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FAQs About Water Changes for Marine Systems 2

Related Articles: Marine Water Change, The "Perfect" Water Change Regimen? by Scott Fellman, Water Changes, Exchanges by Anthony Calfo, Captive Seawater Quality, General  Marine Maintenance

Related FAQs: Water Changes for Marine Systems 1, Water Changes 3, Water Changes 4, & FAQs on Water Changes: Rationale, Gear/Tools, Frequency/Amount, TechniquesAutomation, Trouble/shooting, & Water Top-Off Systems, Evaporation/Water Make-Up, Treating Tapwater Marine Water QualityMarine Plumbing

Salt Mixing Problems (12/26/2003) Dear Sirs, <Steve Allen tonight> You're doing everyone a great service w/ all the information you've provided, the help I've received from this site has been invaluable and has kept me form calling it quits on what can be a frustrating hobby. Thanks. <A labor of love for all.> My question is this: I purchase RO/DI water from a chain known as 'Water -to-go.' <In the long run, you will save big $ by buying your own unit. Break-even is usually around 6 months for most people doing proper water changes.> They were recommended by my LFS. No phosphates, no nitrates, etc. Water out of the bottle is approx 5.7 pH, no measurable dKH. When I mix new salt I'm shooting for  8.3 pH,  Calc approx 380 ppm, Alk 10-12 dKH and SG of  1.022-1.024. <all good numbers> If I mix the salt directly w/ the bottled water @ 1/2 cup/gal , I end up w/ a ph of 7.97-8.05 (Milwaukee Smart meter), SG 1.020, 11 dKH (Salifert), Calc 330 ppm. Not bad but ph is too low. If I use Seachem Reef Buffer first and bring the ph up to 8.25-8.3 before I mix the salt, I end up w/ alk of  14-16 dKH and  a slightly lower ph 8.15 or so. Alk now too high. If I mix salt directly w/ no buffer but increase the sg to 1.024, I get a ph of 8.10 and alk of 13 dKH. More salt raises ph but alk is raising faster. I tried cheating a bit yesterday by adding Kalkwasser to mix (read you should only add suppl. to tank)  and that seemed to cure all problems. I was able to raise ph over 8.3  and keep alk around 11 dKH w/ sg 1.022. The amount of Kalkwasser was about 1/32 tsp to 4 gals of mix.  This morning I measured ph of mix (overnight heating and running powerhead in 20gl Rubbermaid can)  and found it dropped to about 8.01. Not sure if something went out of solution or precipitated out. Anyway I'm a bit lost on how to get suitable parameters w/ the RO/DI water  available. I have used IO, Red Sea and Reef Crystals w/ pretty much the same results. The Seachem buffer  is fine for ph  but somewhere the alk is getting an extra boost. I have also tried to add buffer last to get ph right but again the alk gets close to 16 dKH. Any help would be appreciated. Respectfully, Sam    <You might want to aerate the water more. Are you using the venturi on the powerhead?  Here's what seems to work for me. I make my own RO 25 gallons at time. I use an air stone right from the start. It takes about 10 hours to fill the garbage can. Then I put in a powerhead and add the Seachem Reef Buffer at the recommended dose. Then I mix in IO to a SG of 1.024. I then let it circulate/aerate/stabilize for another 12-24 hours before doing the water change. Works great.> <BTW, what is the alkalinity of your tank before a water change. Could be it's low enough that it needs the alkalinity boost of 14-16 you're replacement water has. Alkalinity tends to get depleted. Do read the articles on alkalinity on WWM. There is also a great series of articles about alkalinity available at http:// www.advancedaquarist.com   Hope this helps.>

The Real Thing-Or The Synthetic Thing? (Salt Water) Hello Gang- <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Merry Christmas ! I hope Santa was good to everyone ! <Sure was! Hope your Holiday was great!> My question is on the use of "Catalina Water" vs. synthetics like Instant Ocean. I read an article by Dr Shimek (sp?). He makes the case for use of Ocean Water obviously. Have you heard anything on this product ? Is it in wide use among hobbyists ? Pros/ Cons ? What do you recommend ??? Thanks and Happy New Year !  Dan <Well, Dan - I have used the product a number of years ago, and did not have any bad results from it. However, in recent years, I have heard various concerns posed by hobbyists regarding it's purity and source (some people have implied that the water is collected not too far off shore, with potential exposure to pollutants, etc. Perhaps these concerns are unfounded, but I prefer the control afforded by many of the good synthetic mixes and good source water. Seems kind of funny, but I recommend synthetic for many, many hobby applications over natural sea water. In general, we have many concerns about the use of natural sea water in home systems, which can be found throughout the site (use our Google search feature using the key words "natural sea water"). Hope this sheds a bit of light on the topic. Regards, Scott F.>

Water changes and trace elements 7/15/03 What percentage of water should I change weekly.  Right now I am changing 5 gallons a week (65% actual water volume). <I don't follow your math for this 75 gallon tank. At any rate... the water change schedule will be dictated largely by water quality and the bio-load. Somewhere around 15-20% weekly for a minimum would be nice though> Also, wouldn't the water change only replenish depleted trace elements in the amount of water I change?   <correct... but we cannot/should not assume that all of the trace elements in the remaining water are depleted. The rate of uptake will vary considerably> It wouldn't help the rest of the tank would it?   <as per above... its only an issue if the demand exceeds the pool of reserve of said elements in the remaining water (not likely with a light/proper bio-load and regular water changes)> Thanks again.  James <best regards, Anthony>

Water changes >Hello and thanks for a great site!!   >>Good morning, Vincent, Marina here.  You're quite welcome. >My question is regarding water changes...I have a 90 gallon reef tank, with plenty of corals.  I had a RO unit for making water but got rid of it because it seemed like I was wasting so much water just to get 20 gallons of 'clean' water.  I would run it for a day or two and all the excess would just go down the drain...also my water bills went up quite a bit so I really felt it was a big price in terms of wasted water and additional water bill cost.- Now I use DI water by making it with the Tap Water Purifier from Aquarium Pharm...but again the cost of new cartridges really adds up.  I tested my tap water out of the faucet and it had no copper and about .7 ppm of phosphate.   >>Ouch, that phosphate is problematic. >I didn't test for chlorine because I assume it's in there.  (The water company says its 1.4-1.6 ppm).  If I premix my water with just tap water and high quality salt, put in some dechlorinator type products (like Novaqua and or Amquel) and then vigorously circulate the water for AT LEAST a week before adding it, would I be taking a big step backwards from the RO or DI water change routine?   >>Well, if you were fish only, I would consider it more seriously, but since you have so many corals, I REALLY wouldn't risk it. >I am sure there are other things in the tap water but will circulating/aerating it for a week or so get rid of or neutralize these?   >>No. Will the phosphate still be there and if so, what if I add a Phoszorb product to the mixing tank?  This seems like it will accomplish the same end and produce high quality water...or am I wrong?   >>It should help, but I wouldn't expect a "high quality" water.  Mixing longer does nothing to improve overall water quality, it only ensures that the salt is well-mixed in.  What if you simply began purchasing the RO/DI water from an outside source?  That way you wouldn't be wasting your own water.  Personally, with what I think you've invested in this system, I would not go to tap water that shows any phosphates.  You should be able to get a full report on your municipal water from the local water district, and that will tell you what they test for and what came up (more than likely more accurate than what we can test for, too).  For instance, did you know that in some districts a nitrate level as high as 40ppm is perfectly acceptable for potable water?  Now, what's going to happen when you toss that into your tank (unless you have a rockin' DSB).  Get the complete test, then go from there is my suggestion.  Best of luck!  Marina

Water Change Schedule Hello, I have a 75 gallon saltwater fish only tank. The actual water volume is right at 65 gallons.  My substrate is crushed coral and I have no live rock.  Please tell me what percentage of water I should change each week.  Thank You, James <Howdy James,  there is no set rule on water changes, it is a lot like the other aspects of this hobby, what you need (or need to do in this case) is affected by what you have already or what you plan to keep.  If your tank is overcrowded, or has a bunch of messy eaters you will need to perform larger water changes, or more frequent water changes.  Your best bet is to test your water frequently and take this information to adjust your water change schedule.  I like to change 1/4 of my tank volume weekly.  Best Regards, Gage>

The 5% Solution? (Frequent Small Water Changes) Hi guys, <Hey there! Scott F. with you today!> For the second time today! It's RESEARCH MONDAY for me apparently:-)I was in one of my LFS. During the course of conversation I mentioned that I make 5% weekly to 20% bi weekly  water changes. He said that routine was not as effective as a Monthly 50% change. All this is assuming tank is healthy and balanced Here's his logic: He said: say you have "100 ppm's of Nitrates" just for an easy number, in the water when you change it. By changing 50% of the water monthly you eliminate more dangerous elements such as Ammonia, Nitrates etc. He said you eliminated 50% of those "100" when you did the big water change. He said if you are doing several small water changes over the month you are not eliminating as much waste and toxins. <Let's look at this his way...If your nitrates are already 100ppm, of course larger changes are required to dilute the nitrate. I think he's missing the point: The reason of the smaller, frequent water changes is to keep nitrate and other organics from ever accumulating in the first place! I'll be the first to admit that two 5% water changes per week are not going to reduce outrageously high levels of dissolved organics. If you start out right with diligent husbandry techniques, you won't need to do massive, potentially traumatic water changes at longer intervals> I thought yes, but your nitrates, ammonias etc are not always at their highest levels when you decide on a monthly routine.  I am still in the several small/month camp. <Well, I think that you are in the right camp...I think that if more people embraced this technique, they would see more consistent, high quality water conditions, and would find themselves having to take a lot less "corrective" actions, or using a lot fewer "additives" to keep their systems in good shape.> I am no scientist (that's my husband's area of expertise) but it just didn't seem quite as simple as the sales guy wanted it to be. <It isn't! LOL> I am trying to not to be swayed from what has been working for me. What is you argument for the several or against the large monthly? <As outlined above...To me, one of the most important things that we can do in closed systems is to provide stability. Stability involves water changes that keep pace with the organic waste production in your system. Check out this link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm If anyone is skeptical, I'd encourage them to set up two identical systems, and change the water in one of them twice weekly at 5%, and the other once per month, at a larger volume...You'll see the difference for yourself, believe me. I've done this!> Thanks Again for all you help! Thanks, C.Evans <Any time! And never hesitate to question any idea...That's how great new ideas are born! Regards, Scott F> - Small Water Changes - Why are smaller more frequent water changes better than one larger one a month?  Thanks again, James <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/scottsh2ochgart.htm Cheers, J -- >

Scott's H2O Method Aloha, Bob! <Hey Scotter!> I felt that a number of our readers would benefit from a better description of the theory behind my oft-recommended twice-weekly water change technique. I think that quite a few people are embracing this idea with great success...Or, at least humoring me for my constant clamoring to perform them! <Great> Attached please find a brief piece that I composed summarizing this concept. Perhaps it might make a good addition to the FAQs on maintenance? <Mmm, can't "open"... can/will you resend either just on this tray... or maybe as a "Word" or RTF formatted text?> Hope all is well with you and Di.  Looking forward to being back "home in the Islands", myself  later this summer...If our paths don't cross in Kona, perhaps I'll see you and Anthony in LA next month? <Do make it known if you can use the place here (about 1,300 ft. Mauka of Kailua. And let's plan on meeting altogether if you'd like... on a day when Anthony is in southern Cal. Think we're planning on a day to L.A. to pimp books...> Keep it wet! Scott F. <Yowzah! See you soon. Bob F>

Water change article ...take III Ok.. this is it for the third time.  I am apparently "Outlook challenged." Scott F <Got it this time! Will post later today. Thanks Scott. Bob>

Holding Pre-mix Bob,>>Hi Darrin, not Bob, but Marina here this morning. >I forgot to ask you that in your book you mention adding tank water to your pre-mix, but don't give a ratio. >>Darrin, I'm not sure for what purpose one would use tank water for, would be so kind as to email back telling me which chapter/page this is on?  (I'm assuming "Conscientious Aquarist", yes?) >I have about a 30 gal container, do I add a gallon, or a few cups etc. to this amount?  Also my pre-mix water lasts about 3 weeks before I siphon my 3 week old fresh water from my other 32 gal container in to my salt container to mix. >>If this is the water that you're using to do water changes, there's no need to mix so long beforehand.  While I've never held saltwater this long, I've believe that, just like freshwater and a vat of grape juice left on its own, it can acquire microbes that can cause a spoilage of sorts (if left open).  If you're using this for something else just let me know. >I have noticed a very slight smell to the water after a few weeks. Even though I have a head in each one, is there a chance the water is "stale"? Thanks again. D.Mack >>Hhmm. I would hold the opinion, not having smelled it, that it's not necessarily a pleasant smell, and that if so, there's a good chance.  I suggest you not hold the newly mixed water for not quite so long.    Marina Tap water purifier hookup Dear Crew: I am thinking to hook up a auto top up system using a tapwater purifier and a float switch... but I do not know how to hook it up... the tapwater purifier is a single unit, 1 chamber with ion exchange resin and carbon (from aquarium Pharm). it has a faucet water input (so it hook up on a faucet drain) .. and I would like to force the water to that purifier before it goes into my tank... I also have a float switch, the switch is connected to a plug, which is able to turn on anything. how do I mechanically hook this up?? <I would recommend that you fill a container (bucket, tank, etc) with filtered water, hook a small pump to the float switch and set the level you want. When the water drops below the desired level the pump will turn on and deliver enough water to raise the level back to the desired level. Make sure you do not allow a reverse siphon to be established as it may overflow the top off container> also, when the water is Deionized, do I need to add buffer to balance the pH??? if yes, which type? or if yes, do I suppose to store the DI water in a tank?? <Top off water (and change water) should be aerated for at least 24 hours before use. Then buffer the water to bring the alkalinity back to desired levels. Hope this helps, Don> Eric

Water changes Dear sir, If I test my water in my reef tank and it tests out at zero across the board And everything looks and growing fine, Why do you have to do water changes? Does this go against the theory" if it isn't broken don't fix it". I do add trace elements and calcium. Thank you  Chuck <More like "do pre-emptive changes to avoid consequences you can't or aren't measuring". Imagine the solids you're adding in the way of foods... and their accumulation effects on density, organic concentration build-up... the differential solubility of salts in the water, some leaving easier than others... regular water changes keep such accumulations, drifts in composition in check. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm Bob Fenner>

Tap Water Hello all, I recently purchased a python to aid me in the water changing process.  Since the python connects directly to the faucet, can I add the new tap water directly to the tank and then add dechlorinator, or do I have to put the new water into a bucket, dechlorinate, and then add to the tank. Thanks, J.P. <You will need to put the water into a bucket and dechlorinate it before it's added to your tank. Ronni>

Re: Python vacuums.. this was posted in the daily FAQ's... "Hello all, I recently purchased a python to aid me in the water changing process.  Since the python connects directly to the faucet, can I add the new tap water directly to the tank and then add dechlorinator, or do I have to put the new water into a bucket, dechlorinate, and then add to the tank. Thanks, J.P. <You will need to put the water into a bucket and dechlorinate it before it's added to your tank. Ronni>".... with all due respect, that is not true if we are talking FW (I would hope so, lol), in my home tanks, my 350 FW tanks I had at my store and in the hundreds of times I have seen this discussed on the net (used to run a thousands of members FW site), you can indeed add the Dechlor directly to the tank as the python is filling it, as long as PH and temp is acceptable of course, just thought I would mention this....Riot... <Thank you for this input. You and I's experiences are similar. For many years, tanks our service companies used to add raw tap into systems, adding dechlorinators, dechloraminators first to the system... with impunity. Bob Fenner>

55 Gallon Reef Tank question. Question.  I have a 55 gallon reef tank.  I am finding that the water in my sump is always low.  I lowered the flow rate on my return pump to see if that would keep more water in the sump, because the water level in my sump was getting dangerously low.  I think that water is evaporating from my tank at a very fast rate.  I find myself adding about 3-4 gallons twice a week.  Is this normal?  How much water would you say needs to be added to a 55 gallon tank on a weekly basis to cover evaporation?  Is it just me, or is my tank spontaneously losing gallons of water a week.  I have a fully enclosed canopy on the tank and it's not by a window, so I don't understand why I have to add water to my sump every three days.  I can't lower my return pump any more.    Also, do I have to add salt to the water before adding to the tank even if my the salinity of my take is up pretty high and I'm only adding a gallon or two of water?  Will the fresh water just mix with the already salted tank water and everything be alright?  I know your not going to be happy about that, but it was only a couple of gallons, and I don't have corals in the tank yet.  Just live rock.< This does seem like a lot of evaporation, make sure your sump has a good cover on it, otherwise there's not much you can do.  When you add the freshwater you need to add it very slowly and not just dump it in.  You can do this by using small hosing like you would use on a air pump, tie a knot in it and start a siphon from the bucket of fresh water and drip it into the sump.  Then tighten or loosen the knot until you get a slow drip. Cody>

- Re: Semi-Auto Top off - Jason, <Good morning.> You were clear as far as your water change recommendation, thanks. <Oh good - sometime I worry that I prattle on too much.> Seems like I read a reply from one of the crew that said that some commercial breeders and public aquariums use a slow, constant exchange method and that it was superior, but I am convinced that I need to stick with the simpler method you suggest. Likewise, I thought that small, frequent automatic top off amounts were better than introducing larger amounts of fresh water to the system less frequently, but I am paranoid about failed float valves or float switches. <Don't blame you there...> Think I'll stick with a manual top off system as well. Can't wait to get the nuts and bolts issues out of the way soon and start talking about animals. <Sounds good.> Many thanks, George <Cheers, J -- >

- Re: Water Changes - Jason, <Hi.> Thanks for the reply. <My pleasure.> I was going strong there until I got to the point where you said your 180 can lose a couple of gallons a day. That means what I am proposing is essentially an automatic top off system using salt water. I understand that is not a good thing so it looks like I will rework this system without a drain tank and make it an auto top off with fresh RO water. <Nothing wrong with that.> I've seen lots of info on auto top offs, looks like just a float valve and a water supply. What are the tricks to setting up such a system correctly. <No tricks, just a common-sense approach. I would just make sure it's serviceable - you don't put fittings in out the way places you can't reach once everything is back together.> For what its worth, I think the system I proposed would work if the volume were greater. For instance, if evap was 15 gallons a week and I had room for two 40 gallon tanks, I could actually exchange 25 gallons. The system has a constant flow out of the sump to the drain tank (from bulkhead at water line at upstream end of sump) and from the supply tank to the sump (end of tube at down stream end of sump on the bottom near suction of submersible pump) so I don't think replacement water would go directly into drain tank. The drain line would be constantly open and of a size to handle a flow greater than the supply line can put out just to be safe. <Well my point about the gradual water change you are proposing is that if you change water at that rate, you cannot avoid the mixing of fresh salt water and that of the tank - with a constant flow into the drain tank, you will always drain a percentage of the fresh salt water.> The tricky parts are metering the constant small flow on the supply side (0.24 GPH for 40 gallons per week), especially since flow will change as the level decreases in the supply tank and controlling SG properly. I suppose as far as SG is concerned, a guy could chart evaporation over the course of a year and use that history to get pretty close in adjusting exchange water SG to avoid increasing SG and fine tune from there. Run-dry is not a problem since drain bulkhead is at 9" and the supply tank is elevated to prevent back siphon. A rectangular tank with a 24"X24" footprint holds 22 gallons at 9" but I can't go above that because of the max level in the sump and there is no way for me to go to a larger footprint or lower the drain tank so I guess this is all academic anyway. Besides, I was looking for a way to make this simpler and it looks like I may be complicating the issue. <Well... it's my opinion that you are on the right track, but I don't think the gradual addition will work as well as you think it might. I think your tank is better off with an event-type water change, where out comes 10-20% in goes 10-20% type-change - Anthony Calfo proposes a system where one would keep the fresh mix water a degree or two cooler than the main tank, and that water would be pumped directly into the tank, and then use an overflow-drain in the sump. Basically, for your weekly change, you would empty the mix tank via a pump into the main system - the cooler water would go the bottom of the system, causing excess water levels in the sump, which would overflow drain into the drain tank.> Thanks again, George Nikolich <Cheers, J -- >

- Water Changes - <Greetings, JasonC here...> I came up with what seems to be a great idea for water changes although I'm sure you will tell me that someone else has already thought of it. <Maybe so, maybe not...> Please let me know if you can see any potential problems with this idea. This is my first reef aquarium. The tank is 165 gallons and I've got a total sump capacity of 50 gallons. There is a small space behind the tank (4'X4'X4') and I thought I would stack two 25 gallon tanks there. The bottom tank would be for drain water (I have no way to plumb to a drain directly) and the top tank would hold fresh saltwater. I've figured my maximum water level in the sump to be 9" in order to accommodate the extra 15 gallons from the tank that I calculated would get there in the event of a power failure. <The word 'calculate' makes me very nervous here... I would do a wet run with freshwater as part of the leak-check process and make sure these 'calculations' bear out.> I was then going to install a small bulkhead in the sump at 9" and plumb it to the drainage tank. The top tank would gravity fresh saltwater back to the sump. <I'm guessing here that you will have valves between the two auxiliary tanks and the sump so that you will determine when it's time to start the drain process and refill...> I figure as long as the bottom tank is empty when the top tank is full and if the top tank never holds more than what the bottom tank will hold at the 9" level, I am not really asking the sump to hold any additional volume. The only weakness I see is if the drain line gets plugged, but I suppose I could size it to minimize that potential and add a float switch to stop the fresh saltwater flow if the sump level is too high. My goal would be to balance the flow of fresh saltwater to the point where I would need a refill once a week, about a 20 gallon water change. <Well.. I'm not sure 9" of water in a 25 gallon tank is going to net you a 20 gallon change - probably more like 10 gallons - you should measure this to be certain. Likewise, with the fitting at 9" between the sump and drain tank, you will not get more water than this [9"]into the drain tank without a pump. Also... if I read this correctly, you want to continually drain some amount of water into the drain tank and replace the water from the sump [at a constant rate] from the fill tank? Is that right? This makes me nervous for a couple of reasons, but mostly because it's very hard to match flow rates - very easy to over-fill or under-fill the sump and perhaps have a pump run dry. Also... if my reading of your description is correct, wouldn't you also stand to have some of the fresh mix-water going into the drain tank? I'd think you'd want to avoid that.> At that time, I would suck out the bottom tank and refill the top. Is the above method really any better than just doing a 20 gallon change all at once every week? <Well... I can see why you would want to lessen the labor, but I think you may have to end up hauling buckets.> Is there a reliable type of metering valve to control such a small flow? <I don't know of any that would hold up to use in saltwater - best to use ball valves although they don't meter as well as others.> How would you maintain SG? Mix the fresh saltwater at a slighter lower SG to balance evaporation or just test and add fresh RO water as needed? <No, typically top off water should be water without salts - the salt in your tank doesn't evaporate so that any addition of water with salt in it will increase your salinity.> Assuming 85*F as a maximum ambient temperature during the summer, what does a typical reef aquarium this size with metal halides lose to evaporation in a week? Gallons? Tens of gallons? <In a week? My guess is tens of gallons - I used to put about two gallons of freshwater in my 180 a day.> Thanks, George Nikolich <Cheers, J -- >

Re: ph - top off water Cody, That link I've read many times. If you would be so kind as to re-read my email and try to respond to the question concerning the use of regular baking soda...and the maximum pH level baking soda will create, and approximate addition (tablespoons) per 20 gallons to max out the pH at that magical saturation level (whatever it is for baking soda...I think 8.2 ??) <Sorry about that Steve.  You were correct about baking soda only raising the PH to 8.2.  After it does get to 8.2 it starts to decline.  There is no set amount you should add as it all depends on the source water.  Just slowly add small amounts until you get to the desired level.  Best regards, Cody.>

Re: Water Change Performed my first water change today...... took 15 min thanks to some forethought involved in my setup two weeks ago and other misc. help from your website thanks again guys :).  <Good to here, Cody.> Water Changes And Filter Media  3/11/03 Hello,<Hey there!  Phil here!> I was wondering on when the proper time was to perform the first water change on a new tank, should this be left till after livestocking is completed or should it be done after the first full month the tank has been setup?<The water changes should be every two weeks, starting as soon as water is put into the tank.>   Also when would it be appropriate to change the foam filter media on my Fluval 302 and H.O.T. magnum filters, or again should I wait and let bacteria build up.<You are going to want to wait a little bit, but as soon as the media gets all nasty its time for a change.  Remember that if you don't change the media it will be come a nitrate factory!!>  My tank has been setup for two weeks and my first fish were put in yesterday (2) tank raised percula clowns.<One of my favorite fish, second only to the Royal Gramma IMO.  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Re: Water Changes 3/11/03 Sounds good, gracias,<No problem man!> let me do some math real quick here I have a 50 gal tank so if I take a 25% water change split it in two on this tank that would be about 6 gal every two weeks, sound about right? <Yup, to be exact its 6.25 gallons.  Hope this helps!  Phil>

- Water Change Question - hello...I have new tank 75 gallons, wet/dry and Eheim bio, and UV steril.. My tank is about 7 weeks maybe 8 weeks old now. I cycled with 9 Damsels(2 clowns, 2 yellowtails, 3 blue/green chrome, 1 blue and 1 red chrome) added Huma Huma Trigger and Jeweled Blenny... I have not done a water change yet, my store said to wait 2-3 weeks after cycling before doing a water change... <I would disagree. If you are certain the tank is cycled, then it's a good time for a water change.> Now I have heard of many ways to do this, once a month 20%, twice a month 10%, once a week 5% and some of even every day a gallon or so. What do you recommend? <I'm a big fan of 10% every two weeks.> I do not have any fancy way of changing water and perhaps more often of less maybe easier? <Works out to be about the same - 5% every week, and no fancy equipment is really necessary.> Thanks for you help and the best site around... Can't wait to hear... Thanks Tony, Natick Mass. <Cheers, J -- >

Cleaning The Substrate Hello <Hi there- Scott F. with you today!> I have dug around in your FAQ's for a while now and haven't found exactly what I'm looking for so sorry to bother you.  My situation is this I have a new FOWLR w/4" SB and am thinking ahead in my setup in order to try and make my monthly water changes go a little smoother.  I am planning of setting up a "permanent" section of tubing that will run from the bottom, left, rear corner of my tank to underneath my tank.  I then plan on putting a valve or even better yet one of the valves from a 350 magnum on there to shut on and off the water flow so my water changes will take minutes! <Innovative...an interesting idea...certainly can work... Now I plan to have a goby or other sand dweller in there as well as numerous Turbo Grazers.  Now for the question: Is it absolutely necessary and vital to vacuum the upper 1/2" of my substrate during my monthly water changes? <Really a subjective thing...I do not consider it mandatory...> Thanx again. Kevin Conner <And thank you, Kevin- for stopping by. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cleaning The Substrate (Pt.2) "Innovative...an interesting idea...certainly can work..."  wait till you see what I plan to do with this Prizm protein skimmers collection cup ;) <Now, if you can just figure out away to keep mustard  squeeze bottles from clogging, you may be up for a Nobel prize! Regards, Scott F>

When It's Time To Change (Water Changes And Additives) I have a question about water changes, I have just made the switch from freshwater to a reef style aquarium. I have a 180 gal with 180lbs of liverock and an attached 55 gal refugium with 4 inches of live sand. I am currently doing a 40 gal water change every 3 weeks. Between water changes I supplement with Kalkwasser, an alk buffer and Tech=I iodine. Does this practice seem ok, or is there a need to add more supplements between water changes? <Well, I tend to favor smaller (like 5% of tank volume) frequent water changes twice weekly. These smaller changes are easier on you, take very little time, once you get it down-and it provides the added benefit of helping dilute organics before they have a chance to accumulate and effect water quality. With regard to additives: I am not a huge fan of them, unless they are specifically required for some reason (like iodine, for example). If you're not already, you should test for iodine to make sure that you're not overdoing it. I have found that the frequent small water changes help reduce the need for many additives (BTW- you're certainly not an "additive junkie", based on the stuff you mentioned) we aquarists love to toss in our tanks. A good grade of salt mix, properly prepared, will do a good percentage of the job, IMO! Better to be a "water change junkie", instead!> Thanks for your advice. And tell Anthony I have enjoyed reading his book on Coral Propagation. Mike Winston <Glad to help, Mike! And  I think that BOCP rocks, too! Mine looks like a damn college textbook, I've highlighted so much in there! Take care- Regards, Scott F>

Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp Sudden Death after Water Change? Hello Just wondering if you have any information on scarlet cleaner shrimp that relates to water changes.   <its extremely common with all arthropods and many mollusks. They are all quite sensitive slight errors in temperature and especially salinity differences between new and old water. Are you sure the new water SG was exactly the same?> I Never had a problem before. The only thing that I did different from before is that I switched to Coral Reef Red Sea http://www.redseafish.com/Products/Coral_Reef_Salt/body_coral_reef_salt.html from my Kent brand.   <actually... I don't hold either brand in high regard for their quality control/consistency compared to Instant Ocean, Tropic Marin and Omega brands> Is there something that could be in that mix that causes instant death to shrimps?    <not likely... but if a batch had too much of a common metal like magnesium... that would do it> I just finished doing a water change (about 10 gal out of a 55 gal - new water temp perfect match, chlorine removed and matched salt density). My shrimp was fine when I was siphoning the tank, but as soon as I finished filling it back up again he looked listless and was slightly on his side.   <has the water been mixed and aerated over night or was it raw? If raw... you've been dodging bullets for a while> He jittered a bit and everything stopped "running" inside him and that was it.  He molted last night and I fished out his dead skin first thing this morning.  Was the water change too traumatic for his freshly molted self?   <not at all likely> I am very concerned as I wish to do a water change in my other tank containing 2 shrimp and I don't want them to suffer the same instant death.  For age - I am guessing a year to year and a half (I've had him for about 8 months and he was medium sized when I purchased him).  Nothing in the tank is threatening so I can rule that out.  I would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer.   <I am sorry to hear of the loss... but be assured that they truly are strict and sensitive about water chemistry issues. It could even have been the simple change between brands of slightly different composition. 10 galls was not too much... all else sounds like good husbandry. Let me suggest you try another bag or brand of salt for a water change on the other two tanks for perspective then follow later with the current bag (perhaps even blend it to wean from the old Kent mix).> My complements on the best site out there!  Kudos! <best regards, Anthony>

Water Change...?  2/15/03 I HAVE A 60 GALLON REEF TANK WITH A WHISPER #4 AND A WET DRY FILTRATION AND A IN SUMP PROTEIN SKIMMER. THIS MORNING I WOKE UP TO FIND MY SEA ANEMONE DIED AND POLLUTED THE TANK. TWO DAYS AGO I DID A 25% WATER CHANGE.  SHOULD I WAIT IT OUT TILL THE WATER CLEARS?    <You should do a 25% water change now... then do another 25% in a day or two.  Keep your filters running and do the water changes.  Hopefully this will not effect anything else in your tank.  What kina lighting do ya have?  What did u feed your anemone?  Also please in the future don't write in caps.  It means your yelling.  Hope this helps!  Phil>

DOC levels Over the last two years I have seldom done water changes based on various opinions.   <OK> For the last two months, however, I have changed 20% each month.   <excellent> I have a very good RO unit.  As a result, I'm having an algae outbreak, and now hair algae is developing on the dead spots on the cup corals, no doubt from the slight silicate that my RO filter can't remove.   <Are you teasing me <G>? Two years without water changes and DOC levels off the scale... 2 years of accumulated and concentrated waste products... and you really think the trace amounts of silica (possibly) slipped past your admittedly very good RO is the cause of the algae? Are you pulling my leg? DO test your DOC levels, my friend, and consider the premise mentioned and that your coral polyps not opening and the ensuing algae outbreak are the results of nutrients simply reaching a critical mass. Your water changes not only may have been unrelated... but they may very well have staved off a crash> All other corals and  fish are thriving.   <hmmm... each has a different tolerance, bud. Somebody has to be the first to show signs of stress. You are talking about fish and coral that could not be more distantly related> I have candy cane corals which have propagated from two stalks to seven in the past six months.  I haven't had a fish die in two years and several of my fish are seven years old.  My water quality cannot be too bad. But I will take your info to heart. Thanks <good to hear. Best regards, Anthony>

Lack of Water changes I have a 380 gallon reef tank, 51" x 51" x 34".  Above it I have two 400 Watt Metal Halide bulbs, 10000? K about 18" above the tank.  I have a 3/8 inch thick acrylic lid which I keep closed and use a chiller to keep the temperature at 76?.   <all good> I use all Kent Marine additives.   <sorry to hear it> I seldom do water changes as I have a very good denitrator.   <wow.. flawed logic bud. Nitrates are one tiny component of water quality. Your DOC levels are accumulating while your fish and coral are forced to live in their own dissolved and concentrating feces. With the investment that you already have in the system, water changes are inexpensive and necessary> My nitrates are 5 ppm or less and everything else is excellent.  I have two cup corals which grew rapidly for a 2-3 of years but for the last year have stagnated and are showing tissue loss.   <Many possibly reasons... including poisoning from other cnidarians or even themselves due to amplified allelopathy from the lack of water changes> The polyps open for the first half of the day and then close up for the second half.  I don't have a UV filter between my lamps and the water <no biggie... the least of your troubles> and I'm wondering if I'm burning them.   <nope... Turbinaria are very adaptable> Or perhaps they require a different spectrum.  Any ideas? <water quality no doubt. Check for clarity too. Without water changes, ozone or weekly carbon, yellowing agents accumulate and reduce light penetration> Thanks. Gene <best regards, Anthony>

Can you make a recommendation on the automatic top off? Right now my R/O unit goes to a 80 gallon reservoir which I will use for my premix. I was thinking of teeing off the existing supply to the 80-gallon reservoir to the sump and controlling the flow with a Kent marine float valve.  In other words, the R/O unit would feed both the 80-gallon reservoir and another line directly to the sump.  Kent marine, however, does not recommend having a float valve in the sump connected directly to the R/O unit.  for some reason this is bad for the solenoid, since the constant evaporation from the sump will keep the R/O unit working constantly or at least turning the solenoid on and off constantly. The recommendation was to get yet another reservoir to which I would periodically pump water from the existing 80-gallon reservoir.  This second reservoir would be solely for fresh water and would gravity feed the sump and be controlled by a float valve.  This second reservoir would have to be refilled every week or so, so the automatic top-off would not be fully automatic, just automated during the week. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. <There are two ways to do this depending on your system. The above system allows you to buffer your top-off water as needed, but is less automated. The opposite idea works as well, automated with dosing pumps, calcium reactors, etc. You need two containers as above. The main reservoir is fed by the RO unit controlled by the Kent float. The pre-mix container should be the container that is periodically filled when needed, not the top-off. The top-off system can then be run with a small pump in the main reservoir, controlled by a solenoid in the sump (either DIY or one of the commercially available units) which refills the sump automatically. Check out marine set-ups at WetWebMedia.com  Craig>

Re: automatic top-off Two perceived advantages of not using the main reservoir as the automatic top off:   (1) The R/O unit isn't running all the time from the constant dribble replacing evaporation from the sump;   <This is a non-issue, RO's that feed drinking water tanks have the same intervals/use.  It will run as long as required to fill the reservoir, regardless.> (2) in the event of malfunction, only a limited amount of fresh water gets dumped in the tank. <This is a good reason to go with the gravity fed top-off of limited volume, only so much water can be accidentally added to the system.> What the perceived advantages of what you propose?  Solely automation?  The task of refilling the automatic top off seems hardly burdensome.  It's a flip of the switch. <I got the feeling you were concerned with automation, if not, I would go with what works best, is safest for you and your inhabitants. Enjoy!  Craig>

Nano- Nano! I have a friend that wants to know if he is doing a water change or topping off his tank. Is he taking out so much salt out of his tank that he needs to add it to his RO Water each time to replace what he has taken out? This tank is a nano 3 gal. Please let us know.   <well- it sounds like what you are describing is the process of topping off evaporated water. Keep in mind that the salt remains in the water, so the specific gravity (particularly in a small tank) can increase to dangerous levels if top-offs are not done regularly and methodically. Regular water changes ( Removing  a set quantity of tank water and replacing it with newly prepared saltwater) and constant attention are mandatory with nano-tanks! Hope I clarified things? Regards, Scott F>

When It's Time To Change... (Water, that is!) Thank you for all the help you guys provide as well as the very informative website you guys put together.  Forgive me if my questions seem too dumb or stupid which is probably why I can't find these in the FAQs.  <No such thing as a stupid question! Only a stupid answer! Well- maybe not! Scott F with you today!> My questions are in regards to water changes. 1.When aquarists do water changes, does that mean just siphoning the water out or actually vacuuming the gravel or substrate? <Well-yes-and-no! How's that? A water change by definition (mine!) is an exchange of existing tank water for newly prepared water of the same quantity. While it's a good practice to siphon out detritus wherever it is found in the tank, it is not mandatory to vacuum the substrate to accomplish a successful water change. In fact, overly aggressive substrate siphoning in (deep) sand beds can damage the very processes that you're trying to foster there!> 2.When doing water changes is it best to siphon water out of the main tank or the sump?  Or does it matter? <A good question. Since the water in the sump flows through the sump, you are simply removing  water from a different location in the same system! If you are planning on removing detritus from the main tank, then take the water from there. Otherwise, IMO, it's perfectly okay to remove water from the sump (of course, I'd make  sure that pumps are off to avoid damaging them. In fact, detritus does accumulate in sumps, so it's not a bad idea to do this once in a while>     3. This question kind of relates to #1.  For the people who have reef tanks with deep aquariums and/or intricate light setups in the canopy, how or do they vacuum their substrate?  With all the rocks in the way in the reef tank, deep tanks making it tough for short people, and/or heavy canopies they must take off, it would seem too laborious for them to do especially if they do bi-weekly water changes.  Possibly siphon water one week and vacuum gravel another? <Another good question! I just ordered a new canopy for this very reason on my main system! It's a real pain getting into a tank with limited access, so lots of aquarists get it right (the second or third try, sometimes!) and design and construct canopies that make life (and maintenance) easier! Your idea is just fine. In the long run, it's still a good idea to obtain or build a lighting system and canopy that allows free access to the tank. The thought is, that the easier the access, the more likely us lazy humans are to do regular maintenance!> 4. A question off the topic.  Will we have an electronic machine in the near future, that has the ability to read multiple things?  (i.e. salinity, ph, alkalinity, medicine levels, etc.) Thank you for reading my questions. <Absolutely! In fact, some products already exist, such as the Aquadyne line of monitors/controllers, that can monitor, report, and control various pieces of equipment to adjust parameters and alert the aquarist of changes in the system. I have no doubt that, as technology progresses, there will be even more advances in the state-of-the-art! What a cool hobby! What a great time to be alive! I'm stoked! Feel free to contact us any time! Regards, Scott F>

Skimmer and water changes Anthony hope you a good time in Boston. <thank you my friend... I had a great time. They were one of the nicest clubs I ever attended> I going to make some changes in the protein skimmer it will be off line for two weeks, how many water changes will I have to make on the 180 gal reef tank until I get it back on line.    RGibson <hard to say... 25% weekly sounds reasonable to me though for starters. Kindly, Anthony>

Vacuum Greetings! I like to vacuum the detritus from the sump periodically, and I am looking for a good way to do that.   <I move a powerhead around in the sump with the siphon hose attached to the outlet> Siphon is really out of the question since the sump sits on the floor. <Can be done with the powerhead> I'd like something that would return the water to the sump after filtering it. <That's a more difficult order. I suggest doing your water changes from the pump with the siphon hose as I have described. I know the method works because it's what I do!> I used to use an Eheim 2213 filter with really long hoses, but it got to be a pain to prime it each time.  Surely someone makes a vacuum system for this purpose.  (I guess I could always use a pump with a mesh filter bag over the return hose...) <Or this last suggestion should work also> Any ideas? <You got 'em!> thanks <You're welcome! David Dowless> tom

When do I start doing water changes I started up my 45 gal tank on the 11th of January with coral substrate & 36 lbs of live rock.  Today, I seeded the substrate with 5 lbs of live sand and added 3 Peppermint Shrimp to take care of some Rock Anemones.  Except for a few snails, star fish, anemones and a crab (that made their way in on the live rock), that's all there is inside.   I'm using an Emperor 280 power filter, a BakPak protein skimmer and have a 36", 96w PC hood with both white and blue light.   I'm assuming that until I actually add some fish to the tank, after it has matured, I would begin the water change process.  Is that a correct assumption? <More to do with the actual establishment of nutrient cycling. I take it you have no detectable ammonia, nitrite. I would start your changes when you record more than a few ppm of nitrate accumulation. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water.htm particularly the FAQs files linked (in blue, at top) beyond. Bob Fenner> Tanks!  Rick

When It's Time To Change... Hi there crew, <Scott F. today!> I have a few questions if you don't mind. I was wondering when I should do my first water change?  I've had my 12g eclipse running for a month with live rock and sand, and now another 2 weeks with a damsel. The LFS told me all my levels were good. <Well, if the ammonia and nitrite are at undetectable levels, it's certainly a good idea to begin water changes on a regular basis. I'd start with 5% twice a week. This will really serve you well!> Also, some type of brown substance builds up on the glass and the sand.  I rub it off with a sponge, do you know what it is, and is it beneficial towards my tank? <Sounds like diatoms, which are very common in new systems. With good maintenance, attention to quality source water, and light bioload, it will go away. You can read up more on nuisance algae on the wetwebmedia.com site. Also, you may want to pick up a copy of "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael Paletta- it's a great guide to the basics of marine aquariums if you're just starting out! Have fun, and good luck!> Thanks a lot, Jon <And thank you for stopping by!>

- Tiny Bubbles - Hi, <Hello, JasonC here...> I seem to have very small bubbles in the tank, and seems that it happens after a water change, but I could be wrong, I change the water once/wk. <Perhaps it's just the oxygen and air that get mixed in when the new water is added.> I mix in a 30 gal container with a air stone & powerhead with R/O water. I have been adding "Nitromax marine" by tropical science & Kent buffer as well. <Unless this tank is still cycling, I wouldn't bother with the Nitromax.> I leave it run for a week, then add. <Sounds like that's where the bubbles are coming from> What could be the cause, and does this hurt my blue angel? <The 'cause' is highly aerated water, and no, I don't think this will hurt your Angel.> How do I do I get rid of this? <I'm not sure you can unless you stop aerating the water for so long... a couple of days would suffice.> One other question I have is do fish sometimes what seems to look like shaking .....is this normal every so often? <I think so. Fish yawn and stretch and do other things that are not unlike what we [humans] do when we get out of bed, or need a nap, or etc. Nothing to worry about. Cheers, J -->

Plumbing for water changes I am plumbing a new tank with a sump. I was wondering what would be the easiest way to set it up to do water changes. Can I add a T with a ball valve off the return line so I can just open the ball valve and let water go into a bucket and shut it off when finished? <Turn the pump off and get the water from the back siphon> Then I would just add water back into the sump. I should be able to do this without turning off any power and not effect anything (I think). <Maybe...> I will be changing about 2gal a week. <Great sketch! Let me state that I personally don't use a water change device of this nature. However, I did research this type of idea when I set up my tank. I assume that you are planning on using flexible PVC for your lines. It would certainly be the easiest material to manipulate. My concern for your proposal is the pressure that the water will be under as it is leaving the return line and entering the bucket. You will be drawing water very close from the return pump and this water may splash around and spray a lot more than you want. Since I don't know how large your return pump is it's hard to make an accurate estimate of the pressure involved. If the pump only moves a couple of hundred gallons or so, you may be fine. If the pump is large say over 300 or 400GPH the pressure may be strong.  I don't know for sure the repercussions but the above statements are my initial assessment. Consider this: I assume your return line is releasing water in the main tank under the tank water level. As an option you could plumb the tank exactly the way that you have planned...If the pressure is too great, you can always shut off your return pump and let the back siphon water flow through your "T" and into the bucket! From your drawing it looks like this "T" is also a shutoff valve which is exactly what you will need.  If your pump is submersible realize it may heat up your water. Be sure to plumb shutoff valves after your pump so that it may be removed entirely from the system if the need arises. If your pump is external you need shutoffs before and after the pump. Lastly, Prizm skimmers have a poor reputation among hobbyists. Complaints include too much noise and inefficiency. David Dowless> Shaun Nelson

Plumbing for water changes Thanks for the info. Yes I am using flexible pvc from the pump to the T. I will be using a MAG 7 for the return. I thought with a ball valve I would be able to regulate the water going into the bucket? <That is plausible. Should work okay> Anyway I will do like you said and try it with the pump on and off. And yes the Prizm Sucks, I already bought it. <Sell it on EBay! David Dowless>

Unhappy with answer, life, WWM... motivation? I suppose you're one that says you gotta do a water change all the time <you say that like its a bad thing> right, well I think I know my fish.  I have had a tank stable for 3 yrs now haven't lost a single fish and have never done a water change <I believe that may be true. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes> I was just asking a simple ?? <and I answered you with a detailed reply about the foods you needed to feed the anemone of which you clearly know nothing about... I also copied the exact link from the WWM archives to a page you needed for further study. Should I have made a voice recording of it in recitation as well for you <G>?> and u think u know it all <nope... you just think I do :)  > Sorry I asked just wanted to know more from one I thought was a expert but if your telling me to read those stupid boards you're nuts. <you are completely mistaken here, my friend. I directed you to our wetwebmedia.com archives with thousands of pages of articles and excerpts of pre-written content... not a message board. If you had simply followed the link provided you would have seen that. Do be more explorative... and do not fear the message boards at any rate, there are some useful and interesting perspectives to be found there. Much wisdom too> So many diff things each person is diff <wait a minute... isn't that what you were asking us for? An opinion.> so have a nice day <and I hope that you have a better one. Best regards, Anthony>

"SURFACE SPONGING" Wow, whole world of Q&A and pros. & cons. of protein skimming on this site...My question is this...I have a secondary aquarium setup just for some crabs, a few damsels and basically anything that would be considered, or has become, a nuisance in my show setup...Keeping in mind that this is my (redheaded stepchild) tank, I don't wish to spend a whole lot of money on maintenance...Since most skimmers "SKIM" from the surface, would it be possible to sponge-away the surface water and replenish with new... <Yes> If so, could/should I use new, pre mixed saltwater, instead of fresh for absorption instead of evaporation reasons... <Pre-mixed is best> Thanks in advance, MCKENNA <And you for your participation. Bob Fenner>

Re: LOW pH and dying critters! Thank you for you advice.  I've performed a 25% water change last night (using Red Sea salt).   <Lots of aquarists like Instant Ocean> Can I perform these "emergency water changes" let's say every 5 days.  What's your take on that? <5 days is a decent amount of time IMO> Also, unfortunately, I lost ALL my snails, hermit crabs, and my Brittlestar.  I am very upset about this. My two damsels and a ribbon coral seem to be fine, however. What does this Jungle labs product include in it?    <Could be...check the product label> Maybe this, along w/the low pH is killing my inverts?  (ph is up to 8.1) <I think low ph is the most likely culprit if all other tests are good> HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL THE WWM CREW!! <Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours> Many thanks, Lou A. <You're welcome! David Dowless>

Buffering Top Off Water I buffer my top off water after aerating for a day. If I test for KH/Alkalinity, what should my results be before I use the top off water? <Ugh, what?> Should I be getting these results immediately after adding the buffer? <I would wait until the next day. You are looking for trends here, not immediate changes.> I don't want to use too much. I am using Seachem Reef Builder. <I would add the same amount every other day, testing on the odd days for one week. Then look back at your records and note the trend. You will then know if you must adjust up or down. Repeat this procedure for a few weeks until you get a feel for your tank's needs. Then just double check every couple of months as things grow, you add new corals, etc. your tank's demands will change.> Thanks <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Maintenance/Stability/Ich Help Please. Last weekend I vacuumed my reef sand for the first time.  It seemed that the  stuff on the bottom is heavier then the sand and I was pulling up more sand  that stuff.  I used the Magnum Power Kleen.  Am I doing this correctly?  Should I try the Siphon Kleen? <Well, I'm a seriously "low tech" guy- I just use a piece of flexible tubing, about 1/2 inch diameter, to do my siphoning. Depending on the kind of sand bed that you have, you really only need to siphon the very top layer, or you'll disrupt some of the processes that a life sand bed can provide. Do try to get as much detritus off of the rockwork as you can, as well.> How large of a temperature swing can I have during the day/night?  It seems that my tank is fluctuating about 2 degrees (78.5 to 80.5) during the day/night. <In my conservative opinion, I'd be more comfortable with a fluctuation of 1 degree or less. Greater temperature fluctuations occur, but can lead to possible problems. Stability is important> Last night I lost my first fish to ick.  What should I do?  Can I add anything to my reef tank with an mud filter to medicate? Thanks, Steve <Steve, don't add any medications directly to your tank- even the so-called "reef safe" ones! The best way to combat ich in the main tank, IMO, is to remove the fishes from your system, and leave the tank "fallow" for about a month or so, which will result in a highly diminished population of parasites. One ich is in your tank, it's IN your tank! You need to take these steps to eradicate it, or you will have ongoing problems. Observe your fishes while they are "on vacation", and be prepared to treat them, should they show signs of illness. Read the disease FAQs on the wetwebmedia.com site if you have more questions on combating ich. Good luck! Scott F.>

Automated water changes for mini-reef Hello, and thanks for the great website and instructive information. <thanks kindly... please keep reading, learning and sharing> I'm interested in attempting the following experiment: to maintain a 180 gal. community mini-reef system with automated water changes from the regeneration (the rinse water that cleanses the ion-exchange resin bed)  from my household water softener. <I see some likely problems already if your household softener uses potassium or sodium chloride to recharge: imparting chlorides which skew alkalinity in the aquarium for post treated water... OR...(your case) the impart of hardened "purged water" which has mostly useful hard water elements (exchanged for chloride by the softener) BUT(!) also has un-exchanged sodium chloride. This unregulated NaCl allowed into your aquarium without  the other balanced minerals and trace elements of seawater will naturally effect your SG but without the other necessary elements. In simpler terms... you can add enough NaCl table salt to a glass of water that gives you a desired reading for marine life, but without the trace elements... marine life will die in this salted water even though the hydrometer says differently> We use a 38,000 grain "on demand" water softener (using sodium chloride) <Houston we have a problem...> and a RO system. (THE RO brine is used for another application -- a humidifying water fountain). The hardness of our municipal tap water is approx. 16 grains. It is chlorinated, but has low (undetectable) total dissolved solid, phosphate, copper and iron content. Each regeneration uses approx 35 gallons, and regenerates approx. every 5 days. Approximately 3lbs of salt is used for each regeneration: <Ughh> The water chemistry of this "brine"  consists mostly of sodium chloride, calcium and magnesium. <Oh, ya!> I have 2 pH readings, 8.1 and 8.2 I'd like to have this water run through some activated carbon and a specified amount of additional synthetic sea salt -- before it hits the sump. <sorry... how do you reckon the incidental plain salt carried in? Even if you could easily measure it, do you really want to get into making your own synthetic trace element slurry to dose and temper the stray plain NaCl?> The tank would be appropriately fitted for overflow drainage. <way too complicated here, bud. Your best bet would be to get a separate (small is OK) 2-column de-ionizer and completely demineralize this water if your goal is saving water. The high pH of this effluent that will be lost through the DI is a small loss and easily/cheaply recovered post treatment> The issues, as I see it are as follows: 1: Maintaining the specific gravity of the tank by fine-tuning the requisite additional salt; (including fiddling with the evaporation rate, by changing the amt. of uncovered surface area.) <a complete nightmare... complicated and recommended only if you enjoy the challenge and are a chemist> 2: Accounting for an accelerated removal of trace elements (strontium, etc.). <accelerated? They were never there in the first place. Not sure we are on the same page here. I am talking about you reckoning the sodium chloride that you are bringing in with this rinse water but without the slurry of balanced trace elements to make SW> Before I reinvent the wheel, do you have any information about other attempts in this area? <no one bothers when time and expense are issues. This would have to be a personal challenge for you, because there is no practical reason otherwise for doing it. The irony is that your tap water through carbon is probably the best water could you have in the house for a marine tank. Reconstituting pure DI water is probably second.> Are there any flies in the ointment I'm missing? <a whole swamp full of flies, brother!> Other considerations? <this really all boils down to not bringing plain salt into the make up water or being a brilliant chemist with a lab to check the daily/weekly variances and compensate for them with your own home-made synthetic sea salt mix> -- e.g. are there some reef species that would be more tolerant to this? <cruel and unnatural to do so... doesn't happen in the wild> Species to avoid? <Ha!... All<G>> Are there other automations to help minimize other tank maintenance, <I can forward you a chapter from my book about setting up automatic water changes with solenoids> such as substrate maintenance? <thin substrate, strong water movement and active sand sifting animals> What other issues should I consider? <hmmm... I'd suggest that you try treating this more like a hobby instead of a science, my friend :) ... unless you truly enjoy the science more than the organic living components (our fishes and corals!)> Thanks!-Frank Pagoda BTW: I plan to keep a journal on this project & publish my results to help others who may be curious about this operation.   <indeed, that would be excellent at any rate. Kind regards, Anthony>

Automated water changes for mini-reef Whew! I haven't been sobered up that aggressively since college mid-terms! <Ha! With a college flashback like that, did you also suddenly get the munchies too? And for lack of a beer at hand, chug your scalding hot coffee chanting "Go. go...go...go...GOOOOOO!" in your head? Just checking?> Your sense of humor and gracious style, Anthony, is why when you ring in folks like me (and you sure did) we laugh along....good job! And thanks for the good feedback. <Wow... thanks kindly :) But I was really just taking the long way around the barn for calling you a sadist with mad scientist tendencies. I'll take the credit just the same <G>. Heehee...> Your reasonable protestations aside, let's assume I (pigheadedly!) go through with this experiment. <OK> Should I seek out a SW product that is markedly higher in balanced trace elements than others? <that depends on how involved you want to get here. If the science of it isn't appeal in the purist form... and you just simply want to make it work: my advice would be to simply purchase the semi-solid synthetic sea salt concentrates they make for the big commercial operations (actually quite economical... but you must mix every time EXTREMELY well or make whole batches (400gall) at a time). These SW slurries have everything in it you need except plain salt. Then... you will only have to calculate the influx of sodium chloride with the source water and supplement proportionately> Is there a trace element compound available without sodium chloride? <yep... most of the big manufacturers make it. Best to seek an aquaculture supply house for this. Fritz used to make such a product for public aquariums and shrimp/food fish farmers.. perhaps still do?> Maybe the trace element/SW slurry (including the correct amount of salt to balance the brine) could be set below the activated charcoal/carbon, ready to be washed into the tank with the regenerated water. What other suggestions do you have to make this work? <Jack Daniels... by the gallon> I know using that automating a system with inferior water  is complicated, ultimately may not work, and is repugnant to many. But the allure of utilizing water that is so close to ideal, and is generated a mere 5 feet away from the tank, and can lop off a HUGE chunk of time, and is an intriguing alternative to the conventional way -- is all too enticing for me. <some merit to it, some extra complications too. The high pH and high mineral content are easily provided/supplemented and cheaply too otherwise. You may find that using this water is not time saving at all, and simply resort to carbon filtered tap water> BTW, I will NOT jeopardize any marine wildlife with this Dr. Demento contraption. <understood my friend> Live rock will be added only when I can easily maintain the correct SW chemistry. Finally, I agree with your suggestion that I treat this more as a hobby than as a science. That's what I'm doing! Rather than anally adhering to scientific rules set in stone, I'm trying a different path to the same destination. <you're a heroin addict, aren't you? Ahem,... I mean... "Why yes, I concur wholeheartedly with your reason and rationale for embracing the science of aquariology without becoming enslaved to it." Errrh... or something like that <G>> From where I sit, my friend, that's the approach that makes mini-reefkeeping a hobby. Thanks again, and do let me know your additional input to this unconventional approach to make and maintain safe sea water. With great appreciation, Frank <best regards in this endeavor... we'll watch for you on the news. :) Anthony>

Water Change Confusion.... Greetings! I wrote in yesterday and wanted to thank you for the help! Alas, I have more questions that I would really appreciate some help with. For a quick refresher I am an old freshwater hobbyist who has been suddenly thrust in saltwater with no preparation. I am learning everything as quickly as I can. <May I suggest Mike Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium." It is a very good beginner book, fairly inexpensive, and not too long.> The setup that came into my hands was a 29 high with an Eclipse 2 and it will not fit any HOT skimmers nor will an inside unit work (tried the Visi-jet and there is just not enough room with that dastardly lid)-- this lid is the one with the wide lip that fits down onto the rim of the tank. There should be a big fat label that says "NOT FOR SALTWATER USE YOU SUCKERS!!!" <Did you ask everyone over on the message board about this retrofit, like I suggested yesterday? I know it has been done before.> I have decided upon hours of research to keep the tank and basically leave the system alone (it was up for 6 months) and stick with the wet/dry, powerheads, and make a 20% water change every 7-10 days since I can't get a skimmer in this setup. Is 20% about the right figure? <It sounds good, but I would not give up on the skimmer just yet.> I have found myself confused reference water changes even after reading the faq's and such and was hoping you could help me. The hydrometer reading is around 1.029 and I obviously need to lower it and want to make sure I understand what I have read. According to your guidelines I should not lower it more than .001 - .002 in a 24 hour period. <Yes, a good rule of thumb.> For a 29 gallon approximately what amount of freshwater should be added to achieve this? <I would take out one gallon of tank water and replace it with dechlorinated freshwater. Do this once per day until the desired reading is brought about.> How exactly should I go about this? <See above> Should I pull a gallon of tank water out and then replace it with a gallon of pre-prepared freshwater straight to the tank <Bingo!> or would it be better to siphon off 3-4 gallons of existing tank water and mix the gallon of freshwater to it and then add it back in? <Much easier the other way. Just pour the freshwater in slowly allowing it time to mix in and not become a localized surge.> My next question is that to maintain a stable 1.024 - 1.025 for daily evaporative loss leveling I should only be using freshwater? <Correct> Is this due to the salts staying behind as the water evaporates so your S.G. would actually increase if you added pre-prepared saltwater? <Correct> So in other words using just the freshwater for top-off keeps you at a constant level as the salt stays as the water evaporates? <Yes> So my last question (just confirmation for warm fuzzies) would be that when doing my regular weekly water change it should be as close a match as possible for the tank's existing temp/spg? <Yep and you said you were not a saltwater person.> Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you guys again so very much! You have become an invaluable resource! Jaime Knapp <You are quite welcome. -Steven Pro>

Big Australian tank: water exchange Hello Anthony <Cheers, my friend!> Thanks for your last reply. Sorry about the confusion with coral types - hermatypic was the word I was searching for! Damned nomenclature! <G>.  <Amen brother!> Your suggestion to favour hermatypic corals over heterotrophs in our display tank makes sense, so when the time comes I will look to collect these animals from the deeper, clearer waters just outside Shark Bay. <very much agreed... likely to be more adaptable for a captive display> The conditions in these outer areas are very stable and will be difficult to mimic accurately, especially water temperature. Ideally our seawater intake would extend into these clear, deep waters and we could flow-through large volumes of raw seawater.  <agreed if fully open... not a semi-open system (complications here)> However, due to the bay being a shallow expanse of water, our intake is covered by an average depth of one meter of water.  <wow! shallow and warm I suppose.> This area of shallows extends a further kilometer offshore before becoming slightly deeper, the result of which is a lowest winter water temp. of around 12 C and a highest summer temp. of around 31 C.  <Yikes... a great range indeed> There may also be a variation within one day/night of perhaps 5 C. <good heavens... temperature stability will be a serious issue (or expense to temper) at any rate <G>> Plus on very windy days the water comes in clouded with fine sand. I know this is not ideal, but at the moment it's all we have. An alternative is to drill a seawater bore of say 20m deep where the temp. would likely be a stable 22 - 25 C. This would be risky though as other water quality parameters (inc. O2, CO2, H2S, pH, and even SG) are likely to be vastly different to surface levels.  <heehee... the challenges you are facing are almost comical. You certainly have your work cut out for you, my friend. I have an interesting suggestion for you: what about having a cheap water holding reservoir build on premise. Then have a helicopter fly out some miles to sea to a clean/pristine area and lift a large "sack" of clean water to bring back to the reservoir for storage. You know... like the military and engineers do for fighting forest fires. I suspect that a monthly chopper run out to sea to collect free water will be a lot cheaper than running pumps all month long on variable water quality. And I know that storing the water will be cheaper to treat and hold for use. Do consider>  One driller told me that in his experience a bore in this area would encounter ancient decomposing seagrass beds - obviously not ideal for WQ! We've considered a test bore but even this is very expensive and we'd prefer to manage the new aquarium with the existing intake if possible. <hmmm... yes. And trusting their advice, I would still be concerned with the fluctuating water quality. Do consider the air lifted sea water. Perhaps it will be best, cheapest and most reliable to collect and hold> I think we can control temperature within the tank reasonably well by having limited flow-through and more recirculation through a massive skimmer. The tank is six meters high and 11.5m diameter, holding 600 tonnes of water.  <magnificent... do send more pictures in the future!> The low surface area/volume ratio and the sheer volume it holds should keep daily fluctuations to a minimum.  <indeed... it will act like a heat sink> The tank has steel sides that we will insulate on the outside with something (not sure what yet) to further minimize heat transfer. These sides will be shaded from the hottest sun by the walkway half-way up and a roof built off the top of the tank. In winter we can use a greenhouse-style roof to let in the light while retaining solar heat, and in summer take this off to benefit from evaporative cooling.  <Excellent> Extra solar heaters (plastic only, of course) could be used on the upper roof to assist in keeping the temperature up in winter. My educated guess would be that the temp. could be as low as 20 C in winter and as high as 28 C in summer. This is reasonably similar to the range in the areas of coral collection. We have in mind at the moment building a massive counter-current skimmer for this tank, say 4m high, 1m diameter column, fine air bubbles through diffusers, water flowing through skimmer and returning to tank at 300,000L/hr, moved with axial pump. We'll also leave room for another skimmer or two if this one alone proves inadequate. With all these things in mind, I would appreciate your opinion on the following questions: 1.. Is it OK to pump water straight from the sea into the display tank, or is this a major disease risk?  <A major risk... must be sterilized. Diligent testing of water quality too. Fine filtration (sand filters backwashed regularly) and ozone generators will likely be your best route here. If your volume is not too high... many large coastal operations instead will chlorinate and then dechlorinate held water in standing pools/reservoir to treat grossly. Then micron filter and supplement (SG, Ca, pH, etc). Crude but inexpensive and safe/simple. The ozone will be needed for an open system though> We have pumped this water into our existing lagoon for three years now and have never noticed any disease problems, however the fish in this lagoon are all big "tough" predators and may be more resistant to disease than a lot of reef species.  <it is a risk by any measure... not one that I would likely take> I suspect that the pumping of this raw seawater has contributed greatly to the ecosystem in the lagoon with the introduction of various bivalves, fish, sponges, fan worms etc. This may also be of benefit in the new display. <indeed... great benefits. Most of the concern is for fish pathogens> 2.. What rate of water exchange per day would you recommend? We can pump up to 50,000L/hr if necessary. <hmmm.... I would want/need to learn more about the system to say for certain (bio-load, flow dynamics). Water quality and testing will ultimately dictate much of the protocol. More is usually better though.>  3.. If a system with very minimal seawater exchange is recommended, <unlikely> is there any other filtration we might need other than the skimmer plus live rock/sand and filter-feeding inverts? <again... it will depend on the bio-load... how much the fishes and corals are being fed daily. If the net import is greater than your natural biological faculties (rock, sand) can handle... we may need to employ large fluidized bed sand filters or the like at the expense of accumulated nitrates just to keep the system sound. I doubt that it will be necessary, but again... we need to weigh the bio-load. Just curiously... have you seen/read the book Aquatic Systems Engineering? And excellent reference on the mechanics of aquarium science (filtration, skimming, ozone, UV, etc). It is a must have for your book shelf!> Thank you, I'm enjoying learning with your help and hope to set this up properly so the animals prosper and people can learn more about our marvelous marine world. <and we are truly enjoying shared stories of your journey to reach your goals! Looking forward to hearing from you again, my friend. Kind regards to Oz from the Americas. Anthony Calfo> Pete McKenzie

Kalkwasser and buffered RO/DI water In your well experienced and educated opinions would it be OK to use my RO/DI water in my trash can that I have buffered to 8.4 to make up my daily dose of Kalkwasser slurry that I add at night to raise my pH? <I would be concerned that the buffering compounds may react with and precipitate out the calcium from the Kalkwasser.> Or would it be best to use non-buffered straight RO/DI water for the slurry? <That is what I use, aerated though to remove the carbon dioxide which definitely reacts with Kalkwasser.> I don't want to have to empty my buffered water and start with new but if I must I guess that's what will have to be done. <I would use it for a water change. It never hurts and you might as well use the water.> By the way my clam is still burping well! <Is this a spawning event? Do take pictures if you can.> Thanks, Jeff <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Water Changes Weekly? On the weekly water change note, is there a rule of thumb that is considered ideal for weekly water changes for established tanks? 10%? 20%?  <really dependant on the bio-load (heavy feedings, large fishes, weak skimming, etc) but 10% on the low end and better 20-25%> I currently do a 10 gallon change weekly on a 72-gallon with a 10-gallon sump. Stock level is less than maxed out and is filtered on DSB & live rock. Should do more? <perhaps a little bit more so that you can feed fishes and corals well and be comfortable about water quality. Kindly, Anthony>

Vacuuming rock hate to be a pain, but love picking brains, I was wondering, during water changes in my FOWLR tank, I always vacuum all the loose crud off my rocks, good? bad?, I would think good, but love opinions...riot... <Good. -Steven Pro>

Re: vacuuming rock Hmm, so the 1/2 inch sand/CC substrate I have that I was told never to vacuum, should be vacuumed as well?, thanks again guys....riot... <If it is crushed coral, it should be vacuumed. If a fine sand bed, it should resist becoming clogged with dirt and detritus and house more than enough critters to process waste material, and therefore should not need manual cleaning. -Steven Pro>

Re: vacuuming rock thanks Steve, I was just talking with my father, he has a 75g reef and a 130g reef, his 75 runs with an Azoo protein skimmer which is usually an excellent skimmer (runs on a powerhead, no airstones), yesterday it stopped foaming, and today its foaming well but producing a clear liquid in the cup, if it matters he has around 120 pounds of live rock, around 20 soft corals, handful of small fish, lots of cleanup crew, any thoughts?....riot.... <Not enough information to guess as to the cause. Do take a look at our skimmer FAQ's on www.WetWebMedia.com regarding. -Steven Pro>

Dilution is the solution to pollution Anthony Calfo In doing a water change every week in a 180 gal reef tank how many gallons should I change. RGibson <that would depend largely on your bio-load and feeding schedule, but 20 gallons weekly seemed reasonable for a moderate bio-load. Perhaps a bit light... but with careful feeding and aggressive skimming, use of carbon, etc... you won't have to go broke buying sea salt :) Kindly, Anthony>

Kalk info.... on WWM... I was trying to find that article on the Kalkwasser dosing you mentioned, where was that again? <Truthfully, I am not sure what you are referring to. If it was on www.WetWebMedia.com you can use the Google Search engine at the bottom of the page.> Here is another idea I had---can I get away with adding any calcium or buffers if I do a weekly water changes? <In theory if you calcium demand is low enough and your salt mix enriched (higher amounts of calcium and buffers than NSW conditions), but I would not count on this alone. There would be many other benefits to the weekly water changes, the least of which would be little to no need for other additives. -Steven Pro>

Low pH and alk but high Ca Hi WWM Crew, I seem to be having a problem with low pH and alk in my 50 reef. My readings are as follows: pH-7.9 alk-2.5 Ca-490 I am adding daily Two Part ESV B-Ionic 25ml of each. I also add 60 ml daily of Kalk. Additives are all added manually. The tank is 3 years old and I do two 10% water changes monthly. For the last three months I have been using ocean water for these changes. <I would recommend going back to synthetic water.> I have noticed my green star polyps have not been opening full for about 3 weeks. Could the low pH and alkalinity cause this? <Yes> All other organisms doing fine. Any advise greatly appreciated. Mario <I would do several large (50%) water changes to bring your parameters back into line. Once they are good, you should be able to easily maintain them with the Two-Part additives. -Steven Pro>

Re: Low pH and alk but high Ca Thanks for the quick reply Steve, why would you not recommend natural ocean water? <Generally, chronically low in pH and possibly contaminated with pollution, parasites, or bacteria blooms.> I figured the plankton in it may help feed some of the SPS corals, clams, etc. <Parasites are also in that plankton. -Steven Pro>

Bubbles in sand Yeah, that was strange. My tank is back on track since the big water change. I'm having a minor diatom bloom that I think may be a result of some previous die-off from the alk spike, skimmer's working overtime. Anyway, here's my question... I'm seeing a lot of gas bubbles trapped in the upper inch of my substrate.  <visible through the front pane of glass only (normal...oxygen from light entering the glass there) or throughout the entire sandbed?> I've got 5-6",  <excellent> but bubbles are only in the top inch. it looks like they're being trapped by the diatoms settling through and on the surface layer of the substrate to about an inch where the bubbles stop. is this nitrogen?  <just as likely O2... but still... one should have enough water movement, detritivores, aggressive skimming, etc so that nuisance or mat alga do not form or stay long on the sand... if this is not corrected within a week or so do consider what could allow the continued growth> is it ok?  <either way, likely yes... and not at all uncommon. All assuming and starting with you having very string water movement above the sand> should I add more sand sifters to stir it up and release the bubbles?  <possible yes... starfish are very fine by me. A single "white Linckia" (sand-burrowing star) might easily do the trick> I'm only concerned cause I've heard bad stories about DSB and hydrogen sulfide. <all bunk stories... flawed designs. Well maintained DSB can go for years untold. All depends on above proper maintenance of good sand depth, strong water flow to keep detritus in suspension and a good skimmer to take it out... just like in the sea. Dynamic niches have beautiful white sand... stagnant lagoons have algae cess pools> thanks so much for your help. <best regards, Anthony>

Water changes I have a 100 gallon saltwater tank. I used to do once a month water changes -- about 35%. Then, after reading your book, I decided that it might be better to do smaller, weekly water changes. <Agreed, provides a more stable environment and is easier since you have to lug less water.> So, for about two months now, I have been doing weekly changes of about 9%. I also clean the tank weekly -- turn over the sand, clean the algae off the sides. I rinse out the sponges in the filter every two weeks. Since starting this new routine I have noticed that I have a lot of brown algae -- it reappears after just a few hours of the weekly water change. Is this from the weekly water changes or is it coincidental? <It could be either from the water changes and coincidental. Perhaps you have elevated levels of silicate in your water supply or you are a little heavy handed with foods or supplements. Please peruse www.WetWebMedia.com for articles and FAQ's concerning diatoms.> Should I do them every two weeks? <Probably won't make a difference.> What, if anything, am I doing to cause this algae growth? <There are several possibilities. Please see note above and read through the FAQ files regarding.> The tank is well established -- over a year and a half old. In two weeks I will be moving to a larger 160 gallon tank. When I do the move I plan on keeping the 100 gallons of water that I currently have and just topping it off with the new 60 gallons (I figure this will be like a 60% water change). <Correct> I am not planning on using any "instant cycling" -- do you agree? <Yes> I will use all of my old bio-balls and will top off with the new ones to fill the larger wet/dry -- sound ok? <Exactly what I would do.> Also, I plan on running my sterilizer and skimmer from the get go -- please let me know if you disagree. <No, sounds fine.> My other question is: how often do you recommend water changes for the new tank and how soon after I set it up should I do my first water change? <If you like your new weekly schedule, I see no reason to change.> Thanks for your help. I appreciate any advice you can provide. Elizabeth K. Birdwell <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Top-Off Water/pH Hi, thanks for all of your replies. <<you are quite welcome.>> What should the PH of my top off water be after I buffer it? Should it be between 8.2- 8.5 or should it be higher? <<I think that if the top-odd water is in the same target range as the tank, you should be all set. What you don't want is something lower... typically RO/DI is 7.0 which is too low, and really so is 7.5.>> Thanks again, Jeff Reed <<Cheers, J -- >>

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