight Gobies are predatory and will eat the Bumblebee Gobies sooner or later.> My question is this, I have read/known that ammonia and nitrites are supposed to be 0 in an established tank and that nitrates under 10 (I think), and that weekly WC of 25%-30% needs to be done. I test my ammonia in the AM and it is fine, but after a few hours following feeding I get traces of ammonia, under .25, but still present. <You *must* have zero ammonia, 24/7, 365 days a week. If you're detecting any at all, it means one (or more) of three things: overstocking, under-filtering, or overfeeding. You can add a 4th item to that list in terms of maturity; cycling a tank the old fashioned way takes at least 6 weeks, possibly slightly more for a brackish tank.> So I have been doing daily WC's of about 2 gallons. I haven't let a daily go since I noticed this, because I was afraid to let it go till the next AM to recheck, since I have never witnessed this with any of the other tanks I keep, but this is my first puffer tank and I wanted to be cautious. <Wise.> Is the ammonia supposed to be neutralized instantly with a properly working bio filter or does it take an hour or two? <The ammonia comes from the gills of the fish as a waste product, and isn't so much from the food itself as the background excretory product of normal metabolism. It is directly equivalent to urea production in your body: the kidneys constantly remove the stuff and convert it into urine, and not just when you're eating. In other words, the amount of ammonia produced by the fish is more or less constant (there may be some variation, but it isn't between "none" and "lots"). Under normal circumstances, the amount of ammonia produced by your fish will be exactly equal to the ammonia consumption of a healthy biological filter, so that the net effect is that zero ammonia is detectable at any given moment.> I was wondering because I have no nitrite readings. <If you have high levels of ammonia but no nitrite, it usually means you have inadequate, or at least immature, biological filtration. What's happening is that the filter is converting only a small amount of ammonia into nitrite, and that nitrite is converted immediately into nitrate. So review filtration, in particularly concentrating on how much biological media there is, how old it is, and how you are looking after it (washing biological media under a hot tap for example will kill the bacteria).> Also, even though I have 2 filters with a combined gph of 250, is the BIO-wheel model I have's ( the 150) actual BIO-Wheel too small to colonize an efficient colony or should there be enough nitrifying bacteria throughout the tank, the gravel, plants and filter pads that I do not need to upgrade to a larger BIO-wheel model given my gph? <Gravel and stuff just sitting on the bottom of the tank will have next to now useful effect. Undergravel filters work because the water is pushed through a deep bed of gravel; gravel by itself presents too little surface area to the water to help without the pump. For a 20 gallon tank, any decent filter with a turnover of at least 100 gallons per hour should be adequate for these sorts of fish. So it's more likely an issue with maturation or maintenance than the mechanics of the filters themselves. Do also throw out junk like carbon and "ammonia remover", and instead make sure the filter is optimised for biological and mechanical filtration. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrates 05/24/08 Hey guys! I have a couple of questions for you tonight. First off thanks for your help so far; you've helped me and my fish so much! I have a ten gallon brackish system (SG 1.008...I'm slowly raising it to 1.010) with 6 mollies. <Too small for Mollies; Mollies are big, active fish that eat a lot and are very sensitive to poor water conditions, particularly rapid pH changes and nitrogenous wastes. Mollies are a "squeeze" even in a 20 gallon tank. The sheer number of questions we get about sick Mollies should make the point that lots of people keep these fish *the wrong way*.> Three of them are black mollies, one being a fry, 1 silver mollie, and two golden cremecicle lyretails (according to LFS). I have had a problem with high nitrate levels for weeks now. The highest level I measured with Mardel 5 in 1 Test Strips was 40ppm. I know this is outrageously high so in combination with weekly water changes (around 25%) I have added Amquel+ in hopes of lowering the nitrate levels. <40 ppm (or mg/l) nitrate isn't all that serious. For aquarists in urban areas where the water has been treated umpteen times before it comes out the tap, 40 ppm nitrate is pretty normal. In freshwater tanks this amount of nitrate is very toxic to Mollies, but in brackish water you should be okay, particularly if you're otherwise keeping the water quality good (i.e., not overfeeding, doing big water changes, and providing ample filtration). Adding "nitrate removing" chemicals to the water is a total waste of time/money in this system. I'd make the point that SG 1.005 is ample for Mollies, and if the saving on salt expense means you can do twice as many water changes, this would be a massively more useful way to manage your aquarium. Mollies certainly don't need SG 1.010 to do well.> For three days in a row I added Amquel+ to the water 1 teaspoon a day and the nitrates went down to about 5ppm. I then stopped the Amquel+ treatments. This was Thursday the 13th that I started the Amquel+ treatment. My male cremecicle lyretail has the shimmies (I think). Anyway he will randomly shake like he is having a seizure. I am guessing this is from the nitrate levels. <Yes, "the Shimmies" is associated with environmental stress, but I honestly doubt nitrate is the issue here. I'd be reviewing ammonia/nitrite levels first, and then looking at things like temperature and pH stability. Social behaviour, i.e., aggression, could also be an issue.> Right now he is separated from the rest with a tank divider. <Likely only stressing him further...> My black fry Squirt is with him...she is bigger than the size of his jaws so I am not worried about him eating her and just in case I have to breeding plants in there so she can hide. My other fish seem well, however, Nile my black male mollie picks on Ira, my smaller silver molly. I'm not sure if this is aggressive courtship or irritability due to insufficient water quality. <Male Mollies are highly aggressive, and in a 10 gallon tank there's no way your males are getting along. In the wild a single male will be staking his claim to all the females within a given area, and all other males are forcibly driven off. Under aquarium conditions we can squeeze males into a single volume of water, but there's no guarantees that the dominant male will tolerate the weaker males. Indeed, the usually don't, so we wind up with fish that are getting chased and nipped all the time.> The pH is at 8.2, the alkalinity is 240, the hardness is around 250, and the nitrites are 0. What's up with the nitrates, why do they keep rising? <Your fish constantly produce ammonia, and the filter turns that into nitrate. Water changes is how we reduce the nitrate level. If you find the nitrate levels are too high, then there's three things you can do: [1] more water changes; [2] keep fewer fish; [3] make sure you aren't overfeeding.> I have another tank, 20 gallon long that I'm cycling. Its been set up for two weeks now at SG of 1.010. I just started put in a small amount of fish slaked in to kick start the production of good bacteria. <I'd simply take 50% of the media from the old tank and put it into the new tank's filter. Instant cycling, if done properly (i.e., the filter media is kept wet and not exposed to large changes in temperature or water chemistry.> I plan on waiting two more weeks before I transfer my adult mollies to the bigger tank. What should I do in the meantime about the nitrates? Should I keep Blade (the one with the shimmies) separated? <I wouldn't.> What do I do about Nile? <You can't do anything; he's expressing absolutely normal behaviour for the species: attack all males in his line of sight!> Am I doing the right thing with my new 20 gallon tank? <A bigger tank is always better! Easier to keep, nicer for the fish, less likely to go wrong.> Thank you!! Any advice is greatly appreciated! Alia <Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Nitrates 05/24/08
Thanks Neale! I added the fish to the new tank. Blade, the one with tbd shimmies, looks fantastic! Healthy appetite, moving around, no signs of shimmies...Nile is surprisingly timid in the tank. When I first put him in he hid by the filter and under the fake rock formation. I'm sure he will resume back to his dominant ways with time. I think my nitrate problem was caused by over feeding. Mollies are very good at convincing you that they haven't eaten enough. How often do you recommend I feed the five of them and how much? Thanks so much!! Alia <Hello Alia. Feeding fish the right amount can be difficult... most of us have trouble estimating the right amount of food to keep ourselves healthy! The old rule of thumb is that fish should be given as much as they can eat in 1-2 minutes. But I feel that wildly overfeeds most fish given that what we offer tends to be high protein, high calorie food. So instead be more observant at feeding time. For a Molly about 5 cm/2" long, 2-3 flakes half the size of your little fingernail should be ample. This is especially true if there's algae in the tank for them to graze. Fish should be fed once to twice per day, but rarely is feeding adult fish more often than this helpful. Fry can receive up to six meals per day, but these should be small since they're stomachs can't hold much. Moreover, water quality will plummet if you don't do this. The aim is that the fish should maintain gently rounded bellies but should never look fat or bloated. A healthy fish should be lean but not hollow bellied. Underfeeding a fish is difficult because of their "cold blooded" metabolism. They don't have a constant demand for calories that would be used to maintain high body temperature (as is the case with mammals). Fish can simply adjust their growth rate and metabolism to however much food is about. This is a useful trick that allows many species to last for very long periods (weeks, even months) without food. Skipping meals once a week isn't a bad idea at all, and Mollies will simply revert to being algae grazers on such days, helping to keep your tank algae-free in the process. Remember, Mollies evolved to eat algae, and so green foods are the best. You can buy algae flake formulated just for them, but failing that almost any soft green food will be taken too, such as Sushi Nori, blanched curly lettuce, thinly sliced cucumber, tinned peas, cooked spinach, etc. Also remember to use some high fibre foods periodically, such as brine shrimp and daphnia. These help "clear the system", keeping them in tip-top health. As anyone who's kept them knows, Mollies are outstanding fish, but it's a myth that they're "easy" and they really will repay all the extra efforts you taking. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Nitrates 05/25/08 Wow thanks a lot for your advice! It just so happens that I have Sushi Nori! I currently have them on live bearer fish flakes and I admit I have been over feeding them :(. That's a great idea about skipping a day of feeding! I'll have to try the make your molly meals. I have frozen brine shrimp and blood worms. Do you know if they expire...if you keep them frozen? <Greetings. Wet frozen (as opposed to freeze dried) food should last for many months. While the food might be 'safe' after more than six months, some of the vitamin content will inevitably be lost, just as is the case with frozen human food. So very old frozen food is perhaps best disposed of. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Nitrates 05/25/08 Perfect! Thanks so much Neale! <You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Nitrates 05/23/08 Hey guys! I have a couple of questions for you tonight. First off thanks for your help so far; you've helped me and my fish so much! I have a ten gallon brackish system <Hard to keep such small volumes stable...> (SG 1.008...I'm slowly raising it to 1.010) with 6 mollies. Three of them are black mollies, one being a fry, 1 silver molly, and two golden cremecicle lyretails (according to LFS). I have had a problem with high nitrate levels for weeks now. The highest level I measured with Mardel 5 in 1 Test Strips was 40ppm. I know this is outrageously high so in combination with weekly water changes (around 25%) I have added Amquel+ in hopes of lowering the nitrate levels. <Not a long-term fix> For three days in a row I added Amquel+ to the water 1 teaspoon a day and the nitrates went down to about 5ppm. I then stopped the Amquel+ treatments. This was Thursday the 13th that I started the Amquel+ treatment. My male cremecicle lyretail has the shimmies (I think). Anyway he will randomly shake like he is having a seizure. I am guessing this is from the nitrate levels. Right now he is separated from the rest with a tank divider. My black fry Squirt is with him...she is bigger than the size of his jaws so I am not worried about him eating her and just in case I have to breeding plants in there so she can hide. My other fish seem well, however, Nile my black male molly picks on Ira, my smaller silver molly. I'm not sure if this is aggressive courtship or irritability due to insufficient water quality. The pH is at 8.2, the alkalinity is 240, the hardness is around 250, and the nitrites are 0. What's up with the nitrates, why do they keep rising? <... metabolic processes, bottlenecks in small volumes... a lack of conditions that foster denitrification... See WWM re> I have another tank, 20 gallon long that I'm cycling. Its been set up for two weeks now at SG of 1.010. <Ah, good> I just started put in a small amount of fish slaked in to kick start the production of good bacteria. I plan on waiting two more weeks before I transfer my adult mollies to the bigger tank. What should I do in the meantime about the nitrates? <I'd move all the fish and the existing water to the new/ 20 gal. system...> Should I keep Blade (the one with the shimmies) separated? What do I do about Nile? Am I doing the right thing with my new 20 gallon tank? Thank you!! Any advice is greatly appreciated! Alia <And read on WWM re Brackish Systems... Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrates, Molly, BR sys.  5/23/08 That is great news! I was anticipating the day when I could add my mollies to the big tank! I just added the five adults! They look happy and are exploring ever nook and cranny. <Ah, good> I heard mollies like airstones, so I have added two. I wanted to add two more mollies. I was thinking two female Dalmatian mollies. I want to keep the bioload down so I think seven adult mollies would be plenty for a 20 gallon tank. Am I correct? <Yes... plenty...> I also am wondering about adding Olive Nerite Snails and a couple blue leg hermit crabs (ibanarius tricolor). How many of each would be suitable for a 20 gallon? <Perhaps a handful of snails, two hermits> And can I add some to my 10 gallon that I am currently housing my black molly fry in/ quarantine tank? <You could> One last question...I have an Aqueon Power Filter 20(125 gallons/hr) and I am wondering about getting a protein skimmer. I have read about the wonders they do for reducing waste and unwanted nitrates. What kind, if any, should I get? Can/should I get one for my ten gallon or could I even use my ten gallon as a refugium? <I would skip trying to use a skimmer here... hard to be useful/functional on small volumes of brackish water... the refugium idea is a very good one> Thank you so much! I can't express how beneficial and helpful your site is! Alia <Am glad we both find it so. Cheers! Bob Fenner>

Re: Nitrates, Molly, BR sys. 05/24/08 Thanks again for your help! I'm going to order the snails and hermit crabs. I have been looking at your site about refugiums. I haven't found how to set one up. How do I go about doing that. Right now my twenty gallon tank is on top of a table and it is on the right side of the table because if it were any more to the left it would be exposed to the light from a window. Underneath the table I have my tank supplies including buckets for water changes, cleaning supplies, etc. Is there a way I can set up the refugium under these circumstances? Thanks so much!! Alia <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marsetupindex2.htm The second tray down. Bob Fenner>

Chemistry, I guess... Brackish and plants  11/9/07 Hi Guys, <Greetings,> I have a 40 gal. tank that has 5" of 50% Floromax and 50% Fluorite. I let it cycle for about 6 weeks before adding plants. This eventually is to be a brackish tank with the following flora/fauna: (1) bunch Egeria densa (1) bunch Cabomba fucata (1) bunch Myriophyllum simulans (2) Nomophila corymbasa (1) Cryptocoryne ciliata (1) Nymphoides aquatica These plants were added individually a week ago in 2" net pots. <Hmm... not a fan of pots. Most plants do better freed from pots even if supplied in them. Gently trimming any damaged roots also helps stimulate new growth and prevents decay.> After these species grow and offer some shade, I'd like to add: (2) Bacopa caroliniana Some? Sagittaria subulata (2) Microsorum pteropus Some? Fontinalis sp. (2) Anubias barteri v. Round Leaf Then, when these species grow out, I will add: (6) Caridina japonica (2) Jordanella floridae (a pair) Then I will need to slowly bring the SG to 1.006 and add: (5) Poecilia sphenops (1 male, 4 females) [these are already at 1.006 at the LFS] Done! <Raising the SG to 1.006 is overkill here and likely to stress the plants. While some of these are brackish water specialists (Cryptocoryne ciliata for example) most are not, and will not do well above SG 1.003. I tend to recommend planted brackish water tanks be set up to SG 1.003 and then the plants left for a few months to settle in. You'll soon learn which are flourishing and which are not. Brackish water fish are fine at this salinity, so no harm is done. Acclimating Mollies from SG 1.006 to SG 1.003 is something that takes 30 minutes in a bucket via the drip method or similar. Likewise acclimating Jordanella to brackish water from fresh. Amano shrimps are a bit tricky, because invertebrates on the whole are less tolerant of rapid changes in salinity. There are exceptions of course, the true estuarine invertebrates like Shore Crabs and Nereis ragworms, but Amano shrimps don't fit into this category. Yes, they are common enough in brackish water marshes, and yes, the larvae live in the sea. But Amano shrimps don't live their whole lives in estuaries, and my guess is you'll need to acclimate these over several hours.> Lighting is at 192 W PC, half 6700K/10,000K "sun" light, half 420/460 nm actinic with moonlight. Not ideal, I would like to replace the actinic with another "sun" lamp. I'm not big on the blue lighting. maybe for corals, but.. <Plants are generally much more adaptable to different types of light than corals (i.e., algae). Plants are, of course, far more advanced and sophisticated organisms. Because plants have a range of pigments, they can adapt to whatever wavelength is available. Up to a point, at least. So provided you have sufficient light (around 2 Watts per gallon) most plants will adapt to whatever lamps your hood contains. Something between 5500 and 6500 Kelvin seems to work well.> Temperature is running at 77* F, but I'm trying to get it to 75* F. pH 7.7, but I would like 7.5 <Trivially unimportant, and probably impossible to do given the calcium carbonate content of marine salt mix.> NH4 0.00 NO2 .025 <Too much.> NO3 2.5 dKH 3.3 <Ideally needs to be raised to at least 5 degrees KH, but water changes and marine salt mix should take care of this.> My tap water is hard (12 dKH extrapolated from GH) in SE PA and I add it after a week or so of aeration and circulation. <OK.> I have a media bag with aragonite (an attempt to raise dKH naturally, I don't like chemicals) and activated charcoal in my filter (converted skimmer) with 2 mesh pads on top of each other that I rotate (clean one at a time) for continuous biological filtration. <Carbon filtration is pointless in my opinion. Replace that part of the filter with crushed coral. That'll take care of the hardness.> 10% water changes weekly. <I prefer 50% weekly, but this does rather depend on water quality. If the nitrates stay low, then your regime may well be viable.> I would like my tank water to be in the neighborhood of 11dKH. <Brackish water fish don't really care that much. The marine salt mix, and a bit of crushed coral in the filter should maintain adequate carbonate hardness. Unless you observe wildly fluctuating pH levels, then your hardness content may well be sufficient.> Do I just need more time/maturation, or is there something I'm not doing properly? <Seems fine.> Does Fluorite/Floromax buffer to the acid side? It's hard for me to believe that my tap water is that hard/alkaline (we lie on a limestone bed) and when it hits the tanks it loses all that carbonate. <Plants will remove carbonate if there is insufficient carbon dioxide in the water. This "biogenic decalcification" is rapid and potentially serious.> I can deal with the couple of degrees of temperature, but I need to lower the pH by about 0.2 and significantly raise the alkalinity it would seem. <Why? What do you think you will gain by such a small pH change? Carbon dioxide fertilisation may well be useful in this instance. But otherwise the thing with brackish water fish is to remember they are adaptable. They don't have narrow, fixed chemical parameters. Provided you do adequate water changes an thereby ensure the pH stays on the basic side (between 7.5 and 8.2) and the nitrate levels stay relatively low (less than 50 mg/l) they will be perfectly happy. Your Mollies, for example, can adapt between freshwater and salt water in about 30 minutes, and Jordanella do just as well in soft and acidic water as in mildly brackish. This is obviously completely different to keeping a marine aquarium, where maintaining water conditions within a very tight band of values is essential.> I would appreciate your thoughts. Also, your site is fantastic. I've researched lots of aquaria here and have done well with most of them. (My bad on the ones that went south.) Thank you so much for your efforts. Mike <Good luck, Neale.>

New brackish tank. Salinity for Ceylon puffers, 17 Feb 2007 Hello! <Hi Anna. Marco here> <<Yes... he's new! RMF>> I've been reading through your pages and haven't yet found my answer! I  have my 20g tank set up for 2 Ceylon puffers. <Too small in the long run> My local store told me that 2 teaspoons of salt per 10 gallons of water is appropriate, but I am now having my doubts after reading several different sites. <Well done. Two teaspoons per 10 gallons is not enough.> My puffers are happy and healthy and eating very well!! So I dont have concerns for their health yet, but I would like to know, if I need to adjust their water to keep them healthy as long as possible?   <They will need high end brackish or marine water and live more than 10 years. Please read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i1/green_spotted_puppies.htm. Care for your puffers is the same, although they are getting slightly larger than T. nigroviridis> They are so funny, If I put in one chunk of food (muscles and  crab are their favourites) they will both go for the piece and have a tug-of-war lol They have got to be my favourite fish!!! Many thanks for your help, Anna <Welcome>

KH hardness for a Tetraodon nigroviridis ... GSP    4/8/06 Dear Crew, <Catherine> Hello again, I have a GSP about an inch big in a 120 litre tank. just a quick one ! I have just tested the KH of my puffers water and it is 13dKH which is 232.7ppm KH do you know if this is suitable ? <Yes... as you likely are aware this is a brackish to (with size/age) marine species... and these values are in line with such water> Also, I cant seem to translate oz per gallon into specific gravity, <Ounces of? Salts? For mixing, actually pre-mixing, best to use a "given" volume of both/all... blend, circulate in a dedicated container and store for a week or more before use> apparently I'm aiming for about 3 oz per gallon (imperial), but to get to this I have to go up 1.002 a day but I don't know how much that would be in oz per gallon, math was never a strong point of mine. Thank you Cat <... Mix outside the system... Please see the Brackish subweb on WWM re this species, brackish water preparation: http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/BrackishSubWebIndex.htm Bob Fenner>

Making Brackish Water   1/26/06 Good Evening!! <<Good Evening to you too.>> Is it alright to use the same salt used in saltwater tanks, for brackish water tanks?   <<Not only is it alright, but it's the only way to make brackish water.  Lisa.>>

Gill Flukes, Nitrite, and an Alternative to Formalin 1/25/2006 Dear crew, <<Luis>> I have a spotted bracket <<Brackish>> water puffer fish. <<Do you know the species?>> His name is Fatso and he is about 7 inches. <<How old is he? My guess he is a Tetraodon fluviatilis, or Ceylon puffer.>> He has been healthy for the most part. I recently had a problem with Nitrite. I resolved the problem thru water changes. <<Please keep an eye on water changes and feeding to avoid this.>> However, two days ago I noticed the puffer was a bit lethargic and yesterday it did not wanted to eat his frozen shrimp. <<Defrosted, I trust.  Your puffer is probably quite stressed from ammonia and nitrIte exposure.  What SG is the water?  NitrAte and pH readings? Tank size?>> I had to give him a treat (live crab) to have him eat something. He was also trying to "scratch" using the ornaments and the filtration tube.  Today he was still been lethargic at times and I noticed that one of his gills was closed. This concerned me and let me to search his condition online. Reading about this in your website has led me to believe that "Fatso" is having problems with gill flukes. <<Possible.>> The recommended treatment seams to be formalin bath and/or dips. Unfortunately, someone else in your website noticed that Formalin is banned in California.  So here are my questions: 1)What alternatives do I have to the formalin treatment here in California? <<I would not jump to treating with Formalin anyway.  Is his gill closed all of the time?  I think a freshwater dip/bath matched for pH and temperature will help here.>> 2)How exactly does a medication bath work with a puffer? (since its not wise to take them out of water) <<Remove from the tank with a bucket or scoop of some kind, never a net as they may puff with air that they cannot expel.>> Thank you in advance for your help, Luis <<Please do get back to me with the questions asked above so I can help you more thoroughly.  Glad to help.  Lisa.>>

Micro-lift Bio Blue in Aquarium? 10/6/05 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Do you know if Micro-lift Bio Blue would be okay in my brackish water aquarium? It is supposed to keep the water clean and blue. It says its safe for animals, but what about fish in an aquarium? Thanks in advance. <I don't suggest adding any unnecessary chemicals to a fish tank, or pond. Regular weekly water changes are the best way to keep an aquarium clean & crystal clear. What kind of fish are you keeping in your brackish tank? Are you using marine salt & measuring with a hydrometer? ~PP> 

High Ammonia and Nitrite Levels  10/10/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a brackish water tank with 3 Columbian sharks and three other fish.  <How large is this tank?  Columbian sharks can grow quite large (up to 18") & require at least a 75g tank, just for them.  What are the other fish?> The tank is now about a month old and has just passed a case of ICH last week.  I have been testing the ammonia and nitrite levels for the passed 3 weeks and they have been very high.  It started with the ammonia levels being at 5ppm and the nitrite being at 0.25ppm.  I have added ammonia lock and performed weekly 30% water changes.  I have just performed another test and the ammonia is reading 2ppm exactly what is was prior to the last water change, however the nitrite level has increased dramatically to almost 4ppm!!  Why is this happening?  <It sounds like your tank is cycling.  You cannot just add a bunch of fish into a freshly set-up tank.   See: http://www.piranha-fury.com/information/default.php?id=cycling http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/cyclingbasics.shtml http://faq.thekrib.com/begin-cycling.html http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm> I have been vacuuming the gravel with each water change and washing the tank ornaments, Is this a good practice?  Or am I removing the good bacteria from my tank? <For now, I would do huge water changes to keep the toxic ammonia & nitrites from poisoning your fish, while not disturbing the bacteria growing on your decor, tank walls, gravel, or filter.  You can try to add AmmoChips to your filter & AmmoLock to the water.> I would like to know how I can manage my tank and bring the levels of ammonia and nitrite to zero.   I suggest you buy some of the good bacteria you need here: http://www.aquaria.info/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=8859&start=90&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=  You will need to register at that site, as that is the only place to get it right now.  If you do get a hold of some Bio-Spira, make sure you do a 90 % water change, before you add it, if you have been using any ammonia-removing products.> I am aware that the tank needs to build its internal biological filter.  I have been told that it takes about 4 - 6 weeks for this process to take place, is this correct?  What should I do in the mean time to keep my tank in good shape?   <Water changes, water changes, water changes.  Try to keep the toxic levels as low as possible, so as not to cause permanent damage to your fish.  Eventually, the "sharks" will prefer to be in very high levels of BW or even better, SW.  ~PP> I appreciate your help and input in this manner.  

High NitrItes  4/1/04 I changed out 60% of the water four days in a row before I added the Bio-Spira. Do you think there could still be enough Fritz residue to cause this kind of effect on the Bio-Spira. <I can't tell you for sure if this is even the problem, but I would think it the water changes would have definitely removed most of the product.> I just had my husband run the nitrite test again. He got the same result I did. Way off the chart. I have checked and checked and checked because this just doesn't make any sense to me either. I used the nitrite test (NO2) from my Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Master Test Kit (which doesn't contain a nitrate test -- I had to purchase that one separately). I also used my nitrite test (NO2) from my Kordon Aqua-Tru Master Test Kit. Both tests use the "color chart" method. The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals nitrite test chart ranges from blue=0ppm to fuchsia=5ppm, whereas the nitrate test ranges from yellow to red. The Aqua-Tru nitrite test chart ranges from clear=0ppm to fuchsia=.75ppm, whereas the nitrate test chart ranges from clear to red. I ran both types of nitrite tests on my tank twice and on my tap water twice all test results were fuchsia. <Sure sounds like the right tests.> I don't see how my Puffers are still alive if their nitrites are still too high to read after diluting the aquarium water by 75%. I will admit that they are pale but they aren't gasping for air and they are active. Should I change out 60% to 80% of the water tonight to keep them that way or will I be sucking out all of the Bio-Spira along with the nitrite? How in the world is this possible? <I had a BW tank crash once & for 2 weeks I was doing 80% daily water changes & adding Amquel & AmmoLock & still couldn't get the levels down at all.  I didn't understand how I could do an 80-90% water change & still have ammonia & nitrItes off the chart, until I found a dead carcass (a skeleton by then) inside an ornament that was fouling the tank.  Any chance of that?  (I'm grasping at straws here.)  After finding the body & adding B-S, the tank was testing normal within 48 hours.  During that time, my ammonia was over 8 & any nitrItes over 5.  I know that the only thing that kept the poor puffy's alive were the water changes (sometimes 2x/day).  They have survived 2 other crashes in their lifetime & seem to be doing great still.  I would keep doing water changes, but don't disturb the gravel or filter, just in case the B-S has attached itself to it.  The most important thing right now is to try to keep the levels down.  Search every inch & lift all ornaments out of the water.  That was my problem--because there was still a little water in the tank & the suction wasn't broken inside the ornament , so the carcass & water inside got moved with the ornament when I cleaned under it.  Again, I'm just trying to consider everything I can think of.  Weird that your ammonia is 0 though.  Maybe your ammonia test is really off, but you're using a FW one?>   Karen <Let me know how it goes.  ~PP>

High Nitrite Levels 3/31/04  Hi,  <Hi, Pufferpunk here>  I have a long 30 gal. 36" 13" with 2 Arius seemanni ~4" each 2 Angels ~5" each and 2 Plecos ~7" each. I have an Emperor 280 filter with about 6 oz. of carbon. My nitrite is elevated ~1 ppm and my Nitrate is at ~40-50ppm ammonia is 0. I have been doing reg. water changes of ~5 gal. every week. There is about 1 tsps. sea salt per 2 gal. of water. Why wont my Nitrite go down. It has been like this for about 3 months.  <You have way too many large fish. Your tank cannot handle the bioload you have in there. Just those Plecos alone (which will be growing to 18"), are huge waste producers. The angelfish & Plecos do not like salt. The other 2 catfish you have in there are brackish water fish that will grow to 18" each also. For now, I would up your water changes to at least 50% (which is what I do on all my tanks weekly anyway) & set-up a BW tank for the catfish (they will eventually need close to a 100g tank). The 30g is ok for the 2 angels, but maybe you could trade in those Plecos for some dwarf species.  Thank You -Joey  <Good luck with your fish ~PP>

Bio-Spira Isn't Working?! 3/31/04  Sorry to be a nuisance, but...  <Never!>  I used the Fritz Turbo Start 700. It appeared to work at first. The ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings all dropped substantially. Unfortunately, they all rose again after 48 hours. I went back to making 60% water changes daily. :(  A friend of mine came to town and brought me some Bio-Spira.  <Lucky you!>  I put it in my tank. The ammonia and nitrate levels dropped to near nothing. The nitrite levels, however, rose beyond measure. I changed 50% of the water and gave the tank a second dose of Bio-Spira. I took another reading again and the ammonia and nitrate and still near nothing but the nitrite level is still off the chart. I diluted it by 75% to see if I could get a reading and it was still off the chart, so it is more than 20ppm. I checked my tap water directly and it has no traces of nitrites. I also used a second type of nitrite test to make sure the one I was using wasn't faulty but it had the same type of reading. I am at a loss as to what on earth is going on? How can the nitrites be so high when everything else is so low? Do you have any idea what is happening? Should I keep doing 60% water changes? Should I put some Amquel+ in the tank?  <A couple of things I am thinking: Are you absolutely sure you don't have those tests backwards? NitrItes & ammonia should be 0. NitrAtes should be 20, or below is even better. I think you have the nitrItes & nitrAtes mixed up. If you are positive you are not mixing them up, then maybe the Fritz product did something to the Bio-Spira. Please check again & write me back. Make sure you address it to Pufferpunk, as I generally answer puffer Qs & they may put your Q into someone else's box. (Not that someone else couldn't answer this Q, but I am familiar with your problems already.)  I am now out of Bio-Spira and cannot get anymore until Marineland starts producing it again sometime this summer. The store my friend got mine from only had one left. (Sigh).  Please let me know if you have any ideas. And thanks once again. Karen  <Don't panic! ~PP>

Brackish systems and ammonia Hello PP, <Hi there> Sorry the link didn't work. For some reason they never seem to work in my emails. Maybe its a Mac thing. Ananda posted the following... "I actually don't know which type of ammonia test will detect free ammonia after Amquel+ has been added to the tank. As far as getting the Bio-Spira... the stuff has to be refrigerated, so it would probably be better if you can pick it up at a store. If you can't get Bio-Spira locally, you may want to consider boarding your puffers at an LFS until you get the tank cycled.  Meanwhile, with an ammonia reading of 3.0, a 60% water change is not out of line...." <I agree with Ananda.  I've done as much as daily 80-90% water changes to keep ammonia & nitrite from getting to toxic levels.  I don't see any problem w/ordering Bio-Spira online.  The Fish Store has a good rep for getting the product to you still cold with ice packs.> In response to that -- I live in a very small town in Western KY. There is one small PetSmart here and two VERY tiny "Mom & Pop stores." The people who run the stores have very limited knowledge of anything other than freshwater fish and do not carry, and cannot order, Bio-Spira. Unfortunately, this also rules them out for boarding my Puffers. I changed 30% of the water again tonight. I will try changing 60% hereafter and continue using the Amquel+ until I can find some refrigerated Bio-Spira on the Internet. I went to http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html earlier today. They are out of the Bio-Spira for freshwater until sometime this summer. They do, however, have Bio-Spira for saltwater. I am guessing I need the type for freshwater though. <right> I will try emailing the owner as you suggested. How much water will I need to replace to dilute the ammonia remover enough for the Bio-Spira to work? <I'd do an 80-90% water change.> If I make 60% water changes daily, is it possible that my Puffers may pull through this? <Maybe, I as I mentioned before, I have had success w/large water changes when my BW tank crashed 3 different times.> So far their only symptom appears to be paleness. Instead of their normal chocolate brown they are more of a caramel color. <Keep an eye out for rapid breathing.  It would also be a good idea to add an airstone, as ammonia depletes the water of O2.> The only thing I can think of that could have brought this on was my conversion of the tank from freshwater to brackish. I did it over a two week period. I raised the SG from freshwater to 1.005 brackish and the PH from 7.0 to 8.0. <Hmmmm, not too sure about that, since I usually recommend raising it .002/week & that really isn't far off at all.> Once again, THANK YOU! Karen <I hope they pull through for you!  ~PP>

Crashed BW tank  3/20/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Hello again. I'm having a huge problem with my Figure-8s tank. Would you mind reading the following posting and let me know your opinion? Thanks. Karen http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/thread.jsp?forum=14&thread=17771 <Although that link didn't work, I found your post.  I agree with Lorenzo--you need to get Bio-Spira into that tank as soon as possible.  If you have to do 80% daily water changes to keep the ammonia & nitrites down, then by all means do so (I have done this on a BW tank that crashed 3 separate times).  Although upon diligent investigation, there were actual reasons for my tank crashing each time: 1st-after 2 weeks of daily 80% water changes, ammonia >8, nitrites >5, I finally found a skeleton of a small fish inside an ornament, 2nd-left the fish feeding to Hubby, while gone for 5 days--he decided the puffers looked hungry & gave them an extra shrimp, which I found fungused & rotting when I got home, 3rd-I raised the SG too fast.  Each time, after fixing the problem & doing another 80% water change, I added Bio-Spira & the tank tested 0 within 24-48 hours each time.  The 1st time I tried B-S though, it didn't work, because I had used all kinds of ammonia removal products, which will prevent B-S from working.  You can try ordering B-S from this site: http://fishstoretn.com/bio_spira.html, but if they say they are out, email the owner of The Fish Store, Bernie, at: fishstoretn@aol.com.  Sometimes he can scrape up some for folks.   Good luck & remember--water changes, water changes, water changes  ~PP>

Which test kits for brackish? Hi, I was wondering which test kit to use to track my pH, ammonia, nitrate & nitrite for a new brackish water tank set-up. Freshwater or saltwater test? Thank you. Gina <Ananda here. I use saltwater test kits when there's a chance that the freshwater test kit results might be thrown off by salt. Some kits use the same reagent for both freshwater and saltwater, but have different color charts. With those, if the tank s.g. is above 1.002 or so, I use the saltwater color charts. Hope this helps! --Ananda> 

Brackish PH 2/08/04 Hi- <Hi John, Pufferpunk here> Question about Brackish aquaria critters (gobies and puffers) and PH. Do they prefer things more alkaline or more Acidic- <BW puffers (there are also FW puffers) & other BW fish, prefer a pH of around 8.  This is accomplished by using crushed coral or aragonite as substrate.> and can you regulate this sort of thing in a semi-salty environment? My tap water is naturally hard and most salt water aquariums have coral - which makes the water HARDER still. Does PH matter to these fish?   <Not as important as ammonia & nitrites, but w/the correct substrate, pH is not a worry.> What about crustaceans? <There won't be any crustaceans in a puffer tank, they'll be puffer food.> Thanks, John <You're welcome ~PP>

Test kits for brackish tank Hi, <hi, Pufferpunk here> All of the test kits I can find are for fresh or salt water.  I am using the jungle quick dip 5 right now, which has readings for both fresh and salt, but no brackish.  the colors come out a bit weird for both, but pretty much on.  I want something more accurate, is there? <I use the liquid test kits from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.  All FW tests are ok to use for BW, except ammonia--use the SW.> Also, it looks as though one of my puffers may have some sort of cataracts?  His eyes are a bit cloudy, he bumps into things, and I have to feed him with a pick.  What can I do about this? <Sometimes puffer's eyes look cloudy, depending on how the light hits it.  If you are concerned, Melafix added to the tank can help.> Thanks, Dave <You're welcome--Pufferpunk>

Help cloudy water? <Ananda here answering the brackish questions...> I seem to be plagued with cloudy water in my brackish set up. It consists of a white very fine mist. <I've had that problem before. It usually seems to be due to insufficient biological filtration.> The tank is 5'x2'x2 (150 UK gallons) Filtration is 1 large Eheim external <How many gallons is this rated for? Brackish systems require more filtration than freshwater systems. I prefer to go with filtration rated for systems at least double the size of my brackish tanks. I think you need more bio-filtration.> 1 402 internal power head (75 gal hr) 1 2000l pond pump in a sump <Some concern here...your pond pump may include some materials that are not salt-tolerant. Please do check with the manufacturer on this.> <Including the size of the sump, how much water turnover do you have?> Water conditions are as follows Nitrite=0 Nitrate=25ppm <Ah, there's an indicator of the problem...check your ammonia levels, too.> Ph=7.4 Dh= >21 Sg. 1.004 I have been told that the mist could be protein and that I am overfeeding, I used to feed a pinch of flake one pinch of dried river shrimp once a day in the morning and 4 cubes of frozen in the evening. I have reduced this to 1 pinch of flake once a day and feed the puffers individually with tongs 1 small snail each. I have combined this with changing 26gals of water every other day with carbon in my canister filter. I have yet to see any serious improvement. Although after water change there is a small improvement, this is soon lost. <I suspect the media in your canister filter may be harboring the nitrates. I would suggest removing the media and rinse it in tank water, then returning it to the filter, and see if that helps.> I am finding this very frustrating as I have three other set ups all of which are fine these include a 3' foot tropical community 2' small African cichlid and 1 2' setup for a juvenile Nile puffer. <Glad to hear your other tanks are doing well and that your puffer has his own tank.> Am I over feeding if so how much should I feed? Would I be better off setting up a skimmer and increasing the salinity to 1.010? <I don't think you are overfeeding now, but I would get some additional bio-filtration first. Protein skimmers will work to some extent on specific gravities as low as 1.006 (I tested that once with a DIY co-current airstone driven skimmer), but are vastly more effective at higher specific gravities.> And finally would this protein leech it to the substrate and decor (lime stone and sand) <Porous limestone may absorb some chemicals, but I am not sure if that is what you're asking.> Livestock consists of 6 mono argus all these about 1.5 inches in height, 6 mono sebae from 1.5>4 inches in height. Plus 1 large scat approx 9", 1 small scat 3", 1 1" green puffer, 1 1" figure of 8 puffer and finally 3 small knight gobies 2". <You will eventually need a larger tank to house all of these fish.> Please help yours gratefully

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