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FAQs on Marine Aquarium Maintenance 7

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Related FAQs: Marine Aquarium Maintenance 1, Mar. Aq. Maint. FAQs 2Maint. FAQs 3Maint. FAQs 4Maint. FAQs 5, Maint. FAQs 6, Maint. FAQs 8, Maint. FAQs 9, Maint. FAQs 10, Maint FAQs 11, Maint. FAQs 12, Maint. FAQs 13, Maint. 14, Reef Maintenance 1


Tangs, maintenance 7/15/05 Am I correct in my assumption that unless a person has a GIANT tank, a Blue Hippo Tang and a Blonde Naso Tang should not be put together? <Define "huge"... a Naso tang should not be kept in a system of less than six foot length... in this size system, a Paracanthurus should get along fine> I am trying to convince a fellow tank owner, but want to be certain before I really speak up. <I see> Also, I have these little white fuzzy barrel type looking things growing everywhere in my tank. They look like something that copepods hatch from or perhaps.  They even grow on my urchins occasionally. Is it possible for one to grow on a fish? <Uh, no> I have a yellow tang and he seems to have one on his fin.  He has no other signs of disease.  At first I thought it was ich but it doesn't appear any where else, and my other fish don't show any signs of anything.  It looks just like the little copepod pods that grow in my tank, but he is so mobile that it doesn't seem like that could happen.  Plus I have a cleaner shrimp who I would have thought would remove it by now. Thoughts/suggestions? <Keep reading... WWM... books> Thanks you guys are great, Tim <And Strunk and White. Bob Fenner> Marine Maintenance >Also - I'm very glad for the advice and it came just in time. I was going to do a thorough cleaning today - take out all the ornamental rocks and thoroughly clean them and vacuum like no one had ever vacuumed before. But I will just do a good water change, leave the rocks in place and vacuum lightly. >>Well, I'm glad I got to ya in time!  Marina Bill

Marine operation Hey Bob and Crew! I have never emailed before, but I read your site constantly and it has helped me a great deal in building my first marine tank that actually works with (I hope) happy fish. <Great!> So I am writing to just give you the URL of a website I put up with flicks of my aquarium and its species.  Please take a look if you ever have a free moment: http://www.mbgz.com/fish/ <Checked it out, nice pics!> tank description --------------- 20 gallon XH, with BioWheel 170, UG filter (100GPH powerhead)<hmmm...> and SeaClone 100, 16lb's Live Rock, Coralife 50/50 bulb <uh oh!> 1) Tomato Clown 1) LT Anemone <Red flag!> 1) Coral Beauty 1) PJ Cardinal 1) Watchman Goby 1) Six Spot (I think) Goby 1) Red Linckia 1) Choc Chip star 1) Tiger Serpent star 2) Cucumbers 1) Cleaner Shrimp 4) Hermit Crabs 15,000) little things like tube worms, "bugs", etc some macro algae Established Dec 1 2002, I had a bout of ich back in Feb (caused by fluctuating temp from a deteriorating heater - levels were good but temp was not) but cured it a couple of months ago with FW dips and water changes every other day.  Since then, the tank is doing really well, the inhabitants seem to get along well.  The levels are great (amm 0, true nitrate 10-15) and I do 15% water change/vacuum weekly and am careful feeding (but everyone gets to eat).  Very little algae growth, I had Halimeda that recently did it's sex thing, so I am expecting to hopefully see some new Halimeda soon.  The first four fish listed were added pretty quickly (by end of January), the rest were added over time, but note that this is the complete tank, no other organisms will be added until I get a new, much larger tank.  Of course, living in NYC in a small apartment with weak wood floors, that wont happen till I move! <You need to do something about your lighting if you wish to keep your LT anemone alive. These critters require much much more light than you are supplying it; i.e. you need at the very least several full length power compacts or optimally a 175w metal halide. It will take a while, but it will begin to bleach (it has already started) and shrink until it withers away to nothing from light 'starvation'. In the mean time as you decide whether or not you wish to upgrade your lighting or to find another home for the anemone, feed it once or twice a week with a meaty seafood. You'll also want to get that undergravel filter out of there and install a live sandbed in it's place or you can look forward to heavy nitrate accumulation. Do a search on the site.> Again thanks for all the advice over the last few months, it has really been invaluable.  My fish thank you too! <They are very welcome! -Kevin > James

His Girlfriend's Back And He's Gonna Be In Trouble... I wrote awhile ago about my girlfriend buying an anemone and a clown. <Ah, yes- I remember! Scott F. at the keyboard today> Guess what- she bought 2 more clowns to make 3 total. <Well, it's better than her bringing home 4 assorted neckties or some color coordinated commuter mugs!> The LFS told her that you should always have an odd number. <Well, true- unless you intend to have them pair off and breed at some point...I guess a trio will help spread out the aggression somewhat> The anemone is a large one. Extended it is about the size of a dinner plate maybe bigger. All 3 clowns are in the same anemone. They are very active. The question is, could all that activity be making the anemone go nuts? <Well, not making it go nuts- but their activities could be irritating the anemone, if you notice that it is somehow declining...Should not really be a problem...> It is a corn anemone. It doesn't seem to be happy, not as fluffy. Oh yeah did I mention she also brought home a Sebae anemone? Don't tell me tell her. <Well,, uh...um...> I just pay for the stuff and my prescription to valium! (LOL) <I hear ya. It's not really a good idea to keep more than one anemone (particularly of different species) in the same tank IMO. So many people have trouble just keeping one anemone healthy, it's really a chore to keep two...Good luck with the task at hand> Another question is I have a Turboflotor skimmer and I am ready to throw it in the trash. I finally got it dialed in then I did a water change, Then it all went downhill from there. For 2 weeks now I have been playing with it and it has not produced anything. Well it has produced something, frustration. I want to know if this is normal for this skimmer and if it is tell me of a skimmer that does not need so much tweaking. I can handle a little but I am going bonkers here trying to get this to produce anything. <Euroreef models are REALLY easy to calibrate...The adjustment is very simple> Yes I cleaned everything out in the skimmer and pump. So far it hasn't hurt water quality but I don't want it to so I am asking the authority of  pain in, I mean aquatics. I want a good skimmer with little tweaking. If there isn't one, invent one. I believe that you guys are that good. You just have to believe in yourself as much as we believe in you. <Well, as soon as I finish developing the warp drive engine, negotiate a lasting peace in the Middle East, and figure out why the "Check Engine" light keeps coming on in Nadine's Mazda Miata, I'll get back to you!> Until next time she goes shopping. Good bye. Kenny <Maybe she'll bring home a new skimmer...? Hope springs eternal!>

Home Improvements (Equipping A Tank For Long-Term Success) Dear Crew, <Scott F. your Crew member tonight!> We have a 45 gallon eclipse style aquarium, with only the filter system that it came with. We had 1 smaller size chevron tang, 1 clown fish, 1 false eye puffer fish, 1 lunar wrasse, and 1 jawfish. <Nice combination of fishes, but a bit too much bioload for long-term maintenance in this sized tank> The tank was wonderful, beautiful for about 2 months, and 2 weeks after we added the lunar wrasse. The wrasse and clownfish hassled each other at first, but this soon waned, and all the fish got along wonderfully. The jawfish had many burrows in FAKE rock pieces in the gravel. <Cool...!> Soon, we started noticing a few white spots on the tangs lateral fins. And soon the goby would have tears in his fins, we figured from the hermit shells that he would pull into his burrows and get caught on them. They healed up, and everything was fine but the tang still had the white spots. We figured it was from rubbing against the rock (suggested by a parent, who's saltwater fish experience was superior to ours.) So now 2 weeks later, the tang, clownfish and jawfish had full blown ick, and have now died. We added in Coppersafe, and antibacterial infection prevention/healer medicine, and our lunar wrasse and false eye puffer are still alive, and eating. <An FYI for the future...it's really problematic to medicate the display aquarium. Too difficult to maintain proper therapeutic dosages (due to absorption/binding with substrates, rock, etc.), and a potential long-term problem if you ever want to switch to a reef system...Also, a combination of medications is not advisable, as there are all sorts of possible stress problems and interactions... > The puffer has 2-3 noticeable white marks on one of his lateral fins, but the wrasse has no visible signs of ick. We took a water sample to the LFS and everything checked out perfect, but the ammonia, it wasn't at a dangerous level, unless we had live rock, which we don't.... <Sorry- I'm not sure I'm following this. Ammonia should effectively be "zero", or undetectable on your test kit...Doesn't matter if you have fish or rock...Ammonia is toxic....But I believe you are already aware of that...> We are mystified what ruined out lovely tank, we heard that tangs are easily stressed and susceptible to ich. <They can be...Tangs require very stable water conditions, food, space, and oxygen levels> We probably didn't have a big enough tank for a tang, even though he was a  juvenile. <That's a good observation on your part. I'd agree with you on that one. It's very important to look at the long-run here!> We also have heard that Eclipse's factory filter isn't very powerful for that many fish, and that might have caused the disease/ or stress. <Well, not a function of "power", per se, but the ability of the BioWheel to process the amount of waste produced by the bioload in your tank. You do make a good observation: Accumulated waste products and degraded water quality can cause stress, which will definitely contribute to disease problems!> Do we need to invest in a protein skimmer, and/or a aerator for a future with this tank.. <I am a firm believer that a protein skimmer is essential for any marine aquarium...a "must have" in my book! Extra circulation via powerheads or airstones is not a bad thing, either!> This is the 2nd time we have lost a tank full of fish due to disease, the first time was due to low pH and stressed cause velvet/ick. We waited for roughly 2-3 months before adding fish again which now have almost all died. What is the problem, and what future advice could you give us on our curse of the ICKNESS. Thanks A lot, Adam Perpich <I think that you are on the right track, Adam. Your conclusions and observations were basically right on the mark. You just need to make a few adjustments to your procedures (such as under-stocking, utilization of a quarantine protocol, and enhanced husbandry techniques, such as water changes, etc.), add some additional equipment (i.e.; a skimmer), and do a bit more research on the long-term requirements of your animals. That's really it. All of the information that you need is available in the vast resources that we have on the WWM site...Good luck in your efforts! Regards, Scott F>

In Desperate Need of Water Changes my friends son put all of our saltwater  fish food in the water aquarium <not good to hear> and the boys dad changed a lot!!!! of the water to clean the food out. <you are going to have to do frequent water changes to get the water quality back to normal>  well now after about 3 or 4 hours later they r dieing quick!!!!!<would keep on doing water changes-1 30-40% every couple days until all water parameters test well, nitrates under 30ppm, nitrites and ammonia readings 0>  I have a Picasso trig and a shadow looking one, a red squirrel fish, blue damsel, and a dwarf lionfish.  they r gasping very rapidly.  PLZZZZ IF U CAN HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!<the only thing you can do now is just maintain good water quality and hope they all live through this, Good Luck, IanB>

Four Is A Crowd (Dealing With An Overcrowded System)! Hello. <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I have done a lot of reading on your Q&A page.  I received a lot of useful information, but am still unsure what is going on in my tank.  We have a 50 gallon tank with a lionfish, puffer, squirrelfish and zebra moray eel. <Whoooa! Way too much fish load, my friend. These fishes will need much larger quarters, and soon! I hope a large tank is in the very near future? This is not a sustainable fish population in this sized system > When we contemplated setting up a tank, we asked a lot of people with experience with salt water tanks.  We went to a local aquarium store and purchased a wet/dry w/bio balls, and protein skimmer.  This store suggested live rock also, so we got a few pieces.  The lion and the eel were the first in the tank, the 2 others were added about 4 months later.  Our squirrelfish had an outbreak of ick, but was treated and cleared up in about a month.  No others were affected.  We started noticing tiny little things swimming in the tank.  Since this is our first tank, we bought books, and go online for a lot of our information.  We assumed they were coming from the live rock and decided to eliminate it.  We have been fine ever since. <What do you think that they were? Get a positive ID on creatures that emerge from the rocks...Some can be beneficial and/or harmless..> The tank has been set up for about a year now, our nitrates have been very high since we set up the tank.  The numbers seemed to be off the charts! <Unfortunately, I'd have to say that this is kind of predictable, given the heavy, heavy bio load in this tank> We were doing approx. 20% water changes every month <Good, but with this kind of stocking, you really need to embrace a more frequent water change schedule- like 2 small changes (5% of tank volume) twice a week.> but about 2 weeks ago our lionfish stopped eating.  We then noticed red spots on his head, kinda like bruises.  I called a local store, and he said it was probably a bacterial infection from the high nitrates or chlorine in tap water.  It seems like everyone has a different answer for everything, so it's almost like trial and error. <Yep- that's the good (and bad) thing about our hobby!> He said the chemicals you put in tap water to take out the impurities are not good to put in your tank.  He said my tank was crashing and we were most likely poisoning our fish!  Right away we did a water change, about 15 gallons.  In the past 2 weeks we have done about 3 water changes, with purified water, and the nitrates are still off the chart!  I don't know what we are doing wrong.  I have heard that carbon is not necessary, but in reading, seems that may be necessary to help get rid of harmful toxins. <In my opinion, carbon is an essential part of many systems, particularly one like yours with a heavy bio load. You should also use media such as Poly Filter to help remove more dissolved organics. Aggressive protein skimming is absolutely essential for a system like yours. You should get a very high quality protein skimmer, keep it clean, and get lots of skimmate production> Ph is 8.0-8.2, Ammonia is 0, Nitrites are 0, SG is 1.018. <That S.G. is really too low for long-term maintenance of fishes...Try bringing it up slowly to 1.021 or higher> My lionfish has only eaten 2 pieces of food in the past 2 weeks, just hangs out and doesn't look excited when it's time to feed.  Everyone else looks perfectly fine.  I forgot to mention that about 1/4" of our lionfish's fins have turned a purple/black, then fall off.  Recently, his lower fins seem to be deteriorating on the ends.  His color looks fine except for the reddish spots on his head.  We've had him for a year, and are trying to do everything we can to help him, we don't want to loose him.  We have been adding Melafix to the tank to try and help his fins.  Please help!  Thank you. <Hard to get a positive ID on the malady without a picture, but it may indeed be some sort of bacterial infection. I'd consider removing him to a separate aquarium for observation and further treatment. As for the overall system- you simply need to "stand down" for a bit and consider the long-term needs of your fishes. I certainly don't like to "kick someone when they're down", but, in he interest of your animals, I must beg you to get a larger tank, or find homes for these fishes with hobbyists who have larger tanks...You really need to investigate protein skimming (with a VERY good skimmer), embrace amore regular, aggressive water change schedule, and (did I mention it?) get a larger tank... Seriously, keep reading and learning on this site. You're right, there is a lot of conflicting information out there, but you really have to consider the long-term here...Please do more reading on the WWM site, and hang in there! You can do it...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

How To Become A Serious Fish Nerd... Hey there Crew, I have a question about live rock for you today. <Sure...Scott F. with you today> My 125g marine tank had come down with Ich again.  I moved the survivors to their QTs, and removed the decor from the tank to the bathtub and bleached them.  Since I removed the lace rock, the brown algae that was always present, has all but disappeared.  I did a search for "lace rock" and found a site that said lace rock was 62 to 69 percent silica.  Is this the same as silicates?  I'm not a chemist or anything. <Neither am I- and I don't play one on WWM, but I can tell you that lace rock + saltwater= nuisance algae blooms in many cases! I do not like this stuff in marine tanks at all...> I was wondering if my rock was a major cause of my fish tank headache. <Well, that and possible lack of nutrient export mechanisms> Well, I wanted to upgrade to live rock anyway.  What better time to do it, right? <That's what I'm talking about! When your tank is fallow, why not upgrade?...LOL> Since this isn't the first time I've had to leave the system fallow, I'm going to drain the tank and fill it with fresh water for about a week.  Then I was going to fill it back up with saltwater and add some live rock to cure in the main system.  I'll probably only be able to afford about 120 pounds, but hopefully it will be enough to help with water quality.  My question is, is there a dip for live rock that would get rid of things like ich? <Nope- just run the system fallow for a month or more, and the parasite population will crash (or at least drop to very insignificant levels) for lack of hosts> The live rock at the LFS is slightly cheaper than if I ordered "cured" live rock from an etailer.  I'm trying to eliminate the potential of introducing Ich back into my system after all of this work. <Okay...I'd go so far as to completely drain and clean the tank...it's a total restart here!> Since the fishes at the LFS have Ich on them, I'm not quite sure I want to buy any live rock from them. <Excellent thought! Personally, I will gladly pay more for quality live rock from a reliable source (and even get less of it, for that matter) before I use rock from a tank with disease> Even though, the live rock is held in a completely different system across the store.  My wife is pressuring me to sell the 6 month old tank and probably only have one more chance to get it right. <You will get it right! Just move slowly, don't skimp on quality, use generally accepted practices and good, sound husbandry habits, and you will have a very successful tank! It's not hard- it just requires dedication and persistence> We've had way too many algae and Ich problems.  Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Vince <Well, Vince, the WWM site has tons of good info. on good techniques...I hat to "toot my own horn", as they say, but I wrote a couple of articles that are on the WWM site that might help, because we get a lot of questions about ich and algae/water quality. Check out "Nutrient Control And Export" and "Marine Ich: Fighting The War On Two Fronts", both written by someone who has had his share of algae infested, ich-ridden tanks over the years! (Hey- that's ME!!) There is nothing revolutionary in these pieces, but they will touch on some concise techniques to combat these common problems that we all face at one time or another. Also- trust me and get copies of Bob's Conscientious Marine Aquarist" and Anthony's Book of Coral Propagation"...Both are just SICK!! (as in amazing!), and will definitely turn you into a serious fish nerd- guaranteed! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Tiny Bubbles Hi, <Hi John, PF here> I have a 30 gal Sea Horse tank with live rock, live sand, and BakPak skimmer. It's about a year old. I can't get rid of blue green algae, maybe cause the tank is near a window. <The window is not the issue, nutrients are. Have you checked your supply water for phosphates?> I decided to try a 9 watt UV sterilizer, to see if it would help. <In all honesty, I don't think it will. IMO, you would be better served by a refugium. www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm  Since it's not a coral tank, Caulerpa would not be a problem to use as a nutrient export. > I think it cut down on the algae, but it has caused the skimmer to flood the tank with mass quantities of tiny bubbles. I know that's not good for Sea Horses. I turned down the air valve, to hardly produce bubbles, but now the skimmer won't be very efficient. Will there be a reduction in the bubbles in time? <I wouldn't think so, but I'm not an expert on UV sterilizers. > Does this sound normal for a UV sterilizer to do at first? < Here's the info on UV sterilizers: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/bizuvs.htm Thanks, John <You're welcome, hopefully this helps. PF>

Algae drives up Reptile Sales? we've had a 55 gal community salt water tank for 6 yrs & lately have had nothing but problems.  have a wet-dry filter & magnum 350. <sounds good> the bottom is sand.  had some live rock, gave it away. <How deep is the sand, you want it to be less than 1in, or over 4in.  Why did you get rid of the live rock, live rock is excellent for marine aquariums.> lots of red algae on everything, particularly the sand. <excess nutrients?> only 3 fish left!!  get conflicting advice, so thought I'd go to the experts. questions: would crushed coral be better than sand? <If you keep the depth under 1in, either substrate will be fine.  If you are going to go for a deep sand bed you will want to use sand. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/deepsandbeds.htm > can colored stones be used on the bottom? <That depends on what they are colored with, I like to use marine substrates for their added buffering ability.> what's the best way to get rid of the algae? <Excellent water quality.  Lots of info on Algae at the link below and the related links at the top of that page. http://wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm > our ph is always very hi - could this be part of the problem?   <How high?  probably not the cause of the problem.> also, should we clean the bio-balls in the wet-dry? <Nope> my water temp is about 80, too hi? <should be fine.> sorry to ask so many questions, but if things don't improve soon  we're ready to dump the thing & get a lizard!! <No worries.  Bearded Dragons are fun, but believe me, fish are far more entertaining to watch, don't give up just yet.> thanks tom & Dottie <Check out the links above and have your water tested, if you do not have test kits your local fish store should be able to test it for you.  You want to ensure that you are using quality source water when you perform water changes, weekly to bi-weekly water changes will help with nutrient export.  Replace the media in the canister filter frequently as well.  A nice protein skimmer will also help with nutrient export.  -Best Regards, Gage>

It's In The Bag...Isn't It? Well hello, <Good evening! Scott F. here tonight!> I have a new customer that I am doing the cleaning on their reef tank. It's a 100 gallon, with a large micron bag that looks like it hasn't been changed for months on end. My question is can I just put a new micron bag on without messing up the biological. All the measurements are doing good., and the tank is about two years old. I also found some white polyps in the bag. Thanks again, Le Roy at Aquascaping <Well, Le Roy- I love your cautious approach! I'm sure that your customers can appreciate that! Good hunch- removing the bag that has essentially become a biological filtration substrate at this point could possibly cause some kind of negative reaction in the tank. I've seen this kind of thing happen before! Here is what I'd do: Remove the bag from the standpipe, or wherever it is located, but leave it in the sump. Install the new one. Leave the bag in there for a couple of weeks, then remove it. Although I am not a big fan of leaving these bags in to the point where they become bio-filters, it would be potentially problematic to remove it without allowing beneficial bacteria to build up either in the new bag, or elsewhere in the system. Do test water frequently during the next two weeks or so. After that, I'd make sure that you clean or replace these bags often (like weekly)... As for the whitish creatures, sounds like they a re some harmless bryzoans or other, sponge-like creatures or worms...No worries, just part of the diversity...Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F> Giving Algae the Brush Off Hello all at Wet Web, <Hey Peg, Scott F here> I checked out the brush section of your site but to no avail.  I'm looking for a brush similar to a denture brush for cleaning nuisance algae off live rock.  I used to be able to get them at a local drug store, but they no longer carry them.  Suggestions?  Other than don't end up with the nuisance algae in the first place. Many thanks, Peg. <I would suggest a toothbrush, preferably a medium to firm bristle.  That would probably do the trick.  And, don't forget to brush and floss three times a day after meals and between snacks.  hah!hah!> Tiny Bubbles- Big Troubles? I have a twenty gallon reef tank with live sands and rocks with a 175 watts metal halide and two power compact 50/50 each. my question is that every time I turn my lights on a few hours later I notice millions of tiny air bubbles in my tank. It's on the rocks and corals what is going on? It's not my filter or protein skimmer, so can you please tell my what is going on, and at night time when the lights are off in the morning there is no bubbles not until a couple of hours later. Please get back at me ASAP.... <That's a tough one...Could have something to do with photosynthesis, temperature, or a myriad of other possibilities, ranging from the mundane to the bizarre...If these bubbles appear to be dissipating after the lights come on, it may not be something to be too worried about. I'm afraid that the best I can do is implore you to observe carefully and ascertain whether or not there has been any negative impact on the animals in the tank. Good luck. Regards, Scott F>

72G Bow front from fresh to salt water Can I add a peppermint shrimp or any other type of scavenger now, or must I wait? <You are looking for the tank to have no ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate. After that, you can start stocking slowly.> I've had the damsels and live rock for close to 2 weeks now. Also, can I get a starfish even though I have crushed coral for a substrate? I'm hearing conflicting things. <Be careful with stars as they can be difficult to keep in a newly established tank. (Difficult to keep period for some species) Make sure you research the species you want well as some are very destructive to reef tanks and fish.> Thanks for all of your help! <You are welcome, Don>

New tank problems and questions <Note, the following messages were received in succession from the same reader> Hi, I have a question... Should I give any 'prophylactic' treatment to my fish before putting them in the tank? I'll be getting Clownfishes, yellow tangs and flame angels... Maybe freshwater dip? Copper treatment? <Hi Luke, I would highly recommend quarantine for any new fishes. See here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm. Don> Thank you, Luke Hi, I have a newly setup aquarium. Lots of live rock, but no skimmer yet (it's on order). The pH is good, salinity is 1.0245 at 26C. no ammonia or nitrates <What about Nitrites?> I bought a yellow tang today. It was beautiful and yellow :-) It didn't look scared. I fed him brine shrimp and he was eating very eagerly. After some time, it turned almost all white on the body, except for a very intense yellow stripe going across the body... <An indicator of stress from capture, shipping and handling, acclimation, poor water quality, all of the above> I don't have any corals in the tank. Another weird thing is that my turbo snails race to the top of the aquarium almost getting out of the water... should it be this way? <Yes, many snails will exit the tank if given the opportunity. Don> Huge thanks. Luke Hi, a few more questions, if you don't mind. <No problem> I have the following fish in the tank: 2 Clownfishes, yellow tang and soon flame angel. Lots of live rock, filter with activated carbon, no skimmer yet, but will have one in a few days. Temp is 25.5C and salinity 1.024. Crushed coral bottom substrate. I'm a newbie to marine aquarium. So far I have not been using any water supplements. I have not measured calcium content, but recently notice that my pH was only 8.0. <You need to have a skimmer before adding any more livestock, research (here on WetWebMedia if you like) and get one that is appropriate for your system. I would not skimp on this device.> So, here come the questions: 1) Should I increase the pH? <Only to 8.2 - 8.4> Shouldn't it automatically set at 8.2-8.4 with proper salt and salinity? <No.> I'm not sure how to increase it (baking soda?) and won't the crushed coral substrate act as a buffer? <There are many commercial buffers available. I would use one designed for reefs> 2) Should I measure calcium ? <Absolutely, alkalinity as well> 3) What water additives to you recommend? <Those that replenish what is lacking. Only add something that you test for and have a proven need for> I currently don't have corals or anemones. Will any of the above change if I add any of them? <I would not add any anemones until you find out what their care needs are. Very difficult animals to raise or just keep alive. In the future, it will help us help you if you give is tank specifics, not phrases like OK and good. We also like to have tank size, age, amount of live rock (if any) and substrate. All will help us.> Huge thanks for all your help. Luke <Luke. The best thing I could tell you is to slow down and do some research. You are adding/changing too much too fast. Always a recipe for catastrophic results. Stop adding animals now until you know what water parameters your tank has and if they are sufficient to support the life forms you are adding. Make sure you quarantine all fish for at least 4 weeks AFTER all signs of disease are gone. I would recommend that you test specific gravity, pH (with a monitor if available) ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, alkalinity/carbonate hardness, and calcium as a minimum. Then dose to bring these values into appropriate range. You can start here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm and continue with the different listed sections to learn the basics of marine aquaria. You might want to check the local library/book store for author's like Fenner, Calfo, Michael, Borneman, etc for good overall how to and reference material. Hope this helps, Don>

Red Alert! (Cyanobacteria Strikes Again!) Hi WWM Crew, <Scott F. your Crew Member today> I am new to this hobby. Please help. I just setup my 50 gallon tank 3 week ago (LR and Live Sand 4inch deep).  After about three week, I noticed that there some form of algae (red maroon color and shaped like little volcano).  Are these good or bad algae? Thank You, Doug <Well, Doug- this is a "nuisance algae" called Cyanobacteria, and it's usually caused by excessive nutrient accumulation, which is very common in new aquariums, particularly where abundant live rock and sand help bring these nutrients in. They will go away in time with careful attention to nutrient export processes, such as aggressive protein skimming, water changes with quality source water, and other good husbandry procedures...You can read up on algae control on the Wetwebmedia site. Stay with the program, and your tank will be fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Large Fishes-Serious Water Treatment! I'm confused about water circulation and water turnover rates in my 280 FOWLR Tank. I currently have an Ampmaster 3000 pump  connected to my sump. Now my question is why should I have this much water running through my sump when my skimmer (Turboflotor 1000) can only process so much water anyway? Would my system benefit better if I used the Ampmaster 3000 in a closed loop situation and use a lower rated pump connected to the sump? <That sounds like a better arrangement to me. As you correctly surmise- there is no sense in pushing more water through the skimmer than it is capable of processing> If so, what size pump should I look for? <You really need to test for a level of circulation that works for your skimmer, as well as the ability of your overflow to handle the amount of water moving through the system.> By using the Ampmaster in a closed loop situation I would have better luck in keeping all those micro bubbles out of the display tank. I have tried different things and searched for a solution but I have not been successful. That is a lot of water splashing down in the sump just to be pulled right back up and pumped into the display tank. <True...I really like the idea of the Ampmaster powering a closed loop. This should work nicely> My tank includes a 20" Tesselata Eel, 5" Pink Tail Trigger, and a 12" Vlamingi Tang. I would like to add a Miniatus Grouper as a final addition to the system. <And that will be some final addition at a length approaching 15-16 inches! They can really mess up a tank in a relatively short time with the copious amounts of metabolic waste they produce. All the better that you have vigorous water movement and aggressive skimming! You've got some serious waste producers in that tank!> Just trying to find one of the appropriate size from my local dealer. I have approx. 300 lbs of LR and1/2 inch of crushed coral. I recently upgraded my lighting from florescent lighting to (2) 6 ft VHO bulbs and now green algae is starting to grow on the acrylic everywhere. My water parameters are all good. PH 8.6, Nitrates 10ppm, Nitrites 0, Ammonia 0, Alk 5ppm. My phosphate levels are in the 3ppm range. They were a lot higher before but I was able to get them to come down by doing 20 gallon water changes weekly and keeping my PH levels up. I know it would be best if I could get this level down to zero but is this possible with the fishes that I have? Is there anything else besides the phosphate levels that I might be missing contributing to the algae growing so quick on the acrylic?  Antoine Dunn <Well, I'm impressed by your stable water conditions, particularly when you consider the fishes that you've got in there! Phosphates are a major contributor to algae in closed systems, and 3 ppm phosphate is a SERIOUS amount of phosphate to deal with! Unfortunately, phosphate tends to accumulate as a result of feeding, as well as in source water. Nitrates and phosphates tend to serve as "algae fuel". Some ways to counter the accumulation of these substances are to continue your aggressive water changes (I tend to favor two smaller (5% of tank volume) changes a week, continued protein skimming, use of activated carbon, Poly Filter, or other chemical filtration media (replaced regularly). Use of quality source water (RO/DI) will help, by providing a "head start" with good quality water. It will be a battle, considering the fish load that you keep, but you can keep the water quality high indefinitely with good husbandry. Keep in mind that some algae is both natural and beneficial in closed systems, so as long as it's not taking over everything, I would just keep it in check through regular maintenance. Sounds like you're doing well so far, just keep up the good work! Regards, Scott F.>

Cloudy water The nitrates are down to 40. The water is still real cloudy. Am I over- using the Selcon? Soaking dried seaweed every other day? Do the additives that claim they clear cloudy water work. I started using the tap conditioner with aloe could that due it. I know the protein skimmer really bubbles when I use it. <I do not have much experience with the Selcon product, so I checked with Anthony, very little Selcon is needed, and too much could cloud your tank.  Word around the water cooler is Sea Clone skimmers are not the best, you might want to start looking into an upgrade, the Aqua-C Remoras and Urchins are nice.  Also, increased water flow will help with the nitrates, 10 to 20 times the tank volume is good.  -Gage>

- New Setup Questions - Dear Sir, <Good morning, JasonC here...> I had visited your wonderful site.. I would like to ask you these doubts.. I have setup my marine aquarium with some pebbles, gravel/stone chips instead of coral chips.. Is this OK? <Depends on the source of the stone. Aquarium stone is OK, but it's not optimum... crushed coral would be much better for the overall health of your tank.> Will pebbles/stone chips with coral chips harm the fish? <Again, provided the stone is suitable for aquariums, it won't harm the fish, but crushed coral alone would be much better.> Also my tank beading is made of aluminium metal. Will it cause harm to fish? <If the salt water is coming in contact with the aluminum trim, this is not good for a couple of reasons. Oxidizing aluminum is toxic to fish, and likewise the saltwater will degrade the aluminum trim.> When I put some hardy fish (to condition my tank) then it dies within a day! Why is this? <Something is very wrong with either the fish or your water. If you have test kits, these provide some information about what the problem is, and if you don't have test kits, you should obtain them.> Should I again add fish? <Not until you test the water.> If so for how long. Will it die so fast too?! Its 5 days now. <Could be a problem with your setup... please read the following links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marineSetUp.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fishonsetup.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marsubstr.htm > Also in my tank I see some algae growth.. Its just a week now. Is this OK? Does Limestone help in the tank.. ? <It doesn't hurt, but again, you'd be better off with live rock and crushed coral.> Please let me know. <Please read those articles.> Regards, Jimmy George. <Cheers, J -- >

Marine operation Hi All,<You got Cody today!> A few weeks ago I purchased fully cured live rock from my LFS.  It had mushroom polyps and some plant stem looking things on it. One of my questions is, could the stems be remnants of macro algae?<yes>  If so, how can I get them to grow?  <Good light and water quality.> Another thing, I found a couple of aiptasia anemones, so I bought a couple of peppermint shrimp.  The only problem is, they don't go near it!!! They pretty much stay in their little cave all day, and come out at night. They only stay on one side of the tank, even if I manually move them by the aiptasia, they go to the other side.  Are they ever going to eat them anemones????  <Make sure you have the type right type of shrimp as there are peppermint look alikes called a camel shrimp.  You can find pics of these at the marine files on wetwebmedia.com> My other question is, I have detectable phosphate of 1.0ppm.  <Lets get this down to 0.> I performed a water change, and that's the reading it gave.   All other parameters were normal: spg 1.024 temp  78 ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 5.0  <----is this very high?  <  It's not too high but its best to have it at 0.> phosphate 1.0 calcium 400 right now I have a black percula, tomato clown, two Firefish and a yellow tail damsel in a 55gal.  in qt I have a cherub angel that is recuperating from an attack from the black percula.  he looks, swims, and feeds well. the black clown has shown no more aggression to other tank inhabitants.  I'm hoping he/she got it out of its system with the angel.  <There is a chance the clown will still be aggressive towards the angel.  You may want disrupt all the homes of the current fish before you reintroduce the angel.  If there is still a problem between the two you could put the clown in the quarantine for a few weeks then reintroduce him.  also, i have lots of microbubbles flowing into my tank from the skimmer, which is an aqua c remora I've had running for a couple of weeks.  Should I expect them to go away eventually, or is there anything i can do to curb them?  <Just make sure the skimmer is adjusted properly.>  There are some other mushroom polyps, green star polyps and clove polyps in the tank as well, and all are doing ok.  The mushrooms that came on the rock have even reproduced.  I've also noticed that when i leave the lights on for 12 hrs i get this yucky brown stuff on my sand, and only there. I know I've asked lots of questions and this email is quite long, but i would appreciate any help!!!!  i know about nutrient export, but it seems the brown stuff appears no matter how many water changes I perform, no matter if i remove half a cup of "stuff" every few days, no matter when i run poly filters and carbon in my mechanical.  Like I said, any help is appreciated.   <The algae is just a phase many tanks got through.  Please read on wetwebmedia.com for more info.  Cody.>  Thanks!  Karina

Setting Up a 90 FOWLR  4/14/03 hi!<Hey Roger!  Phil here!> i just set up a 90g FOWLR tank, my first ever.<Sweet!  Welcome to this great hobby!>  i am having a great time with it so far, but it was a store set up that i purchased and i have a few questions about it.<Shoot>  I have an eheim 2026 pro canister filter<Great for freshwater, ok for saltwater.  Fill it with bio-media until you can get more live rock.>  , a magnum H.O.T. for carbon, 4 inches of LS, 45 lbs. LR<You need about 45 more pounds of live rock, IMO.>, and an aquaclear aquatics hang on protein skimmer.  is this a good unit, or should i immediately replace it?<Looks like it could be one of those that needs frequent adjustments, which model is this?  The 75g unit or the 150g unit?  If it's the 75g model upgrade!!! If it's the 150g model it might be okay for now, but I'd save the income tax refund to a Remora Pro and use this skimmer on a live rock curing tank or on your QT.> i only have a maroon clown in the tank now, but eventually i want to have:1 maroon clownfish<This guy is going to be trouble!  He will attack other peaceful fish.? , 1 snowflake eel<You may need a larger tank in time, be sure to "eel-proof" your tank!!!>, 1 dwarf fuzzy lionfish<A good choice but nevertheless a small fish eater.>, 1 black Sailfin blenny<Couldn't find info on this blenny, but Anywho the lion will eat it so no blennies.>, 1 Singapore angel<This is a tough angel that is a hit or miss. Try the Indian Yellowtail Angelfish.  A better fish for this type of tank.>, 1 purple tang<Watch this guy as someone might wanta pick on him.>   Is my filtration set-up good?<see above>  it's been working great so far.  just looking for a professional opinion.<I won't call myself a pro, but I do enjoy helping others in this fine hobby! :) > thank you!<Your quite welcome>  Roger <Phil>

Cloudy Water Ok here goes. I have a 55 gallons saltwater tank. Fluval 304, two power heads, sea clone skimmer and a disconnected under gravel filter holding up about a ? inch of crushed coral gravel. I have been gone for a few month (six) and the tank received very little maintenance and water changes. The fish are alive tomato clown, royal gramma, blue damsel and yellow tang. But brown algae has taken over the tang looks terrible and the water is cloudy. I tested the water ammonia and nitrites are 0, but nitrates are way high like 140? I've been doing 15 gal water changes every two weeks now for about two months.  I took all the coral out and washed it off and vacuumed the bottom gravel thoroughly. The nitrates are still high and the water is still cloudy. I never had a problem with cloudy water before I don't know what to do?  The tang is eating like crazy but not gaining any weight. Clamped fins lost the tissue between the dorsal spines you can see the red blood vessels. Feeding him red and green seaweed sheets soaked in Selcon eats formula two, flakes anything and everything but just won't turn around.  Tanks been up for three years and fish the same. Don't want to loose the tang but think it to late. <Don't give up just yet.> I've always battled the nitrate problem in this tank any advise? Better skimmer? <I'd start doing the 15gal water changes every around every 3 days until the water parameters are back in line. How is your current skimmer performing?  A good skimmer will help a lot. Do you  have any Live rock?  -Gage> Thanks roger

Bubble Trouble? <Scott F. here to try and help you.> I just set up my saltwater, live rock acrylic tank and I have some bubbles that have attached to the front of my tank! I hate it! I have used a sponge on it and it seems to form even more after using the sponge. It seems to spread to the places the sponge touches! Will the bubbles go away or can I make them go away with a solution! Thanks, Let me know if you want me to email a picture ,of the front of my tank! <Trust me, they will go away.  This is a common phenomenon in new aquariums.  If you can't stand it, just brush them away.  They will go dissipate after a few days.  Hope this helps.  Regards, Scott F.> Leah in Sacramento, CA.

Doing The Best That He Can Do! Greetings to you! <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I first want to thank you for the countless questions you have answered. My three fish are doing well, in large part because of your advice. I also want to apologize again for the length of this question. <It's always great to hear that we were able to help you!> My first question relates to nutrition.  After reading about the potential pitfalls of food that uses gelatin, I decided to try to make my own. My current tenants include a solar fairy wrasse, true percula, and a citron goby.  I made a concoction (much to my wife's chagrin) of raw shrimp, scallops and squid, with some sushi nori and Kent Zoe supplement. <Sounds pretty tasty!> Is this a varied enough diet for long-term sustenance?  It was rather economical, and I was able to freeze it in 2oz portions using those small restaurant containers.  They also really enjoy it. <I think it sounds fine as a part of a balanced diet. The key, in my opinion, is to provide a varied diet, so be sure to rotate through a few different foods for best results> Next question.  I have decided to eschew crabs for clean-up.  I currently have three Turbos, one queen conch (which will be traded when it gets too large) and six Nassarius snails.  I've been adding them a couple at a time, based on perceived need.  How many Nassarius do you believe would be ideal for this size tank (30 gal)? <I'd use only like 4-6 specimens, myself> Are there any other non-crab denizens that would co-exist with the snails?  Brittle star, perhaps? <Brittle stars are a fine choice, as are some smaller shrimp for variety. I wouldn't go totally crazy with lots of sand-stirring animals in a relatively small tank, as too much activity in a small sand bed can render it substantially less effective as a "filter" than it would be if left relatively undisturbed> One more:  As stated above, one of my residents is a red-headed fairy wrasse. I bought him because he didn't look like he would make it too much longer in the LFS (not a good reason, I know, but I can't help it - my wife and I feel like we have to rescue every animal). <Nothing wrong with good old fashioned compassion> I rearranged the rock to provide a lot of caves and underpasses for it.  I have observed the tank for hours, and I have yet to see a single aggressive movement among them. In fact, the three often 'hang out' together in the same part of the tank.  I would hate to have to lose the wrasse - for practical as well as personal reasons.  What is the long-term prognosis for this arrangement? <Well, no guarantees- but if you provide a well-balanced diet, stable environmental conditions, and provide a high level of care, you're doing the best that anyone can> My tank readings have remained stable and ideal for two months (except a slightly low pH at 8.0-8.1,  and the 0.1 PO4 readings - slowly working on that).  Thanks again for all the advice! JPM <Steady as she goes! I'm sure that you're doing just fine. Keep caring, and keep doing the best that you can for your fishes, and I have no doubt that you'll be very successful with your setup! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Cleaning the Substrate Hi Guys, >And gals! Just a few quick questions.  I have been into marine fish keeping now for about 12 months and after my own investigation found that I was not vacuuming my gravel as i should have been.  I removed all of the gravel and gave the tank a huge clean.  Was this a bad thing to do.  >Well....in a word, yes.  A gravel vacuum is better, and even *then*, only vacuum 1/3-1/2 the bottom at each cleaning.  However, not all is lost, is it? Should I have just bought a gravel cleaner?  >Yes, but that can be fixed by buying one now.  Go online and get 'em cheap. Would not vacuuming my gravel have been the reason for my constant high nitrates?  >Only one reason.  If you're using gravel then no matter what, you won't be culturing the type of bacteria that would break down the oxidized ammonia (nitrogenous) wastes anyway.  That can be done with good quantities of GOOD quality live rock, as well as a deep sand bed (DSB).  However, not to worry, you can also use foam fractionation (protein skimming) to help stay on top of things. I perform a 20% change a week.  >Sounds good to me. I now want to add some new base medium.  I have been to my LFS and they said they cannot get live sand.  They have crushed coral gravel and small bits of bleached coral which i used to have it there.  What do you think is the best for my situation?  Could I leave it as is? >How about calling your local Home Depot and seeing if they have a product (sand) called "Southdown".  This is "the stuff" as far as reefers are concerned.  A finely-grained, calcareous substrate at a fraction of the price of your other choice (for calcareous substrata), Aragonite sand.  Aragonite can be ordered by mail or online as well, and you can also seek out deep sand bed seeding kits that help the process move along.   I have a rather small tank 20 gals with about 20 pounds of live rock.  Do you think I need more live rock as my nitrates are fairly high at the moment and I am performing at least a 20% water change a week?  >You have a fair amount of live rock, but it can only do so much.  I would suggest first investing in a good quality protein skimmer, CPR BakPak or AquaC Remora are two highly recommended hang-on-tank (HOT) brands.  Then I would purchase the sand, enough to make a bed about 3"-4" deep.  You could also set up a refugium, or add sufficient lighting so that you can grow macro algae that can then be harvested, thus removing the nitrates quite literally physically. Also, are canister filters any good for marine setups? >Sure, why not?  Just be careful when using carbon (in my opinion you can nix it), some brands will leach phosphates--no good! I have a closed top system with built in trickle filter containing Seachem's Matrix and cannot fit a protein skimmer.  >Then get the HOT protein skimmer.  That's preferable to the canister, in my opinion. I would like better filtration without making any major modifications and we're trying to find some viable options.  Any ideas.  Thanks in advance.  Amon >There you have it, please feel free to explore our site some more at http://www.wetwebmedia.com (look for filtration, specifically) as well as http://www.reefs.org/library >Also, both sites have very good, active forums where you can ask questions more directly, and will get a response from a much wider base.  Marina

Marine operation >Thanks for the response Marina, it was very helpful. >>You're quite welcome, I'm glad it was helpful. >Regarding my filtration, I didn't get into it because it's going to be upgraded during the move. >>Ok, no worries. >My LFS guy is building me a sump to fit under the tank...it's huge! I'm going to get a good skimmer to sit in it (haven't decided which one yet). Right now I have 2 Emperor's, a Prizm skimmer, and a UV sterilizer....not ideal, but I've noticed with prudent water changes this setup "can" work. That being said, I want a much more efficient system for a community tank. I have one follow up for you re: the order. I like what you said, expect I was going to put the purple in last and the flame in second to last, thinking that the purple was the "most aggressive." Why do you put the Flame in last? >>My own experience has been that we don't get juvenile angels as often as juvie tangs, so the angel would be a bit more aggressive, not just with fish occupying the same strata as he (the rockwork) but also towards fish swimming out in the water column.  It's a really fine point, however, as I'm positive there are plenty of others who would go the way you're thinking, too.  Much of it depends on the ages of the fish, so if, for instance, the tang is closer to being an adult, then yes, I would put him in last. >Oh, and I have 2 cleaners who live w/ my eel, they will be coming along...love those little guys! Thanks again...Rich. >>You're very welcome again.  I do just LOVE the cleaners, my favorites have always been (for their personalities) Lysmata ambionensis.  Marina

Setting up a 120 the Right Way...  3/28/03 hi guys from the crew,<Hey there Rob! You've got Phil today!> i have just started in the hobby, and have (hopefully) taken great care setting up a 120 gal tank, and a 15 gal quarantine.<You got a quarantine??  OMG!!!!  EVERYBODY READ THIS!!!  Wonderful!  A qt will not only save fish/cash, but your own piece of mind!  You are on a path for success!!>  i have about 110 lbs of live rock in the display tank, and about 10 in the quarantine.<FYI, you really shouldn't put live rock (LR) in the quarantine tank.  If you use any copper it will kill the rock.  I find that PVC pipe works the best in a qt.>  the rock was cured fully (at least, i never got any nitrite/nitrate readings, and the ammonia never got above 0.4), and it's been about 2 months that both tanks have been running. anyway, i purchased my first fish, a potter's angel, and made the classic bonehead newbie move of not reading up on the species beforehand.  i did plan on getting a dwarf angel, but i didn't realize that the potter was a scavenger/grazer.  I had planned on getting a Rabbitfish down the line because my display tank has lots of algae, but now, I'm thinking that might be overkill.<I agree> i put it in the QT, and it seems to be doing ok, except for it's not eating that much.  it eats a bit of the angel food when i break it up, and stir it around, but today was the first day it did so.  then again, i just got it on Thursday, and it just started eating on Saturday (maybe due to shipping stress?) also, i was wondering if it might be better to move it straight to the main tank (since it's the first fish in the tank, so there's no other's to infect), so it might have more to graze on.  actually, maybe moving some LR to the QT from the main tank might be a better option.<No to adding more lr to the qt.  Have you tried Nori?  It's dried seaweed and can be found at some markets and maybe a LFS or two.  You need to keep the Angel in the qt for 4 weeks.  Even if it is the first fish in the tank.  If it does have say ICH it will infect any other fish that enter the tank.> also, i was wondering how you tell the sex of a potter.  all my research has turned up the fact that males are brighter.  is that the only way?<I would try looking on www.fishbase.org  for more info on the sex of the Potter's Angel> thanks in advance,<No problem> rob<Hope this helps and good luck!  Phil>

What Is That Gunk? Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> Week ago, I installed a new canister filter (Eheim Pro II 2026) in my 55gal tank. Two days ago, after cleaning the filter (had some feeder shrimp sucked into the filter through the eheim surface extractor) and a 20% water change, I noticed some white patches/spots on the filter tubing (only on the flexible tubes - ate least that's where it is prominently visible). Not sure if it was there before I cleaned the filter though, but I noticed it only afterwards. Wondering if anyone has experienced anything like this before and if it is harmful to my fish and the plants. Any info/advice on how to remove this would also be most welcome. <Well, hard to say from here- but it could be anything from a "biofilm" of Cyanobacteria (yes- they can be whitish, too) to a sponge, or even some kind of sponge...Probably harmless, if water parameters are acceptable otherwise> Oh.. yeah... while the filter is operational if you tap the tubes, it will come off and float around in the aquarium (looks like a whitish film). <Ahh...sounds like some kind of cyano to me...just keep o top of basic husbandry, and things should be okay> Thks n Rgds, KC. <No problem, K.C.- hang in there! Regards, Scott F>

Emerging Reef Tank OK Scott, here is the update. <Lay it on me, man!> Since we last emailed each other, I have replaced the skimmer with a Prizm Protein Skimmer with a surface water skimmer and a chemical filter basket containing phosphate remover. <Make sure that you change chemical media regularly so that they stay effective, okay?> I sold the trigger and the puffer to a good home. <That was an excellent move!> I preformed a 50% water change with the tap water filter and the best sea-salt I could find.  I went through again and scrubbed down the tank, heater, filter, and rock to make sure all the algae is gone.  Here are some things I had questions about as I prepare for coral: My power compact lighting is on from 7a-10p on the average day.  A friend recommended this to me but I think it's too much light.  I know that the exact amount of light depends on the type of coral, but how does that sound for what I have now (2 damsels and about 15-20lbs of live rock)? <I don't think that it's too much light for your current animal load. As you correctly theorized, the intensity and duration of the light depends largely on the needs of the animals. It's pretty hard to have "too much" light for most shallow water reef animals, IMO> I also removed my power head because I read on a different website that hair-algae preferred areas with high circulation.  Was that a good idea? <I would disagree with that notion, myself. I think that the appearance and domination of hair algae is largely a function of excessive nutrients. In fact, the control of most nuisance algae blooms can be initiated with better water circulation, among other things.> Lastly, I have a twin BioWheel (Biowheel 330, I think) wet/dry filter. I already that a wet/dry filter like a BioWheel is bad for coral. Any truth to that (hope now, after dropping money on the protein skimmer, I really don't want to go get a new filter)? <The BioWheel is not "bad" for coral at all. The reason why I am not a big fan of BioWheels and other plastic media is that, although they tend to do a great job at breaking down ammonia and nitrite, they don't break down nitrate (the "end product of the biological filtration process) very well, and nitrate will tend to accumulate. Accumulations of nitrate can have a negative effect on overall water quality, which is not a good thing for corals!> How does all this sound in terms of removing algae and preparing for coral? Kenneth <Sounds good so far. Remember- think "nutrient export" here...Keep at the sources of algae problems, and how to reduce them: Water changes, use and regular replacement of your chemical media, and aggressive protein skimming (try to collect a couple of cups a week of that dark, yucky stuff you here us talk about all the time. Maintain the highest possible water quality, consistent and diligent maintenance, and you'll be on your way to a thriving coral community! Good luck, and have fun! Scott F>> PS:  You don't know what a huge help you and your website have been so far.  Thanks for the continued support!

Marine maintenance Hi  Crew, <cheers> I've got a few quick ones.  In my 72 gallon sump I've put a bag of activated charcoal - just set it in the tank near the return pump, is this  placement ok or does it need to be somewhere special??   <fine as it is... called "passive" filtration and will remove color and odor from water but not aggressively. Very fine> I have a 200 gallon FOWLR tank with a clown trigger, my live rocks seem to have a fair amount of detritus on them, <lack of adequate water flow (10-20X tank volume per hour)... rather common> if I was to buy snails would the trigger eat them ?? <almost certainly... and most snails won't eat detritus. You would benefit far greater by increasing water flow and making the skimmer perform better (dark daily skimmate like coffee... easy to produce in a tank with a trigger if the skimmer is designed/tweaked well> if so any other ideas on how to get the rocks nice and clean??   <its all about nutrient export. Perhaps in addition to tweaking the skimmer, forcing water through the carbon and changing small amounts weekly instead of large amounts monthly would help too> I've seen many different opinions on temperature and specific gravity.  My tank is at 78 degrees and 1.020, I've had problems with ich in the past - any suggestions on how to minimize the chances through the manipulation of temp. and specific gravity  (I know water quality first)??   <stability is the key here... professional aquarists employ two heaters to accomplish this> In my quarantine tank I have used copper - if I just rinse off the thermometer and hydrometer is that enough to use it back in my main tank or do I need to do something special?? <a rinse alone is fine, bub> thanks for your help. Joe <best regards, Anthony>

The Big (and Crowded) Picture Dear Bob and Crew: <Scott F. today!> To keep this short...I have fallowed my main display for 30 days now because of an ick outbreak. All the fishes that made it are in my QT. and all free of parasites. at least that is what I can see). <Well done!> In this month, I changed 60-80 gallons of water, my tank is 125 gallons and siphon the top layer of my sand substrate and cleaned with freshwater, just to be safe. Within this month, I also added about 100 lbs of live rock and a devil hand soft coral. <Sounds like a serious "retrofit!"> I added appropriate supplements. I keep water conditions as best as I can. I intend to wait for another 2 weeks before I start adding fish back in there. This is the third time I have had it fallow my tanks so I have to get this time right. <Just be patient and see the process through!> I would like to ask you about the order of fishes that I put in. 1st- 2 x 2inch palette tang for 14 days (because tangs are ick magnet, I put them first to see if the ick has gone away. <A bold move, but I can appreciate the logic here. As long as environmental conditions and water parameters are acceptable and stable, why not?> 2nd- clowns (tomato and common), Firefish and scooter blenny, and a 2 inch squirrel fish <Are you sure about the squirrel fish? They can get fairly large- and they can munch on smaller tankmates...I am not a big fan of them, except in dedicated "biotope" tanks, myself...Just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents!> 3rd  rusty and coral beauty angels (2.5 inch) <They are getting along together? A bit unusual-but good...Watch out for the corals- there might be "sampling" on occasion> 4th  clown tang (4 inch) <Uh-oh> 5th  shoal tang  (6+ inch) <Oh, Boy!> I am intended to keep other fishes, Powder Blue tang, harlequin tusk, , , queen angel  and a clown trigger. <Whoa!> (these I have not bought) Maybe emperor angel (juv),  asfur angel and regal angel <Ok- time for 'ol Scott to speak up here! I'm not sure how to say it really nicely, so I'll be blunt. Way, way too many fishes in this tank, especially the tangs. One of the many 'inducers" of ich is stress, and stress may come about for a variety of reasons, including overcrowding (and the environmental degradation that it causes), and "social" problems, caused by aggressive behaviors among the inhabitants. Also- take into account the "end game" here-the ultimate size of some of these fishes, and their needs: The Clown Tang and Sohal tang can easily reach a foot or more. Also, they are among the most aggressive of all tangs, and will absolutely wreak havoc in time. They require huge amounts of space, superior water quality, compatible tankmates, and lots of food. The same thinking holds true for the larger angels, Tuskfish, and trigger that you are thinking about. Even if you don't intend to add all of the fishes from that "wish list" to this tank, you'd eventually have problems...Please restrain yourself here, and find good homes for some of the fish that you already have...just too many. You're doing a great job running the tank fallow and re-starting; let's get it right this time, and not wander down the same path that may have caused the problems in the first place, huh? Ok- enough preaching, but do think about it, okay?> Questions 1. Is the order right?? How long should I wait between introduce another group into the main? <Well, the order may be okay, but not the animals, as I indicated in my rant above! Wait about a week between introductions> 2. Should any future fishes (the ones I have not buy) be put into the main before the sohal and clown?? <In any tank where these wo fishes are to be kept, I'd introduce them last!> 3. I am thinking I should get the powder blue the bigger than the other 2 tang.  Any thought?? <Well, I'm honestly thinking that you should avoid the Powder Blue altogether, for some of the reasons outlined above, and also because this fish, among all tangs, ahs the supreme distinction of being labeled as THE "Ich Magnet" in aquariums. You really need to get back in the sing of things and make sure everything is up and running well for a while before even thinking of adding this touchy fish, if at all. You (and the fish) will be all the better for it...> 4.Not related. If I feed the fishes fresh clams, is there a chance that the clams carry ick into my tank?? <I would not be overly concerned about them binging in ich to the tank> 5. I am trying a kind of seaweed that I bought in a Japanese food store to feed my tangs. My sohal and clown tang are living at a separate qt for now (due to size of QT). The kind of seaweed is used to make sushi. Do they justify to be fed to my beloved fish?? The shoal actually prefers this type of seaweed over brine shrimp mix meaty stuff. Will the seaweed kill my fish if they are lightly salted??? I am not sure if they are salted. I tasted it and they are kinda lightly salty. pls help <Well, sushi nori is one of the best "prepared" substitutes for live macroalgae that you can get. I'd avoid any that has been salted or otherwise seasoned, as you can get it unsalted/seasoned anywhere that you'd find the seasoned stuff. If you are serious about your tangs, you really should obtain and cultivate some live macroalgae, such as Gracilaria parvispora ("Ogo", or "Tang Heaven"). You could get a starter of this from Indo Pacific Sea Farms in Kona: www.ipsf.com   , and then grow your own from the starter. Herbivorous tangs absolutely love this stuff...well worth the effort to obtain and grow it. You could also go back to the Asian market and get it refrigerated  as "Ogo", or a similar macroalgae (called "limu" in the Islands), and feed this stuff. Lots and lots of algae possibilities in a well-stocked Asian market!> 6. If my synthetic sea water has low pH values (8.0-8.05) using instant ocean, what should I do??? should I add pH buffer first then put into the main? Or is that other alternative? <Well, I'd trace it back to environment, not just the salt mix...Overcrowded systems tend to have depressed pH levels. Look to improved husbandry (water parameter maintenance, water changes, circulation, feeding, etc.) for your answers. Conduct an "audit" of the situation, assess the possible "culprits", and make appropriate corrections as needed> Lastly, want to ask about holiday/vacation issues I am going away for about 2 months for the summer (Thailand/Malay snorkeling), and I need some instructions as to how my tank is going to survive this period. I have read your FAQ's and most of them are not applicable, so I would like if you can give me some comments about my plan. (1. Evaporation) First evaporation is replenished via a automatic top off system using float switch and Rubbermaid container and a powerhead (28 gallon) so.. I usually evaporate 3-4 gallons a week. That should last at least 3 weeks. <As long as you are confident in the reliability of the design and operation, then go for it!> (2. heating, temperature) Second, I will only turn on light for 10 hrs. I have 4 fluorescent lights and afraid overheat tank water.  I will turn on a fan and install it at the water surface, turn on during the middle of the day. Might even do a little controller for it.. ( :-) ) Usually this is not a problem, but error on safe side. <Fans work nicely, but you may notice increased evaporation, so consider this when constructing your top off system (i.e.; consider increasing it's capacity, if possible, to take this into account)...> (3. feeding, additives) Feeding is left minimal. Will measure amount of food and feed every 2 days. Additive are keep minimal. PA and PB additives added weekly. Will dosed in vial and let my friend added for me. <If you can, you could dump a healthy portion of the aforementioned Gracilaria into the tank for the herbivores before you go...Some may even grow, if it survives the onslaught from the tangs! I would not stress out over the additives...In a well maintained tank with a regular, frequent water change schedule (as yours definitely should have), you really won't need to use them, in many cases> (4. water changes) water change will be made after the first month with the help of my LFS owner (20-30 gallon). Is that a good plan?? Any comments?? Pls help. <Should be fine. I like the idea of having an experienced, trustworthy fellow fish nerd take a peek at the tank once in a while, or to conduct regular maintenance while you're away...More frequent water changes would be better, but I understand if you can't arrange this practically and affordably with the LFS> Sorry for taking you so much time. your help is greatly appreciated. I spread the words around in Calgary ( a place for stampede in Canada) for your website!!!! <Cool! Glad to hear that! Maybe one day the Flames will have another winning season, eh?...LOL> Confused and help is needed. Eric <Eric- you're doing a lot of stuff just fine...You just need to think about the "bigger picture" in your stocking plan (literally!). Granted, we all have our opinions, but I think I can save you a lot more future grief if you consider what I touched on...(besides, getting another huge tank would be a cool idea, huh?) Patience and restraint are major virtues in stocking aquariums, and doing it right will pay huge, lasting dividends to both you and the animals in the future! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Heard of this? Is this for real? http://www.cleartank.com/welcome.html Silicon Valley Steve <I have never heard of this but I wouldn't try it as most of these products do more harm than good. Cody>

Lighting, skimmer, and supplement questions Hello there- <Hi Josh, Don today>        Out of the upgrades that i need, or want, to make to my tank to improve overall health and color to my corals: Adding VHO actinics, upgrading to a skimmer, adding flow, and using kalkwasser, which do you recommend i do first.   <Skimmer> I cannot make all these changes at once since money unfortunately does not grow on trees, but I would like to start with something.  For a new skimmer i am considering an aqua-c ev180 with a mag 7.  What are your opinions on this skimmer?   <Great choice> For flow, I am somewhat limited to the amount of turnover to the fact that I have an all-glass tank,  I currently have about 1000gph turnover in my 125 and if i switch to an Iwaki 70rlt, i could get about 1400-1500 gph.  I cant go any bigger than that because of the overflow design.  In addition to that, should i add more powerheads (i have two cap 1800(about 600 gph) powerheads towards the top of the tank)? <Adding the skimmer flow, you should be good> Switching over to kalkwasser shouldn't be very expensive.  Do you recommend i use the two part supplement in addition to the kalkwasser or just the Kalk.    The slurry method is the easiest method of Kalk to use, correct? <Both are quick and easy and will work well. Just be sure to watch pH, Alkalinity and Calcium then dose to replenish use. Your choice> For lighting, I was thinking of adding 2-160 watt URI actinics to my already 4-96 watt power compacts boy that's a lot of actinic!!!)  What do you think?   <What do you want it to look like? Maybe checking out some existing tanks that use lighting similar to what you are considering.> Out of all these modifications, which do you see as the most important to change and which should be done first, second, third??? Thank you so much once again!!! <Skimmer then lighting/two-two part> Josh

Designing and Tweaking (New Setup Questions) Hi Bob and others, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> Your web site has provided, with the exception of OTJ, nearly all of my education in Reef-ology 101.  Many thanks for this fantastic source of info.  I have a couple of quick easy ones for you. 1.)Is there such a thing as too much live rock? <Well, you know that you have too much live rock if there is no room for water in your tank after you finish arranging it! Seriously, though- I suppose that you can't have "too much" live rock in a tank, from a filtration standpoint. However, let common sense prevail here...Don't compromise circulation and ease of maintenance> 2.)I plan to build my own 5' tall skimmer based on snailman's 4" design and I'm curious whether the output would be better high up as in the 'super simple skimmer' design by Charlie Keller.  Your thoughts? Also rather than forcing air all the way down the tube, why not install an air fitting at the bottom with a one way valve? <I have seen both designs, and they both apparently work well for most people. I would not, however, modify the design...They seem to be tried and true. You might want to email the designers to see what they think of such modifications...They are your best source on this topic> Lastly, I am planning to use a single Rena 1250 and a branching network of 1" pvc and gate valves to pump up to the main(50), refuge(20), and the skimmer input.  Gravity return from reef to main and main to sump(20) through ext overflows and skimmer return to sump.  I'd guess this isn't the perfect plan, but will it work? <Well, it could be improved a bit, but it should work. You may need a more powerful pump, however. Also, make sure to position the protein skimmer where it receives a constant level flow of raw water from the main aquarium. This will assure greater efficiency at concentrating and removing organics.> Thanks in advance for any assistance and expect to see my name again as construction progresses !! Fred--'Aquah0lic' --The Ocean is my true passion.  My aquariums are merely my attempt at sharing my passion with others.--  Aquah0lic <Gotta love that quote, Fred! Good luck with the system! Feel free to contact us again anytime! Regards, Scott F>

Live rock "bubbles"    I have recently converted my 60 gal. tank to reef with addition of live rock.  Currently have only two fish: a lemonpeel and a clown.  After the rock was in the tank about 3-4 weeks it began developing a heavy coating of bubbles which do not just brush away.  They are resistant to the activity of the blue leg crabs and have an opalescent quality to them.  I suspect the algae that is developing is creating an oxygen rich environment or possibly a bacteria has taken hold which respires this way.  The bubbles have progressed onto the sand bed.     I am concerned this may be an undesirable bacterial growth.  If this is a normal activity in a relatively new reef tank, please let me know.  If it is something detrimental to my system, please let me know what to do.     Thanks for any suggestions.  Michele <Hmmm, difficult for me to tell with the description. Are these air bubbles? If so not much of a concern. If not then you possibly have a nasty crop of Valonia brewing. See here for identification: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/greenalg.htm toward the bottom of the page. If this is close, then use the links at the top of the page to find info about this algae. Hope this helps, Don>

General questions - puffer, hawkfish, live rock Hi! You guys have the most informative website I have ever seen, and I often refer to it several times a week. I have read almost all the material presented on the questions I am about to ask, but I am just asking so I can get a direct, more detailed response. >>Sure thing. My tank is a 20 gallon, with Lee's protein skimmer, Fluval 104, power-sweep 214 power head (yeah, I heard they are junk, but got it for free and also heard that only the older models were defective - what's your opinion?), bio-wheel mini, and 2x65watt power compacts (10,000k and actinic). >>Personally haven't had experience with this powerhead, can't say one way or the other.  If it's working for you then no worries.  If you have no photosynthetic/hermatypic residents, may I ask why you've opted for such good lighting? Approx. 2" covering of live sand (aragonite) as substrate, and 8lbs of live rock and some non-live rock (saltwater approved, or so it says at PetCo) and plastic plants. Current inhabitants are a Canthigaster compressa Sharpnose puffer (A PetCo fish, $13 bucks and thriving since I saw him in the store, see attached pic - by the way, should I be feeding him live ghost shrimp in addition to his normal foods (brine shrimp, bloodworms, squid, etc.)?) >>I know they like the bloodworms, but I'm not sure that non-marine foods should really be a staple in their diet.  I would also nix the Nauplii, nutritionally deficit.  I would use live only if trying to get animals into breeding condition, or if they're just not eating at all, or ill.  Otherwise, use one or more of the wide variety of good quality frozen foods for staple, or you can even make your own.  He might appreciate the addition of vegetable matter, and the frozen foods have good variety and are generally nutritionally sound. Chrysiptera cyanea blue damsel, anemone-carrying hermit crab, and two small hermit crabs with blue legs (approx. 1 year with no puffer-related problems). >>Let's hope it stays that way, eh? I plan on purchasing one more fish to complete my system, and I think I am going to go with a Hawkfish - I haven't heard any compatibility problems with puffers - what is your opinion? >>I think you're close to your limit with this system as it is.  You really want to allow "room for growth" or you could likely end up with problems that seem to appear "out of nowhere" once the bioload hits a certain point.  I know of no compatibility problems between the Sharpnose or any hawks.  May I suggest something that will remain a bit smaller?  A Basslet or pseudochromis, perhaps?  They are also less likely to jump the tank (longnose hawks are notorious). Also, I know this is probably the stupidest question you have heard, >>NO SUCH THING! but just to confirm, there are absolutely NO corals or other invertebrates of any type that I can buy that will be puffer-compatible, right? >>Correct.  If you haven't yet, please do a search here--> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/part2.htm for more information on your current residents, as well as any others you wish to consider. How many more pounds of live rock total do you think I should purchase (in small increments over many months, of course) for my 20 gallon tank? >>You want to cure the live rock, 1-2lbs/gallon is a good general rule of thumb.  Also, be sure to quarantine any new additions for 30 days minimum. The plastic plants are only in there until I can buy more live rock - but I have noticed some ugly algae problems, it looks like brownish dust (you can see it on the green plastic plants in the pics). Are these diatoms? >>More than likely. Are the plastic plants causing the buildup? >>No, it is an issue of excess lighting and nutrients.  Since you have no macroalgae in the system, there is nothing to outcompete the diatoms.  However, this is indeed a very common occurrence in new setups.  If the skimmer is giving you the nastiest liquid possible gleaned from a relatively dry foam then you know that it's working well.  Keep up with water changes, and consider adding some macroalgae (Caulerpa species are generally very easy to grow with your lighting, and the fishes will appreciate it) for additional competition.  Then, you can harvest to fully export nutrients.  Be sure to dispose of in a careful manner, don't flush or allow it to get into the sewer system.  You may find a local shop that might give you credit for it. The red algae is growing pretty well, but it seems the other algae is out-competing it. Light duration is 7 hours, but the algae has been there even with my old 72watt fixture @ 7 hours. I do monthly water changes with DI water, ammonia and nitrites are always 0, but I have not done a nitrate test. >>You need to know your nitrate parameters.  7 hours is an unnaturally short photoperiod for equatorial flora and fauna, a 12 hour cycle is much more in line.  Also, you might want to consider going with slightly smaller, but more frequent, water changes.  Everyone will appreciate it. The algae problem is not very noticeable, either. >>Good.  Then it should be relatively easy to stay on top of. I have also set up a 5 gallon "quarantine tank" with a 36watt power compact light (10,000k daylight). I am buying more live rock, and I am going to cure it in this tank before placing it in my main tank. >>FANTASTIC!  That's what I like to hear. Will the difference in light have any affect on the rock once I place it in my 20 gallon tank? >>Not on the rock itself, but if you have anything already on the rock that would utilize the light, then you will want to carefully match intensity.  If you can't, then simply place in the lowest reaches of the tank, and might need to shield with a piece of glass or acrylic.  It should be no problem, however. I know I should not be using a 20 gallon tank, but unfortunately I thought 20 was big when I started out in freshwater. Then I converted to brackish, and then saltwater piece by piece, so here I am with a 20 gallon. Surprisingly, I haven't had a single problem so far. >>My favorite shop display tank was a 5 gallon reef.  Just stay on top of all parameters, do smaller more frequent water changes, and watch the growth of your stock.  You've given yourself more of a challenge by going with a smaller setup, but not to worry, it CAN be done. Thanks for all your help, I really appreciate you guys taking the time to answer our questions so expertly. Rob in Long Beach, CA. >>Ex-what?  You're welcome, glad to help.

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