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FAQs on Marine Aquarium Maintenance 9

Related Articles: Marine System Maintenance, Reef Maintenance, Vacations and Your Systems, Marine System Set-Up

Related FAQs: Marine Aquarium Maintenance 1, Mar. Aq. Maint. FAQs 2Maint. FAQs 3Maint. FAQs 4Maint. FAQs 5, Maint. FAQs 6, Maint. FAQs 7, Maint. FAQs 8, Maint. FAQs 10, Maint FAQs 11, Maint. FAQs 12, Maint. FAQs 13, Maint. 14, Reef Maintenance 1


1st Setup Woes - 07/09/05 Hello, <<Good Evening>> I need some help with my set up, the information I get from my LFS changes with every staff member I talk to, and have lost more expensive and lovely fish than I'd like to remember. <<Hmm...sounds like you've had some troubles.>> I have a 100 litre tank, currently running the existing biological filter (built into the hood of it) and a large canister filter. <<Hopefully this is not a reef tank.>> I have a heater (obviously), about 10kg's of live rock - approx 2 or 3 cm's of shell grit substrate. <<ok>> After recovering from my loss 2 months ago - I have only my two clown fish, and 1 blue tang (I really wasn't trying to replicate finding Nemo, it just happened). <<More bad news I'm afraid... This tank is much too small for the long-term health of the blue tang.  Please do consider taking it back to the store for trade/store credit.>> I have only recently introduced the blue tang into the tank, and they all seem to be very happy in there, eating very well. <<Sigh!...re my previous comments>> Two things I have noticed, a brown/yellow stain which appears along the glass of the tank, in the corners mostly down near the substrate. <<Areas of low/poor flow no doubt.>> Also - the substrate taking on a brown & orange colour to it - which can be fixed by me stirring it up a bit with every water change. <<Yikes!  If this is Cyanobacteria...and my guess would be that it is...this might be what killed your fish.>> I use a gravel pump to clean as much of the gravel as I can, and to extricate the water as well. <<All good...just don't stir it up first.>> I try to do at least a 20% water change (20litres) every week. <<Excellent...frequent partial water changes are probably the single best improvement you can do.>> Basically, what I need to know is - 1)I am assuming the brown/yellow stain is algae - how can I reduce/prevent this in future. <<Increased/improved water flow...implementation of more nutrient export mechanisms (re a quality skimmer).>> 2)Do I need more circulation in my tank? I notice many stores have a lot of water circulation, I am wondering if I need to, and how I can achieve it?. <<Strive for a MINIMUM of 10x tank volume, many ways to do this can be found on the site.  Start here and follow the links at the top of the page as well: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/circmarart.htm>> 3)In a 100 litre tank, with my current population of fish, can I introduce any more into the tank without over crowding, if so - can you suggest any breeds? <<Remove the tang first and foremost, then I would suggest something along the lines of a pygmy angel and maybe a couple cardinal fishes of your liking...many choices/species to be discovered/researched through the NET.>> I think that's about it, any info for this desperate beginner is greatly appreciated. Best regards Daniel Sydney, Australia <<Regards, Eric R>>

Suddenly Saltwater (A New Convert To Marine Systems) 7/11/05 Hello. <Hey there! Scott F. here today!> I just wanted to start out by saying you have a wonderful site, and I've learned a GREAT deal reading through it. I am now a salt water fish keeper, not by choice, but now loving it non-the less. <Excellent! Glad that you're enjoying the experience!> I have a multitude of tanks around my house, not all filled with fish, biggest being my 55g with Red Eye Tree frogs. <Cool!> Anyways, this is my first salty tank. A friend of mine decided he wanted to try salt water tanks, bought what he needed, and set up the tank. After he got the tank cycled and up and running, he changed jobs, and is now away from home for weeks/months at a time, so seeing as he thought I knew everything there was to know about fish, and I don't, he gave it to me. <I suspect that you're gonna learn more and more real soon, huh?> Unfortunately, until about a week ago, I knew nothing about salt water fish. <Well, you probably know more than you did a week ago, huh?> Anyways, here's what I have and my questions: 55 gallon glass aquarium 2 power heads (don't know brand or strength) in opposite corners Pro-Aquatics power filter 200 thermometer, though I don't use it right now. having more trouble keeping temp under 78, finally bought a clip on fan and it seems to be working.. 2 40watt lights for coral growth? Don't know where he got them bout 15 lbs live rock, Fiji and Caribbean bout 20 lbs dead rock, lava 3 green/blue Chromis, 1" each 4 Black and White Striped Damsels 1/2-1" each 1 False Percula 1 1/2 " 1 Scooter Blenny, it's white and black speckled, it that helps 1 1/2" 2 Blue Hippo Tangs 1" each 4 Emerald Crabs, only one bigger then a quarter 15 hermit crabs and extra shells. Blue and Red Leg as well as Mexican bout 15+ snails, only ones I can identify are the Pink Champagne 1 Red Banded Coral Shrimp bout 20+ Zoanthid polyps Candy Cane coral has 4 'bulbs' nitrite, ammonia at 0, nitrites about 10-25 ppm, pH 8.1, salinity 1.023 Is this too much in a 55 gallon tank? <In my opinion, it is...Fore the most part, your stocking level is not too bad, with the (big) exception of the Hippo Tangs. They simply require WAY more room than this tank can ever provide. They can and do reach close to a foot long, and are, in my opinion, unacceptable for any tank less than 6 feet in length. Also, keep an eye on the Damsels, as they can become quite aggressive, particularly in a system with a modest footprint. The blennies seem like fine choices, but do watch the "Scooter Blenny" (not really a Blenny, but a Dragonet). This is a very difficult fish to feed, requiring large amounts of copepods and other small living foods. It can be adapted to frozen foods, such as Mysis, but it is a slow feeder, and will generally be intimidated by faster, more aggressive fishes like the damsels. These fish are best in well-established systems with refugiums to help supply a constant stream of appropriate live food items. Do your best or trade this fish with someone who has a system set up for them.> I was thinking of taking out the damsels as they seem to be aggressive towards everything else, especially the tangs. <They are very aggressive, and will eventually make life miserable for the other fishes. Although they are hardy and reasonably attractive, I personally dislike damsels for this very reason.> I know that I'll have to move one of the Tangs to a diff tank eventually because of size, and plan on getting a 125 in the future. <You'll have to move both of 'em, in my opinion. Please ask yourself honestly and directly-how soon will you get that larger tank? Many of us plan to get a larger system, but never seem to get around to it. These Tangs will require the larger quarters in the very near future to prevent a whole host of potential problems. In fact, I think that two of them will require a much larger tank than the 125, if they are to happily live out their normal life span. They have very specific requirements, and their purchase and care should not be taken lightly. I don't mean to harp on this, but I've seen so many of these fishes "rat holed" into inadequately small aquariums over the years, despite the best intentions of the owners. My simple advice to all hobbyists who want one of these fish- do not purchase one of these fishes unless you already have a large tank, and are prepared to comfortably house them far into the future.> Anything else I should be concerned about? <Just good, commonsense husbandry and observation...Keep learning and sharing your experiences with others. WetWebMedia is a great resource to help you out...> I've always been hesitant about salt water, and didn't really want to take this tank, but my buddy was just going to flush everything down the drain. <Yikes.> But now, I absolutely love it, and I've only had it for a week!!! <Ahh.. the start of a lifelong addiction, I hope!> And contrary to popular belief (my daughter loves "Finding Nemo" by the way. "Righteous, Righteous!"), <Hence the Tangs, I'll bet...I have nothing nice to say to the folks behind that movie, so don't start me!!!> all drains DO NOT lead to the ocean Gill, especially when you live in Idaho. <True...but it's never advisable to dump ANY aquatic life into the local sewage system.> Anyway, thanks again for a wonderful site.. gives me something more to do on the net besides video games!! Joe <Glad to hear that, Joe! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Cleaning The Sand Bed... Hi Scott How ya doing? <Well, Glad to have Monday out of the way!> I got another one for you. <sure> I normally do water changes once a week. When doing these water changes I always siphon my substrate. I notice that a lot of waste comes out from the substrate and often my water is dark brown that I cannot even see the bottom of my bucket and this is within a week. The substrate toward the front of the tank always looks kinds brownish as well. Is this normal within a marine setup, is my filtration maybe not good enough. <Well, live sand substrates tend to accumulate lots of detritus and other materials that the fauna residing within can process. To be honest with you, I'd avoid cleaning the sand too carefully, as over-zealous siphon work can interfere with the very processes that you are trying to foster in a sand bed. Just lightly siphon the top 1/2 inch or so, and don't disturb the bed much deeper than that> My substrate consists of play sand and allot of crushed coral of different sizes mixed with the sand. (about 4cm high in the front of the tank and up to 8-10cm at the back of the tank). My top layer is mainly crushed coral and the bottom is the sand. So far I have not had any fish loss and things seem to be doing good, is this a matter of concern? <I would not be too concerned. Just follow a sound husbandry approach and feed/stock your tank intelligently. With your continued good care and a little observation, I'm sure that things will stay just fine> Thanks Ziad <My pleasure! Regards, Scott F>

Aqua C not skimming and more - 2/22/04 Hello everyone, it's me again, (as if you would remember one of thousands!!) <Hi Pam. How could we forget? You have the name of a very famous person>I am having a TERRIBLE problem with not only that ugly Cyanobacteria, but I seem to have a bloom of diatoms as well. <Diligence Pam. Keep up or increase the water changes. You need to find the source of the issue. Please read through our section dedicated to blue/green/Cyanobacteria control. We offer lots of ideas.> The only thing I have done different in the past few weeks is added new sand/crushed aragonite I think it's called. I believe this would account for the brown creeping diatom algae, but I thought you only got this stuff with new set ups? My tank is 4 years old. <Well, how much sand did you add? About an inch or more over the existing would inhibit some animals in the sand bed if not kill them. They are likely dying and breaking down> The Cyano has been hanging around for about a month now. < I've cut way back on feeding and am doing water changes every week! <good. Do you think it is enough?> At the tune of 20 gallons of aged, aerated, heated and salted water. Hmmmm, do you suppose it's my water supply? <Could be. Have you tested it before adding it? Is it high in nitrate and phosphate?>  Please, I don't even want to hear it if it is! <Have it tested> Another thing, my skimmer, I know I've mentioned this too, but it skims nothing! <May need to make adjustments. Contact Aqua C or at the very least, see their website. The owner, Jason Kim, is an excellent source of information. He knows his products well and is very responsive to his customers. http://www.proteinskimmer.com/> It's The AquaC Remora I've cleaned it well and still, nothing! well, maybe an eighth of an inch a day? What's a better one? Please, tell me your secrets! <This is more of an Information Age, Pam. All our secrets are on the site and out at various sites and books for the taking> Ahhhhh, one MORE thing,.........my powerheads, UGLY! I can't stand to look at them anymore. I have four of them going and they're a pain to maintain and very unappealing! Can you tell me what a "Wave Maker" does? <A wave maker pulses the powerheads at various time intervals. Does nothing more than that> And the cost? <Relatively cheap. Do a search on Google> While you're at it, how 'bout a link? <C'mon Pam. Take a look for yourself. Education is the key to success in this hobby. Not relying on one source for all your information. Relish in the glory ;) http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/sc_view.cfm?siteid=6&pCatId=4588> I know I'm asking you a bit too much for one letter, <Well......> but I have to go and pick up my little one at the neighbors house and I have no more time to sit at this computer!!!! <Well, next time you get time please do search for more information. It is part of being a Conscientious Marine Aquarist> Thank you!!!!!! Pam PS Here we are, one big happy family! <Nice. Take care and remember, knowledge is half the battle. Worse case scenario, maybe you could get a service company to take care of the tank and help with the redesign of the tank. ~Paul> Film? Hello, <Hi there> I've got a Big Film problem, I cant get rid of the film on top of the water. I've tried my jets nothing I've tried my Prizm skimmer nothing. Nothing seems to be working. I've even tried paper towels to get rid of it but nothing seems to be working. What could be wrong? What could I do?   Thanx <First, look for a source of this surface film... could be inside or outside the system... fish foods, aerosols from cooking... and try to cut it back. The present material may best be removed by dipping a pitcher in the tank at an angle... and you might find a "surface skimmer" attachment of an intake to the filter (mechanical if you have some) like the Eheim attachment (see their site) may be a good idea. But do keep the film from covering the tank water surface! Bob Fenner>

Low pH wintertime blues - well insulted houses 2/13/04 Hello, Crew----I have a 30 gallon tank I started three weeks ago. My RODI water in the tank will not go above 8.0,Ive put 5 teaspoons of SeaChem's marine buffer in still cant get it above 8.0, <Yowsa.. easy on that/any such stuff mate> My alkalinity is going up >From 3.0 to 6.0meg/L  I am thinking its a C02 problem. <correct> We have gas heat for the whole house. Now what is funny is, my top off water I buffered a little high around 8.9 to help raise the tank .It has a lid on and it stays right at 8.9, but my tank wont move passed 8.0, <different room in the house I assume> I've been adding a quart of top off water a day, still doesn't move. Could I try running a air hose from the outside to my tank with an air stone? <yep... works well my friend. There are more than a few Tetra/Willinger Bros Luft pumps outside pumping air into tanks and skimmers for just this reason <G>> Its to cold to open a window.!!!! <agreed> Please advise---Charlie <you already know what to do my friend.. good work. Anthony>

Upgrade tank setup and move + water movement Hello, <Hiya! Scott F. here today!> Your site is extremely helpful and a virtual Great Library of Babylon of information.  I am only 6 months into the hobby and the recent find of your site has inspired me to expand. <We're glad to be here for you!> My question is about filtration concerning my new tank.  I currently have a 37 gallon eclipse and recently acquired a roughly 55 gallon tank (50x16x17).  I have been reading on your site that live sand should not be more than 1/2 inches or less than 3-4 inches.  All my LFS have told me that 1 to 1.5 inches is optimal so that the sand does not compact and that it would be adequate.  Can you explain in a bit more detail (I read on your site, something about not deep enough to fully denitrify) why this is not a good amount of sand?  If I had a good amount of live rock (1.25 - 1.5 pounds per gallon) would having the 1.5 inches of sand not matter or would it end up hurting the tank? <Well, this is the conventional wisdom...A shallow sand bed may not be deep enough to foster complete denitrification, but too deep to be fully aerobic...A Potential problem. On the other hand, there are some studies that I've read recently that indicated that the denitrification processes occur in nature in the first inch or so of sand, implying that you get some of the same benefits from a shallow sand bed as you do from a deep sand bed...This warrants further review from the hobby before this controversy is resolved.> I have also set up a 20 gallon sump/refugium under the tank that will be only about half full (so making the aquarium actually about 65-67 gallons).  The refugium part is 15x12x11 area (roughly 8 gallons?).  I plan to grow plants (recommendations on plants?) in here and/or macro algae to help with filtration, should I put live sand in there or mud?  If live sand is acceptable for the plants, should I just make this area 4 inches or so? <I'd go with Chaetomorpha, which does not need to be "planted"> If 3-4 inches is minimum in the main tank, that only leaves 13-14 inches of water depth.  I also have a Fluval 404 on the way but I'm wondering if even need it or would it hurt the tank? <Would not be harmful...Just replace the media regularly and keep prefilters clean...> I was planning to send it back but I realize that I only really have a 6x6" area for mechanical filtration from the overflow and some chemical filtration via carbon.  I do not yet have a protein skimmer (any suggestions on which one to get for my tank, preferably one that fits in a 6x6" square area or that sits out of the water and can be plumbed in by going over the top edge of the sump?) <Try an Aqua C Remora Pro...> I don't plan on going full reef for at least another 5-6 months after I move my livestock over next month (as I plan to be out of the country for about a month over the summer plus I want to make sure the tank is better established and stable).  I just want to keep fish and some inverts for the time being but no coral till later. I will begin cycling the tank this week (in which I plan to start cultivating live sand as well if I need a lot more) and plan to slowly move live rock over from my smaller tank after 2 weeks and begin moving  livestock over sometime in mid-late march (depending on ammonia levels etc.).  I will be using some of my old tank water (just by taking the water from my old tank as I do water changes to add into the new one.)  and live sand along with uncured live rock to help cycle as well as cultivate more live sand over the next month.  Is this a good idea? <Sounds fine to me!> One other topic, water movement: My return line will be pumping out water at about 400-500 gph (I think, including head) from the back corner of the tank facing the opposite corner.  I also plan to use a Powersweep 228 (270 gph) on the opposite side facing laterally a few inches below the surface.  This is for the lateral and turbulent flows. I will also be using a smaller Powersweep 214 on the return side (or the opposite side?  any suggestions?) as low as it can go (without sucking things up) to help blow detritus and debris around off the bottom of the tank.  This Powersweep will be connected to a timer to go on every 15 min. for 15 min. (ever 30 min at night) in an attempt to create a surge effect (best I could think of without buying a wave maker or setting up some big bulky noisy contraption).  Is this a good idea?  Too much <Seems like you can never have too much flow! I would avoid timers on the powerheads, as most of them don't take kindly to being turned on and off repeatedly! Just run 'em 24/7> little?  Baby Bear's just right? <Sounds fine to me!> Thank you so much for your help to beginners to the hobby such as myself! P.S. How important are water chillers?  I live in Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area slightly above sea level. Temperatures average around 95 to the hundreds in mid-summer days but also drop back down to he 60s at night. <I live in LA, and I wouldn't be without my chiller...'Nuff said! BTW- what not check out the two excellent clubs we have in the So Cal area- Marine Aquarium Society of Los Angeles County (www.maslac.org) or Southern California Marine Aquarium Society (www.scmas.org)...Enjoy! Regards, Scott F> "It is in vain to expect our prayers to be heard, if we do not strive as well as pray." - Aesop

- Livestock Issues - Hello Crew, I am a newbie to aquariums and have started out in Aug '03 with 55 gal saltwater tank, base rock, crushed coral, Filstar XP3 canister filter, AquaClear Carbon Filter, Custom Aquarium Stand and one 3-Stripe Damsel. I bought the set up from a fellow aquarist who did not have the time anymore to maintain the tank......... I was getting a good deal ($300.00) and could not let go of the offer. after about 6 weeks I added the following livestock: 1 Red Flame Cardinals (DEAD NOW) 1 Yellow Tail Damsel The Striped Damsel was too aggressive towards the new mates so exchanged it for 1 Black Chromis. (DEAD NOW) The LFS told me to add another Red Flame Cardinal as they like to be in groups so I added 1 Red Flame Cardinal. (DEAD NOW) The 1st Cardinal never ate food properly....didn't know why. until this point I was feeding only flake food. I was told by the LFS to add some MYSIS shrimp @ night for the Cardinals. About end of Oct 03,  I added: 1 Bicolor Angel (DEAD NOW) 1 Cinnamon Clown The Bi-Color Angel got Popeye within 2 days (I suspect it was going down @ the LFS itself). <I doubt that - Popeye is almost always the result of injury, and quite likely that occurred in the new system.> This was when I first bought a 10g Quarantine tank and treated it with medication (Maracyn ?) it died anyways a few days later the First Red Flame Cardinal I added got the Popeye and died in the display tank itself. It died even before I realized it had Popeye....I didn't see it come out one night and the next day evening saw it dead on the floor bed. towards the End of November the 2nd Red Flame Cardinal was suddenly dead......I had cleaned the Dead Coral the day before in bleach and rinsed it with water and introduced it back to the tank and added Dechlor to the tank! <Unwise - best to wait a week or so before putting the coral back, let it sit in the sun.> also cleaned he silk plants with mild soap and rinsed them with warm water. A few days later the Yellow Tail Damsel almost died was breathing laboriously but it survived. <You really need to be more careful about such things - don't use soap on ANYTHING used for your aquarium.> some time in January the Black Chromis was suddenly dead.... had no idea why... Then while changing the carbon in the filter realized that I had used safety pins the close the pouch and they had rusted... I suspect that could be the cause.... <I doubt that - a little bit of iron isn't going to cause this problem.> I have since added a heavy metal filter media.... About 4 weeks back I introduced: 1 Arc Eye Hawk 2 Yellow Gobies (1 DEAD NOW) 1  yellow Goby  got sucked up to the filter inlet tube and died...... the LFS said that it must have already been sick if  it couldn't swim away from the inlet pipe. This one never seemed active since I added it to the tank... Last Week I introduced: 1 Neon Wrasse Yesterday I purchased 1 Coral Beauty 1 Scooter Blenny 1 Chalk Bass I perform drip acclimatization but haven't quarantined any of them before introducing to the display tank. <Two problems here that I can see... first, you should quarantine everything you bring in - EVERYTHING. Next, you're adding too many fish at once - I personally don't like to add more than one 'thing' per month. Your biological filter needs time to adjust. Could be your husbandry in this regard has been your problem all along.> I feed the fish once a day with either flake food or frozen Mysid shrimp. I wanted your opinion on the livestock choice (should have asked before I added the fish I guess) and any problems I might have with them. Also should I change anything I am doing....... I am not planning on adding any more fish.... <See my comments above.> I perform a 10-15% water change once every 2-3 weeks Salinity is between 1.022 and 1.023. Ammonia/Nitrites/Nitrates are always excellent when I get it tested at the LFS. I have added about 10lb of Fiji Live Rock over this time. Sorry for the long mail. Thanks, Raj. <Cheers, J -- >

Feeding Habits Salinity = 1.023 <Ideally 1.025-1.026 for corals> Temp = 76.5 min w/o lights - 78.5 - max w/lights <80 +/- 2 is ideal> PH = 8.2-8.3 <Good> Total Ammonia = 0.01 <Should be 0, but suspect is the same> Free Ammonia = 0 (never tested before. Should this be 0?)<Yep> Nitrite = 0 Nitrate = 12<Hmmm...  Too high.  Bioballs are the cause see below> Phosphate = 0.1 <Also an issue> Alkalinity = 6 <quite low if this is dKH should be 9-11> KH = 110 mg/l Iodine = 0.05 <Fine> Calcium = 300 <a bit low also> I am using R/O water purchased at my Super Wal-Mart by the gallon and am doing a 20% water change every two weeks. I am using Aqua Crafts Bio Sea salt mix. <Sounds good.> I have a 60 gallon Aqua clear trickle filter (bio balls) <I would advise removing about 1/4 of the bio balls a week until they are gone.  The highly aerobic environment of bioballs encourages nitrate accumulation.  With sand and live rock, bioballs should not be necessary for biological filtration.> and a 75 gallon protein skimmer. <What model?  Skimmer manufacturers are notorious for over estimating their abilities.> My pump says it will push 400 gph with the 3.5 ft. of tube I am using to pump the water from my sump, to the chiller, and back to the tank. <Taking all of that into consideration, you are probably getting 150 gph to your tank.  Adding some current would be of great benefit.> I have 140lbs of Aragalive fine sand on the bottom. This allows for a 5.5" sandbed in the back and 2.5" in the front. I am using a poly filter, denitrate, matrix rocks, PhosGuard in the chamber below the bio-balls and right now also using Seagel in the sump. I don't typically use carbon. Hoping it will help with the food waste. I do not have any power heads in my tank right now. Lighting is 192W power compact white/antic. I top off my tank with fresh R/O (no salt) It requires a half to 3/4 gallon every few days. Room is warm. Let me know if this info made you think of anything else that I can try or specifically focus on. <I don't know what Seagel is, but I would discontinue use of the denitrate and remove the matrix rocks along with the bioballs.  Carbon may be of some help, but not much.  Your greatest improvement will come from raising your calcium and alkalinity and adding more current.  Best Regards.  Adam>  Thanks again,  Rob

First Algaes! I have a 100 gallon saltwater tank that has been running for about a week now.  All of the water tests are turning out according to recommended levels.  I have noticed that the live sand is turning a light brown color.  It was an off white a week ago.  Is there anything that I should be concerned about with this color change? <Nope, it is just algae rowing on you sand.  This is the first of a few different types you will encounter in your aquarium career.  You can also find lots of info on all this and more at our site: www.wetwebmedia.com.  Cody> Thanks, Steve.

I'm Stuck Dear Sirs, Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the level of information and services you are offering us.  I truly believe that every Marine Fish Aquarium Hobbyist must refer to your site in which he/she could gather the required information needed. My story goes as follows: I have recently purchased a 115G aquarium, in which I planned to have as FOWLR.  Unfortunately, I got stuck with a supplier whom I trusted to set it up for me.  It basically contained a Biological filter located at the top cover of the Aquarium, a hang-on AZOO Protein Skimmer, an Undergravel Filter and a 13W UV Filter located inside the aquarium cabinet (under the Aquarium). Just after 10 days from adding the water (No Live Rock Yet).  I was told to introduce some fish and there I did.  Unfortunately, about a week later, I started to notice some small white spots on some of the fish, which eventually lead to death.  The LFS tried many medicines but no luck.  I therefore decided to look elsewhere for information and luckily I ended up at your site. I have almost printed each and every page of your FAQs, which I'm going trough at the moment.  But I have also decided to get all the fishes back to the LFS until I make sure that the water is ok. <Good plan.> I have now decided to remove all the water from the Aquarium, clean each and every piece of it thoroughly, and later add the living creatures as I make sure that the cycle is ok. <Don't forget to get some live rock in there - much better to 'cycle' the tank with this rather than fish.> But for me to do that, I would greatly appreciate if you could guide me to the proper setup plan with precise information and steps rather than reading the whole info which I have printed from your site (about 1200 pages). <Please start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marineSetUp.htm > Most importantly, can I do a marine tank with artificial gravel or shall it be either sea sand or crushed coral? <It really should be crushed coral or coral sand - something that is calcium based as this is the foundation for good alkalinity and pH in your tank.> Once again, I thank you a lot and please do accept my apologies for this long email. NO. BE. I forgot to tell you that I live by the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia and I am a Certified PADI Dive Master and feel so guilty of what I have done to the poor fishes due to my lack of experience. <Yes... a dive in the Red Sea will lead to re-evaluation. You should know also that the Wet Web Media crew will be in Sharm el Sheikh the third full week of May [roughly the 16th through the 23rd] - perhaps we will see you there.> Thanking you in advance and look forward to hearing from you as soon as your time permits. Issam Kanafani <Cheers, J -- >

Deep sand bed/refugium/water change questions 2/5/04  I have a question that may seem kind of simple but I need clarification. In a DSB the waste eventually needs to get down to the anaerobic level for the nitrate to be converted. At the same time it is recommended that the water in your tank be turned over 10 times an hour. So if you have a sand refugium in the sump and most of the water is moving over the sand at a high rate of speed how does it get to the anaerobic bacteria?  <One of the difficulties of having your only sump also house a refugium is that very high turnover rates may disrupt sand or uproot macro algaes. Do keep in mind that the 10x turnover does not all have to be delivered by your main pump. Other in-tank current making devices and closed loops can be used to and have many advantages/disadvantages that must be considered. Anyway, diffusion is dependant on concentration gradient. The more nitrate in the water above the sand, the faster it will diffuse into the sand, regardless of water flow rate. Therefore, higher flow rates will keep the nitrate concentration higher facilitation faster diffusion into the sand bed (to a point). If the sand bed is deep enough (3-4" for fine sand), it will stay anaerobic even at very high flow rates.>  How much filtering of the aquarium water do refugiums actually do and how much are they just for the growth of beneficial organisms?  <A very good question! IMO, refugia can be very important export mechanisms for phosphate and metals. Nitrogen and carbon are so openly cycled in reef tanks that refugia probably aren't important in their regulation. The growth of beneficial critters is also very important, and probably why most of us desire refugia. So, I guess the more important question is why you are using a refugium. One with more rock (especially rubble) will promote more crustacean growth, one with all macros will be a better nutrient export mechanism.>  Also, I am planning a reef tank made up almost completely of soft corals. Family Alcyoniidae and the Corallimorpharians. I have 2 175 watt halide bulbs over a 120 gallon tank 1 10,000k and one 20,000k, is this to much light.  <Sounds like very appropriate lighting for those animals.>  I am planning on having very few fishes maybe 4 2-3in fish, I want it to mainly be a coral display. How aggressive dose my filtering need to be?  <You will be keeping a lot of chemically aggressive corals. I would consider frequent use of small amounts of carbon. I am a fan of protein skimming, and as such would recommend an appropriately sized skimmer (beware of manufacturers sometimes wildly inflated claims).>  also please let me know the scoop on water changes. I know people who have automated systems that change there water at 5% a day and think constant small water change is vital. Others do from 25 to 50% every 3 weeks but this seems to be somewhat stressful to the animals. All seemed to agree that the amount of water change really needed was always understated because that was the biggest deterrent that kept people out of the hobby. Is this true?  <I have never heard the claim that water change recommendations were kept low so as to not discourage folks from the hobby. I personally do 25% monthly water changes. I don't find that is stressful to the animals. Doing this is more effective than smaller more frequent changes and is less laborious, but this is largely a matter of personal taste.>  also what is good way of keeping your calcium, ph stable during a large water change? Is this a huge advantage of doing allot of small water changes (its easier to keep water stable)? It seems at 5% a day you calcium reactor could maintain levels without to much problem thank you Greg  <Water changes should always be carried out with quality salt mix, and the mixed salt water should be "aged" for a couple of days with some kind of aeration. I use a powerhead in the barrel I hold the water in, but an airstone would work fine too. If you use aged, aerated salt water, the pH, calcium and alkalinity should all be in acceptable ranges and therefore not affect the same parameters in the tank much. Best regards. Adam>

A Rocky Start, But A Promising Future!  Thanks for the response.  <You're welcome!>  I moved them up into a little bigger aquarium soon after I wrote the other day. The anemone is doing a lot better. I will stop using the other supplements. Should I use the trace elements in a very small dosage?  <Nope. Use regular water changes in small amounts (5% twice weekly) to help "dose" your tank>  I also got another 50/50(using 2 - 10 watt florescent) bulb for the time being. I will get a VHO ASAP. The now tank is a 10 gal with a small BioWheel and a 5-15 power filter, and for livestock it has a mushroom rock (live rock), featherduster, 3 Domino Damsels, a Fire Goby, 2 Clarkii Clowns, Long Tentacle Anemone, Sebae Anemone (small 1.5 inch diameter), anemone crab that was with the Sebae, and a sifter (sleeper) goby.  <Oh my God! That is WAAAAYY! too much life for this sized tank, and two anemones in almost any sized closed system is ill-advised. I love your enthusiasm- but PLEASE slow down and think long-term here. You need a much larger tank (like close to 100 gallons) for this combination of creatures, and even then, the two anemones is really a bad idea! Plus, you'll need much better equipment for these creatures. A very good protein skimmer and high intensity metal halide lighting is almost mandatory for success with anemones...>  What size tank would you recommend, how many watts per gallon or how much live rock will I need for this 10 gallon and will it be stable enough for this setup, do I need more lights other than the VHO (what wattage)?  <As above>  My water tests at salinity 1.026(use real ocean water from Petco), ph is 8.3, alk is 240 to 300ppm. Is there anything I need to change with the water? I do 25% change weekly, test water 2 times a week and top off every night as well as I have recently changed to aragonite sand with medium coral sand added for texture and to hold the sand in place a little better.  <All diligent maintenance tasks that are certainly keeping your animals alive. Your good husbandry will really benefit you when you get that larger tank! This is a real "bright spot" here! Despite your stocking mistakes, you're on the right track as far as maintenance is concerned>  I feed the fish Nutrafin Max marine flake, freeze-dried plankton, the anemones and fish phytoplankton, and mysis shrimp.  <Nice variety!>  If there is anything else that you think I can do please let me know. Thanks  Dustin  <Well, Dustin- you need to revisit your setup and stocking, but you will no doubt be successful in the long run if you keep refining your maintenance techniques and get "the basics" down. I recommend picking up a good book, like Michael Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium" or Bob's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist", and continued perusal of this site! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Remodeling!  Hey guys, just want to start by saying what everyone else says...You guys are the best and a savior to all of us less informed aquarists.  <We're all learning together! Scott F. here today!>  I recently, about one and a half months ago, set-up a 38 gallon marine tank hoping to have a reef eventually. Right now it has about 20 lbs LR, one yellow tail damsel, one emerald Mithrax crab, one dwarf lion (Dendrochirus zebra). My substrate is about 1.5" crushed coral. I am using an undergravel filter but have now found this is not a good route.  <Not a "bad" route- just not the best long-term solution for most of us!>  Because of the UG filter, I chose to go with the crushed coral by advice of my LFS. After more research, I am thinking about tearing out the UG filter after allowing it to run with a Fluval 204 for a few weeks. I also plan on replacing the crushed coral with maybe 1.5-2" of live sand.  <Go for 3 inches or more>  I am wondering if this is a good idea and how you guys suggest going about it. If I take all the LR out and just scoop the crushed coral out and then take out the UG, followed by the addition of the live sand and replacement of LR, will my fish be completely stressed out?  <Quite possibly. I'd get the fish into temporary living quarters prior to the "remodel">  Will it take out all the good bacteria?  <Well, the existing nitrite cycle may be disrupted. However, quality live sand has a lot of life in it, and the tank should "re-cycle" rather quickly>  Or should I attempt to capture my fish and leave them in bags or containers during the process?  <Yep>  The lion might be a problem, although he is only a couple inches long right now. Any help you could offer would be great, sorry this was so long but I have asked a bunch of ppl and researched but everyone is clueless. Thanks again,  Francisco  <Well, Francisco, you are on the right track. Just plan ahead, take it slow, and observe your fishes carefully. Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Fish Disease And Problems (1/30/04) Dear Crew: <Greetings. Steve Allen tonight.> I currently have a lot of problem which I cannot solve. I have a reef tank, 125 gallon and it has a vlamingi tang, couple of Chromis/damsels and a pair of bicolor Anthias, and also a adult blue-face angel. I quarantine my fish and dip them with FW before they are in display. <Good.> Anyway, I recently see my Blueface angel having some white stuff only on his fins, (the fins near the gills have white dots and white stuff on edge, bigger and more apparent than ick, and other fins have white stuff sticking on the edge of the fins), but all other fishes are not affected, other than that the angel did not have any visible spots on body or other parts of the fish... so I suspect it is not velvet/whitespot... can u please tell me what it is and a cure that can treat? <Hard to say without a good picture, but is sounds suspicious for fungal infection or perhaps lymphocystis. You might want to search on these to see some pix. Another good source of diagnostic and some treatment suggestions is the "Manual of Fish Health" by Dr. Chris Andrews.> Also, since I changed to a new skimmer (from AquaMedic T1000 to Precision Marine CV426) I seen some red slime algae start growing on some of my rocks and sandbed, it used to be just brown diatom... would this mean a decline in water quality? <Probably> because my tank is established for 1 year and diatom was always a problem after I change my sandbed to a different oolitic sand.. Would this mean the skimmer not doing its job?? <Possibly. How long have you been running it? Is it putting out a good quantity of disgusting gunk. Precision Marine has a good reputation.> Would increase in organics brought these sickness in the angel? <Decreased water quality certainly contributes to all manner of ailments.> Also my vlamingi tang has cloudy eye for a day after the new skimmer is installed, then improved after.. is that caused by increase organics?? <Possible. Hard to say. If it's better, then no worries now.> Is there a way to correct this?? <tune your skimmer.> my NO3 is 25% using Salifert and all other parameters are in normal zones. <Are you saying that you have an ammonia and nitrate of zero? This is the only "normal zone"--zero, zilch, nada.> Please help ASAP as I am very worried about my angel. <Do check out the resources mentioned. Test for phosphate and remove if no zero. Get the nitrate down a bit more. These are fertilizer for the algae.> Lastly, I am thinking of upgrading my existing PC lights (4X65W + 1 NO 40W) to 2 250W HQI setup, how would this affect my tank? a lot more algae?? <Will aggravate any algae problem present. The lights you need depend on what you want to keep. Ample articles on WWM to explain. Hope this helps.> Eric

Yucky Cottony Stuff! About 3 months ago, I noticed white cotton-looking thing on the substrate. I removed it by hand. It came back and has spread. It now covers every hole in the live rocks, and is growing all over the lava rock. I do 20% water changes monthly, and all my water test (nitrite, ammonia,, ph, phosphate) are good. Do you know what this is, and how do I get ride of it. <Sounds like it could be some sort of bacterial bloom or something similar. Lava rocks do have lots of nooks and crannies, and uneaten food, or other organic debris can easily get trapped in them, leading to these blooms. I'd continue manual extraction, focusing your siphoning during regular water changes (try smaller, weekly changes) on the nooks and crannies in the rock, removing any potential accumulations of debris. Keep at it! Regards, Scott F.> New tank syndrome - 1/27/04 Greetings again! <Howdy> Thanks again for putting up a great site! <Thanks again for being part of it> I have done my searches and read until my head spun so I am hoping you could just steer me in the right direction. <OK> I have a 55 gal setup that I am planning to turn into a mini-reef eventually. <great> It has been running for 2 weeks with live sand & rock (about 50# mostly Fiji and some Caribbean) and about 15# of Tufa base rock. <fantastic> After one week, the nitrate, nitrite and ammonia dropped to 0 so I added 2 percula clowns and a small yellow tail damsel. <I never advocate the use of cycling a tank with live animals. Likely fine but never a good idea from the animal point of view. In any event...> I have been keeping an eye on the chemistry levels and they are still good (got a little nitrite spike that a water change cured). <I bet you did and, you might expect a little more. It takes tanks quite some time to truly settle in. Here is a link to an online 'zine with a great article by Eric Borneman with an ideology I subscribe to: http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-01/eb/index.htm> For equipment, I have a Whisper 3 (2 cartridge) filter, a protein skimmer and a 500gph powerhead. <The bare minimum when it comes to circulation. Maybe add another?> There is now a brown layer (of what I am assuming to be algae) growing on the top of my sand bed and base rock. <Likely Cyanobacteria. Siphon it off and increase water changes and circulation. Part of the issue here is because of the water quality fluctuation and under circulating the water, but also still part of the cycle as per the article above> Most of my live rocks are also now showing lots of algae. <Again, part of the new tank syndrome so to speak. Read Eric's article and live by it.>  No real algae on my glass yet. <just you wait.....heheeeeee> Now for the questions.   1.  I have seen tons of different "clean up crews" consisting of pretty much every combination and quantity of creature. <Capitalism> I want to start slow and let the system develop before adding my inverts. <I love this idea>  What would be a good start for my crew? (snails, hermits, stars, cucumber, midget in a diving suit, etc....) <Midget in a diving suit gets my vote. Hah!!!!! Start with Trochus snails, maybe Tongan Nassarius snails, maybe some Ceriths as well. Hold off on the hermits for now but maybe a few micro hermits. Check for all of these animals at www.IPSF.com they are farmed there by Gerry Heslinga> 2.  My original hydrometer I have just found out to read a little high so my SG is actually around 1.020-1.021 (was getting readings of 1.023-4). <Does happen. Get one glass and one plastic. Better yet, grab a quality refractometer.> What is the best way to get the SG raised? <Well, your method below is a good one> I was thinking of adding water with a higher SG (around 1.025) for my weekly 10% water changes until I get to my ideal 1.023. <Get your salinity to 1.024-1.025> That way it would slowly creep up and not disrupt the system to much. <Exactly> Good idea or do you have a better suggestion? <Perfect idea. Nice work. ~Paul> Thanks again! -Ray

- New Tank Concerns from Worried Novice - Dear Kind WWM Crewmember, In have spent many hours reading info on your website.  I have read M Paletta's book several times and am about half way through my brand new copy of CMA.  That said I am very new to this hobby and know just enough to know I don't know anything!  I am very concerned about a few items and I have tried to find the answers on my own, but it isn't happening fast enough so I am turning to you and begging for help. It makes sense to me to give you some background first, so you will have all the info you need at one time to give advice.  I lucked into a situation where an acquaintance with a tank was getting out of aquarium keeping all together and I was given everything for the price of showing up and hauling it away!  The aquarium itself is a custom oceanic 200+ gallon that is way too big for my current home, and it came with all of the top line associated equipment.  However, I have always wanted fish, and there were fish that needed a home - the opportunity was too good to pass up so I purchased a brand new smaller set up for now, with the hopes of setting up the big system in the next house.  I have: a 44 gallon pentagon from Perfecto, a BakPak 2 skimmer with bio bale and the pre filter box, 2 Rio 180 powerheads, and a 150 w titanium heater.  The light in the hood is a pathetic 18" 15 w NO, in which I placed a "power Glo" bulb that is 18000 K and quite blue.  A second identical light fixture is on the way.  I ran the tank and equipment for a week with tap water and then drained.  With the advice and help of the LFS we moved enough salt water to fill the new tank, a 4" bed of existing crushed coral (uncleaned), and a ton of live rock, (although I didn't think to weigh it before putting it in the tank so I can't tell how many lbs).  Along with the live rock is about a doz Halimeda plants.  We also took some of the filter material from the old tank and seeded the bio bale.  We moved 3 fish:  a 3" magenta Dottyback, a 2" true Percula clown and a 2 ?" flame hawk.  I was told that this was like a tank move, so I did not need to cycle the new tank at all.  This happened 10 days ago and I have been testing the water twice a day since:  76?, spg 1.025, amm 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0, pH 8.2, alk 2.2.  Last night I tested for calcium for the first time and got a reading of 300.  I am also emptying the skimmer cup daily.  From the pictures and the FAQs I have been reading, the live rock I have is in great condition.  Lots of coralline algae in purple, pink, and red, numerous tiny feather dusters, and one major good/bad surprise - an anemone.  This rock was in the other tank for several years, so this is not a hitchhiker - he was a purchased addition, but no one remembers the details.  I know that I have about the worst lighting possible for an anemone (which I was told would be just fine for the fish, and I am hoping at least that info is correct), but I don't have any options right now.  I am not sure what kind of anemone it is, but it is white, with barely a hint of pink at the very tips. <No doubt due to lighting issues in the previous tank.> I haven't been able to find any pictures that look like it, and I am waiting for the pictures I took to be developed (Santa brought the tank instead of a digital camera).  The LFS says it is bleached out and probably not in good shape. <Agreed.> They won't take it, even for free, because it looks bad, and I don't know anyone else in the hobby that I can give it to.  If I didn't know he wasn't supposed to be white, he looks fine to my novice eye.  He closes up at night and opens with the light.  His arms retract from touch, and move/undulate/sway in the current.  He is a white trunk about 2 ? " in diameter and about 2" tall.  The arms are very short compared to most of the pictures I have seen.  That said, I have read that they need light to product food, so in the absence of real light I have been feeding him mysis shrimp with a turkey baster everyday to make sure he at least isn't starving. <Probably don't need to feed that often.> After he takes in the food, he goes through an expanding, contracting, process that I am guessing is digestion.  Not sure if that will work long term or not. <Without adequate lighting, probably not in the long haul.> My original plan was just to have FOWLR tank, and then do research to figure out if I can provide the right environment for a few simple inverts.  Now not only am I expecting to have an anemone die, after reading more I am not even sure if I can keep the live rock live with my inadequate lighting. <The rock will be fine.> With more money I know the solution would be simple but I carefully planned a budget for this new hobby, and there just aren't more big $$ right now to buy a new glass hood and proper lighting. <Understood.> I am hoping that reading my saga is less painful that trying to type it all out - thanks for persevering!  Now to the questions:   Should I remove the live rock from the tank so that the die off caused by poor lighting doesn't pollute the tank and jeopardize the fish? <Think your rock will be fine.> I have not actually seen anything dead, but sadly I am expecting it to happen.  In addition to the daily feedings for the anemone, is there anything else I can do/add to the water, to help him out? <Perhaps some direct sunlight if that is an option.> Since my tank lighting is so poor for him I would have expect him to migrate to the top to get the most of the light that is there, but instead he is only a few inches off the bottom.  Should I move the rock he is attached to? <I would.> Now that I have tested for calcium, and read that 400 ppm is a target level, should I be boosting the calcium with my setup and livestock, and if so, is there a low tech/non-automated way to do this? <Best low-tech way is with two-part calcium additives, like ESV B-Ionic.> I have read through a lot of FAQs on clowns, but mine is exhibiting a behavior I have not seen described.  He seems to spend a large portion of every day in the very back corner of the tank, near the top, swimming completely vertically with his head down.  At other times he swims normally about the tank, (well normally for a clown - very wiggly) and eagerly comes to the front of the tank to eat twice a day.  Should I be concerned? <No... mine has been doing this for the last year. Only stopped recently when I moved and upgraded the tank.> Since I have told you my life story now, I figure I should ask all the questions I can think of at the same time.  In the long-term, here are the fish I am considering adding:  6-line wrasse, yellowtail damsel, coral beauty and/or a Banggai cardinal.  Do you have any thoughts about those selections, bio load, or order they should be added? <The damsel may turn out to be a bit of a pain, these are very territorial fish. Otherwise, a fine list.> I would also really like to have some inverts and am very intrigued by hermit crabs, shrimp and feather duster worms.  Will I have any compatibility issues? <Perhaps... six line wrasses can develop a taste for fish and feather dusters.> What sorts of quantities can I add? <Moderate... three or so of each.> Are there snails that are safe with my setup? <Sure... most any marine snail.> If I am adding my very first invert, a hermit crab, does he need to spend a couple weeks in QT? <Some would advise so, but I think it will be fine.> I am going to wait months for more fish, but would like to add a cleaner crew to help the tank and add interest sooner if that is safe.  Can't determine whether the crab could introduce anything bad to the tank community if I don't QT him. <The list is short and of high odds... I'd go ahead and place the crab.> Are there any inverts that I can keep that would enjoy the Halimeda leaves that fall to the bottom of the tank? <Not that I can think of... it's a pretty tough algae, hard to eat.> As money allows first on the list is a new hood and light system.  After that is taken care of, what should be next on my want list? <Not much... your current set up sounds pretty good. Perhaps save the money for the upcoming 200g... start amassing equipment for that.> I strongly agree with the concept of helping those who help themselves, and I am sorry if my questions are answered somewhere on your website.  I am diligently reading through all of it, but am afraid that I might cause irreparable harm to my fish and tank before I can possibly read all of the info and finish the book.  I am so worried in fact that I make my husband check the tank several times a day and call me at work to report that they are still all alive and looking "normal".  (At least I am not getting up in the middle of the night to check on them anymore.)   Thanks again for taking the time to read my ramblings.  I will greatly appreciate any suggestions you can provide and my fish will be thankful.  Jennie Is there a record for length of first email, or number of stupid questions by one person at one time? <Not that I am aware of, and certainly none of the questions are stupid. Quite normal for a person starting out. Cheers, J -- > Saddleback Butterfly Flies No More, The Road to Recovery >I never did figure out the exact species of saddleback. >>Darn.. would have been nice to know.  It's a moot point now, isn't it?  <giggle> >Things were happening quickly with the tank, and this particular fish wasn't around long. >>Indeed, I'm sorry for that, too.  Especially when you're new to the whole deal, it can become overwhelming. >Unfortunately, many of the fish stores around here do not put the exact species name on the display tanks, and most of the employees wouldn't know a saddleback butterfly from a grouper. >>MOST shops don't name specifically, preferring instead to go with the common nomenclature.  Problematic, but not surprising since the general populous speaks neither Greek nor Latin. >When the time comes to add fish again, I'll do more homework ahead of time. >>Make use of that fishbase.org, my friend!  Neat stuff. >As to my remaining fish, I made the decision to leave them in the main tank, for a couple of reasons. First, I unfortunately do not really have the space for setting up a bunch of quarantine tanks, even if I did decide to use Rubbermaid tubs. >>Understood. >We also have in the house, 2 kids, a dog, a parakeet, etc. I'm lucky my wife gave the go ahead on the 55 gallon in the first place!   >>Uh oh!   >Also, the remaining fish are the clown fish and 2 blue damsels. They never showed (and still haven't) any signs of distress. So, I did the 50% water change as you suggested, and I added carbon to the filter to remove the Greenex. The nitrate levels are much better (but I'll keep working on getting them better still), the pH is good, the SG is good, and the temp is good. I'm also being overly cautious with food amounts. I'll wait several more weeks before trying to add anything else, and then, when I do, I'll quarantine them first.   >>Good plan.  Here's my suggestion: the hermit crab can probably be kept in a bucket (yes! Just be sure it's kept warm and at a constant temperature).  Once he's out, hypo the display (can't remember if I told you parameters for hyposalinity.. 1.007 -1.010).  Do that for 6-8 weeks.   >Should I also continue to do more frequent partial water changes at this point (as opposed to just 20-30 % once per month)? >>Oh yes!  Please do.  Have you got room for the trash cans to keep larger batches of make up water ready mixed?  Line those cans with black plastic bags (the plain old kind) for sterile conditions. >Assuming all goes well over the next several weeks, it would appear that my only problem now is algae control.... brown algae to be specific. >>A nutrient control issue, however, ENTIRELY normal in a new system.   >While the tank has always had some algae, it seems that the amount of algae has dramatically increased since I started having the problems we've discussed over the last two weeks. >>Likely due to killing off your nitrifying bacteria, and excess nutrients. >Is algae always a problem in the marine aquarium? >>Um.. not always, but it's very common.  Do not become disheartened.  Once you have things stable you might be able to let the diatomaceous bloom starve itself out (like lemmings). >I know in fresh water, all one needs to do is introduce a couple of Plecostomus or other algae eaters, but that seems not to be the case in the salt water tank. >>Negative, there ARE some great algal-obligates, many of them invertebrates.  Get things stable in the tank, if you have dead coral or other decorations that aren't live then bleach them.  Stir the substrate to keep the algae turned under for now. >It's no big deal really, aside from having to constantly clean the glass and decorations. >>Yes, that's a pain.  Or, let it go and as I mentioned above (the starving thing).  Do be sure your make up water has zero nitrate and phosphorous readings, my friend.   >Once again Marina, I want to thank you for being such a tremendous help, and for doing it in a pleasant manner. It's a real pleasure reading your responses. When I do, I not only feel confident that I'm getting good advice, but I also feel that the advice is coming from someone who really does enjoy helping. A far cry from many of the local pet stores, who either can't answer the questions, or don't really want to be bothered. >>Doesn't that blow you away?  THEY'RE the ones with a vested interest in ensuring your success!  Thank you for the compliments, it really is my pleasure to help folks succeed with their aquariums. >Like I said before......you're terrific! >>Aw.. shucks, you're gonna make me blush.  Marina Fast Q (Air bubbles in substrate) 1/16/03 Sorry to bother you guys, but I have a fast Q. <No bother, that's why we're here!> I'm running a 85G FOWLR  AquaClear 500 (x2) SeaClone Skimmer UGF powered by MJ1200 (x2) CC substrate Tank is running great, mushrooms growing like crazy, all kinds of life in the substrates now....great coralline growth on the CC as well.....  I'm starting to get air bubbles on the substrate now also....?????? no smells on anything...so it can't (shouldn't) be anything as bad a sulfite's.... any idea's... (NOTE: There are NO air bubbles from skimmer/filters getting into the system)......  Jess Bansal <Most likely, the air bubbles are nitrogen gas from the denitrification process.  Nothing to worry about at all.  The likelihood and risk of Hydrogen Sulfide are both very low.  Adam> - Wacky Tang and Other Things - Hi...Not knowing anyone whom I can ask these questions too, I hope you do not mind I am sending a few short ones... 1)  MAIN QUESTION- I added a Yellow Tang to my aquarium 3 days ago.  He refuses to eat seaweed or Romaine lettuce.  BUT he is eating Formula 2 like a fiend.  I am not sure what to do. <Keep feeding the formula two - don't bother with the lettuce, not really a suitable food for these fish. Continue to try the Nori... tang will sample in time.> He needs more than just Formula 2 for a balanced diet, right? <Yes, but first things first - having the fish eat anything is better than having it starve.> Have you heard of a tang doing this before? <Yes.> 2)The eyes of my tang have a brownish/blackish stripe down the middle.  This stripe is completely absent at times and at others very dark.  Do you know why this is? <Not sure...probably just the angle of the light.> 3) Any ideas what the little worms on the glass of my aquarium are? <Microfauna... no reason for concern.> I am using a 10X loupe lens. They are about 1cm in length and the width of a pinhead in width.  They are white.  I have not noticed them before (but then have not really been looking too close until today.  Dangerous? <No.> 4) Are the microbubbles entering my tank from the skimmer dangerous to the fish? <No.> I always thought so, but a LFS just told me they are not dangerous. <These bubbles are likely not 'micro' enough... can be problems caused by air inducted via plumbing leaks - enters the water under pressure and then can end up in the tissues of the fish. Don't think that is the situation here, no worries.> 5) Do you know of any site that might ID strange things I am finding like the organism mentioned in #3 above? <Used to be one, but the web page is now missing - 404. Worms are incredibly diverse, and it is a challenge to identify many of them.> Thanks SO MUCH for any help you can send my way!!!!!!!!!! Sincerely, Jeff <Cheers, J -- >

Another Marine Convert (1/4/2004) After sustaining an advanced freshwater system for years, I decided (about a month and a half ago) to set up my first marine aquarium.  <Have done so myself.> Boy, I certainly should have done some serious researching ahead of time! <Always the best way to go. Saves a lot of grief.> Nonetheless, I purchased a 30 gal. hex w/ a Bak-Pak 2 and a 14 W/18,000 K Power-Glo lamp. After readying the system with live sand and about 13 lb. of live rock, I purchased 3 Blue Chromis (with a proper water sample of course).    These guys did okay for about 2 weeks or so but they slowly died within 3-5 days of one another.  My water conditions checked out <?> however my marine shop and I decided that maybe there was contamination due to the fairly freshly stained custom stand that I had built (thus I included carbon within the Bak-Pak 2 and did a 5 gal. water change as well). <PolyFilter is good for toxins. Combining it with carbon is a good way to go.> With a sense of renewal, I went back to the shop and was assured that everything was going to work out and told that it is simply often not easy to establish a new saltwater tank. <Takes time and patience to avoid wasting lives and money.> Let me put it this way, the Coral Banded Shrimp lasted about 3 weeks (the conclusion was that it most likely starved <Why, mine eats frozen and pellet foods with gusto.>; the late-addition Maroon Clown consumed everything I put in) while the Pseudochromis and Dragon Goby did not make it a week. I brought in water samples (with the dead Goby and again with the Bicolored Pseudochromis) that checked out. <Just what does this mean?> At this point the shrimp was all that was left in the tank.  I then brought home a Maroon Clown (the same one mentioned earlier) and a Sand Star to be tank mates with my shrimp.  After the shrimp "starved," I was told to do a 5 gal. water change again and left the tank as it was for about a week and a half.  <Not long enough. Are you quarantining your new livestock? You'll be sorry if you don't.> I also asked someone at the marine shop about adding additional water flow; I realize that the 30 gal. hex setup with the Bak-Pak 2 might not be adding enough water circulation.  Apparently I did not get my point across; I was told that my situation was fine. I went back to the shop and again expressed my water flow concerns and finally the seemingly knowledgeable worker thought that I might be right (I believe that he forgot the tank was a hex).  <This fish shop sure is taking a lot of your hard-earned $> I now have a powerhead on order as of 2 days ago but I did the unthinkable; I bought a Rose Bubble Tip Anemone.  It is okay as of now and my Maroon Clown has taken to it but I am extremely nervous about it's future (based on my previous problems with other livestock). <Take it back ASAP. It will certainly die in your tank. Your lights are way too week. You need a serious, expensive light upgrade to care for an anemone. Not to mention perfect water conditions.> Can someone enlighten me as to what is likely to be my problem?  Should I seriously consider getting improved lighting and/or more live rock( I bought another 5 lb.) <More than that>?  I really appreciate the time taken to help me get this straight.  Just a note, I have always followed the proper acclimation instructions for livestock.  -Kim B.         <OK Kim, you want enlightenment as to your problem, so I'll give some that many have learned from bitter, fatal (to animals), expensive experience. It's impatience. Before you spend any more $ on animals of any sort, go out and buy "The New Marine Aquarium" by Michael S. Paletta and "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist by Robert Fenner. Read them cover-to-cover. Also, read more of the articles on WWM. Your checkbook and your fish will thank you. Armed with the extensive knowledge  you need to provide good care to your charges, you will succeed. But no anemones. Don't let anyone try to tell you that clownfish need them. They don't. What I have written hear may be hard to hear, but it will help you immensely. It is offered in the spirit of helping. I know form experience that it will work. Steve Allen.>

Total Eclipse? I have an 8 day old, 12 gallon Eclipse tank with a single Ocellaris Clown,  8.5 lbs live rock and 1 to 2 inches of live sand. I bought this for my son but I have already fallen in love with it. <Not hard to do!> Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate are all zero and have been for the 3 days that I've been measuring. <Hmm- if this tank is 8 days old, you will almost certainly see some ammonia/nitrite spikes soon...Please keep this in mind!> The clown wouldn't eat for the first 5 days so there is a large buildup of uneaten food on the sand so I vacuumed the tank this afternoon, trying to be gentle not to disturb the sand. Within hours, the previously pristine sand turned brown everywhere I that I had vacuumed. Now I'm concerned that I have disturbed the bacteria in the substrate. Is there any cause for alarm? What can I do to clean this up and prevent future problems? <Well, it sounds like it might be that there was some organic materials in the sand bed that, once exposed to light, became a perfect substrate for algae growth...Only a theory- but a good possibility, IMO> I also have noticed a type of hairline green algae growing all over the live rock. Is this most likely and "good" or "bad" algae? <Well, the vast majority of algae are not "bad"- they are merely unattractive to our aesthetic sensibilities! They do perform a valuable function within closed ecosystems. The just look like crap! "Hair algae" is considered a nuisance because it can overgrow more desirable inverts.> I upgraded the light on the eclipse to the 36 watt Custom SeaLife Supernova 32 50/50 10K and Blue Actinic). <A nice choice for this tank. A more "capable" lighting package!> I have learned so  much in the past week mostly be reading as much as I can from this fabulous site. Thanks for the help!! Jim <Glad to hear that, Jim! Hope you keep learning and enjoying the site!>

Salt dust on external pump 12/31/03 Hi Crew Happy Holidays! <Adam here today.  Happy New year!> I have a question regarding my recently set up in-wall 120 gal. having a 40 gal sump below the tank. The external return pump (Blueline 70) is now on it's 7th week running, and I have noticed my pump is repeatedly becoming covered in a very fine white dust (upon taste test...definitely salt powder) due to it's incorporated cooling fan, blowing over the pump's casing.     My question is: is this cause to worry about it's residual effects on the integrity of my new pump, and if so, is there a way to prevent it? Wiping down the pump housing once a week is no sweat to me, I just worry about any possible internal problems which may arise. thanks much! Blair <This is a common occurrence, and while I have seen pumps last a very long time exposed to the same conditions, I would recommend trying to minimize it.  It is likely that salt is being atomized by the bubbling from your drains, and as you observed is being drawn through the cooling fan on the pump.  Using coarse mesh bags, baffles or other strategies on your drains can help reduce the amount of bubbles or contain the mist they produce.  Best of luck!  Adam>

Humidity and Human Health (12/29/2003) Hi.... my friend ..who ever is on the other side.. <Greetings. Steve Allen this evening> I little uncommon question for your crew. I have set up my new reef aquarium 600 liter tank, Bob and Calfo's books helped me a lot <excellent works that have helped many, myself included>, because I'm from country were are no marine aquariums at all. <I'm guessing one that was once part of the USSR? Perhaps you will be the start of a larger group of marine aquarists, thus adding the interesting group of people worldwide who share this wonderful hobby and will hopefully have a positive influence on the preservation of the ocean/reef environment.> I was struck buy one on a trip and spent a 2 years of ordering and reading a books, and than a equipment. <Your patience is a good example to marine aquarists everywhere.> Now when I succeed in my efforts I have a problem with my family because they think that evaporation of 5-7 liters per day from uncover tank is to much, actually they think that so much moisture in the air is bad for human health. My question is : can be this the true? <No and yes. Confused yet? Well, a specific amount of evaporation from your tank is not the issue. It is the effect of this evaporation only the relative humidity in your house that matters. If you have a properly ventilated home, there shouldn't be a problem. Don't leave the room the tank is in closed. The humidity will likely rise to near 100% and this will result in mold and damage.> <The optimum range for humidity in a home is 30-60% or so. Some would recommend narrower as in 40-50%. Here in normally dry Utah, the evaporation from my tank actually helps our home. We've noted fewer bloody noses in the family since I started my tank. The drier the air in your house already is, the more evaporation you will notice. I lose 2-5 gallons per day out of my 350 gallons total system volume.> <Anyway, various respiratory ailments are more common both in too dry and too humid air. An additional risk at higher humidity is mold growing in the structure of your home. These cause structural damage and may cause/contribute to a range of illnesses. Here are a couple of links to sites where you can learn more: http://www.healthyairusa.com/kb_humidity.asp http://www.gsenet.org/library/07eng/wntrhome.htm http://www.bgsu.edu/offices/envhs/iaq/temp.htm http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/burema/gesein/abhose/abhose_ce08.cfm http://www.relative-humidity-sensor.com/relative-humidity.htm Please note that I am not endorsing any particular product that may be offered on the sites above that are commercial. I just thought the sites had some helpful information.> <I am also attempting to attach a graph I found at the first site that shows the ranges of humidity associated with various problems. Please pardon this long response. I don't think that this question has been addressed much on WWM before, so I wanted everyone who reads to benefit from a detailed response. If you can get one, it would be good to have a humidity gauge in your home so you can work to keep it in the healthy range. Hope this helps.> Best Wishes, Boris (Same to you as well. We'd love to hear more about your pioneering marine aquarium.>

Humidity and Human Health 2 What can I say .... wonderful information. Can I pull a conclusion that actually there are no need for panic?? <Correct, as long as the relative humidity in your home is not greater than 60%. Also, remember not to close the room with the tank off from the rest of the house--it will get too humid in there without free air circulation with the rest of the house. I know this from experience. My daughter shut the door to my study one morning. When I went in that evening, it was like stepping into a sauna. Door open = no problem here.> Best Wishes and Happy New Year to all of your grew <And same to you Boris!>

The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Wrong.. Follow up >Dear Marina, >>Hello Peter. >Thank you again for your kind help and advice in both situations. It is a difficult time for me as I have to deal with a very ill parent and a sick tank and all during the holidays. >>Ah, you have my best thoughts and wishes as a caretaker, Peter.  Believe me, I KNOW just how hard it is to be a caretaker. >Alas, the eel has started to eat again; it has been three weeks of hunger strike. >>Excellent news, my friend.  This is perfectly within the "window", and alleviates another concern. >Interestingly it was the same kind of food he got going on as what he ate first after the introduction to the tank - krill! >>Yum-yum!  It's good schtuff! >The only problem is giving him food with a large puffer in the tank we call the 'floating pig' - it is quite a competition. >>LOL!!  That reminds me of "The Kids In The Hall" and their "Line-up Flying Pig" skits.. <giggle>  I also used to raise pigs for 4H, and that truly is an apt description for most puffers.  Please DON'T let him get a bite out of you, it's like being attacked by a melon-baller, only much more painful.  If he does get you, I prescribe Neosporin ASAP.  ;) >The puffer is some 8-9 inches. >>What a piece of meat.  Don't let the local sushi chef see that fish!   >On the other front, the 125 gallon tank kicked in a few days ago with both nitrite and ammonia reading just around 0. Then, both shot up just slightly again because I changed the poly filter sheets in the Eheim now - they were completely spent (dark brown). So, some bacteria got discarded with the change. >>Ah, yes, but if the filter pads were spent, then you MUST change them out or there's a good chance that they could "regurgitate" all that they've latched onto.  It is not a pretty sight.  Maybe you might want to consider changing them one at a time?  Kind of like our car tires, so the system isn't hit all at once.  I'm glad it's going well, though. >Today both readings have declined as bacteria are building up in the filter again - no doubt. >>No doubt. >Thank you for your interest in my forensic work. I will write to you about that very shortly.  With kind regards, Peter Paul Biro >>Whenever you have the time, my friend.  Marina

Patience- The Most Important Additive (Cont'd.) Hi Scott <Hey there!> Thanks for your input <Glad to be of service!> Should I not do any water changes till the ammonia and nitrates are down to zero and only start doing water changes once I have some fish in the tank? <That's my feeling!> I notice some brown algae starting to form on the glass walls, back and front. <All part of a normal startup- abundant nutrients are found in newly set up tanks, which have limited processing capabilities> Can I keep wiping this off or should I just leave things for now? <Wipe away! But keep in mind that algae will keep coming back until the source is reduced or eliminated...> Looks like the live rock is doing the trick in cycling the tank, I also notice some new life form so things seem to be taking its shape. <Isn't that cool? That's all part of the fun of doing it the natural way!> I must say I don't really get much dirt in the skimmer as I was getting in the last few weeks. <A good sign- but it will still yank out a lot of stuff regularly if set up properly> I also changed the activated carbon in my canister as you suggested. <Good. Just leave it alone again until after cycling is completed...> So I will wait even if it takes another month, I have come this far and I don't wanna go spoiling things. <Exactly!> Thanks Again It makes things so much easier having you to answer all my questions as I go along. <Glad to hear that. You already had most of the insights yourself- so keep learning and growing in the hobby!> Sure have learned a lot in the last few months. <And you will for years to come, I'm sure!> Thanks Regards Ziad Limbada <My pleasure! Regards, Scott F.>

- Newbie Nervousness - Hi Again, I have a small problem, well I'm unsure if it is but as a newbie I worry terribly if everything isn't as it should be. I set up my new 75 gallon on Sunday, filled and mixed salt, I used Kent Sea Salt, currently the vitals are: Temp: 75f SG:1.026 (I know it's a tad high, but rectifying) <Only a tad... shouldn't be a big cause for concern.> PH: 8.3 I have the Eheim 2260 and the Fluval 204 running well, both packed with sintered glass media and floss, I've placed 4 large cocktail prawns in the system for cycling as the live rock here is very expensive ?200 per 20kg! <Egads! Well... do try to get your hands on some of this when you can... it's really worth every penny.> I think that's like 325 dollars or something! Basically initially the water was crystal clear, I put the substrate down (1-1.5 inches of coral gravel 2-4mm). <You put the gravel in after everything else?> But today I woke to find the tank very milky, could the coral gravel be causing this cloudiness? <Quite likely, especially if the gravel was the last thing into the tank.> It was all washed very thoroughly, also the external filters outlets in the tank are covered in bubbles, I brush them off but the reappear a few minutes later, the skimmer return does cause turbulence but not much and the filter returns are submerged causing only light rippling, I know my setup is like extremely new but this really is bothering me, I've tried turning of the 2260 as the return is quite hefty, but no difference, please can you help, or am I just being crazy?! <You are being crazy... be patient instead, give things a chance to settle down... as you said, the tank is very new.> I really want this to work but I feel like am failing at something already, what can I do? <Breathe deeply and relax. Give the tank some time.> Sincerely George :-) <Cheers, J -- >

Quick update b4 I go to school I guess about 45 minutes have passed, my two green Chromis have woken up, but are slow to get into their usual habit. My royal Gramma has woken up and seems fine, some of the damsels color is restored, my two yellow tailed damsels are sleeping. Between the 4 awake fish, they have consumed three cubes of mysis shrimp!!<sounds good. even though that is a ton of food for small fish> I would like to reiterate my anemones are larger than I have ever seen them. After emailing you the first time, I started rapid aeration with a second bubble curtain I use and my power head, I have since slowed that, but the film at the top appears "broken" now.<good> This falls at a very bad time because I was going to paint today... (At least I bought Latex paint, and am experienced in painting in rooms where fish are present.<good thinking, IanB> Thanks --Jim

Brown Algae (12-17-03) Hi, <Howdy!> I'm new to the whole salt water thing need some help I need to know if brown algae is good or bad and how to treat it if so or what ??? <All tanks will go thought this stage and is not a problem unless it gets out of control.  Some solutions are to make sure your protein skimmer is producing lots of "gunk" and water changes help too.> I had some Linckia starfish blue and red they both are R.I.P help please ...<These guys are challenging and I would get some experience under you belt before you try these again.  They are very sensitive to rapid changes and need to be acclimated very slowly and have very stable conditions after that.  Cody.>

Hi, (Cody? Bob? or??) <You got Cody again!> Any where, Cody said he need to know bout my lighting level than can suggest me what type of algae or plant can suggest for my tank. Emm...actually I don't know much bout lighting but what I am using is one marine blue tube and one red tube (Tank=25 gallons). Beside that, I got few more questions and hope you can help me:<You could try some of the macro algae such as Caulerpa.> 1.  My tank KH is only 8 dKH,  how to increase the KH value? <This should be fine.> 2.  I got one cleaner wrasse in my tank but it hide in the living rock for almost 8 days din show up! And I don't know where its hide, is it possible it die inside oledi? what can I do? remove all the rock to find it? but I scared it will effect my others fish and the water quality.<He has likely died these guys are very delicate and often won't accept food in captivity.> 3.  My ammonia test show that the ammonia value is around 0.0mg/l---0.5mg/l, how to reduce the ammonia level?<Water changes.>Is it the only way is change the water? Is it possible for the ammonia level to reach 0.0 mg/l when there is 6 fish inside the tank? I din really feed the fish oledi but the ammonia level still wont go down, why?<6 fish holy cow!  What are they, you will probably need to get rid of some or get a larger tank.  It also sounds like this tank isn't very old.  With newer tanks you need to add the fish slowly and test your water often.> Anyway, that is for this time and hope can here your reply soon. <You can do some more research at our site: www.wetwebmedia.com. Cody>Thanks! Seng

Turnovers.. Not Popovers - More >Thank you for your reply! >>Quite welcome, my friend. >OK, I'll improve my turnover significantly with a more powerful pump. >>Let the coolness ensue. >Now, a few more questions: >>Alright. >I'm sitting on a brand-new WD trickle filter, should I remove the bio-balls altogether as time goes on?   >>This is currently the popular thinking.  However, nitrification MUST occur, so I would replace them with live rock. >If so, should I replace them with anything?   >>See above, do consider mechanical filtration (which would need regular, say weekly, cleaning to avoid excessive detritus buildup). >As far as the Crushed Coral, is it worth my time to seriously disrupt the tank to remove the coral and gravel plates? >>Well, it shouldn't be too terribly disruptive to do it in sections, would it?  Thing is, detritus is going to REALLY build up under there, this will likely lead to problems, either sooner or later, in the future. >Can I leave some of the substrate in the tank and supplement with finer sand?   >>You can leave it all in the tank once the plates are removed, and just add a few pounds at a time till you hit a depth you're comfortable with. >How deep should the substrate be and in what proportions?   >>Well, if you want the denitrification bennies of a DSB, then a minimum of 3". >Does the LR absolutely need to be on the tank bottom to house sand-stirring critters?   >>The live rock?  No.  Either or both can be placed remotely if you like, too. >Can I leave the plates in place and run a traditional U/G filter with powerheads using simply less substrate? >>You could, but there's really not much point - it can likely end up being more trouble than it's worth.  If you really want to run the UG, then use sufficient substrate, and handle as with freshwater with regular (weekly) partial (1/3 - 1/2) vacuuming. >should I be vacuuming the substrate as in a traditional F/O U/G application? >>Heh.. yes. >Any comments or links to discussions of this nature would be greatly appreciated. >>There is MUCH available just on our site alone, we have a Google bar at the bottom of the page.  Look up "refugium", "deep sand bed" (or DSB), "undergravel filtration", and any other search terms you can think of. >I guess the broader question is "how can optimize my existing setup and I minimize my chances for a 'nitrate' factory given my equipment"? >>As outlined above, this is honestly a HUGE issue, so your best bet is to research on WWM and other sites using these search queries. >TIA, Jeff >>Hope this helps.  Marina

Lionfish, large fish tanks, phosphate, and algae 12/17/03 Dear WWM, Thank you for all the wonderful information on your site. I have some questions I thought you might be able to answer for me. It might seem like I'm jumping around a bit, but the questions I have are about different subjects. <Hi Triggerguru.  Adam here today.  Glad you find the site useful.  I will do my best to keep up with all of your questions! First off, I have a 75-gallon FOWLR with a lionfish, a Picasso trigger, and a snowflake eel. Soon I will be purchasing a 210-gallon talk to put these fish in because I feel bad about keeping them in such a small tank. I have really grown fond of these fish and I want them to be happy. <Glad to hear that you are committed to providing appropriate quarters for your pets!> I live in a two story house with a basement. When I started thinking about the weight of such a large aquarium, it got me worried because I want to put it in my room on the middle floor. I am afraid the weight of the aquarium would break through the floor. I just wanted to know if you have ever had any experience with this. I really want to get the bigger tank, but I also really don't want to put it downstairs in the basement. The place I want to put the tank is on a support wall if that helps at all. Any information on this would be helpful. <Hmmm... fish I do well, but structural engineering isn't my bag.  If this was my  house, I would make this call, but since it is your house, I would suggest consulting an engineer or architect.  In the grand scheme, a couple of hundred dollars for their fee is cheap insurance against a flood.> Next, I have a question about lighting. Right now, I have one 40-watt NO 10k bulb, and one 40-watt NO Actinic bulb, but I would like to get something that is brighter. The only problem is that I have read that lionfish don't like bright lights. I was wondering if a 260-watt PC fixture would be too much for him, or if a 384-watt PC fixture would be too much on the new tank I plan on getting. <I don't think that either of those lighting options would be a problem for your lion fish.  Very bright metal halides may be an issue, but there would be no reason to have so much light on a FO.> I also have a question about feeding lionfish. I have been feeding mine silversides, squid, shrimp, scallops, and ocean perch. I wanted to know if scallops are all right to feed because I wasn't sure they were from saltwater. The package said they were bay scallops, but I not exactly sure what that means. Is there even such thing as freshwater scallops? I was also wondering if the ocean perch was all right to feed him. He really likes the table shrimp I feed him, and I was wondering if it is all right to feed him the precooked kind, or do I need to quit that and start feeding him the raw kind. Do you have any other suggestions about what to feed him? <All of the foods you listed are fine.  To the best of my knowledge, all scallops harvested for food are marine.  All meaty foods meant for marine fish should be uncooked and frozen.  Freezing kills most parasites.  Cooking reduces the nutritional value.  Keep up the variety!> Right now I have crushed coral as substrate, but I would like to change to a fine sand when I set up the new tank. Do you think this would be all right, or do you think the eel would stir it up a lot? <I don't think the eel would stir it too much, but the trigger might since many triggers hunt by stirring the sand in search of prey.  The type of substrate you choose is largely an individual decision depending on the philosophy you want to follow.  Do consider that even a healthy live sand bed may have a hard time processing all of the waste produced by high order predators such as yours and detritus removal is difficult with a fine sand bed.  I like the look of fine sand, and am not necessarily advising against it, but it will present some special challenges in a predator system (especially where macro detritivores like brittle stars and cucumbers are at risk from your trigger). I also have a question about phosphate. Right now I am using the green grape Caulerpa in my sump. I also have Cyanobacteria that grows down there, which I would like to get rid of. I don't have a test kit for phosphate, but I suspect that there is some present.  Would it be all right to add some sort of phosphate removing compound, or would that also stop the Caulerpa from growing? <I would not be surprised if you do have significant phosphate, but do verify with a good test kit before taking drastic action.  Phosphate removing compounds may help, but will never reduce it enough to "starve" the Caulerpa.> Do you think I should get rid of the Caulerpa and just use chemical media? <Probably not.  If you reduce the nutrients in the short term through chemical media and large water changes, you can probably keep up with them in the future with macro algae harvest, regular water changes and skimming.> I have also read that Chaetomorpha is a better macro-algae. Why is this? Would it be better to get some Chaetomorpha and just get rid of the Caulerpa? <Caulerpa produces many nasty chemical agents that can stunt or even kill corals.  It also has a tendency to occasionally "crash" releasing large amounts of nutrients back into the tank.  These are much bigger issues in reef tanks, but in a fish only, these have to be weighed against the fact that Caulerpa is faster growing.  This is another personal preference issue.> Any information you could provide me on any of these subjects would be helpful. Thanks again. <I hope this was all helpful, and thank you!  Adam>

Fish germs and other yucky microbes--Eww! (12/08/2003) hello, I got a question here. If we handle a fish which are sick like, body fungus, gill disease, or other disease with hand without glove, will the disease effect us? or is there any side effect to us? thanks. sorry for my bad English. hope u reply A.S.A.P <While many fish diseases can't infect humans, some do, so it pays to be cautious. Bacteria are very good at entering the body through the slightest break in the skin (cut, scratch or scrape) and some (Vibrio, Mycobacteria) can cause nasty infections. Fungus is probably less likely, as are the various parasites. Fish tapeworms have been known to infect humans. If you got tapeworm eggs on your hand and touched your mouth you might get infested. The best bet is to always wear gloves if you need to handle your fish. Latex-free surgical-type gloves from the local store will provide good protection. If you're going to put your hand in the tank, it's best to wear arm-length aquarium gloves. In any case, always wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water or use an alcohol-based skin cleanser after handling anything that's inside your aquarium. Steve Allen>

Greetings and Salutations Mr. Bob Fenner, <Happy holidays Jim> I am writing you today as a clueless fish owner...I  just bought a house and with it came a 60 or so gallon fish tank with tropical salt water fish in it.  The thought of having such cool and colorful fish in my living room is exciting but having never owned anything like it I am quite bewildered with what to do. <I can imagine> I have figured out that I need to do water changes and top offs and I keep my salt level at 0.25...from looking at the site, where I got your email, it looks like I have a lot of live rock in my tank...I have not been able to hook up the RO yet which I am seeing is a no no :-/. <Can be phased in> I have used the test kits and found that all the levels are really good except the harness level is off the charts...I am assuming that is due to the water I have been using...that brings me to my questions... 1) There seems to be some red dirt forming on my rocks...what is that and will hooking up the RO fix it. <Detritus of some sort... from rocks, the life in/on rocks likely... perhaps residual from food/feeding. You'll want to "vacuum" a good part of this out with biweekly to monthly water change routines... You can read on WWM re marine maintenance, this activity> 2) In the tank there are many little umbrella things...pic is attached...that seems to be puffy during the day and deflated at night...is that normal?  On top of that they seem to be changing into fuzzy things???  Is that normal? <Mmm, yes. Corallimorphs. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/corallim.htm> 3)  In the tank is a very large wrasse...should I feed him something separately or continue feeding him the regular fish food and let him snack on the occasional snail and just keep adding snails? <I'd enlarge this fish's diet to include other meaty foods... consider "trading it in" at a local fish store (are you familiar with one, two yet?) if you intend to re-stock this small system> 4)  There is a dwarf lobster in the tank as well...it seems to love the shrimp pellets I have been dropping in...does it need something special to eat as well? <Likely so> Any help is appreciated...it is obvious that someone put some serious time and money into this tank and I would hate to be the one who wrecks it :-( Many thanks, Jim <Your interest and concern are encouraging, and signs of your future involvement. Keep studying, evaluating, gathering information... Marine aquariums are not "hard" to be successful at but embody a vast arena of knowledge fields and skills. Bob Fenner>

- New Tank, Lot of Questions - Hi WWM Crew- I have read a lot of your great advice and commend you for your dedication to the hobby and willingness to share your vast knowledge with others. After spending a few months researching the hobby, I have decided to dive into it.  I am a beginner saltwater aquarist with the following set-up and water quality readings: Set Up - 72 Gal Bow front (w/ built in-overflow) - Amiracle Wet/Dry (w/ Bio balls) - Precision Marine Counter Current Venturi Protein Skimmer - Rainbow Lifeguard UV Sterilizer (25W) - 80 Lbs Live Sand (appx. 7 wks in tank) - 46 Lbs Live Rock (appx. 5 wks in tank) - 4 Green Chromis (appx. 1 wk in tank) - Tank is currently Fish only (w/ live rock);  my venture into corals after 12-15mos.) Water Quality - Tank Cycling period - 7 wks (with Live Sand only); 5 wks (w/ Live Rock & Live Sand); - Ammonia - 0.25ppm (for past 3 wks); down significantly from much higher levels - Nitrite - 0 - Nitrate - 10 ppm - pH - 8.3 - Specific Gravity - 1.022 - Temperature - fluctuates b/w 79.5 to 82 deg. F - Bi-weekly water change (20-25%) My questions are as follows: 1) I don't understand why my Ammonia reading has been at 0.25ppm for the past 3 wks although my Nitrite has fallen to zero.  I use the Aquarium Pharmaceutical liquid test kit. (Based on my research of the cycling process, I expected the Ammonia to be zero before the Nitrite).  Also, appx. 1 wk ago, I had my readings confirmed at 2 different LFS.  Both however said it was OK to add fish. <The Aquarium Pharm tests are junk - made for fresh and salt water. Get a good quality test and you'll see you are in the clear.> (a) Should I expect my Ammonia level to eventually drop to zero by itself? <It probably already is.> Or do I need to add a water treatment (e.g. Ammo-Lock). <Wouldn't use these products.> (b) Is there a downside to using a water treatment? <Can stall the cycle, but at this point I think you are fine... presence of nitrates and all.> 2) My temperature fluctuates b/w 79.5 and 82 degs. F. during the day/night (this is higher than the 75-79F desired for marine fish). <82 is ok but high.> To date I have placed a bottle of frozen water and left the lid open to lower the temperature to the low-end. <I would do this in the sump.> (a) Will the high temp. cause livestock death? <It will speed their metabolism which means that they will use up whatever life they have more quickly. Directly though, 82F all by itself is nothing to worry about. Swinging three degrees a day is something you should work on.> (b) Short of adding a chiller, is there anything else I can do to lower the temperature to the desired level? <Fans blowing across the surface of the water.> (c) What are your thoughts about a drop-in chiller (vs. in-line)? <In line models are more efficient. Damage to the coil of a drop in will wipe out a tank.> 3) Fish Livestock.  I would like to add the following fish over the next 6-9 mos. (in the following sequence) - 4 Green Chromis (already added to tank appx. 1 wk ago) - 2 False Percula Clowns (plan to add within 1-2 wks if all goes well with Chromis) - 1 Hepatus Tang (after 1 mo.) - 2 Yellow Tangs (after 2 mos. ) - 1 Pearlscale Butterfly (dwarf) (after 6 mo.s) - 1 Flame Angel (after 6 mo.s) (a) Are all the above fish compatible? <Yes, but I'd limit myself to one tang in a tank of this size.> (b) What are your thoughts on my proposed timing and sequence (i.e. Chromis followed by Clowns, etc with Flame Angel last) <Sounds good to me.> (c) Is this too much livestock for a 72 gal? <Hence the suggestion you keep only one tang.> 4) Invert Livestock.  I would like to add the following inverts (in the following sequence) - 1 Sand Sifting (Spiny) Starfish - (plan to add within 1-2 wks) <Skip this - they tend to deplete desirable fauna in a captive sand bed.> - 10 Red leg Hermit Crabs (plan to add within 1-2 wks) - 5 Scarlet Hermit Crabs (within 1-2 wks) - 5 Zebra Reef Hermits (within 1-2 wks) - 15 Margarita (Turbo) snails (within 1-2 wks) - 5 Bumble Bee snails  (within 1-2 wks) - 1 Cleaner Shrimp (after 1 mo.s) - 1 Blood Shrimp (after 3 mo.s) (a) Are all the above inverts compatible? <Yes.> (c) Are the inverts compatible with my fish list? <Yes.> (b) What are your thoughts on my proposed timing and sequence? <Sounds good.> (c) Is this too much total livestock (fish and invert) for a 72 gal? <You'll find the snail and hermit populations will balance themselves out.> 5) Misc. - How long should I keep my lights on? - I current have the timer set to 5 hrs per day <That's fine.> - How often should I feed the fish?  Currently do so 2 times per day <Perhaps only once - may change as you add the other fish on your list - the butterfly will need multiple feedings.> - Do you have any suggestions about affordable "auto" water top off equipment/system for when I am out of town? <Well... there is a gentleman who rebuilds medical peristaltic pumps, and after having many 'low cost' solutions fail on me, I rely on one of these and his prices are quite reasonable, considering the peace of mind it will buy you. Contact the folks at http://www.reefdosingpumps.com > I know these are a lot of questions, but I have tried to consolidate them into one e-mail. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work! Eddie <Cheers, J -- >

This Old Tank...(Established Tank Renovation) Good Thanksgiving weekend to you, <Thank you! Same to you and yours!> I corresponded with Bob through FFExpress years ago and I want to let you all know the service you are providing is incredible for the industry and much appreciated.  I've read through a lot of the topics covered with other aquarists and your patience with duplication of questions is also admirable. <We great enjoy helping out our fellow hobbyists! Thanks for your kind words!> That said, I did try to find as many of the answers to my questions as I could but still have a few remaining.   <Ask away!> What I have:  a 180 glass Oceanic with dual overflows, a 30 gallon acrylic sump (with a Berlin Skimmer, UV sterilizer), and 220+ lbs. of Fiji live rock (original--it appears to have decreased some) lit for 12 hours a day via 4 72" VHO bulbs. 25 gallon water changes every two weeks.   <Sounds nice...Good water change regimen> Issues:  I have had my setup for 5 years now.  My LFS helped me set up the tank originally--and the live rock was stacked on the back of tank against the walls.  After reading more about water flow and detritus buildup (nitrate and various nuisance algaes have been an issue since the 3rd year or so and their removal is my new project), my first question to you is whether you feel it is worth stressing the livestock in the tank (three tangs, a Gramma, several soft a and hard corals) by reorganizing the live rock in my tank so that it sits inside the walls of the aquarium? <While I would not set up a tank with the rock touching the back walls, if your tank has been successfully up and running for the last 5 years, I would not upset the system unless the circumstances dictate.> I've had two of the tangs since I set the tank up so I don't want to mess with their world anymore than is necessary (they have access to the back via caves and purposeful openings in the rock placement). <Agreed...> If so, I know you don't encourage laminar flow pumps re: creating water flow, but would I be well served to put a couple of small powerheads behind the live rock on opposite ends towards the substrate base to help stir some of the old buildup for (hopefully) skimmer removal? <Certainly not a bad idea...Getting flow to all areas of the tank. If you can place them where they can be easily accessed for maintenance, it would be optimal> I also currently have a course aragonite base of about 2 inches that was also put in the tank originally by the LFS.  I have added fine grain aragonite sand over the coarse stuff and have a substrate about 3 1/2 inches (obviously in the areas where I could get to considering the back half of my tank has been inaccessible since it was set up).  I have a tremendous amount of microcrustaceans, aquarium spawned feather dusters, and worms of many varieties that come out at night.  I also have several curious looking "creatures"--a few I've found by turning over some of the live rock but several are found poking out of the substrate at night.  They look a little bit like an anemone--they are translucent with a brown spot on top with translucent tentacles. <Tough to tell what they might be...Could be bryozoans or other cryptic life forms that have multiplied in the tank> The ones in the substrate are not bigger than a cm or so in diameter though one of the ones underneath the rock was about 3 cm wide. Any clue as to what they could be?  I haven't seen pictures of them anywhere. <If you could provide a pic, we might be able to get a good ID for you...> I am in interested in setting up a DSB in the main tank--would that be well served (done in combo or not with the live rock placement change)? Would a supplementation of the amount of my live rock also be in order? <Well, if you do opt to do some rearranging, I suppose that this would be the optimal time for an upgrade to a deeper sand bed. However, remember that any change you make on a long-established tank can create some degree of trauma for the existing residents. Be sure to go slow and steady with these changes...> Although my plan over the next six months is to get a refugium set up under my tank (I can't do an upstream due to space issues), I figured I should do what I can to get the display as efficient as possible before I tackle that one. <While I agree that doing some display tank changes is not a bad idea, you may actually want to tackle the refugium first. This will provide the system with additional water capacity, nutrient export mechanisms, and even a supplemental food source. This may help limit some of the "traumas" associated with major tank "re-dos".> I appreciate your time and I look forward to hearing back from you. <Believe me- it's our pleasure!> By the way--just bought the new WWM book--I'm about a third of the way through and I am already looking forward to the next two... <We're glad to hear that!> Thanks, Sean Murphy  

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